December 04, 2009

The Seville Communion: A Review

“The Seville Communion begins in the Vatican with a hacker code- named “Vespers” breaking into the pope’s personal computer and leaving a cryptic message: “In Spain, in Seville, there is a place where merchants are threatening the house of God and where a small seventeenth century church kills to defend itself…” Pérez-Reverte then introduces his flawed hero, Father Lorenzo Quart, a valuable operative in the Holy Office’s Institute for External Affairs (known as “the dirty works department,” by some members of the Curia). It’s his job to go to Seville, investigate two mysterious deaths at Our Lady of the Tears and discover the identity of Vespers.Once in Seville, Father Quart finds himself collar-deep in intrigue: There is the wealthy banker who wants the land the church stands on and his beautiful, estranged wife who will do anything to thwart him. There is Father Ferro, the fierce parish priest and Sister Gris Marsala, an American nun and architect, both intent on saving Our Lady of the Tears. There are also three endearing villains-for-hire who steal every scene they are in. Perez-Reverte skillfully weaves murder, mystery, and corrupt politics–both sacred and profane–through his story before arriving at his trademark unpredictable ending. ” -Amazon review

That in a nutshell is what the whole novel is about. The plot is smouldering, the descriptions are bathed in the warm Sevillan sun and perfume of orange blossoms. Unfortunately, this had some flaws that will turn-off readers.

1) Arturo Perez-Reverte is exhaustingly enthusiastic in writing the names of each bar, each street, each building, all with long-winded Spanish names in the hope of injecting local color into the scene but ends up alienating readers with its tiresome and hyperspecific names. For instance, instead of saying, “the bald man met him at the corner cafe”, he would instead write, “Don Verbano de la Rama met Querico Ignacio de Viver at a table inside the La Scala de Sevilla Cafe fronting the Nuestra de la Paz Church.” For the first two chapters this seemed quaint but having to read it until the end makes me want to hurl the book at his face.

2) Plotwise it is Agatha-Christiesque predictable but thoroughly unsatisfying. The arguments and mystery elements are weak and definitely not funny. It’s like building the tension of a wonderful mystery only to find out that there’s no mystery at all.

3) The characters are stereotyped and flat. The protagonist seemed clueless as to the mystery even when the book was nearing its end. The villains look as if they were plucked out from a Loony Tunes cartoons and their characterizations are stupidly Sevillan- a flamenco dance, a matador and a Hemingway wannabe from Cuba. Even though they were meticulously described from birth to their last indiscretion, it still falls short from being well-rounded. Hence, it will not make you sympathize with any of them.

4) Perez-Reverte does not let the dialogue describe his characters, but rather he explodes in a hurried exposition describing in excruciating detail all the character’s history just like an overbearing essayist. I really do not care whether the villain’s lighter was given by Hemingway or not.

With such kind of literature, it’s no wonder that I’ve found it stacked inside the National bookstore bargain bin.

November 06, 2009

Hannibal Ibarra Redux

Hannibal Ibarra, one of the low-key komik artists here in the Philippines, is renowned for his watercolor works on faeries and other creatures culled from Pinoy mythology like the Tikbalang. Details of his biography or even of his listed works are scant and wanting. This probably adds to his mantle of obscurity as an illustrator (for most people outside the komiks circle), but nonetheless, his works are being collected and are highly sought after by Filipino and foreign sequential art aficionados. Even if his' is a niche market, acquiring one of his works is already worth the price, and collecting his masterpieces is a delight more because of the aesthetic pleasure it brings to the viewer rather than the possibility of immediate financial return.

It not for the bragging rights of owning a work by a Filipino master that makes one smile, but to see the lines, the balance of the subjects and the gradual mottling of colors held together by a professionally made frame gives you that giddy feeling of well-being. His watercolor work as seen below is further enhanced once it was placed inside a frame- a work worthy of anyone's gallery.

November 04, 2009

Waiting and Waiting

Tiger, tiger burning bright
in the darkness of the night,
tail uncoiled, claws now curled,
waiting for the trap unfurled...

October 07, 2009

September 06, 2009

Cory Aquino, Going Home

Going Home
by: Libera

Going Home, going home
I am going home
Quiet like, some still day...
I am going home

It’s not far, just close by
Through the open door

Work all done, care laid by
Never fear no more

Mother’s there expecting me
Father’s waiting too
Lots of faces gathered there
All the friends I knew


I’m just going home

No more fear
No more pain
No more stumbling by the way
No more longing for the day
Going to run no more

Morning star lights the way
Restless dreams all gone
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun

There’s no break, there’s no end
Just living on

Wide awake, with a smile
Going on and on

Going home, going home
I am going home
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life has begun


I am just going home.

