Sunday, December 30, 2007


A Boy and His Notebook
10" x 14"
acrylic on cavas

“Why don’t you just relax instead of straining your noggin reading that reviewer. Ikaw rin, blood will ooze from your nose.”

“Eh Tito Dan, some of these math questions here might come up in the test,” Wiggy insisted

“It’s stock knowledge. It’ll eventually pour out of your brain if it has to.”

I was looking at how my nephew was slumped at the backseat of the car reading his reviewer and intently absorbing some mathematical formulas and science facts in his reviewer that might be in the entrance exams for the state science high school.

He’s turning 13 soon, the same age as I was when I started reading Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude while hiding in the bathroom thinking it was a porn novel tucked underneath my older brother’s bed.

It was also the same age when I burned a favorite t-shirt during a religious retreat organized by my school conducted by a Belgian priest who pronounces Titanic with a long “eee”. Emblazoned on the front of that shirt was the face of a grinning man with horns, but if you look at it closely, it’s actually formed by a bunch of writhing naked women. Wearing that shirt, a gift from my older brother, made me feel cool and part of that glorified breed of “rebels”.

I was also growing hair in the wrong places and wondered why James was already using veto. It would always leave a white, gooey deposit in his armpits after PhysEd class. He also had a funny odor that Ronald started calling him “Mang Ador”. The name stuck on him way until high school.

It was in our last year in grade school that my friends and I were caught cutting class because we were playing with our water pistols near the school’s premises. Our class adviser caught us in the middle of our wild water shootout. As punishment for our truancy, he confiscated our water pistols and had all of us stand for the rest of the day beside each column on the fourth floor of our school building. Regardless of the punishment, we still had fun. Someone produced a spitball, took shots at each other and we just giggled the whole afternoon away.

“Tito Dan, did you take the exams at this school?” asked Deus, Wiggy’s younger brother.

“Nope, I took the one in Manila.”

“Did you pass that one?”

“Nope. Like your dad, I went on to the same high school that I took my grade school studies in.”


“So Deus, you’ll be taking the same entrance exams next year too?” I asked him.

“Maybe,” he shrugged.

“Why maybe?”

“For now, I’ll just be Kuya’s spiritual mentor,” he declared.


“Tol, Wiggy passed. He’s going on to the next qualifying exams,” my brother told me in a text message.

“Told you. I always knew your son can ace it. Let’s hope he passes the second one,” I responded.

“Basta, I still am the proudest father,” even in text message he beams with pride.

“And I am a very proud uncle,” I answered.

Damn, I also feel old.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


15" x 15"
pen and ink on acid-free paper

The Merman is based on a poem given to me eons years ago by Noel Giuvani Ramiscal - a poet, a lawyer and childhood friend.

Way back in our U.P. days he gave me that poem on a sheet of stenographer's notebook. Unfortunately, I've lost it amongst my pile of books and scraps.

I could remember though that it was about waiting for his time as he sits on a rocky outcrop. Waiting for the time when his own purpose is revealed to him while he sits still as the waves around him buffets the rock he's on.

How the poem ended, well, time wasn't kind enough for me to remember. This is the only thing that is left of it, an old drawing that I did again.



I've copied here one of my favorite poems from his book "NOELSES", published in 2005 by the UST Publishing House


"satan is only a bad linguistic habit"
B. Rusell

i travel from one
antimony to another
christ has his wounds
and resurrection
satan has his horns and promises

i have words
to propel me
through the darkness
of love and death

but my faith owns no name

Friday, December 28, 2007


32" x 40"
acrylic on canvas

In some African societies “It takes a village…” would translate in some proverbs like in Lunyoro (Banyoro) where it says 'Omwana takulila nju emoi,' whose literal translation is 'A child does not grow up only in a single home.' In Kihaya (Bahaya) there is a saying, 'Omwana taba womoi,' which translates as 'A child belongs not to one parent or home.' In Kijita (Wajita) there is a proverb which says 'Omwana ni wa bhone,' meaning regardless of a child's biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community. In Kiswahili the proverb 'Asiyefunzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu' approximates to the same."

- source Wikipedia


Sitting on the floor facing an old mirror I still have to hang on the bathroom wall, I found myself one night talking to my own reflection.

“I’ve always been having a problem with the title of this thing. It’s like I am re-doing a Hillary Clinton all over again,” I was telling my alter ego as I was wrapping it up in bubble wrap that night I took it down my wall to finally set it aside for the show on January. “It’s scary. It’ll be the first time that this work will be seen by others. When I say “others” I mean people I actually don’t know what their last names are or those who’ve never been to my apartment.”

“You know what? I think it’s just right. I mean, so what if it’s like you took it from some First Lady’s book title? She took it too from some African proverb you know. You’ve checked Wikipedia and there it was. Have you ever thought that when you did it, it is actually about people building and taking care of something that will, well, grow?” my self replied to me from the mirror.

After a pregnant pause, I find myself agreeing with me, “Well, you have a point there. I did it because what I am doing right now is basically building up a small thing with other people in a “community” of shared beliefs and eventually when “it” grows, well, we just hope that it’ll benefit other communities as well.”

“There you go. Now you’re agreeing with me,”
my alter ego in the mirror said as I finished putting on the final tape on the wrap.

When that was done I stood up, took the wrapped painting and slid it behind the dinner table. It will be staying there until the time Delan and his crew will take it to the gallery for the exhibit.

I then walked the short distance to my kitchen to heat a kettle of water. I deftly took a mug from the cupboard, took a teaspoon of sugar and some coffee then I took a seat while I waited for the water to boil. It was fairly still outside my window. I could only hear a tricycle’s puttering engine pass by followed by the meowing of another horny cat on the roof. The usual traffic of jeeps and cars couldn’t be heard now. It is evening and it’s late.

When the kettle whistled, I closed the gas. I poured the hot water into my mug and stirred the coffee and sugar. I took a careful sip of my hot black caffeine in a mug and with it walked towards the front of the mirror.

“I’m afraid. I hope people will be nice when they see my works on January,” I told my alter ego.

And he replied, “It’ll be okay. Either you’ll make it as an artist or you’ll end up never being able to afford the coffee you’re drinking right now.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


11" x 15"
pen and ink on paper

“Yes, I work naked. No clothes on. Nothing. In fact, I think I am the only one I know who works in his birthday suit at ten in the morning.”

I told Vicky as I was taking some careful sips from the hot coffee she gave me while I was hanging around in the clinic during that cold, wet morning while the rest of the city was being battered by a super typhoon.

“Hindi ka ba nilalamig pag hinahayaan mong nakasabit yung pututuy mo habang nagpipinta ka o nagdo-drawing? (Don’t you get cold when your thing’s hanging out while you paint or draw?)

“Of course I don’t get cold. I simply don’t open the windows.”

There are a lot of things that I like with what I do aside from the fact that I don’t have to worry about any clothing allowance or the right office attire. However, ever since I started to pick up the brush and pencils to work as a painter (I hate using the word artist. It’s too sweeping a word) there are some annoying sides to it. And I am not talking here of the lack of money in my pockets. People, when they so much as hear in a whisper that I am an “artist”, start to ask me certain questions.

Though I never bothered to rank them, the three most common ones are as follow:

How come you don’t have long hair?

My younger brother and I grew up with our mother as our haircutter. In order to save on trips to the barber, she’d use the salad bowl as a haircutter’s template. At a time when the Beatles were already out of vogue, we sported their cut. There’d be times I’d have to tie my hair with rubber bands and I’ll be walking around with a small tree on my head. As I grow older, I promised myself that someday I will do something about that hairstyle. And so I did.

