Like Broken Elephants Wandering The Desert

September 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve just come from a dry spell. This is one of those mababaw na pacute poems. Don’t expect too much.


There will come a day
when historians learn the past they know is false,
that the world’s history was a fiction
made to conceal true events they’ll never know of.

There will come a day
when physicists learn that gravity is not a law,
that what goes down will go up
and stay up and they will not know how to explain it.

There will come a day
when psychologists learn there is no human thought
that can be captured, examined and understood
and that all we do happens by chance.

There will come a day
when economists learn money has no value
but that which we assign to it
and the citizens of the world will burn their banknotes in celebration.

There will come a day
When mathematicians learn that 1 + 1 = ∞
and that numbers hold no meaning
and people will stop counting because nothing is quantifiable.

There will come a day
when philosophers learn there is no uppercase Truth,
no lowercase truth, even,
to console them with a semblance of understanding.

There will come a day
when every man, woman, boy and girl in the world
looks in the mirror and learns he/she is no longer himself/herself,
when they learn that God, Allah, Buddha and Nietzsche are all dead.

And on that day,
they will be brought to their knees,
they will know what madness is,
their Earths will tremble,
their souls will know true helplessness,
their tears will fall and no one will know the sorrow they feel,

like the day
when my uppercase Truth was shattered,
when my 1 + 1 became nothing at all,
when I stopped knowing how to explain things,

the day I learned you loved me no more.


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(A Proposal) Haven’t You Heard The Word of Your Body?

August 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Okay, so I finished a full-length research paper proposal that I’m pretty proud of. We’re not required to actually do the research paper, so I made mine as bonggalicious as possible. Just let me dork off and post it here! 🙂

Title: Haven’t You Heard The Word Of Your Body? : Sexuality and Spirituality in the Filipino Psyche

I. Background of the Study

Floy Quintos’s one-act play, “Suor Clara,” imagines a conversation between Rizal’s characters, Padre Salvi, now the bishop of his diocese, and Maria Clara, now the mother superior of her convent. She talks about her efforts to liberate her nuns intellectually and sexually. She tells Suor Agatha to sing the Song of Songs and imagine Venancio, the beefy butcher boy who brings meat to the convent, as the man in the erotic Biblical verses. She shows Padre Salvi a beautiful sketch of a statue of the Virgin Mary she wishes to propose for the convent. Unlike common portrayals of the Virgin Mary, this Mary has her breasts bared and her throne is built of books of science and philosophy. She is a liberated mother for a liberated generation. Padre Salvi becomes enraged and tears up the sketch in anger and shame. Despite this seemingly monumental moral and theological disagreement, the two later share a passionate kiss, a priest and a nun who have been in love for years.

This dichotomy of the Filipino psyche has always fascinated me. How can the Philippines be this Catholic country deeply entrenched in conservative traditions and also a wildly popular sex tourist destination? How can the Quiapo Church be such a powerful place of prayer for Filipinos when pornographic films and sex toys are sold a few blocks away? How can prostitutes and strippers still attend Mass, still believe in their God and yet participate in activities the Church deems sinful? How is the liberal-minded media so popular while Filipinos remain rooted in a faith that frequently condemns it? How do the two concepts coexist in the Filipino psyche without coming into contact with one another and without completely tearing the Filipino psyche in half?

David Carr compares the Christians’ “loss of connectedness” to sexuality to Adam and Eve’s partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This was the reason the two made loincloths of fig leaves because it was only then that they equated nakedness with shame (2003). Historically, one would put our loss of connectedness at the period when Filipinos were being evangelized by the Spanish in the 16th Century. They were told they were unclothed, uncouth and uneducated heathens despite the existence of a refined culture, with an animistic spirituality. They were told that everything they’d believed in prior to that time was false and uncivilized, especially their liberal sexual activities (Arriola 1993, 151).

At the time, the Church taught its doctrine to “heathens” through oppression, abuse and indoctrination. As much as this diminished the power of the babaylans, some of their practices remained through the more open-minded and animistic Folk Catholicism, which is still prevalent in the Philippines.
With little or no academic writing on how sexuality and spirituality come together in the Filipino mind with all these historical elements present, research would be very interesting and would also help develop the field of Philippine sexology.

II. Statement of the Problem

This paper is meant to delve into the historical, sociological and psychological aspects of the concepts of sexuality and spirituality in the Philippines: how the two concepts, once undivided in the Filipino psyche, were torn apart by the introduction of the concept of shame. Seeing the disparity between the two concepts leads us to question how we as Filipino Catholics think.

Some questions I want to answer are: How did the Spanish oppression create the loss of connectedness between our sexuality and spirituality? What traces of this Spanish religious oppression remain today in Filipinos when it comes to an understanding of sex? What role do our folklore and superstitions have in our understanding of sex? How does the Filipino mind process the integration between sexuality and spirituality? How does erotic spirituality figure in the Filipino psyche?

In answering these questions, I want to create a clear definition of this component of the Spanish conquest that isn’t often discussed but continues to affect Filipinos until today. I want to explore the Filipino understanding of sex, its nuances, its phobias and its uncharted regions.

III. Significance of the Study and Review of Related Literature

My study aims to bridge Western research on sexology and erotic-spiritual interpretations of scripture with research on Philippine history, sociology and psychology in the hope of building an understanding of how Filipinos psychologically and sociologically integrate sexuality and spirituality in the present time.

William Henry Scott’s Barangay (1994, 24-25) provides the context for pre-colonial attitudes on sex that saw men and women as equals and how natives saw no distinction between the body and the soul. Carolyn Brewer’s studies (1999; 2004) look deeper into gender relations, sexuality and shamanism before and after the Spaniards came and describe how the Church’s oppression in the Philippines created a good/bad binary for women, so they were boxed into the concepts of “virgin” and “whore” (2004, 39-58) and further discusses the topics of sexual deviation and transvestitism in pre-colonial Philippines (127-139). Arriola’s compact but sprawling compilation, The Body Book (1993), gives us a more personal look into Filipino culture as it unashamedly discusses Filipino customs, superstitions and anecdotes about body parts, including sexual organs and their functions.

