Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Sunday, August 31, 2003

Carlo Vergara gets what he deserves...

But not in a bad way! On the contrary, my dearest darling friend Carl received the National Book Award yesterday for his sterling work on his two-part comics story, Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah. If you haven't read Zsa Zsa yet, you need to go out and grab a copy now. On cursory inspection, it reads as a hilarious send-up of classic Pinoy comics superheroine Darna, with a gay man as the protagonist instead of a crippled young girl. A closer glance, however, reveals that it is also a thoughtful and thought-provoking inquiry into the nature of identity and self-realization. It definitely ranks up there as one of the best-- if not the best-- locally-produced comics I've read, even if the title invariably trips up my tongue and elicits an embarrassing giggling fit as a result.
Nikki bit in at 5:42 PM :: ::
Saturday, August 30, 2003


Dora Levy Mossanen’s book Harem was a disappointment, which is kind of odd because the writing was actually pretty good, especially for a first novel. The characters were well-drawn and the overall tone was engaging. However, for a book which purported to be a ‘seductive and intriguing journey’ from the Persian Jewish quarter to the seraglio, it just didn’t give much insight into the Persian culture or life in the harem. And darnit, that’s what I was looking for, little details like how a concubine is trained, hierarchy in the women’s quarters, that sort of thing. I guess I was hoping for something like Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, and it wasn’t that at all. Oh, well.

Carl is lending me two TPBs today, Blankets by Craig Thompson (because he liked it) and Batman: Hongkong (because he disliked it, and wants someone to dislike it with). I’m lending him Hopeless Savages by Jen van Meter, which I adore because it’s a funny, utterly un-maudlin teenage love story which revolves around the children of a couple of world famous love stars. (The children are named Rat Bastard, Arsenal Savage, Twitch Strummer, and Skank Zero, which gives you an inkling of the book’s tone right there.) I suspect that the other reason I like Hopeless Savages is because I identify with Jen van Meter, who is a writer married to a much-better known and critically-acclaimed writer, Greg Rucka. Honey, I know how that goes…

useless knowledge

In Hebraic myth (which is not always the same as Biblical lore), it was not just Noah and the passengers of his Ark who survived the Great Flood. Two creatures known as the Reem (a huge, possibly hippo-like mammal) and the Ziz (a gigantic bird) also endured; the Ziz by alighting on the roof of the Ark’s boathouse, and the Reem by resting its chin on the Ark’s deck. God spared these animals, it is said, because He intends to serve them at a Great Feast for the righteous on Judgment Day. Now that’s divine foresight.
Nikki bit in at 1:25 PM :: ::
Friday, August 29, 2003

Erap was all my fault…

And probably yours too, if, like me, you’re a Filipino who regularly dismisses the whole voting process as a senseless exercise in futility practiced only by the credulous and ill-informed. Given the apparently insurmountable corruption and electoral misconduct that goes on in this country, it’s not an unreasonable assumption.


If only the credulous and ill-informed vote, then the tragic outcome is that we end up with exactly the kind of elected officials that we deserve, given our apathetic lack of involvement. Sure, there’s always the chance that our votes will be invalidated due to ballot-switching, flying voting, or whatever, but do we really have the right to bitch about our government if we don’t even make the minimum effort to improve it in some way?

Because of COMELEC’s new computerized system, both new and old voters need to register at their local municipal or city hall. The window of opportunity is from now to October 31. Bring the following:

A. 1x1 or 2x2 ID Picture

B. age 22 and above (at least 2 of the following):
1. driver's license
2. NBI clearance
3. school ID
4. company ID
5. passport
6. proof of billing (Meralco, MWSS, PLDT etc.)
7. police clearance
8. postal ID

C. Age 18-21:
1. birth certificate
2. Any ID listed in B.

All IDs should indicate present address.

