Geotagging the North

…He spoke to me about his memories of a bar in Malate, Manila. There, one drunken night a few years past, he stumbled in and pretended to be straight, danced with the working girls until morning light. More recently, he passed by said bar but it was abandoned and waiting to be torn down. The girls were nowhere to be found. Perhaps they moved to another bar, or went back to their respective provinces. Or reevaluated their life choices and went down another path.

All the same, in a handful of months, the bar would be gone, replaced with a similar (but wholly different) establishment. The place would remain, but the location will have been irrevocably changed.

That was the importance of renewing geotagged memories, he said….


(Hit the jump to!)


So it goes

WordPress has informed me that I’ve reached the limit of my allotted hosting bandwidth. This means I can’t upload more pictures without deleting previous ones, or that I could buy more space– a thing I can not do because I don’t own a credit card (it’s the principle of the thing).

So this may or may not be the last post on this blog. It’s been a good run. What, around 3 years? Lots of things have happened. I’ve met some people, lost some people, ran across people I wish never met. I’ve changed, I think. And that’s good.


Needless to say, I’ll probably start a new blog soon. I’ll put it up here if and when I get around to doing that. To everyone who’s slogged through these posts and found a kernel of worth, thanks!

Here’s to the next few years.


No man can resist

Stumbled on really good music lately, as recommended by friends.

the-skintsThe two things that really make my heart skip a beat is old-school ska and hip hop. Understandably, ska has been taking a backseat these past few. These things come in waves. Hip hop is strong in these sparkling new times.

So when I heard of The Skints, I literally jumped out of my seat. Who plays East London reggae in this day and age? From style to sound, they’re a swell throwback to the two-tone greats– The Selecter, Toots and the Maytals, The Specials.

Boss sounds! Ska/ reggae/ hip hop. Two-tone for the millennial masses. It’s wonderful.

On the other hand, The Mouse Outfit from Manchester has some of the grimiest rhymes I’ve heard in the past few months. Plus they merge their verses so smoothly with jazz and ska. Damn, these kids are cold.



Back in Ilo-ilo, out hotel was looking out at Guimaras island.

I haven’t traveled extensively and have been outside of the country twice in my life. That said, I remember flying over the US and wondering at the giant, uninterrupted plot of land that seemed to stretch out across my airplane window. Just blotches of greens and browns and mountains and occasional cities. It was like alien terrain to me, probably no different from what I envision the surface of the moon to look like.

Where was the sea?

Now, the Philippines can hardly be called a paradise. We’re a tropical archipelago set smack dab in the Pacific ring of fire, prone to powerful storms and earthquakes. Our convoluted colonial history has left deep wounds that can still be felt to this day. Unemployment is up, so in inflation, and workers’ wages are down. Healthcare and quality education only matter if you’ve got money or connections. The government is run by idiots who could not give a fuck about the people.

But, man, if you’ve ever stood on one of our many beaches, dug your toes into the fine sand, watched the sunset dip under the waves as you’re nursing a beer or a joint– you’ll catch a glimpse of something heavenly.


100_1994 Continue reading

In Memoriam

Another dear friend passed on this week.

C* pointed out that in the past maybe 5 years, we’ve had friends leave us around the late November- early December period. He sad he was getting used to saying goodbye. “We’re all going to die. Everyone is going to die,” he said with the resigned grief of someone who’s lost people. “Let’s go to his wake then get wasted.” So that’s the plan.

everything-was-beautiful-and-nothing-hurt I just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse 5 a couple of weeks ago. What a strangely apt book to read following the untimely death of people I care for (the book itself rather sneers at the “untimeliness” of death, of any death).

In the book, every time the any character is mentioned to have died, it is immediately followed by the sentence “So it goes.” because there’s really not much we can do or say about it. There is internal grief, a heaviness and an emptiness felt only by people who knew the dearly departed. But the entire wide world who never knew him will be indifferent to his passing. So it goes.

B* was a beautiful and gentle soul, and the past handful of days has proven that he’s been great friends with almost everyone he met. The last time we talked, I promised him a bottle of beer, and he told me to cheer up because I owned the sky.

Wherever he is, I hope it’s filled with flowers and cats and beautiful floral umbrellas. So it goes.



To the man with too large a heart.
Drawing by Piya Constantino.

