Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jan 26 To Feb 1

On Being Nice: I'm experimenting on subliminal dynamics so I needed a cassette tape recorder. I squeezed some time to buy the cheapest China-made model from the appliance section of SM Southmall on Jan. 20, 2013. I was in a hurry so I never bothered to test it. Back home, it didn't work. I had to waste more time and cancel some planned activities to return and get a replacement. It was frustrating but I'm happy and really proud to say that I got one without acting like a self-righteous jerk, demeaning other people in public. I'm not like that and it doesn't help any. I even got rapport with the merchandiser and flirted with the customer service girl. I want people to be nice to me so I'm nice to them. It's called...CHARM

On Lucena: The fun part of Lucena City in Quezon Province, when I was there Nov. 23, 2012, is the plaza full of jampacked food stalls in front of the provincial capitol. But I already had a burger at Mozart, one of the local burger stands a block away. There was a radio somewhere, tuned in to one of the provincial stations, 91.1 Campus Radio. The most interesting is the old-school stand alone movie theater, Benco, showing two films for the price of one, and that's even less than a regular feature. They are bold films, and I could imagine what's going on inside. I remember when I first went into a double-feature theater somewhere else. I was 13, playing high school hooky. Some stranger sat beside me. We were the only ones in that row. My heart pounding nervously, I felt a hand brush my knee, then it began to caress my thigh...

On the 1960s: I love the sixties though I was born in the 70s. I would have been in Woodstock, flashing the peace sign. Yeah, that's where it's at: on the road, like Jack Kerouac, on a psychedic colored van, tripping on Dylan and Spiral Staircase. Beatles and Monkees, of course! Hendrix, Marley, Peter, Paul and Mary too! The hippie movement is a revolution of consciousness, the declaration of independence of an entire generation. PEACE!

On Being Taken Hostage: I wonder what I would have done if I've been one of those gas plant workers taken hostage by terrorists in Algeria. Ruben Andrada, a Filipino engineer and one of the few survivors, tells his harrowing experience via phone patch to the radio show Ibayong Pinoy as I tuned in, Jan. 20, 2013 (I had just then texted a friend, saying I'm chillaxing for bed, "waiting for my sleepiness to reach a climax."). Andrada and the other hostages had been herded into vans, strapped with bombs, and were driven straight in the crossfire between the government soldiers and the terrorists. I'm not afraid to die, and I think I would have struggled to resist, knowing me. But one of the most important lessons I learned in my life is, in any situation, you really can't be sure of what you will do if it hasn't happened to you. Anything else is wishful thinking

On Senior Citizen Act Violations (1 of 2): The government-run Philippine National Railways (PNR) apparently spits on the Senior Citizens Act. A friend of mine, who's in his 60s and hobbling from arthritic knees, was shouted at in public by an arrogant security guard in the PNR station in Bicutan. My friend, who is also diabetic with critically unstable blood-sugar levels and had just undergone a cataract operation, was scolded like a child and was rudely told that they don't honor senior citizen cards: no courtesy lane, no priority, and certainly no discount. "Walang senior citizen sa 'kin!" was the guard's exact words. It happened past 1 p.m., Thursday, January 17, 2013. When my friend arrived at the Tutuban station, he reported the incident. A security official named S. Moreno said my friend does not look like a senior citizen, by implication justifying the guard's power-tripping and utter lack of courtesy and even basic good manners. Or maybe the culture of PNR breeds that

On Senior Citizen Act Violations (2 of 2): Senior citizens deserve our highest respect for their lifetime of wisdom and their unparalleled contributions to our society and to our world. But the Philippine law mandating a 20% discount for senior citizens is being violated everyday, like in Master Siomai and other franchise food carts. Around the last week of November 2012, I boarded a Green Star bus with an Calamba-Alabang-Lawton via Skyway route. There it was: "No Student ID, No Senior Citizen ID, No 20% Discount." Just in case the passengers can't get the hint, it goes to the point: "No Senior Citizen and Student ID." Under that, to drive it home: "NO 20% DISCOUNT." Will the government sanction the bus owner? It depends on how high his connections are

