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This Day

In History, Updates on June 6, 2014 at 8:59 am

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In their thousands they went. 156,000 fighting men. Men from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Men in exile from occupied France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland. Each man a son, many a father, every one a friend.

Together they found courage, some comfort, a reason to stand up and go forward. Together they walked into the soul-killing slaughter, into the crosshairs of enemies out to mutilate them, to make them call out for their mothers, for their lovers, into the fields of fire of creatures who wanted them dead dead dead.

They went to restore an entire continent, restore it to its nations, that’s what the world knew, what will always be remembered. But the world wasn’t there, there they saw only monsters, and each other. For when they fought on the beach or in the hedges or in the flooded fields, when they won there, when they died there, they did it for each other. Each man a son, many a father, every damned one, a brother.

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Baguio Again

In Updates on April 2, 2014 at 9:08 am

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I’ve been taught by my dad to feel out each car I drive, how to test it for the first few kilometers of a hundred kilometer trip. Seat-of-the-pants kind of drivers, that’s me and my Pop.

It was an open road back then, gas prices were low enough to make present numbers look science-fiction astronomical, and Pop even managed to get us curfew passes for those traffic-free night drives under Martial Law.

There was a year when it seemed we were in Baguio every month. We had the good old Renault 5 back then, the LeCar under American marketing guise. It had a 1.1 liter back when 1600s and 1800s were the preferred displacements for going up Kennon.

That little old car was a delight, but the devil to maintain: no parts. So we’d go on the highway with everyone admonished not to move suddenly and cause the car to drift left or right, that’s how soft the aging shocks were. I remember being all stiff with hands staying at 10 and 2 o’clock on an imaginary steering wheel long after having arrived.

I was always apprehensive at the La Union gas station, before the approaches to the climb. Will he let me drive on? Or pull over, ostensibly for a pit-stop but really for a switch up, let him take the wheel for the half hour of hair-raising turns? On those occasions when he felt I passed muster, I’d drive, and drive like the mushy springed car was on rails.

Hug the curb, he’d always say, mind your revs–the banks on Kennon Road were always good enough to let me keep that precious momentum. And my Pop’s watchful gaze? You can’t imagine the satisfaction when he finally would relax, coming back alert only when we got to the Lion and then again when we were finally on the deceptively gentle but oh too long uphill road at the outskirts of the city.

On another trip, a later trip with me older, I went up in an old Ford Escort that had no fuel gauge, a temperamental carb, and no speedometer. The fuel thing I got around by sinking a dip-stick in the tank in Tarlac. The bad carb (which made the car guzzle fuel like it was water) I fixed by simply taking off the air filter. And the speedometer? My college buddies and I solved that by signing to the lead car in the convoy (no cell phones back then). “How fast are we going?” we signed to them in front. “Pretty fast!” they’d sign back.

So you see, after decades of all that, I never thought I’d be studying a car manual for a road-trip. But I am now. Two things to nail down for the trip: max-conserve parameters and forced downshifting on an automatic transmission.

The thing about fuel efficiency is obvious. With gas now ten times what it cost back then, I’ll be looking to save each liter of the green stuff (red back then), maybe not carry too much in the tank it’d be tantamount to hauling cargo instead of being fuelled up. Good thing Pop already has me trained in mileage marks. Allow 250 kilometers each way for Baguio, he’d always say. And he’d drill me on how much fuel I’ve bought, in liters, not pesos. Off the Internet I got the car’s specs (a loaner SUV from a good soul), and with Excel I’ll do my trip and load-out plan.

The downshifting is also obvious, at least to anyone who’s had to drive down from Baguio. You can’t ride the brakes going down, not unless you want them to overheat and turn into useless glowing discs. Half the burden you have to pass to friction from an engaged but throttled down engine. I’ve always driven a manual on those Baguio trips, got the down-shifting locked in muscle memory. But this trip is with a ‘matic and I have to understand the transmission’s analogue for my instinctive stick work. So now I finally understand the mechanics of D, D3, D2 and D1.

A bit much maybe for a weekend drive up to Baguio. But it’s been a while. The last time I was up there was before our first daughter … that would make it more than a decade. And, there’re the kids—three now—who’ll be making the trip for the first time. In fact, when I was last up there, Pop was still alive.

I know that my dad, that hardy one-legged driver of anything on wheels, would approve. “Those are my granddaughters you’ll be driving son, you damned well better be careful,” I can hear him saying. “Yes Pop,” I’d say, “and hey, happy birthday by the way, sorry I forgot to call … give my regards to Ayrton Senna up there when you get the chance.”

For Generations To Come

In Society, Updates on March 9, 2014 at 9:20 am

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With several major stage-plays now showing in the metropolis, which one should you watch if you can see only one? Ask me and I’d say the more exclusive one, the one that demands knowledge of rarer context, the one that costs the most to comprehend and cherish.

So yes, I’d say Rak of Aegis is the one you can’t miss. I mean, to suffer a calamity that submerges entire lives in the waist-deep excrement of sprawling squalid cities, and then to persevere with smiles, laughter and turns at the karaoke mike, well that’s something very few in the whole world can claim doing—something you wouldn’t wish on just anybody, as a matter of fact.

