August Diaries (2 of 3)
September 14-20 Edition
Jonathan Aquino's August 2013
Diaries (2 of 3)
August 16, 2013
4:58 p.m., Friday
Fuente Osmeña Circle
I'm deeply moved by how Paulo Coehlo's quest came to an end in The Pilgrimage, which I just finished at the Cebu City Public Library in Jones Avenue. My own spiritual journey is like his trek along the mystical Road To Santiago de Compostela. In the end, you realize that what you're looking for has been there all along: within you.
I always thank God for everything, even the smallest things most people take for granted, like the gift of sight. I won't say "Thank God it's Friday," though, because I'm on a roll writing my latest series of articles and the library is closed on weekends. But it's a very productive day and I have no complaints. Only gratitude.
One of the many books I read today is Genius and The Mind: Studies of Creativity and Temperament. There are four famous people on the cover. One is Lord Byron, one of my favorite poets. Another is Richard Feynman, who is the subject of my article in the latest (August 11) issue of Philippine Panorama, the Sunday magazine of The Manila Bulletin.
"Important differences regularly appear between creative and non-creative scientists," writes Robert S. Albert in this collection of essays published by Oxford. There is a chart drawn from various studies. On top of the list of qualities of successful writers, mathematicians and architects is: "High aspiration level for self, is certain of the worth and validity of ones's creative efforts."
As I left, I passed an OB van of ABS-CBN, showing the anchors of their regional network here in the Visayas. The building also houses the city museum and on the third floor is an auditorium where the media is covering an event. I feel at home in the library with its impressive architecture and more important, I can go around and choose any book from the shelves. That's how libraries should be. I made it part of my amateur short film Cebu: City of Angels.I also shot footage of Magellan's Cross and other places, including the rotunda park where I'm now, surrounded by the rush hour but without the hurly-burly.
For the past couple of days, I'd have lunch on a cafeteria in the garage of a compound next to a photo shop which is next to the library. Today I went to a quiet eatery next block in Llorente Street. The pork blood-based dinuguan was delicious and cheap at ten pesos a pop. Showing on the mounted TV is Lara Craft: Tomb Raider. She's underwater, and she punches a shark in the snout. I sort of have this idea than sharks are more invincible than that: I remember reading an article about it from the iconic oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. But as much as I find spiritual tranquility in swimming alone far out into the sea, I don't want to meet one to find out.
August 18, 2013
2:18 p.m., Sunday
Ayala Mall Cebu
A chill ran down my spine as I saw the headline. Two ships had collided yesterday in Talisay beach. That's my beach. That's where I would swim, on the strait that divides Cebu and Bohol. I would be out on the sea everyday, as in everyday. I stayed there in a friend's house just this February. I'd go down from his porch and in less than ten minutes I would be at the shore.
The M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete ran smack against each other. There was no casualties, at least no mention of it on the front page. There are heroes, and they always they come in moments of crisis. A nurse, Alwin Patosa of Bacoor, Cavite (I once lived there too), saved the lives of a lot of people. He even revived a baby on the lifeboat using CPR. Now that's a hero! The story about the other hero, the Navy man, was, sadly, on the inside pages of The Manilla Bulletin.
I'm typing this in the food-court. I got some Black Gulaman from a stall with a cute name: Ho-Lee Chow. I'm sitting in front of a circular food kiosk with lots of blenders. I was thoughtful as I walked in the mall earlier, mulling over something while fully aware of my surroundings. A couple of elderly ladies were in front of me, one is having difficulty walking. So I slowed down even more, which is just as well because I kept thinking about the apartment I just inquired into not fifteen minutes ago. Carolyn sends a text message, saying Hi.
"I found an apartment," I told her. "I like it, condo-style and well-ventilated, similar to my own. It's walking distance to my new office. But it's over my budget."
She tells what I'm thinking: it's really expensive here. This is the business district, the city's prime property. Here is the playground of the movers and shakers of the financial world. The mall is the hang-out of tourists and expatriates. So, did I take it?
"Not yet," I replied. "I still have until the 26th to either move or extend another month. My apartment is fine but it gets hot in the daytime. I feel like I'm in a microwave oven. I'm in Ayala. I'll treat you to Angel's Burger."
I went around the mall again, absorbing the sights and sounds. There's a lot of South Koreans. Ah-nyong haseyo! I remember when I was an English teacher in a Korean school in 1993, near U.P. Diliman campus, and I would always be in the Sunken Garden with my sketchpad. There was a commotion. Apparently there's a celebrity on the lower floor. A lot of people are screaming and waving their cameras. I didn't see who it was. Frankly, I didn't even care.