Give it Time

“Nobody ever discovered ugliness through photographs. But many, through photographs, have discovered beauty. Except in those situations wherein the camera is used to document, or mark social rites, what moves people to take photographs is finding something beautiful… Nobody exclaims “Isn’t that ugly! I must take a photograph of it.” Even if someone did say that, all it would mean is: “I find that ugly thing beautiful.”
–Susan Sontag, The Heroism of Vision


I am not a good photographer, not by a long shot. I know this because I regularly look through great photographs. My internet bookmarks mostly consist of photography blogs and a few noteworthy porn.

There is Hannah Reyes who I’ve worked with once for a magazine (on an article that I believe was eventually scrapped). The interviewee was late, and I found Hannah guiltily getting her toenails done. Her slideshow My Beautiful Friend is astounding.

I met Joseph Pascual back in college and have been a voyeur of his well-photographed life since. He does commercial photography now, and I find his blog most sincere.

Keegan Gibbs, I keep namedropping in this blog. His shots of the sea make my heart ache.

And once every month, I check out the Lens blog of the New York Times to see snapshots of this great wide world.

I have no illusions that I can make a living doing what these people do. I’m satisfied being a literary monkey shill, having realized my sadomasochistic tendencies early on. Still, I like taking photographs.


There is a catharsis in photography. I’ll liken it to a quiet cigarette break in the middle of a hectic, break-neck day. You don’t light up and keep at your usual pace. You have to stop and appreciate that deadly smoke going down into your lungs and out your nostrils. Enjoy that shit! It’s killing you, so you may as well savor it.

Likewise, I don’t take hurried photographs. Sometimes, I have to be in that mood to even consider whipping out my camera. Does the light fall in an interesting way here? What would this scene look like when framed? Look, some patterns that caught my eye. Time slows as the shutter clicks. Then the photo freezes time right in that frame. You can go about the rest of your day, but that one moment is stuck forever. As in everything, hesitation is key.


There is a magic there, a cheat of some sort. No matter how ugly a photograph is, time makes it significant. A blurry, shitty photo’s meaning changes depending on the other photos that surround it.

Strung together like sequential art, photographs can tell a story. Or when coupled with a caption that explains its context, the photograph is a snapshot of history.

At its very crudest and most sublime, the photograph is a testament of existence. The existence of the subject in the photograph and the photographer taking that shot. It’s defiance is most absolute because of all things, photography defies time.

Every photograph asserts that someone was here. This is an answer to that question of the tree falling in the woods. Decades can come and go, but here is a photograph, you see. What once was here is now gone, but it was here before, and that’s important. Every photograph then is a counter-narrative to history’s great flow. 

100_1634A few years ago, I was drinking with a handful of rambunctious theater actors in Lucena city in Quezon province. I was just drunk enough to be introspectively quiet, deciding that I would simply enjoy their company and their conversation without contributing any. At one point, one of the actors turns to me, points out that I have become quiet and was listening intently. “That’s what writers are about,” he said. “You’re probably just listening to us and filing this moment away in your brain, so you could write it down someday. You’re a thief. You’re stealing this moment.”

That was only partially true. I wasn’t stealing the moment, I was remembering it. And when I write it down, the moment will have gone through my mental filters. I will have edited certain things, tweaked the details to suit my purpose. If we’re looking for real thieves, we have to look at photographers.

Manong Joey

A local TED talks video has been doing the rounds on facebook lately featuring musical powerhouse Joey Ayala. It showcases his “tampered” version of the Philippine national anthem, with tweaks in the meter and lyrics. In light of that, I thought I’d post these few pictures now.

The Youtube comments are bursting with people floored by his insights, his wit (or tearing him to bits, as all comment sections are wont to do). But if you’ll allow me to be a hipster for a moment, Joey Ayala has been playing this song since last year.

He’s been giving out the same spiels, the same punchlines in his smaller gigs. I’ve heard him say the exact same things, pose the very same questions, plead to people to hug each other every time I go to see him. But it’s all good. I’m glad he’s getting the viral spotlight as he rightly deserves.

These photos were snapped at Conspiracy bar, his monthly haunt. He mostly does stripped down, solo acoustic sets, but that doesn’t diminish his music, not one bit. If anything, it magnifies his talent. Catch him fingering that guitar like a machine, and harmonizing with himself! He works the crowd so well. I will always laugh at his jokes, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. One day, I will work up the courage to say hello to his face.

100_1534This man is a national treasure. We’re fortunate to catch him still out and playing in our lifetimes. Do yourself a favor and catch him playing live.