“Skipping between Timelines”

“He believed in an infinite series of times,
in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of
diverging, converging and parallel times.”
—Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”

1

DESPITE ITS MATHEMATICAL TERRORS, the curiosities of quantum mechanics have drawn me in. Since last year, I have buried myself into reading its concepts, especially its framework of space, time, and reality. According to its theories, time does not run in a straight line; instead, timelines bifurcate infinitely: all moments, the theories supposed, exist simultaneously—the past, the present, the future—and are like branched-out threads weaved together into a singular rope, which, hypothetically, makes up the whole universe.

          A god sees the universe as a finished race—its beginning, middle, and end all perceived in a single flash of a moment. All this is indeed difficult, maybe even impossible, for us to grasp since the whole idea stands contrary to what our senses perceive. But a physicist’s inspection on how atoms behave on a quantum level tells us that what we see is not exactly what it is. Well, to us nonscientists, quantum mechanics is either a food for the imagination or a trigger to a headache.

2

In the university’s dormitory bed, weary from the day’s ridge and tunnel hike, I pondered about reality and quantum mechanics and came to realize the different timelines happening in the world within my skull. Then I entered the first layers of my dream.

3

The dream: I was asked to write a piece inspired by the hike: be it a short story, a poem, an essay, or a haiku. I could remember the first stanza of the poem I wrote titled “The Test of Time is the Jest of God,” “Time is God’s measure / Of how much a rock / Can take / Before it breaks.” The poem ended with the next stanza (the first line of which eluded my memory), “[…] / So the cracks remain silent/ And, without despair, accept / God’s eyes into their darkness.” Admittedly, I imagined during the hike that if I peeked into the cracks, my eyes would, by chance, meet God’s or someone else’s.

4

And during the hike, I walked behind a girl and took fancy of her impossibly supple and shapely waist, which, in each her twists, turns, and bends, made my blood boil and undeniably inspired this haiku: “Let my fingers trace / That spine of yours that tempts me / Like a devil’s snake.” Reading the lines, one does not need to look far for an interpretation.

14354997_556559534552930_4721349243955443977_n

Illustration by Geraldine Sy

5

In the short story titled “Limbo” (apparently envisioned as we reached the ridge’s peak), the narrator, sensing the story’s coming end, refused to continue lest he might disappear afterward. So he went back narrating in reverse, risking the story to fall into a frightening absurdity: “The summit awaits all of us. But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. Shall we continue? Shall we continue? But I fear we have nothing to see there afterward. The summit awaits all of us.” The story went on and back.

6

Oddly enough, I conceived of an essay, titled “At the End of the Tunnel,” stating that “the end is imminent, so even if one is alive here and now, one should consider himself dead and gone already, for the future is inevitable and as irrevocable as the past…. In the journey of life, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of the end—that is, death—and the darkness inside the tunnel was that of life.” Unlike the narrator in “Limbo,” we have been nearing the end of our stories one line at a time, and “in the end, we are all nothing but words.”

7

So that’s all I’m able to retrieve from the dream. In another timeline’s future, I may have completely written all those pieces better or perfectly. And probably some future is now reading this article, since, to quote Borges, “the future already exists now.”

8

I hope, in some future out there, I have read and written all the books I want before “getting out of the tunnel.”

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend, October 9, 2016)

A Thousand Beers Ago

If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget;
if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate;
and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.
—Charles Bukowski

A THOUSAND BEERS AGO, I still recall, my best friend took on the question “How can you fall for someone who’s completely over you?” during a drinking session at Fruits and Foods, our favorite bar. When he said “over,” he actually meant “above,” not over as in dead and done. So again, how can you fall for someone who’s completely “above” you? He alone tried answering his inquiry to this paradox. I listened. His thoughts shot deeper into the night until he arrived at an answer: “One just needs to be Superman, so he can fly higher than where she is, and then fall for her.

I laughed at once at this drunkard’s nonsense and almost flipped the table over, but I was stunned upon realizing it must be a vague allusion to Nietzsche’s Übermensch, the Overman.

