August 2013 Diaries (3 of 3)

October 5-11 Editon

Jonathan Aquino's Journal

August 24, 2013
Downtown Cebu

I didn't know why I instinctively looked at the man approaching from behind. He passed me by, half-running, wearing a white shirt and brown shorts.

"Snatcher!" somebody shouted. The crowd seemed excited, like a celebrity is coming. It was past one in the afternoon. I was at the corner of Osmeña and Gullas streets in downtown Cebu. The man ran into Gullas.

"Ten pesos," the avocado juice vendor said as I stood under her giant umbrella. She said the thief grabbed an earring as the victim was about to board a taxi.

"Is that the victim?" I asked her, pointing to an elderly lady surrounded by people. She has the aura of a retired school teacher. I felt sorry for her. There she was right in front of me, touching her right ear.

"Yes, that's her." the avocado juice vendor said. Some people began buying avocado juice too when they saw me having one. I bring luck to stores. Or maybe it's just psychology.

"So where's the snatcher?" I asked.

"He got caught," she replied. That's good. A lot of people are talking simultaneously, complete strangers suddenly becoming close. There were no police.

I followed the snatcher. I went into Gullas, an alley with mostly Muslim food stalls. It's as if nothing happened. There was no scene, no crowd. Nothing. That's strange, I thought. I got to the next street. I looked back. Everything seemed normal. A coiled snake is also normal.

August 26, 2013
5:44 a.m. Monday

I had a dream: I was dying from a fatal disease. What I find revealing is I was telling myself I'll get cured through sheer willpower. I was walking in a distinctively European town, like Vienna or Frankfurt, wearing an old-fashioned white shirt like a character from a Jane Austen novel. In my dream, I remember thinking about the many times I've refused to buckle to what seemed inevitable. And I survived.

 I agree with Edgar Cayce and Jaime Licauco that dreams are symbolic of your inner mind. Only you can interpret your dream. What a dragon means is what you believe it means, to you and only to you. That's why I don't believe in dream dictionaries and their generic interpretations. For me, my dream of dying is neither an omen nor a subconscious rant. Its meaning may not be fully clear for now, but I know it's as significant as visions of my previous lives and my astral travels in other dimensions.

August 26, 2013
6:18 p.m., Monday

Good graces are flowing unto me. Blessed be. I believe in the law of attraction. Like attract like, what I sow so I shall reap and as above so below. I'm convinced that if you do something good for your fellowmen, you don't brag about it.

"True genius," says William James," is knowing what to leave out." You can proclaim your charity to the entire Milky Way, but with the freedom of choice comes the responsibility of facing the consequences of one's actions. In this case, it will stop the flow of the universal forces that is set to bring you the reward from the good you've done.

"To gain knowledge, add things everyday," says Lao Tzu. "To gain wisdom, subtract things everyday." No work of man can possibly contain everything that happens. One needs the wisdom of discernment. A diary is not the Akashic Record.

August 27, 2013
8:05 a.m., Tuesday

"I just woke up because I was kept late," I replied to a friend's text message. It came in at five in the morning but I always turn my phone off when I go to bed. "The singer of a 90s pop-rock band came to visit a neighbor. He has a really good voice and plays guitar better than me. But the idiot spent half the night on a beer concert below my balcony."

One of my dreams was taking my pants off in a garish cabaret-like stage dressing room. I was wearing a black and gray underwear. Suddenly, the door opened to reveal a crowd.

Another dream is sitting in the backseat of a Ford Fairlane convertible. I can read the Caucasian driver's mind: he knew I was there but he couldn't see me. Riding shotgun is a boy. They're both strangers to me. It was thrilling to skid around on a freeway as large as Saint Petersburg Square. Our car went straight to the sea at the edge of the road.

"Go!" I sent a mental signal to the driver. We plunged into the water. Our car forged relentlessly like a boat. Up ahead, a flyover lies half-submerged. We zoomed up to dry ground.

