Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Alat

Six weeks have come and gone and I have not produced anything. I wonder at my reticence. Did the initial push burn me out so quickly? Or maybe I have turned so cowardly? Must find fortitude. Be brave Sparky. Break new ground. Touch your fucking data. Do something with it for god's sake.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Flashes, Four

Text and bodies. For the past four weeks you and I were only ever text and bodies. In terms of hours we have been 'together' in spaces of text more than we have occupied real space. The times we saw each other we hardly ever spoke. Our bodies did more talking. What speech there was was ephemeral, fanciful, flirtatious, dreaming. We reserved the serious talk in text. Last night we broke this pattern. Last night I saw your face, heard your voice, felt your arms around me as you reassured and comforted, as I asked. You recounted looking at my Facebook profile, the public one, as I had unfriended you a second time. It tells me I wasn't the only one futilely searching for you when we, like scared children, imagined we still had a chance to run for the opposite direction. You told me you read a comment on one of my profile pictures, the one of me as a six year old with my little brother and mom. One of my girl friends said something like, even then you were pretty. I replied that no one had ever called me pretty. You said you felt bad for me, for the little girl in me and wanted to call me then. I seem to have given you the impression that I am this helpless, vulnerable woman child. You have never seen me otherwise and I tell you that with you I can let my guard down. I don't have to be the warrior that I usually am. At past midnight I clean up in the toilet as you prepare to leave. I didn't see the note you scribbled on one of my scratch papers on the desk. Like last time, when you wrote verses of poetry, you chose the purple pen. I would see the note after seeing you off. "No need to worry at all" and a goofy smiley face. My heart is full.

Flashes, Three

You were joking all night, being light and easy. Funny. I had never seen you like this. In text your frequent lols belie the sombreness of your mood. I tried tickling you, kissing your abdomen and sides, you had my arms in a lock. You wanna wrestle me? You laughingly said. I made pathetic attempts and secretly delighted in your strength. I climb on top of you and look at your face. Your eyes when they look into mine always make my head spin, my breath short, my stomach ache. Your face when I move against you. Your face when you smile, frown, contemplate. Your face. Your eyes, your lashes, your teeth. I feel stupid around you, my brain into mush. Kissing your jawline, you asked me if I ever did this to all the men I have slept with. I said no. Nobody has inspired this level of intense physicality in me. I had an apple for dinner but I never feel the need to eat around you. Our chemistry together is combustive, I never really get hungry or thirsty or tired. A flight of fancy - we generate so much energy we can light up the city.

Flashes, Two

Part man, part child. Part angel, part devil. Your contradictions have my head in a dizzying spin. After the third time you make a joke about sex being a substitute for gym. I asked if you were tired. Little boy bragging, you said no and volunteered fifteen push-ups. Game, I said go ahead. You clear the floor and gave me fifteen as I counted. You were ready for more but I laughed and said enough. A primitive thrill at the masculinity of this display sent shockwaves down my spine and from there spread all over. You stand there and proudly show off your body. It is the hardest I have ever known.

Flashes, One

He asked me to wear a dress for him, to put make-up on, a spray of perfume. He said he wanted me to look like a proper lady, not a PhD student. Emboldened by the bliss of submission, I do as he says. I wear the only passable strappy dress in my wardrobe and put on a cardigan. He said for me not to put any underwear on. I forgo the bra. At eight he comes to my building, I go downstairs to fetch him. I could see there were a few men about, I wasn't sure if they were students or maintenance, I dared not look. But I knew their heads turned as I walked out from the lobby. He wasn't where he said he was supposed to be, so I walk about looking. I was walking up to the ground floor landing when I hear his voice call my name. I turn back and walk back down. He is wearing the same blue t-shirt and jeans. Unshaven. Scruffy. I didn't think to hug him, as I usually do, I was too nervous. I lead him to the side elevator where there are less people, but there were two guys behind us. I face away from him, towards the lift, my back to the guys. He said, softly, you can cover up, gesturing to my chest. I felt an illicit thrill at the thought of him being proprietary. I whisper back that it wasn't necessary, I was facing away from them anyway. The lift comes and we get in. I press the floor. He is standing behind me, I hear him breathing. Four and a half hours later, he said the same about covering up. On the short elevator ride down I look at his soiled t-shirt and jeans. He compliments me on my dress, my nail polish, my just-made-love-to hair. The tone at our parting is relaxed, indulgent. I give him a hug as we waited for the cab ride. I kiss his neck, inhale his skin. The cab comes and he gets in. We forget to kiss good bye. I didn't care, I was already dreaming. Ten minutes later I get back to my room, an sms. You looked so good standing out there, he said.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

