Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle

This is worth watching! Take the effort.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ken Lee

This delightful segment from Bulgarian Idol has been making the rounds since last year. If you have problems, this one will make you escape for a while.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cats are happy, people are crazy

A very contented Chester

When a cat curls up and sleeps for a long time, it is contented with life. I’m not. Not sleeping long hours; not contented.

I wake up in the small hours of the morning and I think of tasks left undone in the measly 24 hours allotted per day. Can’t the Earth slow down, lax as a cat, and make its orbit 48 hours to make our day twice as long?

Sometimes I lie awake in the dark, constructing stories in my mind, everything flowing into place. I finish, only to see my work melt in the morning sun.

So I compose silly ditties, hoping the mind game will summon the Sandman. No such luck, and the Gudam poems are born. They are short and easily retained in memory, so they exist.

I email them to friends. I explain:

Gudam is short txt for gud a.m.—good morning: very early morning, when sleep wouldn’t come and the darkness of the night mingles with the false light of dawn. It isn’t as noiseless as we think; and the images are so different in perspective they tend to morph when the sunlight pours in and dispels the somber thoughts molded in the throes of the birth of a new day.

I hope you understand that, because I’m still figuring out what that exactly means.

Anyway, here’s a sample of what is bred when moonlight through the window churns my mind:

The moon is lunatic,

Sending beams to break my sleep.

Ay, buwan, tinimbang ka ngunit kulang,

Di mo ba alam, insomniac ako, hunghang!

There are times I drift back to sleep, but it’s still early when I reopen my eyes. Then I realize what wakes me up.

The sun is shining,

The bird is chirping,

Soon it will be crispy.

My breakfast will be ready

When it is crunchy.

I think cats have it easy because they don’t need much to make them happy.

Cats are happy, people are crazy. When we don’t have money, we set our goal to gather wealth. Billions of our species use their lives to accumulate money, stressing out their lives to old age so they can give their hard-earned money to doctors, who treat them for arteriosclerosis, stroke, or psychosis.

But there are a few cat people who take everything in stride; they accumulate and use money to enjoy life. Money is the tool to a good life, they know, and life is the precious spark that should not be spent for money’s sake. But the majority in this planet knows otherwise. No wonder this planet is a mess.

I envy cats.

Top 10 Friendliest Cat Breeds in the World:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pauses & Catnaps

At my age I have learned what brighter and younger people have grasped earlier, and what most people will never understand till death -- to pause for the right priorities in life.

This morning, I noticed that Cordell sitting inside the bathroom, silently waiting for me to finish washing my face. When I reached for the towel he stretched a paw to call my attention -- "How about some rubbing and stroking?" was his message.

I woke up early because I had to do some last-minute browsing of my emails, to see if some clients had sent in payments so I can add their eBay parcels for today's shipping. The packing that follows is usually fast-paced, hectic. But Cordell was looking expectantly at me. I know I can just pat his head and say, "Later," and he would not insist; he would just sit and look as I walked away. That is not acceptable. 

Am I so frivolous that I can take for granted chubby Cordell's dashing up the stairs to meet me when I emerge from the bedroom in the morning? As if I, one who doesn't believe or care about the afterlife, can afford to ignore the precious events this messy, earthly life provides. Money and business lost can be recovered, but interspecies communication is, indeed, priceless.

I bent down and rubbed his chin, eliciting some throaty Urkk-Urkks from him, which means something like "You're doing fine; I might promote you or give you a raise." Brisk rubbing is equivalent to sniffing catnip to Cordell. You cannot hurry the pace, you just share the time and affection until Cordell is satisfied. Then he walks away, expecting to see me tonight for another session.

Cordell, Maine Coon with a big, big heart.
Cordell likes me, and I can easily throw eBay and stamps to the winds for signs of affection from cats, who do not feign affection (They must be heeding Max Erhmann's admonition in Desiderata). Most of the high values I once expected from people I have earned from cats. You have to earn their trust because their instinct against falsehood and pretense is sharp. No amount of bribery or cajolery can make them approach if they don't like you. They are honest, they are regal -- as the Egyptians found out 4,000 years ago.

From kittens I have learned the value of play: "Let's have fun, thinking about money and bills only makes you grumpy."

One morning I found some stamps scattered all over my work room. Obviously, during the night, some of Mau's kittens managed to get to the folder where I kept some stamps for postage use. We picked them up from under the bed, from everywhere, and sorted them to see if some can still be used. Torn and heavily crumpled ones were tossed to the trash can; those missing one or two teeth were saved (they are not collectible anymore but can be used for mailing). I have to laugh when I saw one or two were Year of the Rat issues. "Kaya pala parang kinagat nang husto ito," I remarked.

