I Hate Basketball

I hate Basketball

It is the sport the Americans taught us Filipinos, displacing our traditional sports. It is a legacy of American Colonialism. Filipinos still obsess over it today like the little brown Americans that we are, keeping our worldview still strongly American-shaped. It is the sport that makes Filipinos think the Celtic people are from Boston.

It is the sport major Filipino TV stations in the country choose to cover on prime time news, some game between one American basketball team against another American basketball team in far away America. It is the sport they choose to cover instead of business and economy, instead of arts and culture, instead of goings on in Mindanao. As they tell you that local news is not really that relevant, it is the sport they choose to dedicate an entire channel to.

It is the sport they make you play in school because it builds character, because a competitive sport that involves stealing some ball from one another and slamming it into a ring is a great way of developing good behaviour. Because Music, Arts, and Physical Education are all taught in basic education as one subject, and because the vast majority of Filipino teachers are illiterate in music and the arts, sports – Basketball – gets a disproportionately higher amount of attention.

Besides it’s a sport, a tasked-based lesson, no need to make students memorize the names of instruments or hard-to-pronounce names of French artists.

It is the sport they encourage you to play in school because you can get University scholarships by being good at it. Forget writing or drawing or playing an instrument. Heck, research papers don’t even get you as much financial assistance in school as basketball does.

It is the sport they encourage you to play even if your chances of making a career out of it in the Philippines are as slim as modeling. And all the while they tell you off for being a writer or artist because ‘you can’t make money out of art-art.’

But because there are a few who do succeed in the slim chance, they encourage you to play it anyway even as they crush your hopes of being a successful musician or painter. Play it well enough and they’ll make you into a model. Play it well long enough and they’ll elect you as Senator. Who cares about historians and novelists, Filipinos know it is the basketball players, actors, and boxers who make great legislators.

It is the sport they encourage you to play so you don’t do drugs. As if drug dependency is really all just a matter of distracting our stupid young people.

It is the sport the government encourages you to play to promote good health, even as tobacco and alcohol remain ridiculously affordable, and the air pollution – about which nothing is being done – is so bad it is easy to get bronchitis.

It is the sport of the cool kids, of the real boys, from the astigs in the kanto to the heartrobs in Arneow. The girls won’t cheer for you in high school no matter how good you are in chess, but shoot a few hoops and they’ll gladly lose their virginity to you on JS prom. It is the sport men like to pretend they’re good at to make up for their short penises.

Only dorks and faggots choose to stay in libraries and, like, not play basketball.

And so it is the sport the macho father forces on his son to sweat away the bayot out of him, and the sport the pot-bellied father in-law expects his prospective son in-law to know.

So whenever you ask me if I follow basketball, and even if I politely say I don’t know it too much you still push the topic, this is what I think about it.

I fucking hate basketball.


Laksa!

Laksa is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, the Malay world’s great contribution to world cuisine. Whether Lemak (with coconut gravy) or Assam (with sour soup), Laksa demonstrates the intensity that so pleases the Malay palate.

I’ve been to Singapore three times and to Malaysia four, and on each occasion I made it a point to try as many kinds of laksa as I can. Here are some of them.

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Geylang Laksa, the most typical form of the curry-style Lemak laksa, is touted as the best laksa in Singapore. It has an interesting history, dating back eighty years from an old man who sold laksa on the go along Geylang road.

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Penang Laksa is the most typical form of Assam laksa. This one is from a stall near Singapore’s Aljuneid station, and is the best Assam laksa I’ve had. The sour soup is rich and glorious with mackerel pulp

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The best curry laksa I’ve ever had is the Mee Kari from Nura Kasih, a stall in the food centre on the corner of Jalans Rajah Muda Abdul Aziz and Jalan Abdul Manan Nordin in Kuala Lumpur’s Kampung Bahru. What is known in Singapore as ‘laksa’ (curry laksa) is called ‘mee kari’ – curry noodles – in Malaysia, with the term ‘laksa’ being applied by default to some form of Assam laksa. In Malaysia too curry laksa is served with chicken, in contrast to Singapore’s seafood. The Mee Kari in Nurah Kasih is flavoured with star anise and cinnamon, with the whole spices served with the soup.

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Not all Lemak laksa has curry. Laksam, a kind of laksa distinct for its thick chunks of dough as noodles, does not have curry. Like most Malaysian laksa it’s served with slices of raw stringed beans, which can be unpleasant to the uninitiated.

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Johor laksa is a very particular kind of laksa. It is the most popular hybrid laksa, being both Lemak and Assam (with a sour coconut curry broth). But what makes it distinct is it uses spaghetti noodles.

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There’s a quirky stall along Singapore’s Balestier Road that sells Mee Hon Laksa, or laksa with rice vermicelli. It makes the rich coconut curry broth much more enjoyable because the thickness of the noodles is no obstruction. It’s almost like the broth was solidified.

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Katong Laksa is another uniquely Singaporean laksa. The chopsticks in this picture were never used, Katong laksa is distinct for having the noodles scissored into smaller pieces so the laksa can be eaten with only a spoon.