"That's how it should be!" I thundered. I distinctly remember saying that. I forgot the exact words of what I said next, but it's something about taking risks and defying your comfort zones. If that's the message of the dream, then I got it loud and clear.

August 28, 2013
6:26 p.m., Wednesday
Cebu City

The woman walked across the roof, unaware of me watching her. I was riding shotgun in a jeep shuttle in Escario waiting for the green light, looking at the houses below the bridge at my right. She was sealing a crack at the corrugated iron roof beside the TV antenna with an aluminum scotch tape.

It's chilling because earlier, I was reading a novel where the narrator had to deal with stalkers. Coincidentally, these guys can control minds and last night I was re-reading a book about telepaths. It's a subject that's close to me: the hero of my next novel is also a telepath, like a Jedi without a lightsaber.

 Today is a day I can be proud of, from the standpoint of positive karma and long-term financial security. Before going home after doing some groceries, I've been at the library doing research for my article about modern bestsellers. In one sitting with lunch in between, I finished Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick's Twilight-like tale of Nephilims and fallen angels.

"I put the words and images there, but it's up to you if you believe them," says Patch. That's "Fallen angel power," he continues. "Any other kind of angel wouldn't invade your privacy, even though they can.”

Naturally, I was directing my mental movie version. Except for Chauncey and the boy with the V-shaped scar across his back at the opening scene set centuries before, which would be a spoiler, here's my cast:

Becca Fitzpatrick's "Hush, Hush"

Patch Cipriano: Huggybear
Nora Grey: Emma Stone
Vee Sky: Laura Ramsey
Elliot Saunders: Paul Wesley
 Jules: Alex Pettyfer
Dabria Green: Rosario Dawson
Blythe Grey: Michelle Pfeiffer
Dorothea: Meryl Streep
Coach McConoughy: Samuel L. Jackson
Detective Barro: Lew Diamond Philips
Detective Holstijic: Josh Brolin
Marcie Millar: Lindsey Lohan
Bo's Cashier: Vhing Rhames
Portland Waitress: Julianne Moore
Cart Lady: Viola Davis
Hotel Clerk: Will Ferrell
Miss Sully: Sharon Beiste
Whitney: Julianne Moore
Bartender at Borderline: Luke Wilson

August 29, 2013

A dwarf makes a deal with a demon. Vamana asks Bali to give him all the land he could cover in three paces. Bali laughs and mocks. Three steps? That's less than a meter! Bali agrees, humoring the pipsqueak. Then the little runt reveals himself as Lord Vishnu and covered the entire world in three strides. The Lord Shiva also loves disguises. As Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance, legends says the world will end once he stops. I'm glad he hasn't.

When you enter the house of Pi, you'll be greeted by the image of Lord Ganesha, the god of luck with the head of an elephant. Above the TV on the living hangs an image of the Holy Kabaa in Mecca, and beside it is the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Today I began and finished reading the Life of Pi. I'm super-impressed with his courage, intelligence and the way he was transformed by his remarkable adventure. It's reminds me of one of the very first novels I read when I was in grade school: Sandy and The Rockstar, about boy and a cougar. Pi is actually a real person: Piscine Molitar Patel from Pondicherry, India. From July 2, 1977 to February 14, 1978, he really was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

I can relate to what the author Yann Martel had to go through to light the creative spark. I'm doing now what has done when he heard the amazing life of Pi: writing fulltime away from the masses and distraction; he in India and I in Cebu. But he's from Spain and I'm from España in Manila, so the voyage and the quest for inspiration are also part of the story behind the story.

"Swami Jesus, are you going to Mecca?" is my favorite line, from Pi's brother Ravi.

My favorite scene is when the pandit, the priest and the imam discovered that Pi is a practicing Hindu, Catholic and Muslim. In my mind's movie version, the religious debaters are played by Steve Carell, Will Ferrel and Sacha Baron Cohen. It's a riot!