A very sad and soulful song. This is my Tribute to the lady in yellow, Cory Aquino whose life and death fascinated Filipinos from all walks of life. Many saw Cory as a beacon of democracy. Others, she symbolized justice and peace after the tyrant's rule. For some, she epitomized the virtues of single parenthood, of being a mother, of being a widow. For me, she symbolized the last branch to be cut off from the Aquino children, and whose death can be palpably felt by the immediate family just like the loss of anyone's loved one.

Also, the melody of Libera's "Going Home" is lifted from Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony particularly in the Adagio portion (2nd movement, part 1). Dvorak, that Czech emigre who worked at Carnegie Hall, is one of my most beloved composers along with Mozart, Haydn, Berlioz and Rossini. His New World Symphony is redolent with North American folktunes, Indian themes (think: Haiawatha and Sacajawea), and that palpable American optimism. Below is the original theme of "Going Home:"

September 03, 2009


For the past few years, I realize that people do change more because of the environment that has shaped them. Personalities, it seem, are as fluid as the ebbing of the tide- it may not be as apparent at first sight but if one looks into the minutiae of every action and intonation, one may detect a change in the way the wind blows.

Being introspective, I realized I had changed in which direction I cannot say right now. I learned how one becomes morose, more circumspect where one tends to have squashed whatever joie d’vivre is left. Of course it’s not an overnight learning. It’s the sum of all experiences that produces whatever effect one feels. From all the deaths and despair you see in the patients’ families, the emotional challenges brought about by your peers and consultants and the workload one has to bear has buffeted me into silent seclusion. While others become enlightened, others wind up defeated, others become obfuscated. It is as if we are the stones in the river being constantly battered by the strong currents. Life is like that. Forces outside our control shape us into that which we cannot recognize anymore.

Others would complain that their personality is consistent from Day 1. No one can say for sure one stays the same. It’s just not in the nature of the universe to remain in its axis. Everything proceeds according to the law of entropy where all systems are in constant flux. This, I feel, applies to people also but with a caveat that what is apparent is not entirely the whole picture. We do change but the rate of change depends on the person itself- to disguise it temporarily, to accept it entirely or to deny it endlessly. Many I know disguise these changes momentarily but Fate makes it difficult to sustain it just like food being retained in the mouth, one can't help but chew it and swallow.

According to James Clavell, the Japanese have three hearts: one that is shown to the public, one that the person only knows, and one that is secret. I guess that’s also true for humans. What you see is not what you get. What is merely shown is just the persona- not the person itself. One tends to cling to that which one thinks is rightly acceptable to the public face thereby creating shadows of our own design. By doing so, we become eggshells of our former selves. Gaston Leroux's Phantom is a personification of this. We try to preserve that previous persona while trying to understand and assimilate the new ideas and experiences we acquire. The smile one exudes or the gregarious manner one speaks may not be way he or she thinks. It is not being plastic. It our defense mechanism to compartmentalize these new changes while preserving the former ego so that the system could still function smoothly. Think of it as feeling of frustration of using Windows Vista because one is used on using Windows XP but you don't actually whack the CPU. Another example is when one tries to enjoy drinking and carousing late at night with the barkada but quickly loses interest in this former hobby because you’re already accustomed to the domesticated life.

However, we try our best that this change are not felt by others because we want to continue the present relationship we have with them. We don’t want to alienate them for we know if we shout at them a bit more or be sarcastic at them more often, we change the pulse of the moment thereby disrupting everyone’s harmony. It’s good if people try or do understand us. What if there are more who do not and take our change in personality at face value? We lose face in the process. That is why we put up these walls, these masks, these eggshells of our former selves- to protect our own ego from change.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try in putting up masks and fences, the inner gurglings of our hearts seep through the sheets staining them red or black where everyone can see it. Fate has that way of ferreting out the hidden aspect of your Self that in one unguarded moment, you fall flat on your face. For instance, one may feel that your voice doesn’t carry that certain friendliness despite whatever civility your words may imply. Or that despite your prudishness, you drop Freudian slips when referring to a certain person. No matter how hard we try hiding our hidden heart, it escapes our clutches for everyone to see.

That is the tragedy of it all. Where all the king's horses, and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.

June 08, 2009

Gerry Alanguilan's Elmer Set

One fateful afternoon, I arrived home happy to see that the package from Gerry Alanguilan had arrived. I took a cutter and carefully opened the box.

I was pretty much impressed on how much care and diligence the package was wrapped. It was neatly bubble-wrapped so that no matter how rough the transit was, the contents would arrive safe and sound.

Out came the box. From the outside, the product was indeed a product of love. No mediocrity here and the craftsmanship on which it was made was very much palpable.

I was anxious to open the Elmer box set probably because I was afraid that my fingers would smudge the box and the pages of the graphic novel. I hate having oily fingerprints all over the surface but I wouldn't go into extremes like gloving my hands as if I was in the Vatican Library. What makes this set more special is the fact that only 20 of these exist and yes, it was Filipino made. Thank you Gerry and Ilyn for offering such a unique item.