My first trip to a real barber involved an old man at the corner two blocks down the road from our house who could barely see. He was wearing what seemed to be magnifying glasses that made his eyes look unnaturally large behind the lens. He did my hair and I ended up being a butt of jokes amongst my classmates the next day. It was quite clean haircut. No unnerving bangs that made my forehead itch and no more hair tree that sprouted on my head, but the back of my neck looked like it was a surveyor’s map of Kennon Road.

A week later, having had enough of my classmates calling me hair names, I went with a cousin and had an over-all buzz cut.

That hairstyle stuck with me ever since.

Do you do drugs? Hey man, do you have some weed on you?

I don’t do drugs. The only drugs I ever did “hit” were the occasional paracetamol whenever I feel a fever coming in, or those over-the-counter drugs with TV advertisements any ordinary sick person would take.

There were only two occasions I ever did get “buzzed” from drugs and one of them, being the worst, involved Sinutab.

It was a Sunday morning and I was having a pretty nasty cold. Not wanting to be bothered by a heavily stuffed nose and a pounding headache I rummaged through my bathroom’s first aid kit and found some Sinutab capsules I kept handy. I plopped one in with a glass of water. As insurance that my cold virus be immediately dissipated, I thought, why not plop a second one? After I did, I looked at the packet and it was only then I realized that each capsule I swallowed was 500 milligrams each. Wow, I’m sure with that dosage it’d bring in an instant cold cure.

It did bring in some wonder and an almost fatal one.

A few minutes later, while walking to church, I started feeling dizzy. My legs were wobbly and I couldn’t look straight. I knew that with that huge dosage, I’d better take careful steps. Looking down on the sidewalk, I made sure I avoided possible cracks or anything that would make me trip or fall over in my drugged state when my eyes came across the base of a pole. Still looking downwards, I made a side step when, bam! My head hit something really hard that I immediately saw stars and twittering birdies. The pole I avoided turned out to be one of two bases of a big metal sheet signboard of the church. I walked right smack into it.

I immediately picked myself up and looked around to see if anyone saw my embarrassing episode. Luckily, I thought, nobody witnessed it.

Already in church, in the middle of the homily, I was still trying to fight off my dizziness with my head propped on my arm when a little girl of around five beside me kept peeking at my face. I tried to ignore her by keeping my face turned towards the altar but she was pretty persistent on examining my face. So I decided to sit up straight, turn towards her and smiled. It was then that the woman beside the child grabbed her and hurriedly moved away to another pew. I thought that was odd. Odder still was I noticed that some of the people on my pew were looking, no, staring at my direction. But I shrugged it off. I still have my dizziness to tend to and a mass I was determined to finish.

When it was time for communion, I stood up, took a spot on the line that ended at the priest giving the host and tried hard to control my dizzy, wobbly state. When my turn came and the priest mumbled “Body of Christ”, he stopped mid-air in giving me the host.

His brow took on that questioning look and he asked, “Are you alright son?”


“I said are you alright?” he repeated. It was only then I noticed that the altar boys, the woman at the lectern, the priest, the people who came before me… they were all staring at me and had that concerned, questioning look you see on the faces of the pious.

“May nakaaway po ba kayo? (Did you get into a fight?),” asked the smallest of the altar boys beside the priest.

“Huh?” was all I can mutter. I thought my clothes were sullied or something for the kid to ask me that when I noticed drops of blood on my shoes. My eyes trailed upwards my shirt and I saw bloodstains on it. It was only then I thought of my head hitting the metal signboard. I touched my forehead and when I looked at my hands, it was covered with blood. It has been oozing down my forehead the whole time!

I felt the strength drain from my legs at the sight of all the blood that several men had to help me towards the front pew. It was an embarrassing moment I had to endure when several “manangs” kept on fussing about me, fanning me with their abanikos asking me all sorts of questions that in my Sinutab-drugged state I could hardly even comprehend. A few minutes after the end of the mass with a horrid bandage on my forehead somebody miraculously produced from I don’t-know-where, a lot of good-luck-to-yous and take-cares from the nice people at church, I managed to hail a cab at the church steps and went home.

I immediately went to bed in my apartment and snored away my drugged state.

How come you don’t wear weird clothes?

I don’t like “weird” clothes. When people say “weird” clothes, it’s usually an all-black ensemble like you’re a leftover from some eighties goth revival or your whole wardrobe consists of ukay-ukay fashion. Though I have nothing against people who buy from ukay-ukay, I just can’t bear the thought of wearing something that used to hang on the shoulders of somebody else. There are a lot of these outlets along Libertad and if I were an ukay-ukay fanatic, I wouldn’t have to go far.

I once heard from Vicky that in Taiwan or China, they bury their dead with his/her most expensive togs when they were living. She goes on to say that there’s this group who’d buy the dead man’s clothes (or steal them from their graves) many of them designer brands, put them in a crate and ship it in container vans that find their way into these ukay-ukay outlets. I don’t exactly cherish the thought of wearing some dead guy’s rags even if they’re Gucci or Armani.

I do like cool t-shirts but not to a point that I’d wear them for days without washing. I also eschew angst-ridden statements and with a political bent on t-shirt designs. I don’t like the Mao or Lenin or Che Guevara patterns. I’d rather let them be as what they really are – long dead and not on my body.

I am not a fashionista. I couldn’t care less about what’s in season or what’s not. I am not wafer-thin nor am I built like a clotheshorse, so I simply stick to the basics – a clean, comfortably fitting shirt, jeans and clean shoes. And someday, when I am really able to afford it, I would like my closet to be filled with Wasp-y wardrobe of white shirts, khakis and nice loafers - nothing fancy, just plain, simple and neat.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

OBLATION NATION - Painting Competition

To celebrate the centennial of the University of the Philippines, CANVAS is partnering with the UP College of Fine Arts Alumni Foundation Inc. (CFAAFI), and is sponsoring its first Oblation Nation Art Competition.

The competition is inspired by the UP's Oblation - but we are not necessarily looking for an artistic interpretation of this famous icon. The Oblation stands for something that transcends UP, UP students or even the image of the Oblation itself - the selfless offering of one's self for his or her country.

For this reason, the competition is open to all Filipino students, not just UP students.

The Oblation was made by Professor Guillermo E. Tolentino with the help of Anastacio T. Caedo, his student apprentice. According to a book tribute to Guillermo Tolentino, it was Anastacio Caedo, not Fernando Poe Sr., who served as the model for the sculpture.

The idea for the Oblation was first conceived during presidency of Rafael Palma, who was the one to commission Tolentino to make the sculpture. Palma requested that the statue would be based on the second verse of Jose Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios;

In fields of battle, deliriously fighting, Others give you their lives, without doubt, without regret; Where there’s cypress, laurel or lily, On a plank or open field, in combat or cruel martyrdom, If the home or country asks, it's all the same--it matters not.

The concrete sculpture painted to look like bronze (the sculpture was cast in Bronze much later, in 1950), measures 3.5 meters in height, symbolizing the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The sculpture is replete with references of selfless dedication and service to the nation, and as Tolentino himself describes it:

The completely nude figure of a young man with outstretched arms and open hands, with tilted head, closed eyes and parted lips murmuring a prayer, with breast forward in the act of offering himself, is my interpretation of that sublime stanza. It symbolizes all the unknown heroes who fell during the night.

The statue stands on a rustic base, a stylized rugged shape of the Philippine archipelago, lined with big and small hard rocks, each of which represents an island.

The “katakataka” (wonder plant) whose roots are tightly implanted on Philippine soil, is the link that binds the symbolized figure to the allegorical Philippine Group. “Katakataka” is really a wonder plant. It is called siempre vivo (always alive) in Spanish. A leaf or a piece of it thrown anywhere will sprout into a young plant. Hence, it symbolizes the deep-rooted patriotism in the heart of our heroes. Such patriotism continually and forever grows anywhere in the Philippines.

