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Showing posts from August, 2007

Book Lust

For Allan

Contents of my loot bag from the Manila International Book Fair in World Trade Center:

Jose Saramago, Seeing.
Elio Frattaroli, Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain.
Mitcham Mackey, ed., Philosophy and Technology.
Richard H. Popkin, ed., The Philosophy of the 16th and 17th Century.
Andrew M. Greeley and Mary G. Durkin, ed., The Book of Love.
Hegel, On Art, Religion and the History of Philosophy.
George Battaile, On Nietzsche.
Gianni Vattimo, Nietzsche: An Introduction.
Gary Cox, Sartre: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Matheson Russell, Husserl: A Guide for the Perplexed.
Various Poets, Metaphysical Poetry.
Augustine, The Confessions.
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others.
Italo Calvino, Numbers in the Dark.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Poor People.
Apuleius, Cupid and Psyche.
Apollonius, Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Penguin Dictionary of World History.
Allan Popa and Cirilo Baustista, ed., Latay sa Laman.

And mind you, it wasn't like all I did was hunt the above down. Actually, most of the afternoo…

Balance, Brokenness, Equanimity

Is he sick? May he be as gladly sick as well,
as gladly well as sick. Is his friend coming to die?
He will renounce him in the name of God. Is an eye
plucked out of him? He will renounce it in the name of God.

Meister Eckhart

Everyday life is a balancing act. We balance our time with work, family, friends, solitude, enjoyment and leisure. We balance the needs of the mind, the spirit, and the body. We balance our money and what we spend on. We balance what we give and receive, what we love and hate, what we think and do. Even something as natural as walking is a game of balance: each step forward means a foot plunging down on the ground, supporting the force and weight of the body, while the other foot is in suspension before it takes the weight and force anew, in another--counter--act of balancing.

To balance initially and for the most part means to weigh. In the Middle Ages, the word was first the name of that apparatus called bilanx ("bis" twice or two + "lanx" a di…

Why Write Here?

Whoever does not understand what I have said,
let him not burden his heart with it, for as long as man
is not equal to this truth, he will not understand these words,
for this is a truth beyond speculation that has come
immediately from the heart of God.


I forgot it and it passed me by like a thief in the night. It was this month last year that I started this space, this clearing (mind you, this is not a blog) and I have been writing regularly since.

Let me be the first to tell you that exposing my thoughts to the general public is really not of my taste; well, until last year, that is. I am, as those close to me know, an introvert who would rather be silent and keep my opinions to myself. (When I taught, only rarely would I offer my own take on things; I always refer to what a philosopher said.) But even if I try my best not to mention my name--and before, I also never mention the word "I"--I now am not so afraid to reveal myself, whereas my first profile, coming fr…



I saw an acquaintance of mine on today's newspaper. He's part of a model search sponsored by a large supermarket chain. The ad said that, upon P500 worth of purchases, you are entitled to a ballot to vote for the face which you think best represents the youth today. Never mind the absurdity of a supermarket choosing models of the youth; what was more important for me was that this acquaintance of mine, at least from what it seems, has recovered.

Recovered from what? From a drug addiction. I met him when he was at his worst. He had been in and out of rehab at that time, and to make matters more complicated--as if they were not already so--he also had an anger management problem. (The people I meet, huh?) A little younger than me, shot through and through with mestizo features, tall as a basketball player, a gentle giant and fun-loving, no one would think that there would be trouble in paradise. Though, as it was expected from being mere smoking buddies, I did not inquire as …

White Flurry


Some students were slowly but without cares leaving the room one by one. The other Ph.D. holder has dozed off in the front row. The idealistic newbie in front of me kept nodding her head in agreement. My foreigner friend, a deep man, is listening closely as best he could, trying to understand the words that have acquired a different accent and pronunciation. I, meanwhile, have dismissed the speaker half an hour ago and have already settled on watching everyone else. Perhaps, from them, I could learn something new--which was why I went to the "lecture" in the first place.

It was a lecture about "thinking philosophically"--a title which seemed to me odd in a pretentious way, but nonetheless, because of the same reason, interested me. Wow, I thought, I am going to learn how to think philosophically! Nothing could be more attractive to one who also tries but often fails to think in that pristine way. Add to it the promise that the lecture would be framed by the thoug…

The Absent Defendant


To speak?--
When your words
Are the words of the mad
And shall boomerang back
A hundred times over.

To be silent?--
When your quiet
Is the quiet of guilt and arrogance
And shall only justify their judgment
A thousand times over.

Those who explain, admit.
Those who are silent, guilty.
Those who admit, are not guilty.
Those who are guilty, do not admit.
Guilty--without why.

Woe to this lot.
Unable to defend your self.
Unable to fight for your self.
Never given a chance to speak.
Judged guilty by the silence you seek.

The meek shall inherit the earth
But only after they are crucified.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


My mother. And all her siblings. My cousins. Myself. And as it is slowly turning out, my younger sister. We are all obsessive compulsives.

While it is usually the stuff which makes of good jokes and a lot of teasing, there is something very serious about being an obsessive compulsive. Take away the odd rituals, the unbreakable rule of order, the necessity of being on time, all the double-checking (Did I lock the car?) and the hand gels, it is a disorder of the brain, that is, a psychological dysfunction. Just ask my doctor.