Primary sources such as Fr. Francisco Blancas de San Jose’s sloppy Tagalog pieces about God and grammar, Memorial de la Vida Christiana (1832) and Artes Y Reglas de la Lengua Tagala (1832) provide insight into how sinful acts were condemned by the Spanish friars. Brewer shows us how the latter even contains a confessionario describing in detail how confessions were to be conducted by friars to Filipinos with such explicit questions as “How many times did you sin with her?” or “Did something dirty come out of your body?” or even “How many times did you play around in this manner, for example within a week? And how many times did each of you have an emission? Because not only is that a sin, indeed it is a very serious sin.” This would result in the priest learning all the details of the sexual sin and the penitent leaving in shame (2004, 67). The constant use of shame in the subjugation of Filipinos is vital to the study.

Bernard Braxton (1978) shows how religion has historically been used as an oppressive force in many settings including the Philippines. C.R. Boxer (1975) gives this subject a misogynistic twist, showing how the oppression was harsher towards women. Rachel Bundang (2005) discusses the role of women in the Catholic ministry and talks about her personal frustrations with the Catholic Church as much as she feels bound to it by her Filipino heritage. Heather Claussen (2001) gives us a glance of women in the Church and how they became empowered despite the Church’s oppression while still abiding by most of the rules imposed on them.

David Carr’s The Erotic Word (2003) is my key source for the understanding of erotic spirituality. It claims that sexuality and spirituality are truly meant to be connected and cites several Biblical passages and examples to support this. There is no set doctrine to erotic spirituality, which leaves it rather open-ended and free for interpretation. The interpretations within Tori Amos and Ann Powers’s Piece By Piece (2005) provide interesting feminist-inclined insights on erotic spirituality, including a fascinating anecdote of a teenage girl masturbating to the thought of Jesus (68) . Amos and Powers primarily refer to the concept of erotic spirituality as “Marrying the Two Mary’s [Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene],” as a marriage of the sacred and the profane, of the “virgin” and the “whore” inside each of us. The authors state that this is key to our full integration as humans.

My research seeks to find the connections among these seemingly scattered fragments to build a psychosocial perception of Filipinos, sex and spirituality and there is no current literature tackling the topic in detail. If successful, my research is an opportunity to celebrate a unique feature of the Filipino psyche, one of the ways we are psychosocially shaped by our colorful history. It will also open possibilities for readers to look beyond sexuality and spirituality as discrete entities, understand how the Spanish oppression still affects Filipinos in quiet and unexpected ways, reflect on how the Filipino mind sometimes continues to work on the premise of shame and fear of punishment for sins (Brewer 2004, 67) rather than an openness to sexuality and spirituality that erotic spiritualists would advocate.

IV. Theoretical Framework

There are a number of methods used in sociology and psychology for sex research, however, as Edward Sagarin notes, there are numerous impediments to researching about sex at the sociological level. He notes four main problems in sex research: the ethical issue of how the research affects the subject, the ideological problem of the biases of the researchers, the social one of how the sexual revolution has changed human behavior and therefore becomes another independent variable and the normative problem of how varied sexual activity can be and may not form a proper trend in research (2002, 38-43). These problems sufficiently complicate any form of research to be undertaken in the field and make it prone to error.

First, my primary theoretical basis would have to be the work of Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues, Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin. They collated data from tens of thousands of interviews regarding sex. There was a very specific methodology and a very specific goal: to gather as much information from the respondent about his or her sex life and sexual history. They eventually tabulated results regarding frequency of activities such as masturbation, extramarital affairs and prostitution as well as sources of first spontaneous ejaculation, various sex positions, means of sexual deviation, how sex is affected by social class and many other factors that made themselves evident throughout the data-gathering. All this information was collected into two reports, called The Kinsey Reports. The first was Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 and the second was Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953.
These reports were revolutionary in the field of sexology because of their sheer breadth and ambition and Kinsey’s methods stand as a model for much research in the sociology of sex, including my own. Keeping in mind Sagarin’s note on the irregularity of such study, it is still perhaps the most direct and the most reliable method because the sheer amount of data gathered personally by researchers.

Second, as an interesting framework for sexual psychology, Freud (1940, 22-27) gives us the concept of psychosexual development. As humans grow, they pass through the different stages. From birth to the age of one, infants are in the oral phase where their focus is the mouth and its functions. This is followed by the anal phase until the age of three. This is where the child forms habits such as toilet training that begin to affect their growth and maturity. After this, the child undergoes the phallic phase which continues until the age of six. Here, the focus of the child is on his or her genitals and their functions. Freud explains that this is where Oedipal conflict comes into play, when the child fears his father’s jealousy and thinks his father will castrate him for falling in love with his mother. Girls on the other hand are meant to have penis envy (what Jung calls Electra complex) and they desire to have a phallus because Freud says that it stands for power. This is followed by the latency phase, a sort of interim period until puberty, then the final stage, the genital phase, where sexual and personal habits are fully formed until the end of the person’s life.
This theory has the potential to be helpful to my research because in the interviews I will conduct, the respondent will be asked about his or her complete sexual history, which will include childhood experiences that may have affected his or her understanding of sexuality. However, Freud’s method of psychoanalysis would not be helpful since it focuses more on the subconscious rather than the conscious activities that will be discussed in the interview.

Lastly, I would like to mention the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson who studied the physiology and psychology of sex by directly observing people masturbating or having sex in a laboratory (Robinson 1976, 120-133). Shifting the focus from the actions to the emotions behind the actions, Masters and Johnson were able to go deeper into the nitty-gritty of sex. They formulated the four stage model of sexual response, from the excitement phase, to the plateau phase to the orgasm to the resolution phase and studied the behavior of people within the context of these four phases.
Although I am not planning to observe people having sex, the four phases would be helpful in the interview because their sexual experiences can be described in greater detail by discussing the phases and the emotions, actions and verbal responses during each.

V. Scope And Limitations

This study will devote itself primarily to the historical, sociological and psychological understanding of sexuality and spirituality in the Philippines. Thus, I will tackle historical texts in relation only to sexual activities and mores of pre-colonial times and modern day times. Some texts on babaylans will be considered also because of their influence on Folk Catholicism and because of their reputation as sometimes-transvestites. I will not tackle Folk Catholicism as a whole, but only when its superstitions and nuances are pertinent to sexuality. The study will focus only on sexuality’s relationship with Catholic spirituality; since the two concepts lend themselves more to juxtaposition and discussing Islam or other Christian denominations could make the study less clear.