On Student Rehearsals at The Luneta: I saw a lot of young students practising for their stage presentations at the giant Lapu Lapu monument at the Luneta when I passed by on Nov. 22, 2012, circling the park from the National Library to the Instituto Cervantes. I love children, and I got there videos to share the joy of seeing them in action, so full of innocence, enthusiasm and joy for living

On Kawayan Musika: I saw incredible musical artistry in front of the Manila Yatch Club on Nov. 11, 2012. I just came from the Cultural Center complex and was walking to Baywalk. I'm impressed by the originality: a duo on an improvised bamboo xylophone. I actually enjoyed the performance of the almost non-stop medley of famous pop songs. They are Kawayan Musika and their number is 0932-746-6572. I honestly believe they deserve international exposure, a showcase of world-class Filipino talent. It was one of the many things that made that special morning even more memorable. It's a beautiful Sunday, it's a beautiful day!

On True Love:  I believe in love that will last a lifetime. I want that, deeply yearn for it, in my life: with both of us grown old but still loving each other with the same passion no matter what happens, like the unforgettable characters brought to life by Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda in the film classic On Golden Pond. "You're my knight in shining armor!" she tells her husband suffering from dementia. "And always will be!"

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

January 12, 2013
9:49 p.m., Saturday

A lot have happened lately, it seems a lifetime has been condensed in just a couple of days. I have this tendency to focus on the positive things so I try to avoid writing about the negative ones. But I want also to note events in my life that's significant. I notice, moreover, that everything turns out well in the end. Last week, the unthinkable has happened: my old reliable original vintage Nokia flip phone (which I call Volkswagen) finally malfunctioned. I went to my trusted technician friend in Baclaran. I met him when I was living in Parañaque in 2010.

We had a laugh because since then, they had moved into four different stalls and I had lived in four different places: Santa Ana in Manila, General Trias and Tanza in Cavite, and Vanguard in Moonwalk in Las Piñas. Before that, I even stayed in Gwapotel, a public transient dorm at the back of Manila Hotel: imagine a field of double bunks like the economy section of long-distance ships the size of 3 basketball courts. The things that happened to me there can also fill a volume.

So they have a new place, inside the mall connected to the LRT station, while I'm in Alabang, at least as I write this. I'm happy with my phone, don't really want another, and I'm even happier to know that I can afford to buy a new one anytime; knowing that is enough for me. I love photograhy so I bought a digicam 3 months ago, one of the few material things I've always wanted. The old reliable is now back in top form, and while there, I downloaded some songs into my digital voice recorder from CDR-King: it's the warranty replacement they issued when they found they couldn't fix (in 2 months instead of 3 weeks) the unit they sold me.

Anyway, my technician friend also runs a download thingee, and I got 21 songs for 2 pesos a pop. That was the first time I heard and really liked Every Morning by Sugar Ray.

The word "eclectic" doesn't even begin to describe it: from The Beatles' Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 

to Ric Manrique's Saan Ka Man Naroroon

to Gary Valenciano's Shout For Joy,

to Zsa Zsa Padilla's Kahit Na 

to James Ingram's Whatever We Imagine

to Maria Vidal's Body Rock 

to Init Sa Magdamag by Sharon Cuneta and Nonoy Zuñiga

to Third Eye Blind's Semi Charmed Kind of Life 

and a lot more. I bought my recorder third quarter of 2011 when I was working as a correspondent for a newspaper. As much as I love to write and really want to be able to do it fulltime, if there's one thing I learned from being a staff writer, it's that I don't want to be a staff writer ever again. That's why I went back to working in a call center: so I can have a regular income without prostituting my passion and compromising my self-respect

The Avaya phone at my work station lost its ethernet connection last Thursday so I asked to be transferred temporarily. I was assigned to a station where two supervisors already assured its okay. I prefer to be in that new area of the production floor, really, very positive vibes. End-shift the following morning, I heard that the "owner" of that station and one other girl (the noisiest and the most attention-seeking) were bitching about me, really below-the-belt stuff, because I used her station. It's not my first time to encounter back-fighters, and there are a lot of plastic people in this line of business. My only consolation is that I haven't done them any harm and their behavior is not a reflection of my character. My conscience is crystal-clear and that's all that matters.

