Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sun Sails

shimmers of warm light fall upon the softened crest

making tiny strides glisten with a radiance

seen only by the melancholy heart.

underneath, countless species behind ageless corals

savor the ocean's breath

while way above,

sails ride the wind with

souls in search of meaning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Of Fertile Memories

Down with the flu on her third day in bed, Grandma muttered, “Alright, hija, you may have my antique chest drawer. It just needs a little varnish, not paint, and it will stand out among all your scrappy furniture. Take care of it… it has a huge sentimental value for me, I used to write letters to your Grandpa on its writing table whenever he was out in the seas...”

It was because of that writing tablet tucked away under its tabletop that I had been specially attracted to that antique chest piece. It was made out of the narra hardwood tree, the Philippines ’national tree, and is endemic only to Southeast Asia.

The chest had a couple of drawers, a smaller one on the upper portion, and a second larger one near the bottom. Grandma had been using the small drawer as her medicine closet. The open tabletop serve as her personal altar where the Holy Family is enshrined. Grandma would light a candle every time she prayed the daily novena, or her prayers to the Saints. (St. Jude on Thursdays, St. Francis on Tuesdays, The Immaculate Mother on Wednesdays, the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Fridays…)

Its dark reddish-deep brown color had been stained with liquefied wax and tainted with the age of time. But it was a welcome addition to my white and wood motif.

Not only was I excited to move into a new bedroom being assigned to me, a privilege upon reaching puberty, but I was enthused with having my own writing table. My very own, my very first. (No more writing homework at the dining table with the rest of the brood).

In my mind, adorning it with an antique-style writing lampshade was taking shape. I dashed out of my Grandma’s sickbed, eager to move her stuff away from the hand-me-down furniture I had really liked and had been curious about for most of my childhood life.

The writing tablet hadn’t been used in years. In one quick stroke, I swung it to upright position, freeing it from a cradle of cobwebbed memories underneath. I pulled a chair, found its level a perfect match, pulled the chair closer, grabbed a pen and paper, took a writing stance over the tablet, then I felt it. There and then, I knew I wanted to write.

Next, I emptied the upper smaller drawer, and wiped the interior clean with damp cloth. Then, I tried pulling out the lower bigger drawer. But either it was too heavy for my thin hands, or it was locked. Or both. The keyhole tarnished with rust, and there was no sign of any handle nor knob to aid me get a grip of the drawer.

Knowing for certain Grandma wouldn’t have the key to that lock, I whacked the keyhole with a screw driver, then turned the furniture upside down and used the force of my legs to push the drawer out.

Voila! Hardbound books came bursting out of the drawer. Classics, novels, world atlas volumes, biographies, self-help books that were heavily marked, soiled and worn-out appear to have escaped the ravages of time. The stench of an old world was breathing new life into my newly founded personal library, I thought.

Quickly, I gathered the books one on top of the other, organizing in my mind which of them would make it to the topmost shelf, and which would make it to my first Reading List in my now personal library.

As I stood up, with both arms in full grasp of the books, I lost my balance, and fell on the bed. Over a dozen books were strewn across the pillows by the headboard.

But there was one that hit the floor. About a couple of inches in thickness, in regular bond paper size. Red Plain Cover. Hardbound. Untitled.

I picked it up, flipped it over, looking for its title. It intrigued me to realize it had none. I leafed through the pages, yellowish and empty.

I brought myself to the beginning of the Red Book, and opened to the first pages.

It was handwritten. A list of birthdays. My father’s birthday appeared first with his name beside it. And then mine.

My grandparents’ names were on it too, and my aunts' as well.

On the second page was a journal entry dated 1962. The handwriting seemed convent-bred, the long bold strokes were ladylike, the writing tone raw and urgent. Its last lines read:

Here is a man who could accept me for what I am, and regardless of my past… Now is my chance to be happy once again, the promise of a new future in a faraway land, he offers but without my first-born…. I cannot find it in my heart to abandon my child to the care of Mamang…God help me in this my dilemma…

The words belonged to my mother. And the ‘child’ the poor child was 4 years old.

I closed the Red Book. I closed the bedroom door. I drew the curtains, also to a close.

The chapter of my Childhood must have ended that night too.

For days, I spoke to no one. And in the quiet of my sanctuary, I began to understand the ways of the world.

Rain splatters against the window and later finds its course down the drain. But the water never sinks to the bottom of the earth. It nourishes the soil to make fertile memories dissipate across the land.

By morning, the rain hadn’t stopped and the far horizon flushed a pale rainbow across the sky. I wake up to the song of the birds and the call of my dogs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The World in 2010.

Indeed all Life is strange: complexities of Nature punctured with mysterious happenstance or fate in random places.

Listen. Mother Earth’s solid crust shuddered more than once,

tearing down an entire race of a chaste class. (Haiti)

Hear Her waters crushed onto shores without restrain,

claiming in its path the sorrows of a million lives. (Pakistan)

Watch Her roots, the Earth’s pillars, succumb to sudden fires,

causing both wild and peaceful herd to flee. (Russia )

Feel Her winds wrestled with the horizon calm,

crashing any and all that is tangled in its swirl. (New York)

Fear Her mounds spewing black ash across vast lands,

breaking the silence of the sublime. (Indonesia)

Then understand it is only either by greed or by fault:

Human error spilled the oil across the Gulf.

