September 27, 2004


i've given up smoking years ago. but recently i had an affair with this candy-flavored, clove-scented slims from indonesia -- Sampoerna A Mild.

my encounter with sampoerna happened last july during my visit to jakarta. my friend took me out for some sight-seeing around the city. somehow, everytime i'm in a new place, it has always been my tendency to be curious with sidewalk sceneries -- where are the traffic and law enforcers, how they look like, what's their version of "bangketa", street vendors, what are the wares being sold (dibidi, bisidi... yup they have that too) etc etc.

my friend, who is a smoker, showed me the more popular local cigarette brands, gudang garam and sampoerna -- which i ended up buying as pasalubongs for my smoker officemates -- and he specifically recommended that i try the latter.

i did, and that's how it started -- i went home with two packs (note: dalawang kaha) of sampoerna for myself. "sampoerna", by the way, means perfection in indonesia.

i smoked the last stick yesterday. with one long drag and puff, i ended my affair with smoke, and will not get into any more smoking activity unless it's a chance to puff a rare cuban cigar, or if my friends treat me again to a hookah bar. ^_^'

speaking of hookah, i got another look at this memorable smoking pipe last weekend when my girlfriend and i watched "La Bayadere" by Ballet Manila. "La Bayadere" is:

A three-act Petipa/Chabukiani/Minkus ballet masterpiece set in India, which tells the story of Nikiya, a bayadere or temple dancers who is caught in the middle of a forbidden love for the warrior Solor and the unrequited love of the High Brahmin. Forced to wed Gamzatti, the Rajah's daughter, Solor watches helplessly as Nikiya is murdered during the celebration. An opium-manifested dream reunites the two lovers in one of the most demanding acts in Russian Ballet - the evening's finale set in the Kingdom of Shades. -- Malaya Online

it's all about forbidden love and opium-induced dreams, thus the hookah stood symbolically on the stage at the end of the last act.

The ticket was sold at Php125, and later can be exchanged at star city for a ride-all-you-can ticket. not a bad deal at all. nothing like a good bumper car ride to get the blood flowing after the two-hour show.

September 22, 2004

a time to play

last week, my housemate/officemate brought his two kids for an overnight stay at the house. the boys, one 12 years old and the other nine, browsed through my collection of ps1 cds that's been gathering dust in the shelf. in about two hours, they tested all the games i have -- some of which i don't even remember playing at all -- while us adults drank beer and watched (we only have one tv so we let them have the fun).

it's amazing how fast the kids grasp the mechanics of each game on their first try. they didn't bother much with RPGs. in the end, the games that emerged as favorites (because they stayed up late playing these) were crash bandicoot warped and oz world.

thanks to the kids, i now remember the games in my collection. here's the list, and my status for each:

- final fantasy VIII: finished twice (first w/o walkthrough, next w/ walkthrough. quistis! *sigh*)

- final fantasy IX: finished
- legends of leigaia: finished
- legends of dragoon: finished
- thousand arms: finished
- threads of fate: unfinished
- tomb raider revelation: unfinished
- street fighter ex: played (i can finish the game boss only if i use guile)
- snk vs capcom: played (guile is still my favorite)
- oz world: unfinished (i find the character a bit gross, but the kids love it)
- crash bandicoot warped: unfinished (either the final boss is just too darn difficult to beat, or my hand-eye coordination is beginning to fail O_o)
- final fantasy VII: unfinished

- final fantasy VI: unfinished
- resident evil 2 and 3: unfinished
- fear effect: unfinished
- chrono cross II: unplayed (damaged? drats!)
- die hard: unfinished

- south park rally: unplayed

- battle tank: unplayed

- duke nukem: unplayed

- nba 2000: unplayed

the next day, with my permission and their father's strict reminder to be careful, the brothers browsed through *gasp* my most sacred corner of the house -- my pc table/shelf. there stored are my prized collection of comics, magazines (no smut in there, promise), and books. the pc used to have dune, starcraft and warcraft, but when i started working on my thesis, i deleted all the games except for pharaoh (cmon, everyone needs a break). they borrowed my entire collection of culture crash (oh dear, i hope they take good care of it *shudder*).

at the office, the pingpong table was wiped clean and set, so the kids played while the rest of us worked. at the strike of 615pm, we were playing with the kids and i ended up with blistered feet for playing on my formal shoes.

the house and office were again quiet the day after the brothers went home. the ps1, now free from dust, is back in its shelf, and the pingpong table is back in storage. everything is back to normal (except they still have my culture crash!).

ah kids!