I'm not insecure and my life is not empty; that's why I don't like gossip and office politics. I can't speak for other people.

I updated my blog 2Rivers earlier, after shift. I posted, among the 4 major stories and my diary for Jan 6, the letter-to-the-editor I sent to six national publications, about my negative experiences dealing with the police when I accompanied a friend to report a crime; he owns an Internet shop and one of his employees vanished, taking along all ten PCs. The greatest lesson I got while I was online came from the new video of my mentor Tony Robbins: What makes you rich is not money but your attitude towards it. I'll write a separate story on this

Climaxing on a musical note, as always (umabot sa sukdulan ang nota in Filipino), the Huggybear photo with the black varsity jacket with yellow stripes was taken in SM Dasmariñas mall when I got my cam, a sleek black Samsung ES91 on sale in Wellcom, November 2012. I was with a friend who lives there. Straight from my all-nighter shift in Alabang, we spent an hour in one of the local gyms, my friend being a body-builder and acting as my instructor.

Then we found a videokes-for-rent joint with private booths in the mall. Hitting the high notes and practicing the head tone I learned from Eric Arceneaux, I sang If I Believe by Patty Austin.

Of course, our back-to-back concert would not be complete without the Huggybear videoke signature song, the Jericho Rosales version of Beautiful In My Eyes:

"...and the passing years will show
that you will always grow
ever more beautiful
in my eyes..."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Silicon Valley: Where Ideas Change The World

January 19-25

This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, August 16, 2012

Thierry Lewis was at a crossroad. His presentation at a trade exhibit fair in San Diego was a mess, and his plane leaves home to Paris at six that evening. But he doesn’t want to leave. “I can stay here and I may or not may make it,” he thought, “or I can go back and surely I will never make it.

            His mind surging in panic, he decided to take that one-in-a-lifetime shot at making it big in America. So he cancelled his flight and went to Silicon Valley. He’s not really sure what to expect but he was disappointed: There was nothing but suburbs and low office parks. No sense of arrival. Nothing. Except rain and the falling night.

            Much later, he met maverick tech writer Po Bronson, and his start-up saga joined the prisms in the kaleidoscope The Nudist On The Late Shift and Other True Stories of Silicon Valley (Random House) which fascinated me so much I read straight through – that rare book that simultaneously entertains and shares precious insights.

            Thierry rented an office, smelling like new paint and all six refurbished cublicles still empty, for Quiz Studio, his software that turns Web pages into interactive quizzes. His desk is empty except for a laptop and a mobile phone.

            “This,” writes Po, “is Silicon Valley today: Get lean, get stripped down, live on nothing,” but “Get ready for ultracapitalism.”

            Nope, Thierry told him. He’ll just make $20 million than go home. “I’m not greedy like them. A fitness buff, he was living on Barilla spaghetti for $1.59. When he gets rich, he’ll upgrade to De Cecco spaghetti for a budget-draining $2.59. He invites Po to come back after 3 months for some pasta.

            Three months later, “He’s off food entirely,” writes Po. Thierry has switched to an Apex powdered drink full of amino acids. He had sent a proposal to all venture capitalists for $2.5 million. That was a strategic mistake. Apparently, they will only finance projects worth $5 million and up.

            His personal fund is running low. “There’s a knife at my throat,” he says. “Sometimes I get really, really scared.”

            Fast forward. Po writes: “Thierry told me he had thirty days before he would be selling his clothes.” At the same time, Thierry had just released the new version of Quiz Studio, which was now compatible with the Javas of both Sun and Microsoft. He then got to meet with the executives at Macromedia, Isometrix, Oracle and Knowledge Universe.

Level playing field. Ben Chiu was born in Taiwan and grew up in Canada. In search of his roots, he returned to Taiwan after graduating from college. It seems everybody was partying all the time so he opened a nightclub. But business in Taiwan, even discos, is based on guanxi (relationships). Success is about having the right connections and he grew disillusioned with that.

