Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Dancing Notes

Everyone loves music. People listen to the radio, teenagers watch MTV, some even play instruments with a passion. The same can't be said for me. For a good part of my life, I was devoid of music. I didn't listen to the radio and MTV didn't really appeal to me much. Mentioning people like Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, and Madonna made me dumbfounded. To sum it all up, I didn't really care for music.

We have a piano at home. My mom used to play and my father sometimes tells me how he wanted to learn to play it when he was a kid. I didn't have those passions and so they enforced theirs on me. I was forced to endure piano lessons once a week, on Saturdays. It was a big sacrifice for me. Saturdays were days usually spent with other kids, the time you break away from school and have a day to yourself. Piano lessons made it seem I was going to school six times a week.

I read in another person's blog that it takes great courage not to stand up to your parents. While I'll credit her on that part, it's also true that sometimes, you just have to stand up for what you believe in. It's not easy being passive about things, but neither is taking a stand. Standing up to your parents is not only empowering but it also gives you a sense of responsibility. While it may free you at one point, you are also chained down to another. One day, I came up to my parents and told them I didn't want to have piano lessons. End of story.

And so, I didn't have piano lessons ever since. I stopped at grade two lessons for piano and now I just watch my sister who is also being forced to play an instrument she does not want. Unfortunately, she never had the courage to stand up for herself. As for me, perhaps that period was pivotal. I started making my own decisions then instead of relying on my parents. I was coming into existence rather than a shadow of who my parents wish they were.

I didn't conform to anybody. Later in grade school, people were listening to all these music CDs and giving rise to the "MTV culture". I didn't care for them and so I lived an ignorant life when it came to music.

And then, anime came. One of the vast differences between Western animation and Japanese is the fact that the Japanese actually take the time to produce a musical score. Aside from the catchy opening and ending songs, anime had great background music. Purchasing an anime CD wasn't like buying a record of your favorite artist. It was more like buying a movie OST, where several artists contribute to produce a unified theme. Some might sing the vocals of the opening song, another would sing the ending, there'd be a composer who'd orchestrate the background music for this scene, and perhaps a guy who'll make the sound effects for that event. It was quite appealing to me, not just because of the concept but of the talent.

I started listening to anime music in grade seven. It started out with buying a single CD. And then I bought another one. And another one. Soon, I was buying at least one CD a month. Of course since I wasn't really a music aficionado, I didn't have a CD player, much less a radio. I was forced to play it on my computer when my brother wasn't in the room lest he complain me for listening to music I can't even understand.

During the summer of my second year in high school, I was at home with nothing to do. There weren't really any good shows on afternoons and so I was forced to watch MTV. I didn't' like it much but I did get interested in a few songs, like Alanis Morisette's Ironic and Oasis' Champagne Supernova. It was just a phase though never to reappear in my life ever again. The only reason I tune into MTV nowadays is to watch Celebrity Deathmatch.

Also, I can't remember why, but I joined the Glee Club during my freshman year. My untrained voice was quite horrible since I could never sing in tune. The moderator always told me to sing from my diaphragm but I could never manage that. I had a deep voice though which was perfect for base. Too bad I really never got to perform with it.

Before I graduated from high school, the Dance Dance Revolution craze hit us. People were skipping and hopping on dance mats everywhere, from the arcade to the house. I found the music upbeat, which is one of the reasons I actually listen to music. Never got to dance though since I didn't own a Playstation and practicing at the arcades, in public, didn't exactly suit my taste.

There was also the ring tone craze where people were composing just so that they can have an appealing ring when people call on their mobile phones. Of course back then, the software for composing such stuff was stupid. Stupid, in the sense that you can only put one note and never play more than one note at a time. What you ended up was simple songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the barest tune of songs you hear on the radio. Since it was something that stupid, I could actually compose songs using my grade two worth of piano lessons.

It was also during that time that the word mp3 became the most overused word on the Internet. Just how popular was it? It outranked the word sex in search engines. You'd hear the Napster issue on the news and people were downloading "free" music like crazy. CD-burners didn't help either. This didn't affect me much as most of the concern was on Western music. I don't think people were really concerned on removing Japanese songs and BGMs on the Internet.

