Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 6 of 7)

December 29 to January 4

The merry waters of Manila Bay are reflecting the moonlight like swimming fireflies. The lights on the distant ships seem to twinkle like the starry sky. The waves splashed on the giant rocks below Jo and Rico as they sat on the concrete promenade stretched along the length of Roxas Boulevard, eating peanuts and grilled corn on the cob.
"This is my favorite place in the world," Rico confided. "In our province, in Pampanga, there's nothing but rice fields."
"Our province is like this, beside the sea," said Jo. Quickly, she changed the subject. "How about you?" she teased. "Won't your girlfriend be mad you're with me?"
"I, ah," Rico stammered. "I don't have a girlfriend..."
"But I'm sure you've brought a lot of women here!" said Jo. For some reason, she doesn't want this to be true.
"Would you believe you're the only one?" said Rico. He took an lungfull of sea wind. "I go here when I want to think, when I want to hear my own thoughts." He laughed self consciously, knowing how silly he sounded.        
Jo smiled. "I know what you mean," she told him, looking at the waters. "The city is so noisy, but here..." She shook her head. "Here," she continued, almost whispering, "you feel like you're so far away from your problems..."
Rico was looking at her intently. "You are so beautiful, Jo!" he said softly.
"Let's talk about something else," she laughed. “Where do you work?"
Rico gave an embarrassed laugh. "My, uh, uncle, doesn't want me to," he said with wounded pride.
"Why not?" That's most unusual, Jo thought. Still, she imagined, it would be fun to have an uncle like that.
"He doesn't even want me to leave the house," Rico shrugged in frustration.
"But he sent me to school," he added, trying to be fair. "I got a degree as a computer programmer but I can't use it! By the way, where do you live?" he segued.
            "I dorm in Quiapo, in Hidalgo," Jo said. "Bedspace. I used to share a room with my cousin. She's the one who brought me to Manila. But her employer has moved to Davao, taking her with them. So there!"
"So we're both alone in the city!" he marveled.
"I thought you said you live with your uncle!" asked Jo.
"Oh, ah, well, that's different," replied Rico, more confused than her. "What I mean is..." He couldn't find the words but he got an idea. "Tell you what!" he said brightly, gathering their leftovers in a plastic bag. "Let's take a stroll and find something to eat!"
Jo laughed. "You're just evading the topic!" she said, taking his hand to get up. "Yeah, good idea," she agreed. "I miss the fresh air!"
"You know, Jo?" Rico said bashfully, as they started to walk. "I'm really happy now, here, being with you." He shook his head. "Most people," he went on, "they're so plastic and superficial!"
Jo looked at him. "I enjoy your company, Rico," she said. "I can't explain it," she continued, shrugging, "but I feel like I've known you for years!"
"You feel the same way, too?" he asked happily. "Oh, look!" he said excitedly, pointing. "Grilled squid!"
Jo laughed. "Yeah, come on, I haven't tasted that! Mmm! Smells wonderful!" Then she stopped, thunderstruck. "Oh, my God, Rico!"
"What is it, Jo?" asked Rico, alarmed.
"Don't tell me," she said, amazed, "you're hungry again?!"
They burst out laughing. A vendor standing beside them, holding dozens of colored balloons, smiled, finding them so cute, so full of life, and recalling his own wonderful teenage years.

