Monday, October 14, 2013


I could hardly concentrate. All these statistical design of experiments have to battle it out with some formidable thoughts in my head at 5:30 in the morning. I'm still hung over, about art and books and films and people I adore--basically all the good stuff I have been preoccupying myself with lately when I am not obliged to face the reality of the degree program I chose. No, there's no tinge of regret in that. I may not be exemplary in chemical engineering. But I believe there is a reason why I am here and not anywhere else. Plus, being in touch with both the logical and the creative sides--I'd like to imagine that I am in touch with them, yes--makes me a better person.

Gratitude must be expressed to the cosmos for bringing me here to this point: for opening my eyes to see the beauty in this world and opening my mind to find beauty in the grotesque. Never had I felt so much zest to keep on living--to look forward to something in the future, knowing that there's still so much waiting to be seen and heard and perceived by all humanly faculties. If asked by the perennial question of what truly is the meaning of life, I'll go with John Updike's and Annie Dillard's take on it: to be a spectator of all of life's creation, to keep that sense of wonder at existence itself.

Now, I am done with the outburst. Excuse me as I go back to studying.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Philo 10 in a Nutshell

By Rhena Mae Abundo

Like most of my classmates, I embarked on this Philosophy 10 ride with Sir Bernard Caslib based on recommendations from friends who were previously his students. They had nothing but praises for him and told me how much they have learned from his class so I followed their advice and enlisted for it. Truth be told, I had lots of expectations. First, it’s because of the profusely good things I have heard about this professor who will handle our class, and second, because I recently developed a love affair with Western thinkers since I took Social Science II with Ms. Hernandez. During the course of the subject, I always had a headache after class. But it was the good kind, I tell you. Every after Philo, my head swirls with questions I never imagined I’ll be interested in finding the answers to. Until now, I am still intrigued with Descartes, Hume and Mill. I mean, where they dug up all the questions they had and how they even managed to sustain the patience in making sense of all their questions that have seemingly unfathomable answers is beyond my comprehension. There are times when I am so amazed by these people—even the collective group from whose minds sprang forth the different schools of thought trying to define what the meaning of life is. Sometimes, the reasoning seemed absurd, at first, but once all foundations have been laid out in front of you, it just all makes sense, like a puzzle coming together. In terms of the academic gain, I will walk out of this class with head held high, confident that I am a wee bit more cultured, a wee bit more equipped in the off chance of engaging into random conversations about ethics or the philosophy of love and sex with a friend or a stranger.

During class, I am more of the spectator. I become tongue-tied—too overwhelmed of it all. In my head, I commend my quick-witted classmates who always have insights about the topic, and very much grateful for them too for saving the rest of the class from awkward silence. I am glad that I became part of this class, so clingy and sabaw together. We are such a diverse group and yet we blended well. We are also an amazingly talented bunch! Okay, it’s really just them. But once I participated in all those class shiz, I was surprised myself of what I can [swallow to] do. Fun times.

And then there’s Sir Caslib—the most fun of all, the most thoughtful as he always ask us how our weekend has been, one with the most celebrity sightings, the Benjo-Mari matchmaker, one to give wonderful readings (!), one who’s not afraid to ask us the questions and help us birth the right answers. Because of him, this Philo class had been what I expected and more.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mind's Eye: A Review

Imagine getting stuck in heavy traffic, your skin turned sticky caused by the combination of sweat, dust, and smoke. The sweltering heat and the humid Manila air are of no help at all. You try to make yourself more comfortable by adjusting your sitting position, only to realize that there's no room for you to move in because the driver assured everybody that his jeep could seat twenty people. Judging by the location where you're currently at and by the snail's pace this trip is going, you estimate another thirty minutes of this same situation. You're utterly bored. You left your iPod at home, your smartphone's battery is flashing a red 3% and you can't possibly spark up a conversation with the person next to you because she seems irritated that her arm is adhering to yours as if that is your fault. If there were another way to spend your precious time than mindlessly looking at the static vehicles, you probably would have taken it.

A similar problem of wanting to escape an inconvenient situation is what drives the story of the play, Mind's Eye. But unlike our imagined scenario of getting stuck in a crowded jeep for the next thirty minutes, the protagonists in this story are to spend the rest of their lives in a convalescent room, with no more family to visit them and no more view of the world outside except through their room's window.

The play revolves on two women: Elva, an 88-year-old former literature and drama teacher who is gradually losing her sight; and Courtney, a 16-year-old girl who became paralyzed from the waist down after a horse riding accident. When Courtney was admitted to the convalescent home where she became roommates with Elva, the former teacher tried to initiate a conversation with the young girl by reciting poems and asking her if she knew any. Courtney, however, was still bitter about the new path her life is taking and paid little attention to Elva's speeches. But Elva was persistent, even bordering on being insensitive, and kept telling Courtney stories and asking her questions until she came to the point of offering Courtney a means to travel despite her condition. Through reading an old travel guide, they could embark on an imaginary trip to Italy! The young girl was strongly against the idea, skeptic as to how they could do it only by reading. It is when Elva admits the reason why she terribly wants to go to an imaginary trip to Italy is for her to fulfill a promise she made to her deceased husband, and how her failing eyesight has prevented her to do so, that finally convinced Courtney to at least give it a try.