June 07, 2009

Hannibal Ibarra

Hannibal Ibarra, one of the preeminent artists in the realm of Philippine fantasy art, has been drawing and doing watercolors for years now focusing on the "world of faeries". I have been awestruck by its honesty and fluidity that I was compelled to snatch a couple of his superb artworks through connections in the net. He may not be as celebrated as the watercolorist Toti Cerda but all his works exude that originality and artistic quality befitting of someone's bedroom wall. There's no allusions in his subjects, no convoluted symbolisms ala Charlie Co, no pretensions whatsoever. The lines are clean and clear and the colors muted yet sublime. I can't imagine why his works are not that popular with Filipinos considering his technical acumen, probably because of the scarcity of his works in the market. Thus, his works are precious to those who appreciate komiks as an artform and those who are into Philippine pop culture.

The following blurb describes where his influences come from:

A self-proclaimed "fantasy artist", Hannibal is a very private person and doesn't want to disclose much of himself except that his artistic influences are Giambattista Tiepolo and Botong Francisco, and that he is currently a background animation artist working closely with Steve Gan (another veteran and famous komiks artist of the 1970's) in the animation field. What we have known so far from observation and further talks with him is that he is an Alex Niño and Meglia fan, will do only fantasy type comics stories (especially when there are fairies of which he claims to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about), did some local komiks work wich he doesn't want to elaborate, probably out of frustration or embarassment or both, is into "New Age" thinking, and hopes to do artwork on stories for SIKLAB once his schedule frees him.


May 17, 2009

The Book Blockade Scandal: A One Act Play

At an unnamed office inside Benecañang Castle...

Sec. Burgis: Esdilis, my beautiful secretary (even if you're indeed fortyish!) We need more money! Can you think of ways to increase our tax collection? Her Royal pain in the twat wants to have at least 25% rise in the collection so that she can have a bigger largess in the upcoming elections! More is better, I say!

Usec. Esdilis: Yes sir. Um... I think we need to follow up on our tax collections on our friend Ucioso Tan.

Sec. Burgis: (alarmed) What?? Him?? Why?

Usec. Esdilis: Because sir, from our records here, Ucioso Tan paid a mere 35% of the total taxes since 2002. The taxes we have been collecting from him mainly from the tobacco tax, the sin tax and the incise tax amounted only to P20 million, that is considering that the gross receipts is P10 billion. This is I think, sir, the largest loophole we need to cap.

Sec. Burgis: (more alarmed) Don't you dare imply that the department that has been feeding you and your family for the past 10 years has been remissed on collecting taxes! And more importantly, not on Ucioso Tan.

Usec Esdilis: (baffled) But why?

Sec. Burgis: Are you really that dumb as your coworkers say you are, huh? We can't collect the exact amount from Ucioso, not even from Lovit Seesaw, not from Whimelda Varcose, and certainly not from Boracay mansion owner Sherap Pisstrada. I agree that they have to pay a bigger share of the pie, but the truth is, Her royal pain in the twat said not to touch them. She said it's best for her administration not to rock the boat because I think she knows that if she did rock the boat, these people would have heaped a lot of problems on our heads. She wants them satiated inside their little petit bourgeois kingdoms partying, shopping and calculating their monies so that Her royal pain in the twat will have free reign to build up her own strong castle.

Usec Esdilis: If not for those idle rich crooks, from whom shall we get our collections from? You yourself said, sir, not to touch those smugglers from Cagayan Province and those Chinese importers in Divisoria. By the way sir, has Lily Hong paid you your cut from the Japanese chop-chops down in Laoag?

Sec. Burgis: Shush! Don't mention that to me. How about those books I hear?

Usec Esdilis: Oh! You mean the report by our customs examiner down south? But sir, the cut... I mean, our collections from that will be a pittance compared to the bigwigs!

Sec. Burgis: But still, don't you see? That is still something, isn't it?

Usec Esdilis: Barely. I don't understand why we should indulge in such a Pyrrhic enterprise!

Sec. Burgis: Naku! Pa-pyrrhic-pyrrhic ka pa! Use your head! Learn from our Binondo connections. Even if we only get a measly P10,000 from the total tax increase, it's still an increase, yes? An increase means more taxes that are being collected, yes? More taxes means that we're more efficient, no?

Usec Esdilis: I see your point sir.

Sec. Burgis: It's in the act of doing something even if you yourself know it won't amount to anything substantial. And if we send out a circular for an added book tax before the 30th, her Royal pain in the twat will see that we have done something concrete, something back-breaking. She will realize that her minister and her minister's minion are not lazy good-for-nothings who rubber stamp any paper that comes their way be it a contract or a wad of bills. You know what this means for us, my dear?

Usec Esdilis: A new bank account?