Believe me, my best friend’s a genius—a rather misguided one at that, especially with a little influence of alcohol. But he’s the unfortunate guy who suddenly falls asleep no matter how savory and sexually accommodating the chicks we are drinking with are. (His tolerance for alcohol back in those days was weaker than a girl’s—unbelievably low.) Well, that means two things: one, more beers for me, and two, I get to take all the ladies.

All are true except for the “ladies” part. Mind you, we don’t drink to get laid (such act goes against my drinking ethics). Heck, we don’t even drink for the taste (we even seek Kulafu if it’s available and the mood calls for it). In all truthfulness, we desperately drink and offer a toast for the enlightenment and salvation of mankind, and seriously so. To quote from the book Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lendler, “a bottle of beer contains more poetry and philosophy than any other books in the world.”

(There’s no refuting Lenders statement. Its reverberance, long-stuck and percussive in my ears, soon led me to constitute my own unwritten fundamentals in drinking. One fundamental, carrying the force of a Zen koan, is “To drink is to know, and to know is to not drink.”)

******

Page-32-A-thousand-beers-ago-by-Nicolo-Nasol

Illustration by Geraldine Sy

My best friend and I drink for wild pleasure and celebration, of course, setting aside our intellectual ambitions for our hedonistic pursuits (this we try to keep in moderation). Inevitably, we drink for our dramas as well. Fact is, during life’s most tumultuous and trying times, you just want to sleep dead drunk for the night and wake up, regretfully, the next day with an even deadlier hangover.

There are times when I need a strong drink so I can write without inhibitions, but alcohol worsens my already god-awful penmanship. Reading the draft when I get sober, I can only make out, barely and with effort, the first paragraph. The rest of it resembles a drug addict’s scrawl on the walls.

Here I present to you a line I scrawled during one of my flights of intoxication: “Alcohol makes emotions inflammable, and it takes only a single question to lick both into flames.”

What lucidity only a drunk mind is capable of attaining! In vino nobis veritas, as they say (“In wine, there is truth”). A drunk mind is as mysterious as it is dangerous.

I am a bit proud of my ability to remember my drunken moments, however cringe-worthy, grotesque, and shameful my acts may be, as not everyone recalls his flights during intoxication; and even when they do, they wish to forget all of it. But not me.

******

My best friend and I have been drinking at my place for some nights now, catching up, for we haven’t seen each other for months. It has dawned on me that we are still asking the same questions regarding life. (To interject a line, “As time flies, what remains the same? The question remains the same.”) Are we still as naive as when we were in college?

If so, a thousand more beers then.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend Cebu: July 31, 2016)

Book Nook: Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut

I had to laugh like hell.
—Kurt Vonnegut

HOCUS POCUS is a grim, depressing, yet terribly funny, fictional autobiography of General Eugene Debs Hartke, a person who never masturbated and uttered neither blasphemy nor profanity in his life. His parents died in a freak accident in Niagra Falls without ever knowing what hit them. His wife and mother-in-law, carrying a powerful strain of insanity, turned into lunatics. His son and daughter, upon knowing that they too could end up in an insane asylum, couldn’t forgive them for reproducing. Gene also has a son out of wedlock, who was named after a cocktail.

Gene dreamed of being a jazz pianist or a journalist, but “life being what it was” placed him in West Point and made him lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War, an accomplishment which made his frustrated father real proud.

That path to West Point was all thanks to the “helmsman of his destiny,” Sam Wakefield, a lieutenant colonel he met during the high school science fair, who would commit suicide years later and leave a very ambiguous and absolutely unoriginal note: “My work is done.”

As a professional soldier, Gene would have welcomed a returning Christ  with a napalm air strike, if ordered to do so by his superiors. At the end of the book, he would reveal the number of people he had killed in the war and how many women he had slept with.

When the Vietnam War was over—which was “nothing but the ammunitions business”—Gene met Sam again, who then hired him as a professor in Tarkington College, which was a correctional insititute, to teach physics and music appreciation to affluent learning-disabled students, or “seemingly hopeless cases of plutocratic juvenile incapacities,” whom no conventional universities would dare accept.