            He came to Silicon Valley to start a new life, believing that the Internet will be a level playing field. He wrote the code himself for his price comparison shopping engine,, working 18 hours a day.

            Tragically, every venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road turned him down. He was advised by Broadview Associates and Morgan Stanley that for his site to be bought, he would need established venture capitalists like Kleiner Perkins.

            But Ben doesn’t know where to start. “I’ve been through hell,” he says, likening himself to the proverbial mouse on the wheel as someone cranked up the speed. He came to the United States alone, not knowing anybody. It took some time for Po to gain his trust because he’s not use to people caring about his life, only his technology. He eventually, shyly, showed Po his sketches of wildlife and Po was stunned by his painstaking attention to detail.

            Ben got himself a personal financial adviser, who turns out to be the accountant for Jerry Yang of Yahoo! and Mark Andreesen of Netscdape/AOL. “He was Ben’s ticket to guanxi.”

            Meanwhile, Ben added music and consumer electronics – and his start-up doubled in size in a single month. was later acquired by C/NET for $46.6 million.

            Ben was “overjoyed,” Po shares the happy news. “He was stressed and giddy at the same time, goofy, apologetic, sweet – buying me a Pepsi from a vending machine.”

Urban Legend. Billionaires don’t impress Po Bronson. When he first met Yahoo! co-founder David Filo, his first question was, “Do you still sleep under your desk?” There’s a photo (in the book) with Filo all snuggled up, but that was when he was worth only $500 million.

“Not much anymore,” Filo says, looking down at the trash heap under his desk. “No room.”

Friends ask Po if he ever thought about starting a company and making a bundle. What attracts him is not money but access. Only as a “rogue journalist” can he capture the human energy of Silicon Valley, to record stories of “people in pursuit of unusual lives” that make his nerves go “Quaannng!”

Just like David Coons. He is a CGI programmer who’s one of the pioneers of the film-to-digital scanners and an award-winning inventor of digital ink and print technology, but he says that the distorted stories about him taking his clothes off at the office have become urban legend.

“So there’s no truth to it, huh?” asked Po.

“Oh, no,” Coons says. “It is true."

Entrepreneurial fire. Sabeer Bhatia  passed the notoriously brain-blowing transfer exam for Cal Tech. He arrived in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 1998 all alone. He was just 19 and knew absolutely no one in the United States. His plan was to get his university and post-graduate degrees then work in a big company back home in Bangalore.

Something happened in Stanford that changed his life. The series of inspirational talks given by the likes of Scott McNealy (Sun Microsystems co-founder) and Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder) gave birth to his new can-do attitude and ignited his entrepreneurial fire.

He and his best friend Jack Smith worked at Apple after graduation. His proud parents said their super-smart son is now with a very famous company in America – he’ll have job security! In the meantime, Bhatia would tantalize Smith everyday about stories about some dude selling his start-up for millions.

“Jack, what are we doing here, wasting our lives?” and “Jack, given the enormous opportunities here, if we can’t make it here, than we are complete failures!”

Sabeer shopped around for his Web-based personal database, JavaSoft, while measuring the characters of prospective investors. If he feels he can trust them, he’ll show his ace. He and Jack were always brainstorming, exchanging ideas throgh their corporate e-mail, but afraid somebody night catch them doing personal projects during work hours.

Then an came an idea so simple it them like a tuck – free Web-based e-mail accounts.

Sabeer and Jack are rank-and-file hardware engineers. They don’t have any experience or background in business or management; they’re not even techies. They’re just cubicle worker bees – but they have an idea.

Sabeer has “hallucinogenic optimism,” recalls Steve Jurvetson of venture capitalist firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. “He had an unquestionable sense of destiny. But he was right. He grew the subscriber base faster than any company in the history of the world.

The popularity of Sabeer’s brainchild, Hotmail, introduced the concept of “viral marketing.” When Microsoft descended, they already have a walloping six million users.