We want to see this spirit and intent behind the Oblation in contemporary art. We hope you do too, and that you will join the competition.

For competition rules, check out

Friday, August 17, 2007


Charcoal drawing on kraft paper
11" x 17", 2002

Her name is Marta.

As far as I can remember, she'd only come three times a year with a greeting for both my uncle and mother. She'd flash her toothless grin and say "Meri Krismas po Aling Linda", or whatever the holiday may be - the other two being New Year's Eve and Easter. And as has been customarily done by my two elders, they'd each put food on her palms and money in her pocket. "Salamat po Aling Linda. Biyayaan po kayo ng Poon." (Thank you. May the Lord bless you.)

With her bundle clasped tightly to her chest, she'd scuttle out into the streets with her back hunched and accompanied by the taunts of street urchins shouting, "Martang Peklat! Martang Peklat!"(Marta with the Scar)


When my uncle died, Marta sat on the floor at the farthest end of the funeral parlor. She stayed at the back oblivious to the march of our relatives, friends and family. Rocking back and forth, she would utter words comprehensible only to her. I spied her once muttering over and over again, "Salamat po Dok Simporoso." (Thank you Doc Sinforoso)

My uncle was buried a week after. We all mourned his passing and accompanied his hearse to the cemetery. In one jeepney, I saw Marta sitting on the floor of the vehicle and two men were already restraining her. I couldn't tell then why but it seems she was ready to jump and fly on wings from the moving vehicle.

"Dok Simporoso!! Bakit naman iwan mo ako??!!"(Why are you leaving me??!!) Marta wailed so loudly as my uncle was being lowered into the ground. I remember her running away when some of the men were about to restrain her for the second time.

Giving our last respects to my dead uncle, my family prepared to leave the cemetery and head back to the car.

We passed Marta near the cemetery's gate. Sitting by the roadside, she was picking the scabs from a healing wound on her wrist. For the first time, I noticed that she had wounds all over her arms and face. Some healing, some still fresh with blood.

"Marta, umuwi ka na. Sumabay ka na sa dyip pabalik ng Sampaloc" (Marta, go home. Go with them in the jeep back to Sampaloc), my mother gently beckoned her.

She looked at my mother and uttered, "Iniwan na po niya ako." (He already left me.)

That was the last time I saw Marta.


Marta (her last name I cannot recall) was a former patient at the then National Mental Hospital where my uncle served as an administrator until the day of his retirement. She was raped by a relative at age 16, became pregnant and lost her child to a miscarriage.
She lost her mind.
During her stay in the institution for mental care, she was again raped by her co-patients. It was after this incident that my uncle and his wife personally took care of her, and when she gave birth, she killed the child a few days later while it slept in its crib. She never again regained her full sanity.


Woman with Cats
11" x 17"
Pen and Ink on Paper

"Whitey! Browney! Huwag kayo lalayo. Kita niyo itong si Tong-tong oh. Tahimik lang. Huwag malikot!" (Whitey! Browney! Don't go too far. Look here at Tong-tong. He's just quiet. Don't be too playful!"


I call her the "Cat Lady".

Every night, when the hardware store downstairs would close shop, she'd be pushing her old and beaten cart in front of it and shuffle through her daily collection of plastic bottles, newspapers, cartons and an assortment of "things" she collects from other people's trash. I don't know her name. Never could.

I once tried to strike a conversation with her, and she just seemed to shrink away with her mousy eyes, small quivering hands and regarded me with suspicion.

Twice, I've heard her shrieking down the street from my window. During those instances, I saw her being taunted by the rest of the "cart people". Mostly it's of a territorial nature which happens with their lot. He who comes first, occupies that piece of sidewalk for the night. But there will be those who would persist in staking a claim by pushing the other parked cart off the pavement and unto the street.

"Sir, kung meron kayong mga plastik PET ha, akin na lang po ha?." (If you've any plastic PET bottles, let me have them ha?) And with
that request I have made a silent pact with her that she gets first picking of my trash - plastic bottles, old papers, boxes.

"Tignan ninyo si Tong-Tong ser. Kaya niyang tumayo sa dalawang paa." (Look at Tong-Tong. He can stand on two feet.)

One of her kittens, a white furry creature with grey stripes and a green plastic leash loosely wound round it's neck was purring softly at her feet. She picks it up and starts to whisper into its ear. She places Tong-Tong down again and snapped her fingers. To this command, Tong-Tong stood up on his hind legs and started to reach with his forepaws at a piece of fish she was dangling.

I smiled.

It's quite a wonder seeing the Cat Lady with her tiny brood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


18" x 24"
acrylic on canvas

I once met this young named Chris. He was nineteen - plump with the freshness and naiveness of his youth. Like most young men of this age I’ve known, they'd either be full of life or full of grief. His was the latter.

He told me of his story, of how he has fallen in love with someone much older and much wiser in the ways of the world. He said, "I am from a poor family and I have nothing in this world for this man but my love for him. I love him so much. He means the world to me." I am trying to remember the words he said as much as I could... and I smiled.

I thought, "Ahh, gay-love... nothing more romantic, pristine and ideal as when pronouncements such as these are coming from the mouth of a beautiful youth smitten with affection and emotion for someone he wishes himself to be." But that's the sarcastic side of me speaking. I spoke with him further, thinking that in the end his true purpose will reveal itself.

He talked of other things he was willing to do for that man. He talked of someday working hard to be worthy of the other. He spoke of lofty ideas. My inner voice was telling me that I might even end up losing money buying a ladder high enough to reach what he said he'll build.

I asked him, "Will you follow him wherever he goes?"

"To the ends of the world if I have to", with conviction he muttered.

"What if he doesn't love you?"

"Then I shall forever love no one else", and a tear glinted on his eye.

Foolish as he is for an impossible love, I saw that many a lover like him are fools. His was for someone he can never have and yet he gives it. The cry of the insatiably hopeful (as all lovers are) is to give away much of himself, that even just a mere glance from the one he offers his emotion to is enough to soothe his aching soul. It's the cry of every singer of love songs, it's the wail of every lovesick fool.
"La Historia" is my song for that young man - in love and in pain for someone he wants to give himself to. It's my smile to his tear.


Eventually, nothing came out of that affair. Young and reckless, I hear Chris found himself tiptoeing into somebody else's bed and played around with his youth.

And the older man? Well, he went back home across the seas with his domestic partner of more than a decade.

It's a nice story.
august 5, 2005

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Ella's Birds I & II

I simply adore the music of Fitzgerald. How she scats and glides smoothly through her jazzy tunes.

Pure heaven.
I was listening to this song when I thought of drawing two turledoves. Methinks I ended up with two jazzy feathered friends.


Lullaby of Birdland
by Ella Fitzgerald
Lullaby of birdland, that's what
I always hear when you sigh.

Never in my woodland
could there be words to reveal
in a phrase how I feel.

Have you ever heard two turtle doves
bill and coo when they love.
That's the kind of magic
music we make with our lips
when we kiss.
And there's a weepy ol' willow
he really knows how to cry.
That's how I cry in my pillow
if you should tell me
farewell and goodbye.
Lullaby of Birdland whisper low
kiss me sweet & we'll go.

Fliyin' high in birdland
high in the sky up above
all because we're in love.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


30 x 42 cm.
pen and ink on paper

The heat has been so oppressive these past few days that I cannot leave cooked rice out in the open for a few hours or it’ll spoil. The humidity is so high that I can even use the sweat on my face to fry eggs. What’s worse is I keep on having these persistent heat-related headaches that I find myself pill-popping pain relievers. I am worried I might end up being addicted to these pretty little pills.

