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.