To make government transparent

Interesting set of events today, which got me to think about 'transparency.' If the problem is that there are thieves operating in shadows who betray the core tenets of our social contract, then the solution is to remove objects which cast said shadows. To make transparent means to see everything, to the extent that this is possible. To make transparent means to install mechanisms of surveillance with which to see. To render something completely visible means to install said mechanisms at all angles, from all vantage points. This means a continuous and sustained act of looking. Are we ready for that which we wish to usher?

The palace mouthpieces keep urging us to 'be vigilant', to be on constant look-out. They urge us to do our duty and work to keep them in check. Now that everyone is angry enough that they are raring to plunge into the public sphere, that space of appearances to see and be seen, the palace is pulling the reins. Is this too much vigilance?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Friendly Reminder

The longer we hold on to the ring, the more difficult it is to let it go.

Political Obstacles to Decentralization: Evidence from Argentina and the Philippines by Kent Eaton:

Because of weak parties and individualistic behaviour by legislators, presidents of the Philippines have had a very difficult time getting their policy agendas through the legislature. Traditionally, presidents have depended on their formal authority over the release of pork barrel funds as a power resource that allows them to purchase the support of legislators for substantive policy change. As a governing tool, the effectiveness of the president's control over the release of these funds would be seriously undercut by the broad devolution of revenues and expenditures. Local governments would become much less dependent on pork barrel funds, decreasing their political leverage and utility to the president.

Given this political reality, support by President Aquino for decentralization and its passage by Congress in 1991 is politically intriguing. The key to explaining the political logic of the 1991 decentralization is the role played by different electoral incentives, beginning with the lack of electoral incentives facing President Aquino.

A non-traditional politician and political widow who was uninterested in remaining in power beyond her six-year term, Aquino was committed to the `no re-election' clause of the 1986 constitution, which was written by individuals she appointed and which included several measures that were designed to avoid repetitions of Marcos' successful attempts to perpetuate himself in power. Aquino was therefore unlike most presidents in that she was not personally threatened by the loss of power to the national government that the Code would effect. Furthermore, she considered decentralization to be the linchpin of her administration and a reform that would facilitate the transition to democracy, the main legacy of her government.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Civility

A man gave up his seat for me in the sardine-packed MRT today. By the looks of his scuffed shoes and badly patched-up trousers, a day worker. Bodies were jostling to and fro as the train went from station to station. On the third stop from the one where I boarded, the day worker stood up and said 'ma'am.' He looked at the man seated next to him and whispered 'nakakahiya.' The other man also stood up and gave up his seat to the nearest woman. I wonder what prompted the act of seat-giving. was I looking schoolmarm-ey today with my hair in a bun? Did my look evoke childhood memories of his teacher from the barrio - good, warm memories which prompted a show of generosity/gallantry? If so why did he say 'nakakahiya?' Was he ashamed of the fact that a woman stands while he - an able-bodied man is seated? If not gendered sensibilities, was it a matter of class? My schoolmarm bun to his blue collar?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Caffeine

There is the heavy drone of the AC labouring to keep the heat out. The sounds bounce off of the cement walls and glass windows in a way that oddly enough complements the humming bass of the AC. To me it is more than ambient noise that must be tolerated when one pays homage to our churches of consumption. I wonder what these sounds mean to others? What is it about noise that we value so much? My mom belongs to that generation (and class?) of Filipinos who seem to associate noise with gaiety, and with gaiety - well-being. Silence or lack of noise makes my mom uncomfortable. Noise means happiness.

