Wednesday, December 24, 2008


CHRISTMAS in the Philippines, one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia, is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season lasting up until Epiphany.
Imagine this. Heartbreaking typhoons, nonstop rains, battering thunderstorms from early June to (most of the time) late November – and over 100 degrees of heat and humid from March till late May... A chronically gasping economy that relies on its “absent” people (or, Overseas Filipino Workers, AKA OFWs) who send the almighty dollar—as in, $17 billion last year (up from 14.7 billion the previous year). (Foreign investments only amount to $7 million in 2008; a good chunk of this money go to the pockets of wholesale government corruption.)
I tried to dial the numbers of my relatives in Manila and Baguio City (up north), five hours ago—but to no avail. I pay Time Warner my 3-in-1 (cable/phone/internet) service on time, roughly $110 a month (excluding some “hidden fee” that occasionally pops in). But they couldn’t help me at this moment.
A week ago, my boss in San Francisco deposited money on my Wells Fargo account (from Bank of America). A week ago. For some reason, the money hasn’t cleared yet. I spent maybe 8 hours each day in the last three days talking to bank tellers (“I am sorry, the manager is not available right now”) and bank managers (“Your boss needs to fax us a letter”). They couldn’t help me.
Last night, at Viento y Agua Café, I read a poem by Filipino novelist Carlos Bulosan about “Life as a foreign language, and how every man mispronounce it,” and a new poem I wrote, “Perfect Man, Imperfect Man.” A few moments of respite.
I wonder what’s happening in a northern Siberian town of Oymyakon right at this moment of Christmas. “The coldest permanently inhabited place on earth.” The lowest recorded temperature there is 71.2 degrees Celsius, the lowest officially recorded temperature in the northern hemisphere. The village has a population of around 800 and is located 690 meters above sea level and lies in a valley between two mountain ranges (the reason for the low temperatures). I saw these people on YouTube, they seem to be happy… like my people back home, at this moment.
Thinking about this, feeling about this… I tell myself, “It’s okay, you are luckier.” There are many villages in my home country where they don’t even have electricity or enough “holiday foods” to share. While rains or war rage outside. But for some reason, they are HAPPY.
Here is a short prose that I wrote years ago, for you beautiful people:

SOMETIMES we need rituals to intercede—mediate or simply act as pesky little go-betweens—when life suddenly becomes a wee bit too functional for occasional intangibles to penetrate the security locks of our convenient lives.
These are the magic moments when cash registers suddenly forget to add and multiply, greenbacks turn pale yellow, Wall Street becomes obsolete, traffic lights turn blue, and microchips fall in love with viruses.
Moments when a child’s angelic grin melts icebergs, a two-line poetry outwits volumes of mathematical theories, a warm kiss dissolves a hundred world wars, a silent flute pacifies nukes, and the mere presence of a Muse changes the tone of day.
So what if it’s Christmas? So what if we dance the rhumba while snow falls, and kids wait for Santa? So what… Sweet rituals like these don’t fit on square room spaces, neither do they read rules or heed time, or measure distances.
They just happen. And when they do happen, reason loses sting and logic fumbles to forgetfulness.
This time, the heart conquers and rules – and definitely – that ain’t meant to be broken.

--Pasckie Pascua
12:09 noontime.
24 December 2009
Lakewood, North Carolina

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life is still good despite the “serpentine unease,” as prizefighters rough it up in Vegas—meantime, Dylan rocks the blues from inside my shell

THE LIZARD VAMPIRE emerges from a week’s dose of “serpentine unease,” otherwise known as Passion Tugging on Steel, dazed but not confused. Tired but unyielding, weary but carrying on—activity drains like incessant rush of rubber on concrete but this is Freeway Country, what do I expect? It’s almost 9 in the morning—the sun is modest but the fog is fine, as Dylan rocks the blues on my CD player via “Down Along the Cove” like an old cat on unrelenting fire.
News over coffee. “The Senate’s defeat of a White House-backed bailout for the auto industry pushes General Motors Corp. to the brink and puts pressure on President Bush to reconsider his refusal to tap Treasury funds to stave off bankruptcies this winter among Detroit’s Big Three.”
Immediately contrasting images (as Simon&Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” wafts) crisscross: CEOs on Dom Perignon over Beluga caviar; auto workers on value meals and Mickey Dees chicken nuggets. Corporate gods will still have good food roastin’ on an open fire this Christmas, while the poor workers of America squeeze hard-earned $$ at a 99Cents Store.
Outside my world of maybe relative/romanticized “comfort,” 533,00 jobs were lost or cut last month (the most in 34 years). I was in two carmakers shows two weeks ago (Nissan from Japan, General Motors from the US)… both giants are pushing for their cars of tomorrow. A new car means a new job? A new car means more money for gasoline, as well. A new car means more profits to the makers, of course. Sometimes I just do my gradeschool arithmetic equation to be able to understand all these.
“And the people bowed and prayed / to the neon god they made. And the sign flashed out its warning / In the words that it was forming.”