Included in the research are studies on gender relations in the Philippines. However, while many of the texts are feminist (or peminist – Pinay feminist) in nature, the focus is more on the liberation of women from the constraints of organized religion. I will also look into the topic of erotic sexuality and the Song of Songs but only for an understanding of how erotic spirituality may exist in the Filipino context and not to delve into a clear definition of it (because there is none).
As much as I would like to include classic and modern Filipino literature such as works of Jose Rizal, F. Sionil Jose, Nick Joaquin, Ninotchka Rosca and Jessica Zafra (that are ripe with sexual politics) in my study of cultural mores about sex, it seems unfeasible and would make the study rather unfocused. To content myself, I will settle for a brief allusion to “Suor Clara” as a sole example.

VI. Methodology

The primary method of research will be much like that of Kinsey, through interviews that ask about the religious and sexual lives of Filipinos. The interviews will be conducted with males and females of reproductive age (18-40 years old) across all social classes in as many possible areas of the Philippines. Interviews will be conducted in the respondent’s language of choice with the aid of a translator if necessary. Before the interview, Kinsey’s technical devices will be used to ensure the best possible answers. These include putting the subject at ease, assuring privacy, establishing rapport and avoiding bias (Kinsey et al. 1948, 47-59). Freud’s stages will be kept in mind during the part of the interview relating to sexual awakening in puberty. Masters and Johnson are key, because we will require descriptions of emotions before, during and after sexual activities.

The interviewer will ask firstly about the respondent’s belief system: how the respondent prays, how often the respondent goes to church, the respondent’s relationship with “God” and the respondent’s moral ideals. Then, the interviewer will ask for an honest in-depth recounting of sexual experiences and related emotions: sexual awakening, masturbation, same-sex experimentation, fetishes and the like. This is followed by an attempt to have the respondent make the connections between the two (i.e. “According to my answers in part A, the actions I described in part B are sinful. However, in truth, I really enjoyed it at the time”). Data will be tabulated according to location. Different statistics are expected from different social classes and from the rural and urban areas.

Given these results, perhaps after a few hundred respondents, conclusions can be drawn from the tabulated results regarding firstly, the extent of the continuing influence of Spanish Catholic oppression, secondly, the current social mores on sex, thirdly, the way the two concepts intertwine within the understanding of the respondents and lastly, to verify possible signs of the development of erotic spirituality. These conclusions will form the primary body of the research paper together with the historical and theological references.

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It’s About A Kiss

June 23, 2010 at 1:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Sometimes, a concept comes to you and you wonder how to put it into words. Sometimes, words come to you and they sound so lovely together but you have no idea what concept they’re meant to convey. That’s what happened with this poem. The title came and I struggled to figure out what it should mean… and I’m still struggling, so this is a second draft, but it’s as good a time as any to post something. Like this blog’s been dead for ages. Comments and suggestions are helpful, especially since this is kinda rough. 🙂

Like A Hot Pepper In My Mouth On A Summer’s Day In The City

You burned my tongue
as if I had been kissed
by a dragon that breathed fire

down my throat,
past my lungs
and into my soul,
as if Hell itself
and all its demons
and its sinful masses
were living inside me,
fanning the flames
of our wantonness.

I remember the years
of cold kisses,
clammy lips
and embraces
icy and empty
as Heaven itself,

and now, this heat
as the flowers of the fire trees,
like falling angels,
come crashing to the pavement
around our feet
to bask in the summer sun
only to wither before autumn.

I, too, am consumed
by these hellish flames
as your body
comes close to mine,
your lips
touch mine,
and your tongue
burns through mine

as if the hottest pepper
sears the corners of my mouth
on this, a scorching summer’s day
in a city of demons and angels,
kissing, kissing, but never feeling heat.

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Some Artsy Fartsy Shit

March 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm (Uncategorized)

Today, I just felt the need to get out of the house and write, so I walked to Starbucks (ran into Blue Bulk friends on the way) and got the idea of writing about feces, in the grand Filipino tradition of shiterature. I sat down over the new English Breakfast tea Starbucks is serving now and wrote for nearly three hours. This is the result. I think it still needs some work and comments are appreciated but I’m in love with short story writing again. \:D/

Some Artsy Fartsy Shit

There’s been blood in my shit for the past week. When I go, I’m often left staring at the bright red spots on the toilet paper and watching the red swirls as the the toilet flushes them away to another world. Shitting has become an odd experience. There is no unusual pain, only the unusual feeling that the shit is no longer some discrete being, but something I have shed blood to expel.

I don’t fully understand what’s going on. I’ve yet to consult a doctor because I was hoping it would disappear on its own, like a cold or an itch or a fit of melancholy. Apparently, it’s much graver.

I’ll call the doctor when I start farting blood.

In the meantime, I’ll sit here in my apartment and let it slide. It’s never too much blood coming out and I’ve never felt lacking in blood or anything, whatever that’s supposed to feel like. I still have some Frida Kahlo paintings to “thoroughly experience” for my paper on expression of feminine pain in art. Mrs. Navarro always talks about the need to enter the art to fully experience it. Become its persona, become its artist, become the art. I don’t feel comfortable entering some personae, though. It’s like copulating with darkness, if you will. There’s too much of a mess. There’s too much of a chance that the persona never leaves you. That’s why I never liked theater. I don’t want to become anything too frightful, too far from myself.

I’m not into pain, so this painting of her as a deer with several arrows running through her is not my cup of tea. She seems to stare out emotionlessly, with a stoicism that inspires great admiration and great pity. I like painting things that are peaceful but are quietly intriguing, that invoke subtle feelings of fear, elation or confusion. My most recent, which I called “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” was a portrait of a child in shades of dark blue and pale yellow, his eyes filled with fear under a surface of calmness, walking home to tell the villagers the sheep had been slaughtered by a pack of wolves. It was Mrs. Navarro that assigned Kahlo to me. She said I needed “some passion, some extreme colors and feelings” in my palette.