Here's my complete cast:

Yann Martel's "The Life of Pi"

Piscine Molitor Patel: Huggybear
Santosh: Ben Kingsley
Tomohiro Okamoto: Ken Watanabe
Ravi: Kal Penn
Yann Martel: Antonio Banderas
Gita: Lena Olin
Mamaji: Anthony Hopkins
Satish Kumar The Teacher: F. Murray Abraham
Satish Kumar The Baker: Javier Bardem
Father Martin: Steve Carell
Muslim Imam: Will Ferrell
Hindu Pandit: Sacha Baron Cohen
French cook: Jeremy Irons
 Atsuro Chiba: Lee Min-ho
 Taiwanese Sailor: Kim Bum
Meena: Mila Kunis

August 30, 2013 
Ayala Mall, Cebu 

Dance music blasted from the giant speakers as dozens of people do the zumba at the mall's open grounds. It was like a street party. Chad and I were near the stage, watching the dancers and all the good looking girls going by. People from around the world were there it's virtually the United Nations meets the Miss Universe Pageant. It's a Friday night and salary day for most people. I'm not an employee but I'm here to chill, and I have more reasons to celebrate.

We just had dinner at the foodcourt with his brother Kit, a cool guy who works for a giant telecom firm. I got a lot of inside tips. I also found out how the public, blinded by celebrity endorsements, are getting bamboozled. Cellular networks lure you with exaggerated ads, then they spring a trap by forcing you to sign a contract, called a "lock-in period." If you cancel because of bad service, they charge you a penalty. In other words, they have a legal right to screw you.

I like the crowd here, I thought as we strolled around the mall. Chad just bought a new Samsung, his third mobile phone, and left the box at the store. Kit had to leave for an appointment. Chad and I went hunting for dessert. We got some ice cream with halo-halo, the popular Filipino concoction of milk, yam, gelatin, fruit bits, crushed ice and lots of other sweet stuff. We were at Ice Castles, probably named after the skating film

"And now I do believe," sings Melissa Manchester in the movie theme, "that even in the storm we'll find some light..."

There's a scene where the heroine has just finished a beautiful performance that left the audience in awe. She was so exquisite. Then she stumbled and couldn't get up. Her mother bravely went down to get her. Everybody was crying when they realized the truth: the figure skater was blind.

Looking Through The Eyes of Love
Melissa Manchester
[Theme from Ice Castles]

"Napoles surrendered last night to Noynoy," Chad told me. Noynoy is President Aquino. Janet Napoles is the controversial lobbyst with a bounty on her head.

"How does she operate?" I asked, starting to attack the halo-halo by picking the faux corn chips off the ube ice cream like cocktail finger foods.

"Okay, I'm a congressman and you're Janet," he explained. "We will sign an agreement where I'll give my PDAF to you. Then you give me half and you take the other half."

Sounds fair, I thought. It is, actually, in a diabolical sort of way. The PDAF is the Priority Development Assistance Fund, a discretionary fund for members of Congress to fund social projects for their districts. Napoles has a lot of non-government organizations, all of them only on paper.

"I think they should get rid of the pork barrel," I said. "Senators and congressmen should just stick to legislation." I really don't give a hoot about politics. I used to, but that was before I totally got disillussioned with the human race.

"Why don't the local government make a project that will benefit the people, then send a proposal to Malacañang?" said Chad, who has also written an article about it. "I agree that we should abolish the pork barrell, but I don't agree with abolishing the President's social fund."

"Yeah, Noynoy is the only clean person in the government," I said. "One of the best Presidents, ever," I continued, thinking about the excesses under Estrada and the flagrant criminality under Arroyo.

"Do you know who's the best President the Philippines never had?" said Chad. "Ninoy."

