Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Bucket List

Surely if you have watched the movie having the same title as this article (starred by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson), you should know what I will be talking about. A “bucket list” is practically a term for a list of “things that one wishes to do before he dies” or before one “kicks the bucket”. “Bucket” because we acknowledge that life is limited and our duty is to fill it with things – the good, the bad. The term originates from existential influence, although this existed in almost everyone’s thoughts from early history.
In this generation where modern lifestyle and, even environment suggest a shorter lifespan, younger people like us must have something in our minds to do, to become, or to have, before we kick the bucket of this very short life
Life for me is like attending a feast. Knowing my stomach’s limits, I will only have a taste of a little bit of everything – a little bit of grilled pork, fish, the cake, the salad, the steamed siomai – before I get full. It is the same with life; I know that I only have a limited time in this world that is why I want to experience a lot of things before I leave…before I kick the bucket and die.

I want to try a lot of things; to be a student, a teacher, an artist, musician, a bartender, politician, engineer, lawyer, be a father…, to write a book, to compose a song, to solve a complex math problem, to invent something, to travel…and the list goes on. I don’t want to grow old with regrets – of ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’. I want to live.

I have a long list…..

1.       I want to love and be loved and return. (done!...Maybe, I think so..haha)
2.       To write a book.
3.       To have an art gallery.
4.       To have a band. (done!)
5.       To be a teacher. (done!)
6.       To finish 7 courses. (a lot more to go)
7.       To be a father. (happily done!)
8.       To be a ‘good’ father. (in progress)
9.       To travel in 14 countries. (11 more to go!)
10.   To sponsor a scholarship program.
11.   To create an artwork. (done!)
12.   To compose a song. (done!)
13.   To become a politician (done!)
14.   To try becoming a laborer. (done!)
15.   To be a contestant of a TV show.
16.   To join the American ninja warrior! (haha)
17.   To become a Lawyer!
18.   To earn my Ph.D.
19.   To build my own dream house!
20.   To age like Robin Padilla.
21.   To have my own blog. (done!)
22.   To have a ‘cool’ relationship with my son.
23.   To try bungy jumping and sky diving.
24.   To become a head of a public office.
25.   To invent something.
26.   To become a chick magnet (hahahahahahahahahahaa) joke!
27.   To make a relevant TV documentary.
28.   To sponsor a very grand reunion!
29.   To become an inspiration.
30.   To become contented if not happy J
      As they say, the last number in the bucket should be “contentment”.  That is what we do when when life throws us a bone. It is also the most important thing. A person who had experienced a lot of things but remains to be not contented is worse than that who experience a few but cherishes it with his own life. Life need not be grand and complicated, but if we are given the chance…should we not try some new things?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Artsy Fartsy

So vast is art, so narrow human wit.
                                                  -Alexander Pope

“So you’re scared of the masters?” Sir J. looked at me with calculating eyes like he had known me for a long time, while in fact we just had the conversation for ten minutes. “I am 58, and believe me when I say that I was only enlightened about art two years ago”, he made sure that I am looking at him and continued, “I dreamed of them, you know, Michelangelo, Da Vinci..Rembrandt, and in my dream, although I am quite old I saw myself as a baby.” I have heard of those stories before even in music, most successful musicians claim to have had a dream of meeting their own masters; Dylan, Elvis, Marley…you name it. Sir J. really looked sincere with his story so I didn’t have a choice but to listen. “Our realm of relativity – the idea that beauty, which is the purpose of art, is weighed by subjectivity, is the binding chains of most artists.”

“So without individual judgments, the preferences, the criteria, how do we define what is art and what is not? Is the person who takes mud and smear it on a canvas an artist already? A rich-boy with the most expensive camera can just take a picture of poop and claim that it is his artistic creation? A writer can just write random scribbles and sell it as a literary craft? Art, although a tool of expression, must also require skill and aesthetics to communicate excellently to an audience, right?” I asked.

“Well its not just expression, art is also an escape, an alternative…it is a way of life…no it is life itself. So, yes, everyone is an artist, regardless of how people perceive their work.” He quickly reminded me.

Paraphrasing Tolstoy, I mumbled; “Saying that an art is good, but cannot be understood by a majority people is the same as saying that a kind of food is delicious but cannot be eaten by a majority of people.”

