Thursday, September 24, 2009

Love for sale

The posh hotel was quite impressive, I should've worn shoes instead of rubber slippers. The coffee did not taste burned (well, at least the first cup didn't) and the sandwich came with a tiny umbrella.

"We need your brain." All 8 or 9 or 10 of them said in perfect unison, and the man seated at the head of the table wolfing down a rather long longanisa looked up and smiled at me as if to say, "aren't these people great?

I said, What?

"We need some stuff in your brain for this things we're working on." What is this thing you're working on? "A beauty pageant." (Cue: Yanni music fades in).

A beauty pageant. I paused for a while (Yanni music up), wolfing down my 300-peso snack and thinking why I didn't order a 500-peso lunch instead like everybody else, it was past lunch afterall. and I thought they called me for a project that would present relevant social and cultural issues that could make the world a better place, or stop global warming.

"A beauty pageant can do that," said the man in between longanisa bites.

Sure, what's in it for me?


Nothing. Sounds fair. But wait, this stuff you want... from my brain... you're just borrowing it, right? I mean, it's my stuff afterall.

"Er... yeah." (Music crossfades from Yanni to Mike Francis' "Lovely Day").

The man wasn't halfway through his longanisa when the first meeting ended.

So that night with a sterilized ice pick, a cuticle remover, a teaspoon and a plastic bag with ziplock, I picked my brain. They were nice people, and they were nice about it, so the pain was worth it (which wasn't much anyway), although it wasn't easy picking through the rubbish inside my head. Some brain stuff kept splashing on the heap of bond paper on my desk - I'll use them later for something. I carefully placed them inside the ziplock bag and went to bed, dreaming about tiny umbrellas and fog machines with pine-scented oil.

The next day, I hand over the ziplock bag to them (there were more of them, actually their numbers kept growing as we kept on having more meetings). This time I ordered for something in between a snack and a lunch - tapsilog here is served without a free bowl of soup like every other tapsilog place does, but that's ok. I should have ordered a longsilog.

"Hmmm, nice stuff," said one while sniffing the bag. Another opened the bag and dipped his finger in it and licked his finger, "would you have something in there to season this stuff a bit?"

You mean right here, right now?


Good thing I brought that faux Swiss knife I won in a Christmas raffle. So right there, while everyone was enjoying either their grilled prawns or Caesar's salad or minestrone, I picked my brain. I added a bit of this and that into the ziplock bag and the bag was passed around and everybody dipped their fingers into the bag and then everybody licked their fingers and in perfect unison, just as the man at the head of the table who continued to eat his rather long longanisa from yesterday licked his fingers, they said, "Hmmmm, this is good. Take two bottles of freshly ground pepper and we'll call you in the morning."

I left feeling quite dizzy.They didn't call the next morning, but two mornings after. They wanted another meeting, and they wanted me to bring them more of that brain stuff. Like Clarisse Starling, I trustingly and blindly obeyed. This brain picking makes me hungry, and I was hungry on that third meeting, so I ordered something two notches classier than the soup-less tapsilog platter. The man still had that rather long longanisa from days ago.

As they passed around the new batch of stuff around, and just as I was picking through the extenders in my goulash, one of them, "there's one more thing we need."


"Your heart."

My heart?

"Yup, we'll pay you."

How much?

"Your brain stuff's good, we're sure you heart's fine too, so name your price."

You do understand that if you take my heart I'll die, right?


Really. So here's the deal, I can give you a taste of my heart and let's take it from there. But bear in mind that I will never allow you to take all my heart away from me, you may use if for your... er... pageant, but it must always remain inside me, ok?

Again, in perfect unison, "ok." I forgot to cue the music for this scene.

We had 10 lunches after that, and on the 11th one which came after a breakfast, we stared at each other for hours until it was time for dinner and I was about to order something only to find out that they've alreay ordered something for me.

Pink salmon.

"Your heart's too expensive."I almost choked on the salmon I just put in my mouth, as if it's a rather long longanisa. Speaking with my mouth full of fish, I said that I wasn't selling my heart, I was merely letting them use it.

"But using it entails costs for us that we find too prohibitive, the equivalent cost of 6 luncheon meetings mean so much to us you know. And besides, we were just wondering if you'd actually sell your heart to us, but you won't, though renting it is fine with us too since we wouldn't need it anymore after the pageant and after we've taken our curtain calls."

I take a sip straight out of the Coke Light can. So what now?

"Actually, we don't really need a heart, all we need is an extra pair of hands... how much are those?"

They're not for sale.I left in such a haste that I forgot to retrieve the brain stuff in that ziplock bag. But that's ok, there's more where that came from. Like that rather long longanisa.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mediocre at best

It was the administration party’s own version of the primaries – the frontrunners, nay the only runners, were Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando. While Fernando has been virtually campaigning since last year (I base this statement on his “performance” in a convention held in the city last year where he promoted himself, not so subtly, as the next president of this country), he was the underdog in this skit for just a couple of days earlier, Teodoro was endorsed by a majority of local government officials belonging to the administration party.

With the way both the Republicans and the Democrats ran their respective primaries, I thought that we may have learned something from the most recently concluded U.S. presidential elections. What I saw on TV was embarrassing. Though the Defense Secretary performed a tad better than the “pink fencer” when two were questioned by the party’s executive committee (or perhaps more accurately, the latter performed worse), their responses to even the most fundamental questions on governance were devoid of any substance. Motherhood statements. Empty. Nada. Mediocre at best. I sure hope someone from the opposition can offer something much better, or we’re doomed, again, for the next 6 years.

