One of my favourite poems is a hybrid fairytale written by Liz Lochhead.
I’m sharing it here, because Dreaming Frankenstein is an amazing collection of reframed narratives; stories that need to be revisited. They reveal lessons that have application for this modern dystopian world.
& just when our maiden had got
good & used to her isolation,
stopped daily expecting to be rescued,
had come to almost love her tower,
along comes This Prince
all the wrong answers.
Or course she had not been brought up to look for
originality or gingerbread
so at first she was quite undaunted
by his tendency to talk in strung-together cliché.
‘Just hang on and we’ll get you out of there’
he hollered like a fireman in some soap opera
when she confided her plight (the old
hag inside, etc. & how trapped she was);
well, it was corny but
he did look sort of gorgeous
axe and all.
So there she was humming, and pulling
all the pins out of her chignon,
throwing him all the usual lifelines
till, soon, he was shimmying in & out
every other day as though
he owned the place, bringing her
the sex manuals and skeins of silk
from which she was meant, eventually,
to weave the means of her own escape.
‘All very well & good’, she prompted,
‘but when exactly?’
She gave him till
well past the bell on the timeclock.
She mouthed at him, hinted,
she was keener that a TV quizmaster
that he should get it right
‘I’ll do everything in my power’ he intoned, ‘but
the impossible (she groaned) might
take a little longer.’ He grinned.
She pulled her glasses off.
‘All the better
to see you with my dear?’ he hazarded.
She screamed, cut off her hair.
‘Why, you’re beautiful?’ he guessed tentatively.
‘No, No, No!’ she
shrieked & stamped her foot so
hard it sank six cubits through the floorboards.
‘I love you?’ he came up with
as finally she tore herself in two.
Keen to observe before adding words to the seemingly infinite points of view, I’ve been keeping quiet about the local politics. However, having recently finished watching the second season of Narcos, I inevitably drew comparison with the Philippines given the new administration’s war on drugs. Also, several friends have expressed their concern about what’s being projected by various news reports, so here are some overdue thoughts.
The prevailing tourism campaign ‘It’s more Fun in the Philippines’ is ironic amidst the media spectacle surrounding the president. The continued toll of killings is certainly no laughing matter.
“So is it PH’ed up?”
Well, there’s certainly plenty of material that’s pure comedy, and here is a collection of some hocus jocus.
- Duterte’s image is built around the strongman artchetype, yet is also hyper sensitive
- The leader, is just like ‘us ordinary folk’, and so what if he swears or has colourful language? Yet don’t you dare paint a bad picture of him or taint his image with the same brush: “You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions and statements. Putang-ina, mumurahin kita diyan sa forum na ‘yan.”
- The Rodrigo camp’s attitude to the history of the Marcos regime is that since it’s in the past, people should get over it and move on, yet many Filipinos will not forget atrocities committed by imperialist invaders: #neverforget
- Team America? Fuck YOUH! Yet we’re obsessed with basketball, uphold an imported constitutional government, toast to freedom of speech drinking Jonny Walker black, stockpiled on automobiles, and the list can go on. Post-colonial democrazy rules ok?
- Stop meddling with our national sovereignty! Cheers to the overseas foreign workers, the global citizen, our modern day heroes!
- The president proclaims his master is the Filipino people, and with the same breath utters whatever he pleases since he a appears to have a megalomania mind of his own
- Some ninety percent plus have spoken, so can the minority stop complaining and be supportive, even if majority is surely enough of a comfortable margin for backup
If someone is of the opinion that the list indicates a complaining mentality, this is what’s subliminally being asked everywhere in terms of outdoor signage.
The prolific stickers “May reklamo ka ba?” [Do you have a complaint] relates to public transport issues, and in a way, I certainly am curious about how the country is being driven by its population and representatives.
The lack of discipline is frequently discussed, and what about disciples blindly following with religious fervour?
By the way, though ‘putang ina’ translates literally as ‘whore mother’, this curse is more commonly thrown around to mean ‘son of a bitch’ or casually as ‘damn’. Then again, this is a country that is tickled by rape jokes, admires famous philandering male role models, and the bible has it written that men go forth and multiply.
Whores. Prostitutes. Selling your body for a price. Dollar rates per hour. Service in cubicles. Wait. (Holding Music). This is crazy, but here’s the customer number, so call me maybe?
