Rethink

These past few weeks, my thoughts and actions have been to write and draw, revise and redraft, build it up and tear it down so I can start over again and see what I could come up with.

It occured to me that all these have some twisted analogs with my life. And truth be told, there are some things I would like to change with how I have lived the recent 5 years or so, but that’s a digression.

To rethink what I have learned and known all these years. Taking a step back and see where can make the changes, or improvements for that matter on how i would like my story to be. What do I know about my past, our collective past? Sure we have been fed the usual crap movies about dwarves and elves, those enchanted beings that we alll so loved and feared. But was that it?

Are dwarves (or elves) really just little beings with pointy hats and pointy shoes in colorful garb and not much else? How magical are they? How come they always seem to mingle or interfere with humans? Are tiyanaks anything more than just scary childlike ghouls that devour infants? Where do they live? who gives them, command? Are these pitiful tiyanaks the result of some aborted pregnancy?

Questions and more questions I hope to find the answers.

Early this evening I went to my newfound eatery. Of course, my standards for good food and cooking was from the fact that I believed , and it is still true up to this day, that my mother is the best cook in the whole world. Whenever I try a new place to eat , and not the franchised fast food kind, nor the expensive restaurants and culinary spots all those hipsters are fond of taking photos first before actually tasting the food, I go for the cab-driver sort of food joints. Places where thesoup is hot, the dishes are laid on the counter and you just pick the one you want. This particular place makes the best Kinunot, in thick coconut cream and generously spiced with siling labuyo, a real Bicolano fare. I have been coming here in the last couple of months or so because, simply put, I like their cooking. Upon my first sitting here I went for the Nilaganhg Baboy and that I enjoyed very much that I keep coming back, if my budget doesn’t limit me to instant noodles and pancit canton that is. So, I like their cooking but I don’t put much stock on Sinaing na Tulingan that is not made by my mother. Years ago I gave up on it, because nobody, no one, no place anywhere could cook this dish like my mother could. It’s even dangerous if Tulingan is not prepared right. But tonight, I let down my guard and picked the Tulingan, because I am feeling lucky.

It was marvellous. The pork fat was just right, the fish pressed wide, and the Camias was a revelation. And the broth was thick. It was Sinaing na Tulingan like my mother used to make. My acquired animosity towards urbanized Sinaing na Tulingan was shattered.

Now that is a complete turnaround. I learned another lesson.

In building my fictional town, I realized I can’t just draw anything from thin air. It has to have some basis, some solid foundation. The chacarters should be as real as your next door neighbor or else it woud be just like Roderick Paulate in Duwende garb, all color and pretty vague. Same with our Diwata, Kapre, Tikbalang, Nuno sa Punso. At least what I know then were paper thin descriptions, and it’s only now that I am learning a lot about our pagan beliefs and traditions, lore, myth and legend. You can’t substitute cabbage for lettuce.

Just like the Sinaing na Tulingan, I found out this eatery pays homage to the real, old fashioned way of making the dish, it’s a skill way above average cooking.

There’s a reason why in this modern age, we still have our Hilot, the medicine women and men who relieve us of pain and afflictions, or the old Sage who when things got rough, are sought by the people for guidance. To reach back and take those stories and retell hem the way I want, but as much as possible, keep the essence of the lore, as close as can be or else as in the case of the tulingan it wouldn’t be edible. I mean to throw rocks and break those misconceptions that was forcefed to us by our educational system and the film industry that fueled the vacuous depictions of our folklore.

And notice how in the brink of living in space or travelling towards other planets, superstition and fear of the dark still cling to our consciousness. The old ways does not necessarily have to fade away. There are reason these persists. These stones that I throw will also be the one I’ll use to rebuild those long lost tales.

I just have to find out how. So In the meantime, I continue to write what tales and anectdotes from my youth can provide. And as a form of respite from fictional writing and illustration, I do this blogging stuff to rethink my process.

See? There is something going on here. I may be getting the hang of this thing called writing. I am doing this blog post because after several hours of plotting and writing, my head is in overdrive and if I don’t stop, I may choke on it. I even refrained from playing Heavy Metal and shifted into something moderately raunchy, if you could classify Def Leppard moderate.

Rethinking spilled over to my character designs. Oh I would love to show them to you, but I guess there’ll be time enough for it.

Let me just sit back and sip coffee, for now…

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Learning To Fly

At best it was a horrid day.

Not because of bad things that happened, no there wasn’t. But I am quite sure elsewhere, worse things did. The day was gloomy from the dark clouds and the threat of heavy rainfall was evident. But that was just it, just a threat. All day long it was sweaty and hot. The perspiration that dried at the base of my neck has become gritty salt when I noticed.

But I was in a good mood. Rarely do I get sad or weary.

There is still that novelty of learning new things. And I am learning a lot. When I woke up from a very long night of studying favorite authors’ works, my own inking progress and even more research, my process has turned to seeing and reading and listening.