My bookstore agenda was to get materials for an article. Is that possible by just browsing and taking a few notes? Of course! I did just that. In other words, I was turning the time to gold. So I got my selections: Nobel Prizewinner Muhammad Yanus' Creating A World Without Poverty; James Montier's The Little Book of Behavioral Investing; Robert Cole's The Unwritten Laws of Finance and Investing; Dave Kerpens' Likeable Social Media; Pat Dorsey's The Litte Book That Creates Wealth; Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad and George Clason's classic The Richest Man In Babylon.
Imagine this scene: some dude spinning a large hardcover 'round and 'round. That was me reading the spiral symbol from Dan Brown's Inferno. The newest adventure of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon was inspired by the Italian mystic and pedophile Dante Alighieri. It's a story about hell. That's a hell of a story.
August 19, 2013
6:22 p.m., Monday
Lahug City, Cebu
I feel a sense of melancholy in the twilight. Darkness is creeping up into my room as I write this. I remember the bats flying all around me whenever I would go into the woods when I was a teenager in Morong, Rizal. I had the same feeling when I was in a farm in Balagtas, Bulacan, where I saw an aswang. Come to think of it, it's not as hair-raising as when I encountered my first ghost in Antipolo, Rizal, where I grew up.
There's something about the coming of night that evokes in me a sensation of primieval remembrances of things past. I feel this keenly when I'm close to nature, surrounded by forests or being embraced by the sea. Maybe what it evokes is something that mankind all share. Everything is somehow connected on a deeper, or higher, level of existence. Whatever it is that defy our finite understanding, the soul never forgets.
August 20, 2013
8:01 p.m., Tuesday
Lahug, Cebu City
It's been said, many times and many ways, that you won't know the value of something you have until you lose it. Thank God I haven't lost anything, but that slumbook slogan came to mind while house-hunting this afternoon. I now began to appreciate my present lodgings when I saw the alternatives. My place doesn't serve all my needs though it has its good points. The ones I checked out won't be able to either. None of them even have bed cushions.
Walking around and going into strange alleys, it occurred to me that it really is part of Filipino culture to live in self-built plywood houses on maze-like mini-streets, with all these trash-talking little kids running around while the shirtless grown-ups are having some brandy al fresco. Technically they're not squatter areas, but these are not places for people who grew up on other cultures like Japan or Australia, not to mention the United States. The knee-jerk reaction is poverty, and and that automatic response is also part of our culture. They got refrigerators and surround-sound sub-woofer speakers and they will still complain they're poor.
"Oh, Lord, we have a flat-screen TV, have mercy!"
One crucial element I have in my brownstone-style apartment is privacy. That is non-negotiable. So I mentally X'd the ones where I had to pass the owners' living rooms. There's one in Escario I might have liked if not for that kind of set-up: it's bigger than a studio-type condo pad. It's like a scene from an 18th century period movie. The landlady is renting just one room upstairs so there would be just me, her and her two young sons. Sounds home-y. But I'd rather have what I have right now, alone and undisturbed. But I'm still on the look-out even if I decide to extend. I still have a couple of days. In the meantime, I'll play it by ear. The right decision will come in the right time. It always does.
Couldn't sleep. My head is swimming with ideas. Good ideas. I seem to be obsessed with a specific personal project. I think that's positive. I don't worry about neglecting other things because I never do. I don't lose sight of the Big Picture and I always think long-term. The road ahead is compelling me forward. Most of the stuff I'm coming up with is in the spirit of kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.
August 21, 2013
11:31 p.m., Wednesday
Lahug, Cebu City
I'm doing that thing I do like how software engineers do it: one bit of code at a time but already seeing the applications even before the initial flash of the graphic interface. I feel that my mind is going full speed in processing new information, setting their configurations to sync with my vision. I'm lucky that I have a driving passion which consolidates my focus. Otherwise, I'd be chasing one ephemeral interest after another, running around like a headless chicken.
The dam floodgates in Central Luzon have been opened. I saw the banner photo in one newspaper with a car engulfed in floodwaters, threatening to drown the people inside. It's Ninoy Aquino Day. Ninoy's assassination on August 21, 1983 triggered the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. That watershed event ignited the series of non-violent mass demonstrations that overthrew dictators around the world. One man changed the course of history.
I look like a college kid, reading a book under a tree in the park. The library was closed so I spent a brain-refreshing afternoon in Fuente reading a biography of George Lucas. He gives me strength to stick to my creative guns and to not compromise my artistic freedom. A group of students were rehearsing a choral stage presentation not far from my tree. There was a guy juggling bottles in the air, like Tom Cruise in Cocktails, as I left the park.
