Category: stories

BRL 1: Where to study?

[after Van Helsing and Jonathan have returned from driving a stake through Lucy’s heart]

Dr. Steward: I don’t understand it! he’s covered in blood and there’s not a drop on you!

Van Helsing: I have been to many stakings – you have to know where to stand! You know, everything in life is location, location, location..

-from Dracula, Dead and Loving It (1995)

the trenches

Where to study? This is one of the many FAQs that bar reviewees fling to each other during the season. Oftentimes it comes down to some remote and barren Starbucks branch in a secluded or upscale mall not readily accessible by public transportation that charges fixed rate parking and opens late in the morning. I have often mulled over the thought of studying in Starbucks. In reality, however, all the times I found myself studying in Starbucks was just to kill time. I was always there in between events – sometimes during the time between when I would drop off Urie and pick her up after her OLA moot sessions, or simply to wait for the traffic to subside, or just to pass time off in the mall while Urie goes shopping. Rarely did I find myself going to Starbucks per se to study.

Those times I spent there, however, have changed my views on that strange establishment lately. Since as far back as I could remember, I have always looked with a certain disdain at Starbucks for charging exorbitant prices for mediocre coffee full of calories in outrages sizes. A few years ago I mulled over a joke I shared with Urie that the only drink I would order in Starbucks is a tall, black coffee (P105) and for food: a toasty bagel (P55). I did not take it seriously then, since the coffee tasted terrible. It was only years later that I found out that what I abhorred were really the blended drinks. As for the coffee, Starbucks changes its coffee blends regularly and some blends really do taste like shit. On the other hand, there are also some heavenly blends: Verona, House Blend, Guatemala Antigua, Pike Place, Ethiopia, and recently Africa Kitamu. It is always a delight to see them on the menu. What surprised me is that the description on that blend found in the bag is rather accurate. However, I have blacklisted some blends as well: Komodo Dragon, Sumatra, Kati-kati, Willow, Breakfast Blend. The worst! The only remedy is to ask for a french press because that’s money down the drain.

Recently I found out that black coffee is the only reason why I would consider spending some time at Starbucks. I also considered Bo’s but when the barista told me that they use some kind of arabica-robusta mix for their black coffees and charged me almost the same as Starbucks, I just walked out. I also discovered that my disdain for Starbucks is primarily directed to its overpriced blended drinks that are hardly coffee but (in the words of my bar lecturers when they refer to their books) “sell like hotcakes.” I will not be surprised, however, if those items are the ones that keep the establishment afloat. It’s a great business model: great enough to shield those cheapskates like me who spend 2-3 hours in the store with the cheapest product (actually the short brewed coffee is 95, but come on). I won’t be surprised if people like me are the reason why coffee shops go out of business. Think about it: I buy a cup of coffee for P105 and stay there for around three hours. For Starbucks, I’m a NPC (non-performing customer) – I’m always negative. Personally, however, I book it as P20 per hour and a coffee for P45. Considering that the air conditioning is quite good, with a large table, a view, comfortable chairs, and a restroom, P20 per hour is very reasonable. The P55 for the bagel is only when I get hungry.

So that’s the story for the times I’m waiting.

For the times I have to really study (read: dig in the trenches and study), nothing beats the quiet and comfort of a well-ordered table at home. Of course I have a bag of coffee beans as well on standby for those cravings. I bought a hand-grinder a few months ago and I find there is a therapeutic, if not metaphoric, sensation of grinding coffee for a minute or two while pondering bar questions. With some bar review lectures being purely online now, having a self-sustaining bar review environment at home is not only possible, but entirely feasible. Not only does it save me three hours of traffic and around P500 of expenses a day, but I get to spend time with my family. Win-win.

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Sierra Madre revisited.

Screenshot 2017-05-29 07.53.43.pngSierra madre biking trail

The sun was barely on the horizon when we started biking. It was a quarter to six in the morning and the skies still had a steel-gray look to them. As we pushed off, there came a sudden realization that I had legs. Days, weeks, and months of being cooped up in a room writing papers and reading books for law school had taken their toll. I had legs! And they were shivering in fear under the shadow of the sleepy mountain.