Thanks to my always-intelligent friend Katrina for pointing out the obvious.
Nikki bit in at 11:37 AM :: ::
Thursday, August 28, 2003

useless trivia

I’ve decided to blog some of the bits of pointless knowledge I’ve got floating around in my brain, in the vain hope that this will clear up some thinking space for actually important things. So here goes:

In 1925, a Panay shopkeeper named Florencio Entrencherado proclaimed himself Florencio I, emperor of the Philippines. He claimed that he could control the elements, and had been granted divine charisma by the Holy Spirit and the spirits of heroes Rizal and Burgos. He pronounced that “the hour will come when the poor will be ordered to kill all the rich”, and actually had a following of about 10,000 by 1926.

Interestingly enough, he was not the only so-called Philippine Emperor. An American in Ilocos also claimed the title for himself, but I don’t know his name or how his reign came to pass.


I’ve decided to stop labeling my novel segments ‘prologue’, ‘chapter 1’, and so on, because something occurred to me that I should have put in the prologue, only it doesn’t really go with the rest of the prologue, so maybe I should make it a foreword, except that I don’t want to have a prologue and a foreword, so…

Argh. You get the point.

Crocodile Laughter
(part 4)

Inwardly, of course, Mansueta was seething. How dare she! she fumed. How dare he! How dare they! She felt like strangling someone, if only she could decide which of them deserved it more. It was not as if she’d imagined that Iling had been pure and untouched before meeting her, and certainly not as if she actually intended to marry him, but still!

(My family has always had an enormous capacity for self-deception, as you can see. Also, I just realized while writing this that Lolo wasn’t the only one with a temper. My grandmother had one, too; she just happened to control it better. In retrospect, probably she controlled it too well. Maybe there’s such a thing as being too refined…)

Eschewing murder as well as her usual perfumed, elegantly-constructed missives, Mansueta fired off a telegram to Baguio:

Your girlfriend from America is here STOP She has a surprise for you STOP Come immediately STOP

Arguably, Mansueta should have given him an idea of what to expect, but she was not feeling especially charitable at the time.

Betty, meanwhile, was living off the kindness of the Goldsmiths, a Jewish couple stationed in Manila, where Colonel Goldsmith was in command of a detachment of U.S. troops. For her part, Mrs. Goldsmith supported local charities, held lunches for expatriate American ladies, and clucked pityingly in Betty’s direction every chance she got.

“You poor dear,” she would croon, with more than a hint of self-congratulation over her own sheer goodness at taking the unwed expectant mother in, “You poor, poor dear.”

It was enough to drive a former stage star crazy, so that Betty, who had crossed the globe with every intention of presenting herself to Manny all sweetly sorrowful and adorably irresistible, was instead a snarling harridan by the time he arrived in the capital.

Well, it was not entirely Mrs. Goldsmith’s fault, really, because in his shock at comprehending the compromising nature of Betty’s surprise, Emmanuel, normally so smooth, made the mistake of uttering the fatally unforgivable words: “Is it… mine?”

(Everyone knows this is almost the worst thing a man can say to his pregnant paramour. I mean, there she is, nauseous, sluggish, and feeling roughly the size of an ocean liner, and on top of everything, she’s practically accused of infidelity. Just about the only worse thing you could blurt is “I know a good abortion clinic…”)

“You bastard!” Betty naturally exploded. She had been poised theatrically beside the Goldsmiths’ ornamental fireplace, and as she whirled to glare at her former lover, her fingers closed upon the nearest throwable object to hand: Mrs. Goldsmith’s heirloom brass menorah. “You goddam son of a bitch!”

The precious candelabra went flying through the air, and Lolo Emmanuel went flying out the door.
Nikki bit in at 1:46 PM :: ::
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

sorry, sorry

I lollygagged about yesterday morning and noon, playing with my daughter Sage instead of working because she was being all extra-cute. Figured I'd do my writing in the afternoon... which, of course, is when an emergency rush editing job plopped into my lap.

Wouldn'tcha know it? The thing about freelancing is that it can be unpredictable like that. I could have turned it down, of course, but that might give my client the idea that (gasp!) someone else can actually do what I do for them. Can't have that! So, no see-ree-ous creative stuff until I've earned my pay. In the meantime, here's an old poem that's been moldering in my files:

The Numbers Game: Pantoum

You said you’d be 18 forever;
I smiled in amused condescension.
Now you’ve had the last laugh at last.
You always did like to confound expectations.