“Vicky!! Do you and Karen have plans of getting any taller?” I was shouting to Vicky the dental assistant at the other end of the room, as I was standing in front of the clinic’s aircondition cooling myself.

“Hoy, Daniel!! Bababa ka lang dito para mang-insulto? Magluto ka na sa itaas at bigyan mo kami (You just come down here to insult us? Go upstairs to your apartment, cook and give us some),” in her shrill voice, she called from her side.

“Hehehe, I will. But I have to show you something first,” I beckoned to her to come closer.

“What??” she said as she walked towards where I am holding a rag she wipes the counters with.

“Come here beside me,” I waved her closer with one hand. “Stand right here,” while I pointed spot beside me. “Okay,” she says and asks, “Ano ngayon? (Now what?)”

Di ba mukha tayong basketball trophy? (Don’t we look like a basketball trophy?)” I told her pointing at our reflection in the mirror.

“Hayup!” and she whacks me with her counter rag.


Clutching a thick bundle of magazines and notebooks in one arm, and holding a stack of plates and bowls I got from Vicky on the other, I was having a difficult time turning the key on my apartment door. Though I just came from an airconditioned heaven that was the clinic next door, I was already profusely sweating in a hot and humid early evening.

Trying one direction and then another, the key seemed to have a mind of its own and is refusing to heed my hand. I was already pleading for it to turn for in between sweating buckets and trying to carry precariously all the things in my arms, I could feel the slowly rising need in my groin to rush to my toilet upstairs.

“Oh please open up… damn!” I was already cussing under my breath when I heard a rustling behind me followed by a soft mumble.

“Mmm... ememem,” it seemed to say. But I shrugged it off thinking it was just my imagination.

“Mmm… ememem,” and I heard it again. And this time I am sure it was someone mumbling incomprehensibly in a low, “humum”-sort of way. Still, I shrugged it off. Whoever it was has to wait until I succeed in opening my door.

“Mmmm… ememEM,” this time it was louder and it was a small female voice. “Sandali lang (Please wait),” I said as I could already hear the latch loosening from the inside.

“Mmmm… ememem-emeMEM!” said the voice shrilly, saying something I couldn’t understand. Then I felt a hard tug on my shirt. At the same time, my door finally opened.

When I turned around to face my shirt assailant, I gave out a shrill cry “Aiieee!!!” when I looked down and saw who it was.

My anonymous “mumbler” and shirt-tugger was a squat lady dwarf wearing an oversized t-shirt that looked like a gown on her with a big graphic heart emblazoned on it. Stunned and wide-eyed, thoughts of the bride of Chuckie (that knife-wielding murderous maniacal living doll that left a bloodbath in the movies and married a similar female version of his in one of its series) raced through my mind. I stood there with mouth agape, not knowing what to say and scared out of my wits, she kept on pointing to the ground at something. But I just stood back, shamefully, in fright.

“Mmm… ememem,” she mumbled again and in a flash ran off on her short, stubbly legs with her heart emblazoned t-shirt swaying to her every short stride.

It took a while before I could feel my heart thump back to its normal beat. I took a deep breath, looked around to see if anyone saw my sudden and abrupt display of panic, and satisfied that no one was around to have witnessed anything I turned back to enter my door. Once I took a step into my doorway and I turned around to grip the handle to lock it behind me, something caught my attention lying on the ground. It was one of my notebooks that must have fallen off from the pile I was holding! And I realized, that the whole time the lady dwarf was mumbling behind me, she was also trying to call my attention at what I dropped.

And as sudden as the evening tide, a pang of guilt rushed through me.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Woman On a Chair With Exposed Foot
11" x 17"
Pen and Ink on Paper

by Pablo Neruda (Chilean Poet Laureate)

When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.
Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.
I know that they support you,
and that your sweet weight
rises upon them.
Your waist and your breasts,
the doubled purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

pen and ink on paper

I hate birthdays.

I made a promise to myself that I shall never tell the truth of my age until I hit the age of forty. And now I am scared. Pretty soon, I am bound to accept the truth.

“Happy 3_th Birthday!” Sheila croaked as she lifted her cup at my pre-birthday gathering last Saturday.

As I was trying to muster a fake smile of approval, she continued to happily chirp to the rest of my friends that night, “I know Dan. You never admitted it until I saw the year you were born in your SSS. Now you cannot lie about your age!” I suddenly felt my fake smile turn into a frown. If I do not love that woman, the friendship I hold so dear with her and her two boys, I swear she can join Mary Antoinette for yelping my age.


“Happy birthday tol,” Arnan greeted me as he handed me a shirt from Debenham.

“Thanks man. Hehehe, sosyal ah. I love this shirt and it’s the right color pa,” I happily told him.

“How are your kids?” I asked him.

“They’re fine. They’re doing well at STC. I told you that one of your nieces is my daughter’s classmate, right?” he said.

“Yeah, but I doubt if that niece of mine knows me. She’s a cousin’s daughter and I never met her,” I confided.

“Yeah, my wife asked her if she knows you. She said no. Hey, didn’t you know we had a high school reunion?” he told me and the rest of that afternoon we talked and talked about the days when we were kids and how our childhood friends are right now.

“I’m glad you came,” I told my friend.

“Yeah, me too. And I like your place. You seem to be living now what we used to talk of when we were kids,” he told me as I was accompanying him to my gate.

“I guess I am. Thanks. Too bad you can’t stay and meet the rest of my friends. They’re a pretty interesting bunch,” I said.

“I’m sure they are. You’ve always been the strangest in our group in school,” he said with a huge grin.

“I was?” I had to ask.


“Bring me flowers instead,” I told Andre. “I don’t care even if they’re the cheap kind or if you just pick them from the roadside basta bring flowers”

“Hay naku, oo na! You’re in your flower mode na naman ngayon,” he willingly obliged.

I used to buy flowers for my mother every time there’s an occasion. Birthdays, anniversaries, fiestas or anytime I feel like it. And I thought, why hasn’t anyone given me flowers? I like flowers. I couldn’t care less if it’s unusual to give a man flowers but I like the idea of at least someone doing it for me.

“Thank you so much dong. I am very happy. They’re beautiful!” I exclaimed when I opened the door and there was Andre holding several huge bundles of flowers.

“You should no! I look like I’m going to a funeral with these,” he remarked as he passed me by and with his heavy feet he went upstairs.


“Pole dancing,” my nephew Deus said as he winked naughtily and gave me that characteristic smirk of his when he got down from the car.

“Tito Dan, Happy Birthday. You should do pole dancing,” his brother Wiggy whispered in my ear as he too followed his brother.

“What the hell are they saying now?” I asked my brother, the boys’ father, as he was checking the car’s locks.

“Hay naku. Your nephews were watching the news and they saw this segment on pole dancing as a new wave in exercising. They kept on harping the whole night that Tito Dan should start doing the same thing,” my brother told me.

And the two boys kept on buggering me the whole night to pole dance.


“Don’t you just wish that after you’ve done with a dinner or a party for a whole bunch of people, that you could just put all the dishes, pots and pans in one big trash bag and have the garbage man pick them all up for you and everything’s clean again?” I quipped to Thad as he was helping me with the dishes.

“It’s okay. It was fun,” he said. “Besides, you seem to have enjoyed it.”

“Yes, I did. It’s good to know and have your friends and family around you. Even if sometimes my nephews and best friends won’t quit harping about my age or pole dancing,” I muttered while I swept the floor.

After an hour and everything was clear, I sat down exhausted on a chair.

“I think I am coming down with the flu. My nose is already clogged up,” I complained.