September 21, 2004

"it's about time"

three words that has been lingering in my head since i heard it from john maxwell last september 15 at araneta coliseum. as i looked at a special page in my handy-dandy journal labeled "wishlist", i couldn't agree more.

speaking of wishlist, the rising tricycle fare is forcing me to address that item at the bottom of the list -- "a new bike". it's been eight months since my old trusty mountain bike was stolen (sniff!), and i badly need the exercise.

bike-hunting in quiapo this weekend sounds like a good idea. hmmm...

beer for benefit

last night we drank for a cause at dusit hotel, makati. "Project Sheel Happy Hour" was launched to raise funds to help our friend, Wata, in financing her daughter's battle against the big C. here is Sheel's story:

"One night my throat was swollen and my mommy thought that I got bit by a bug. My throat didn't hurt though. So she gave me medicine you take when you get bug bites and it didn't work. Later that night I had a hard time breathing so we went to the hospital and they told me the cancer was wrapped around my breathing tube and that's why I had the bump and couldnĂ‚’t breathe. Now I have to go through three years of chemo." --- (Jalen, 9, FL)

"When I was 10 I broke out in what looked like a rash and when I went to the doctor they knew it was no ordinary rash and ordered blood tests. The next day I went to a new doctor for more tests which showed my blood counts were not normal but it was not easy for them to diagnose me. It took about five months and many more tests to get a final diagnosis of a form of leukemia that is rare in children but common in senior citizen men." --- (Tiffany, 11, MI)

Until mid of last year, Sheel was your typical 7th grader, who memorizes boy band hit songs by heart and keeps life-sized posters of her favorite band. She has been living a typical teener's life, cheerful and carefree, until one July morning.

Just like Jalen and Tiffany, Sheel's condition started with something that seemed simple and unalarming. In July 2003, she noticed her left eye was puffy and a bit protruded. She was taken to a series of specialist, from opthalmologist to internist and finally to her doctor in the past year, a pedia oncologist. Her doctor never mentioned the word Cancer but Sheel knew what chemotherapy is all about. She cried about the possibility of having to miss school and the idea of losing hair.

It's been a year since. Sheel had undergone all the requisite treatment. She did not miss school as she was earlier anxious of, but skipped classes during days when she was required to undergo her chemotherapy. These were the days when she would be totally drained due to bouts of throwing up, one of the side effects of her treatment. While Sheel was able to hold on to her studies, her hair is a different matter altogether though. She inevitably lost strands of it, but learned to manage her bad hair days with the help of her bandannas.

Sheel has been living with the Big C that causes the bad hair days for a year now. The tumor was found to be Rhabdomyosarcoma of the Orbit -- a rare type of cancer found among children. For awhile, Sheel thought she was free of the nemesis when her oncologist declared that she's officially on remission. But it was not meant to be. Yet. A few weeks after the remission, Sheel's eye started to protrude again. And this time, it's bigger than the earlier bout. Apparently, she had developed resistance to her earlier chemo drugs. After another round of consultations, and tests, the doctorsĂ‚’ mandate is for Sheel to undergo another series of 5-day chemotherapy every three weeks, using another chemo drug stronger than the one used on her last year. When Sheel first heard of this, she told her mom that she is too tired and spent up to go through all these all over again. Well, who wouldn't be? Instead of spending time with her barkada, or indulging in activities typically enjoyed by kids her age, she would be trapped inside four white walls for days in a row again. But knowing chemo is her only choice, Sheel eventually geared up for this re-match. She is on her first session now at the NKI. Hopefully, she responds to the chemo well and the therapy will be over in 6 months.

Sheel's first year of battle was difficult. But with the help and prayers of relatives and friends, she has come this far. This round of chemotherapy is expected to be more rigorous and more draining, physically and financially. But with your help and prayers, Sheel and her mom are hopeful that Sheel will win the battle against the Big C this time around.

Cancer can be beaten...

but not alone.