Jo and Rico went out again a couple of days later. It happened again, and became frequent. Soon, they became inseparable. Because of Rico, Jo once again found happiness. One fine cloudy afternoon, on Jo's day-off, Rico cut classes.
"You're different today," Jo remarked as they walked in the bayside, caressed by the breeze.
"Why?" laughed Rico. "Have I grown gills?"
The seagulls were laughing, probably finding it funny.
"Rico," Jo rolled her eyes, "we've been together almost everyday for over a month! I know you, right? There's something bothering you!"
"Oh, it's nothing!" Rico stopped to pick a pebble and threw it out the sea.
"What do you mean, nothing?" asked Jo, standing beside him. "I can see it in your eyes!"
"You see...," Rico groped for words. "I had an argument with my uncle..."
"What happened?" asked Jo, worried.
"It's...complicated," Rico sighed. "Why is like that, Jo? If you don't like something in a person, you can say it in a decent way, can't you?" He shook his head. "And he's supposed to be an educated professional!" he went on cryptically, but the hurt was palpable. "You know what I can't understand? Why does he have to always bring back everything he has everything he has ever done for me?!"
"He's like that?" exclaimed Jo, outraged.
"I know I owe him a lot!" Rico continued, on the verge of crying. "But I feel so trapped, Jo! It's like, for the rest of my life, I'll be forced to be grateful for a debt I can never, ever, repay!" A tear fell, and wiped it away quickly, ashamed.
"Rico," said Jo hesitantly, "there are a lot of thing you haven't told me about, have you?"
Rico nodded miserably. "I need time, Jo," he said softly. "Someday, I'll tell you everything. I'm just...not ready yet..."
Jo put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it, trying to give some comfort.
"I don't know what I'll do without you, Jo!" He stopped and faced her, holding back the tears. "The only time I'm happy is when I'm with you!"
"Rico," she said, looking up at him. "Remember, I'm always here! If you a need a friend..."
Rico stopped and faced her. "Jo," he said, brushing her hair from her eyes. "I want you to be more than that..."

The Spanish ancestral house stood in eighteenth century majesty in Paco.
"Wow, they made it into a restaurant!" exclaimed Jo, impressed, as the waitress brought their kare kare, sinigang tuna, rice and drinks.
"That's why I brought you here," smiled Rico. "I knew you'd like it."
Jo was admiring the grand piano, antique furnishings, framed oil paintings of people long dead.
"Houses like these are becoming rare," said Rico, serving food into her plate. "Mostly, they're being torn down to create vacant lots. Anyway, as I was telling you, the owners inherited it from their grandfather’s dad, who was a Catalan. They made it into a restaurant because it's such a shame to just leave it empty and let it deteriorate. They don't want to live here because there's a ghost!"
"Don't tell me you believe in ghosts?" said Jo, laughing.
"I don't want to see one!" laughed Rico. "There's actually another reason why I brought you here," he continued, forking a piece of string beans. "But it belongs to another era!"
"Let me guess," said Jo. "The jukebox?"
"Yeah, weird isn't it?" laughed Rico as he stood up. "Wait," he said, digging into his pocket for a coin. "I want to play you something!"
Jo watched him went up to the jukebox, framed by the open capiz windows overlooking the cobbled courtyard, where a black 1957 Plymouth Fury was parked. The jukebox began to play the opening strains of Sa Mata Makikita.
Rico hurried to kneel beside her. "I don't know you to tell you, Jo," he said nervously. "So I have to say I love in a song!"
From the jukebox, Roel Cortez began to sing: "Kailangan pa bang ako ay tanungin? Kailangan pa bang sa 'yo ay bigkasin? Na mahal kita, at wala nang iba! Masdan mo't makikita, sa aking mga mata..."
"Oh, Ricardo!" Jo was laughing, not realizing she was also crying. "You should know by now! I love you too!"

The LRT roared past the large grilled window of the motel. The room boy has finished changing the bed sheet, and nodding at Rico without looking at him, went out and gently closed the door.
Rico locked it and turned down the lights. He went up to Jo, who was standing in the middle of the room, rubbing her arms.
"Rico," she said hesitantly. "I'm afraid..."
"There's nothing to be scared of, Jo," Rico assured her, cupping her face in his hands. "We love each other, don't we?"
"Yes, but..." Jo was shaking.
Rico kissed her, drowning out her protests, as another LRT train rumbled across the window.