“What?” he’d hardly heard it, but I decided not to push it further. Artists, as they call themselves, are complicated people – sensitive and free, structured but liberated, exclusive and universal at the same time. Some say that everyone is an artist, yet an artist guild may not include those who do not share their eyes…or their skills – a sort of kindred, they say. Universal…but exclusive, depending on who you ask anyway.

“But, you cannot become an artist by just owning an expensive camera…”

“I know that.” I quickly retorted. “Its not even the subjects, one must have the eyes you know, the skills to utilize light and time.” I suddenly realized that he is bringing out his cellphone, perhaps to show the things he took”

“See this?’ he swiped his middle finger in the screen to show a nude woman. I grinned at the joke, men will always be men, regardless if you are an artist or not. But hey, Sir J. here said that we are all artist, even that random guy you meet on the sidewalk.

“Which do you prefer, a letter written by hand or an encoded one using the MSword?” I realized that this guy may not know about the MS softwares so I quickly explained the metaphor. “What I mean is that the over- reliance of technology in art, may kill art. Musicians use autotune a lot and it will not sound sincere anymore. Photography using too much editing will not appear artistic anymore. Instead of using the machine…” “The machine uses…us” he joined me in the duet.

“Did you take up philosophy?” He asked. I decided to give him his own poison: “Everyone is a philosopher…everyone asks why…everyone gives his own take on everything; the existence of a god, aliens, angels and demons; the inquiry of life and death, and what happens when you trip over to a shithole. Just like everyone is an artist, everyone is also a philosopher.” Again, depending on who you ask though

“Interesting. I  like you.” He flipped his sketchbook to explain the concepts of art which he thought I must absorb as a pre-requisite to his art therapy. The basics of lines, shapes, contrasts and perspectives, and what have you. The Irony. Discussing the “musts” of art, the requirements of beauty, the standards…and also preaching that art has no standards at all.

“ What I mean is…” Feeling that I have not explained my point, I raised my voice so he would understand that I wanted to talk. “What I mean is, I can draw a perfect dog, all the tiny strands of its fur and the complicated brush strokes on its face…and so what?”

“I agree, that is why I pointed out that the art’s beauty is found on the effect of it to the audience. Example, your art work was bought meaning the buyer felt a certain connection to the artwork.”


“Life imitates art, art imitates life…if he can relate to the art, maybe he finds something in his life in that art…a sort of relationship…then he would definitely take it home, put it in a frame, and hang it in a sacred space…its like adopting a child, you know…” I nodded in understanding. Its hard to let go of an artistic creation because there are memories in every strokes, time in every execution of techniques, a sort of attachment will definitely be there.

“I remember a doctor whom I talked to who visited the art village. After admiring the art works in the gardens, he turned to me to declare that if he will have a second life, he would want to become an artist. Then he searched my eyes before he asked me the same thing; ‘how about you sir, if you have a second life, what do you want to be? the doctor almost pleaded.’"Sir J. waited for my reaction before his revelation.

“What was your answer?” I asked.

“Still an artist.” He smiled.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The La Trinidad Arts Society

I envy Baguio City with their Art groups and Societies. I heard that there was a time when the Baguio Arts Guild (BAG) had over five hundred members. Most of the BAG's pioneers were able to establish other popular arts societies as, the Tam-awan Village, Artists at Session, and others. BenCab, a former member, is the most successful to have built his very own museum - a feat that only some artist can dream of.

Solar Painter/Sketch Artist, Sultan came to me one Sunday to propose a project in which I gladly obliged to. I was, after all, an art lover, and an Art workshop for the kids is a very noble project. Luckily, we were able to source out funds from our barangay and were able to give the kids a very memorable experience. Nothing beats the shades and the colors. Nothing beats the feeling of creative accomplishment.

And so after the activity, he asked me if we can start 'it'. How about an Arts Society for La Trinidad? I was waiting for him to say that. :) Of course I would love that.

Conceptualized in 2012, the La Trinidad Arts Society was established by Local Artists; Sultan Mangusan and Valred Olsim from Pico , La Trinidad, Benguet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sapay Koma: "August"

Almost two years after an experience of loss, tragedy, hopelessness, and even the toll of having enemies, I barely recognized my dreams and my goals. Everything became bleak, uncertain, almost confusing. To re-examine one’s life must be one of the most difficult stage of moving on. After my father’s death in that gloomy August, I lost the passion and drive to become what I dreamed of - I was depressed. Failure, it seems to me, has become a familiar visitor, a friend which stays, not really to taunt, but to keep me out from the brink of insanity. “This is life”, I muse from time to time.