Mau's cuties: Chomper of stamps

Sometimes I wonder about myself. I know I'm quick-tempered, super-meticulous with a high distrust level. Certainly not a pleasant person to strangers. But never have I been like that with our pets. "Oh, how adorable, you rummaged through my drawer and folders and scattered, chewed and torn many stamps, not discriminating between the high denominations and cheap ones. You had bundles of fun, I see, so you must be hungry now. Here, have some Iams." No scolding, no cussing, no hot-tempered me at all. This is something I still have to figure out about myself. Sometimes I like myself.

 I noticed that we like ourselves without doubt when we are happy. We are happy when we feel good about ourselves, perhaps because we have been good to others or have not been too harsh to ourselves. But how long does the happiness last? Lucky are those who can claim being happy for entire days, for many hours within the measure of a day, or even briefly every day. Dealing with cats, I have learned to think about happiness. That's a lot.

Bottom slats of the jalousies in the windows of our bedroom and kitchen have been detached to widen the space where the cats like to perch -- to bird-watch in the early morning and to catnap (what else to call it?) in the afternoon. I admire the cats' ability to stretch and relax fully. I read somewhere that fear is fostered by feeling of not having enough. "Look at Chester," I think as he curls up under the cool midday sun, "doesn't care about having a house bigger than of his peers; money is never a problem because he doesn't have any, doesn't care, anyway." I will learn to be fearless.

 Chester's catnap, peaceful mind: Priceless.

Sometimes they just sit all afternoon while I wonder if they are not bored at all. Then I think of the big errors we dumb humans fall into when making crucial life decisions. Having survived some of my biggest mistakes, I conclude that the alternative to boredom is seldom excitement; usually you get misery instead.

"It's better to be bored than be miserable," I have cautioned many young househelps who left us because life in our home is too quiet: no glamorous visitors, no young men to flirt with, no travels to beaches, just cats perched in the windows and kittens wrestling in play. Of course, you only get to appreciate the quiet life when your life gets messed up -- unplanned pregnancy, a shiftless spouse whose good looks you realize cannot even buy a can of milk or a pack of diapers for the baby. It's too late to go back to being bored: you have to find money to feed, bathe and clothe the baby; you have to wake up whenever the baby cries; you have to clean the house, cook meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, iron the clothes -- without getting paid. You see a cat sleeping peacefully, and that's when you realize that some mistakes in life are irreversible. 

Cordell and the other cats can have a share of my time anytime or, to be precise, I hope the cats let me share their time.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence... Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection... But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself... Strive to be happy. -- Max Ehrmann, 1927

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Buhay Electrolux

Ilang buwan na palang sarado ang Electrolux branch dito sa Dau di ko nabalitaan agad. Wala na yung mga Fierang tagahatid-sundo sa mga nakakurbatang ahente nito. Kunsabagay nag-resign na sina Matt, Joey at Ranel – mga limang taon nang nakalipas. Alam ko, dahil nauna lang ako ng konti sa kanila.

Makisig ako noong ahente pa ako -- naka-long sleeves at kurbata din ako. Ang nakakasira lang ng porma ay yung hila-hila naming blue bag. Sa halip na mapagkamalan kang executive ay bistado agad na ahente ka lang ng vacuum cleaner. Kaya sa halip na taas-noo ang lakad mo ay nakatingin ka lagi sa lupa. Mahirap na, baka may masalubong na kakilala.

Isa pa, dahil nga kulay asul yung aming bag, tulad ng gamit ng ahente ng Yakult, napagkakamalan pa kami. Ito ang kuwento minsan ni Laverne: “Tinawag ako nu’ng isang ale, tuwang-tuwa ako at isip ko eh may prospect na agad ako. Paglapit ko eh ang tanong ba naman sa akin, ‘Miss, magkano ba yang Yakult?’ Naku, kung hindi lang mahirap ang buhay ngayon…”

At yun ang dahilan bakit pumasok kami sa Electrolux, mahirap ang buhay – noon at ngayon. Kung wala kang perang pantustos sa iyong pamilya, maghahanap ka kahit anong trabaho.

Bibili ka ng Bulletin at susuyurin mo ang mga anunsiyo. Ang una mong mapapansin ay napakaraming kompanyang naglalakihan na nangangailangan ng empleyado. Hindi totoong walang mapagtratrabahuan! Malalaki pa ang pasuweldo.