They were sitting at the bayside again, this time at the strip at the back of the Folk Arts Theater. A psychedelic ice cream cart passed them, pushed by a vendor ringing his bell.
"I have something to give you, babe!" Rico smiled shyly, handing her a small folded piece of yellow pad paper.
"What is it?" asked Jo, delighted, fingering it lovingly.
"Open it," he smiled, a bit anxiously.
She carefully removed the scotch tape. "Oh my God, babe!" she gasped, taking out a thin gold necklace. "This is so beautiful!"
"Here, let me put it on you!" Rico unclasped the necklace.
Jo lifted her hair as he slipped it around her neck.
"There!" said Rico, pleased. "Perfect!"
"But," asked Jo, overwhelmed, looking down at the necklace, "isn't this expensive?"
"It belonged to Mama," Rico told her. "That's my only memory from her. I had it with me when I ran away to Manila."
"You ran away from home?" Jo said, not missing the parallels in their lives.
"Papa died when I was a baby," said Rico. "Then, when I was fourteen, Mama died too. I was the only child, there was nothing to keep me there, so I left!"
"Who did you go to in Manila?" Jo asked, looking at Rico as if seeing him for the first time.
"I didn't know a single soul!" laughed Rico. "I was sleeping in Luneta!" He looked at the necklace, brilliant in the sunlight. "I can't remember how many times I've taken that to pawnshops," he told her, smiling at the colorful memories of his boyhood adventures.
"Babe," said Jo, appalled. "I didn't realize you went through such..." Jo looked away. "Pain..."
"Change subject!" he said cheerfully. "I have good news, babe!" Rico told her excitedly.
"Me, too, babe!" she replied happily.
"Okay, you first!"
"No, you first!"
"Guess what?" smiled Rico. "I found a job in a fast food! Orientation is next week!" he proudly declared. “Tomorrow, I'll look for a room! We'll finally be together, babe!"
"Oh, babe, I'm so happy!" cried Jo. "Now it's my turn! I went to the health center yesterday..." She smiled, embarrassed. "You see, I missed my period..."
Rico was beside himself with exhilaration. "Babe!" he said, exultant, "You mean..."
Jo nodded with tears of joy. "I'm pregnant, babe!"
"Oh, babe!" he said, bursting with joy. "This is the best day of my life!"
Jo started to cry.
"Hey, babe, what's wrong?" Rico exclaimed, frightened out of his wits. "It might upset our baby!"
"I'm so happy, babe!" Jo sobbed. "I was afraid you'd leave me if--"
"Babe, babe!" smiled Rico, his eyes glistening with tears, cupping her face in his hands, their faces nearly touching, looking straight in her eyes. "You are my life! I swear to God, no matter what happens, I will never leave you! Only death take me away!"
"I love you, babe," Jo said quietly, caressing his face. "As long as I live..."
He stood on the rocks. "Hey!" he shouted at the top of voice. "I'm going to be a daddy!"
The crowd burst into applause.
"Yes!" Rico shouted triumphantly--then he fell on the water.
More people are clapping and whistling, gathering around, as Rico swam around in circles.
"Babe!" he was shouting. "Will you marry me?"
Everybody in the bayside was now standing in the promenade around them, cheering and going wild with excitement.
Jo was standing on a rock, crying, never in her dreams had she thought she would be happy like this.
"Yes, babe!" she cried as the crowd behind her thundered with cheers and applause. "I will marry you!"

Rico closed the door as the room boy left. He turned to Jo who was sitting on the bed. Behind her, framed by the large grilled windows, an LRT train roared as it swept past.
"First thing tomorrow," Rico said as he hunkered down in front of her, "I'm going to look for our own place."
"It doesn't matter where, babe," she told him, putting her arms around his neck, their foreheads touching. "As long as we're together!"
There was loud knock.

(To Be Continued Next week)

Finding Forrester

He has a gift for writing, the words pouring out from a beautiful soul, from a heart filled with hope, with dreams of the life he never had, of a world so different from his own. Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) is only 16 years old, his whole life an unpainted canvass set out in front of him, only waiting for him to pick up the brush

And he's black

"What does being black have to do with it!" he demands, challenging William Forrester (Sean Connery), the great writer in self-exile from the world

Unknown to them, or perhaps they are choosing to ignore it, the seed of their unlikely student-mentor relationship was starting to grow, blossoming into a friendship that would transform both their lives

"Nothing," says the living legend , who's only book, Avalon Landing, is considered as the greatest American novel of the 20th century. "But if you let me run you down with racist bullshit," he goes, issuing a challenge of his own, "then what does that make you?"

Then, like the true artist that he is, he saw through the layers of human nature, into the heart of that which gives life its very meaning:

"You don't know what to do with your life, do you?"