“You need to rest,” Thad reminded me.

He was the last person to leave that night and I thanked him profusely for helping me clean up the mess. After I bade him good night and he boarded a cab, I went upstairs, looked at my clean flat empty of friends and family that came that night and thought to myself, “It’s a good thing nobody brought a cake or candles.”

I sighed, closed my lights and slept.

Friday, July 27, 2007


13" x 16"
acrylic on canvas

The following is the content of an email to Juan Karlos Lopez - a poet/teacher residing in Beijing, China.

November 30, 2004

Dear Juan Karlos,

I am annoyed with hotmail... I already typed an email and all of a sudden, I get a prompt that their system is down. And when I tried to retrieve what I wrote... it was gone... kapuff! Poof! Caramba! So, I am using this yahoo account instead. Anyway, I simply wanted to tell you that I finally woke up today feeling like a bull in a toreador's ring - ready to grunt, snarl and bury my horns in a hapless victim's flesh after my nasty bout wth the sniffles for several days (I really thought it would never end.) But of course, it's all just in my mind. I called up my brother this morning to borrow his digital camera. But alas! It turns out that his wife has it in her office. Hmmm.... what to do? *TING!* Inspiration struck me and I realized, I have a scanner. So immediately, I got to work. I used the frankenstein-method. I scanned the painting part-by-part and later on stitched the images in photoshop.

VOILA! The image of "Que Los Angeles" is now in digital form. (But sadly, I cannot scan the frame. It's beautiful. My brother did a nice job of using a silver-gilded wooden frame with those nice relief effects. It actually looks like the painting was an old one - and expensive.)


I want to tell you something. When you gave me the title of QUE LOS ANGELES TE ACOMPANEN, I realized it was also a painting done for someone in my past. More than a dozen years ago in university, I was at the lowest point in my life. Lost, bewildered and struggling to make sense of a hurtful past that was slowly bringing me down to the point of considering something terminal. And then I met a kind soul - Andrew Guitarte.

In my eyes, he is a saint. A very honest and truthful man. Through him, he gave me the chance to consider everything. I never knew if he realized it, but he gave me the things I really needed - a heart to understand, an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. He was a stranger who gave of himself to another stranger. And the strangers became friends.

It is for this man that QUE LOS ANGELES... became real for me. And that's for all the angels in our lives.

You know what Juan? Until now, I am still looking for him to say, "Thank you for being my angel."

Monday, July 23, 2007


Mums 2
23”x 30”
pen and ink on cotton paper

“I never realized how beautiful a fly could be like until you get to look at it up close,” so goes my text message to Sheila.

“Let me guess, you’re bored,” she quickly replied.


I was putting the finishing touches on the last flower I was doing when Andre sent me a message that he’s already downstairs. “Ahhh, great! He’s bringing in food. Finally!” and so raced my thoughts that I can finally eat dinner after waiting for almost an hour.

He had with him a bag of longganisa from Excelente, some fresh tinapa, a few firm and ripe tomatoes, a Goldilocks mocha cakeroll and a wide grin when I opened my gate.

“Happy Birthday Dan,” he chimed.

“UGH! You’re way too early with your greeting. It isn’t until a week from now. And what took you so long? I’m hungry,” I complained as I got hold of the bag of goodies.

“Hay naku, you’re just getting grumpy because you’re getting old. Be happy,” he chirped.

“Oh, shut up.”

We went upstairs and I immediately proceeded to cook the longganisa and the tinapa on pans that have already been greased with oil.

“So, is this what you have been doing? These flowers?” I heard Andre’s voice piping in from the other end of my flat.

“Yeah, that thing took me a week and a half to finish. Okay ba?”

“Pwede na. Ay, and why is there a langaw on the flower here? Is this what you have texted me about?”


“I thought it’s one of those text messages that you send when you’re bored.”

“Not this time.”

While I was removing the tinapa from the pan, Andre said, “Do you know that flies don’t alight on flowers?”

“They don’t?” I asked.

“Yes. They’re not attracted to the smell of the flowers. They usually land on sweet, rotting flesh, refuse etc. That’s what they feed on you know.”

“Well, it all started when this lone langaw flew and alighted on my nose when I was lying on the sofa the other day. So I thought, I’d draw the little bugger,” I said while I was slicing the fresh tomatoes.

“Hay naku Daniel. It only meant one thing,” he said as he was getting the spoons for dinner.


“You need to take bath. Hahahaha…”

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Taking a Free Fall


36" x 48"
acrylic on canvas

When one enters the loft of Palma Tayona, one is immediately struck by the spartan arrangements. A couple of tables, a sofa, piles of books and a wall covered by drawings, paintings and unfinished canvasses. At the end of a long spacious studio is a big window that floods the entire space with light. "This is where I look at how life passes along Libertad below. Do you know that Libertad means freedom? That's how I feel everyday. That's what I live for everyday." He quips.

Born in Manila, Palma Tayona took up his Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts majoring in Industrial Design from the University of the Philippines. After college, he worked for almost a decade as a freelance artist and graphic designer until he finally decided to work full time as a painter.

His works convey the humor that he derives from his penchance for bulbous, even obese figures that conjure shades of Botero. However, it is only in the manner he shows girth that Palma Tayona's works resemble that of the latter. They do not take after that quality of parodying canonical works of art or caricature figures of authority. Since Palma Tayona has also done children's illustrations, his sensibility veers on the innocent. His art is along a naive sentiment, his colors and lines assuming a distinct dreamlike quality, of nostalgia, of filial bonding, of love and longing. Images and emotions derived from a life of living full.

At the heart of each of his painting is a celebration of emotions, of a place or person both from some distant past or a poignant event in his life. Like any artist by heart, Palma Tayona distinct style and colors merits notice.

What made you decide to pursue painting as a profession?

The freedom it affords me to express myself, what I see, what I feel. I remember telling a friend of mine that it feels like a freefall. You know, the kind of experience you get if you jump from a cliff. You don't exactly know where the winds will take you but you're bound to land somewhere. It is the exhilaration one gets if he lets himself be taken by an adventure - of just letting go. This is what I feel everyday when I am faced with an empty canvas. It's an adventure where I don't exactly know where it will lead me, but I do know that the end-product of it will be a drawing or a painting that tells something, and hoping that it's valid enough for others to see. And when it's done, I look at it and say, "Wow, it felt good. It was just right."

Where has this "adventure" taken you so far?

I have met a lot of very interesting individuals along the way. My admiration goes to some who've inspired me as I would start each piece I do. For instance, "It takes a Village". It's about a story of friendship between two men who have differing beliefs, but despite of it they share a friendship that allows them to build on something concrete.

But the most interesting part of my adventures is when it allows me to see things I thought I have sublimated for so long deep in my memories. One-by-one, I have to exhume these memories, these thoughts and "tell them" visually. It will take a lifetime of work to do that and I'm not really in so much of a hurry. Though I have to admit, some of these memories can be quite scary, the same way as some of them can be quite exhilarating.

Why fat figures? Your works have been compared to Botero but I think yours are bigger and look much bulkier.

First off, my very first experience in creative visual expression was in puppetry. I also give credit to my love of Maurice Sendak's illustrations in "Where The Wild Things Are". You know, those fat big cuddly imaginary monsters of his. I used to design puppets for a theater troupe and I would draw the designs with heftier limbs. Back then, when making drawings and puppets for children, I stuck to an idea that they can't look emaciated or malnourished. The eyes... the eyes, I apparently got stuck with puppets' eyes.