Chilean miners are trapped,

Allied soldiers are bombed,

Afghan Talibans are shunned.

Make sense out of the nuclear tension in Korea;

the labor unrest in Greece.

The looming jobless in the once “green pastures” of America.

When Nations fall into the new divide,

Count the Final Tally.

Then let Father Time forestall its warning.

as we wait for Mother Nature to cleanse her earth.

But yet, there are compensations, things to console with:

Rescue and aid from strangers they may be, leap across all corners of the World.

Homeless birds, though soaked to death in oil, heal in human hands to soar again.

Ocean species, while besieged by tainted currents, converge in untouched territories to breed again.

Pine trees & purple flowers, though aging & uncared for, bloom in eternity.

Races unite for many a cause,

And for many, a new consciousness arises.

Come, assemble under the changing weather

And let Mankind shift itself.

It is only in its transformation that the season bequeaths itself away.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Immortality of The Word

Whenever something out of my control bothers me, I seek refuge in solitude.

A trip to the bay or a countryside lake if possible within the space of restricted time takes me away from the familiar. The distance alone and the feel of Infinity outstretched across the horizon sets me free from the demands of decisions and intentions, thus enabling me to change direction and coast into some inner seabed.

But in instances when the storm brews abruptly and there is no time to hoist the sail, I find myself anchored by my ledge of books. After all, what better place is there to find gratifying diversion, useful company and reformative recreation than in the well-meaning pages written by quiet minds that save the world from falling apart?

I drift by the Classics, or venture into the flurry of first-time Novelists. I sail with the breeze of Biographies and I soar high with the Poets' voices.

Whether Chapter pieces that stand alone, or page-turning Short Stories, I marvel at the magic charm of the Word, and the Minds that weave them together, bringing me places I can never know about and teaching me something I never thought I might want to know.

"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it." This is how ANAIS NIN puts it. And this is how immortal I find it.

(And so it is with all my heart this holiday season that I salute and thank all you writers out there for healing the World.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Morning Coffee or Tea

Until recently, I'd start my day with coffee and newspaper. In fact, a national broadsheet well-respected and highly opinionated. A source of valuable information for business and trade, something I need to keep my nose in to benefit the corporate job. I'd lay out the paper on my right side of the table, scan over some 40 odd pages of national scandals in Congress & elsewhere, terror in Afghanistan, in the home front Mindanao & in the streets, and then I leaf through various sections plastered with glaring ads of overly promoted but useless consumable brands.

To the left side of the broadsheet sits a personalized mug of either Brazilian or homegrown coffee freshly brewed. I suspect its steamy aroma filters through the garden window and makes the African lovebirds sing.

It was a morning ritual, taken within my first waking hour. Whether there had been a full six hours of quality sleep or only a rough couple of hours coming from a TV editing session, coffee and newspaper became my first grind for the day.

A daily procedure to 'construct' myself, not my real self, just the part that has to go to work to get things done and finish the job without scaring the stockholders.

One has to deconstruct before it can construct, right? To deconstruct, I set aside my personal pursuits & preferences. In their stead, tasks listings and to-dos take priority. While I savor the coffee, my thoughts organize the boring details of what to do in an office crisis, who to call for inanimate decisions and how not to disrupt the power struggle.

Calm but perked-up, organized but melancholy, I am metamorphosed into the dependable workingman, an important person everyone in the hierarchy needs.

Like a caterpillar into a butterfly.
But without the wings.

And when a part is missing like something is broken, it couldn't last.
The missing part has to be rebuilt where it first belonged.

The change must happen. Soon.

And so it was at the Season's End of a TV show that a New Beginning was cracked open.

This morning, I had Irish coffee and English poetry. In the days to come, more tea and books, instead of coffee and newspapers.

I wonder about you, writers out there? How do you spend your mornings?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Poetry In Motion.

Flaccid and feeble she makes her way

a once hopeful past trailing behind her wrinkled face

into a narrow path of light she succumbs unnoticed

a once famous name hiding behind her measured steps .

Then from somewhere out of nowhere

an overachieving call center agent overtakes her way

a shoplifting addict flees around her curb

a philandering wife wanders around her corner

a dope-dealing punk intersects the alley across her

a self-serving politician moves quickly past her

a corrupting policeman prances behind her.

Then just as sudden as the fleeting enigma of Father Time,

a fledgling artist traverses her path

calling out ' Isabel ? '

Suddenly the junction is crammed with moving figures

gradually my face is teemed with wrenching tears

not knowing for certain if it was the homespun ethnic music

or the silhouettes of the dancing figures

or the Poetry in the Motion of Life

or an amalgamation of All.

it mattered not.

oblivious of one another, yet

One moment.

is All At Once.

On a neo-ethnic theatrical ballet piece created by the Philippines' premier ballet & dance artist Agnes Locsin, in an interpretation of National Artist Ben Cabrera's poem entitled 'Dance, Sabel'. Performed at the PETA Theater Center 2010.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Season's End.