So let's be with Sheel

as she goes through this battle
Sheel Blanco Lamar's Fund

BPI Family Bank

Matalino Branch Quezon City, Philippines

Joint Account holders:

Joy Casuga and/or Melinda Marcelo

Peso Savings Account Number: 4255 0569 19
Sheel's total medical expenses for each 3-week course is approximately Php97,500. there will be more upcoming fundraising events, and i hope many more can join.
l-r: joan, me, angel, joy, jojo, and alex

September 17, 2004

stay tuned

what do you do when you find someone who doesn't want to be found?
it was by sheer chance that i saw her name and picture in my friendster network. it's been years since i last heard any news about her, more so the last time i saw her.
she was once part of our team way back in my early years with the office. back then, the office was young and in a perennial struggle to stay afloat, and thus work was much more demanding and harsh than it is now. back then, we're the leanest, meanest, overworked and underpaid team of slaves the office has ever had (we still are, i guess *uboubo*). it was in those dire times that the best of teamworks were born, and the bonds of friendship were tempered. we were the miracle workers.
i have nothing against people moving on, but i find it so saddening for anyone to entirely cut off ties, specially when the series of events that made her leave the office with a heavy heart were not, in any way, the team's fault. we searched high and low for ways to get in touch with her, but even her family helped in covering her tracks from us.
she doesn't want to be found -- that's simple enough a message for me to understand, and after some time i stopped wondering and tossed all my questions to the wind.
everyone has good reasons for their own actions.
back to friendster...
it's been years since i last saw her, and the photos in her friendster page show the same smile and laughing eyes that hint the slightest touch of mischief that i remember so well. i clicked on "send a message", and was about to type a stream of hellos and kumustas with genuine happiness bursting in my chest, when it occured to me: this person doesn't want us to find her.
i wonder what others would have done, if they're in my situation?
ah! it's not everyday that you find a long, lost friend, even if she might not even consider you as one anymore. so i let everything out of my chest -- without thought and with all honesty -- all the stream of hellos and kumustas, all the happiness i feel for having "found" her.
i wonder what happens next...
whether or not she responds, i will know how much has changed after all these years.

September 14, 2004


my hair and fingernails are growing faster than they should. tsk! it must be the stress that comes with the season -- the semester is about to end, and you know what that means.

anyway, yesterday i went to supreme court to represent the office in the opening of project proposals. this was something new to me. coming from the point of view of an NGO person like myself, my experience with government transactions, until now, has not involved opening project proposals in the presence of all bidders. i was later told that government has implemented a stricter guideline in dealing with private consultants and contractors, and opening of bids in front of everyone involved is one measure they adopted to guarantee transparency and corruption-free transactions. any issue, discrepancy, or revision in any of the proposals was discussed and resolved by the committee-in-charge and fellow bidders. the project's funding institution also requested for such transparency to be in place.

of course, one should expect only the highest level of integrity from the supreme court, but the good news is that the same exercise is also being implemented in other government agencies such as health and agrarian reform departments.

it was a grueling three-hour meeting (including the 2-hour wait... sigh. i guess time-management in government still needs improvement), and the air-conditioning was horrible. but i'd gladly go through hundreds of these meetings -- if each time would mean one less corrupt government agency in this struggling piece of country called Philippines.

last sunday was another adventure. my girlfriend and i went to arroceros forest park in manila to check out the place and see why there is so much media fuss about the mayor's proposal to demolish the place. when they say forest, i was expecting lush greens and majestic, old trees, and the like.

well, the place fits the description, but i'd add the words "spooky". i wish i had my camera then. the place is a great spot for a fantasy photo shoot (imagine faeries and "lamang-lupa").

i'm now one of those who oppose its demolition.

sigh! i have to design a new christmas card for the office. i wonder how i could fit over 30 faces in a postcard? wow, how the office have grown. ^_^

September 10, 2004

rest in peace

i was cleaning up my emailbox this morning (something i haven't done for a long time), and chanced upon my old email addresses.
i counted three yahoos, two hotmails, and one asianavenue. each of these emails have been used for a variety of purposes -- setting up personal webpages, subscribing to a community, free online services, messengers, blogs (like the one you're reading now) and what-nots. each contains pieces of my identity, past, and secrets -- deep, dark ones. *evil grin*
today, i use only three email addies: a yahoo, a hotmail, and an office-assigned email. the others i've laid to rest in the sea of cyberspace.
every now and then, just as one would visit a grave of someone dear, i would visit the pages, diaries, and images that i left strewn in the web. at each visit, i would marvel at the memories -- all the joys and pains, all the wisdom and foolishness -- and the wonders that passed through my life, captured in words, lines, and pictures.
until now, wandering browsers still chance upon those forgotten places, and some would still leave messages -- some inspiring, some consoling, some appreciative, and of course, some nonsense. nonetheless, i read all of them.
at each visit, my chest still register that faint, familiar tightness. i guess some wounds take more time to heal.
here's to the ghosts of the past *raise mug of coffee* rest in peace. you will always be remembered...
sigh! i hope chemical rhapsody and leigaia at DA won't end up like that.