I smiled in amused condescension
when we met, and you claimed to be 14.
You always did like to confound expectations:
physically 20, mentally 60, eternally always a boy.

When we met and you claimed to be 14,
I was 17, and invincible.
Physically 20, mentally 60, eternally always a boy,
you must have felt it as well.

I was 17 and invincible.
For 5 minutes, it might have been lust.
You must have felt it as well—
in some things, you always knew better.

For 5 minutes, it might have been lust
instead of a lifetime of friendship.
In some things, you always knew better:
adulthood comes when it comes, all too soon.

Instead of a lifetime of friendship,
you went and died at age 27.
Adulthood comes when it comes, all too soon—
9 years past 18, but who’s counting?

You went and died at age 27;
now you’ve had the last laugh at last.
9 years past 18, but who’s counting?
You said you’d be 18 forever.
Nikki bit in at 2:34 PM :: ::
Monday, August 25, 2003

those Americanskis

My American mother calls me up every now and then from her home in New York. Most recently, she called to ask my husband's neck circumference (She's buying him a shirt.), and I told her how our baby daughter Sage had burst into tears when a little French boy kissed her on the cheek at a neighbor's birthday party. "Good for Sage!" my mother promptly crowed, and proceeded to rant at length on the evils of all French people, since they had refused to support the U.S. war on terrorism. She went on to point out how particularly reprehensible that was since the U.S. had been instrumental in liberating France in WWII, and closed by expressing her satisfaction that French fries had now been renamed 'freedom fries', thereby eliminating, in theory, any lingering positive associations toward the French people in the American mindset.

Being nominally American myself, I was flabbergasted. I mean, I'd thought that 'freedom fries' thing was a joke! Now I wonder if that means other things are going to be renamed, like freedom vanilla ice cream, freedom-cut bikinis, and freedom kissing. It all sounds pretty funny until you comprehend the 'if you're not with us, you're against us' vibe that's behind it, and realize that even my normally sane mom has somehow been brainwashed to the point where she can now perceive a little two-year-old boy as a representative of Penultimate Evil.

Only Americans can manage to be silly and scary at the same time.

Crocodile Laughter
(part 3)

Since the concert season in Manila had just ended, Mansueta was set to stay in Cagayan for a month or so, but Emmanuel had to report for work in Baguio in a matter of days. It was just enough time for him to endear himself to her—for, to her own surprise, Mansueta found that this country boy from the back of beyond was more worldly-wise than she, having traveled out of the country; and, although he spoke no Spanish, his English was even better than her own. Moreover, he possessed certain admirable traits that the soft city boys she had known all lacked: an air of competence, a dauntlessness, a willingness to get his hands dirty if necessary to achieve his ends. Of course, it helped that he was also good-looking, manly, and, as I’ve mentioned before, cariñoso. Despite herself, Mansueta was fascinated—but not fascinated enough to actually agree to his proposal of marriage.

So Emmanuel went off to Baguio, and Mansueta, eventually, to Manila. And although they corresponded regularly in lengthy letters, for a time it seemed that the spark of attraction between them would never truly ignite into a lasting flame, stifled as it was by the problems of distance and incompatible ambition.

Until Betty, late of Ziegfield Follies fame, arrived in the Philippines, uninvited, unannounced, and unmistakably pregnant.


In the late 1930s, the American population in the Philippines was considerably smaller than it is today. Everybody knew everybody; and of course, small communities being the way that they are, everyone was absolutely avid to lend assistance to a young, unmarried American girl in the family way, if only so they could get a front-row seat to the scandalous scenes that were sure to follow.

So it was that Betty, exhausted from her flight and now far too tumescent to even consider the lengthy overland trip to Baguio, quickly found herself instead standing backstage at a concert hall, awaiting the end of the performance of the celebrated pianist known in certain circles as ‘Manny’s local girl’.

As Mansueta drifted offstage to tumultuous applause, Betty planted herself squarely in the other girl’s path, eyes narrowed, jaw set, spoiling for trouble. “So,” she snapped, in her most cutting tones, “you’re Manny’s little fling.”