The college did rather well and proved that they could teach what the other universities thought to be unteachable: some of their graduates were successful in life and even became among the nation’s great men.

Spent in this institution were Gene’s happiest days—not as a teacher, but as a carillon player at the beginning and end of classes. He was a good teacher and was a students’ favorite, but he would soon be fired because of “life being what it was.”

Gene landed another job on a maximum-security prison as a teacher to the illiterate and dangerous convicts who were never allowed set foot with society again, and there he contracted tuberculosis. Then one night, a prison break was successful—the largest in American history—with the Tarkington College just across the frozen lake that separated them.

He was inside a prison library when he wrote his scrap autobiography. And so it goes.

Hocus-Pocus

The novel’s format is unparalleled in its unique brilliance: “The narrator wrote this book in pencil on everything from brown wrapping paper to the backs of business cards, from scrap to scrap, as though each were a bottle to fill,” hence the nonlinearity of the story line, a signature Vonnegutian device, which makes this work entropic, digressive, challenging, and anticlimactic.

The story can be summed up as an old war veteran’s retrospection of his life, like taking into account the number of the people he killed in the war and the women he slept with. This method allowed Vonnegut to go on a “freewheeling commentary,” and not without the raging moral outrage and ridicule, on war, fate, society, racism, and politics, business, and education.

The rhythm of Kurt Vonnegut’s “sharp-toothed” and stoical witticisms remains irreproachable and inimitable, and none of his literary inheritors come close to his satirical and philosophical bents.

Definitely among the 20th century’s greatest novels, Hocus Pocus stands as a depressing vision of humanity. Vonnegut states, “I am not writing this book for people below the age of 18, but I see no harm in telling young people to prepare for failure rather than success, since failure is the main thing that is going to happen to them.”

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend Cebu: June 19, 2016)

Descent Extreme: Rolling Down the Winding Roads with the 7th Visayan Longboarding Trilogy

The epitome of the Philippine longboarding scene.
An experience that defines the spirit of longboarding in this side of the world. 
—Juan Duazo, owner of Driftwood Local Enterprises

Photo Credits to All Day Media.

Photo Credits to All Day Media

EXTREME SPORTS such as longboarding is yet to be standardized here in the Philippines. Point in fact, only a really few Filipinos understand the intricate physics working behind the sport.

Skaters rolling their wheels in the busy streets, abandoned parking lots, and secret alleyways are oftentimes regarded by society as eccentrics who are “wasting time” and “not thinking about their parents or their future.”

Photo Credits to All Day Media (3)

“Reckless fools! Maybe they’re cutting classes, doing drugs, or drinking.” “Don’t they know how dangerous it is?” Such classic derogatory remarks stem from the general public’s misunderstanding and prejudice over skateboarding. (Another case would be the absence of a decent skatepark in the city while the presence of a basketball court is almost everywhere.) Despite society’s lack of support and judgments, the skater’s spirit won’t break all that easy and will continue to rise.

A group of longboarders is slowly but steadily making a breakthrough in the country’s culture that they caught the eyes of internationally acclaimed skaters who are now joining them in spreading the true spirit of the sport with fellow Filipinos.

Photo Credits - Mediadelic

Photo Credits – Mediadelic

“The simplicity of life and brotherhood brought up by skating is what we want to share,” Joseph Falcone, an experienced longboard racer and a skateboard craftsman for Driftwood Local Enterprises, states during the press conference for the 7th Visayan Longboarding Trilogy, an annual pilgrimage of longboarders, held at KOA Tree House last April 2, 2016.

Photo Credits - Mediadelic

Photo Credits – Mediadelic

Now Asia’s grandest longboarding event, the fourteen-day Visayan longboarding trilogy kicked off in the wonderful island of Siquijor for the Mystical Island Freeride and Traditional Race (April 5–7) and continued and culminated in the mystifying spots of Cebu, in Oslob for the Super Mango Skate Clinic (April 10–12), which was hosted by the world’s #1 pro downhill skateboarder, Patrick Switzer, and in Carcar for the Veggie Hill International Downhill Federation (IDF) World Qualifying Series Race (April 15–17). Almost 300 participants joined the IDF race.

