Sili Games

So I’ve been away from the literary loop lately. I got bummed, burned out, bored. Maybe I just wanted to be away from the madness and politics and the entire fucking system for a while and find time to just be “myself” again — whatever that means. I shared my situation with people close to me recently, told them I hit another wall. I’ve been thinking about just closing things which don’t work anymore. The organization’s end is nigh, as the the age of democratized literature just made the group irrelevant (it’s the zeitgeist which I have to respect; ALA is no longer needed). Even our group outside campus has somehow slowly dissipated, everyone went to their separate ways. Sad but true, but listen: I’m not angry. Not angry at all.


 

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But hey, I’m still here, looking for ways to get myself busy. Just last year I started playing Magic: the Gathering again. I also taught my wife how to play and now she’s an active deck brewer. We’ve already participated in local tournaments, and even organized just a handful since last year.

I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I love it as much as I hate some parts of it (most of which are related to finance and other uncontrollable factors). But I gotta admit the game had a big impact on me as I was growing up.

I remember the time, back when I visited my sister in Manila, when she showed me this handout featuring photocopied pictures of cards (it was in the late 90s) from her class in which some of her classmates had a “show-and-tell,” picking MtG as the subject. Despite the low quality, the pictures got me intrigued. Instead of getting intimidated by the jargons and numbers, I got pulled in. Maybe it was the campy feel, maybe it was the cheese, maybe it was so one-of-a-kind feel that got me saying I wanted it. I wanted it so, so bad.

In December of that same year my sister got me my first started deck (it was Ice Age). Holy shit.


I saw the game “grow up.” I saw communities grow and die and grow again around the game. The card rules have been simplified and streamlined, and its mythology/lore-design have become more complex and welcoming. The art direction is now sensitive to cultures and groups, getting more fans coming from smaller, specific subcultures. Perhaps I can write about it later.


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Aside from MtG I’m also into other tabletop gaming these days. I love low-tech gaming. I love exercising personal imaginations. I like messing with constraints. Though I may be in some weird hiatus from writing, I have actually been active in crafting lore via Dungeons and Dragons. I’m the group’s Dungeon Master, and we’re currently eight episodes deep into our campaign. So far the player turnout has been great, and the players have been very committed with the characters they’ve created.


Most of the time you can spot me at Dice Boardgame Cafe during weekends, playing MtG, rolling a D20, or trying out a new boardgame (I love Pandemic, Tokaido, and Splendor).

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Room;Loss

ALA lost its office.

I know it’s supposed to be a bummer, but a part of me sighed with deep relief upon reading the news. I don’t know — maybe because the room itself has become more of a crutch, or worse: a disabler.

When we were awarded an office back in 2012, we were happy over the fact that somehow we achieved to become legit. It was an accomplishment not only for the organization, but also for each member — what we all did have meaning; what we worked hard for provided a just reward. It was one of the high points of the organization, and I will always remember the day when the Office of Student Affairs released the announcement of assigning organizational rooms at Xavier Hall to deserving student groups.

But things changed. Sure, the office served its basic functions: as a meeting place for officers, as a venue for literary discussions, and as a library which holds a number of random books. However, it also had its fair share of misuse and awkward (to weird) moments. During the early days after acquiring the office, when no one was around, couples would use it as a place to show their physical intimacies. It became a sleeping venue for a lot of members, displacing those who would like to just go there to read books or write stuff. Sometimes the room got a little too noisy because the members were either watching a movie or listening to music. Stuff disappear (A LOT) or forgotten (most of the time). Some members felt more alienated whenever they were there. There was this one instance when a student failed a subject due to overcutting. The reason: the student opted to hang out in the office instead of attending class.

There were a lot of  instances when the ALA office had lost its meaning. And even though the room was given a lot of clean-up and repainting, it still felt old & faceless. Sometimes I would go there to speak with members, only to feel drained after stepping out of the door. And despite such cases, people were still protective over it. When another organization was assigned to share the room with ALA, some of the members took a passive-aggressive move to post reminders displaying dominance, and I thought to myself, “for what?”

The room was becoming a rotten womb. It became too much of a comfort zone and the kids inside found it difficult to get out. When there was an event (fund raising, papercup session, etc…), instead of choosing a different venue, officers would opt to use the room instead. I saw this as a sign of complacency, and deep inside I felt disappointed.