Mansueta was understandably surprised at the abrupt manifestation of this garish apparition, heavy with child, yet still decked out like a dance-hall girl in too much makeup and a too-tight summer dress. “Who,” she asked, not unreasonably, “are you?”

“I’m Betty,” Betty announced combatively, “the mother of Manny’s child.”

Mansueta stared blankly at her for several long moments. Betty tilted her chin up as snidely and provokingly as she knew how.

“How very nice for you,” Mansueta said politely, and regally swept on past.

(Naturally, Betty had had no prior experience with Filipino pakitang-tao, which literally translates as ‘what you show people’. It’s often defined as hypocrisy, but it can also simply be an acute sense of privacy, the ironclad conviction that the world has neither the right nor duty to be privy to your innermost thoughts and emotions. Not all Filipinos display it, especially not nowadays. My family, however, has got it in spades.)
Nikki bit in at 4:34 PM :: ::
Sunday, August 24, 2003

assholes across the globe

In international news, some 6,000 people in Canada rallied together the other day to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage. 6,000 people, can you imagine? Just think what a group that size could do to help the environment, fight hunger, or alleviate poverty. But nooo, they'd rather spend their time preventing people in love from gaining rights and privileges as a legally-recognized couple. Their justification is that they are "trying to preserve the sanctity of the institution (of marriage)". As if hetero people haven't been royally screwing the institution up for years.

What's up with that?


Just read Prey, by Michael Crichton. I whizzed through the book in one day, because Crichton does that to me-- his erudite scientific thrillers make me hustle through the pages until I can finally find out what the hell is going on! This one was as enthralling as the rest, a 'what-if' on the synthesis of nanotechnology and biotech. Surprisingly, it even managed to avoid Crichton's usual pitfall of vague and/or awfully pat endings. This one finished nearly as strong as it started, and was almost worth my having skipped dinner with friends to get through it. (Sorry, guys!)

Next on my list is Harem by Dora Levy Mossanen, which my doting husband bought me at The Bookstore Formerly Known As Page One (a.k.a. Fully Booked). Normally, I wouldn't risk getting a book by someone named Dora (smacks dangerously of romance novels, ugh), but this one is billed as a 'journey from the... Persian Jewish quarter to the... world of shahs, soothsayer, eunuchs, and sultanas...' Also: 'rich with myth, history, politics, fantasy...', which is so much my thing it's almost as if the book had been written with me in mind. In fact, I once upon a time wrote a similarly-themed pornographic comic titled The Harem of Ali Akbar, which may or may not still be available on the net. The characters from that story also appeared (in somewhat less risqué guise) in Dean’s comic book, The Lost.

Fully Booked is probably the best bookstore in the Philippines today, despite being overpriced and somehow rather pretentious. Its selection of titles is far superior to those of the competition (except possibly for Dymock's, which is located way out in the wilds of Manila, which is why I have yet to check it out). Particularly satisfying are the extensive sci-fi/fantasy section (much more than the usual run of gaming, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Robert Jordan books) and the eclectic range of trade paperback comics.
Nikki bit in at 9:10 PM :: ::
Saturday, August 23, 2003

shame and horror

Last night I went singing with some of my guys (Dean, Carl, Vinnie, El, Charles, and Tobie) at Music 21 on Timog. It was actually my first time to hang with Charles and El at length, but I now feel that we are bonded for life, having irrevocably humiliated ourselves in front of one another with sorry attempts to sing songs ranging as far back as our grandparents' generation. I'm kidding-- most of the warbling was really pretty cool, but there's nothing like the aforementioned shame and horror to bring people together...

Despite my burning envy of people like Tobie, El, and Carl, who can not only sing, but also draw, write, act, cook, and probably conjugate Latin verbs while dancing the Funky Chicken with one hand tied behind their backs. Either the universe is grossly unfair, or these pals o' mine have something deeply and secretly wrong with them, like a hidden conjoined twin or supernumerary pap*.

I live in hope.

*The supernumerary pap...

... is a third (or fourth, or fifth) nipple, which is one of the signs witch-hunters used to look for when investigating a suspected witch. It was thought to be an extra teat which the witch used to nourish its demonic familiar, whether cat, rat, bat, or toad.