Pero hanep! basahin mo ang ang mga requirement: dapat ay college graduate ka, at kung maaari sana yung pinanggalingan mong university ang pangalan ay UP (yung sa Diliman, ha), Ateneo o UST. Kung ipagmamalaki mong galing ka sa Angeles University o Holy Angel College, sasabihin sa iyo: Meron bang ganu'n?

Sakali naming lusot ka sa unang kundisyon ay papatungan ng isa pa. Este, may job experience ka na? Kahit tatlo o limang taon man lang? Ayannn, experience daw. Iisipin mo, Papaano ako magkaka-experience eh nag-aaral ako noon?!
Wawaratin mo na sana yung diyaryo sa matinding inis, pero napansin mo yung Electrolux ad. Management trainee (Tuturuan akong maging manager agad!). No experience necessary (Ako ‘yon! Ako ‘yon!). Yahoo!!


Si Management Trainee, ayun, alas onse na nang gabi nakaupo pa sa isang tipak na bato, kumakain ng Sky Flakes habang inaamuy-amoy ng mga asong katulad niyang naliligaw ng landas sa buhay.

“Shoo! Uwi ka na, gabing-gabi na nasa kalye ka pa. Ano ka ba, tao?” angil niya sa isang pangahas na idinikit pa ang malamig na ilong sa kanyang braso. “Putragis na Chris yan ah; alas diyes daw ako susunduin, hanggang ngayon wala pa.”

Habang wala pa yung susundo sa kanyang Fiera ng Electrolux, inilabas ni Mr. Sales Rep yung kanyang Demo sheet. Siya ‘yun, official Sales Representative ng Electrolux Corporation. Kung ayaw mong maniwala ipakikita niya sa iyo ang kanyang ID.

Ang una niyang natutuhan nang mag-apply siyang maging manager ng Dau branch ay (1) Meron nang manager; (2) Ang mga manager, naging supervisor muna; at (3) Yung mga supervisor, nagbenta muna ng sangkatutak na vacuum cleaner.
Kaya ayan siya, isang ahente de kurbata. May suweldo naman, minimum wage. At kung may magoyo siyang bumili ng vacuum cleaner na mahigit P10k ang halaga, may katapyas na komisyon. At least mataas nang konti yung ranggo niya kaysa du’n sa janitor nila.

Yung tinatawag na Demo Sheet naman, yun ang nagpapatunay na kumakayod ang ahenteng isinasalpak sa mga subdivision na pugad-mayaman. Bawat Electrolux Man may quota araw-araw: tatlong bahay ang dapat ma-knock-knock niya bawat lugar; sa tatlong knock-knock ay dapat makapasok siya kahit sa isa man lang. Sa tatlong mapasukang bahay, dapat makapagdemonstration siya kahit sa isa lang; at sa tatlong bahay na pinagpakitaan niya ng galing ng Electrolux, dapat makapagbenta siya – hah! – kahit isa.

Yung demonstration ang mahalaga dahil yun ang itinatala sa Demo Sheet. Tatlong demo bawat araw ang quota ng ahente. Yung pagpasok sa bahay hindi problema yun dahil tinuruan siya ng MICI (May I Come In) technique ng Electrolux. Lalong hindi mahirap mag-demonstrate dahil payag ang mga maybahay na linisin ang bahagi ng bahay nila. Pag nakita ni misis ang galing ng vacuum cleaner, maeengganyo iyan at itatanong: Magkano ba iyan?
Sa puntong iyan hihinga nang malalim si Electrolux Man at ipapakita ang Price List.

Matapos mahimasmasan si misis, ipapaliwanag naman sa kanya ng ahente na hindi naman kailangang bayaran nang buo agad – puwedeng installment plan! Kung hindi sinungaling si Management Trainee, hindi nalalayong ganito ang sales talk niya, lalo na kung hamak na de-suweldong titser and kausap niya:

“…Ayan, ma’am, matapos niyong isanla ang inyong bahay – malinis na bahay – may pang-down payment na kayo. Ngayon, kung tumigil-tigil muna sa pag-aaral itong inyong anak, at iwasan ninyo ang luhong kumain ng tatlong beses bawat araw, malaki ang pag-asang mabubuo rin ninyo ang kabayaran sa taong 2029…”

Kung tila nahihindikan pa rin ang ginang at halatang ayaw magsakripisyo, papipirmahan na lang siya ng magiting na Sales Rep sa Demo Sheet, bilang pagpapatibay na siya nga ay galing sa bahay na ito at nagpakitang-gilas.