Still, Jamal returns to the apartment that William has never left for decades, with its window overlooking the basketball court where he and friends would play. The boy realizes that the old man is only baiting him; somewhere in William's words is worth a lesson that will serve him in good stead throughout his life.

"The question is," says the hermit, gruffly, but with a mysterious twinkle in his eyes, "how much bullshit would you put up with?"

"So you knew I'd come back?" asks Jamal, with an undefinable feeling, bordering on awe

"Yes," William says. "and I know you'll go to that school!"

Jamal got to Maillor Callow on a sort of basketball scholarship. He became close to Claire (Anna Pacquin), and with his writing, soon earned the admiration -- and eventual resentment borne of envy -- of his literature professor, Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham) "He likes to hear himself talk," as Claire describes the professor

One of the most exhilirating cinematic experiences is the showdown between Jamal and Crawford -- all because of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Life doesn't always turn out the way it you thought it should, says Jamal, in a moment of existential reverie, marveling at the thousands of books in William's apartment.

The great writer, who has traveled farther in the journey called life, replies: "You need a book to tell you that?"

One of my favorite scenes is when Jamal took William to the Yankee Stadium. They were there, on the sacred grounds where the gods of baseball achieved their immortality. Slowly, the pain from William's past is eased by the presence of of one of the life's most valuable -- and one of the most rare -- gifts: a true friend

My brother and I, he begins, heart heavy with emotion, would watch every game. His brother left for the war, and, when he came back, he wasn't the same anymore

I love Sean Connery. One of the earliest movies I've seen as a kid was Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. I felt he was really special, from there to Highlander, to The Hunt For Red October, to The Medicine Man, to The Rock, to Entrapment, to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and to this one. He is actually one of the first people who I looked up to as a father figure, imagining that my real dad, if he was alive, would have been like him.

Jamal's dream is to be a great writer -- like William Forrester.

"How does it feel to write something like you did?"

"Perhaps, someday," says William, in an implied great belief in the young man's incredible talent, "you'll find out."

"You write from the heart," teaches William, banging on a vintage Underwood typewriter. The absolute best time in life, he declares, is reading your first draft

"Expressions is worth a thousand words." You can do all the thinking later

"Those who have gone before us," writes William Forrester in his Pulitzer Prizewinning landmark novel Avalon Landing, "cannot steady the unrest of those to follow..."

One of my most beloved movie scenes of all time is the ending, when the credits rolls up, the camera looking down from Forrester's window. A group of young men are playing basketball -- and the acoustic version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World (Huggybear's favorite song of all time) is playing. This song always gladden my heart, reminding me that life, after all is said and done, is beautiful -- and it really is a wonderful world.

"Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high..."

"...and I think to myself: what a wonderful world...!"

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear 

December 23, 2012
6:52 p.m., Sunday

I love the sense of renewal during New Year: there is that evanescent whiff of a new beginning. It seems my life is a series of chapters, having lived in various places, a book about a gypsy boy whose spirit has also passed from one lifetime to another for thousands of years

I still enjoy the season and the fireworks, with a heightened sense of gratitude of all my blessings with their mesmerizing array of appearances

But I also see New Year differently now. I follow my own agenda for change: I have clearly defined my goals: short-, medium- and long term ones. Crossing over to 2013 is just a passage in time. Some things remain, of course: I will carry Barry Manilow's It's Just Another New Year's Eve with me as I through the years that'll come and go

Inward moments and happy memories are too precious to be forgotten

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 5 of 7)