Yesterday, while I was mulling over our loss I asked myself if we really deserve it. When I visited the room I saw a member sleeping on the couch. I saw the dusty corners. I saw a lot of non-literary materials randomly placed on the shelf and tables. I saw sadness. I saw the could’ve beens and should’ve beens. I saw what I needed to see.

Yes. We deserve to lose the office.


I miss the days when ALA was still young, when the members had no place to stay. They were all hungry, and they worked hard to get the goal.

With the room gone, I saw it as a sign to reboot the organization,  to take away the useless burden placed on the back of each new batch.

Time to start things over.


The ALA office is no more. Long live the ALA office. 

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2017

I guess I just need to write something before the end of the month. 2017 is here, and a lotta stuff happened last year. I’m sure you’re all sick to hear one more sad sack of shit story from 2016, and to help you out I’ll avoid such topic. January’s almost over; it’s time to look forward.


Resolutions

They’re always hit-or-miss, but at least they give some semblance of order on how to traverse towards unknown spaces. The future is scary. There’s no need to explain further, but I wish to defy any form of possible negativity by changing my internal perspective.

This year — as a brand new start for me and my wife — I wish to try harder. Raise the stakes. Just roll the dice and see the numbers. 12 fucking months of taking chances. Now that I’m out of my comfort zone, I wish to be more aware and vigilant. At the beginning of the year I ranted about the past, and then realized that I need to stop it. Just stop being a whiny little man and just fuck it. Let’s do it.

I’ll try to write more and read more — and perhaps lead more. Though the direction I wish to take in terms of leading is focused more on empowering. I’ve been reading some good stuff about Punk and Indie culture, and I’m more appreciative of people who just defied the norms of validation (cultural or academic) and just did what they needed to do. I still believe that there’s a lot of good art going on, and we need to do something about it.

I also wish to take control this year. I had bouts with ulcer last year (and I took some meds to heal myself), and this year I’m still feeling some pins and pangs in my gut. I wish to be well. It’s a whole lotta work, but I need think well. I had some consultation with my doc last week (he gave some medical suggestions), but I also wish to explore some alternative healing. I just hope that I’m right about this one. I just gotta follow my gut feel. No pun intended.

BLTX Naga: DIYos Mabalos!

It all started when our little group, Meet-Every-Other-Weekend (MEOW) Club, decided to participate in BLTX IX in Cubao last December. There we were able to meet and chat with Adam & Chingbee (members of the Youth and Beauty Brigade and founders of the event), and get to know what a small press/DIY expo feels like.

From what I can recall Adam opened the possibility of holding the next BLTX here in Naga City (previous ones — the regional visits — were held in Davao and Baguio). Of course, there was much hesitation since 1]  we really don’t a zine scene in Bikol (though there were groups who were into self-publication & komix), and 2] organizing stuff like this one is tricky, especially when the region’s climate is set to ‘rain [a lot]’ most of the time. But Adam recommended that the initial event doesn’t have to be something big. A small number of participants will do just fine. And so a few weeks later, after some careful consideration and  discernment, we decided to take up the challenge of organizing Better Living Through Xeroxography here in the city.

Initially we were thinking of holding it in December, but some time in April (or May) the YBB asked if holding it in June or July was possible. We then had a discussion in our group. After the meeting, well, sure… let’s do this.

Little by little we started inviting people/groups and most of them were up to it too. Some of the MEOW members tried to find the best possible place (in the end it was Anthosia), while some invited more participants. In June, all interested groups met at a restaurant to finalize the venue, agree on how much to contribute for the reservation, and prep for the event. After a week, an official teaser ad was released.

——

30 July 2016, Saturday, BLTX Naga happened.

And it was a blast! 

The venue was packed despite the presence of a tropical storm (signal no. 1 was declared that day and it was rainy as hell in the early afternoon). Those who visited BLTX Naga soaked themselves in this fun, creative, and sometimes crazy ambiance. The crowd flow was thick & slow as they took time browsing the items and chatting with the creators. Ahj and I were just too busy coordinating with our participants, from getting food to uploading the pics to get more people to come.

What I love about the event was that I witnessed the Bikol youth meeting/interacting with our writers & artists. Some considered it as a baptism of fire (for first time publishers); some considered it as a reunion. The participating groups were satisfied to have solid sales, while a number of zines/books/stuff were sold out. Most importantly, the audience — from friends to walk-ins — were exposed to local art and literature outside mainstream channels. I’m sure that some of the kids have slowly acquired this creative itch, and I hope that they’ll be able to scratch it by producing literature/art themselves.

