243: Wisdom and Irony

img_20160830_215641.jpgNot quite Banksy, but I dare say we have a fairly above average literate graffiti artists in Davao City. This one is on my route past the Dakudao overpass. Other messages I’ve seen say: “TV is Mind Control” and “Don’t Be A Slave to Money.” I can’t say I disagree with the sentiments. I just wish there was a little bit more…art to their expression. I wonder what they have to say about the present situation, though. Have they been brainwashed into accepting violence like the rest of the country?

img_20160830_215748.jpgFor lunch, I went to this small joint called Busganan, just walking distance from the office. The food is good, if a little pricey. Their tables are made discarded cable spools which I think adds to the rustic ambience.

242: I Caught A Caterpie!

img_20160829_185932.jpgSo far, I’ve largely evaded the Pokemon Go phenomenon. Not that I’m knocking the game — I’ve had my share of weird pastimes when I was younger so I shouldn’t look down on this generation’s entertainment — it’s just that I have other interests to occupy my time now. Like gardening, for instance, one of those Adult Things that I have to do now.

Today being a holiday I finally managed to use the extra time to weed the garden. When I went around to look at our calamansi bush, though, I found that almost all the leaves had been stripped away! And the culprits? Three green caterpillars feasting on the plant. I cut off the branches and put the caterpillars elsewhere, I didn’t feel like squishing them.

My wife said they looked like a Pokemon character. One quick Google search later I found Caterpie. And what do you know, the likeness is uncanny!

241: Enervated

img_20160828_223510.jpgI picked up another COGO set earlier in the day. I was pretty impressed with the quality of the blocks I bought last time I decided to have another go at it, this time with a spaceship model. Verdict: not bad. While certainly not LEGO quality, the parts fit fairly well and the colors were solid and consistent. When I have some pin money and when the occasion warrants, I might pick up a few more.

Quite warm and humid these days. The weather is leaving me enervated and listless, unable to do much. Fortunately it’s a holiday tomorrow, so more time to rest. I wish things would take a turn for the better.

239: Relax

img_20160826_134127.jpgProgramming buddy Mindy is chilling with Manx on my desk. We had pizza day at the office, and in a shift of pace, we had a group discussion on some complex programming problems facing us. We also had a learning session on ORMlite and dependency injection on Android.

237: Llaneza

As promised, and just for fun, I translated Borges’ poem Llaneza into English and Bisaya. These are still rough and I am seeking advice of my mentor Mac Tiu to refine these further. In the meantime, I present the drafts here.

First, the original:


A Haydee Lange

Se abre la verja del jardín
con la docilidad de la página
que una frecuente devoción interroga
y adentro las miradas
no precisan fijarse en los objetos
que ya están cabalmente en la memoria.
Conozco las costumbres y las almas
y ese dialecto de alusiones
que toda agrupación humana va urdiendo.
No necesito hablar
ni mentir privilegios;
bien me conocen quienes aquí me rodean,
bien saben mis congojas y mi flaqueza.
Eso es alcanzar lo más alto,
lo que tal vez nos dará el Cielo:
no admiraciones ni victorias
sino sencillamente ser admitidos
como parte de una Realidad innegable,
como las piedras y los árboles.

Then, the English translation:


For Haydee Lange

The gates of the garden open
with the docility of the page
that a frequent devotion interrogates
and within, the eyes
do not need to fix on objects
that are already fully in memory.
I know the customs and the souls
and that dialect of allusions
that every human gathering weaves.
I do not need to ask
nor lie for privileges;
they know me well who surround me here
they know well my sorrows and my frailty.
That is the highest that one might reach,
perhaps the most that Heaven can give us:
neither admirations nor victories
but simply to be admitted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
as the stones and the trees.