Friday, March 29, 2013

On 'The Summer Without Men'

Even before I had a copy of any book by Siri Hustvedt, I was already keen on liking her prose mainly because Bennard said I would love her. Which, for all I know, is a contrived effort to make Hustvedt my new favorite author--Hustvedt that is wife to Paul Auster, one of Bennard's favorites. Well, planned or not, it appears that he is right. I loved Hustvedt instantly, the love-at-first-few-pages kind.

Aside from being my first novel by new favorite author, The Summer Without Men is also my first contemporary feminist book. And a memorable one at that. The characters are mainly women--Mia the Awesome Protagonist, the Swans in Rolling Meadows, the teen witches of Bonden, Lola the Neighbor-turned-Friend, Bea the Tough Sister, and Daisy the Lively Daughter. Even psychiatrist Dr. S. is a female! They were not portrayed as perfect, all-knowing, and righteous--it wouldn't be realistic if they were, and I would've disliked the book if such was the case--but as strong personalities who accepted life's blows and dealt with them in ways they know best. Men were present in the story too, but they are more of a backdrop, appearing in recollections, letters, and in the periphery. In this book, men were depicted as both the storm and the cooling rain. The storm that some women must weather through in order to be stronger, wiser. The cooling rain that soothes and comforts, the reason for a smile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


This is Hymne a l'Amour, a beautiful song I first heard from the Italian movie, Cinema Paradiso. The song has been playing on loop for a while now and yet, this sentence is the nearest thing to progress I have ever accomplished in trying to put into writing all my feelings for the said film. I cheat by finding motivation through the music. I was expecting an overflow of things to say but I only got a surge of wordless emotions. Listening to instrumental music similar to this takes me back to a particular scene when I was twelve.

The dark had already begun consuming the light outside, the lamppost near our house was already lit. The sky is more parts gray than reddish or blue, the first stars had started to twinkle. I was alone in our house, which was gradually being enveloped by darkness and shadows, waiting for my parents' return from a day's work. I could still remember the school uniform I wore. Instead of turning on the lights, I plugged in our CD player and placed my Josh Groban album inside. You Raise Me Up. To Where You Are. Mi Mancherai. These songs lulled me while I lie on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I could not recall what I was thinking; I most probably had no thoughts in mind that time. I simply stared off in space, imbibing the melody and the lyrics of Groban's heavenly voice. I did not understand how I was feeling, but I knew that I was moved. Have you ever had moments in your life like that? Standing in the presence of something so emotionally affecting, something so beautiful, it sends tremors and spasms to your body? Beholding a thing, grasping it, whether abstract or concrete, and you close your eyes to see it more clearly and absorb every last detail of it? It was fleeting--it is that very thing that makes it magical--and yet is not entirely lost on me. Then, suddenly, the light is switched on, disturbing my reverie. My parents are home and I had to make excuses as to why I have kept myself in the dark.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On 'Fourteen Love Stories'

Whether we are its readers or writers, a love story is invested with many guilty pleasures. We remember our own lives, when we are lovers and had lovers. We imagine having the strength, or the weakness, to yield to the uncharted and the forbidden. We wish for a love to take us away from the reality of the present. We relish the encounter, taking it on with recklessness and youthful abandon. Our pulse rushes and our throats tighten. We feel a dull ache. The story takes us, and we fall in love, literary predilections be damned.

This is an excerpt from the Introduction of Fourteen Love Stories, an anthology of stories written by Filipinos. Its first featured story, Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez, was our book club's "book/story of the month" for February and so when Bennard chanced upon a copy in NBS-Katipunan, he immediately bought it. I have read Dead Stars back in high school but since it's only sixteen pages long, why not refresh my memory, right? Besides, when we read a story a second or third time, we tend to find new details we might have overlooked the first time, or discover a new interpretation based on new experiences we've undergone since our last encounter with the said story. So I read it again and, true enough, I got to relive past emotions and more--feelings that were incomprehensible to my high schooler version who only thought of coming up with a reflection essay for English 2.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On 'Fairy Tale Fail'

In a nutshell. Guy breaks up with girl and girl still roots for her relationship with now-ex anyway even if another good-looking guy is coming her way. New guy becomes her confidant and, unconsciously, she becomes his confidante, too. Turns out both of them had his/her heart broken recently and chose to heal in the company of the other. As friends, at least. Girl started to be okay and lots of things happened so fast--she started getting busy and unknowingly climbed up the career ladder, as if the cosmos is obliged to help in her speedy recovery. Naturally, ex now wants her back. Either not having enough self-pride or just in dire need of a closure, she agrees to a dinner he offered. In Bangkok. During dinner, realizations start pouring in and, having a clear picture now of what is actually happening, she started bombarding her date with questions which rendered him speechless. Almost. She gets the closure she wanted, rushes to the side of the guy who supported her in her not-so-glorious days, and finally ends her fairy tale on a good note.

It isn't something I haven't read or watched before. But the thing about this story, which made me read through it until the last leaf in one sitting, is found on the little details somewhere in between.