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We take for granted the structures which hold the shell of our bodies, and within them our diwa, our malay. Being away from home allows me to see anew these same everyday structures/strictures.I see class everywhere. Even more so in these conspicuous spaces of consumption. It is most apparent in the manner of speech. Today I went into two coffee shops. This morning it was Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. This afternoon it is Caffe Bene. Both times the ladies behind the counter who took my order addressed me in English even when I spoke to them in Filipino. Now I wonder if this is standard policy. Will the speaking of Filipino somehow break the fantasy of luxe which they carefully conjure the moment I step through their doors? Will it somehow remind me that the space out there - public space - is not like the privileged private space in here, the price of which is probably included in my
coffee cup? Class. I see it in Singapore of course. But right here, right now in Manila I am reminded that we need not be of different skin colour or nationality for there to be deep inequality.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pledge

I am going to stop procrastinating about not writing and just write. Whatever drivel comes will come. At least there is something to work on, something to cultivate, something to shape and mould into a semblance of something. I pledge to become a diarist once more. To write and chronicle, to put ideas to paper. So I start tonight.

I wonder if there is something about getting older that tempers the urge to purge on paper? Is it because life has become less urgent? Life is no longer a series of novelties and excitement? Is it because body and soul have learned not to keep looking forward to what lies beyond the curvature of time, and to savour the present, to count the precious seconds of now? I don't know. Perhaps it is that. It could have also been a mini burn-out. This past year was tough on my brain. If it were a muscle mine would have been fit enough to join a decathlon. I felt no urge to write the mundane. And no urge to write the not-academic substantial. So there was no middle ground. Perhaps I had learned to associate putting fingers to keyboard with hardship and chore. Writing was no longer a refuge, a pleasure, an unburdening. Writing was work. Thinking was work. Well, I have some precious weeks to not write/think as work. I am taking back this practice from the deep, dark corner of dissertating and bringing it out to the love and light of keyboard licks and clicks, of putting words to the voice in my head.

Displaced

These always looked better on you. A moment of quiet since I got back in Manila. A moment to miss you. The city is never asleep. It is loud, kinetic, frenzied. Christmas season it is. I wish you were here.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Ideology

Belief is a powerful thing. It bids us cross unknown oceans, leap off buildings and commit acts of bravery. Belief is the anticipation of something else beyond the line where the sky swallows the limit of vision. We commit to such belief. And as we put one foot in front of the other, the horizon reveals, bit by bit, that which the earth’s curvature has so far concealed. And what do we see? The dreamer would have pictured an ocean of flowers, the pessimist - sure disaster, the realist - more of the same. Those of you who cast your votes in 2010, what see you now?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Little Red Dot

Two years have come and gone. There were so many things to write about this country, and yet a pathetic showing of 5 entries according to my 'labels.' I was otherwise consumed. Singapore can suck the soul out of you. I certainly felt so when I first landed here. I thought its spirit was as arid as the sea air was humid. I thought its denizens were hollowed-out automatons masquerading as humans. And even though now I do think somewhat differently, I still feel they are not as human as the creatures of Manila. Life here is centred around accumulation and its twin - spectacular consumption. The whole country is soaked in capital and calculation, from the kid taking tutorials and attending two kindergartens to the Ferraris zipping by in Orchard. It is what Manila aspires to be. Predictable, orderly, clean.

Don't get me wrong. I like it here, if only because its easier on my aging bones to travel, to launch myself from spot to spot. I am not held hostage my flooded streets, raging typhoons and horrendous traffic congestion. But for all the ease of transportation, I find my mind is not as mobile as when I am in Manila. The flatness of order does little to stimulate the senses, to tickle the imagination. The people here have been blunted and tamed. It is any wonder then that for all the millions they throw on the arts, they have not yet produced any artists? And for all the resources they have thrown on start-up ventures, they have yet to produce entrepreneurs?

This country produces nothing. But it is the richest nation on earth, with the most number of millionaires per capita. It has been engineered to service capital flows and has positioned itself strategically to skim off manna from mobile money. The price it has had to pay is the soul of its own people. Some will say, it is a good enough bargain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Scars

I haven't done any significant amount of work on my dissertation since I went home for a brief respite last month. Eight weeks have come and gone and my prospectus is where it was after my pathetic attempt at a defence. I look at it now and the reason why I have not touched it again is fear. I asked my supervisor, last I saw her, if I needed to read some other things to try and solve some problems. She said I should stop reading. I will not find the answer elsewhere. I will have to produce the answer myself.

It is so much easier being a natural scientist. You can easily confirm any claims of knowledge you make. If the formula works - then you know you're right. But as a social scientist? Your claim is only 'right' for as long as it is defensible. You are indoctrinated to believe that critique is part of your job. I suspect this plays a part in the deep insecurity of so many of these academics I have met. Its the realisation that really - what do I know?