September 09, 2004

better things

my friend bought an exercise gadget called orbit track -- a sort of cross between a treadmill and an exercise bike. yesterday while we were working on our school report (she's my classmate, too), i had the chance to give it a try.

it was good. in less than a minute i felt my muscles straining despite the fluid motion and seemingly effortless movements. another perk that comes with the machine is you could watch tv while sweating it out. cool! amazing technology.

my interest with the gadget was shortlived, though.

for me, nothing beats the feeling of jogging in the crisp open air, with the sight of lush greens and people's faces passing by, and the sound of your own breathing and footfalls mingling with the occasional bird songs and the white noise of traffic.

ahhh... thank goodness for all the good things. ^__^

September 08, 2004

taking a closer look

i've been looking forward to "Twilight Samurai" by Yoji Yamada at the UP Film Center last night. i have read some of its reviews and i was convinced that the film would probably be at par with my all-time favorite "The Seven Samurai" by Akira Kurosawa. i've been emotionally preparing myself since weekend to fully enjoy this film.

the film starts at 7pm, and i was already packed up and ready to leave the office at 6pm. the review says that the film would be two hours long, so i texted everyone (close to me, that is) of my whereabouts by then. in short, I AM EXCITED about this film.

but like all there is in life, some things are bound to go haywire. ^0^

big papa bear, as we staffers would call our boss, needed some last minute data from a project. i wasn't directly involved with the project, so i could have left the office already. but, instead, i stayed and helped out.

i'm glad i did.

we finished at 7:30pm and got to the theater at 8:00pm. all of the technical staff tagged along to watch the film with me. afterwards, we had dinner at krus na ligas (a place in UP-Diliman), and had some beer at sara's (another landmark at UP-Diliman).

it was a good evening. i may have missed half of the film, but i gained something better: a chance to better know the people i work with -- my team -- however old or new they are.

l-r: (standing) mae, mike, major, mike, vlad, aileen, (seated) lynn, mear, and me.

September 06, 2004

"Prof. Good"

the midterm exam last saturday was a disappointment. as we expected, it fell short of stimulating critical thinking -- which we hoped the entire course would foster. it only gave us aching fingers for writing kilometric "define-this-and-enumerate-this-and-that" essays -- not worthy of the staying up that late with a throbbing solvent-induced migraine. as i said, bookish bookish booooooookish!
aaaargh! someday i'll get my karma for saying all these.
in fairness, the teacher i speak of (whom i will call Prof. Good -- *this is a giveaway clue to UP students from the college of *ubouboubo*) has outstanding credentials, considering the published works under his/her belt. but darn -- it feels as if s/he has lost all his/her creativity in imparting quality education to his/her students.
to demonstrate: at times, s/he would turn the class into an oral reading session *gasp!* by asking everyone to take turns in reading aloud a blasted 20-page article. darn! i have to fake a sore throat to get away with it. each time she does that, it's an entire 1 hour of the 4-hour, once a week class down the drain.
another case: i wonder if s/he even keeps abreast with current events, especially those related to our course. if not for my more news-savvy classmates, we would have often ended up discussing events that happened four years ago (which, i guess, were his/her glory days). 
i'm so sorry for all these harsh words (i just have to let it out). sometimes i get so frustrated for the time and money spent for education, and not getting the quality of teaching everyone deserves. sigh! my mother is a teacher, and in over two decades in the profession, never did i see her lose steam or dedication to improve herself and her craft. i know it's wrong to expect every educator to be like her, and i guess that's just the way things are -- whether or not it is anyone's fault. everyone's different, period.
here's praying for everything that's good for those in the academe and the teaching profession. i believe most of them are, still, among the most noble and dedicated individuals you'll ever come across in your lifetime.

September 03, 2004


the smell of primer and paint has been driving us crazy in the past five days. the team of carpenters renovating our section promised that they will finish by weekend. thank goodness. my nasal membrame can't take any more punishment. i wonder if this perennial, painful throbbing in my head and drowsiness is already the so-called solvent high?
not good.
i have a mid-term exam tomorrow. good news: my teacher isn't that imaginative and creative with her exams -- everything could be found in the books. bad news: i haven't done any reading.
not good at all.
hmmmm... maybe it's the solvent...
there's still hope. tonight. crammer time!
must... stay... awake... zzzzzzz.....