“You’re crazy!” said Microsoft negotiators. But Sabeer showed an “Off-the-charts degree of confidence,” writes Po. Everybody, as in everybody, was shocked when the deal closed.

Free e-mail for $400 million.

Only in America.

Only in Silicon Valley

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12-18

The Root of The Dysfunctional Philippine Justice System

I sent this story to the op-ed sections of five different national broadsheets on the last week of November 20012. Some things came up and I wasn't able to check if they published it or not

The Philippine justice system still remains dysfunctional at its root, despite motherhood statements for political mileage. I personally witnessed this when I accompanied a friend of mine, victimized by theft and still in shock, to file a complaint. My friend has just put all his life savings for a small Internet shop in Malate, most of the equipments still on loan, and the new houseboy vanished with all 10 computers and that day's earnings. The suspect had applied for the job but he took his documents along with the loot. Following a hunch and armed only with the name, I found a photo of him on Facebook

We went first to the barangay hall at the street at the back of Shoppes@Victoria around 7 in the evening of Nov. 25, 2012, Sunday. It was empty. We waited for half an hour. Later, the barangay secretary points us to the police outpost in Pedro Gil diagonally across Robinson's Place 

An officer named Gacayan refuses to help, saying we had to go to the Theft and Robbery  He, like the barangay secretary, keeps asking the wrong questions, like "What are we planning to do?" He refuses to help, saying we had to go to the Theft and Robbery Section in the WPD station on U.N. Ave., because the stolen items are worth more than a hundred thousand Pesos 

At the WPD, a tall officer wearing a checkered polo shirt who didn't give out his name, also refuses to help, saying there's a new memo that they would handle only crimes that involve two hundred thousand. He says we had to go, instead, to the precint at the back of Manila Zoo at the city outskirts 

When we got there, a young man in handcuffs is being jailed; an elderly policeman, before pushing him into the cramped cell, delivers such a strong punch into his stomach

The desk officer named Lauriaga, to his credit, actually takes the time to explain where we stand. Since it was the 25th and the crime happened on thd 12th, according to the rules of the Philippine National Police, an arrest warrant cannot be issued anymore. What my friend, the victim, needs to do is to file a case at the city hall, with the suspect's complete name (with middle name) and complete address for a judge to issue a subpoena. If the suspect doesn't appear at the hearing, then the judge may issue a warrant for contempt Apparently, Malate is handled by precints 5 and 9. Lauriaga, who was in 9, is helpful: he calls the precint 5 in Pedro Gil (the one we been to earlier and the nearest precint to the crime scene), and tells them that our case is within their jurisdiction 

Back at the Pedro Gil precint 5, Gacayan adamantly still refuses to help, saying we should go instead to the precint in Arquiza street a half dozen blocks away, without even the courtesy of a phone call to them

The police, with their reputation of incompetence and abuse of authority, also has the parochial mentality of refusing to do what they are actually being to paid to do: to serve and protect the people. nstead, they treat civilians like the rotten apples associated with their image, throwing them to their neighbor's yard 

In a single crime, a citizen gets victimized twice: by the act itself, and the police's bureaucratic adherence to rules that defy common sense and basic human compassion

Huggybear’s Virtual Vocal Coach 

Singing is more than meets the ear. Proper breathing, in singing as in yoga, is the key. The vocal chords are muscles, says Eric Arceneaux, voice coach, recording artist and founder of the ArceneauxApproach voice training method. Like all muscles, it gets stronger with exercise, and gets weaker with lack of it -- and can be damaged with the wrong ones. So you really need to warm up, he says, and you can't do that just by singing. Here are some of his warm-up exercises. First, hiss out loud, as if telling someone to shut up -- ssshhhh! -- until your breath is gone. Then do the lip roll, vocalizing, letting your lips vibrate. Just free your voice, let it go down, then up

At all times, you have to be relaxed, no straining because that's counter-productive. Always be aware of where your voice is going. Crucial reason why people have difficulty singing is the lack of warm ups and daily exercises. Athletes know this: warm-ups will push you to be at your very best. Do these everyday and before long, you'll notice tthat your voice is stronger, deeper and fuller. I should know