To return to the drug issue, users seek a substance of choice, to cope with life’s troubles, which can make existing problems worse and likely causes new ones to develop, leaving feelings of isolation, helplessness, or shame. Patriotism, nationalism – aren’t these dangerous addictions too? Everyone seems hooked by ‘CHANGE’ being peddled in every political corner.
Finally, when it comes to declarations of ‘state of lawlessness’, this is an understatement. Human rights, human wrongs. The Philippines is perhaps less a tropical paradise, and more of a gangsters’ paradox.
I have yet to read a literary work by Gilbert K. Chesterton, but Wikipedia informs me that he is a ‘prince of paradox’, and a quote I have always liked is:
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
Residing in this banana republic proudly named after ‘El Prudente’, King Phillip II of Spain – is definitely a whole new world for me. The national anthem teaches you to die for your motherland, but first it welcomes you to live with Mabuhay!
Here there be chinese dragons, an archipelago saturated in theatricality, with all sorts of thrillas. Some choose to see dirt, others find gold. I am reminded of Colombia’s old advertising slogan: “The only risk is wanting to stay“.
“Magical realism is defined as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe…”
What? Leave London?!
Tired of London, Tired of Life they say…
Just like Vizzini from Princess Bride, I used to think and say that it was “Inconceivable!” too.
Well that actor Wallace Shawn is also in the film My Dinner with Andre, which is an eye-opener. There’s a specific scene where the city is viewed as a new type of concentration camp, its residents like prisoners, who having taken pride in the thing they built, are unable to leave it. So as much as I am a diehard dweller of L-town, I decided to progress to M-town. I dare say, the supposed capital of the world, was just not enough.
>> I know it’s out of fashion, and a trifle uncool.
But I can’t help it, I’m a romantic fool.
… on Echo beach, I watch the sun go down. <<
I’ve hardly escaped the concrete jungle though. The current home base is the district of Pasig, north of the river (which is somewhat comforting). Not quite living on the beach yet, but I have more frequent access to it, plus it’s always sunny anyway (mostly).
It’s a third world banana republic where red tape truly is dreadfully diabolical. As expected, the bureaucracy and government agencies are a nightmare. I yearn for a better public transport system (Oh TFL) and am starved of more convenient urban green spaces that aren’t private golf courses. Nevertheless, discussing what’s better/worse is a futile exercise.
Relocating was never about replacing one city for another. The choice was to explore unplayed options and expand my world further. Instead of paying for immersive entertainment, I’m lucidly living my own Thrilla in Manila. It’s an exciting game-changing endeavour, as I poke around the landscape to discover treasures and gain new victory points from challenges.
There are many images on Instagram for visual pixels, but here are some happy highlights thus far:
A surprising and spectacular start to the year, filled with beach travel and sunsets from La Union to Pagudpud, Palawan, Zambales and Batangas. A lyric in the Philippine national anthem that best expressed the state of my soul is ‘Alab ng puso sa diddib mo’y buhay’ [flaming/blazing heart, in your chest is alive]. That’s my default emoji alright. A popular term is also ‘hugot’ [drawn from a deep place, a tugging of the heartstrings] associated with any statements or declarations of honesty and #feels.
As for a soundtrack, “Be it for reason, be it for love, I won’t take the easy road.”
Mostly spent meeting people and making new friends, notably the amazing company TrainStation, which is personally serendipitous on so many levels. Several lessons and classes feature – guitar, kundalini yoga, outdoor rock climbing, surfing. In Tagalog the encouragement is ‘Go lang ng Go!’, similar to ‘carry on’ with more playful tones.
A brief sojourn back to London for a wedding, quality time with family/friends, and consolidating development cards. Was introduced to the IO Collective – a community project focused on re-inventing how we live, work and learn in the 21st century. Definitely my cup of tea. Wrote Same Same But Different.
Took an intensive training course to qualify for Neuro-Linguistic-Programming. This allows me to be a certified life coach. I passed my exam, and now I just need to practice with clients and run some workshops.
Had a blast watching paint dry, for Art BGC’s 2nd Mural Festival with Lebasse Projects.
Made some headway on secret plans for a real estate company. The new life also demanded a new hair cut! Oh, and the country elects a controversial new President. #ChangeIsComing
Hanging out with the fantastically talented people of Karnabal, produced by the wonderful Sipat Lawin Ensemble. I popped my spoken word cherry, by joining an open mic night called Strange Pilgrims. Lots of werk werk werk werk werk. Am a social engineer for a CSR initiative called Change Station. Will collaborate on projects with La Union Soul Community, events with Make It Blissful and other schemes around the den of subcultures that is Cubao Expo.