*****

Here’s the list of winners:

Mystical Island (Siquijor) Traditional Race Winners

Photo credit - Grupo Nopo (2)

Class A (Open) Category

Champion – Riley Harris (Canada)
1st runner-up – Tiny Catacutan (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Lawrence Thompson (Australia)
3rd runner-up – Mitchell Thompson (Australia)

Photo credit - Nerissa Althia Ravina

Photo credit – Nerissa Althia Ravina

Class B Category

Champion – Cameron Hancock (Australia)
1st runner-up – Brian Russel Banzal (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Gene Nillas (Canada)
3rd runner-up – Sebastian Redila (Philippines)

Juniors’ Category

Champion – Charlie Guitering (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Franz Brian “Pantoy” Solasco (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – RJ Ancot (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Charles “Bodeck” Reuyan (Philippines)

Photo credits - Trina Risos

Photo credits – Trina Risos

Women’s Category

Champion – Abigail Viloria (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Sharon Marie Diocera (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Elissa Mah (New Zealand)
3rd runner-up –Anna Pixner (Austria)
4th runner-up – Kara Marbe Urbiztondo (Philippines)

Photo credits - Trina Risos

Photo credits – Trina Risos

Super Mango Clinic (Oslob) Stand-Up Race Winners

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Champion – RJ Ancot (Philippines)
1st runner-up –Tiboy Santiago (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Michael De la Serna (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Manu Duhamel (Canada)

Photo credit - Grupo Nopo

Photo credit – Grupo Nopo

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Photo credit - Patrick Switzer

Photo credit – Patrick Switzer

Grupo Nopo Outlaw (San Fernando) Invitational Winners

Champion – Roy Churchland (Australia)
1st runner-up – Danny Carlson (Canada)
2nd runner-up – DandoyTongco (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Sam Randalls (Canada)

GN Invitational Winners left to right CHAMPION Roy Churchland - 2nd Place Danny Carlson - 3rd Place Dandoy Tongco - 4th Sam Randalls - Photo Credit to Grupo Nopo

GN Invitational Winners left to right CHAMPION Roy Churchland – 2nd Place Danny Carlson – 3rd Place Dandoy Tongco – 4th Sam Randalls – Photo Credit to Grupo Nopo

Veggie High IDF World Qualifying Series (Carcar) Winners

Open Category
Champion – Patrick Switzer (Canada)
1st Runner-up – Riley Harris (Canada)
2nd Runner-up – Max Ballesteros (Brazil/USA)
3rd Runner-up – Danny Clarkson (Canada)

Women’s Category

Champion – Rachel Bruskoff (USA)
1st runner-up – Elissa Mah (New Zealand)
2nd runner-up – Jenny Schaurte (United Kingdom)
3rd runner-up – Tamara Prader (Switzerland)

IDF Women's Division - Left to Right - Rachel Bruskoff 1st - Elissa Mah 2nd - Jenny Schaurte 3rd - Tamara Prader 4th - Photo by Aubrey Bejec

IDF Women’s Division – Left to Right – Rachel Bruskoff 1st – Elissa Mah 2nd – Jenny Schaurte 3rd – Tamara Prader 4th – Photo by Aubrey Bejec

Juniors’ Category

Champion – Franz Brian “Pantoy” Solasco (Philippines)
1st runner-up – Sebastian Chanco (Philippines)
2nd runner-up – Enrique Chino Padin (Philippines)
3rd runner-up – Mario Nathaniel Umali (Philippines)

IDF Juniors' Division - Left to Right - Franz Solasco 1st - Sebastian Cinco 2nd - Enrique Padin 3rd - Mario Umali 4th - Photo by Mcflurry Adriano

IDF Juniors’ Division – Left to Right – Franz Solasco 1st – Sebastian Cinco 2nd – Enrique Padin 3rd – Mario Umali 4th – Photo by Mcflurry Adriano

