The Prodigal Son Returns

The day started with me walking up Buendia Avenue on a nippy Saturday morning, on my way to a rendezvous point where Arniel, an old friend whom I haven’t seen for about a decade, give or take a few, is going to give me a ride down memory lane.

The blasted dude didn’t age one bit! Still the tidy, neat guy he was when we were getting shitfaced drunk back in the day (well I was always shitfaced drunk back then, he was seldom inebriated, methinks). He arrived and we gassed up, he did some work stuff for a couple of minutes and we were off.

We went to see the boys back home, home being Paete, Laguna, where we grew up.

The Bulldogs Club, as we’re famous, or infamous for, depends on who you’re talking to, was a bunch of guys growing up in Paete, painting souvenir bulldog pen heads, and everything started from there. We had a basketball team that became one of the team to beat at our local basketball tournaments (yes we have a pennant!) which came slow and hard, as we were wet behind the ears and was only in it for the heck of it. Our early team names, as Ka Emer reminded me, was Loafers, then became Youngsters, back then already giving the opposing team a hard time, and the official Bulldogs Team that won a championship, if I recall correctly. Basketball games at smalltowns are really an event worth cleaning and brushing your flipflops clean and be seen among the fans shouting bloody murder when a referee failed to call a foul.

Good times!

It’s not just being a basketball team, I can hardly dribble, but the rest of the guys were good at it. We also dabbled in music. Everyone in our crew can sing, but it was me who did most of the vocal duties when we decided to learn our chops seriously. Ambo on guitar, Tavern on drums, Me on bass and vocals, and most anyone who would jam with us, with the few song list we can play decently. Most of the time we were playing, we were also drinking, as most boys in our age then are wont to do. There was also that part of long forgotten memories, when, before we started palying in a band, we would pool up our money buy some pasta, set-up a place with a few strobes and colorful lights, taking turns at the tape player and turntable and viola! The party is on! To make sure all the invited girls can eat what measly food and drinks we had to offer, we made sure everyone has taken their share before eating ourselves, maybe even waiting for some leftovers.

Bulldogs Club Collage

Photos: Nelia De Luna, Arniel cajumban, Mahalia dalay, Rey Cajipe

Music has always been a part of the Bulldogs Club. And yesterday, I sang my heart out, because I haven’t anything to contribute financially, I just added some entertainment with my singing, even though it’s really hard to say the words when I’ve got less teeth now as I did back then. Still, yesterday was when I feel I could fuck up a song and the guys wouldn’t mind. But I think I did pretty well, considering I had to follow a more visceral singer in the person of Ramil. Continue reading

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Dichotomy

Noun: dichotomy [dI’ko-tu-mee or di’ko-tu-mee]

  1. Being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses
  2. Branching repeatedly into two

Recently I got an invitation to attend a gathering of old high school friends. I was downhearted and forlorn, thinking how could I, at my current state of unemployment and almost nonexistent financial sources, bring myself to this take that bus ride and savor the camaraderie and joy of peole who I have come to love as I grow up.

It was very difficult for me.

Here I am,  getting all social with my Twitter and Facebook, and continually posting on my WordPress and Google+, and it has come to my attention that, for all  the reality of poverty, I seem to give off a seemingly well-off character trolling the interwebs constantly. Mainly because I choose to speak in English, with my writing and my so-called social presence online. The music I listen to, the videos I am often fond of posting on my timelines, gives off some sort of content and comfort one sees with the millions of people trying to look larger than life with their selfies and OOTD’s and foodie post. Though I am not prone to doing all these, sadly, I see the analogs.

Whenever I post a finished inked drawing, likes and exclamations of appreciation, to other people look like I have made it. Which is far, really far from the truth. For several months now, I have survived from dole outs and charity from friends. My family is better off within the warmth of the countryside and the people supporting them. I was abandoned by other people, too, though I couldn’t blame them for doing so. Sometimes, in the deep of the night when I feel I deserve something better, my thoughts turn to negative, with anger and rage at the people whom I fairly given my talent and skill and loyalty, only to be treated like rag, too dirty and worn to be of any use. They could be right you, know, in their twisted version of altruism.They have their reasons. But sometimes it rasps like P1330221sandpaper in my soul. But to dwell on it would be courting disaster so I am moving along.

I didn’t care to weigh myself, but I seem to be just a few pounds short of 80. I know I used to be a heavy 120++ and my clothes seem to hang like laundry on hangers.

I got a rousing compliment about my newfound drawing skills with pen,ink and brush.

My  rented room is just a few notches from being too unwholesome and downright  trashy, probably the best description is the setting for “Scorpio Nights”, but without the sex, just the weathered, broken down dwelling.

And the cat smells.

But online, some find it humorous that I comment on my cat housemates as if, it’s a regular thing, and not at all annoying.

So this invitation, try as I might, may not push through, and did not actually, because I have not the the means to do so. I declined without getting into the full details of my absence. If I tell people I only eat two meals a day, they would laugh and dismiss it as just one of my witty quips.

Which is true. The two meals a day, I mean. Most of the time, the only food I get in my system is accompanied by brandy  provided by my Mayor Street Preacher friends here in Makati, one of the few saving graces handed to me: a brother’s unflinching love, a best friend’s undying loyalty, a couple of friends who have gone out of their way to give me something more than what I asked. But there is one other saving grace that wants no part of me whatsoever and just up and went. I suffer in silence. I have never been ungrateful, but some peole tend to be impatient with the returns, given my circumstances. To hear them talk would sound like they don’t care. But they do.

People may talk of not caring what others think, but they do care about what peole think.

But things are looking up.

My gig with Mike is now on for 8 more weeks, with a new show requiring comics/drawing as the show intro in the offing, my komiks portrait seem to be gathering enough interest for people to actually ask about it, hopefully more want theirs too, and my own stories are getting fuller everyday – drawing and adding new aspects of the story by writing a bit more each day – has made me more determined to see this through. Very much like an MMA fighter who is losing with every round, but resolved to finish the whole bout.

For respect.

Now, a new invitation, this time from a bunch of hooligans I went out with, got mugged with, got stoned-faced drunk with in my youth and early adul life is calling. Do I make myself available?

Damn well, I will.

Solitude is something I have learned to live with since my childhood. But sometimes being with friends does wonders to my being. I could get some hard facts slapped in my face, the guys would probably berate me for being too scarce these years, and I may get a lot of flak from stories I haven’t told, but dammit, I miss mingling with real people, not some online community.

So come the 23rd of July, I will be taking the trip back to my hometown…

And I will enjoy myself.

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…