I was up for some challenge, I guess, but now, sitting at my desk, poring over this large Kahlo book, I feel suddenly very much stuck at the door, unable to “enter” the painting. I close my eyes for a while and think of the metaphor of arrows, of scathing reviews and harsh words launched before they could be packaged politely. I think of fights with broken dishes, I think of suffocating as blood slowly fills my lungs. I think of silence, of the fear of never being free. My heart begins to race and my breathing grows heavy, and I stop and open my eyes, my face covered in cold sweat.

First paragraph:
Kahlo is the quintessential tragic female painter, modern art’s Plath. Her work bleeds with strong colors and visceral depictions of suffering. She was involved in a major tram accident in her youth and lived her life having to undergo many corrective surgeries, even being unable to bear children because of the damage to her body. Clearly, this concept of feminine pain (Hirst 243) is an important factor in understanding the significance and meaning of her work.

Okay. I really don’t know why I had to enter the painting at all. There was no way my brief experience of Kahlo’s pain could be expressed in words for an objective, critical paper on the matter. I know she’s great. I know why she’s great. Over. There is no need to bridge the necessary distance between artist and audience.

I’ve grown tired of working on the paper for now. The other five pages can wait for Tuesday night, I guess, so I’ll just lie in bed and think awhile.
I don’t want to go for a colonoscopy. There’s too much shame in it. I mean, dropping my pants and having a camera stuck up my ass to see what’s wrong? And the doctor smiles as he lubricates his gloves, saying it won’t hurt too much. It’s like being in the gay porn industry, which my friend Marco says is all about being fucked in the ass whether you work in front of the camera or behind it.

We all knew Marco was gay since we were kids, but we never thought a highly intelligent, thoroughly deep person would drop out of a good university to enter such a shallow, mentally and morally retarded industry. He was an intern at one of the small local companies. Marco was in charge of screening models, seeing if they measured up in size and skill to be featured in the site’s videos. He told us one night over drinks how they would offer to have sex with him, if only for a contract with the company, to which he’d reply,
“Honey, if you’re no good for a porno, you’re no good for me.”

Marco told us about models who were actually straight and just needed the money, badly, coming home with their asses bloody, humiliated by their wives who said they bled more often down there than real women. These men’s jobs were to be publicly emasculated. We asked Marco what he got out of working there. He said it felt real. He said the pain and suffering and lust in the studio made him feel alive. He felt that pornography, with its cheap plots and measly objectives that shadowed the great tragedy of its actors, and all the blood and horror the studio burned with, was art. It was art with social relevance, with emotional upheaval, with all the trappings of a real life soap drama, and we all know homosexuals are suckers for good drama.

I don’t want people sticking things up my ass and telling me what they see down there, what the reason for the bleeding is. My suffering is my business. I am not Frida Kahlo. I am not a gay porn actor. I am a heterosexual art student with a normal life studying artistic techniques and periods of art history and I think art should be more about about creating something other than yourself, rather than something to expose yourself.

My cellphone beeps and I roll over to reach for it on the sidetable. It’s a message from Anton. He announces, with some excitement-induced typos that Sandra is giving birth and that I, the soon-to-be godfather should be there.

Sandra and I used to be together, back in high school, and high school is really full of a lot of stupid mistakes and we’re much better off as friends. Of late, she’s been balancing her studies with her romance with Anton, a nice guy she met on a blind date. Her parents were surprisingly cool with her pregnancy three years into college. They liked Anton, and they knew it was only a matter of time before things happened. Sandra was competent, if a little wild and they knew she’d get along fine.

I put on some sneakers, called the concierge for a cab and grabbed my Kahlo book to read on the way. When I arrived downstairs, I told the driver to take me to the hospital. After some restless flipping through the book in the cab, I made it to the hospital and headed straight to the room number Anton had given. I opened the door hastily, with a smile, ready to greet Anton, Sandra and their bundle of joy. I found Anton alone, standing, cradling a bawling infant, in tears himself. I was filled with a sudden horror, as he turned to me with the greatest sadness in his eyes.

Sandra had bled to death. Some abnormality in her uterus that the OB hadn’t seen. I sat down, clutching my book and holding Anton’s shoulder as the grown man fell apart, his beautiful daughter, lying helpless in his arms, with no knowledge of the tragedy that would haunt her whole life, the empty space where a mother should’ve been. She would never know the nurturing love of breastfeeding, nor the endless nagging in her rebellious teenage years, nor the tears as she was given away at her wedding. Sandra had wanted to name the girl Violet. Violet had her father’s serious nose but her mother’s incredibly deep black eyes, eyes that conveyed a world of powerful emotions.

As my mind wandered back to art, as it often does, I marveled at the realization that Violet was Anton and Sandra’s masterpiece. People who were incapable of creating poetry or art did make their own masterpieces, their children. I saw now that children were the greatest works of art anyone could create. Children were inherently imbued with the artists’ traits, the artists’ suffering, the artists’ souls, because they were not only formed from a part of the artists, they were even formed inside the artists. I wept, looking at how beautiful Violet was, but I was glad that Sandra had left something of her beauty in the world, that she would live on in Violet’s eyes, and in Violet’s children’s eyes, and on and on forever.

I left the hospital so Anton could take care of preparations for Sandra’s wake and funeral, and eventually Violet’s baptism. In the cab, I opened my Kahlo book, wanting to distract myself from the shock of Sandra’s death, from thinking of Anton and Violet. It opened to another one of her self-portraits. Kahlo lay naked on a bed, her legs splayed open and her face covered with a sheet. Blood spilled over the bed as she was giving birth, and out of her vagina, her own face had spawned forth, as if she were being reborn from her own self.

I looked at it and thought of how wrong I’ve been this whole time. The artist cannot be separated from the art, as the mother cannot be separated from the child. Art is about tearing away part of yourself and putting it out into the world. Art is about being free, being honest, being naked. It is about creating out of yourself, making something beautiful out of your labor and suffering, even if it kills you.

As I neared the apartment building, my stomach began to grumble. I needed to go, badly. I’d considered going briefly before leaving the apartment, but I’d been too excited to get to the hospital. Eventually, I made it to my apartment, filled with mourning over Sandra, filled with my sudden revelations and filled with the intense desire to shit.