Speaking of matters (pseudo)religious...
I heard on the news yesterday that some guy got himself arrested for stealing a tricycle in order to kidnap local singer/actress Jolina Magdangal. According to him, he did it because God told him it was time for him to pick Jolina up so that they could fulfill their destinies and get married. Mild shades of Charles Guiteau, who killed U.S. president James Garfield because, he claimed, the Lord had instructed him to do so.

Maybe I should take a page from these guys if I ever get arrested for smoking in the wrong place. Yup, "God made me do it!", I'll say.
Nikki bit in at 2:30 PM :: ::
Friday, August 22, 2003

comicses, my preciousss

My husband and I met and fell in love over comics. It happened like this: In my freshman year of college, I applied for membership in a writer's club. While I was signing up, the membership comittee head (now my good friend Bonki... yes, that really is her name!) was giving me the spiel about how they appreciated writers "from William Shakespeare to William Gibson, Allen Ginsberg to Alan Moore..." Since I kept nodding knowingly, she stopped and said, "Wait a minute. Do you actually know who Alan Moore is?" "Sure," I said. "Watchmen, right?" Whereupon Bonki turned away from me and yelled at this tall, good-lookin' guy in the corner of the room, "Dean! You gotta meet this girl!" So he and I started talking comics, and as early as that, he claims, he knew that he loved me. I kind of doubt it, but when he actually gave me his spare back issues of Sandman, I knew that he loved me.

Anyway, the point of this narration is that Dean just bought me volumes 1 and 2 of the Walt Simonson run of The Mighty Thor, which some rank as the best-ever period of that title except for the orginal Lee/Kirby era. Having never gotten my fangirl paws on the Lee/Kirby stuff, to me, Simonson's work is the definitive Thor, which I first read in my early teens, and was probably instrumental in shaping me into the folklore/mythology geek I am today. It was my first exposure to non-Greco-Roman myths. Verily, 'twas none other than Walter who didst teach me to speak thusly, in this outlandish and outmoded fashion! And I'm happy to report that the stories are just as satisfying a read for me today as they were some nineteen or so years ago. And to think that Simonson wrote, penciled, and inked every issue himself, month after month after month! In this age of six-month to two-year delays in comics publishing, it boggles the mind. (I admire Walt so much that I will even forgive him for being one of those reprehensible people who can both write and draw. But "Feh!" I say to the rest of you... and you know who you are...)

P.S. For those of you who've read 1602, my guess is that the little girl is Virginia Dare, who was the first child born of English parents in America (on Roanoke Island), and may or may not have been the queen of the Croatan Indians.
Nikki bit in at 2:34 PM :: ::

Crocodile Laughter
(part 2)

Luckily, Emmanuel was at the top of his class, and therefore got to choose both the branch of service he wanted to join, and what his first assignment would be. When he learned that there was a need for a young officer to act as an adviser and liaison back at the PMA, he leaped at the chance, since he hadn't seen his old friends and dear aunt in four years... and also, it must be said, because it gave him a perfectly legitimate reason to get away from poor Betty.

So Manny/Iling came home to the Philippines. Although his assignment was in Baguio, he naturally stopped in Cagayan first, where he was given a homecoming even more lavish than his earlier send-off. This time, there was not only a parade, but a stage show, a Mass, dancing, and, in typical Filipino fashion, more food than anyone really knew what to do with.

This was because it was actually a dual homecoming, to honor not just Emmanuel, but also a young woman who was then flush from a string of successes on her concert tour in the capital city of Manila. Her name was Mansueta Gumila, and the moment my grandfather first laid stunned eyes on her, he fell immediately and irrevocably in love.

(Or like. Or lust. Accounts differ, depending on which member of my family you talk to. My grand-aunt Ma Aguing, who remained a virgin to her dying day, used to tell me, "Iling wanted to marry her right away." But Mom, who never entirely forgave Lolo for some of the things he did, always said darkly, "He just wanted her. And he wanted to be done with Betty.")