At yan ang problema ni Mr. Demo nu'ng gabing sinisinghot siya ng aso: dadalawa pa lang ang napapirma niya at kailangang umimbento na naman siya ng ikatlong pangalan na pipilantikan ng pekeng pirma. Habang lumilikha siya ng fictional character, naisip niya kung laging ganoon na lang ba ang takbo ng buhay niya.

“Di bale!” bulalas niya sa nagulat na asong umaamoy sa tuhod niya. “Lalayas na ako bukas.” Naalala niya ang nangyari kahapon.


Tapos na akong mananghalian: tulad ng dati, Sky Flakes at Pop Cola. Dighay ang meryenda. Hila-hila ko na naman ang blue bag sa trolley kong pang-Grade One. Dalawa na ang nagtanong kung magkano ang Yakult. Wala pa akong Demo.

Oops! Tinatawag ako ng hardinero sa kabilang kalsada. Pag humingi ito ng Yakult, uupakan ko na.

“Ano 'yon, bos?”

“Ah, ipinatatawag kayo ni Ma’am. Kung puwede ka raw makausap.

Pumasok ako. Sa bakod pa lang ay napuna ko nang sinakop nito ang buong bloke. Doon sa dinaanan kong hardin, yung taniman pa lang ng rosas ay puwede nang isalpak yung apartment na inuupahan namin ng misis ko. Mamahalin ang hagdanang marmol na hinakbangan ko. Yung sala maliit nang kaunti sa NAIA.

Nasa tabi ng mesita ang nagpatawag sa akin. Antique pareho – yung mesita at si Ma’am. Tantiya ko may isang daang taon na yung mesita; si Ma’am mas bata nang konti. Puti ang nakapusod niyang buhok, itim ang kanyang damit. Matangkad siya. Payat. Hindi titser si Ma’am.

“Please sit down. Maupo ka.” Nakatayo pa rin siya, hawak ang isang papel. “I hope you don’t mind at ipinatawag kita. Wala akong makausap. May gusto sana akong itanong sa iyo.

Hindi ako kumibo. Di ko alam ang sasabihin ko.

“Nasa States na ang mga anak ko; nag-iisa na lang ako rito. Ako si Mrs. Buan, at siya –“ Itinuro niya ang isang litrato sa dinding. “Siya si Mr. Buan, half-owner ng Philippine Rabbit Bus Corporation. Namatay na siya. Last year.”

Tiningnan ko ang litrato. Tiningnan ko si Ma’am.

“Dito na ako lumaki,” patuloy niya. “Dito rin ako nag-aral. In fact we are holding a class reunion. Dito sa bahay gagawin. Bukas. Ang gusto kong malaman – kaya kita ipinatawag – why is he still poor? Bakit hanggang ngayon mahirap pa siya?”

“Sino, Ma’am?” Ako, naghihirap din: di ko masakyan ang kambyo ng usapan.

“Mayroon akong kaklase noon, he’s the school principal now, si Mr. Bulalacao. Darating siya bukas.” Ipinakita niya sa akin ang mga pangalang nakalista sa hawak niyang papel. “Kilala rin siya ni Mr. Buan. Sa mga nakalipas na mga taon, nagdo-donate kami, my late husband and me, ng mga blackboards, desks, books sa school. Almost 40 years na ang lumipas, hanggang ngayon ay ganoon pa rin siya – poor.”

“Baka maraming bisyo si Mr. Bulalacao, Ma’am…”

“No. Hindi siya naninigarilyo, hindi siya mahilig sa alak o babae, everyday he gets up very early and works and works and…works. Alam mo, he’s almost 70 now and he still comes to school on his bicycle. Aside from that, nag-aahente rin siya, like you, pero insurance ang kanya. Napansin ko yung bahay ng pamilya niya, it’s very small, kahoy. Masipag siya, pero at his age kumakayod pa ring ganyan. Why?”

“I think I get your meaning, Ma’am. Siguro noong naging principal siya naging kuntento na. Siguro para sa kanya mataas na ‘yon, like being a manager. Ang hindi lang niya naitanong eh – manager of what?”

“Hmmm. You think so? By the way, what are you selling?”

“Ah, ano ho, complete cleaning device ng Electrolux. Gusto niyong makita?”

“No, never mind. I already have those, ipinadala ng anak ko from the States. She’s married to an appliance shopowner. Siyanga pala, would you like to have a snack? Merong Sky Flakes…”

“Ah, di bale na, Ma’am, thank you. But I would like to ask you a favor…” At inilabas ko and Demo Sheet.