People were already asking when the next zine expo will be. There’s a probability that it’ll happen this December. We’ll most probably join the simultaneous BLTX celebration with Cubao, Baguio, and Davao.

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Other thoughts/tips on the event:

  • We had an amusing online (and personal) discussion on the pricing of the zines. There’s no standard pricing actually, but you have to make an imaginary agreement with the potential buyer. Not too high, not too low — just enough to enable you produce another batch of materials (new and/or old).
  • Bringing personal table[s] is highly recommended.
  • Bring more change: a lotta coins and smaller bills if possible.
  • People usually cram, but we highly recommend that they upload excerpts of their works as soon as possible. Get the hype early.
  • Bring personal ventilation devices & refreshments (e.g. fans, water, etc…).
  • Order food and drinks earlier to avoid hunger and dehydration. A list would be great.
  • Prepare a preview/browsing copy. Know how to pitch your stuff.
  • Just an observation, but I think there’s a need to invite more schools as participants. We had a lot of Ateneans and CBSUAns in the venue, but we hope that we’ll be able to get people from USI, UNC, NCF, and other schools in Bikol next time. Establishing solid communication channels is the key.
  • Works may hit or miss depending on personal tastes, and the audience vary. Keep your cool when they put back the stuff instead of purchasing them (it happens a lot, and it’s totally normal).
  • If you’re curious about the works, feel free to ask the authors present.

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Anyhoo, we wish to thank Adam David and Chingbee Cruz of the Youth & Beauty Brigade for starting all of this (may you have more BLTXs around the country), the High Chair peeps (for giving us a fresher perspective in crafting & “workshopping” poetry & production), Team Paypay (comprised of Ada, Kim, Jaypee, Eeya, and a whola lotta DACA students), the arts & crafts duo of Bem & Veeyah, Jerome & the CBSUA kids, Maki & her husband of Kataga, Joana Verdeflor & her partner who fused together fashion and poetry,  Parasurat Bikolnon/Wiki Philippines & Team Kabulig coordinated by Irvin, Dennis Gonzaga (your tarot cards rock), MEOW peeps (you know who you are!), Ateneo Literary Association, Progressive Organization of English Majors, Monique & Tina & Van & the rest of DARS, the peeps of Anthosia who took the risk of holding our event & for understanding & managing the chaos, to Lain Hilario for helping us bring some extra tables to the venue (and for the pictures shown here [extra cred goes to Mai who also took some pics using Lain’s cam]), Ma’am Doods for all the amazing support to young writers, ADNU-Center for Culture & the Arts for the financial assistance, the ADNU Supreme Student Government for the signal boost, and all you lovely, beautiful people — may you be personal friends or friends in art & literature — who took the time & effort to visit us despite the rain. DIYOS MABALOS SAINDO GABOS!

I also wish to personally thank this lovely lady who, despite being sick, gave her best to assist everyone in the venue. I love you, Ahj!

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Move

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We’ve just finished our retreat on Inner Healing. I was quite surprised with the guided insights provided by our facilitator.

Just realized that there are certain childhood wounds which have yet to heal, and I don’t think I could do the patching up all by myself.

But knowing these wounds is, in fact, a consolation. Some of them may be difficult to cure, but it’s great that I’m more aware of them, and I know where to begin (and I’ll do my best to not let them fester).

 

On Education

To my fellow teachers:

There’s nothing wrong when a student gives you some counter-arguments in your discussion. There’s nothing wrong when a student corrects your statement/presentation/grammar (I thank him/her for that, too).

It means that they are engaged in class. It means that they’ve seen another angle in the material. It’s actually a sign that there’s going to be a healthy discussion, and it’s one of the things that we, as educators, should always look for in class.

When a student disagrees, listen carefully to his or her statement[s]. Look at the bigger picture. If you can’t give a reply at that particular moment, let the question or argument linger for a bit. Think about it.  Write about it. Dream about it. Ask people about it. Discuss it with friends over dinner. Don’t just dismiss the student’s perspective (or their character) and accuse them of being know-it-alls. Don’t you dare smart-shame them in front of everyone.

Remember: students are human beings, not programmable mindless automatons.

Urban

Last Monday I was given orders to personally deliver a package to an office located somewhere in Ermita. It was just a one-day thing: I leave for Manila on Tuesday night, only to return to Naga City the following night.