And finally, the Bisaya:


Alang kay Haydee Lange

Mo-abri ang ganghaan sa jardin
sama sa masulundon nga pahina
nga kanunayng ginabasa sa pag-ampo
unya didto, ang mga mata
dili kinahanglan magmatyag sa mga butang
nga aduna na kanunay na sa panumdoman.
Nahibawo na ko sa batasan og sa kasing-kasing
og sa pinulongang pinasiplat
nga ginahabi sa tanang katigoman.
Di na ko kinahanglan mangayo
o mamakak alang sa katungod;
nakaila na gayod sila nga nakalibot kanako
nakaila na sila sa akong kasakit og kahuyang.
Ma-o na ni ang kinatas-ang atong maabot,
ang sulabing mahatag sa langit kanato:
dili ang pagdayeg o ang pag-daog
kung dili ang madawat lamang
nga bahin sa usa ka dili malimod nga Kamatuoran
sama sa mga bato og mga puno-an.

236: Simplicity

Just this, for now, because I am very tired. Perhaps tomorrow I will write the translation of this poem by Jorge Luis Borges.

The highlight of the day: dinner with the writers at Cristobal Restaurant in Hotel Vicente. I made some new friends and rekindled old relationships. Today was a good day.

235: PEN

img_20160822_152911.jpgI gave a talk at the writers’ forum of the PEN’s For Love of the Word, a two-day workshop on teaching literature. It was an honor to be sitting with Davao’s literary greats, and with a large audience of teachers and professors from all over Mindanao in attendance, too.

Since our topic was Writing to Protect Our Home, Our Habitat, I took the obvious interpretation and tied it to the environment. I read from my short story The Feud and connected it to Laudato Si.
img_20160822_153031.jpgI may have caused a bit of discomfort with some candid comments, but I don’t see any way I could have kept silent. During the Q-and-A, the first two interlocutors asked something along the lines of native writing and “settler” writing. This seems to be the natural evolution of the old mainstream vs margins discussion that has been plaguing Philippine literary conferences for as long as I can remember. But I felt deeply disturbed by the political undertones of this distinction. So I felt compelled to say:

“I’m sorry, I don’t subscribe to your label of me as a ‘settler.’ I was born here, and this is my home. Just because you have this historical narrative that you want me to fit into, this does not make it right. I will engage you in dialogue, I will recognize the injustices done to your people, I will even help you tell them, but please don’t seek to privilege yourself and disenfranchise my own heritage to make yourself feel better. You don’t get to do it at my expense.”

Or something to that effect.

The third interlocutor, the venerable Dr. Lualhati Abreu, historical researcher and writer, took the mike and agreed with what I said. “That’s why I don’t use this ‘settler’ language,” she said.

This will have to be the subject of a longer essay, I hope soon.

Still, it was nice to meet some old friends and former students among the audience. I got the rock star treatment with several people wanting to take photos with me. I admit, it felt nice.

img_20160822_185423.jpgDinner for tonight was seafood ramen. Make that leftover seafood ramen. Still very good, though.

234: Sample Population

Over lunch, we got to talking about the different restaurants in Davao, what food they served and what their price ranges were. Then we got to talking about their owners. “Such-and-such restaurant is owned by (insert name of local tycoon).”

“Oh, he’s really diversified into many things.”

“His father was a Marcos crony, you know.”

“Ah, that explains it.”

“You know, it’s not really him who manages it. It’s his wife.”

“Second wife, you mean.”

“Actually, not his second wife. By the stipulations of their father’s will, they’re not allowed to remarry. Otherwise, they get cut off from the family fortune.”

“Alright, let’s call it for what it is: his mistress, then.”

“Mistress it is.”

“You know she’s half his age. He must be in his early sixties now. She’s in her late twenties or early thirties.”

“Ew, creepy.”

“But she must really love him a lot.”

At this I had to suppress a smirk.

“You know, it’s just like Zsa-Zsa Padilla. She stayed with Dolphy up till the end of his life. Isn’t it romantic?”

“And you know what the problem with your suppositions are?” I interjected. “Your sample population.”

“How so?”

“Your sample population seems to be limited to filthy rich old men. To really prove the hypothesis, you would have to include middle class old men and poor old men. Do you have any cases?”

“No? Well…”