December  22-28  

Juanito was alone in the hospital waiting room, head on his hands. The silence was deafening. He cannot remember the last time he prayed. Juanito looked up as Rosal approached.
"How is she?" he asked, wanting, yet afraid, to know.
"Still under observation, the doctor said," she replied as she sat beside him. "Where's Juancho?"
"I told him to go home and get some rest," said Juanito, putting his arm around her, giving comfort while drawing strength.
Rosal put her head on his chest. "Juanito," she sighed. "What is happening to our family?"
"I don't know, Rosal," he said heavily, shaking his head slowly. "I don't understand it myself..."            
Rosal snuggled closer. "It seems only yesterday," she said wistfully, "Pinay was still playing with her dolls."
"I was always carrying her then," Juanito chuckled. "She would laugh when I'd toss her in the air then catch her." The tears came now, uncontrollably. "Rosal," he said, crying. "Have I been a bad father?"
"Don't say that, Juanito!" said Rosal.
"I only want what's good for our children," cried Juanito. "If I had been strict with them, it's because I don't want to tarnish our family's honor. God knows I have nothing else to leave them..."
"Juanito, you mustn't blame yourself," Rosal told him. "You only did what you think is right."
A nurse came. She looked like Alessandra De Rossi in Munting Tinig. "Mother?" she said. "Your daughter is awake now!"

Jo's tear-streaked face looked up as her mother entered and rushed to embrace her.
"Pinay!" cried Rosal. "Thank God you're all right!"
Jo held on desperately. "Is it a sin to love, Mother?" she sobbed. "Why does it hurt like this?"
"Oh, Pinay..."
"Why did he left?" Jo cried. "He said he wants us to be together..."
Rosal doesn't know what to say to take away the pain.
"Pinay," she groped for words. "You must rest."
Jo continued to cry. "He won't even see his child..." She sat up suddenly, frightened. "Mother? Mother?"
Rosal never felt this kind of pain. "I've talked to the doctor..."
"Mother?! Where's my baby?!" Jo screamed hysterically. "What happened to my baby?!!!"
"They did everything they can!" wailed Rosal. "But they couldn't save the child!"

A few days later, Jo was fit enough to leave the hospital. But the Jo that went home was only the husk of what she used to be. She refused to eat, didn't leave her room; she just sat there, staring blankly, alive but already dead. Meanwhile, Rosal opened their eatery again, warding off the gossipers like flies.
One day, a customer who looks Eugene Domingo in Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank inquired, "How much is the dinuguan?"
"Fifteen, ma'am," replied Rosal, turning from her unfinished stack of dirty dishes, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Can I buy a half-order?" the customer asked, the lifting the covers of the pots and pans one by one like an inspector.
"Oh, yes, ma'am!"
"How much?"
"Half is ten pesos!"
"Wait a minute!" said the customer. "An order is fifteen, so half should only be seven-fifty!"
"Oh, but we only make a small profit," explained Rosal.
"What about the fried porkchop?" the customer asked. "How much?"
The customer braced herself for a debate. "So how much is one half?"
Rosal can't believe this. "Ma'am," she replied patiently, "we can't cut the porkchop in half!"
"Oh never mind!" the woman sniffed. "This place is so expensive? What are you serving? Gold?" With that, she huffed away.
Next came a woman who looked like Pokwang in A Mother's Story.
"Oh my God, Yolanda!" exclaimed Rosal in relief. "Thank God you're here!"
"I took the first ship as soon as I got your telegram!" said Yolly. "Aunty, I have good news for you and Pinay!"

Jo was sitting beside the window, staring at the distant sea, where her father and brother are, where her lover used to be. In slow motion, she turned to her cousin sitting at her bed.
"Me?" she asked, skeptical but thrilled. "A saleslady in Manila?"
"Why not?" said Yolly. "You're pretty, you've been to high school. It's okay if you don't have experience. I'm sure you will charm the customers!"
Jo rubbed her arms. "I'm afraid, Cousin," she said, but seeing a ray of hope for the first time since she tried to commit suicide in the cliff.
"Well, of course you would be!" laughed Yolly. "When I first went to the city, my heart was pounding louder than that rickety old bus!"
"What shall I sell?" asked Jo, smoothing her skirt.
"RTW," Yolly told her. "t-shirts, pants, stuff like that. Besides, you don't have to make sales-talk. You won't be on commission basis, you'll have a regular salary, though not much. You just stand there, assist, answer questions. It's just a small stall in Avenida. And you can stay-in! I know the manager, already told him about you."
"What did he say?" asked Jo, not really caring, but knowing she'll be leaving this place and its painful memories behind.
"He said it's perfect timing!" laughed Yolly. "One of the employees has just resigned because she's getting married and will be living in Mindoro!"
"We'll be working together, Cousin?" asked Jo, getting excited, not realizing that she was smiling for the first time since Leandro had disappeared.
"No, I still enjoy being a baby-sitter," Yolly told her, getting a pillow and hugging it. "The kid is adorable, my employer is the best in the world! I would tuck the child in for siesta, then I'd watch TV the rest of the day! The salary is good, too! I also stay-in."
Jo nodded, taking it all in, realizing that the world is bigger than she thought.
"But wait, there's more!" said Yolly, waving her finger teasingly. "I talked to a landlady in Quiapo! We can live there, share the rent! Anyhow, I don't want you to be alone in Manila!"
"Oh, Cousin, I like that!" said Jo, new hope rising. "I can't wait to get out of here!"
"Remember, Cousin," said Yolly, walking over and taking Jo's hands, "no matter what has happened in the past, no one can take away your right to get up again and start a new life!"