It’s been a while since I last had a “solo-mission,” and though I had difficulties in my trip to the designated location I was able to once again take in all the chaos that is the Metro.

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I arrived in Manila via bus at 5 in the morning. I then immediately checked-in in a traveler’s hotel along EDSA. After a short nap, a breakfast of Tapsilog, and freshening up, I started my trip to Ermita at around 7:30AM.

Despite the allowance provided by the office I resisted all the urge to hail a cab. Morning wasn’t rainy, and I wanted to feel the flow of the city again. Back in college I was all into public transportation as it was cheaper and easier.

I took the LRT2 train to Recto (which wasn’t a problem). I just realized that the crowd inside had thickened. Back in college not much people were still using (or even aware of) the LRT2. I still love this train line. It runs smooth, it’s wide, and the people inside are orderly.

The other lines — MRT & LRT1 — suck.

——

When I got out of the train my real ‘adventure’ started. I thought I was all ready because before I took the Metro trip I had consulted with Google Map to check which jeepneys to ride. I had even consulted with a correspondent from Ermita to ask for some advice on which route to take. I thought it was gonna be easy. I was fucking wrong.

Holy shit there were a lot of possible jeepney routes. And the small, confusing markers in front of the vehicles didn’t actually help. I got confused and so I started asking around — from security guards, to traffic enforcers, to street barkers. They all gave me confusing directions.

I took Plan B: I walked along Recto. I looked at my watch. 8:15AM. Not bad. Perhaps I still had time.

While walking I took in all the details: people waiting for their ride, dogs chained in the street corners, people sleeping on cardboards, shops selling similar wares [DVDs, clothes, cigarettes, electronics, gadgets, etc…], sidewalk stalls selling watches and jewelries, cheap cinemas featuring X-Rated movies, people smoking everywhere, the symphony of engine sounds — everything.

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Upon reaching Escolta I saw a bridge. Should I cross it and continue walking?

I stopped. A lot of jeepneys converged in the area and I felt that it the right place to look for the right ride. For the last time I asked help from someone. This time from a random guy who was also waiting for his ride.

“Just get the one with Mabini and Baclaran,” he said. “Ask the driver if he’ll pass Sta Monica. If he says yes — that’s your ride.”

“Will one pass by here?”

“Of course,” he answered. He got on a jeepney a few seconds later. Lucky bastard.

I waited for more minutes. The morning heat was getting heavier. My shirt was all damp with sweat and dirt. I looked at the passing jeepneys. The one with the “Mabini-Baclaran” route was nowhere to be seen. I looked at the bridge, I remembered the printed map. Was I still that far? Should I just continue walking?

An empty cab was right in front of me. Should I get it. Fuck no. Not yet.

I waited a little longer. I thought I spotted a slow-moving jeepney with a “Mabini-Baclaran” route but I wasn’t really sure, and it wasn’t stopping. I ran after it.

I asked the driver if he was passing Sta Monica. He nodded. Yes. I got in.

——

Aaaand Ermita was still far. Good thing I decided to get a ride. We passed by Intramuros, then Luneta, then United Nations Avenue. When we got to MH DelPilar the view became familiar. I finally spotted the right landmarks: Andok’s Chicken, 7-Eleven, Amazonia Bar, and a small red plaza. Thank god for Google Street View.

When I saw my target (Ermita Center) I asked the driver to stop. I thanked him. I went inside the building and successfully delivered the package. It was 9:30AM.

Going back was easier.

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trip

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Achievement Unlocked: No Taxi.

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After my business trip I went to Katipunan to check some art supplies at the Common Room, to check for new titles at Fully Booked, and to grab some lunch. I thought about visiting my alma mater across the street but I decided not to. My feet, still encased in battered Chuck Taylors, were getting sore. After eating lunch I looked at the sky: the clouds were getting heavier. I decided to go back to the hotel.

It was a good choice. As soon as I arrived in my hotel, the rain started to fall.

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In the evening I passed the time in Cubao X. I was tired. I bought two bottles of beer. I looked above and noticed the mix of old and new structures. The place continues to evolve into a complete stranger. I have lost my ties with this city years ago.

The music was just fine, the people weren’t rowdy (it was still early), the sky looked lovely. How I wished for Ahj to be there with me.

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I used to go to the Metro every year to remember my old self. These days it just sucks to be in the urban chaos alone.