There is a downward slope shortly after the start. It is a good way to warm up the legs and feel the cool air, although I know that all good downhill slopes are going to be uphill slopes on the way back and every bit of pleasure those slopes give, they will take back in piercing pain tenfold. But when I take that first glide downhill, I am always reminded why I love biking — if only to feel the cool wind brush against my face and the occasional sight of the peaks of mountains as they protrude upwards from a cloudy sea. The cool air surprised me the most that time since it was May and the summer heat never had any mercy for bikers. I remembered that it rained the night before and wondered if that was the reason.

Soon enough we came to the first of many uphill slopes that stretched here and there for over 20 kilometers. My odometer fell out of my bike and was hanging over the side by its cable. I had not taken much care to fix it back on its spot, that goes for the rest of the bike too. The sacrifices we make to study law. But then I thought it was quite a blessing, since I did not even dare to imagine what 20 kilometers of uphill biking would be. Here at the beginning I was already in my lowest gear and my legs were screaming. This first slope was a straight one — I eyeballed 500 meters of steady asphalted road ascending eastwards. The sun was still hiding behind the mountains but I could see its faint, piercing glow every time I would glance upward to check how much more road was there waiting to grind me to dust. I realized it was better to keep my head down and count one…two..three…four…one…two…three…four while I watch my front tire miraculously circle around the road and feel my legs push inch by inch those little gears at the back of my bike. One…two…three…four and the next thing I know I am on top of the slope and looking at a steady glide to the next slope. This would go on for the rest of the biking route.

There were times when my legs gave way and I would stop by the nearest rock under a tree to catch my breath. The last time I went up this trail had been nearly three years ago and my body reminded me of that. As I sat down under the shade, the sound of crickets, as if it were the steady purr of the mountainside, enveloped me. The mountain always takes what I could give it, and sometimes it gives me more than what I could take. It has the same slopes, same angles, same curves, same bends — and the only thing that changed was me. The gentle hum of the forest was only interrupted by that unmistakable ridiculous roar of motorcycles as they zipped past me. Rrrrroooooooooommmmmm! they sounded as they went like a horde in single file. Rrrrrooooooooooommmmmm!

As the hours go: seven turned to eight and eight turned to nine. Desperation neared when the shadows started to recede. Biking under the noonday sun would have been suicide, and I was already spent. But as anti-climactic endings go, I hitched a ride on my friend’s car on the way back. And by hitched a ride I meant that he had to drive a bit to pick me up on the trail. Yes, the mountain won this time, but I will be back.

***

sierra

Curtain call

2017-05-08 16.23.25

In one lechon-perfumed room in a (literally) dusty hall in U.P., my last class in law school ended with applause and the customary photo shoot with the professor. We were talking about quasi-delicts and how motorists were always at fault when hitting pedestrians and how hitting them with our car’s side-mirror could be our own way of urbanized revenge. This was a four hour make-up class but it was all lectures now since time was of the essence. The room was filled with only my professor’s voice – trying to hack its way to the end of the syllabus and wrap up this review class. Outside, the waxing moon hung under a clear, night sky peppered with its many stars. The walk to the car took a minute or two since I was parked in the annex, which I dubbed as ‘The Swamp’ since during the rainy season it does turn into a veritable swamp. The way was dark, serene and peaceful — a perfect opportunity for me to be mugged.

On the walk back, I thought about Room 307 and how I had my first class there during my freshman year. Ugh freshman year, I thought, how stupid of me. I remember classes in Persons and Family Relations and Legal History and Constitutional Law 1 and how I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Many times, time just went by in flashes, like broad strokes in some post-impressionist, modern art painting indistinguishable from vomit: exams here, recits there, a head hunched over some papers under a lamp, empty cups of coffee by the side, the tune of jazz in the background, a rosary by the book stand, a stack of books, notes scribbled on loose sheets scattered on the floor, a jacket hanging on the back of the seat, hands aching from shrinking text to fit between the lines in the codal, memories of 5s and of 1s, victories like making it in the OPF and staying there, defeats like Oblicon, deus ex machinas like Oblicon and the 2013 bar results, wondering if I should join a frat, deciding not to, dates with Urie and our movies and dinners and chats – my sanity in this endless sea of unreason.

In hindsight, I could do with more walks in the oval now that school is over and only a few exams stand between me and graduation and then the bar and then I shall fade and diminish and sail over the sea to Valinor.