Nowadays, if I want to feel "energetic", I plop in an anime CD and listen to its upbeat tunes. Of course if I want to write, that's not what I play. A good, slow BGM does a lot for my nerve cells. A fast beat just scrambles it.

I really don't call myself a music fan. I mean I've had exposure to it but unlike most people, I still don't listen to the radio (then again, I also don't read the newspaper). Making music? I don't have the persistence, although I do think I could have amounted to something if I continued my piano lessons (couldn't it have been something else, like drums or guitar?) but even then, I'd probably be in love with the fame, not the music. Life without music? Can't imagine it, but I probably wouldn't notice it if it did happen.


There are several ways to look for one's own identity. One of them is by their nationality. Historians have believed that a nation has a collective identity with which its citizens identify with. It can be something as simple as taking a bath everyday, which is something most Filipinos try to do. Of course I happen to have my roots planted in two identities: that of the Chinese and that of the Filipino. Which am I?

My father says that I should be proud to be Chinese. In his own biased view, he thinks that Chinese are the most hardworking race in Asia. According to him, the only reason why Japan scaled the economic ladder is because they were united. And that is why I should learn to speak Chinese, visit China, and follow all these Chinese customs.

My grade school teachers, on the other hand, have lectured to me that I was raised in the Philippines and so I am a Filipino. It is my environment rather than my blood that has shaped who I am. I allegedly owe that to my country. It is the soil I am currently standing on that has sheltered me over these years and raised me since I was a babe. At leas that's what they say from their point of view.

I beg to differ from these people who claim to "know it all". Like most things in life, matters aren't just black and white. The perfect compromise was what I heard from my Economics teacher in high school who also happened to be an alumni from Xavier, Mr. Ang. "You are not just Chinese nor just Filipinos. You are Filipino-Chinese, no matter what other people may say." I think that best sums up how I feel.

On one hand, I have characteristics that of a Chinese aside from my physical features. I follow certain beliefs and practice certain traditions. I pay respect to my elders and so far, follow the patriarchal practice in the family. I even have a Chinese name. On the other hand, I am also Filipino. I am more comfortable with Pilipino than I am with Chinese. When I get hurt, I scream "array", not "ouch" or some other exclamation. I am more at home with this country than any other.

Identities are a strange thing. They're not only rooted from your source but also from your present. Your own personal history is being written and you are taking part in it. Is the real me the me from before or the me tomorrow? Somewhere down along the line is a compromise and it is one you decide on your own. No matter what other people might call me, I determine my own faith. And so while I am not Chinese nor Filipino, I am proud to say I am a combination of both: I am Filipino-Chinese. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, June 24, 2002


What can I say? It's a topic that's been taboo for me. Almost every male undergoes it (and I presume females as well), Catholic priests tell you to confess to them about it, and it's the topic of jokes on some sitcoms we watch. Despite all that, I could never have brought myself to write about it, which is why I'm doing so.

Because I studied in an all-boys school before college, all my classmates were open about the subject. There were all these jokes and anecdotes about it. For example, one said that he did it in the bathroom because it made such a mess and had an awful smell. Another guy would use condoms. And there's always the story about this guy who thought that the Hanson was female. For me, I'd rather just not say and stay out of those conversations.

Not admitting to doing it can be a problem. You'd be accused of being gay, and that's a big thing since Xavier was schooling conservative Chinese males (read: homophobia). If you didn't want to talk about it, they'd usually tease you as being one. People's curiosity amazes me. They sometimes want to know who you're masturbating, how many times you do it a day, and where you do it. Strangely, for a conservative Catholic community, my classmates didn't really think masturbation was a sin.

There are exceptions of course. Like me. I really think we should avoid it and not do it every single day. In grade school, my friend would tell me of how long he resisted the urge. He'd go on for a month only to go into the habit again. As for me, now a junior in college, I still can't manage to hold off the urge. I know it's a sin and all but sometimes, you end up doing it anyway. Admitting that is no easy feat.