The Beach Boys
[Theme from Cocktails]
August 22, 2013
10:29 a.m., Thursday
I just saw a vision of the future. I had an awesome dream. Gilbert Bolante, a close friend who died in 2009, was teaching me how to use his mobile phone to materialize objects. It looks like an android but a little bigger. I texted "coffee" and put the phone down. A mug of steaming coffee materialized over the screen. Wow! There's also a tablet for bigger stuff. I typed in "fried chicken" on the phone and beamed it like a POS scanner in a grocery store checkout counter. The tablet's screen shimmered. A whole piece of fried chicken hologram-ed out of it. Then it became real, piping hot straight from the kitchen. Gosh, that is so cool!
"I don't worry because I know things always turn out well in the end," I told a living friend in the present, my reply to a text message I got just now in my waking life. "Everything that happens is good. I've been on the brink many times but by twists of fate I didn't fall. There have been also times when I plunged down, 'but somehow I survived, with no rhyme or reason,' like in the Boyz II Men song. But I'm human enough to be cautious. I think that's a good thing too."
Color of Love
Boyz II Men
It began to rain when I got home, just a few minutes after I inserted my key into the doorknob. I'm showing solid progress in the articles I'm doing at the library. I hope to finish everything before I start work on a year-long project in September. I don't want any distractions nor any last-minute surprises. I want my life to be smooth and easy, like cruising on the freeway with Feel So Good by Chuck Mangione, the Master of Fusion!
Feel So Good
I'm in the Visayas, praying that the people I care about in Luzon are alright. I read that fifteen people were reported dead from tropical storm Maring, and 83 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila and Luzon have been declared under a state of calamity. It's not exactly paradise here in Cebu either: there was a landslide in a village called Casuntingan in Mandaue.
Egypt seems to be on a state of permanent anarchy. Pope Francis has called for an end to the chaos. It's a good thing that Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, supported him. The two Popes may differ in doctrines, but since the raging violence is against all forms of religion, I'm glad they agree on that fundamental principle.
There's another piece of uplifting news. A 26-year old Cebuano triathlete, John Philip Dueñas, finished second or third in the Ironman triathlon in Mactan even if he almost died from dehydration and exhaustion. Dueñas swam 1.9 km., biked 90 km., and ran 21 km., in 4 hours, 33 minutes and 18 seconds. Incredible.
"I was closing my eyes because I can't handle the pain anymore," he tells the Cebu Daily News. "I just told myself that if I give up, I would just waste the months of preparations and all the sacrifices I made. So I just embraced the pain all the way to the finish line."
August 23, 2013
8:45 p.m., Friday
Lahug, Cebu City
What's an elephant? An elephant is a mammal with ivory tusks and a trunk. It's big and long. But that's not a definition: it's a description. If it's hard to define something that's tangible, what more those that are not? John Stuart Mill tries to define "nature," as in the perceptible existence of a phenomenon. I finished my article which includes that and stories about the ideas of other great philosophers like Spinoza and Descartes. I spent the entire day at the library, very productive and intellectually stimulating.
I finally found Linda Goodman's Star Signs which has intrigued me for years. I first read about it during my teens in the 90s: I remember that chapter excerpt on the now (sadly) defunct Astroscope magazine about spiral cell regeneration and physical immortality. Based on my life-long study of metaphysics, I believe everything Linda says about the deeper workings of karmic forces. I learned something new: once you achieve enlightenment about the true nature of your soul, you are set free from the confines of your astrological birth chart.
"Immortal humans also have all the earth time they need to master body purification techniques," she says, "including the mastery of eating habits and sleep with conscious recall of astral experience."
When I read novels, I see the scenes like a movie. I'm the director, cinematographer, film editor and production designer. I just finished two recently. Here's my cast:
Po Bronson's "The First $20 Million Is Always The Hardest"
Andy Caspar: Huggybear
Darell Lincoln: Andrew Garfield
Salman Fard: Dev Patel
Tiny Curtis Reese: NIck Frost
Francis Benoit: James Franco
Hank Menzinger: James McAvoy
Lloyd Acheson: Matt Damon
Papa Lewis: Robert Downey Jr.
Nell Kirkham: Kirsten Dunst
Alisa Jennings: Amanda Siegfried
Condrad Goss: Bruce Willis
Ronnie Banks: Jonah Hill
Donny Williamson: Colin Farell
Exit Interviewer: Tim Curry
Jimmy Porter: Billy Bob Thorton
Paulo Coehlo's "The Pilgrimage"
Petrus: Sean Connery
Master: Liam Neeson
Father Jordi: Anthony Hopkins
Possessed Woman: Sally Field
Paulo's Wife: Anne Hathaway
Devil: Viggo Mortensen
Mme. Lourdes: Maggie Smith
Manolo: Antonio Banderas
Popcorn Vendor: F. Murray Abraham
Bar Owner: Michael Rispoli
Priest: Elya Baskin
Old Woman: Brenda Fricker
Shepherd: Ronald Pickup
Templar: Joseph Gordon Levitt