The colors came after, just a few years back because of my "Latino" connection. I had some Latino friends and I got inspired by their culture. We share so much in common with them, being once colonies of the Iberian culture. I guess it was natural for me to get interested in it. I once had a Venezuelan friend who introduced me to Frida Kahlo - her life, her colors, her pains - and I just simply took it from there. I fell in love with the woman. I fell in love with her life. With Botero... he wasn't even an afterthought. I was quite surprised my works bore semblance to his. Being Asian, I have always seen being plump and "healthy" as a sign of good life. Being hefty and making no excuse for it, to me it's living life fully.

Oh, and I have been doing squaredance for the past five years. I give credit to that for the way I use folds in clothes I draw.

What inspires you?

My own life. The people around me. The feelings I feel and the thoughts that come about from these.

Any specific thought?

Yeah. As matter-of-fact, there are lots. It can drive one crazy you know.

There was this instance I was having a conversation with my ten-year old nephew, Wiggy. He was telling me this fantastic story of how a classmate of his did this thing in class. I don't exactly remember the details but it involved his young friend doing something crazy - like levitating or something, and I was stupefied into believing the young boy's story. I mean, how can a ten-year old kid lie about it? When my nephew saw how I believed his story, he just kept on laughing and laughing and told me, "Tito Dan, I was just kidding you and you believed my story? You're so gullible."

And it struck me how stories, many of them untrue or products of fiction, can become so real for many of us. They become history - myths - that one person will eventually pass on to another until these are woven into a community's collective memory. How we stir each other's minds into believing this and that. Hence, that was the thought behind "penzar no es malo..." Thinking isn't really bad it's just like mixing a bowl of cereals.

Do you think you are a storyteller, a mythmaker with your paintings?

(Laughs) A mythmaker? I won't go that far. I do not work for a p.r. company. But a storyteller, yes I am. I tell my own stories and somehow of others as well.

My works, and so are most artists', are images plucked from my own life. You'd have to look at it like an oversized diary. If I were to clip my drawings and paintings into one notebook, I'll end up with a huge unwieldy journal. But unlike a journal, a visual artists' works cannot be solely kept by him for his own consumption. He can keep some, but I think it's crazy to keep everything. These works have to be "released", to have a life of their own outside of the studio for the stories they bear to be told. Sometimes people who get to see these works create their own stories for it. That's the time when the painting becomes alive. The story it bears becomes full and living.

How does it feel to see your own story on canvas?

It's scarier than hell. But you know what eases it? Is that it's told. That when you say it and show it as it is... it becomes a relief.

Do you have a favorite piece among your current works?

Yes, I do. It's one of my first works I've done several years ago. It's about my parents. I call it "The Couple". My father's an old man with Alzheimer. I took him once to have a haircut. It was their anniversary. Along the way, I bought flowers for my mother. He saw me and asked that I give him money. I thought he was going to buy a bouquet but proceeded to buy at a stall selling plastic flowers.

Upon getting back home, I gave the cut flowers to my mother. When my father appeared at the doorway, he gave the plastic flowers to her. "Your son gave me flowers and you gave me... plastic??", then she gave him a sharp look. "Those flowers your son gave will die in a week. With my plastic flowers, I'd be long gone but they'd still be there." My mother turned away and I saw her flashing a smile on her face. I know the story's corny, but capturing that image in a painting, it always brings a smile to my face.

Is there any particular idea you have you'd someday would like to paint?

A lot! So many I keep a notebook that I'd write these down or sketch them, lest I forget all about them.

Currently, there are two. I would like to paint my father. He's old and he's in the twilight of his years. He's already at the twilight of his memories even, which are slowly slipping away. I would like to paint how it is to lose your memory and how it is to be like... to be remembered. The second one is about the street I live in - Libertad. The city has changed its name but in the jeeps and in the people's collective memory they still call it by it's older name. Literally, it means freedom. I envision it as a big canvas about life along Libertad and how life is with it.

Where are you headed right now... as an artist?

Frankly... I don't know. I go back to the metaphor of me doing a free fall. I know I took the plunge and jumped from the cliff. That's what's important right now. I feel the wind blowing on my face. There's sometimes an updraft that would push me up heavenwards instead of falling straight. Sometimes gravity just simply does its work and I could feel being pulled down faster than I should. But always, it's a feeling of having nothing to hold on to except my own thoughts and my own desires. That's what keeps me just reaching out and touching my thoughts and telling it.

I have so much to hear, see, listen and feel in order for me to become a really effective artist and a storyteller. I think I still am living a short life as one. There's so much yet to do - so much yet to see and tell.

How do you want to be remembered in your works?

That I told these thoughts, these stories true. That someday, when all is done and painted... that these works will have a life of their own years and years from their inception. That somehow, at least even one of these works, rang true in the life of someone else.

The above words were a transcript of an interview for a magazine written and published last year.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Moon and Swordfights

15" x 11"
pen and ink on paper

As a child, I'd play alone in my room at nights before I sleep. Toys for me were two pieces of wooden sticks nailed together as my sword and a chair that I'd climb on for my flying carpet. I would shout "Prinsipe Abante!" (I credit this one to too much television and an overdose of Bert "Tawa" Marcelo as the bungling prince) and spin like mad as i would "fly" off to my next adventure.

In my mind I create a mythical bird, the Adarna that flies into the night sky. I stretch out my arm with sword in hand to follow the bird's flight. Flying over emerald palaces and spinning and whirling with the wind in my hair on an unending desert landscape, I would fight fire-breathing dragons, consult with fat, jolly genies and i'd get to know a hundred other magnificent creatures.

Nights like these would pass, and in my child's mind, I live a hundred and one adventures. Only the moon would see me as I strike and engage with my "enemies". The sounds of fantastic fights would fill my thoughts and the four corners of my room... until my mother would shout from the next room. "Close the light and go to sleep!"

And in a flash, my adventure would end for the night. I scurry back to bed, pull up the covers and whisper to the moon, "Tomorrow you'll see me in battle again."


Thursday, July 19, 2007


Man in Barong
33 x 38 cm
pen and ink on paper

“I look good in Barong Tagalog.”

A thought bubble popped into my brain as I was standing in front of the mirror. I was looking at myself wearing this piece of emroidered clothing inherited from our forefathers that I’ll be wearing to a wedding an hour later. I donned on my straw hat and a pair of leather slippers and thought I looked like a spitting image of one of those early 17th century lithographs of ilustrados. I only lack a cane to complete the outfit.

I think wearing a Barong makes one look dignified in this tropical heat. It’s cool, light and really quite airy. Besides, it hides perfectly well whatever cellulite malformations its wearer has. Goodness knows I could feel mine growing as the years pass by. It’s also cheaper than wearing a tailored suit and much more readily accessible.

“Hey, I like this barong I am wearing right now. I feel like a million bucks richer”, as goes the text message I sent to Robert.

“May kulang ka pang accessories am sure”, came his reply.

“Ano yun?” I texted back.

“Suot ka ng shades at maglagay ng earphones. Magmumukha ka nang PSG*. Mwahaha!”, he answered.


Days later, my landlady saw the pictures Eric took of me and placed in his blogsite - She’s a very gracious Chinese-Filipina lady of 74 years old. She regularly surfs the net, chats with her sons and grandchildren in Canada on yahoo messenger, and she saves on cd’s pictures she takes on digicam. She’s also an avid squaredancer for the past 7 years.

“I saw your pictures on the blogsite. I am proud to have an artist living in the apartment”, so goes her text message last night.

I replied, “Thank you. Am glad you saw them. But I do think I am fat in those pictures.”

“Well, it is quite fine. It doesn’t matter, you are not entering a BEAUTY CONTEST anyway,” came her quick response.

“Well, most of my friends think I don’t look like an artist, more like a policeman or a club bouncer,” I complained.