Sec. Burgis: No stupid! She will probably be so pleased that she will choose me as a candidate for her party's senatorial ticket.

Usec Esdilis: (puppy bulldog eyes) What about me?

Sec. Burgis
: Of course I haven't forgetten you. You shall become my executive secretary. You will have a bigger office and you will have a phalanx of personnel at your every beck and call.

Usec Esdilis: (beaming) Wow! That is a fine idea sir! I can see myself taking a massage inside my office while my secretary's stirring my tea.

Sec. Burgis: Fine! Fantasize all you want! But if you don't get your fat lardy ass moving and work on that circular, you won't even have an office to go to! Remember, 2010 is election year!

Usec Esdilis: Ok sir, right you are! I'll finish the draft tonight and it shall be ready for signing tomorrow morning! (smiling) They won't know what will hit them!

Sec. Burgis: Oh Esdilis, make it subtle please? I don't want to stir a hornet's nest. This may seem trivial to you- hello? booksellers? They may be like those small-time peddlers in Recto and Avenida but bear in mind that the ones who will be affected more are the readers- readers with college degrees, readers who are already professionals like doctors, politicians, businessmen, journalists.... and leftist communists! Make it subtle, ok?

Usec Esdilis: But I don't know how sir!

Sec. Burgis: Are you not a lawyer yourself?

Usec Esdilis: (flushed) Ummm.... y-y-yes!

Sec. Burgis: Don't tell me that your University of Pateros Diploma is a fake? (eyes narrowing)

Usec Esdilis: Ummm... I have been great in college debates sir, and..

Sec. Burgis: (exasperated) No matter! I want you to use your mean-spirited logic and remaining intelligence to convince those book importers that this new tax is justifiable. Understand?

Usec Esdilis: I understand sir! I shall never ever ever fail you!

Sec. Burgis: Good. I know you will because you've never failed me in bed.

Usec Esdilis: (blushing) Oh! I don't know what you are talking about, sir!

Sec. Burgis: Perfect! Now, here are two books you may want to read before you write our new circular.

Usec Esdilis: Hmmm! 1984 by George Orwell and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Haven't heard of these books, probably pulp fiction from the 198os. Sir, this "Prince" book is the biography of that "Prince" singer, isn't it?

Sec. Burgis: You really are dumb! Now go, my dear and write that circular! Don't come to my office without the draft. Is that understood?

Usec Esdilis: Yes, sir. (Retreating towards the door).

Hence, the start of the Great Book Blockade of 2009.

May 11, 2009

The Illiterati & The Book Blockade

Thanks to Robin Hemley, he has brought to light an organization of shadow bureaucrats inside the Bureau of Customs more insidious that that of Dan Brown's Illuminati. They cloak themselves in cheap barongs and three-piece suits but actually they're sarcophageal worms in human forms. They call themselves, the "Illiterati" because all they do is obfuscate justice, corrupt laws for their own betterment and frustrate honest merchants by imposing ghost charges knowing full well that these sellers would rather settle than fight them to City Hall.

Unfortunately for the Illiterati whose minds are so narrowed that no new ideas (apart from those culled from the Dark Ages) could possible permeate through, have been dragged into the limelight when they started the 2009 Philippine Book Blockade. Little did they know that book-loving Filipinos will not take this intellectual insult without a fight. They will burn epitaphs of those who instigated this much like the Nuremberg book burning events and they will ask for the heads of the Illiteratis. I agree if this will come to this. It would be an enlightened notion if all book-loving Filipinos call for the resignation of a certain Customs examinee Rene Agulan and the irksome DOF Undersecretary Espele Sales who infamously implied that novels are non-educational. Perhaps the good Usec was very enthusiastic in displaying his God-given level of intelligence. In the dispatch of Robin Hemley, he wrote:
Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.

I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.

Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.

"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.

"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.

Oh, the bile and the acid. Reading such inane logic as codified by the tenets of the Illiterati will infuriate any intelligient and sentient being. How these worms finished college remains a mystery. How they ended up in the top echelons of government is surprising. Well, not very surprising enough considering that the entire admistration may be full of Illiteratis- each department hiring their underlings and junior Illiteratis.

How this affair shall play out will be subject to further news articles and hopefully, more exposures against the cabal of Illiterati inside the Palace. And such is a great plot for Dan Brown, unless Customs get to tax it first.

May 10, 2009

Bacolod, the Foodie's Tenderloin

Bacolod, according to Rogue Magazine is the foodie's tenderloin. I completely agree. Never there has been a city so enamored with its own food. It's equivalent to culinary onanism at best.

Almost all visitors come to the city for a foodtrip because there is not so much to tour at. Apart from the Ruins, Silay, the beaches and the Cathedral, there is little to mark the province mental permanence for tourists hankering for a unique experience. Negros is not like Vigan with its Calle Crisologo or the lighthouse of Cape Bojeador or the Chocolate Hills of Bohol. All we can offer really for the transient visitor are the sumptuous fares that each restaurant specializes in.