Missed Observations

Last year I was able to accomplish my 365 Days of Observation project over at Facebook. I kinda miss it actually, and there’s this invisible itch. Just to get it off my body I compiled seven random observations from the past few days. They’re not listed in chronological order.

I
An ice scramble seller was loudly playing his radio. The DJ was blathering some recipe for a top grade, high-class pasta.

II
A young couple was in a cafe. The girlfriend seemed tired and vexed. She put her head on the armrest, trying her best to sleep but the music was just too loud. Meanwhile, the boyfriend — with his douchebag bro pout — kept on taking selfies.

III
Cats are listening to class lectures. They’re getting smarter every semester.

IV
An old, quiet lady was selling fresh pansit in a dimly lit sari-sari store. Behind her, a bossy cat was mewling. “Human, where’s my food?”

V
After my morning run I bought some hot malunggay pandesal. I cradled the hot paper bag on my way home, not knowing that my chest sweat was slowly being absorbed by the bread inside.

VI
Just this morning the DJ said that the if a guy has a higher IQ, he has a lower chance of cheating on his partner. I thought of all the politicians and their mistresses. Gah, Philippines.

VII
I bought the last stick of fried isaw. It tasted like raw gasoline.

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Sunday Jazz

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I dive into letters this morning. My fingers need to re-familiarize themselves with both pen and keyboard. A little bit of jazz at the back helps chill the murky waters of my writing. The music is smooth, like fine wine sliding down your throat.

I time my tapping with the beat of jazz. The words whistle along the tune. The trumpet puts in a declarative statement — Sunday is smothered in drizzle, the music makes its way around the maze of water.

——

I’ve realized that I’ve been making some weird hand gestures when I write, like I’m trying to grab a number of words flying around my head. I take hold of a verb, only to find it unfit. I open my hand and let it fly, once again, from my palm. My fingers are the net, a capturing device, a poor filter. Words continue to flap. I get dizzy.

——

Yesterday, Ahj and I were slowly sealing the deal regarding the possible venue for this event in July. We’re gonna confirm our plans this afternoon.

It’s always scary taking the leap, but without risk life is but a repetitive playlist. Sometimes you have to hijack the airwaves to see if the tension can hold everything together. Tension is always necessary. It keeps everyone awake, aware.

 

Missing Memories

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This morning I wasn’t really feeling well in the office. There’s this internal, physical pain in my upper abdomen (I’m taking some meds by the way), and whenever I would feel it throbbing I would become anxious, further complicating my condition. Stress is hell.

And so to calm myself I tried writing something. Since my birthday is near (I’m turning 31 this year), I couldn’t help but be sentimental again. I’m over my days in the Metro, but I have yet to write a story based on my life there (if you would notice: some of my poems depict a nameless persona walking in an urban landscape — for me: there’s something about walking and getting lost in the chaos of the city).

Anyways, to pass the time and to ease the pain, I wrote some short entries on my Twitter account with the tag #missingmemories (they’re compiled below).

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  • When you’re stuck along the urban highway. Evening. The rain pounds the pavements, and water from a clogged canal overflows.
  • When you wake up at 4AM due to insomnia. You look at the window and see the buildings at Ayala, full of life and stories.
  • When the dorm is empty. You get some gin & sprite to make you sleep. Robbery reports have risen up. Is the door locked?
  • When you search for good apartments or rooms and get frustrated because they all eat up your wage.
  • When you run out of money, getting sustenance by consuming only crackers and softdrinks. Cigarettes help you forget hunger.
  • When you drink alone at SaGuijo, only to get lost in the noise and crowd and chaos and nobody really cares.
  • When you watch the premiere of Transformers at 12:01AM at Greenbelt and you’re not afraid walking alone towards home.
  • When you try to belong in the office but you always quit every six months.
  • When you attend mass at Greenbelt chapel, after that you drink your coffee & write on your journal on why you hate your job.
  • When you celebrate your 21st birthday alone in some cold coffee shop. Because no one remembers and it’s totally just fine.
  • When you wish to have a drink with your fellow new-grad friends but they’re also busy trying to survive the first phase of adulting.
  • When you wish to cross but traffic light says no. The street is empty but you still follow. The closest thing to interaction.
  • When you’re silent the entire weekend because there’s no one to talk to.
  • When you think that everything is just an endless cycle of punch cards and hunger and walking and movies and comics.
  • When you think you had enough. You go home, to Bikol.