>> Next up – JULY
Bought the ticket, and will take the ride for Rental Car Rally in LA.
Do you have a flag?
Until the next update, Happy (PH) Independence Day!
Here’s to the free-range life.
I sincerely understand how one will feel impatient and frustrated, that the Philippines is not dramatically improving with regards to the crime rate, traffic, corruption and poverty.
Yet we must continue to have faith in our people.
Each of us must individually find the courage to realise we are powerful agents with the abilities and resources to do what is right, in order to make our present and future more fulfilling than the past of yesterdays.
This big CHANGE, is not the task of one man or woman, but many; all of us are responsible. Moreover, evolution takes time.
Collectively, with our diversity, we really can tackle the problems we face by contributing in small multiplied miraculous ways.
It is also important to be aware, that this is not a Filipino crisis, but a global one. We are not alone in our outcry for justice and urgent renewal of the social contract. You will find the same demands for transformation in the US, the UK and beyond. The world is populated with communities and citizens that have been, and remain, overwhelmingly disappointed and betrayed by their governments.
In your irritated mood, you disparagingly called me an ‘idealist’. Surely we must uphold a standard that represents the better, if not best versions of a society that we want? Reality is already plagued with numerous demons from Pandora’s box. We must have hope, and brace our sturdy hearts to accept hardships as the pathway to peace.
Many years ago, you persisted in instructing me with a quote by Viktor Frankl, that if we are to be the light, we must endure the burning.
That is all I want to remind you, with regards to the political hysteria that is happening right now.
We must not allow ourselves, in times of despair and desperation, to be seduced by drastic means for drastic ends.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.”
You prayed for something radical to happen, to alleviate the degraded state of these islands. Am I not here? Did I not leave the comforts of London so that I might be of service and help in whatever way I can?
Stand with me, in the choice and spiritual battle, to fight for the humanity that we value, one that is entrenched in having compassion, respecting life in all its forms, and in charitable giving.
Fear is our enemy. Love always wins.
Together we will make the difference that we both seek.
The Huangster and I became friends thanks to working on Direct Line insurance at M&C Saatchi way back in 2005. One of our regular urban rituals is having dim sum with a motley of internationals. This afternoon, for a thematic send-off back to Asia, we gathered at our usual haunt in Chinatown – our combined ethnicities very much the united colours of Benetton, covering the UK, France, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the US, and of course the Philippines.
“This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” So says Plato… which in Tagalog is the word for a dish, and I am so grateful that I have a lot on my plate. So much for me to see and do, whether I am here, or there, depending on where I am.
In Mandarin, the characters 点 (dim) and 心 (sum) also have a literal meaning when placed together: ‘touching the heart’ – and my cardio is most certainly in a state of bliss, thanks to the generous variety that the universe provides. Very eat pray love indeed.
And so I travel through time and space once again, to another small island. See you at the tropical lair – for more of the same Maslow hierarchy of needs, but in a different context. Continued world domination adventures await where the sky is blue and the grass is green. Just as it is here, so it is there too. Land ahoy!
The other doppelgänger in the picture is a new friend in Manila named The Fonz.
An artsy marketing initiative called “Art to HeART” is currently taking place in Ayala-owned shopping centres all over the Philippines, with events surrounding installations very much like the Hearts of San Francisco.
Perhaps malls aren’t ideal venues for ‘authentic’ romance, but hey, Kevin Smith thought it good enough for the 1995 movie Mallrats… Whatever your opinion about Valentines and its commercialisation, it is a universal truth that humans are all suckers for love. I’m choosing to share some material that I find personally useful for this designated occasion.
- Casual Love – I love you. No Big Deal.
- The Importance of Practicing Heartbreak – Love hurts like a motherfucker. All the more reason why we need to stretch this cardiac muscle.
If you want an unconventional exploration, experiment with Sex God.
“It’s easy to take off your clothes and have sex. People do it all the time. But opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.”
For those fretting or saddened about what they currently don’t have in their life:
READ To anyone who thinks they are falling behind.
“Let’s just say that whatever you want, you want it enough. So much so that you’re making yourself miserable in order to achieve it. What about chilling out?