A priest at our high school once said that there are three reasons why people masturbate. One was curiosity. I'm very well too old to be in that stage. The second reason is gratification. You've had a bad day and you want to get things off your mind so you masturbate. This happens to me from time to time. The third reason he gave was boredom. Yes, I've been recently bored but that's not a reason why I do it. It goes more like "I can't sleep and it's 1 am in the morning. I have class tomorrow at 7 so I really need to be asleep right now." Masturbation is draining so much so that after doing it, I feel quite sleepy. It's a pathetic excuse but sometimes, that's the only way I manage to get to sleep. Of course I don't like to do it because aside from the moral implications, it also leaves me exhausted the entire day. Twelve-hour naps are a result, and you know how much I hate wasting my waking hours. And of course, I sometimes feel horny and rather than have it subconsciously manifest itself tomorrow, I'd rather be done and over with it today.

On my part, I don't masturbate with "real" people. What that means is that I masturbate with fictional characters. Perhaps I read about them in a book or it's someone from an anime I saw. I don't want to imagine a real person since I feel that's lust. That fact lightens my conscience. A bit.

It all started when I borrowed a CD from my classmate in grade seven. It was full of games but it also had nude anime pictures. Well, what was a thirteen year old full of testosterone going to do then? A year later, I swore never to watch hentai. And so, I can freely boast that I've never watched any of those tentacle-infested hentai anime like Urotsuki Doji. A lot of my classmates have but not I, the "anime fanatic". Thank God only Pokemon is associated with anime nowadays.

I'm sure some of my classmates who might read this would be dumbfounded. I'm usually the student known for not cheating, the person who always speaks the truth, and the guy who usually does the right thing. While I may not be a religious person, I do try avoiding committing "sins" but I am still human. And if there's anything that motivates me not to masturbate, it's my love for the people I care about, especially my crush.

I've never consistently kept one, until now. More often than not, the only reason I keep a journal is because it's required of me. In high school, our English teachers had us keep a regular journal and I remember when we'd suddenly start writing entries as we approached the submission date. Nowadays, it's still required by some of our classes in college but I have managed to keep a journal, albeit one in an unconventional form.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I failed to keep a journal is because it required me to write, or more precisely, to handwrite it. I was never known for my penmanship, dexterity, or persistence when it came to jotting down something. Besides, my hands could never keep up with what I was thinking. What was managed to be put on paper was a pale comparison to my ideas. I usually just settle for something less, and let my hands heal from the arduous labor. The fact that I'm settling for less was an indicator that I'd rather not keep one if I'm not motivated to give it my best.

Another factor was trust, or should I say, my lack of it. I was never comfortable with the Catholic practice of confession, mentioning all your sins to a person, even if he is an embodiment of Christ. How much more with a journal where I will pour out everything I feel, everything I think? People who read it might think how horrible a person I really am, or sometimes, I'm just plain embarrassed. What if the reader can't get over what they read? They'll always have a stigma when they see or talk to me.

And of course, there's always time. Some people have lots of it, some people don't, and some people just want to get rid of it. Until recently, I never really took the time to write what I was feeling and contemplating. I had enough time to think and deliberate but put it down somewhere? That's a different story. Of course I do occasionally write when I need to vent my emotions somewhere. But those are rare moments and I'd hardly call them journal entries. They're more like essays, I like to think.

So what made me change? For one thing, my course is creative writing. One of my teachers said that I should be writing all the time and I firmly believe that to be a necessity for a writer. It doesn't matter what form your writing takes, be it a poem, an essay, a report, or *gasp*, a journal entry. Of all those choices available, it's journal writing that I see myself doing every single day. Composing a poem can be a chore. Writing in my journal is a hobby. What choice would you have made?

Second, for all my unwieldy skills when it came to handwriting, I'm a whiz when it comes to typing. The computer has been my favorite tool and is perhaps one I overuse. With the emergence of the Internet, cyberspace has become my entire hard drive and I needn't worry that my work will be gone forever. Once I put something on the net, it will always be there. And I can do it anywhere, from the school's computer room to an Internet café down the street.