***

To friends who left ahead of me:

Eager eyes with hopes we had
when we set our roots to the earth;
a seed in the wind, dust from the wings of moths.
To grow we must at nature’s call:
a journey’s end, four years to come;
with faith and hazard our only friends.
True: in the rains do branches wear their leaves
so ripe and green — the shades above our heads
from dangers yet unknown, unseen
What story could they tell of an inferno — those that
have yet to feel its heat? August passes and April
comes with its thirsty glare. Up we gaze to see
no clouds but the sky: blue and bright with our
death — and some fall: brown and crisp to the earth.
And here we remain to see another May
until for need of lumber the axes come
and take for them those of us as they say.

 

the last LD

Nothing in OLA is ever simple. Waking up at 530am and waiting a whole day for a 10-minute meeting to soak up insults is something I could never get used to. We wait all day and she expects us to thank her for allowing walk-ins. I was never too good at kissing ass and have always mistrusted flatterers, sycophants, and bootlickers. What has OLA brought me other than anxiety, countless hours wasted, and money thrown away on that false altar? And for what? Two letter P’s – since that’s what we all get on our transcript. Nothing else matters.

But one song played in my head as I left that infernal office:

Footsteps of ghosts.

Last Sunday I went on a hike up a mountain with some friends. Mt. Ayaas was roughly an hour away from Quezon City in the Sunday traffic. An hour’s drive showed the highway diverging onto a two-laned path lined with trees, which slightly zigzagged its way to the end. It was paved and smooth at first but later carried pockets of broken asphalt and eroded ground. The sight of trees by the side of the road later faded into heaps of garbage – almost two or three stories high – full of old tins of cooking oil and plastic bags and decomposing food. Dogs went here and there while some children played alongside the road, rolling a deflated tire with a bamboo stick. They had smiles on their face.

When we arrived at Brgy. Mascap – a place of which I know is just somewhere in Rizal – we signed a waiver that basically waived any responsibility the guides had for our safety. Given that it had rained quite hard earlier in the morning, we thought it best not to think about it too much. From then on, we climbed – first along paved inclines and then into the muddy earth with stones and trees and vines and sharp things brushing against our arms and legs and faces. The forest air enveloped us with the smell of wet earth and plant life. It was the breath of the jungle right after its shower. Bugs crawled and flew across us while others clung to our skin. Many times we walked along a narrow path. It had room for only one man, and at times only one foot so we had to walk with one foot over the other as if on a tightrope. In those times we had the mountain wall on one side while the other only had the view of a perilous slope to the bottom.

We were not the first ones who climbed the mountain and we will not be the last. The footprints of those who went before were already etched on the earth. The grooves of their feet dug deep – deep enough for a good foothold. I looked out for these prints like hints from ghosts on how to negotiate the mountain. A thought came to me of how the media tends to glorify the new and the different. “Stop living in the past,” they tell us. But in this mountain climb – the past is really all the difference between the summit and the abyss.

We eventually made it to the top at around noon. I made a dreadful mistake of packing only one asado siopao for lunch but it still felt like it was the best meal in the world after that climb. After some pictures and a rosary, we climbed down and made our way back to the barangay hall. On the way back, we stopped by a small water fall where some of us took a dip into the shallow but cool lagoon. After our brief respite we decided to take a tricycle back to the barangay hall since we were all spent by that time.

With aching legs but full of cheer we drove back to Manila. We passed through the mountains of garbage, the lines of trees, and to Commonwealth Avenue just as the sun was setting. And as darkness crawled over the skies, we said our goodbyes and parted ways.

2017-02-19-12-47-58

 

Bye, 2016.

There goes another year. It’s quite striking how time flies (though for a senior law student, Time can’t fly fast enough!). A little over three years ago, I read Tolentino for the first time for Persons. Back then I had no idea how to read for class then (heck, I had no idea how to do be a law student). Cases came piling up and the recits came. Readings here and there, seven hectic enlistment periods, at least two instances when I thought I was going to fail a subject, and more than a thousand kilometers of driving – such was academic life for the past three years. Looking back and with a restrained chuckle of desperation, I throw back the question to myself of why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. I suspect the question will return (and more emphatically, if I may add) during bar review and on the first day of work.