But I’m not a kid anymore. I write about hope, and damn put my belief on it - that no matter how wrong things seem, it will always turn out alright in the end. I felt good about that idea, who wouldn’t? Acceptance, however, is most easily said than done. My father’s death has become the death of one of my dream’s purpose – to impress him, to prove that I can do things, to prove that I’m not immature. But then, all becomes irrelevant in the face of death.   That day, I also died. It is not what I want, who would want that anyway? but is what I need.

What did I need? What did a self-aggrandizing irresponsible prick want? Surely, I was heavily confused back then. It may have changed in the last two years. To a certain extent, I hoped that I gained a sensibility common to those who have experienced grief, or loss – humility, among others, and a deeper appreciation of life. A couple of years may not have totally changed me, nor was my experience the ultimate tragedy that may shatter one and mend the same anew to a better one (there are countless others who went through worse), I would like to believe that in those years, I did not just lose a life…that I also reclaimed one myself.

What’s the rush in August? I always ask. But, before I tell the story of August, one may wonder about that first week of December. It may not be that hyped month of hearts, but nevertheless a very interesting one; and that cold merry night after the shared boozed laughter…and two lonely people decided to spend a long special moment together. Ah, how can I make it sound romantic? The story is rarely found on the sheets and the pillows. The real story started when we received the biggest surprise of our lives.

I may have also surprised everyone. And believe me, I know the repercussions. But, for what it is worth, and after the painful gossip of politics, regretful comments, burning bridges, and what have you-- of ‘what ifs’ and ‘whys’ ,and, even if I may hurt that other one who might be waiting for me on the other side of the world, or even that other one in our neighborhood, how can I deny the existence of a very special gift? How can't I yearn to feel his first kicks in his mom's tummy? To see his sleepy eyes on his first day?  I couldn't. For me, telling the world, and having him in our home, and being a father, a good father, is the right thing to do. Even when my life is really full of wrongs, I wouldn’t dare add this on top of it. To tell the world that I have a son, is one of the better things I did in a long time. Indeed, it is, really, the right thing to do.

What’s my rush in August? Two years ago, I dreaded this rainy month for taking away one valuable life from us...But from that, it reminded me that everything has its own time and reason -- the rains may take life away, but it may also nourish and give another one. This August, the night must finally give way to the day, and just like the seasons, there is a time to be a kid, and a time to have one. Life, can't be meaningless after all...

                            - I will always be here Vash Gray !

Saturday, April 13, 2013


It is the third season in the Philippines after the wet and dry seasons.  We cannot escape from the posters and streamers hanging on electric cables, the flyers scattered on the streets, the loud speakers, and the freebies given by campaigners…certainly, the Election Season is here, again.  Admit it, you have waited your whole life for this .Following the line of Benny Carantes, ‘we always come to a point of boredom and routine; watch movies, go to the park, attend parties, sleep, and eat – is that all there is to life?…luckily, the clowns are back!’

There is no escaping it. No matter how sick we are with the names, the colors, the smiling pictures, even the  speeches and campaign jingles, we have to endure this season because of its relative seriousness – we will actually be choosing ‘our leaders’. 

As I write this, there is a funny feeling that I am indirectly mocking myself. Have I not posted my face somewhere, even in a waiting shed? Have I not spent money on some flyers and food for campaigners? It was a barangay election, but it was a huge urban Barangay nonetheless. How will one introduce one’s self to about 7,000 -8,000 voters in a very short time? How can you convince them to vote for you? It seems that one’s way of winning has always involved the ways of traditional politics.

Senatoriable Migs Zubiri caught the ire of critics when he maintained that election is merely a ‘popularity contest’, hence, being an ‘epal’ is an acceptable strategy to boost popularity, and that voters will not mind. In my humble experience as an insider who hears and sees things, he is partly right – in our country, most people seem to celebrate superficiality, and where people gives more appreciation to  the ‘freebies’ and entertainment over the real issues - It means that people willingly desire to be part of that rotten system in Philippine elections. Not surprisingly, the winners mostly will always be from the popular clans, the ‘artistas’,  and those who can finance a huge campaign. Only a few can be popular by their deeds, their character, or their competence.  Unfortunately, these attributes may take a long time to ascertain, and the voters are only left with a prayer – hope that they voted for the right people, and that they are there for the right reasons. Most of the time, prayers are unanswered; we get disappointed, feel betrayal…at times, even anger.