The following year, two weeks after she had signed her second six-month contract, Jo, wearing a blue uniform, was directing a customer to the fitting room, and assuring another customer that the shirt she was buying was unisex.
"Uh, excuse me, miss?"
"Yes, sir?" The newest customer looked like Coco Martin in ‘Noy. "There's no price tag," he said, holding up a black and white striped polo shirt.
"Here, sir." showing him the small sticker at the back. "It's one-fifty!"
"Ah!" laughed the young man.
"It's on sale, sir," Jo smiled. "It used to be two hundred!"
"Does it look good on me?" asked the young man, laying the shirt over his uniform while looking at the large mirror.
"It looks really nice on you, sir," Jo said to his reflection. "You look younger!"
"Really?" he said, amused. "By the way, I'm Rico!"
"I'm Jo!"
"You have a pretty name, Jo!" smiled Rico. "Jo as in Jocelyn?"
"Just Jo!"
"Okay, just Jo!" said Rico, laughing. "How old are you, Jo?"
"I'll be turning twenty."
"So you're only nineteen?" Rico winked. "We're just the same age! I'm almost nineteen too! By the way, can I invite you for a snack?"
"I like us to be friends," said Rico earnestly. "If it's okay with you!"
"Well..." said Jo hesitantly. Who on earth is this guy? "Sure!"
"I hope your boyfriend wouldn't mind," Rico said.
Jo laughed. What a crazy idea! "I don't have a boyfriend!"
"Oh, that's great!" smiled Rico. "What time do you get out?"
"Great, it's already past six!," Rico said, looking at his watch. "I'll fetch you later and we'll eat, okay?"
Jo was nodding. "Okay!" she said casually, shrugging, like it's no big deal.
But she was smiling. 

(To Be Continued Next Week)

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York 

Huggybear's favorite Christmas movie is about 11-year old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) who is away from home, alone, lost in New York.

Sometimes, oftentimes, the most unforgettable moments in our lives is when we reach out and touch the lives of others.

The lost boy is fascinated by how the pigeons in the park would flock to a homeless woman (Brenda Fricker). "They can hear it," she says. For the first time in so many years, she finally found someone to talk to. The agonies of her past continue to haunt her, and she is alone, all alone in the world, afraid to trust again. Until she met Kevin.

It's not about getting lost, it's about finding your way. "There's a truth in there somewhere," she reflects. You can't live your life alone, life should not be like that. "That's sort of a dumb thing to do," says Kevin, still untainted by the dark side of human nature. Why be afraid? he asks, and besides, if everyone is so cruel, then "you would'n't be  this nice!"

One of my favorite scenes is the full symphony orchestra playing Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and high above, through a little window from the storage room, Kevin peeks, the glorious sound blessing all it touches. "I heard the world's greatest music here," she tells him.

Turtle doves are a symbols of friendship. Mr. Duncan, the philantropist owner of the Toy Duncan Chest, tells Kevin, giving the boy a pair: one for him and one for a special friend. Mr. Duncan has a personal tradition of giving everything he earns during the Yuletide to the children's hospital, his way of giving back to society and making this world a better place.

But robbers Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) plans to rob the store-- unless the boy stops them.