Outside there is the intermittent sound of fireworks. A sound that bears a strange similarity to a small firefight – a sound I’m all too familiar with after clocking nearly 30 hours playing Fallout 4. Fallout 4: in a sequence of uncanny events, that game actually proved to be the catalyst for me buying a new desktop just to play it. It was a comforting thought that I can still enjoy playing games, given that I could only do so in between semesters.

From law school to Fallout 4 – talk about digression. But hey, maybe it’s good to digress every once in a while. The year 2016 will be remembered for many things – many things. Many, including I, may feel that 2016 itself is a digression (from more reasonable times lol). And yet the show goes on. Oh that reminds me, a few days ago my Mocha Uson blog post got over a hundred views. A hundred views! That’s almost as much as a whole year! Thankfully, it has normalized now and this blog can return to its regular state of oblivion. Heh. Happy New Year, reader!

Mocha Uson: theologian, historian.

So our very own Joseph Goebbels Mocha Uson wrote a column lambasting the CBCP’s stance against the current administration in her column in the Philippine Star a few days ago. This one was something, so without further ado let’s take it line by line. Original text in bold, annotations are in italics.

Title: Is CBCP anti-Christ? (Catchy title though)

Christianity is founded on love. It espouses the doctrine of loving thy neighbor, not judging others, and forgiveness. (In two sentences she summarizes the whole of Christian theology. Did you see that St. Thomas?) 

However, (uh oh, a ‘however’) the way the Philippine Catholic Church has been acting is the total opposite of what Christianity preaches (Yep because protesting against dictators encapsulates the whole of Church action). It refuses to forgive (Marcos burial issue). (Well, she just had to qualify it. I always thought the Church forgives people though and not issues. After all, issues don’t walk into confessionals, people do.) It judges Duterte but turns a blind eye on the immorality of De Lima. And it divides instead of unites. (Wait…immorality? Did she just judge De Lima right there? That escalated quickly. Since the author cites the Bible  verses when it’s convenient she must know that passage where Christ says he comes not to bring peace but the sword? [Mt 10:34] There’s hardly any credibility at all if the author claims that being divisive is a bad thing given how virtually all protesters are labeled as “yellows.”)

Why is this so? (ok let’s assume for now that all the conclusions you just made are now facts) Ever since the Spanish colonial period (oh she’s a historian nowin the Philippines, the Catholic Church has been a part of the lives of most Filipinos and it has also been very influential in our country. (and that’s how you summarize around 300 years in 32 words) The power of the Catholic Church is one of the things Jose Rizal fought against because the Church was able to use its power and influence in Spain to dictate who should be the Governor General of the Philippines. (Wasn’t Rizal a top student at Ateneo de Manila? He was Jesuit trained and wasn’t he a devout Catholic? And is there even a good source for this conclusion? But hey, let’s just believe her. Whatever.Because of this they accused Jose Rizal of being a cultist and an enemy who was going against the teachings of the church (or was it rebellion and sedition? Meh, same thing as heresy right?). You should know that back then fighting against the church could cost you your life or you could be excommunicated. (Well she should know too that there’s a book by Reynaldo Ileto called Pasyon and Revolution because, I don’t know, maybe it might actually give the semblance of an idea of how the revolution happened back then. Oh and fighting against dictators can cost you your life too! Too bad dictators can’t make excommunications though.)

One of the notable persons who were excommunicated for fighting against the church was Martin Luther. (so is this theology or history? histology! wait that’s the study of microscopic tissue structures…) He fought against the corrupt practice where people must pay for the forgiveness of their sins and for their soul to go to heaven. (Inaccurate. They don’t pay for the forgiveness of sins. They pay for indulgences, which “is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven…” [See Pope Paul VI’s Indulgentiarum doctrina] because, and the author should have researched more, saying sorry isn’t the end of it: people have to pay it back.These are just some instances where the Church used its influence and abuse its power. The question now is, did it stop? (Can I make a guess? No?)