IDF Masters’ Division

1st place  – Benjamin Hay (Australia)
2nd place – Ryan Nicholls (Australia)
3rd place – Caloy Sambrano (Philippines)

IDF Masters' Division - Left to Right - 3rd Caloy Sambrano - 1st Place Benbro Hay  - 2nd Ryan Nicholls  - Photo by Ering Ricablanca

IDF Masters’ Division – Left to Right – 3rd Caloy Sambrano – 1st Place Benbro Hay – 2nd Ryan Nicholls – Photo by Ering Ricablanca

*****

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

Photo Credits to All Day Media

The Visayan Longboarding Trilogy aims “to unite the local skating communities in the country and strengthen the foundations of this sprouting lifestyle”; to develop “riding skills, first aid and safety awareness, and to teach lessons on how to be an ambassador in one’s community.” It also aims to create a breakthrough in the sport, thus improving its integrity and safety, and to appreciate our own talents that are now competing on a world-class level.

The trilogy inspires eco-extreme sports tourism in the Philippines island paradises.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: April 24, 2016)

Chicken Abortion

Naa kay eighteen diha, ki?
—Anonymous

I WALKED ALONG the polluted sidewalk downtown where there lay a stretch of street food stalls that habitually begins to grow crowded at the first stroke of twilight. People who just got off from school and work found themselves feasting on the delicacies to relieve their hunger and nerves, sometimes while enjoying a conversation with an acquaintance or a friend, mostly exchanging summaries or anecdotes on how their day went.

Passing by, I could hear peals of laughter, as incessant as the sizzling of food in the scalding oil, and even belches of people whose stomachs were gratified right after the gulp of their beverage, often followed by lighting a cigarette.

I looked with astonishment at the burning of the cigarettes, for their tips stood out perfectly, like crimson stars, between the moonlight and the glares coming from the headlights congested in the road.

The greasy savor in the air suddenly rendered me famished, but somehow absolved me from the whole day of earthly labors.

*****

I was well into my fourth piece of penoy when a group of foreigners lined by the stall I was in. The crowd threw glances at them.

The five foreigners, three men and two women, whom I thought were Americans, looked exhausted, out of breath, undoubtedly from carrying huge backpacks, bags, tents, and rolled sleeping mats. Nevertheless, I saw excitement gleaming from their faces; their eyes were of those beholding the arrival of a long-awaited meal.

At once, I reckoned that the foreign group must have heard myths about Balut and that now they were going to unfold its mystery; one of them confirmed it by saying he found “the Balut.”

The men declared to draw first blood while the women backed them up with cheers.

I listened to the vendor stuttering his way in giving instructions. He guided them through gestures—like pointing at a certain part of the shell—and managed to convey the instructions with precision.

I was surprised at how the men devoured the embryo in an instant, perhaps without even tasting, and certainly without spitting the bits of bones and hairs out; regardless, they expressed delight at its tastiness.

The women’s applause caught the attention of the busy crowd. It was their turn next. But no sooner had they peeled the shells than they backed down at the sight of the embryo.

As though spectators in a show, passersby circled around the stall and cheered for the women.

“Chicken abortion!” I broke in. People, including the foreigners, turned and laughed at my remark; a student even repeated, “Di ta mokaon ani uy, kay chicken abortion.”

One of the women stopped laughing and asked me, “What happens if no one eats them?”

“They’re thrown away,” I said rather coldly. “The reason they’re ‘aborted’ is because the farms here can’t afford to raise them. So even if they were to live, they’d eventually die of starvation. Besides, no one can shelter all of them, and they’d be a nuisance if they’re too many.”

The crowd, I realized, was silent and listening to me the whole time, perhaps never expecting such an insight on the matter.

“Balut,” I continued, “is actually a solution to poultry overpopulation.”

*****
page-33-chicken-abortion
Illustration by Geraldine Sy

I lit my fourth cigarette while walking into the heart of the downtown, which I fancied to be pumping the traffic of strangers and vehicles into the streets.

The evening declined, and I looked at the moon glowing brighter beyond the rise of the buildings, the sight of it misted by the smoke coming out of my mouth.