The late Senator Ninoy Aquino, the President's father, was the fiercest critic of the strongman Marcos during the martial law regime in the 70s. Ninoy was sent to prison for 8 years for trumped-up charges, 5 of them in solitary confinement. He was thrown in exile after he almost died in prison. Ninoy returned on August 21, 1983 and was shot dead even before he stepped on the airport tarmac. The assassination rocked the world and ignited the historic 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos and catapulted Ninoy's widow Cory to the Presidency. She became one of the most beloved public figures in modern times.

I cried as the entire nation mourned Cory Aquino’s death on August 1, 2009. I was there on the Manila Cathedral as the funeral convoy emerged. The people asked her son Noynoy to run for President in the elections the following year. The rest is history.

"I can think of two more," I said. "Roco and Gordon."

I was one of the student volunteers when the late Senator Raul Roco ran for President. I saw former Senator Richard Gordon in action as a Red Cross volunteer. I lived for a while in Olongapo in the mid 90s when Gordon was chief of Subic. Roco and Gordon are part of my "League of Extraordinary Filipinos," a story I wrote in 1997 just to show that, even more than a century after Jose Rizal and Gregorio Del Pilar, there are, and there will always be, heroes in every generation.

"Of all the things I've ever done," sings Dennis Lambert on the radio in the ice cream joint.

That's my all-time favorite station: 96.3 W-Rock. It's still here in Cebu but already gone in Metro Manila. There, 96.3 is now Easy Rock, which is owned by the Manila Broadcasting Company located beside the CCP in Pasay where I used to jog on Sunday mornings last year. MBC's flagship is DZRH, the iconic Tagalog AM station that's been on air even before I was born in my present lifetime.

 I have written more than a dozen drama scripts aired in DZRH before I left Luzon last February. My mentor was the radio living legend Salvador Royales. In front of the recording studio are the booths of two other MBC stations: 90.7 Love Radio and 101.9 Yes FM.

The Easy Rock booth is down the hall in front of the cashier and beside the employees' entrance to Star City, the popular year-round indoor carnival. Easy Rock is 102.7 here in Cebu; but in Manila 102.7 is StarFM which is on 95.5 here. Speaking of radio, I used to tune in to Rob Rider, one of the local deejays here with a call-in advice show in 93.3 iFM, just to learn the native dialect. Tididit Ana! Whatever that means.

Of All The Things
Dennis Lambert

"Ah!" I took a sip of the green iced tea, then I realized there's a tissue covering the straw. We were now at one of the outdoor cafes with those ridiculous candles; I took a picture, made a wish and blew it out. It was around nine. The zumba dancers are still going strong.

"This is delicious," said Chad about the thin pizza with a dough like pita bread. "Tastes like shawarma!" It does, come to think of it. You can even fold it like tacos. Strange.

"Yeah," I agreed.  The menu is bigger than an x-ray plate. There's a story on the first page, illustrated like a children's book. Sumo-sam was adopted by the people when the baby-carrying crane accidentally dropped him. He grew up to become a legend for his skills and huge appetite. Something like that. It takes a village to raise a sumo wrestler.

 "Catherine!" Chad called out to the girl who was passing by our table. She looks like Kylie Minogue. Chad made the introductions like a true gentleman. But he called me Jonathan, not Huggybear.

"Hi!" we smiled, shaking hands. Catherine is from Canada and she's one of the trainers in Chad's company. She's really nice but she's in a hurry. She gave us a smile as she disappeared inside TGI Friday's.

"Are we still in Asia?" I joked. There are two guys on the sofa behind us and on the next table is a couple and their young son. They're all Caucasians. I've been exposed to foreigners since I was a teenager, and some of them are a lot nicer than most of the natives, if you ask me.

I got another slice of the taco-shawarma pizza, tasting it and savoring life, giving thanks to all my blessings and enjoying the moment.


"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

~Steve Jobs
Ice Castles

Alexis Winston: Stay with me!
Nick Peterson: You bet.
Huggybear said…

"Now I do believe that even in the storm we'll find some light..."

Huggybear said…

"...even in the storm we'll find some light..."