“Hahaha, well, you have to remember my brother when he saw you, he was afraid that you might be a kidnapper!”

I should have just stopped at Thank You.

Note: PSG stands for Presidential Security Group. The president's security detail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


9” x 12”
pen and ink on paper

I feel fat. I look fat. I am starting to hate it when I look in the mirror every morning after my shower and see the the forming lovehandles in my midsection. Today I made a promise to start going to the gym again after an absence of oh-so-many full moons ago.

A couple of hours later of reps, sets, lifting, puffing, curling and crunches, I feel like I am a new man with a healthy gush of new blood flowing through my veins. (Mental note: this will have to be more consistent for the next few weeks, or possibly months, until I lose the excess pounds of fat and baggage. Besides, I like the feeling that I can walk up my stairs without having to heave and facing my bathroom mirror after a shower without having to hold my breath.) And as part of my re-acquainted healthy lifestyle, I decided to pass by the local market to buy some fruits – bananas actually. It’s supposed to make you smile if you eat it regularly. Besides I need the fiber.

I was picking out the best bunch from one of the streetside stalls when it started to rain. It was a good thing I was hunched beneath the vendor’s tarpaulin that I avoided getting wet from the sudden downpour.

“Pards kapag nag-iksirsays ako sa dyim magkakaruon din ako ng mga malalaking braso na makakapigil ng dyip (When I work out at the gym like you, I will have arms that can stop an oncoming jeep),” a gruff voice sounded from behind me as I was getting my bananas from the vendor.

I looked around to see where the voice came from but I see no one, except a bald man busy bundling some sacks of potatoes into his stall away from the rain and an old woman chasing flies away from the mounds of white-fleshed chickens she’s selling in hers.

“Masuwerte ang misis mo sa iyo at mukhang kayang-kaya mong buhatin sa laki ng braso mo,” (Your missus must be lucky. With your big arms you can lift her easily) the voice said again and it seemed to come from beneath a familiar tattered, frayed-at-the-edges yellow umbrella just behind me. My suspicion was confirmed when from beneath the umbrella a hand reached out and touched my leg.

It was Yellow, a young man with a crippled right leg held with a rope tied around his neck and his umbrella. I call him “Yellow”, on account of his quite colorful accoutrement that shields him from the elements or otherwise.

For the past few weeks, he’s been a fixture along Libertad. On some days he would be sitting in front of Mcdonald’s at the corner of Taft grabbing unsuspecting women by their legs as they pass by. If the unknowing victim’s wearing a skirt, he would tug violently at the hem. And in the midst of angry shrieks and cusses, as the hapless victim would tug at her dear dignity, he would jeer, hold on to the prized skirt and peek underneath it, until some chivalrous man would warn him – physically sometimes –to lay off the woman.

“Sa palagay mo kaya eh kapag nagpalaki ako tulad mo, eh kaya ko nang bugbugin yung mga nagpapaalis sa akin? (Do you think if I grow as big as you, I can punch those who chase me away from here?), he asked me. I guess he was referring to that time I spotted him being chased away with hotdogs.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon when I was looking for something different for merienda other than the bananacue I would usually buy from a favorite stall in Leveriza. I craved for hotdogs. I remember that a few meters down the street near Solutions (a local bar for women or those who think they are) was this new hotdog stand run by a plump and jolly childless widow who used to cut hair in one of the numerous parlors that sprouted along the street. She sells these footlong hotdogs either skewered on a stick or jabbed in between two buns that would satisfy an elephantine-hunger, such as I would have, if plastered all over with mayonnaise, catsup and pickles.

I decided to walk to the stand and as I neared it, with visions of biting into a juicy dog, I could hear a woman yelling and cussing at the top of her lungs and saw hotdogs flying in the air! Different sized meat-missiles - from footlongs, to regular dogs – were being hurled by the fat woman at an open yellow umbrella. As I drew near the stand, I could see her target. It was Yellow, crouched behind his shield and greedily munching away at a bunch of hotdogs and buns oblivious to the missiles hurled at him most of which just bounced off from his umbrella.

“Salot kang p*******a ka! Baldado ka na nga, magnanakaw ka pang t*****a ka!! (You’re a plague you s.o.b.! You’re already a cripple and still you’re a thief you s.o.b.!!),” shrieked the once jolly fat widow who has already lost half of her days inventory of dogs from being thrown at him.

I suddenly lost my appetite that afternoon for hotdogs.

“Oh ano Pards? Bibigyan mo ba ako oh hindi? Huwag mo sabihing malaki ka. Kapag lumaki ako, kakayanin din kita (So now what? Aren’t you going to give me anything? Don’t tell me you’re big? When I am big, I will take you anytime),” demanded Yellow as he kept on holding my leg. I took a couple of pesos from my pocket and flicked them into an open can in front of him.

“Yun lang?? Sa susunod ha, lakihan mo. Magbibigay ka rin lang kokonti pa. (That’s it?? Next time make it bigger),” he grumbled as he took the two coins from the can.

Though the rain hasn’t stopped, I decided to take my bananas and walk the few meters to my place. A few steps away, I turned my head and saw Yellow grabbing a banana from the stall I bought mine from.

“Akin na lang ito. (This is mine.)”

I think I’d still be seeing more of him.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


12" x 17", pen and ink on paper

(I am reposting this for my little nephew Zachary)

"Wiggy, Deus you will have a brother", my brother told his two sons on the arrival of his newborn child.

"Daddy... it's good na hindi babae", chirped Wiggy.

"Bakit naman?"

"Eh kasi Daddy, kapag babae ang taga-tagal bago mag-make-up, magbihis. Tapos ang tagal-tagal din sa banyo pag maligo. Tita Amor takes too long when she goes out."


10:00 p.m., my brother's carrying a little bundle - Zach.

"He wakes up at 9 every night. Then, we'd start talking to each other. I'd carry him. You see him giggle? (I actually see more the glint in my brother's eyes)"

"His doctor says Zach is growing up very healthy and strong-boned. He's becoming heavier and heavier by the day."

He gave me Zach to carry in my arms. My new nephew.

I said, "Ey, tol. Look at him."

He asks, "What?"

"Remember my baby photos in Mamu's bedroom when i was 5 months old?"

"What about it?", my brother asks as he comes closer.

"Zach here looks EXACTLY like I was when I was his age."

My brother looked at me quizically, then back to his son and said, "Patay."

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Sunset 1 & 2
Acrylic and gold leaf on acid-free paper
18" x 28"

Balmy... that's how I would describe that day. At five in the afternoon, people were walking along the bay enjoying the breeze.

A couple passed me by pushing a baby carriage. Laughing. Joking. Their eyes the picture of rest and contentment. A young woman, heels clicking on the rust-colored pavement bumped into me. Apologetically, she looked at me, smiled sheepishly and whispered a sorry. As fast as it happened, she walked on leaving her scent of newly shampooed hair. For a while I was lost in her scent until the shrieks of some playing children brought me back from my momentary reverie.


Right where the small boats were anchored by the bay, I sat, took a cigarette, puffed on it and just watched the sun go down.

It's a beautiful sight to see. The sky turned a light yellow, then orange, and then, as if on cue on a theater stage, the sun turned a fiery red. Bright, round and glowing... it's as if it was a ball of red fire slowly dipping into a golden sea. I couldn't look straight into the sun without hurting my eyes.

Turning my gaze, I looked up above it and from above the horizon a jet was slowly drawing a white streak across the sky. I thought to myself, it's like God's hand drawing across the canvas - His sky. The stroke just crept across the sky and as if God was joking, He led the stroke across my fiery red sun dipping it's head into the golden ocean.