Lastly, the emergence of web logs or blogs has changed the face of journal writing. For one thing, journals were never really meant to be read publicly. However, people are now posting up their ideas and daily lives for everyone (or at least their friends) to see. The concept of a journal has forever been changed. Perhaps because of that, I've overcome my fear. In fact, it might make people (and myself) understand me better. If worse comes to worse, there are other people out there who have written more humiliating and shocking stuff than I. I'm not alone in this world. Weird perhaps, but never alone.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

The Phone Call

When I think about it, I owe a lot to the technology we call the telephone. For one thing, it's easier communicating to people. Instead of writing letters to people who live far away, all you need to do is call. When you're bored, all you need is to dial a few numbers to get in contact with a friend. And of course, let us consider the Internet. While there have been alternative ways to connect to it like cable or ISDN, one of the most common means in the Philippines is through the telephone.

I?ve probably made millions of phone calls in my life. A lot to friends, some to family, and on rare occasions, to crushes. What's so special about making a phone call? Well, talking to a person face to face is the most ideal scenario but sometimes far from practical. You can't very well go to a friend's house in the middle of the night unless they happen to live near your home. It's less expensive too. Writing them a letter, while has sentimental value, can be time consuming and you know there'll be a delay. Sure, you can send it to the post office today and he or she will only get to read it the next day at the earliest. What if you want to vent it out now and hear their reactions? Feedback is also in question as they might not answer back. Or perhaps not in time. Given that, email faces a similar problem. For one thing, you're not sure if they received your email given today's propensity for delays and errors. And while a letter has a distinct personality with the person's handwriting inscribed, emails tend to be bland with generic fonts and expressions. At least with a phone, you get to hear the person's voice and you feel their reactions to your statements.

I don't know if it's because I live the Philippines, raised in a conservative Filipino-Chinese family, the fact that I was bred at an all-boys school, I'm shy, or a combination of all these things that I always get nervous when calling up people of the opposite sex. It's easy when I have an excuse: I need to coordinate with her on a project, she told me to return her call, etc. However, there are times when I just want to talk. It's different when calling a guy friend. The one who answers it usually asks no questions aside from who's calling and hands it to the person I'm looking for. Girls, on the other hand, are a different matter. I always run the risk of talking to the girl's parents, some of which are highly paranoid. I have to explain myself as to why I'm calling and sometimes, they sermon me that it's already late in the evening for me to call.

Nothing could be worse though than calling my crush. No matter how many times I've done it before, my heart always pounds rapidly and I get restless. All these jumbled thoughts come into my mind and I become quite tense. And that's before I dial the numbers. Of course it only frustrates me if I finally dial the numbers and all I get is a busy dial tone. If that doesn't happen, I always count the number of times the phone rings before it is answered. If a male voice is on the other end, I get frantic and try to calm down. So far, there haven't been any father-caller interviews. It being a female voice doesn't help either. It might very well be my crush?s mother, or perhaps a pesky sibling. You never know the intrigues that you might unintentionally sow.

Being able to talk to my crush is only half the battle. Once she's on the line, I get excited and sometimes I forget what I mean to say. I mean to talk to her about one subject yet I end up mentioning another unrelated one. Sometimes, it doesn't even get that far. She tells me she's busy so I have to go through this entire ordeal a few hours later or maybe the next day. If that doesn't happen, I fear that she might not want to talk to me or I might bore her. Perhaps she's just humoring me. All these paranoid thoughts start to pop up.

As I said before, I might have called up my crush for the nth time and these things still happen. I still retain my fear and I always get nervous. Never mind the fact that the worst things have already happened to me: my crush has told me not to call, hung up on me, and from time to time, a harsh remark from the parents. Yet I still make the call as if it was my first one, with all its pros and cons.

You?d think that making a mundane thing as making phone calls would be easy for a guy like me. Just shows you how shy I can get. Makes you imagine how I manage to meet people.