A narrative punctuated with the soaring emotions possible only through song, you know you’re getting the most out of the show when you tear up, often because of laughter, and so many times because of remembered anguish. You know you’re getting the most out of the show when you hear both despair and hope in the phrase, “tayo na lang ang magtulungan.”

So, like I told the good folks performing at PETA today, this the last day of their regular run, the show simply can’t end, not yet, and not for a very long time. It has to be seen on-stage by my kids, and then by their kids after that.

Wordpress, It’s More Like Flying Low Than Driving Fast

In Media, Technology, Updates on July 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

The web developer’s business model is changing again.

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The free blogging host WordPress.com now has 50 million sites–sites that take just a fraction of the time needed to construct custom websites; sites that don’t necessarily look or feel like blogs; sites that include those of MTV, Forbes, Harvard University’s Neimann Journalism Lab and the Boston University Study Abroad program.

We web developers–the guys who’ve been leveraging open-source software and cheap reliable hosting into the new standard for custom-built websites–should revisit our toolboxes once again. Open-source software and mainstreamed hosting made things more viable for us. Now, WordPress.com makes things less intimidating for them. It’s time we offered our help in setting up those wordpress.com blogsites that are already taking clients away from us anyway.

The More Things Change …

In Technology, Updates on June 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This lady bet me that she can make my laptop one of the most secure computers in the world, resistant to worms and viruses that have bedeviled US power grids, Iranian nuclear enrichment centrifuges and even network nodes at NATO. If she can do this, I’d have to buy her product, she said. I said okay. She unplugged my laptop from everything–power, network, phone lines–then took out the battery.

So I bought her damned cookies.

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The Amorsolo Meat Roll

In Updates on June 22, 2013 at 10:37 pm

So it was nearing dinner and I had neglected to re-stock the fridge, though I did have the foresight to thaw some bacon-cut pork-belly meat earlier. What did we do? Well, after marinating the thin meat strips in honey mustard sauce, we wrapped these around green beans and bell pepper strings, fastened them into rolls with toothpicks and plopped the phalanx onto a hot oiled cast-iron skillet. Seared them nicely too.

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It’s not an original recipe, just a poor facsimile of something I once had regularly in that open-air food court that used to be beside the creek along Amorsolo near to but not accessible from the old Louie’s THX, at the corner of the road going to Pasong Tamo and at the approach to the rear of Makati Medical Center. I’m blanking on the dish’s name … if I remember before next time, I might do it better.

This Father’s Day

In Updates on June 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm

This guy came up to me and said “I invented Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day too.”  I’m not kidding, my friend Robbi can vouch that it happened, he was there with me.

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Of course, the guy was just talking about promoting these as national events. The motive for it was commercial—to boost retail in the spare months between Valentine’s Day and Halloween. I have to say that the rational explanation was more disturbing—I would’ve preferred him to be the crackpot I first thought he was. Read the rest of this entry »

Manila Bay Sunset

In Updates on June 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I took these photos back in 2008, the camera I used doesn’t even work anymore and is now a shiny paperweight. Don’t read much into the colors and tone–this is just my way of playing around with WordPress’ gallery slideshow feature.

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Of Pencils and Old Familiar Places

In Updates on March 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm

“A bouquet of sharpened pencils,” a line from a good movie, yes, but also something I would always see on my father’s desk. It’s what I imagine whenever I sharpen a pencil, releasing that earthy varnish scent that reminds me of his office, complete with drafting table and T-squares.

With these images and scents, I start a story.

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I was at a bookstore with the family, browsing supplies for summer craft, and I found myself being drawn to the pen and pencils rack. There were these pencils, in packs of three, all blue and labeled with officious gold–Lyra Robinson 1220’s from Germany it said. It’s not a make I can readily recall, not like Staedtler, Faber or even good old Mongol, but I kept looking at it, drawn to it.

Cheap they were, even cheaper than the black-yellow staples we’ve put in schoolbags, both our own and now of our kids. So I purchased a pack, took it home and when I had the chance, sat down to carefully sharpen the tips into smooth grey-pointed cones. Yet I still could not say why these pencils, these blue sticks from an unknown maker, asked to be brought home, to my desk already crowded with laptop, clicker ball-points and favored fountain pens. Read the rest of this entry »

Chips Digest Couch Potato, News At 11

In Society, Updates on February 1, 2013 at 12:16 pm

My favorite shoes are 15 years old. The leather has gone raw, giving up any pretense of being oiled or polished. But the skin is as intact as the callouses they shield. The rubber is still springy because, well, because it is rubber. Not the foamy stuff that mysteriously crumbles to powder when kept on the shelves. The uppers are still nicely wed to the soles with strong nylon stitching. Not by magic adhesives that come from, and prefer, climes north of the equator. And they’re simple oxfords. Simple enough, dare I say elegant even, to have come back into fashion once, then a second time for good as a classic artifact of my era (not that I claim an era, not just yet). So why this desire for a new pair of browns?

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Conspicuous consumption: an alliteration that has floated repeatedly through our country’s consciousness as a sin, a misstep into political incorrectness, during our many episodes of shrinkage and austerity. A criticism one can make of persons, it’s when the culprit keeps wearing new things, using new things, playing with new things that he would otherwise not have to be bothered with if he didn’t buy the things in the first place. A curious case of the tail wagging the dog, the chips digesting the couch potato. Read the rest of this entry »