I read the Article by Gabrillo in Rogue Magazine and Regie Aspiras' take on our Restaurants and both gush orgasmically about the variety of gustatory treats that they can put inside their mouths. Marketmanila (of fame was not spared and thus, he too succumbed to the charms of our Southern flair. Thanks to his hostess Margarita Fores of Pepato fame, Marketman inevitably gushed about the freshness of the fishes in Burgos market, the diwal of Valladolid and the Batchoy of Bar 21 restaurant.

Such journalistic sycopantism is never contrived just because they wanted to please their hosts but rather they find that Bacolod is indeed a foodie's paradise. Even Claude Tayag would perhaps agree that Ilonggo cuisine of the Ilo-ilo & Negros corridor is far far better than his own Pampangan cuisine. Frankly, I'd rather have dulce gatas than Razon's halo-halo or chicken inasal over their signature sisig or batchoy over their papaitan and goat soup. Furthermore, I'd rather eat diwal than their crispy camaru. It's simply a matter of taste really. At least here in Iloilo and Negros, extreme fear factor foods are extremely rare to come by.

Negros food is indeed delicious and deserves more exposure. And I hope there will be more in months to come.

April 28, 2009

Requiem for Rio

I am now publishing for all their worth previous drafts that have been sitting in the back burner. This quatrain was written 10/05/04... already 5 years ago. I couldn't imagine how fast time flies and yet how insignificant all our mortal exercises of building sandcastles truly are. Rio Diaz Cojuangco was a cancer patient who used her last remaining energies for the good of mankind, but just like all things impermanent, only a few ever celebrate her golden deeds today. She is now but an epitaph writ in stone, an empty reminder that even for all of our noblest intentions, life remains like the ebb and flow of the afternoon tide.

Requiem for Rio
by: Julsitos

Your heart of white and gold and jade
Face golden, its radiance true,
Your people breath beneath your shade
from gilded cages built by you.

April 27, 2009

Trinidad Etong

Trinidad Etong
by: Julsitos

Close your eyes,
shut your mind,
and breath in the silence of the night.

Let the solitude balm
your fingers numb
and callous,
your pulse the only sound to guide you by.

Take up
that what is in
your hand.
Do not hesitate
for this is what you have been seeking for.

And plunge
to the fate that awaits you
and let darkness embrace you,
the cold white bathroom tiles
to catch your slumber.

No hand shall wake you
for you and the universe are now one.

March 20, 2009

How Do I Hate Thee?

by: julsitos

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee with such passion that neither
grace nor penance can soothe my discordant days.
And I gladly hope your head shall wither
impaled by knives, your face grey and beaten
your neck slitted like a bastard calf
your nose hacked in two, your eyes gouged, half-eaten
your cursed breast sliced in half
then burnt to cinders and fed to the birds,
your toes avulsed, your legs be quartered,
your arms chopped and divided to thirds,
your flesh to rot, your bones be scattered.
Then I shall dance on your twilight breath,
then shall but love you better after your death.

March 10, 2009

The Hamburger Monologues

The evening was nearing its peak and yet the place was still full of Koreans. I'm thankful that these bunch of Mongoloids (as in the race) are actually helping local businesses thrive. They sit down in groups creating their own small hermit kingdoms with nary a Filipino face in sight to break the monotony of the scene. Despite their being immiscible to local society, they provide body heat in areas where Filipinos tend to thin out. And that's a good thing.

As soon as I ordered my hamburger, I sat down at the counter observing my surroundings and took note of the culinary play that was unfolding in front of me.

I was surprised when the mestiza server took my order. She was petite and perky just like those colegiala partyistas we see on TV. With a grey printed shirt that hugged her chest, she opened the cashbox and counted its contents. The dainty limp of her wrist betrayed all the social graces her aristocratic lineage afforded her. The girl smiled but merely kept to herself. Not another word passed between us although my eyes were finishing in its deliberation. There I was, hoping for more owner-customer interaction but from the looks of her smug countenance, only my eyes did the talking.

The booth was manned by these two mestizo kids and one grungy rocker. Let me indulge for a bit on the two mestizo kids, one un fille aux sang chinoise and the other un salaud aux sang castille. Both are probably children of the landed gentry, the local aristocracy. Why on earth would they put up a hamburger joint is bewildering enough. Why not a luxury car dealership or a boutique? I guess having a hamburger kiosk that serves margaritas is hip and fits with the liquor-guzzling, party-crazy yuppy crowd- the crowd these petit aristocrats wants to serve. Still, it is laudable that they are filled with the entrepreneurial spirit to plant their mark in the culinary scene of this city, a mark for which they want to go against the grain that has already stained the youth of the rich folks in this province stereotyped as lazy bums who do nothing all day but play golf, eat sate babis and watch the sugarcane stalks of their fathers grow. Most, I daresay, grow fat in their parents' largess while indulging in superficial and inconsequential occupations like design, cock breeding and horticulture, or worse, become another señorito of the hacienda overseeing the fertilizer deliveries.