"You can't mess with kids on Christmas!" says Kevin, getting into action, in what is the most memorable holiday adventure in his life.

From the journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

December 20, 2012
8:29 a.m., Thursday

I love Christmas. There's a special feeling in the air. It seems that for most people, it's all about the merry making, which is well and good, and I'm the last person in the (allegedly soon-to-end) world to rain on somebody else's parade. I see and feel the season differently, like migratory birds sensing the advent of winter.

This is the time when I stop, step back and review my life. I do it with as much detachment as I could. It's like somebody outside looking in, watching yourself and seeing somebody else. I ask myself the questions inward-looking people normally ask only during moments of abysmal existential angst: Where am I? Where do I really want to go? Am I in the right path? And perhaps the most soul-stirring: What kind of person have I become?

I feel keenly that my life is an on-going journey. It gives me comfort that where ever I may be, literally and metaphorically, I won't be there forever. The road is endless and the world is infinite. Still, I'm sort of conscious of the human tendency to establish a place to call home. But then, I can't even imagine myself settling down, living a conventional life purely to satisfy other people's expectations.

I was listening to Francis Kong, public speaker and inspirational guru, in his taped readings every morning earlier on the radio. He said we are all artists as children, and one of the challenges of growing up is to remain one. We have overeducated ourselves out of creativity, he says, and I agree.

I am now where I am, but I won't be here long. I am who I am, and for the most part, I like and respect who I have become, better than what I was, and what I will be is the best of all

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jukebox: A Short Novel By Jonathan Aquino (Part 4 of 7)

December  15-21 

Dominga has singlehandedly raised Leandro since her husband and the boy's parents died on the same year. The interisland ferry they were riding in capsized during a freak storm when Leandro was fourteen. So Dominga, who looked like Anita Linda in Lola, was nearly out of her mind with worry as her beloved grandson hurriedly stuffed some clothes into a bag.
"Leandro!" she wailed. "Why do you have to go away? If you're the father, then you have to face your obligation to the child!"
"Grandma, I love Pinay!" Leandro said, his thoughts scattering into hundreds of directions. "As God is my witness, I want to marry her! But I'm afraid of what Juancho might do!"
"But he's like a brother to you!" Dominga reasoned. "You two have been inseparable since you were both children."
Leandro was almost crying. "I don't know what to do, Grandma!"
Dominga heard screams from outside. She went to the large windows to see people parting to give way to Juancho--who was carrying a sharp bolo.
"Leandro, you snake!" Juancho was shouting. "Come out here!"
An agitated crowd had formed, all buzzing like worker bees, keeping a safe distance from the menacing blade.
Dominga quicky turned to her grandson, who stood rooted in the middle of the room. "Go now, Leandro!" she told him. "Go out the back! Hurry!"
The young man was crying. "But what about you, Grandma?"
"Don't worry about me!" cried Dominga, almost pushing him away. "Save yourself, Leandro!"
There was no time for embraces, no time to say goodbyes. Only regrets and the pain of separation.
"I love you, Grandma!" said Leandro, tears running down his face as he picked the bag and slung it on his shoulders.
"I love you too, Grandson!" the old woman cried. "Go now! Quickly!"

Jo was devastated when she heard that Leandro had left. She lay in bed, inconsolable.
"Stop crying, Pinay," said a distraught Rosal, feeling her daugher's anguish but unable to reach out. "Forget about him!"
"But, Mother!" Jo cried. "I love Leandro!"
"He's worthless!" Rosal said vehemently even as she tenderly held Jo. "He's not for you!"
"He was a coward to have run away!"
The door banged open and Juanito entered, enveloped in wrath. "You slut!" he spat the words out.
"Juanito!" Rosal said indignantly, holding Jo to protect her.
Juanito jabbed his finger at her. "Don't you try defending that whore daughter yours, Rosal!"
"Father..." Jo tried to plead, but all she can do is cry.
"Do you know much shame you have brought into this family?!" Juanito shouted accusingly.
Jo kept crying, defeated, flinching at her father's every word.
"Tomorrow," declared Juanito. "you will marry Andong!"
The women were stunned.
"Andong, the son of Bebang?" said Rosal incredulously. "He's a no-good lazy drunk!"
"No, Father!" Jo was getting hysterical. "Please!"
"I will not let a bastard into my house!" Juanito shouted.
"Father, no--!"
"Shut up!" Juanito shouted. "I've already decided!"