I’ve had a signed copy of Vic Poblete’s Marco Piolo and amidst the vast stories and novels the man has published, mostly vague recollections of stories read from my youth, this particular komiks is the one that has taught me more than an interview with a person might turn out. I have met Vic Poblete and the man is what he is – feisty, intelligent, quick to wit and what we call the personification of the word masculine – and yet, if you’ll get the chance to shoot the bull with the man, he’s a simple and as real as any father or uncle can be. Which I wouldn’t mind considfering I grew up without a father. And Marco Piolo is so precise in it’s words and pacing that all I need to do was read and look and read again, catching how the man put descriptions and dialog. The man’s mastery of the vernacular is enviable. After reading F Sionil Jose’s The Feet of Juan Bacnang, which is another author I admire, and his prose is very much a sort of transcendental reading, but Poblete’s wit and grasp of the NOW is plain to see, you can feel the abruptness of events happening in the story. There is another author I need to study, another friend, but with her work I need to get my feminine mojo on, because I am, admittedly, not really into love stories. But Ms. Rose Tan has been writing for two decades now, and her vernacular prowess has grown into staggering proportions that she only needs to quip a part of her writing on social media and her fans are swooning! I may have to read Arik, but not right now. I’ll do it after I let her read my manuscript, after all, the best critic will be a friend who tells you what stinks.

Oh, you may have guessed by now that I am writing. Mostly fiction of the sci-fi and fantasy orientations. And have applied what I have done with my previous work, approach it as a newbie, learn as much as possible about it, and do it. If roadblocks appear, do research and solve the damned thing that is getting in my way. And reading up on it is teaches me more than attending writing classes and seminars. Those books I have read and lost long ago, Perez, Bautista, Bombeck among the few, and those I still have with me are actually teachers for my story telling.

I’ve been listening to an audiobook by Stephen King, On Writing, and the writer who has given me Pennywise and Roland and the Tommyknockers is teaching me more than just taking me to places in New England and of people I will never meet but totally exist in that hemisphere. He’s talking about what I’m learning from Poblete and Tan, from the booksale find of three Ruth rendell Wexford novels I am reading in between drawing and writing, from the est of my measly collection of thriftshop hardbounds and paperbacks. Oh, I would still like to write like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or HP Lovecraft, but these authors I have with me now – King, Poblete, Tan – they are what’s closer to me, in different ways possible.

Soon as I prepped for the days drawing, setting up my media player with my headphones and the day’s selection of music, probably Heavy Metal or Jazz, depends on how noisy it is outside my door, I dive deep into learning. Even with my drawing I have seen my own progression. There is a difference between wanting to and doing it – the confidence of doing it is the key. And I have become confident in what I am doing.

Maybe because I have grown.

Or maybe I have accumulated all sorts of experiences and it is time for me to tell stories, to describe each experience within the walls of my fantasy. All the love, the hurt, the exhilirations and frustrations, misgivings, apprehensions, disappointments, immorality and honesty, exaltations and confusion. I’ve even made it a point to illustrate what I believe happened rather than what was taught me in since childhood.

It’s what good about writing and creating, I can shut the worl out and be with myself and the stories. Even with the constant braying of the twin kids below my room, or the incessant cha-cha music from the other side of the street, I could be with my own, in a world where I am learning as I move along.

But when the couple next door happens to make love, all bets are off. The house moves like a jellyfish and that is the only distraction I cannot possibly ignore, so I stop, giving them enough time to finish and I start again.

And by the time I have my fill of learning, writing, drawing, it’ll be past 3am, which is what I will be doing affer I have written down this affirmation of sorts.

Heavens, please make it rain, it’ll make the night cooler and much more lucrative for creativity . . .

Learning Curve

I couldn’t remember exactly when the writing bug bit me. All I know is, whenever I read komiks ( I spell it with a ‘K’ simply because what was available to me then  were all local talents – writers and artists – from our own publishing, to use the  word ‘comics’ would mean those Marvel and DC that are almost entirely out of my  reach back then) and I would spend my hard earned money, and some ‘kupit’ on  all the komiks I can rent, because my mother does not allow komiks in our  household, with the exception of Liwayway Magazine which usually carries 2-three  illustrated stories per issue. I would splurge on Holiday, Pinoy, Pilipino Komiks  like a fiend. I’d follow titles like Vic Poblete’s Devil Car or anything ilustrated by  Clem Rivera, Javinal and Alex Nino, which, by then has been rare. By the time I  went to high school, I explored the classic illustrated stories – Robinson Crusoe,  Swiss Family Robinson, The Hound Of Baskervilles, all illustrated by our local  artists, which led me to the dark, dusty section of our library that no one really  bothers to go to. It’s therewhere I discovered a tattered copy of The Lord of the  Rings, Flowers for Algernon, The Tommyknockers and an even more grizzled  copy of Diary of a Madman. Continue reading