I stood on the street corner, listening to the cacophony of wheels, horns, footsteps, and gossips, when a strange memory involving balut sprang into mind:

Once, a sallow balut vendor, who was my “suki” since he was just across the street near my home, confided to me about hearing death rattles of full-grown embryos from inside their shells as he boiled them in his large pot.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: March 27, 2016 and on Zerothreetwo, a local online magazine)

Cheers to TINTA! A Toast to Another Bottle of Ink!

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.
We read and write poetry because
we are members of the human race.
—Sir John Keating, Dead Poets Society


ON THE TENDER NIGHT of the 27th of February 2016, at the 2nd floor of Handuraw Pizza, Gorordo, TINTA of University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu marked its 13th monthly poetry reading, or “Basa Balak,” which was handsomely titled “Kasumaran: Pisik sa mga Tinagsip” (Anniversary: A Splatter of Fragments), as a year already passed since TINTA started breaking ground into the city’s literary landscape.

Denver Torres (Photo by Rika Castro)

Denver Torres

Karla Quimsing (Photo by Rika Castro)

Karla Quimsing

TINTA hosted their largest crowd yet. In attendance were established Cebuano writers Denver Torres, Jona Bering, Karla Quimsing, Anthony Kintanar, and Larry Ypil; various members of the Nomads and BATHALAD, two of the literary circles in Cebu; TINTA poets Jae Magdadaro, Monica Manluluyo, Reyna Cadiz, Astrid Ilano, and Tara Angela Prieto; and Cebu-based start-up Suwh(a)t, whose soulfully hand-crafted notebooks served as prizes for the trivia and “tigmo” session. The audience, mainly composed of youths who brought their own poems, songs, and anecdotes into the open mike segment, contributed largely to the full house event.

Anthony Kintanar (Photo by Rika Castro)

Anthony Kintanar

Suw(h)at is a Cebu-based crafts start-up that seeks to empower individuality and thoughts through carefully crafted and personalized notebooks/paper products. (Photo by Rika Castro)

Suw(h)at is a Cebu-based crafts start-up that seeks to empower individuality and thoughts through carefully crafted and personalized notebooks/paper products.

Overwhelmed by the growing multitude of people appreciating the monthly poetry nights, Tara Angela Prieto, TINTA’s incumbent chairperson and also a graduating psychology student, envisioned a “stronger patronization to these literary events.”

TINTA Chairperson Tara Angela Prieto (Photo by Rika Castro)

TINTA Chairperson Tara Angela Prieto

A Rorschach Test

When the first verses were penned by its founding chairperson, Romeo Nicolas Bonsocan, on June 16, 2011, TINTA no sooner became UP Cebu’s official—and only—creative writing organization. With the guidance and support of Lilia Tio, Januar Yap, and Shane Carreon and the commitment of the group’s members, TINTA, which was initially born of the idea of having an essential creative outlet and “interest-based organization” for students, assumed the form of an inkblot smeared not just in the school walls but also in the walls of contemporary Cebuano literature.

Outside the school’s wrought iron gates, TINTA conducted their own love letter writing contest (2013; the awards night was held at the painfully missed beauty of La Belle Aurore) as well as a literary awards night (2014; this was held at UP Cebu) that drew participants from different universities.

Going in for the Quill

The organization was formerly named “Mga Alagad sa Dagang” (The Order of the Quill). Now, other than being the Cebuano translation for “ink,” TINTA also stands for “Tunob” (footprint), “Iwag” (light), “Nasod” (country), “Talento” (talent), “Alampat” (art)—five components that serve as the organization’s cornerstones.

TINTA’s groundwork activities are to “read, write, and inspire.” They practice their craft through sharing, engaging in discussion, and getting involved in the development of national literature. They also hold several workshops, where they are mentored by Cebu’s literary heroes.

Now stepping into their 5th year, TINTA continues to influence a generation of young writers to move toward a renewal—or a revolution, if you will—of Cebuano literature.

(Published on Sun.Star Weekend: March 13, 2016; photos by Rika Castro)