I think all of these things led me to the large canvas I had ready on the living room floor, rather than to the bathroom. I took off my pants and sat down on the blank, white expanse. With a deep breath, I let go and the whiteness of the canvas gave way to splashes of brown and red. The release was exhilarating, it was liberating, like an orgasm of shit coming out from inside me. I sat there, groaning and laughing in pleasure as the shit continued to flow from me to the canvas. This was my work of art, this was me, this was my pain and anger and sorrow in an explosion of chunky brown and bright red.

I began to grow dizzy, and I couldn’t stand up. Instead, I collapsed into a pool of my own shit. I felt helpless and spent and just lay there, smiling. Then, I saw Sandra floating above me, her eyes as black and shiny as shattered obsidian. She frowned a little and said, “Robby, you look so pale.”

I smiled and said a little woozily, “Sandra, you’re so beautiful.”

And I fell into the blackness of her eyes, my whole being swirling into the septic tank of eternity.

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‘Theater’ Is Just A Fancy Word For ‘Lying’

February 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm (Uncategorized)

A short story for English class that had to be 800-1000 words. I made an exact 1000. Not bad.


‘Theater’ Is Just A Fancy Word For ‘Lying’

Mary: But my love, now the chance is lost, forever. You’ve cast the ruby into the ocean, from whence it shan’t return. What shall we ever do without it?

Daniel: Fear not, my beloved, for the sea is endless but fickle. One day, the ruby shall return, when its time has come, the time the sea has set for it. Return it shall, shining and glorious as ever, and we need only wait.

“Charles?” Fiona called, walking into his dressing room, “Have you got some tea?”
Charles turned around, his hair in a net, ready to don his Daniel wig for technical rehearsals. He smiled and walked over to the other side of the room, where there was a box of teabags and a hot water dispenser. Fiona spoke as he poured her tea, “This is just impossible to handle. Theo has no talent whatsoever for direction. Direction, for Chrissakes! He can’t even decide whether the flowers should be yellow or purple, or whether Mary ought to step to the left or the right or anything. It’s dreadful!”
“Well,” Charles began, handing Fiona her tea and sipping some of his own, “the play is called Torn Asunder. Theo’s got that part right.”

Rehearsals today would be tense. They were opening in less than a week and Theo, heralded to be a talented up-and-coming director, could, as Fiona mentioned, not decide on anything. The set would shift from a heavy blue (to represent the wonder of the ocean) to bright red (to show the passion between Mary and Daniel). Critics said the trouble with Theo was that he wanted to do everything.
Fiona stood alone on the stage (half blue, half red, still being painted), her soft ocean blue dress flowing in an imaginary wind. Mary was talking about her childhood, a lonely speech that served to fill a space when everyone else needed to change costumes.

Mary: And my father told me, “My darling snowbud, don’t you fear the water, it moves only where fate wills it. You too should be like water, free to follow fate.”

Rehearsals ended with Theo less than pleased with the changes he’d decided on yesterday. Everything was changed back or changed to something new. No, there would be no dancers for this scene. Yes, we’ll have the procession back in that scene. The stage is far too bare without it. And for the closing scene, does anyone know where to find a real Scottish bagpiper?

Fiona and Charles were exhausted afterwards, sitting in Fiona’s dressing room (a far messier place than Charles’), ranting about Theo’s incompetence over hot chamomile tea, when they heard a booming voice, crying out onstage, “O, I die, Horatio!” They jumped and gave each other a curious look, as if they wondered whether the other heard it, whether it was real.
They ran to the wings, wondering who’d be in the theater this late, causing the racket. To their surprise, it was an actor, dressed in the 19th century perception of the 11th century (which looked a bit like the 16th century).
“He has my dying voice. So tell him with th’ occurrents more and less which have solicited – the rest is silence.”
With a flourish, the actor then seemed to crumple to the ground and die. Then, before Charles could approach him, he disappeared.

Rattled, the two decided to consult the playbill archive in the backroom that took note of all the plays ever done at the old Beacon. After some searching, they found an 1854 production of Hamlet starring Sir Robert Algernon as the lead. According to the production notes, the play ended badly, when, at the final scene, Sir Robert was killed by a falling sandbag.

Now, every night, they would wait for Sir Robert to appear and make his speech again and again, dying convincingly every time. He didn’t only do Hamlet’s death. He’d sometimes do Romeo or Othello or Brutus.
“But don’t you pity him? Still tormented to die every night, unaware of his own death? Though I must admit, the irony is wonderfully theatrical.” Charles asked, as they sat in the balcony watching him. Fiona merely nodded.
The next day, she came to the theater with an old, haggard gypsy lady (Fiona had funny connections) named Madame Romola, who was a tad dirty with her personal habits, dirt under her nails, bits of food in her hair. The lady said she knew the way of spirits and would like to hold a séance with them, to put Sir Robert to rest. Despite some hesitation from Charles (who was doubtful about people who didn’t bathe often), the two actors set to work preparing candles and old props from Sir Robert’s plays for the séance that night. Soon, everything was ready.
Before they began the ceremony, Madame Romola whispered, “You know, I too was famous actress, back in old country.” The two nodded, Fiona with a smile and Charles with a grimace.

Since that night, the cast and crew noticed something different about Charles and Fiona. The usually shy Charles would walk with great fanfare, like an old-time thespian, something they hadn’t seen in a while. Fiona on the other hand, seemed to have let go, not bothering to fix her hair or wash her face in the morning. Still, the two acted with great gusto on opening night and the play was a smashing success. Critics said it was a marked improvement for both actors, despite the disappointing, confused direction. Also notable was the “highly emotional scene where Mary and Daniel drown in each other’s arms, finally accepting the lost chance that could’ve been their love, the tragedy that is the road not taken.”

However, there was the rumor going around among the stagehands and janitors, of theater ghosts, a man and a woman, who seemed to act onstage after the show, crying to be set free as ever so slowly, the sound of water engulfed them, and drowned out the sound of their voices.

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Why So Sore?

February 15, 2010 at 10:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Reflection for my English SoFA interview. I decided to post this because I miss writing this kind of stuff. 🙂

It was a long journey to get to our interviewee, Mr. Jiggy Cruz. After getting his number from Ma’am Meng de Guia, and not getting any reply for a week, he suddenly scheduled for the next day at Rockwell. We were shaken, rattled and… rolled(?). Anyway, that whole day was littered with several activities, a CSO nametag-making meeting in the morning, a visit to Mat Defensor’s office after lunch, a Music group meeting in the afternoon, then the interview.