In doing this aforementioned business, I can only see a "Jacko" Effect (Jacko from the movie Namets!) which unfortunately does not bode well for its proprietors. The Jacko Effect means that rich kids with enough disposable cash invest in a business that needs a lot of hands-on expertise. They may love the job for a while but soon the interest of continuing and innovating the business wanes and in the end, the business either will fold up or will deteriorate into one greasy spoon joint. They may have a surge of profits in the beginning but if in the latter days the owners' penchant for cold San Migs, clubbing and entertaining friends should eat up the profits, theirs is a business waiting for its untimely demise. Either they WILL devote their entire time to the business (supervising 8a.m. to 5p.m., going to food seminars, etc.) or they will fry the franchise to its doom. I hope not. I sincerely hope not. I wish them all the success in the world... for the sake of those yummy burgers.

February 20, 2009

Becoming a Pseudo-Horticulturist

Nana informed me that one of my mom's orchids decided that it was time to show its true purpose for this world. It bloomed profusely with multiple buds clustering on its spikes.

As the photo will tell you, it's a Waling Waling. Scientifically known as Vanda Sanderiana, Waling-walings are endemic to the Philippines specifically Mindanao. Today, this "Queen of Orchids" is being cultivated by countries outside its native soil especially Thailand and US (Hawaii). Because it's already an endangered species thanks to deforestation by illegal loggers posing as decent political families, there have been efforts to mass cultivate this most beautiful orchid.

Vanda sanderiana Rchb.f.

Synonym: Euanthe sanderiana (Reichenbach.f) Schlechter
Esmeralda sanderiana Reichb.f.

Vanda sanderiana, commonly called “Waling-waling” , is one of the most beautiful and popular orchid species from the Philippines. It is a strap-leaf species that contributes vigor, large size, enhanced color intensity, round-shape, and flatness of flowers to virtually all Vanda hybrids. This Philippine species is extensively used as a parent in Vanda hybridization works.

Prof. Heinrich G. Reichenbach originally named this species Vanda sanderiana in 1882 in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, in honor of Henry F. Sander, a famous nurseryman and patron of orchids, of St. Albans, England. Dr. Rudolf Schlechter created the generic name, Euanthe in Die Orchideen in 1914 and transferred Vanda sanderiana to this new genus. Difference in the labellum, most particularly the absence of a spur, separates the Euanthe from the Vanda.

Vanda sanderiana is an upright, monopodial orchid, about 1 meter tall. Its leaves arch gracefully up to 40 cm long by 3 cm wide, with its tips unequally notched, as if chewed by an insect. The inflorescences are upright, and carry up to 10 flowers, each 10 cm in diameter. The dorsal sepal and petals are pale pink with some dark spotting toward the center, the lateral sepals greenish brown with darker brown tassellations; and the labellum are purplish brown. The dorsal and lateral sepals are broadly elliptic, measuring up to 4 cm long by 2.5 cm wide. The petals are also broadly elliptic, up to 3.5 cm long by 2 cm wide. The labellum or lip is three-lobed, about 2.5 cm long by 1.75 cm wide, with wide rounded and upright side lobes, and an upright, oblong to circular mid-lobe. The midlobe has three ridges and the labellum phenotypically has no spur, a distinguishing mark which separates Euanthe from Vanda, and also identifies a true Vanda sanderiana species from that of a hybrid.

Vanda sanderiana is endemic to Mindanao Island of the Philippines, where it is particularly found in North and South Cotobato, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur. It grows as an epiphyte attached to dipterocarp forest trees at elevations of 500 meters.

It was noted by Jim Cootes (1991) in his book that “The orchid world is fortunate for the dedication of growers in Hawaii and Thailand who have done wonderful work in propagating both the albino and normal-colored forms of this glorious species. Vastly superior forms are now readily available to any orchid grower who can provide the cool minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius that his species require.” The plant is also being mass produced in orchid nurseries and laboratories in Mindanao since the plant is threatened and needs to be conserved. The plant is in the endangered list.

Because of its beauty, Vanda sanderiana, is described as the “Queen of Philippine Orchids” and was adopted by the Philippine Orchid Society as its logo. The species blooms in the Philippines from July to October, usually after experiencing 3 or more weeks of continuous heavy downpour during the country’s monsoon rain period. With this characteristic, the Philippine Orchid Society celebrates its yearly midyear orchid show every August to coincide with the blooming of this majestic orchid.