No matter how we hate politics, and no matter how others shun voting, or decide on boycotting the elections, it is still wise to practice our right to suffrage. You put ‘crocodiles’ in office and you will be surprised with sub-standard infrastructures, of being late to school or work because a road has to be replaced the 4th time in the same year, of ghost projects or milking-cow projects, of rejected applications for work or study, apparently because the appointing power is not fair, and only recommends his friends or relatives. You put ‘clowns’ in office and you will have a ‘circus town’ with no rules, no discipline, no plans, and no direction. The actions of the people you vote have repercussions on your life, believe me. Does one have the right to complain about it when he/she did not vote in the first place?

“Why aren’t you running (for councilor)?” Many people asked me, and I simply dismissed them saying “Kababain nu haan tayo nga maited expectations ti tao (It will be embarrassing if we cannot give the expectations of the people)”.  The truth is, I give the most regard to these positions, and I do not think that a mediocre person should handle the job. I respect the position so much that I refuse to even run if I am 'inadequate'. The people deserves the best. A municipal official must be at least trained or educated in communications, social science, public management, law, and philosophy. I’m not saying that he should be a very smart person, but in the ‘office world’ coupled with public interest, an official must have the knowledge, creativity, and skill to execute his/her job and advocacy. And the job is not an easy one, there are too many challenges. It’s just like qualifying a person for work, the only difference is that, this is not ‘just’ a job, it is public service.

One might contend that smart people may just use their ‘intelligence’ in corruption since they know how to get away with it. This is a valid point. Many towns in Benguet rejected Lawyers, people with Ph.D’s, and other so called ‘Intellectuals’ or ‘Elites’, because of an unfortunate precedent involving issues of graft and corruption (by  smart people). Hence, a town even voted for a “No read -no write -Mayor" as a statement that people, when betrayed, will find means to express their disappointment. The late Jesse Robredo, my public service hero, said that politics in the Philippines is mostly determined by EQ , and not IQ . For if intelligence is the basis, then Gilbert Teodoro, a Bar Topnotch should have won the last Presidential Elections. Former President Joseph Estrada even got the second spot, even if he’s kind of comical on his up system.

The point is, the ideal candidate must be well balanced. As I’ve said, it’s just like considering an employee for your company. What do you look for? Track record? Experience? Moral integrity and conviction? Intelligence only? Passion and character only? A combination of many factors?

 It is the voter who will ultimately decide, of course after being well informed and educated. It is actually our job to research, to weigh their pros and cons, and not be easily swayed by mere intrigues and propaganda.

Thomas Jefferson once commented that an informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will. It is for this end that I have decided to help organize the Mayoralty Forum II on May 3, 2013 at the La Trinidad Public Park. Let’s hope that this activity will be successful. Cheers!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some Funny Lawschool lines (I think) :)

Most of my batch mates have been drinking at bars for days now...true to their title: bar-takers (bartikeros). Apparently, they have already taken their final exams and will only wait for a few more weeks before they graduate (congratulations!). They will be taking the bar exams this year, and hopefully become lawyers next year. I can’t help but keep a little envy – I could’ve joined them if only I’ve made some right decisions in the last two years. But then, as lower beings who are sadly out of focus, and out of luck, we have yet to wait for another year or two. It sucks.

Or maybe a miracle will happen. If all goes well, then summer must be the answer from the heavens. *Sigh, I'll be crossing my fingers for that!

One can’t help but feel depressed. Spending years  in law school had already demanded sacrifices – no time for friends, family, social life, and personal passions. Being a community official and a part-time teacher (and taking Masters Degree at the same time) did not help either. Something is doomed to fail. Juggling things is difficult after all.

To vanquish such a gloomy mood, I tried to recall some laughter in those years. At least to console myself that I have made the right choice in staying, even with the grueling task of facing 'judgment' every meeting. Most of these lines are funnier when you have the background though. Well, here are my top 12 (not in any order):

1.    In Law on Property, “the Cloud on the title is not so cirrus (serious)”, and the Prof. smiled. - Nakuha ko lang after ten minutes.