The day was lengthy and we never had our own transportation, so we got around via tricycle, taxi and on foot. People say that the journey matters as much as the destination, so let me talk about some of the things we chanced upon throughout the journey.

We left the CSO meeting and proceeded to McDonald’s for a quick lunch, then started walking to Aurora Boulevard, a very busy street. Walking, we saw fragile little children walking home from school. If someone of my size tripped the child ever-so-accidentally, his or her tiny, delicate body would be hurled into the busy highway. Despite this, the kids were unbelievably brave, strutting down the street with their Looney Tunes backpacks. One of the boys was brave enough to run across as Wacky and I gaped, ready to yell, “OMG YOU MIGHT DIE, NOOOOOO.”

Walking down Molave St. to get to Mat Defensor’s office, we stuck out like sore thumbs (or a sore middle finger in my case, being far taller and considerably more offensive than Wacky). Clearly, there was a social divide, because I felt especially awkward walking down that dirty street to stares, some hostile and some simply curious. I even joked to Wacky, “Don’t look them in the eye. They’ll see it as a sign of aggression.”

I told you I was the middle finger.

After submitting my requirements for entry to the Ten Outstanding Students of Quezon City – 3rd District at the office of Congressman Defensor, we walked back (avoiding a lot of dog poo on the way) until we were able to hail a cab to head over to Alvin’s house in Monte Vista, which provided a very different atmosphere, one that seemed peaceful, and there was free McDonald’s cheeseburgers and painfully cold water. Here, we practiced for our song presentation for Music, while Wacky alternated between preparing our interview questions and sleeping.

After the meeting, we managed to hail another cab that took us to Makati. We knew from his blog that Jiggy hated late people, so we were making a lot of jokes about missing him or him getting angry at us for being late. In the long cab ride, we finalized our questions and psychologically prepared ourselves for the interview (which was necessary, especially for Wacky).

We arrived around 5:30, with the interview scheduled at 6:00, so we sat at McDonald’s (our third time for the day), ordered some ice cream to earn our keep at the little table and waited. You get an interesting glimpse of humanity when it is waiting for something to happen. You see terminally-ill patients waiting to die, employees off from work waiting for cabs, boys waiting for answers to prom invitations. We see how nervous people become, how their imaginations go insane with all the possible scenarios. What if the cab never arrives and I have to walk home? (What if he can’t make it and we’re left with no SoFA interviewee?) What if I don’t wake up tomorrow? (What if we’re briefly distracted and we miss him?) What if she doesn’t love me the way I love her? (What if we ask the wrong question and he gets turned off?

In the same way, you see the moment of acceptance when what is being waited for finally arrives. The cab appears and he steps in, surrendering to the fatigue that should’ve set in long ago. Death comes and she realizes she is ready to take flight. The answer comes and though it’s a no, he’s impressed by his bravery for even asking.

And so Jiggy Cruz came, with his girlfriend (which definitely disappointed Wacky) and after all our nerve-wracking waiting, we were relieved and thrilled to finally begin the interview. He was gracious and fun to interview. We asked him about his life, growing up, about advocating voting and about educating the nation so it would not unwittingly choose to repeat history.

He talked about how the future of the nation depended on the just decisions of the often ill-informed youth. He shared details about his life and some of his work, including his blog and Twitter, which always contain nationalistic insights for the youth at the digital level they understand. It was deeply enlightening and was a genuinely insightful and interesting.

We said goodbye after our photo-op and Wacky and I (tired and nearly broke from a whole-day adventure) took another cab going home. Passing the streets of Metro Manila on a long taxi ride, we processed the whole day: three McDonald’s meals, dog poo streets, fragile dolls crossing the street ready to be shattered, and my sore middle finger, that perhaps I should use a little less.

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Romance of the Titans

January 21, 2010 at 10:50 am (Uncategorized)

Seems celestial bodies have bad romances too. This is for Pugad’s outer space themed True Brew exhibit. First line came the moment I heard the theme. I’m punny like that.

I think we need some space,

So you can fly,
light years and galaxies away from here,
where the people are different from the people we know,
where they speak a million other languages,
and you can lose yourself in the babble,
to think a bit about us.

I, on the other hand,
will walk across nebulae and planetary rings,
that aren’t walkable if you believe the scientists
but very much are if you believe the lovers
who’ve walked every road known and unknown to science.

You will go feel the stars in the palms of your hands,
to hold light and heat and sorrow all at once,
for stars know their death will be the death of many
and they wait, in fear and woe, burning everyday
embarrassed to be themselves,
because they are stars.

And while you are gone,
I will walk far enough to see
what it is like to orbit other suns,
the varying heats of their passions,
the varying pulls of their gravities,
to get a sense of who you are,
you, once my only star
who never cared whom you sunburned.

And both of us will wonder
how the space between us
makes no difference
to how distant we have become.

And why as distant as we
try to be, the space cannot
make us forget how it once felt
to be in each other’s arms.

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Well, I miss blogging.

January 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Just poking my head out of the darkness, ’cause hiii, everyone. I’m not dead yet, just terrified. HELLO UNIVERSE. A.P.A. is coming back with powah, powah. Just you wait.

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Apa’s Top 100 Singles of the 2000’s

December 25, 2009 at 1:39 pm (Uncategorized)

So, here it is. My top 100 of the decade. It’s pretty different from Wacky’s and Marte’s and I made mini-write-ups of all the songs. Get ready for various mentions of “simple love song” or “soaring vocals” or “sparkling production” and brace yourselves for 100 very awesome songs. Top 50 Albums to follow.

100. Cool – Gwen Stefani (A sweet, simple song about love outgrown.)
99. Jesus of Suburbia – Green Day (A long, epic, powerful ode to the alienation of a generation.)
98. Blue Orchid – The White Stripes (Ferocious song about innocence lost, BITE.)
97. Fighter – Christina Aguilera (Angry vocals. Epic.)
96. Dream On – Robyn (An inspiring song for social outcasts, especially if they can dance.)
95. Hot ‘N’ Cold – Katy Perry (Feisty and bouncy.)
94. Tripping – Robbie Williams (Melancholic and tongue-in-cheek little thing.)
93. Fascination – Alphabeat (Really fun Danish pop band with a lotta punch. We’re fascinated.)
92. Disturbia – Rihanna (Her first venture into dark territory, a success.)
91. Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too – Say Anything (The hook is instantly unforgettable.)