This species has 3 varieties, namely:

1. Vanda sanderiana var. albata Reichb. f. in Gard. Chron. ser. 3.2 (1887) 9. Esmeralda Sanderiana var. albata Will.

This plant was described by Prof. Heinrich G. Reichenbach in the Gardeners’ Chronicle in 1887. The growth habit and flower size are just a little smaller than those of the species. The lateral sepals are yellowish-green with white margins, while the dorsal sepal and petals are white with purple spots at base. The labellum or lip has purple dots.

The plant was reported from Davao del Sur and South Cotobato on Mindanao Island where it grows as an epiphyte at elevations to 500 meters. This variety is extremely rare in its natural habitat.

2. Vanda sanderiana var. froebeliana cogn. in Dict. Icon. des. Orch.Vanda t. 12 a (1903).

The plant has bright rose flower stalks; and has very large flowers compared to the species. The lateral sepals are bright yellow, with rose coloration towards the margins, and densely covered with large purple reticulated veins. The dorsal sepal and petals are rose pink color on the upper half, while lower half with brownish-purple spots.

3. Vanda sanderiana var. labello-viridi Linden & Rodigas in Lindenia 1:85, t (1885) 40.
Esmeralda sanderiana var. labello-viridi Will.

The plant is similar to the species except the lip or labellum is green with crimpson stripes.


Cootes, Jim. 2001. The Orchids of the Philippines. Singapore: Times Edition. ISBN 981 232 100 4 .

Fessel H.H. and Peter Belzer. 1999. A Selection of Native Philippine Orchids. Times Editions. Singapore.

Golamco, Andres S. 1991. Philippines’ Book on Orchids. Jemma Inc. Publishing Group, Cainta, Rizal, Philippines.

Valmayor, Helen L. 1984. Orchidiana Philippiniana. Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc. Manila, Philippines.

Valmayor, Helen L. (Ed.) 1981. The Complete Writings of Dr. Eduardo A. Quisumbing on Philippine Orchids. Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc. Manila, Philippines.
Taxonomic Characteristic of this species:

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Vandaeae
Subtribe: Sarcanthinae
Alliance: Vanda
Genus: Vanda (Euanthe Jones ex R.Br., 1820)
Species: V. sanderiana (E. sanderiana)
January 25, 2008
Manila, Philippines

Our Vanda is I think the rarer (therefore, more valuable) Vanda Sanderiana alba. This variety is almost always a winner during orchid shows as typified by the LBOS 2007 Annual Show. Hmmmm... it's beautiful indeed. But it becomes worthy of attraction when people knows it has some monetary worth. People won't give a second look on an object (or a person) unless everyone is clamoring to have it or to be with it (e.g. celebrities).

I only appreciate these things because they are rare and worthy of collecting. I'm not really a horticulturist, our former driver is. Would you believe we had this conversation a while ago?:

Me: "Look over here! There's a Cattleya in bloom! It's the first time I've seen it with those colors!"

Driver: "Uh, they're called Waling-Waling."

To quote Homer of Simpsons, "Doh!" I realized I have a green thumb equivalent of mongo seed sprouter. Although I have my own marcotted Makrut (Kaffir) Lime plants (3 pots now) to look after along with the now decimated Galangal stalks, having this Waling Waling showing its colors is a welcome diversion. My lime is prized for its rarity in its freshest form and for the scarcity of its supply. The Red Thai curries being cooked in our kitchen won't be the same without the fresh Makrut lime leaves. However, my Makrut is for consuming, not for oggling. That's the utilitarian difference.

Apart from my makrut, the blossoming Vanda, the now dead Birds eye chilies and equally dead Galangal stalks, I have little else to give attention to in our mini-jungle at home except when my dog plays through the potted Euphorbiums and knocks it down in the process.

So, when the Vanda flowers wilt and fall away, perhaps this feelings of delight and appreciation for such impermanent beauties will also die away.

February 15, 2009

Arte Kalye @ Bacolod

A few days back, I strolled by San Agustin Extension Road, a small non-descript alley adjacent to Riverside Hospital. The street itself is lined with Bohemian restaurants and Internet cafes mostly catering to college students of nearby San Agustin College and Riverside College. However, for the entire month of February this street gained a twinkle in the city’s eyes.

Arte Kalye was born. I was heartened to see such initiative being done by local artists. Spearheaded by the Art Association of Bacolod with artist like Nunelucio Alvarado at the helm, this month-long festival aims to foster the arts among the masses most especially for the university students. In order to appreciate the arts, one must be immersed in it at the earliest juncture of life for knowing the brushstrokes and the uniqueness of an artist’s oerve takes time and effort. It’s not sufficient to rattle off the names like Alcoseba, Olmedo, and Rubio as if one is reading a litany, but it makes a difference if you learn how to love the strong dark lines of Alvarado or the brash colors of Charlie Co.

