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Showing posts from June, 2007


Nilisan ako ng mga salita.
Para saan ba ang mga makata?

Dapat bang ialay ang buhay
Sa mga letrang walang kulay?

Nakalulungkot mang isiping:
Kung walang salita, walang magiging.

Matuto kang manahan
Sa gabing walang pangalan.

Sa paglalantad ng Wala
Nakakubli ang bagong simula.

Ang karimlan ng daigdig
Hindi dadapo sa pusong tahimik.

Matapos akuin ang bundok
Iwan ang krus sa tuktok.

The Will to Happiness

At the height of a calm despair
Which arrested me
As early as I opened my eyes and hounded me
Like a black dog throughout the day
And everywhere I went
I sought the help of my philosopher
Friend, the whiskey priest.
What must I do in order to be happy?
What must I change? I inquired,
Hoping that salvation came
At the end of strife and pain
Which I was now ready to go through
and to suffer. Two cigarettes later--
Which got me nowhere-- he responded:
Happiness is uncaused.
I gave a short pause
And saw the whole thing unfair.
So I retorted, But if so can I not will it?
This time his response came quickly
As if he was prepared
with what to answer and said:
Then so be it. Indeed
we can and that is the key.
We can always will happiness
no matter our circumstance. Can you still
smile even if your heart is breaking?
If you can, nothing can break you.

The night grew silent as I began
to understand. Happiness
can never be divorced from grace
like lovers in a tight embrace.

On Reading People

One of my guilty pleasures is reading people.

I do not remember anymore how I acquired the art. Something tells me I got it from my mother and her side of the family. They are notorious for that. My uncle who was a successful executive of a large corporation says that because he has seen and interviewed so many applicants already, it takes him only a few seconds to know what he needs to know from the applicant. I may not have honed my skill to that level but I still think I am getting better at it. And here are some points I wish to share.

It all begins with observation, as I have learned, much like how a doctor first observes the patient even before he asks for symptoms or the problem at hand. A game that I play with my mother is observing other people in restaurants, in the nearby tables. Even if we would only glance sidewards, we could tell by what they order, their faces and their gestures if, for example, the two are a happy couple or in a middle of a fight; or if the parents are s…


I think the maturity of the mind does not mean that we become more intelligent or know more answers. It is the opposite. We become more mature when experience informs the mind of a number of certainties, just a few, but good enough to hold onto and live by. One can be smart in the head but uninitiated in being human. I hasten to call these certainties principles, virtues or truths; but all the same, to learn how to walk this earth is to learn what you live your life upon, to know what matters, to feel in your bones what you can die for.

And progress does not mean accumulation. One becomes more human as one's questions change, evolve or are left behind. I think this is what it means to grow: to earnestly seek the answers to the most important questions you have; to scrutinize and wring those answers to the last drop; and finally become those questions and answers--to live them and be them.

In college, I had one burning question in my heart. And this was God's existence and essenc…

In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King

It depends, you see, on the kingdom in which you wish to be king.

I have chosen this small room as my domain. The books around me constitute my wealth, the sofa my throne, the day my reign.

Where there is no division between being sane and mad, right or wrong, life and death. Where everything is permitted. Where my wishes are made and where I know of no excess. There are no paychecks here, no evaluations, no requirements, and nothing is expected from you. Hence, it all lies between you and yourself and the difference you make.

Though I know that if I go out of this kingdom I will most likely never be accepted. There, I will have to play again in the game they invented, whose rules they made in their favor, where their smiles welcome you as the sentry welcomes the convict to the death chamber. I lose my powers there, and no one will believe me. And so I play on and do my best to put up a front. The difference is knowing this--for most people get lost in the world and forget their true liv…

When Herodotus Visited Egypt

Herodotus, upon visiting Egypt in the fifth century,
reported an unusual event while men were feasting
and drinking. A skeleton, painted in blood red,
would be carried by a stretcher across the banquet hall,
making sure that each reveller would not miss a glimpse
of that reminder. As one would raise the goblet or
chew on fine meats, or while, perhaps, one is lost
in the spirit of fortune and fame, the uninvited
guest, once a merry man, would make
its way through the happiness and excess.
It is not known whether this only made their
spirits rise even higher or if this subtle reminder
made them close their eyes for a moment
to honor their dead, or even, if by chance,
they stared at the fleshless brother
recognizing the fate they both shared.

Tell them, Herodotus, that life is swift
but sweet and beautiful. Tell them to drink
while they still can, to fill their bellies until they burst
with the pleasures of the earth. For they do not know
blood is what they drink and flesh what they eat.
Tell them that life …

The Parable of Dying Young

There came a time when mortal men became angry at the gods for their one and only fate: that they will die. They couldn't understand the riddle of getting old and the death that eventually followed it. So they blamed the gods. And the gods heard their wrath.

The gods then gave men the gift which they yearned for. They reversed the movement of time and life. Thinking that men blamed time for the slow death that they approached, the gods stopped time and then made it go backward. Instead of growing older, everyone would grow young. Life then would approach youth instead of old age, birth instead of death.

Men thought this was more than they bargained for. Suddenly the women slowly could feel their bodies transform into the younger selves they were before; they had curves, lost their wrinkles and laugh lines, had softer skin. The men meanwhile felt the resurgence of youth shoot through their blood. Their bones became stronger, their posture upright once again, their mood exuberant and …

A Feast for the Eyes

BORACAY--This is my first time to visit these shores. And the moment we neared the beach passing by the festive stores, there was a certain vibe in the air very much as if something was about to happen. It was a Saturday and people packed the sandy streets, hurrying to and fro indistinguishable point to indistinguishable point. There is a kind of indifference along the shores: it didn't matter where you stopped to eat or where you lay down on the sand. The beach was vast, its waters a cool turquoise, and the waves kind. So this was what others had called paradise.

Women clad in bikinis scatter on the shores. They looked like bronze Olympian goddesses, followed by men bathed in laughter and plastered with wide smiles. It was a feast for the eyes, not so much because of the beauty of the young bodies in parade but more so for the exuberant spirits now free to run and let go. This is a place to be young, free and to be under the sun. There is glory to be witnessed in flesh suddenly re…

On Opposites

Are there really opposites in the world?

To be sure, we are abound with phenomena which answer yes. Day and night, life and death, pleasure and pain, good and evil, etc. Nothing could be more obvious than the difference between such poles; and obviously, we tend to favor one pole over the other, depending on the value it has for our enjoyment and pleasure. Thus we prefer light, life, pleasure and goodness over their counterparts. Science also insists that for every force there is an opposite equal reaction. I think it was Parmenides who first divided the world into two in his mythical poem when he delineated between Being and Nothing. Ever since, we have thought in twos and have been wary of mixing them up.

But say we try to take a step back from our natural attitude and see it all over again. What do we actually experience? That in between these poles of opposites there are infinite gradations or "levels," if you wish, which either tend to one pole or in balance between them.…