90. Do You Want To – Franz Ferdinand (I do.)
89. Shut Up And Let Me Go – The Ting Tings (Cutesy but firm in its insistence. A gem.)
88. Magic – Ladyhawke (Oh, 80’s beats, choirs and a long-distance romance, a recipe for brilliance.)
87. Early Winter – Gwen Stefani (A throwback to “Don’t Speak”. So sad.)
86. If I Ain’t Got You – Alicia Keys (A powerful R&B love song, heartfelt.)
85. Spiralling – Keane (Loud, bombastic and pretty weird.)
84. It’s In Our Hands – Björk (Brilliant beats and the usual insane vocals and handclaps!)
83. Eet – Regina Spektor (Gibberish hooks that sound like “eat” can be awfully lovely.)
82. Wake Up Call – Maroon 5 (Adultery is always perfect for music.)
81. King Of The Mountain – Kate Bush (Her first single in nigh 20 years made for a beautiful paean to fame.)

80. On The Radio – Regina Spektor (Bouncy and sweet love song for love songs.)
79. Zero – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Vaguely condescending but really fun.)
78. Smile – Lily Allen (Darkly hilarious love story, told with the perfect deadpan Lily delivery.)
77. Stronger – Kanye West (Forgive the heavy sampling, but this is an incredible song.)
76. Poker Face – Lady GaGa (Cheeky and catchy to death.)
75. Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down – Fall Out Boy (Boo, sadness.)
74. a sorta fairytale – Tori Amos (A love story that is sad and unforgettable, set on a journey across America.)
73. Be Mine! – Robyn (Bitter but danceable. Always a good combination.)
72. Grace Kelly – Mika (An instant hook and distinct vocals.)
71. I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Trying To Get You Off (Me & You) – Fall Out Boy (Pretty long title for something with a three-syllable hook.)

70. Russian Roulette – Rihanna (Manages to take her completely into a dark world, convincingly. Powerful.)
69. Galang – M.I.A. (Bouncy, jangling with succinct political juju we’ve come to expect from M.I.A.)
68. If I Were A Boy – Beyoncé (The title raised a few eyebrows but the song is unforgettable.)
67. White Houses – Vanessa Carlton (Teenage love. Sigh.)
66. Is It Any Wonder – Keane (An ode to being an anachronism and I’ve always related.)
65. Somebody Told Me – The Killers (We were young and the chorus got our attention. No regrets.)
64. Simple Kind Of Life – No Doubt (We were even younger and saw it on MTV. A sweet, desperate song.)
63. Love Letter To Japan – The Bird and the Bee (Inara’s sweet cooing voice over Greg’s sparkling production.)
62. She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5 (Unforgettable love song.)
61. For What It’s Worth – The Cardigans (Even less forgettable. So memorable, you get a headache.)

60. Don’t Tell Me – Madonna (Country + Electronic = really freaky in concept but the results are too good.)
59. Foundations – Kate Nash (She’s like a more mellow Lily Allen with around the same number of swear words.)
58. I Don’t Feel Like Dancing – Scissor Sisters (A dance song about not wanting to dance. Astounding.)
57. The Fear – Lily Allen (Materialism, famewhoring and all that. Lily knows best.)
56. Chewing Gum – Annie (This equates men to chewing gum, spat out after the flavor is lost. I like how she thinks.)
55. The New Workout Plan – Kanye West (Hilarious and really well-produced.)
54. New – No Doubt (Introduced the band’s new sound with a bang. Nothing odder than the feeling of newness.)
53. Just Dance – Lady GaGa (Simple but effective, always imitated, never replicated. That means you, Ke$ha.)
52. Coin-Operated Boy – The Dresden Dolls (Punk cabaret never sounded like a better idea.)
51. Empire State Of Mind – Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys (Soaring vocals from Alicia, with Jay talking about my favorite city.)

50. Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones (Us neither, but Norah snuck her way into a million coffee shops with this.)
49. Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand (A thoroughly unique sound at the time. Epic.)
48. Bust Your Windows – Jazmine Sullivan (Great vocals, great song and lots of sass.)
47. I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys (Short, simple and very effective.)
46. Bring Me To Life – Evanescence (And we all wanted to be goths when we heard this. And it can wake the dead.)
45. That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings (We never do find out what her name is but we do remember what it isn’t.)
44. Underneath It All – No Doubt featuring Lady Saw (Bouncy, relaxed ska love song.)
43. Energy – The Apples In Stereo (Jam-packed with goddamn energy. An amazing song.)
42. Love Lockdown – Kanye West (Like him or not, he turned Auto-Tune into an art form with this song.)
41. 4 Minutes by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland (Incredible production and impending doom. Just note that Madonna and Justin don’t survive in the vid. x_x)

40. Sunrise – Norah Jones (Simple, but one of the sweetest songs we’ve ever heard.)
39. These Words – Natasha Bedingfield (A lot of people can relate to being unable to express love.)
38. Time Is Running Out – Muse (The song soars, with incredible guitars and Matt’s vocals, rawr.)
37. Lost Cause – Beck (Depressing but well-done.)
36. Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Impeccable production for a pretty love song.)
35. Summer Sunshine – The Corrs (Filled with warmth, even in its despair.)
34. We Are Golden – Mika (Loud and obnoxious and all kinds of brilliant.)
33. My Immortal – Evanescence (Our love song before any of us had even fallen in love. The song lives forever.)
32. Welcome To England – Tori Amos (Stellar production and taut lyrics of bringing your own sun.)
31. Earth Intruders – Björk (Eco-friendly and dead serious about it.)