Mediocrity – and while we’re at it, here’s another one: the upcoming attempt by some people to produce the longest longanisa. This comes to us after the recent presentation of the biggest pizza. We’ve also had the biggest salad, the biggest strawberry cake, shake, etc. And all of these feats, according to their respective organizers, are attempts to put Baguio on the map (what map, I’m not sure), to make a world record, to boost the city’s tourism industry.

We live in a city gifted with one of the most beautiful topographical layout, and we want to be known as the city with the longest longanisa. We are blessed with a cool climate, and we go out there as the city with the biggest pizza.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the above may be fun undertakings, but please don’t put these out there as something that Baguio can be proud of. 300,000 residents picking up a broom to clean the whole city, now that’s a world record we can be proud of. Or maybe a city with not one “colorum” taxi. How about a city government with zero corruption? Why not put all that money and effort that go into stuffing hundreds of meters of pork intestines into programs that would get our youth out of the streets and gangs? We have money to waste on an irrelevant undertaking such as the longets longanisa, but no money to put up a police station near Nevada Square to stop the gang wars that regularly occur there that have resulted in a number of deaths.

Baguio was once considered the most beautiful hill station in Asia, the cleanest and greenest city in the country, and instead of working hard to get those titles back, some instead choose to put all their energy into slaughtering hundreds of pigs to “promote the city.” Pearls to swine, indeed.

Wasn’t the rape of Session Road enough when it was turned into an ugly epitome of crass commercialism earlier this year, must you now cover it in blood in an inane effort to “promote local tourism?” With all the expensive lunches and dinners and tourism junkets, this is what you can come up with? The longest longanisa?

On my online status update a few days ago, I quoted film director Joey Reyes, "nobody is more dangerous than a mediocre mind who is made to believe that he/she possesses genius by sheer coincidence of power and position given to him/her." Daniel Burnham, forgive them, for they seem not to know what they’re doing. Sorry for messing up your beautiful Plan of Baguio.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Isang Daan

In the early 90’s, the Baguio Arts Festival, then run by the Baguio Arts Guild, was among Baguio’s biggest tourist attractions, drawing both participants and audiences from here and abroad. But sadly, the annual holding of one of the country’s most successful art festivals seized with the last festival that was held back in 2002. Since then, no major artistic and cultural even has been held in the city. Or maybe there were, and I just missed them.

Baguio has always been an art haven, it is a fact that the city is home to many renowned artists. As another matter of fact, its artists are among Baguio’s greatest treasures. I’ve said it before, our city officials often mention this fact in their speeches and pitches, yet nothing much is really being done to develop and promote the local art scene. I really believe that only the artists themselves can revive the vibrant artistic and cultural skyline of Baguio.

I am dreaming of holding a week-long arts festival within Baguio’s Central Business District. The festival shall feature various artistic and cultural events with the various business establishments and institutions along Session Road and its environs as venues. The festival aims to promote the local art scene and at the same time help the local economy by attracting audiences/visitors to the city.

I am dreaming of photographs and paintings and installtion art pieces in banks, bookstores, hardware shops, poetry to go with your coffee, music to go with your family dinner, films out in the open, different stories that hopefully will provoke its audiences, the community, into taking a more active role in making Baguio a better place.

I dream that the festival may open with a parade along Session Road by the participating artists. With the local performing and visual artists at the forefront, this parade promises to be a real multi-sensory experience. I dream that during the festival proper, the community will be treated to exhibits, theatrical performances, performance art pieces, book launches & poetry readings, film showings and concerts held in the various establishments along Session Road as well as out in the open.

I dream that in closing, the last day of the exhibit, hopefully with Session Road closed to traffic, may feature a grand outdoor exhibit and performance.

I dream of all this happening right in the heart of Baguio City - Session Road.

Isang Daan – The First Session Road Arts Festival, a collaborative effort between the private sector and the city’s creative minds, joining hands to express the beauty, the dreams and sentiments of a century-old city, reviving the once world-renowned arts and culture scene of Baguio City.

Isang Daan – one hundred.

Isang Daan – a road.

Isang Daan – one common goal.

Hopefully, the city will wake up one November morning to find this dream becoming a reality.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Excerpt from the KAFAGWAY: Sa Saliw Ng Mga Gangsa, a musical journey though Baguio's history. Music and lyrics by KM Altomonte. Arranged by Ethan Andrew Ventura. Performed by Lloyd Celzo with Emerlad Ventura.

Nung una kitang makilala, aking mahal
Ang puso ko'y nabihag ng 'yong kariktan
Magmula noon 'di ko na kayang mawalay sa'yo

Kafagway, sa yakap mo ako'y hihimlay...
Pinapawi mo'ng lumbay na aking taglay

Panalangin ko sa twina ang mabuti sa'yo
Nawa'y 'di ako nagkulang sa pag-aaruga sa'yo
Magmula ngayon'di na muli pang mawawalay sa'yo

Kasaysayan o titulo?

Excerpt from the KAFAGWAY: Sa Saliw Ng Mga Gangsa, a musical journey though Baguio's history. Music and lyrics by KM Altomonte. Arranged by Ethan Andrew Ventura. Performed by Robert Capuyan, Jr. with Ken Dingle and Lloyd Celzo.

Dantaon na ang lumipas
Mga Kastila ay lumikas
Tayo'y lumaya ng pansamantala
May bagong mga amo... mga Amerikano...

Pagamutan ba'ng itatayo niyo?
Bakasyunan ba'ng hinahanap niyo?
Magpasintabi sa mga anito
Sa mga katutubong naninirahan dito

Sino ba'ng nagmamayari ng lupang 'to?
Ano ba'ng tama kasaysayan o titulo?
Aming likas na yaman...
Ang mga kabundukan...
Ang hangin...
ang lupa...