2.    In Taxation regarding appeals, “Mandamus will not lie!” napaka-honest  naman ng ‘Mandamus’ na yan! - * Laughter.

3.     In Criminal review, sir stood for five minutes then finally said: "Let’s proceed to your 'alleged review'". - Judge Patnaan is always sarcastic.

4.    “Sanamagan ng Sanamagan” ang mga lawyer na yan!, akala nila nakakatawa ung term!  - Sa totoo lang ang sarap kasing bigkasin ung “Sanamagan” (son of a gun) hehehe

5.     “Stop the delaying tactics in our recitation! This is not remedial law! Inulit ulit din to eh hehe

6.    Pupunta ka sa pinaka-pangit na court, and Supreme Court. Yan lang ang walang “appeal” eh. - Nyak. May tama ka Dean hehe. (*Rest in peace Dean Gumpic..)

7.    “Penal in nature” not “Penile in nature”, iba yun hehe Narinig ko na sa halos lahat ng criminal law prof.

8.    In civil law, “alam natin yang possession na yan (pronounced as ‘position’)...: Dog. – Bwiset.;) Naalala ko tuloy ung Naked  Title sa civil law.

9.    Sumo-sobra na eh! He pushed his luck too hard (pertaining to the non-lawyer MTC Judge who applied  as RTC Judge). Sinobraan na met! – It’s funnier if you’ve heard it from Pros. Maranes!

10.  In Political Law; "In the case of VirJen Shipping and Marine Services, Inc. vs. National Seamen Board...The workers are the Seamen (semen), papasok sila sa VirJen (virgin)" Atty. Gacayan really has the pornographic memory! haha!

11.  In a recitation, my classmate started with, “Sir, I believe..” The prof. interrupted him immediately with: “DO NOT BELIEVE!...I’m not asking you to believe anything” Wala lang, parang duet lang kasi hehe (tapos nakakatawa talaga expression ni sir)hehe

12.  In Evidence; “The case of People vs. Pagpaguitan…” (paused and laughs), which I suspect is the neighbor of Mr. Olsim ( because it seemed that the name came from Mt. Province) – Mas nakakatawa talaga pag si Sir Mark nagsabi hehe 

      As usual, my poor memory failed me. Marami pa toh eh. I will update them the soonest that I remember things. It will be a tragedy kong eto lang funny lines in those  years. Hahaha. 

Yet, the real fun, perhaps, is being with many great people in those years. Indeed, I have learned a lot. Good luck and all the best to Batch 2014 of CCDC-LAW!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Free beer (Fast Fiction)

A little of the moist he considered only necessary to swab the chalk dust which settled on his palms. ‘501’ must be reduced by pummeling small arrows from a good seven feet and nine inches away – the one-fourth inch tape included. The bucket of beer for him was never just a bet, not even the packs of cigarette. What is it that sets their mood? A Billy Joel song? The new nineteen-year old waitress?

“Double twenty!” his new partner yelled. And double twenty indeed. At forty, he had doubled his wealth but also doubled his wives (and debts). ‘Men and their insatiable pleasures’, they always say that. But, in his many years of drinking with journalists, politicians, lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, musicians, and what have you, he had come up with the conclusion that men are pigs indeed. At least after a few beers.

The college students on table number four beside the bar exploded with laughter, probably talking about some little adventure they did. He used to be as trim as them, he remembered. Then work, age, and stress came; and the car he bought was used more often, even on a mere five-hundred-meter walk. It didn't help too that big grills of pork and beef became part of his daily diet. Add the visits at bars to drown the pressure of two wives, and his weight is doomed to rise.‘Screw life, we eat and drink because tomorrow we die’. They always say that. Not after a bypass or a costly operation though. A visit to the doctor in some pale room always scares them. Changes them a bit, and makes them re-evaluate their lives – even their last will and testament. He had thought about that too. After all, a few of his friends had already kicked the bucket to meet their maker.
“Out!” his partner had aimed for the triple but missed. Perhaps that it is the price for secretly cursing the moon. He steadied himself mechanically to execute the drill. For that moment, he was a deity holding a thunder bolt. Just like an artist who escapes this world by painting their own reality, he raised his left hand victoriously for a high-five. His minions rose to applaud. They are now sure that the couple of beers they have grabbed are free. 

Nothing beats free beers.