30. I’m A Cuckoo – Belle & Sebastian (One of the most poignant breakups ever set to music.)
29. The Scientist – Coldplay (This just makes me all sad. The music vid was brilliant too.)
28. Black Cherry – Goldfrapp (A slow electro-jam of puréed love)
27. Everybody’s Changing – Keane (The perfect Holden Caulfield anthem.)
26. Falling Slowly – The Swell Season (A simple love song. There isn’t much to say about it. Just listen to it.)
25. Fidelity – Regina Spektor (About not wanting to fall in love, but it might happen. Regina at her best.)
24. Music – Madonna (So simple, you’d wonder why no one thought to write something called “Music” before.)
23. Fucking Boyfriend – The Bird and the Bee (I swear, Inara’s sweet voice saying “fuck” a lot is great.)
22. Kids – MGMT (A paean to the kids with some really great production.)
21. Rehab – Amy Winehouse (Career-defining because no one can sing it except for Amy, ever. Sassy and deadpan in the face of rehab, she is.)

TOP 20

2o. Daniel – Bat For Lashes (The production mixes so many influences, from Baroque strings to dance beats and the song is, obviously, about a dude named Daniel. Natasha Khan is definitely one of the most talented songwriters of our time.

19. First Train Home – Imogen Heap (A watercolor splash, production- and lyric-wise, because it’s something of a mess but a brilliant one. It’s a true work of art about what happens sometimes, when you just wanna get home.)

18. Pagan Poetry – Björk (The instrumentation is primarily composed of a fiberglass music box and the lyrics speak of love coming into bloom. The lyrics are haunting and beautifully delivered.)

17. She Wolf – Shakira (Unlike anything we’ve ever heard before. From the song’s rapid-fire lyrics to the wild production, “She Wolf” is an experience that is thoroughly unique and innovative. This is the future of dance music.)

16. Hung Up – Madonna (Running on an ABBA sample, the song proved to outsell every other ABBA song. It’s catchy, simple and proves that Madonna still has it for at least a couple more decades.)

15. Love Today – Mika (Instantly catchy and after a few listens, you start dancing along too. It’s a song that’s simple, positive and exciting. Just keep bouncing along.)

14. Bad Romance – Lady GaGa (She proved herself as a gigantic artistic force to be reckoned with with this song. It’s an epic record about wanting the deepest, darkest parts of someone, and that’s what love is all about, really. Add some industrial beats and an amazing hook, and we have a winner.)

13. Mr. Brightside – The Killers (We were all Mr. Brightside and the song proved to be anthemic for us and thousands of people who wanted people who were with other people.)

12. I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight – U2 (Simply produced but the lyrics are gorgeous and memorable. Bono’s never sounded better than this. Sure, they talk about the world, briefly, but in the end, it’s about love.)

11.  Run – Leona Lewis (Sure, it’s a cover, but Leona’s voice fills this dark ballad with so much poignancy. She just kills it.)

TOP 10

10. 1234 – Feist (A bouncy love song made famous by an Apple commercial. The video was one of the most brilliantly-conceived ever. Feist knows how to write a love song.)

9.  L.E.S. Artistes – Santigold (A thoroughly uniquely-produced creature. Santigold is quite an anomaly, as a black woman who bridges R&B and rock and electronica with a single record. Her vocals stand in stark contrast with the soundscape of heavy beats she’s created. A masterpiece.)

8. Starlight – Muse (A hook that is unforgettable, brilliant pianos and pure love. The trio tried to make an anthemic love song and it really worked out here.)

7. Chasing Pavements – Adele (Love, simply and totally miserable. Adele’s got the pipes to blow people away and she really just kills it here. Once again, this is something anthemic because it is unique, because its imagery is so evocative of running towards something you’ll never have.)

6. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (Dark and innovative, Gnarls Barkley burst out on the scene with this killer song that everybody just fell in love with. Production, lyrics, vocals are impeccable.)

5. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz (Really difficult to sing. The concept and production are simple enough but the lyrics are fresh, exciting and could not have been written by anyone else.)

4. Paper Planes – M.I.A. (It’s a parody of American views on immigrants. It’s hilarious and makes for a really good pop song. The gunshots, the cash registers, the snaps, everything just clicks. The lyrics are cheeky and fun and the production is great. No one on the corner has swagger like M.I.A..)

3. Oceania – Björk (It was written for the 2004 Athens Olympics and it’s a great theme for that. Mother Oceania supposedly unites all humans because we all came from the sea first. The lyrics are mythical in proportion and the realization of our oneness at the end makes for an incredible punch line: “Your sweat is salty; I am why.”)

2. A&E – Goldfrapp (Dashing into folktronica, Goldfrapp made some of their best stuff ever. Mixing acoustic guitars and electronic beats, “A&E” is something of a hangover love song. It’s waking up and wondering what the hell happened last night and realizing all you want, really, is to be loved.)

And Number 1 is….

1. Hide And Seek – Imogen Heap (Built completely around Imogen’s vocals, it talks about a love that’s falling apart, and the guy is hiding from her, saying it’s all for the best. The song is haunting and Imogen’s stark production keeps your attention on the desperate, broken emotions here. It contains all the nuances a real love story has, unique bits and pieces that come together, like oily marks on the wall or newspaper word cut-outs. The depth and detail are impressive and add to the absolute convincingness of the song. It is the best single of the decade, hands down. Jason Derülo may be on the charts, but Imogen has something he’ll never have: a song with heart.

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4A Christmas Party Preps

December 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Alright, this blog is for 4A’s consumption. The rest of you, be alienated.

So, I’m working on the program for our Christmas party on the 18th, which is next Friday already. Gasp. We had several volunteers/forced volunteers for performances or videos. I will address you later in the blog.

First for EVERYONE: Please IM me a list of the 5 (or more) Most Important Things you learned in A2010. For example “Don’t _____ Gabby because _______.” or “Always _________ your math teachers, and you will succeed.” These are meant to allude to actual events in our high school lives, so make as many allusions (or illusions) to funny anecdotes from throughout our lives together as a class. I humbly request that you play along, even if you don’t necessarily know what it’s for. 😛 Deadline is Sunday evening, December 13. Danke.

Second, for PERFORMERS AND VIDEO PRODUCERS: Please confirm your performance/video and inform me privately of the nature of the presentation. So far, the line-up we have is:

Kebong, Arion et al. (Awaiting Confirmation/Info)
Ricky, Luigi et al. (Awaiting Confirmation/Info)
Kevin et al. (Confirmed/Informed)

Dabz (Awaiting Confirmation/Info)
Chino (Awaiting Confirmation/Info)
Benjie (Awaiting Confirmation)

It’s our last Christmas party, let’s make it awesome! 😀

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