A lizard was crawling across the ceiling. The silence was broken by the sounds of struggling outside. The lizard scurried away as the door burst open.
"I told you to come inside!" Juanito shouted as he dragged Juancho into the house.
"Don't push me, Father!" the young man protested.
"Why, are you going to fight back?!" Juanito shouted, holding his son by the collar, nearly choking him. "Have you lost respect even for me?!"
"Let go of me, Father!" Juancho was crying. "I won't fight you!"
Rosal entered, panicking. "Stop it, Juanito!" she cried.
"I did not raise you just to go brawling on the street!" Juanito shouted as he pushed Juancho.
The young man fell on the floor, crying, furious but unable to fight back.
Rosal fell on her knees beside her son, cradling him. "Juanito," she pleaded, looking up at her husband.
"Do you know what that son of yours has been doing??" Juanito shouted at her. "Out there, brawling like a common street thug!"
"But they're the ones who started it, Father!" protested Juancho, crying."They're saying a lot of things about Pinay!"
Juanito let out a stream of profanity, kicking the table and the chairs. "I knew this would happen!" he shouted, picking up one of the rattan chairs and smashing it againts the wall. "Curse this wretched life!"
His wife and son can only cower in fear.

Night has fallen. Rosal was alone in the house, kneeling in front of the altar. An antique iron cross with an intricate figure of the crucified Christ stood beside a figure of a Santo NiƱo inside a large conch shell. Sampaguita garlands are draped on both of them, with improvised kerosene lamps from mayonnaise jars on both sides. A framed image of the Mother of Perpetual Help hangs on the wall above. The only sound was the madrigal of crickets. Rosal stood up quicky as she heard footsteps, making the sign of the cross mechanically. She hurried to the door. Juanito entered. Exhaustion has creased his face and drained his strength.
"Juanito!" Rosal demanded urgently. "Have you found Pinay?"
"We've searched the woods, the fields," Juanito sighed, sinking into a chair. "We've been to all her friends' houses." He shook his head, heavy with fatigue. "She's nowhere to be found!"
Rosal slowly sank to her knees, hugging her husband. "Oh, Juanito, where's our baby...?" she cried, her entire body shaking with anguish.
The door was nearly torn apart by Juancho.
"Father, Mother!" he shouted, breathless. "We found Pinay!" Suddenly he was crying. "I think she jumped off the cliff!"

(To Be Continued Next Week)

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

November 1, 2012. I had this dream. I was visiting a childhood friend, Greg, who was my best friend in high school and I even stayed at their house before moving to Northgate in Alabang, where I'm staying as I write this. In the dream, knew I was talking to him, then suddenly he was Fr. Jerry Orbos and we're discussing poetry and books by John Grisham. Instead of Greg's house in Moonwalk, Las Pinas, I was in the house of my Aunt Fe, one of the pillars in the parish community of Antipolo. Visitors came: my grandmother's cousins who are dead now in real ("real"?) life. I was talking to Lolo Pitoy (for Perfecto), who ran for Governor of Bicol in the 50s; suddenly, he was Ben Mercado, a veteran actor in radio dramas who played parts in some of my scripts for DZRH 

Back to the waking world: In early 2012, I mustered up the courage to call and introduce myself to Salvador Royales, a living legend in radio scriptwriting whose Kapag Langit Ang Humatol became a movie and was revived recently as a TV soap series. I gave him sample scripts and that's how I started, doing Sa Kanyang Panahon, a one-episode half-hour weekday inspirational drama. I was under two directors: Bobby Cruz and Jun Martin Legaspi. Just last October, I've been assigned to Mr. Romantico, where an episode runs for a week, meaning: higher talent fee! I also met the great movie actress Luz Valdez, who was so pleasant in person, despite the vengeful bitches she brought to life on the screen. That's showbiz: don't believe everything you see and hear!

Photos courtesy of and