Knowing full well the symptoms of such a disorder, I diagnosed myself as being an obsessive compulsive and got the doctor's "second opinion." While it is highly irregular for a patient to do his own diagnosis, I did so because I recently found out that since it is a disorder, it then has the appropriate medication--not to completely do away with it, but as with other psychological problems, to manage it or handle it better. A cure for this devil in a b…

The Poetics of Space

For my bosses at idea/forma
Malen, Nina and Lisa

My cousin Nina informed me last week that our interior design company just finished a project and that it was time for me to do my thing. I take pictures of all our projects before we turn them over to the eager owners. We've been constantly expanding our portfolio so that we have something to show to prospective clients who are curious as to our company's design inclinations. After a few months without having anything to shoot, I gladly went to Makati to take shots of this one bedroom luxury condominium unit.

Let me tell you ahead of time that it is no easy art, this architecture photography. I don't come in and just shoot away in the manner that tourists take pictures of the Grand Canyon, The Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. The first thing I do when I get to a shoot is to feel the area, to absorb its mood, and to interpret its emotions. As much as I read people and their auras, I also decipher places and their "…

An Example of Ranting

Here is a response to Mr. Brotario's rant on my letter that Mr. Butch Dalisay was kind enough to publish in his column last Monday in The Philippine Star. I append my answers to Mr. Brotario's eloquently put thoughts:Mr. . . . , give it time. Filipinos had little experience with democracy and freedom of speech. Your generation was quieter than ours, yes. But what is the reason of this. Isn't it true that "ranter” (sic.) in your generation are labeled "baliw" and that poor people who react too violently against injustice are summarily executed. When politicians are rowdy and do not listen and talk nonsense, do you complain?
Mr. Brotario, thank you for your response. I, however, disagree on several points you raise here. First of all, I am quite confused with the central message of your letter: are you saying that I should give the youth a break and focus on more important matters? Should I, as what you seem to suggest, keep silent like you and let everybody el…

Love's Objects

Love's gift cannot be given /
It waits to be accepted

Rabindanath Tagore

Inventory of things on my bathroom dresser:

Absurdly expensive Denman brush that I rarely useFree hair comb from Philippine Airlines which I do use for my beardPeso coinsMy friend's pocket watch that he gave me the moment I said that I have been wanting one for a long timeNail cutterSomething to help me sleepMalaysian ringgit left over from a trip to KulaLumpur last month with my girlfriend and her friendsLuxury watch from my parents given when I was in high schoolAshtray I took as my own from my sister's roomNike baller ID bands I bought on sale in San Francisco (which some people tell me are unfashionable as there are many fakes in the market)Empty container of cotton budsPerfumeZippo lighter my dad gave because it had an American eagle on it (which reminded him of my alma mater)Self-stick index cards I keep handy if ever I think of an idea or read a quotationBatmobile scale model from my NinangDigital …

On Body Scrubs and Kant

Beauty is a curse on the world.

I had a body scrub last night. My friend, complaining of how his back has been festooned with "lamig," asked me to accompany him for a massage. Also in need of one but not wanting to be all slimy afterwards (we were going drinking), I chose to have a body scrub instead.

I decided to try the salt scrub over the coffee variety because I did not want to smell like a frappucino again as what happened the last time around. Inside a dimly lit room with the constant trickling of water as pipe-in music, I lay flat on my stomach on the masseuse table, eyes closed, a blob of flesh on display without glory or shame.

The "technician" first cleaned my body much like how a car goes through a car wash: with soap and a fine scrub, a sponge for rinsing and a cloth for wiping. (Others take it further by having a "body wax.")

Then the salt comes in, which I presumed would be rock salt (imagining the pain of coarse salt rubbed on the skin …

The Politics of "Wowowee"

From where I sit, I can tell you,
a President is always as strong as she wants to be.

One of the "perks" of being unemployed is the chance to watch local noontime variety shows. After I do my work from the time I get up from the haven of my bed until I tire out from the hell of my desk, I sit back, have lunch brought in my study, and turn to Wowowee and Eat Bulaga. I switch to and fro the two shows, which is a bit of a dilemma for me since they seem to have made it a point to simultaneously cut to commercial breaks, leaving to the poor viewer the all-important task of deciding between the two--when all he wants is to stay away from all decision-making problems that he has to confront the rest of the day. Anyhow, I manage to watch both shows in between trips to the microwave to reheat my food (I like it very, very hot) and refills of Diet Coke (the cure for the daily hangover).

Based on my "expert" observations from watching the two shows faithfully, I have come up …

The Idolatry of Reason: The Snake and the Rose

The dream of reason produces monsters


I have a friend who recently has asked me about my thoughts on what she called "the meaning of life." Not only was I surprised with the timing of the question--it being asked in the car on the way to the airport in a mad dash not to miss the plane--but I was also taken aback with the reason behind her question. As she explained, she has a friend that she met in Europe who has been regularly talking or writing to her about many things, "the meaning of life" among them. I instantly asked how old her friend was, and I was not surprised to find out that he was much younger than the both of us. Anyway, she asked me what I thought because her friend has been "beating" her in their sort of debate; on her side, she believed that there was a meaning in life, and on his side, naturally as it is with Europeans his age, that there was none. In short, she was asking for some conceptual ammunition she could use so that she could…