I hope to try all the kinds of Laksa out there, and as I try new ones this post will be updated!


The tastes of my nostalgia are disappearing

2014-05-27 00.41.16Clockwise from the left: Star Bakehouse Ticoy from Davao, Espasol from Kidapawan, and Rose-flavoured Turkish delight from Singapore.

These three soft, powdery sweets each represent poignant periods in my life.

I grew up eating the espasol in Kidapawan. It seems the matriarch of the Burgos family, our neighbors in Rizal street (my childhood neighborhood and where my father’s family has lived for generations) is the only one who makes espasol in Kidapawan. Lightly sweet and really not that memorable, the stuff nevertheless grows on you, and like Kidapawan you miss it when you haven’t had it for a long time.

I also grew up eating Star Bakehouse Ticoy, which I would get to taste whenever someone in the family goes to Davao and brings some back. Among all the tikoy brands available in Davao this is the only one without any filling, just the way I like it. it has a faint vanilla-banana flavour, mellowed by the powder.

My current box of Turkish delight I bought from Singapore in 2013. The strong rose-flavour faintly reminds me of Bandung, which I loved drinking when I was there. Intensely sweet, Turkish delight is definitely one of the tastes of my Singapore summer.

I eat these three sweets together on special occasions with tea, often Earl Grey. Eat them together in one mouthful and you get a taste of my life.

But increasingly that has become more and more difficult to do. Burgos, I hear, rarely makes espasol these days because it is such a labour-intensive product. Whenever I go home to Kidapawan it’s never available in Mega Market, the only place where one can buy it. Similarly Star Bakehouse Ticoy is getting ridiculously difficult to find in Davao. It’s usually displayed on the hopia section of most convenience stores and groceries, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer. And my box of Turkish delight is down to just three slices, with no prospect of buying a new box. This photo was taken in 2014, the last time I had this combination.

Why are memories so difficult to keep?


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The peculiarity of Filipino Honorifics

One of the first things one notices about the Filipino languages is the proliferation of honorifics used to address family members.As a sign of respect to these relatives one cannot call them by their names, and instead use these terms of address.

In Tagalog, for instance, one has the following common honorifics:

Mama/Inay/Nanay – mother
Papa/Itay/Tatay –  father
Lolo – grandfather
Lola – grandmother
Tito – uncle
Tita – aunt
Kuya – older brother
Ate – older sister
Ninong – godfather
Ninang – godmother

In some families with Chinese roots a more nuanced set of honorifics are also used for first, second, or third sons or daughters. In some families with Spanish roots too, ‘abuelita’ and ‘abuelito’ may still be used to refer to the grandparents. These cases are now rare outside of such families.

It must be noted that ‘tito’ and ‘tita,’ as well as ‘ate’ and ‘kuya’ for younger elders, may also be used for any other person older than one, particularly for family friends or parents or siblings of friends.

These honorifics have generally encroached into the other Filipino languages (a quiet sign of Tagalog imperialism), but distinct honorifics still continue. In Cebuano for instance, ‘kuya’ and ‘ate’ may be used, but the original terms of address may still sometimes be heard:

Mamang – mother
Papang – father
Manong – older brother
Manang – older sister
Dodong – son/any boy
Inday – daughter/any girl
‘Gaw (shortened form of ‘ig-agaw’) – cousin

In Cebuano it is also common to refer to other people who are older with ‘angkol’ or ‘anti,’ corruptions of ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie.’ I speculate this has Chinese roots.

My family is part Ilocano, so I grew up with the word ‘ading’ (younger sibling). In our Kidapawan Tagalog-Cebuano-Ilocano hybrid mother tongue, this is more a referential term than an honorific, although I remember my father sometimes using it for my brother in a cute, patronizing tone (‘ading, saan ka na naman galing ha?’).

Which may lead one to wonder why a father would be calling his son ‘younger sibling.’ But this is not uncommon in Filipino languages – or indeed not surprising in any language, as parents often use the appropriate honorifics their children should be using to give their children examples. Hence a husband may call his wife ‘mama,’ and the wife call him ‘papa’ so the children will learn. In my family too, my mother calls me ‘kuya.’

But this ends up being carried over even to the succeeding generations, and it can be confusing to the unfamiliar. My family demonstrates that best:

(lolo) Papa/ Tatay – my maternal great-grandfathers
(lola) mama/ Nanay – my maternal great-grandmothers
Ninang Ludy – my grandfather’s older sister (my mother’s godmother, other relatives call her ate)
Kuya Chito – my maternal grandfather’s younger brother
Uncle Andres – my paternal grandfather’s younger brother
Mommy Vinia – my maternal grandmother
Mama Mila – my paternal grandfather
Kuya Eric – my uncle
Tita Yayang – his wife
Ate Christie/Ate Yayan – my maternal aunts
Tita Lanie – my paternal aunt

To make it even more confusing language sometimes plays a role in making distinctions: between me and my brother, without specific context ‘ang mama’ would usually refer to our mother, but ‘si mama’ would refer to our paternal grandmother Mama Mila. ‘Ang’ as an identifying article is Tagalog, so it’s not unusual for my mother, but Mama Mila is Bul-anon.