Nag-resign siya sa Electrolux matapos niyang makausap si Mrs. Buan, naalala niya. Limang taon na ang nakalipas. Umutang siya sa magulang niya ng pagpundar sa bookstore sa Dau. Sa tulong ng salesmanship na napulot niya sa Electrolux, lumago ito.

Sa loob ng tatlong taon nakabili na siya ng sariling bahay. Hindi naman kasinglaki ng kay Mrs. Buan, pero hindi ito kahoy. Laging malinis ang bahay dahil may vacuum cleaner. Siya ang nagturo sa misis niya sa paggamit nito. Marami silang alagang aso.

Sa tindahan niya sa Dau, meron siyang mesitang pinagpapatungan ng paa tuwing nagpapahinga siya at minumuni ang landas ng tadhanang naiwasan niya noon. Paminsan-minsan ay may maliligaw na Electrolux Man na may hila-hilang blue bag sa harap niya.

“Psst!” Tatawagin niya ito. “Magkano yang Yakult?” 

Ito ang una kong short story. Unang nalathala ito sa weekly The Angeles Sun sa Pampanga nung 1992. Nang magsara ang Sun, ipinadala ko sa Diyaryo Filipino para malaman ko kung papasa sa mahigpit na editor nitong broadsheet sa Maynila. Pumasa naman, at itinuring kong board exam ko sa pagsulat sa Filipino iyon. Lumabas din ito sa Philippine Graphic magazine na ang Panitikan editor noon ay si Jose Lacaba, na isa kong idol sa panunulat.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Colors of the Wind

That someone can write a masterpiece like this, and someone else can meld the perfect tune to match the lyrics, and a few more render visible the thoughts contained herein, give light to the dim spirits who tend to believe that this Earth has no more miracles to share with its inhabitants, among them the talented few who crafted this gift.

Translation: Hey, this is cool, man!


Colors Of The Wind

You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so.
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me.
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on,
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim.
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you.
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew.

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest,
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth,
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth.

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers;
The heron and the otter are my friends,
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know,
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon.

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains,
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind.

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Comics on stamps

The set above with the Darna souvenir sheet, which delightful design was based on a comic book cover, was issued by Philpost in 2004. The stamps feature, besides Darna, other comics characters of old.

In 2008, Philpost issued Carlo Caparas characters, with the creator himself, trademark cap and sunglasses and smile, peering at us from the souvenir sheet. This clarifies the issue that no image of living person, except the President's, can be printed on our stamps.

Japan, which has been showing characters like Doraemon (1997, 2004), Hello Kitty (2004, 2008), and various anime characters (2003 and going strong), recently issued the new set of sheetlets below. Compared to Philippine stamps, the set is expensive -- ¥3,200 or about P1,280; and that does not include the shipping fee.

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

I sat up when I first heard this song on American Idol last Wednesday. It's an oldie, I would learn later.

Contestant Didi Benami's version jolted me -- that a song this good, and popular -- has eluded me through the years. "No matter what the judges say," I thought, "I like this song." Didi, according to the judges, botched it. The audience agreed and she was voted out next day.

The song, written by William Witherspoon, Paul Riser, and lyricist James Dean, was recorded by Jimmy Ruffin and released on Motown Records' Soul label in the summer of 1966. 

The lyrics, carrying a bittersweet tone and theme, are addressed to a love that exists no more. Printed here is Didi's shorter version:

I walk this land with broken dreams,
I have visions of many things;
Love's happiness is just an illusion,
Filled with sadness and confusion. 

What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind

I walk in shadows
Searching for light;
Cold and alone,
No comfort in sight;
Hoping and praying for someone to care,
Always moving but going nowhere.
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind.

I'll be searching everywhere
Just to find someone to care.
I'll be looking everyday,
I know I'm gonna find...

What becomes of the broken hearted?
Tell me. Tell me. Oh...
What becomes of the broken hearted?

The word "confusion" in the fourth line and the theme of the song toss my mind further back in time. Here are the last two stanzas of  Dover Beach, written by Matthew Arnold in 1851.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 Video from YouTube

Ulan (Sa pananaw ng na-disable ng stroke)

Pagbuhos ng ulan
sila’y nagtatakbuhan;
Pag-ihip ng hangin,
sila’y kumakapit,
lumulukso at baka mahagip
ng tilamsik ng putik;
Kumakaway para pansinin
ng jeepney o taxi
habang bitbit ang pinamili.

Iniiwasan nila ang mabasa,
madulas, o kapitan ng dumi.
Ngunit sa akin, mas mahalaga
ang lukso, kaway, kapit.