Except for the fact that she was also beautiful, Mansueta was about as different from Betty as it was possible to be. Even her beauty was different: subtler, more refined. She was half-Spanish and used only a minimum of cosmetics, but the things she did use were imported and costly to acquire, such as Maxam soap and Oil of Olay, to maintain her smooth meztisa complexion.

Like Iling, she was an orphan, but her guardian aunt had been a wealthy widow, who had swept her young charge out of Cagayan in infancy, in order to raise her amid the lights and luxury of cosmopolitan Manila. Mansueta grew up cultured, highly educated, and exposed to the finer things in life. She was a classical pianist who was then highly in demand among the cognoscenti for her talent, and among the young men of society for her looks and charm. But she was devoted to her muse and, though she was considered already slightly old at the ripe age of twenty-two, she was quite uninterested in marriage.

(She was also very kind. That's the first thing anyone who knew my grandmother says about her, that she was kind. This would imply that my grandfather was the dominant force in our gene pool, because while my family is not incapable of kindness, 'intelligent', 'charming', and 'bad-tempered' are more the sort of traits likely to spring to mind when describing most of us.)
Nikki bit in at 1:51 PM :: ::
Thursday, August 21, 2003

So here's my blog.

I've resisted putting one up for some time, because all my good friends have one, and I really didn't feel I had much to say that they couldn't say admirably in their own blogs. After all, we hang out together, we work on the same projects, we like a lot of the same things. Plus, my adored husband Dean, who is a multi-awarded, internationally-acclaimed writer (Damn him!), has a blog of his own, in which he talks about many of the events and non-events that happen in our lives. So I kind of figured, what's the point?

Then I watched Matrix Reloaded. And I hated it sooo extremely much that I actually seriously considered having a blog for the first time, just so I could rant to a wider audience what a horrendous waste of film that travesty was. Upon reflection, though, it seemed like a somewhat vindictive reason, so I put the idea off for a while.

Until now, since I've decided, at the ripe old age of 30, that it's time to attempt writing my first (Talk about optimistic!) novel. It seems to me that periodically publishing segments as I go along is the perfect goad to make me stick with it until the (hopefully not too) bitter end. And while I'm at it, I might as well use the convenient forum to express my opinions, musings, ideas, flights of fancy, discoveries, and whatnot to someone other than my husband, my guys, and my 18-month-old daughter, who is now doubtlessly befuddled and forever destined to despise the Wachowski brothers.

So here it is. Hope it works for you.

Crocodile Laughter
(part 1)

If you were to ask my mother, she would tell you that the story of our family began on a moonlit river in Cagayan, when my great-grandparents set out on an ill-considered midnight boat ride, and were consequently attacked, overturned, and devoured by an opportunistic man-eating crocodile.

(I was never quite certain whether she was referring to Cagayan Valley or Cagayan de Oro, which ought to tell you a little something about the kind of person I am. I was always too caught up in the whys and the hows of the tale to worry about important details like when and exactly where. I was utterly entranced with the couple in the boat, the romance in the dark, the blood in the water… which, if you think about it, is really not the most auspicious way for anyone’s story to have to begin.)

My grandfather’s name was Emmanuel, and after the death of his parents, he was raised by his father’s sister, a maiden aunt who was as kindly and caring a guardian as any boy could hope for, but who unfortunately knew next to nothing about the practicalities of running a plantation. So although he’d been born the heir to one of the largest fortunes in whatever that province actually was, by the time Lolo Emmanuel was sixteen, he and his aunt were impoverished, having lost most of the land and nearly all of the money that was his birthright.

Fortunately, Iling (as he was then called) had three assets that no moneylender or crooked foreman could take away from him: a sharp mind, and two fighting fists that were the bane of many an amateur boxer at the local American-run high school. Lacking the money for a proper college tuition, he made up his mind to either take up a career in pugilism, or win a free college education by passing the entrance exams at the Philippine Military Academy, thereby also assuring his future as an officer in the armed forces.

(‘Pugilism’ was my mother’s word. She first told me this story when I was seven, so I had to haul out and consult our enormous family dictionary in order to find out that ‘pugilism’ simply meant ‘boxing’. Thereafter, whenever I would catch a glimpse of Muhammed Ali on TV, I would proudly announce, “Look! A pugilist!” From then on, my mother says, she knew I would become a writer.)