Jabidah Massacre

I was talking with the former provincial administrator of Jolo (or so he says), around the third week of May. Apparently, Sabah belongs to the Philippines. It was leased by the Sultanate of Sulu to the British North Borneo Timber Corp in the 19th century. After World War 2, Sabah was lumped with the Federation of Malaysia, from which Singapore and Brunei broke away to become solo nations. So Sabah was left with Malaysia. It turns out that Marcos' Operation Jabidah, the secret recruitment and training of Sulu's fearsome Samal Bangenge tribal warriors in Corregidor, was meant to be a coup to reclaim Sabah. It was also known as the Jabidah Massacre, because the food-denied troops staged a mutiny and they were all killed

You know, like, Hamlet?

The Jabidah Massacre inspired the Cinemalaya movie Rekrut

The Four Personality Temperaments

All my life I have avoided self-labels. I came across Relasyon, a radio show on 92.3 NewsFM which gives free legal advice, hosted by Luchi Cruz Valdez and Mel Santa Maria, around lunchtime while trying to sleep for work tonight. The guest is a doctor who is discussing the four personality temperaments. I don't believe in putting myself in a box. I like to be in the limelight sometimes but I'm not strictly sanguine. I can be organized but I don't label myself as melancholic. I have displayed leadership qualities at various times but I don't label myself as choleric. I like peace and quiet but I won't label myself as phlegmatic because I'm not, never was or never will be submissive. Meaning: I am all of them but I am none of them

I simply cannot imagine that the infinite variety of personalities in the world can fit in just four categories. In my own temperamental-defying opinion, I find it absurd.

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

January 6, 2013,
5:58 a.m., Sunday

I love the absolute silence of early dawn. I feel more connected to The Force across the universe. I'm more in touch with myself, more introspective, and hopefully, more open to my spirit guides. I'm sitting on my desk, with broiling-hot lobster crackers, reading about the breath patterns and transitional moves between asanas for hatha yoga. There is a way between simplicity (Less Is More) and living life to the fullest ("What A Feeling!"). I just have to find out how to blend work with working out, writing, yoga, meeting my financial responsibilities while saving for my future, and of course, traveling, into one perfect harmony, like a master conductor of a symphony orchestra. Some call it time management, but I like my imagery better. Somewhere in between is (kilig) lovelife, hahaha! Cheesybear!!! 

What A Feeling:

Saturday, January 05, 2013

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

January 5-11

Rico frowned as he opened the door.
Standing outside was a well-dressed man who looked like Allan Paule in Masahista.
"Daniel!" Rico was shocked, blood draining away from his face. "What are you doing here!"
"I've following you," Daniel said, with leashed menace, entering the room. "So this is why you're always out of the house!"
Rico stepped back, his face ghastly pale.
"Babe, is this your uncle?" asked Jo, frightened, coming up behind him.
"Is that what he told you?" Daniel asked her, his voice rising.
"Leave her out of this, Daniel!" said Rico, covering Jo. "Please!"
"Why? Are you afraid to be embarrassed in front of your girlfriend?" shouted Daniel. "You're afraid she'll know the truth?"
"Babe, what's he talking about?" cried Jo, nearly hysterical.
"Babe, I'm sorry I lied to you!" said Rico miserably, turning to face her, beginning to cry. "I wanted to tell you but I was afraid..."
"We're going home now!" Daniel commanded, heading towards the door.
"Daniel," Rico turned back to him, afraid but defiant. "I love Jo!"
"You're going to choose that woman over me?!" Daniel exploded in rage. "Don't you forget, if not for me, you'd still be in the living in the streets!" he shouted. "It's only because of me that you've eaten without scavenging from garbage!"
"I've had enough of you!" Rico shouted, getting angry.
"How dare you!" shouted Daniel, drawing out a gun and aiming it at Rico.
Jo screamed.
Rico stood his ground, covered with sweat. "Daniel, please," he gestured, trying to calm him. "Put the gun down!"
 "Go with him, babe!" sobbed Jo. "I don't want you to get hurt!"
"I won't leave you, babe!" Rico told her, looking defiantly at Daniel.
Daniel was livid. "After all I did to you, this is how you repay me?" he screamed. "You  ungrateful son of a bitch!"
The gun exploded.
Jo screamed.
Rico fell back with a cry of pain, blood gushing from his chest.
"Babe, no!" she cried hysterically.
"Babe, take my wallet!" said Rico as he lay dying. "I want our baby to see me, even if it's just a picture..."
Rico shivered. "Don't forget me, babe!" he cried, clutching at her desperately. "Light a candle for me during my birthday, okay?"
"Hang on, babe!" Jo sobbed. "I'm going to get help!"
"Promise me, babe!" Rico cried, not letting her go. "A candle on my birthday!"
"I promise, babe!" Jo cried. "I promise!"
Rico died.
Daniel stood there, crying. "Oh, God, what have I done?" he moaned. He looked down on the gun on his hand. Slowly, like in a dream, he aimed it to his head. Out the window, another LRT train thundered past as Daniel pulled the trigger.