If I could talk to God, I'd ask him..."Boy, that was already "perfect". A ball of fire, a golden sea. Why do you have to draw across it with Your white streak?" Well, I guess, I'll never know why.

The only thing that I would ever know is, on a balmy late afternoon, I saw the sun go down - a perfect scene - and in one tiny instance, God drew a streak across it - my perfect moment.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


12” x 16”
acrylic on canvas

“I feel stupid”, I grumbled to Inday as I slipped the candy-striped, Christmas-ey hoola hoop around my waist.

“Okay lang yan. Just put it around your waist and make circular motions so it’d spin. Like this,” and she spun around her hoop like a seasoned pro that she is.

After a few tries with the candy-striped hoola hoop, I finally managed to do some decent twirls with it.

“Wow, so this is how Deni Terio felt when he’s shaking his thing on TV!” I whooped in exhilaration.


Inday was my playmate, an only child of working parents who she lives with at the farthest door in an apartment block beside our house. On weekend mornings she’ll be standing in front of our gate bearing toys with her, like that day she brought a box of miniature kitchen set.

“Let’s play house. I’ll be the nanay, you’ll be the tatay,” she proudly announced.

“Who’ll play the baby?” I asked.

“Oh,” she paused to think and ran off back home. When she appeared, she had with her the biggest doll I have ever seen. It was, to my young eyes, monstrously big – bigger than either of us. She pulled a string on its back and it yelped “I want milk”. I had to blink and ask her if it’s alive because I sure am not going to feed it.

There was a time too when water guns shaped like TV cartoon characters were the rave in our street. Every kid had to have one. Mine was in the shape of Robin and my brother’s gun was Popeye. We’d all have loads of fun with it, playing cowboy and shooting water at each other. It was one of those afternoons when my brother and I were playing shootouts with the other kids in our street when Inday tapped me on the shoulder while I was hiding behind a bush.

“Psst, I want to join. Let’s trade guns. I like your Robin. You use my Olive. It has a stronger spurt” she said as she was pushing her gun towards me.

“But it’s an Olive. Who wants an Olive?” I complained. (Her gun was shaped like Olive Oyl. There was somehow an unwritten rule that boys only use male TV cartoon character-shaped guns and hers is, well, aside from being Olive Oyl, was also quite ugly.)
“But it has a very strong spurt and you can beat anyone with it. Come on, give me your Robin,” she demanded.

“No,” I held my ground.

Then she grabbed hold of my shoulder and she began to shake me. When I turned around, I saw beads of perspiration forming on her forehead, her lips started to curl and she began to cry shrilly into my face.

“Alright, alright! Give me Olive!” and I grudgingly gave her my Robin. With one swift movement of her forearm, she wiped the sweat and tears from her face, leapt from the bush with my gun and walloped like a crazed Indian out to make her kill.

That afternoon, I committed mass murder with Olive. I left all my opponents all wet and I was left high and dry. Inday approached me with a wide grin and my Robin held to her side. “I told you it has a strong spurt,” she proudly proclaimed. “Here’s your Robin,” and held my gun towards me.

With a devilish grin drawn on my face, I pointed Olive at her and spurted her several times with her own gun. She stood there for a while stunned. Slowly, her lips started to curl, beads of sweat formed on her shoulders and she gave out such a loud, shrill cry that the doves flew from their roost, the neighborhood dogs barked and lizards fell from the houses’ eaves.

“I hate you! I hate you!” and she ran off with my Robin. Inday’s Olive sure did make a powerful spurt.

It was a summer when salagubangs can be bought for fifty centavos at the talipapa a few blocks away. Every morning we’d run off to this manang who’d be selling it in a basket cage there. My brother, the other boys and I would carefully take our pick of these shiny-shelled insects. We’d pick our insect according to our personal preferences. Some would pick out the biggest. Others would pick out the ones that flap its wings most, while I would always pick out the ones with the brightest color. But no matter who prefers what, each of us would take one back gleefully to our neighborhood.

Back in our street, we’d tie our salagubangs with colored strings around their necks and spend the whole morning playing with them. We’d either have salagubang fights. Salagubang races. Salagubang tricks. A whole bunch of salagubang what-have-you’s that we could think of. And by mid-morning, we’d tire of our little insect friends. Some would put it in jars and give them names to keep as pets but would eventually end up dead the next day in its jar-coffin. But most of us, we’ll just let it go, let it fly off and live its insect life.

Inday appeared one day in front our gate bearing a big round jar that once held mayonnaise. In it was full of these crawling shiny-shelled salagubangs.

“Look at what I have. Ate Do bought all of these for me,” she proudly proclaimed.

“Wow, that’s a lot. Let me have one,” I pleaded.

“No!” and she held the jar back. “It is mine and you can only look,” she announced as she held the glass jar filled with those nice, shiny salagubangs tightly to her chest.

My brother came out of our house and saw her with the jar. He too asked her if he could have one and she vehemently turned him down. Soon enough, the other boys in the street heard that Inday has a jarful of these little living toys that a small crowd of our playmates started to gather in front of our house to marvel at her possession.

“Please let us have one,” asked Ronald.

“Yeah, you can be the bangka in our patintero,” offered Bubuy.

“You can have my Annie-Annie stickers if I can have that green one,” bribed Lengleng.

“No. No. NO!” she solidly refused all offers with her chin high and haughty like a princess. At that moment, she knew she has everything going for her. With her refusal she also delighted at the sullen pallor that descended on our faces.

“You know what, I hear from Tita Bong that they fry salagubangs in oil and eat them in the province,” my brother chirped with a gleam in his eyes.

“I bet they taste good. You want to try one of those?” Ronald piped in.

“I wonder how those salagubangs taste like with catsup?” Lengleng added as she licked her lips with her tongue.

Every one of us was now agreeing how tasty Inday’s salagubangs would be. By now, Inday was shaking her head in disgust at what she hears.

“No one’s eating my sslagubangs. NO ONE!” she protested with one arm around the jar and the other trying to shield her ear.

“Eat! Eat! Eat!” chanted everyone. She was slowly stepping back away from our small group of salagubang-hungry fiends, holding her jar of living treasures to her chest and turning her face from us when she slipped on the edge of the sidewalk canal in front of our house. She fell on the smelly, murky water in the sidewalk canal, dropped her jarful of salagubangs that it shattered and scattered all the insects unto the street.

Everyone of us became silent – stunned silence – the kind of silence before the storm.
Without a warning, Inday gave out her trademark shrill cry, waved her arms all around and stood up like lightning. She ran home in a freaky dervish, arms flailing all over and her dress reeking of the smell of the canal water. From a distance, we could all hear the loud banging of their apartment door and her shrill cry was now muffled by the walls of their home.

“Who want some salagubang?” declared Ronald with a gleeful yell.

We all helped ourselves to Inday’s scattered insects, played our games and by mid-morning, our street was filled with flying salagubangs.

By late afternoon of that day, Inday was happily playing bangka in our patintero.


“Do you know how to make pinwheels?” asked Inday when we got tired of our hoola hoping around.

“Uh-huh. Why?” I asked.

“Let’s make some. I have some pieces of art paper and some barbecue sticks,” she commanded as she handed me the colored papers to make these pinwheels.

Staring at the pinwheels we did, it was a sight to see. We sat on the floor and we watched with enchantment at the different spinning colors stuck on sticks.

She suddenly stood, placed her hands to her waist and hollered at me “Hold the pinwheels and do the hoola hoop”.

I could only grunt at the silliness of holding a pinwheel and spinning the candy-colored hoop around my waist.

“This is for what you owe me when you shot me with my water gun. Hah!” she proudly exclaimed with her hands held to her sides.

Come to think of it, I thought, she never even did return my Robin.