Lolo Emmanuel topped the exams at the Philippine Military Academy, which at the time meant that, instead of entering the PMA, he got to study at West Point in New York, and would, after graduation, receive an automatic commission in the U.S. Armed Forces. Then, even more so than now, any chance for a Filipino to work in the States and earn dollars was regarded as a stroke of fortune roughly analogous to getting an entry pass to the Garden of Eden. So Lolo became quite the celebrity in whichever Cagayan that was; they even held a little parade to celebrate his departure, marching band and all.

Contrary to what you might expect, Iling was far from a fish out of water in New York; in fact, things went swimmingly for him, both academically and socially. Conscious of his great fortune and always intelligent in the first place, he applied himself diligently to his studies and consistently made the honor roll. He changed his nickname to Manny, acquired an East Coast accent in record time, and made a grand splash in the sea of young women who were easily enamored of a man in uniform, even the relatively humble uniform of a military cadet.

Unlike his somewhat rough-mannered American colleagues, Emmanuel knew how to be cariñoso—a Spanish/Filipino trait that means gallant, charming, rakish, affectionate, and pampering, all at the same time. If his white classmates initially looked down on him somewhat, they were soon won over by ‘good ol’ Manny’s’ sure touch with the ladies—and his open-handed willingness to share.

(Obviously, my forefathers must have spoken in some kind of provincial dialect. My father lapses into Ilocano when he's swearing, and my mother and grand-aunt spoke Ibanag when we were kids and they didn’t want us to understand. But ever since Lolo Iling, my family has primarily spoken English, American-accented English. Even though my brothers never went to the States until they were seventeen at the earliest, we all sounded like an episode of the Partridge Family, only with less harmonizing.)

By the time Emmanuel was in his fourth year at West Point, he had achieved practically the pinnacle of young-bachelor-about-town achievement by dating a Ziegfield Follies girl. The Ziegfield Follies was the stage show in New York at the time, which meant that it was pretty much the stage show in all of America. The Follies’ dancing girls were considered to be the sexiest, prettiest, sauciest, most desirable things ever to strut a stage, and certainly too sophisticated to be impressed by a mere cadet’s uniform. It was therefore quite a coup for Manny—who, despite his suaveness, was not rich, not connected, and not white—to have snared one.

He didn’t quite know what to do with her. Her name was Betty, and she was beautiful, with blond hair, blue eyes, and lips painted a screaming red that showed up nicely for bragging rights on his uniform collar. Unfortunately, she was also a small-town girl from Iowa at heart, and dreamt of nothing more than giving up the stage to become Manny’s wife and happy homemaker just as soon as he graduated.

Which was hardly the kind of future Emmanuel had in mind. He himself was a small-town boy, after all, with small-town aspirations that did not include a wife who had already shown off her legs and cleavage to any fellow with the wherewithal to purchase a ticket. Betty was great as the symbol of his success. But as the mother of his children…?

(I never said my grandfather was nice. There’s a lot of not-niceness still to come, in fact, and not even most of it is confined to Lolo Iling. But there’s also going to be love, and glory, and devotion, and even downright heroism once in a while. And the strange thing is that it’s all true. Except for the parts that I made up, which are actually more believable than some of the things that really happened. Which is maybe how everyone’s family is, I don’t know.)

Nikki bit in at 4:30 PM :: ::

Something of my own.
Nikki bit in at 3:04 PM :: ::
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creative commons

Contrary to what the disclaimer says, you can ask me to design or revamp your blog, but there is a small associated fee.

This site is prettiest if you set your monitor resolution to 1024 by 768... but I won't hold it against you if you don't. Honest.


illustration by El

Nikki Alfar is really not as sexy as El's illustration would have you believe... but she doesn't mind if you think of her that way.
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Location: Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

class act/guttersnipe. tomboy/girly-girl. serious writer/comics hack. wife & mom/tart & tease. obssessive-compulsive/laid-back. sweetheart/bitch. all that.

shelf life

books, beauty, buzz

weather nixie


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