The sun was already up but Jo and Wally were still at the pares-pares restaurant, the ceiling fan going 'round and 'round over them. Wally was speechless as Jo ended her story. But he managed to call Benjie and order coffee just to avoid dead air.
"Well, Wally," Jo shrugged. "Do you understand now?"
"Jo..." Wally was overwhelmed by the horrors she went through. "Jo, I didn't realize..."
"Most of the time," she shrugged, "those who know nothing, they're the ones who are always eager to judge and condemn you..."
Wally blinked. "What happened to the baby?" he asked.
"Oh, Mickey!" smiled Jo, fishing something out her bag. "He's Miguelito. This is his picture." She handed him a wallet. "He's now a year and two months old. My cousin Yolly is taking care of him. We're living together again. Now I'm the one helping her, just showing back my gratitude."
            Wally was looking at another photo. "And this?" he asked, showing it to her.
"That's Rico," she answered quietly. She looked down. "That's his wallet..."
"I admire your courage, Jo," Wally told her, giving it back. "You know whatthink? I think you told me your story because you're hoping I'll be turned off because you want me to leave you alone."
The coffee arrived.  "Good morning!" said Benjie cheerfully as he placed two mugs of steaming hot water with thin plastic stirrers, a jar of sugar, a jar of cream and a cup of condensed milk on the table. He smiled and left.
            Jo prepared their coffee. "You want it sweet?" she asked, as she opened the sugar jar.
"Very sweet," whispered Wally, looking at her. "Jo, I love you!"
Without missing a beat, she replied, "Do you also love milk?"
"Jo, I'm serious! I-- hey, don't!" he said as she was about to pour the milk.
"Cream?" Jo went on, amused by the the whole thing.
Wally shook his head. "I knew it the first time I saw you!" he said earnestly. "You don't ignore your heart, Jo!" he continued. "Sometimes, it's the only true thing in our lives!"
"Wally," said Jo, groping for words, "you don't even know me!"
"I already know what I want to know!" he said.
"Wally, it's just a crush, okay?" Jo told him. "It's normal, I'm a girl, you're a boy, but it will pass..."
A customer who looked like Derek Ramsay in No Other Woman approached the jukebox. He slipped a coin and pushed some numbers. Saan Darating Ang Umaga by RaymondLauchengco started to play. "Bakit ba pinagtagpo, pala'y maglalayo, tayo sa ating buhay..."
"Jo," said Wally. "It's not an accident that we found each other."
"Wally," Jo replied. "I don't think I'm ready yet..."
"I understand that you still love him, and you'll probably never forget him for the rest of your life," Wally said seriously. "And I won't take that away from you." He sighed. "But I want you to know, Jo, that I will always be here, and I'll be waiting no matter how long it takes!"
"Oh, Wally..." Jo was confused. "I don't want know what to say..."
"You don't have to say anything, Jo," he said, putting his hands over her. "Just remember that, from now on, you're not alone anymore!"
"Kahit pa anong hadlang, mananatili kang mahal sa aking tunay; may umaga man pala, kung 'di ka niya dala, ito'y walang buhay..."