But these honorifics not only so give one a sense of the linguistic diversity in our homes, it also lets us who use it feel closer to otherwise distant ancestors and elders.

 

 

 


Walang Forever (buti na lang)

It’s become fashionable for young people these days to ask ‘if there is Forever.’ Invariably the question is romantic in nature, inspired by the recent ABS CBN Teleserye Forevermore.

The popularity of the question, and how seriously many ask it, is intriguing. The physical attractiveness of Enrique Gil and Liza Soberano (the stars of Forevermore) seem to have touched the romantic nerve of the Filipino in the original sense of the word ‘romantic’ – that is, a deep, overwhelming realization of realities greater than the mundane lives we all live.

Owing to its origin, the question ‘meron bang Forever?’ is more substantially, ‘May forever kaya para sa maganda?’ and by ‘maganda’ is meant all that is beautiful, sacred, pleasurable.

To the wide reader of course, both Western and Eastern traditions of thought have had the same answer: ‘walang Forever.’

In the Romantic English poet Percy Shelley’s (ironically) now immortal poem ‘Ozymandias,’ the sheer power the eponymous Pharaoh once had is portrayed pathetically as his mighty statue stands alone in the middle of wasteland.

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains…

The West has always contemplated on the impermanence of things in a pessimistic, almost despairing tone. From Neruda’s still smarting breakup poem ‘Tonight I can write the saddest lines

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same…

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

To the (self-consciously) anticlimactic ending of Eliot’s Hollow Men:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The Western attitude towards ‘Walang Forever’ is perhaps best encapsulated by the Latin maxim ‘sic transit gloria mundi,’ ‘thus ends the glory of the world.’

To the East however, particularly in Buddhist circles, contemplation of the impermanence of things is seen as a way towards enlightenment. The Three Marks of Existence for Buddhists are Suffering, Impermanence and Non-selfhood.

There are no such things as selves, only momentary existences that are results of the past and themselves causes for future fleeting existences. Where, the Buddhist ask, is the river, when the river you step on now will not be the same as the one you step on tomorrow? Existence is the constant fluctuation of existences, every ‘change’ is actually a change in identity. Likewise, if you love someone today, she will be a different person tomorrow, the world has altered her in the span of a day.

And so there is likewise no Forever, not even for the beauty of LizQuen. As the classic Japanese Iroha poem puts it:

Colours, though fragrant
will only scatter away.
Who in this world is unchanging?

But the East has never lamented this impermanence. Forever has always been a poisonous lie. It is blindness to the reality that there is no Forever that causes suffering. So long as we continue worrying about lasting Forever we will never be free to live the now. The Dhammapada puts it beautifully with the metaphor of house building:

Looking for the builder of the house, I shall be reborn ceaselessly until I find him
And painful is the endlessness of rebirth.
But oh house builder, you are found,
you shall build no more houses!

There is an almost jubilant liberation in the declaration that no ‘houses’ (sense of Forever) will be built again. No, there is no forever, we don’t need to worry about that anymore.

And we can think of better things, like enjoying the now. In Japanese aesthetics, there is the concept of ichi-go, ichi-e, literally ‘one time, one meeting.’ It means experiences will happen only once, and they are different each time. As such we must enjoy each moment, being fully aware that we will never enjoy it as it is again, but be open to enjoy the next fleeting experience that comes.

This of course does not mean relationships should be short lived. Rather, it means everything is short lived – life itself is short lived – and those in relationships must always live the moment as it lasts. If you think about lasting Forever all the time you forget about enjoying the relationship now, and that is a recipe for disaster.

Love like enlightenment is a journey, and the point is the journey and not the destination. ‘When you see the Buddha on the road, kill him,’ as the Buddhists would put it.

And when you see Forever on the road of love, you’re not doing it right.


Old theses from the Silliman Graduate School

I’m currently writing my master’s thesis, and I’ve been looking at the Creative Writing masters thesis and doctorate dissertations in Silliman’s graduate school for reference. With Silliman’s illustrious literary history I have a veritable array of theses to choose from. here are some of them:

'Three One Act Plays: "The Dog Eaters of Artiaga Street;" "The Riddle of the Sphinx;" and "Ulahingan: Rudsu-an",' Leoncio Deriada's MA Thesis

‘Three One Act Plays: “The Dog Eaters of Artiaga Street;” “The Riddle of the Sphinx;” and “Ulahingan: Rudsu-an”,’ Leoncio Deriada’s MA Thesis

'Poetry: Language as Completion' by Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela

‘Poetry: Language as Completion’ by Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela

'"The Road to Mawab" and other Stories,'  Leoncio Deriada's PhD Dissertation

‘”The Road to Mawab” and other Stories,’ Leoncio Deriada’s PhD Dissertation

It’s still very frustrating however to find no clear template to pattern after. Silliman needs to come up with a specific format for any future Creative Writing thesis.