Loving art will in turn, spur demand for it because one desires such object. And this seeming demand will jack up the prices not only because the hoi polloi can be able to appreciate the paintings but also the landed gentry and petit bourgeois themselves who have enough disposable cash to buy it. Hence, this festival is an inducement for everyone to be exposed to the local arts in the hope of creating an industry. This was done before. Take a look at the Mabini-del Pilar corridor whose 70s artists like Malang, Ben Cab, Salvador Cabrera, and Buenaventura helped ignite the collecting fever of that era. I hope this happens too in my city. Inducements for demand will create more supply. In turn, this shall benefit the artists. A caveat though: Mauro Malang whose prolific works like tinderas with fishes filled Manila galleries has seen his prices plateaued. That is still a bad dream that will unlikely happen to these Negros painters and sculptors. Right now, they need all the exposure they can get.

And with it, I am planning of making my first investment this coming art sale.


by: julsitos

Bridges, bridges bright,
In the shadows of the night,
Where no foot shall step across
To that which is a worthy loss.

January 19, 2009

Death Do We Part

"But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."
-The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thorton Wilder

Ever since the demise of my parents, life has been a surreal nightmare of sorts. It's as if I've been viewing into a dream sequence where all the characters have been playing their designated roles and the setting merely a shell of what I knew before. It's like an altered parallel universe that I really wanted to escape and wake up. I ask myself whether this is real or merely an extended dream wherein closing one's eyes will not change the moment. Vanilla Sky this ain't.

Indeed I have been waking up, going to work, eating my meals religiously and sleeping- just like any human being- in order to function my basic necessities. But apart from this routine, is there something to mark my whole existence in the world? As we pass away from this earth we are forgotten by the world only to be remembered by those who knew us, who encountered us in our respective paths, and those who we had a strong connection to. Everything else is secondary for none shall be brought to the netherworld and memories of the present fade gradually into the sands of time. We are nothing but specks in the course of the universe and the world will not weep or blip in our passing.

Legacies given by great people for which they are remembered for are more because of ideas rather than the persons themselves. Like Rizal for his nationalism and Gandhi for his non-violence, these personages remain in our thoughts because they have something great to teach the world. Even Hitler taught the world Nazism and the horrors that a person is capable to doing. They are distilled and are remembered for their abstract philosophies but not for their personalities, their hopes and their frustrations. The person withers away and only his name remains.

Inversely, who can we be able to remember those heroes, politicians and presidents that have come by? Even in greatness in character does not connote remembrance for future generations. Who can even remember the names of Eduard Douwes Dekker, Albert Schweitzer, Rabindranath Tagore? Only academicians and historians most likely. How about our own Dagohoy, Leon Kilat, Papa Isio, Leo Echagaray, Elpidio Quirino and the rest of the Philippine motley crew? Can one point out their works and their lives? No one most probably. Such reality is a testament that all of us will end up being forgotten as soon as we are interred six feet into the ground. And the world will keep on spinning.

January 18, 2009

New Hope

New Hope
by: Julsitos

Where hands of slaves and the oppressed
lift the veil that hung like night,
where stars now shine the dispossessed
fill the void with radiant light.

And all that hope that hearts yearn
into this one it personifies,
may it be as firm as the truths we learn,
with justice and peace it glorifies.

January 17, 2009

Two Medical Superstitions

This was a draft during my internship (which happened to be ancient history already)...

1. Seeing Red

Try going to any tertiary hospital and most chances are, you won't see any blazer-clad doctor wearing a red shirt. It was only during clerkship that I was introduced to this curse which says that anyone who wears a predominantly red shirt will have a "toxic" duty that night. By "toxic" we mean that the poor doctor will have the following albeit in different degrees and permutations of stressful events:

1. Internal Medicine - You will have more than three cadiopulmonary arrests going on the same time that you wish you were like the Indian goddes Shiva who has six arms to do multitasking in doing CPR, including one to wipe your sweat off.

2. Pediatrics - Either you will find yourself enjoying a "children's party" at the ER where you alone have to face surly and impatient parents and devil-spawned children who you wish to send to the netherworld ala Orpheus.

3. OB-GYNE - You will realize that it's only on your particular duty where there's a deluge of mothers about to give birth as if there was a dearth of human population. Most have already 5 or 6 spawns to feed already. How these baby factories will be able to send their changelings to high school will remain a mystery.

2. Speak No Evil

It's advisable not to utter any taboo words during one's duty. Words like "toxic", "benign", and the like will have exponential effects towards the participants. Mostly into a spiral downturn into the abyss, victims recall to have uttered these curse words whereby in a span of an hour, a deluge of strokes, breech pregnancies and vehicular accidents came pouring in. And mostly these are indigent patients, so besides being a medical practitioner, one becomes a social worker spewing litanies of the benefits of having money. At times it becomes so acute that one tends to prescribe money towards these patients.

Those who name that-cannot-be-named becomes the immediate beneficiary of head-whacks and snide remarks from those who will be affected. Such is the power of words.