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

December 31, 2012

I have always yearned for a simple life even during my bohemian teenage years. Then I realize I already have it. I'm living in a quiet place with good neighbors, within walking distance from the office. A friend from way back asked in Facebook how I am. I told him I'm living quietly, with a clear conscience and no enemies, and I am blessed with peace of mind. 

In my fiction story Baywalk, published in the Sunday Times last year, the narrator, Johnny Gibbs, meets a young homeless masseur who didn't finish school and gets customers in the park beside the breakwaters. 

Then comes the epiphany like a thunderbolt: How successful are you if you have lost sight of the most important things in your life? And are you really a failure if you are poor but earn a decent and honest living and never a burden to anyone? Most of all, is your worth as a person and dignity as a human diminished if you have nothing to show for yourself except the principles you stand for, and that you are free to do whatever you damn well please? 

The office was almost deserted when I came to work that night. People came in trickles. That's one of the nice things about this holiday: people who normally ignore you will greet you back with enthusiasm and big smiles. 

I was pleasantly surprised there was free food, catered. There's rice, fried chicken, canton noodles, caldereta beef, brownies. My shift starts 9 p.m., first 15-minute break is 11; I had an long call, almost an hour, when I went for a break. It was 11:57 p.m., just three minutes to go. I went to the pantry to get coffee, and on TV is German Moreno leading the all-star GMA-7 countdown. 

As I went outside, it was already the Big Event. The Northgate Cyberpark skyline was filled with fireworks, most from outside, the sounds of celebration echoing off the buildings. I was leaning on a lamppost, smoking, having myself a merry little New Year, facing 2013 with Auld Lang Syne on my head, peace on my mind, joy in my heart, and gratitude in my soul

From The Journal of Jonathan Aquino aka Huggybear

December 30, 2012 
8:04 a.m., Sunday 

The change in my life I'm most grateful for is the mindset of congruency in my words, actions and attitudes, thanks to Tony Robbins. I'm getting results. 

That was my message to Chink Positive, the radio-TV show of wealth enhancement guru and public speaker Chinkee Tan, who just read it on air. His co-host read my second message: I also just sent this Facebook update via mobile: Happy Birthday Chinkee! Happy New Year to you, your family, everybody in the studio and all your listeners! Pls greet Cesar Basilio of Parañaque and Sammy Sigue of Cebu. 

The greatest lesson I learned during this episode is two of the secrets of successful Filipino-Chinese business titans whom Chinkee has interviewed: Don't put your eggs in one basket, and never kill the golden goose. Meaning: Create another source of income but don't take the original for granted Its amazing because I just wrote a story about the golden goose on the Comments section of last week’s issue of 2Rivers

It's the first time for weeks that I woke up Sunday morning because of my graveyard shift at my call center work. I went to get breakfast; my landlady has a packed-lunch catering business. She said I was tumataba despite my small rice intake, and I was so happy because I'm trying to gain weight by working out despite my physical gains being undermined by my nocturnal lifestyle. 

To celebrate a beautiful morning, I ordered tinola, a local chicken recipe. Coincidentally, that was the same dish prepared for Crisostomo Ibarra when he returned from studying in Europe. Crisostomo is part of My Most Unforgettable Literary Characters, one of my first articles published in a national magazine, in 2005. He is the hero of Noli Me Tangere, my favorite Filipino novel, written by the great Jose Rizal. 

I have the deepest admiration for Rizal, the world famous national hero and one of my role models. He's a traveler too! Another coincidence: Rizal wrote Noli in Spanish, the language I'm studying now, with my class in Instituto Cervantes starting in January. 

El sabio siempre quiere aprender, el ignorante siempre quiere enseñar. It means: The wise always want to learn, the ignorant always want to teach. 

A half-hour later, a friend texted me that my poem, Immortal Saul, is published in Philippine Panorama, the Sunday magazine of The Manila Bulletin.  "I was born in the time of heroes..." 

I posted it on Facebook via mobile, adding "Finding Nemo song on radio."