A children’s TV show that strives on the delicate balance of ‘edu-tainment’, one that airs weekly on mainstream weekend TV here in my country, an easy favorite among kids from toddlers to pre-teeners, is playing its final episode tomorrow, November 6, 2010.

Not a finale episode to bring to the fore a new season, or a re-formatted program, or a new set of characters. But it is THE Season’s End, one last episode with the teary-eyed star cast of 8-to 10-year olds saying goodbye to its loyal audience.

The production and post-prod staff bid each other farewell in an afterparty on the last day of taping. Many of them cried for losing a show that started out some five years ago with another title, then evolved into a faster-paced narrative, and then re-formatted years later to incorporate 3D environments and character animation.

The child stars and their parents hated the almighty Network for its abrupt and callous decision. But of course the network execs were quick to say that such business direction had been based on serious studies conducted by the research, marketing and programming departments which had been uneasy over the show’s single-digit ratings these last 5 weeks.

Many crew members, all those small heroes below the lighting gaffers --- the minimum wage-earners who carry camera equipment from one location to the next and risk their lives in halting traffic or cabling wires so the taping can go smoothly and who make the coffee and run errands for the Executive Producer, Associate Producer, Supervising Producer, Line Producer, Segment Producer and all kinds of other producer geniuses --- lost a steady income and beyond that, the comfort zone of a weekly work environment.

But as the Network Chief says: this is television in action, we gotta move on, we have to stay on top of competition, we have to constantly break our own ratings records, blah-blah… Anyway, he says, there will be new shows for the child stars, the staff and crew.

Meanwhile, my company, which creates the animation and 3D environments for the show, is perhaps suffering the most. It won’t be part of whatever new show the network has lined-up. As a result, a major source of income has just been lost.
In our workspace, both our senior & junior visual artists are sulking over the demise of the show. My partners are now worried, and are prompting me to find a replacement to finance our company overhead.

Everyone is critically affected with this season’s end. But, this is one ending I really LIKE.

It had happened before. The painful process of losing a show teaches one how to live a life in television.

Once upon a recent past, I had raised hell and cried for nights when the powers-that-be robbed me of a top-rating teen drama soap that aired daily on primetime television. Sixteen seasons to my credit, I had created, founded and directed that show which handled serious themes of young love, teen angst, familial conflicts and campus riots. It was top-ranking on the audience rating charts and on the commercial spots. They wanted it so badly for themselves --- the triumph of a successful series, the prestige, the monies --- so much that they had to deviously take it away from me and claimed it to be their own.

Back in the 90’s, when I was a beginning TV director, I introduced the concepts of electronic sets and digital imagery for a visually-driven quiz show for high school students. At stake were millions of pesos in college scholarships and the honor to be qualified in a standard-bearing national quiz show. It rated double-digit on a weekend timeslot, but was unpopular with the advertisers. After 6 years of telecast, the Network axed it. I defended and fought hard to keep it on the air. Backed with the signatures of 400 schools and universities nationwide, I begged the Network to allow us to run for the 7th consecutive year. After all, our show grand champions who got their million-peso scholarships were studying to be doctors and physicists and lawyers. I thought I could appeal to their compassionate hearts using the Network’s tagline In The Service of The Nation. But long before I understood the dichotomy of broadcast dynamics, I realized that that tagline did a good job for brand hype and network image-building but meant nothing more than lip service .

In the more recent years, I had done one or two seasons of various other TV shows, in four other TV networks. There was a culinary travelogue, a couple of dance exercise shows, and a sports show. TV shows would always come to an end with either of these reasons: the show poorly rated, or the producer had run out of money, or the advertisers fell short for lack of hype and star value, or in remote cases, the network grabbed the idea to claim and re-format it into their own.

And that’s the back story to why I have come to abhor all season-enders on television.

But NOT this children’s show’s Season’s End.

This time around, I am relieved to find an excuse to leave my partners, and the Company.

My hands had been full. Despite a life devoid of children of my own to care for, I’ve been loaded with (or actually, they have damped on me) more demands and expectations to make this Company grow, to nurture its CG & animation artists, to hunt and close production deals and post-prod contracts.

That could have all been just fine, if only my partners looked after some of the other needs too, and perhaps a little of mine as well.

The daily grind of studio operations and a working life that compromises Creativity to Costs had left me barely any time to look after my own wishes, my own desires, my own dreams.

A hundred boring details to make other people’s interests work, to meet network goals, to grow their businesses, to turn their dreams into realities as though they were my own, had consumed me.

In each time I felt exhausted, I would tell myself it’s fine, for a life well-lived at the end of the day saves my soul from feeling wasted.

But like many other things in a working life, everything that really matters to me took a backseat.

I used to say when the dream film comes, I’ll take my options. And each day, I lived for that.

But today at this Season’s End, I decide to take My Turn.
My Time.

Counting 45 days up to the end of the year to wind up online projects and put the corporate set-up to a close, I am done here. With corporate chains unleashed, I will return to the back door to open new horizons for a free-lance life.

By then, and soon, I can watch more sunsets, walk the dogs and write.