LAST WEEK, I was in Las Vegas’s MGM Grand—to cover the middleweight boxing fight between my compatriot Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Oscar “Golden Boy” De La Hoya (the Pacman won on a demolition job of the Golden Boy). Nah, I didn’t play killjoy—chase politicos who probably chucked $1200 a tix minimum of (Filipino) taxpayers’ money (excluding other US visit expenses)?
But it was a perplexing prizefighter’s life, huh?
A paragraph from my post-fight report: “Manny Pacquiao has just shamed the most obtuse ring observers, and thrown everything on unswerving faith in God, plus a perplexing sense of focus and hard work. The achievements of the man who starts and ends his fights with a short prayer, punctuates his most rigid training regimen by mingling with fans like a neighborhood buddy, and shares his millions with the poor—can never be mistaken.”
I can probably kiss a lovely lady and “fake” the delivered warmth, but beat down a dude and then, still hang with one’s wisdom (how can I “pretend” hurting someone? Well, I just knocked the daylights out of you, dude!) Ah, life is hard to judge—in every 99 faults that we commit, we even things up with one good deed, I guess. Do I sound dense? I am actually drafting/writing a poem based on the paradox of prizefighting (from a “Third World voice”)—with some apologies to Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.”
Whatever the case, I concede—the Pacman can box, for sure. It’s not a “nationalistic fervor” (I’m never known to be like that)—but I do agree, he’s the best boxer I’ve ever seen or watched (TV, live etc). And I’m talking about the greats Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

I JUST realized that my (poetry) readings, these days—either with the Nomads of 4th Street or via a Traveling Bonfires gig—run at an average of four a month, or minimum of one a week. That’s excluding seven 12-minute open mic spots a month. And I’m writing 5,000 to 7,000 words a week as a journalist or editor.
And I still have time to meet up with three wonderful ladies (Desiree, Margo, Robyn—or Monday’s writers group) for less than two hours a week, and then spend more hours with my fellow Nomad (Daniel) and Marta The Nicer O within the week, before and after each gig.
And I have been waking up at 5:15am (at least in the last 4 days)! Is that good? In fact, I have a reading tonight in Echo Park LA (Tribal Café), with Los Angelenos/Angelenas Eledar & Kymistry, Los Dugans, One Imagination, and Lamar Glover AKA Nameless. I’m rehearsing an anti-war poem by Pablo Neruda (that I modified a bit for more accessible public reading): “Explico Algunas Cosas” (“I am Explaining a Few Things”).
Last Wednesday, me and Daniel, read poems at “Human Writes” at the Gypsy Den in Santa Ana’s Artists Village. The event was a human rights advocacy open mic, organized by Gabriela Network to commemorate the International Human Rights Day, and celebrate women survivors of violence. I was before a crowd of young (mostly) CSU-Irvine students who could be my kids; when Gabriela was formed in Manila in early 80s or 90s (?), I was their age. Time flies. (Funny, I “saw” those beautiful people and spirits of my past, again—women activists and anti-Marcos poets—on Facebook!)
Meanwhile, me and Daniel (as Nomads of 4th Street) expect a “huge” crowd at our Border Bellflower show tomorrow, Dec 13. Daniel said that one of his students wants my t-shirt and booble-head! But, we always great attentive/approving crowd at Borders. Next week (Dec 19), we’ll be at Viento y Agua Café & Gallery on 4th Street, Long Beach (our `hood)—reading with a real multiracial bunch of friends: Leonard Baric, Agnieszka Burzuchowski, Nameless, Alyssandra Nighswonger, and Jumakae Yodraj.
We have also spread out across three or four freeways (aside from Echo Park LA)—and we’ll be reading in Venice CA (The Talking Stick) on Jan 19 and Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood (Café Muse) on Jan 22. (Without poetry, I don’t know if I’d be able to hang on to my sanity—you know what I mean?)

LIFE IS STILL GOOD. There’s some intermittent “creative” skirmish at the writers’ table last week, and a Nomad has just left the trio, and I had a blooper on Page 1 of my paper’s San Francisco/NorCal edition on closing time last week—but that’s okay.
My employers/publishers in San Francisco just sent me a new laptop and digicam, and they finally moved our Eagle Rock office to a `hood (Santa Fe Springs) near me—after I whined and whined (“I need an office, I need an office—NEAR me”). And, as I said, I have a reading in Echo Park tonight. Some random friends and comrades might score my chapbook and CD. I am sure they will give me some love by sayin’ “I like your poem…” I am so easy to please. (Just kiss my ego, I am fine as the most humble man in the whole wide world!)
And on Monday, I’ll whip up some awesome Pan-Am fusion dish for my co-Monday writers group homegirls, Desiree, Margo and Robyn (plus Sasha and Marta The Nicer O). Hosting a dinner again—I love it! I have a new concoction of Vietnamese mushroom chicken soup to share.
Yes, I am tired but unyielding, weary but carrying on. I repeat—life is still good. So as I always say—love good, live good and eat only good food!

9:45am. 12 Dec 08
South Bay California