Looking back at EDSA 1, which forced the then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos to step down from power, Cardinal Sin (called it!was one of those who greatly influenced the people and caused the inauguration of Cory Aquino as the 11th President of the Philippines. They (along with our P500 bill) created an image that presented the Aquinos as the savior of our country and therefore the people again trusted and voted Noynoy Aquino as their president and leader in the 2010 election even if he did nothing. (actually if she took time to read our Constitution, ‘doing something’ in general is not required to be qualified for the Presidency. Just saying.) They hoped that Noynoy would save this country once again. So, what would they gain by allying themselves with the Aquinos? Let’s not forget that the church is an organization wherein they have no tax.  (Oh, how could we forget?! No tax? Despicable! Well, it’s actually real property tax and qualified revenues that they’re exempt from, not all taxes in general. But yet again, what’s the difference right?) Allegedly, (Congratulations on using ‘allegedly.’ With all those conclusions, here at least there is a semblance of caution with making claims.)  they have investments from the oligarchs who are being protected by the Aquinos. In the end, it seems like it’s all about the money. Catholic Church without money is a dying church, (Well that explains it. That’s the reason why the Church had a mountain of gold when it started out as a group composed mainly of Galilean fishermen.) it has lost a lot of followers due to some issues surrounding some of their priests. (Don’t bother with the numbers or reports, we believe you!)

It’s just saddening to see that the church that is supposed to teach unconditional love is encouraging hate and anger toward a dead person. (Aww 😦 ) Yes, the Marcoses should be held liable for the crimes they have allegedly (there’s allegedly again! and how can one be held liable for an alleged crime?? Doesn’t make sense.) committed but that is the job for the government and not the Church’s. (It’s the government’s job to prosecute, there’s no argument against that. But is that the exclusive way to hold one liable for crimes? Surely public censure and assembly are ways to hold people liable too. Since she cites the Bible I wonder how she takes the verse that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” [Mt 18:18]) The Church’s purpose should be teaching people about love for God and love for one another. (Good grief, have at least some sense of respect for an institution that has been around for nearly 2000 years.) It also says in the Bible, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 john 4:8)Now if the very nature of God is love, (hey, she’s a theologian again) then why does his “messengers” preach the opposite which is hate and forgiving with conditions? (…check…mate?) If they will claim that they’re fighting for what is right, then why don’t they speak against Sen. De Lima and her affair with Ronnie Dayan who is married? (No “alleged” here huh? Well played. I believe you. Not really.) Why do they focus on the inappropriate jokes and remarks of President Duterte? Why do they bring up “Thou shall not kill” with regards to the “EJK” issue but quiet on De Lima’s affair which is against “Thou shall not commit adultery”? (I’m actually impressed she knows the commandments. She should try going on to the 8th.)

Last week, through my blog, I answered a post of a La Salle brother about forgiveness. He said: “FORGIVE THE MARCOSES? But how? They have not admitted to any wrongdoing. They have not returned all that they have stolen. They have not apologized to the victims of their martial rule.”

Now, should forgiveness come with a condition? (If you break a window and say sorry without fixing it. Is that really an apology? If you’re really sorry then you FIX the window. So the answer is yes. Authentic contrition requires restitution. I don’t know if she’s ever been in a confessional but I’d really like to know how she interprets the penance at the end. Well unless in her world, it’s really ok to break windows and say sorry while leaving the owners to clean up the mess left behind. Haha ok I’m convinced. Let’s go with that world!) If I ask you, do we have to wait for our enemies to ask for forgiveness before we forgive them? I believe that the answer is in Matthew 6: 14-15: “14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (I thought the issue was whether we should wait. The passage cited was the effects of forgiveness, not whether we should wait for an apology. Oh well.). If Jesus himself can forgive his enemies and even asked his Father “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”…if Jesus himself can forgive regardless of whether they asked for it or not, then who are we to deny that to our enemies? (Oh I highly doubt that Marcos didn’t know what he was doing.)

In conclusion, it is also written in the scriptures that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing (“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. Mt 7:15”). (Ok I remember that part) They claim to be messengers of God but they are teaching hate, rebellion and self-interest. (Er…that part I don’t remember) It is clearly stated that these False Prophets who have the spirit of anti-Christ are pretenders to be light and teaching things that are opposite of the teachings of Christ. (Is it stated clearly enough for a quotation? Guess not.) The question is: if the False Prophets preach hate and rebellion and not love, what does the CBCP and some other priests teach? Love, forgiveness, or hate? (Ok she just called the CBCP false prophets and titled her column asking if the CBCP is the anti-Christ. Seriously, if there’s any hatemonger here it’s the author who presumes to know more about Church teaching than the Church herself.)

***

Looking back I don’t think there was any added value in making this blog entry. I might have wasted a few hours in an afternoon but hey let’s say this is my fair comment on matters of public interest.