Friday, December 27, 2013

'The Flood'

I'm one of the final 22 published in the 13th anniversary issue of Pedestal Magazine! According to poetry editor John Amen, they received over a thousand submissions, which were whittled down to 45, and then eventually to 22. Also, here is the online link to my poem; the rest are accessible through the sort-of-table of contents on the screen's left. 

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There was a flood, few days ago, and it watered our street with secrets. What I couldn't say, I drank from the water, and I bore the salt and dirt, the grime of the country in my mouth tasting bitter and strong, like stale coffee or a father's love, which he brought with him to his muddy grave, never one to share.

The water rose, and when it reached our house, it pounded the pavement, left as many holes as there were in my father's heart. Inside I could feel the rush - how strong the wind blew when it stood watch over his funeral. Outside, the current carried the remains of a tree, the odd leaf and the fallen fruit, the warmth of our walls and the gleam of lights, the cold swirl of water.

Rain, I said, and the clouds started weeping, and all the while they hid their hair under violet veils, like the women at father's funeral. That afternoon it rained and the wind betrayed us, it killed the candles with a single strike, the kind my father's hand made on my face when I was fourteen, and had stolen his keys and ran off with a girl. Rain, I said, as if she'd ever come back, a dozen tombstones away from my father's.

The flood destroyed the harvest, but not our farm; it swallowed the highway and the town hall, but left our house to stand. In the aftermath, everything was scattered on our yard, like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be picked - planks of wall, bricks of floor, the bulb of an incandescent light, and my father's myth, waiting to dry on damp earth.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Butuan V: The House

Three months late, but here is the fifth and final installment of the Butuan series. You may recall that in September, blockmates and I flew to Butuan for some much needed rest and recreation important field work in Hospital Management I & II. T, he of cuddly build, turned out to be a descendant of the ruling families of said city, and so easily found us a place to stay.

We had a dog. I was the dog's only friend. Everybody else just seemed to acknowledge its presence at the most.

This is how you get to the house - through an unpaved side street (because, duh, you don't decorate these streets with cement or asphalt).

You arrive at the compound. Said dog's just behind the gate.

You enter a gate. If you are seven feet tall and weigh three hundred pounds, good luck.

To the right, a door, like magic. Behold, the unassuming facade (pronounced /fa-KEYD/).

Up the staircase, because staircases are all the rage nowadays.

Welcome to our living room.

We also had a terrace with furniture designed to look like they're imported from a farm. We also had a teddy bear, in case anyone felt lonely at night.

The dining table and kitchen, two highly controversial places with material rich enough for Pinoy Big Brother.

On a fine Sunday afternoon, we watched "Here Comes the Bride," one of my favorite Filipino comedies. Some of you might know that Angelica Panganiban in that film served as my inspiration for LadyMed 2011 a.k.a. that time I taped my dick to my thigh shaved my legs.

Down a corridor and through a door is the place for hanging clothes. 

The bathroom - again, site of lotsa magical happenings. Ask the girls.

Up close and personal. Notice the toiletries.

At night, the living room became this.

The men's bedroom, where only few of the men slept in.

The men's pile of stuff, without turquoise or lapis or cerulean.

The women's pile of stuff, a sight that would give Miranda Priestly a heart attack.

We played spirit of the glass. Not. C, in flesh shirt (left), is currently training for Mr. World 2014.

Introducing Nick (not the one brushing her teeth, nor the one in that provocative pose). Nick likes to sleep.

On our last night, we went to T's uncle's house for a grand dinner. This strong non-Ilonggo woman slaughtered a roasted pig.

T also showed off his skills at pigslaughter.

The pig died.

The girls just couldn't resist the staircase. I told you: Staircases are all the rage nowadays.

Finally, a farewell photo. Now back to my chestnuts roasting on our open fire.

PREVIOUS: Butuan IV: Work and the City
FIRST: Butuan I: The Way to the South and Back

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ten Things about OB-Gyne

The Year Level 5: ICC Year blog posts - stories and anecdotes, patient encounters and hospital drama, and the many colors of UP med school from the perspective of a third year. Here's the twelfth entry, under our four-week rotation in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

1. Waking up at 5:30AM every weekday morning, except for that Monday when I woke up an hour late and arrived in school unbathed and hungry. (One tardy arrival meant an instant ticket to the final exams.)

2. The stench of disease-ridden vagina. Have you ever been to the market? It's like all the animal and raw food smells in the world combined. Plus, damp stone floor, mildewed shower curtain, half-dried clothing.

3. The grandma with cancer who didn't want to undergo treatment. "Fine with me if the Lord wants to take me now!" she vehemently declared before us and her daughter.

4. The speculum exam. The vagina is a monster, especially the looser, more experienced ones. It's like inserting an instrument inside a collapsible fleshy tunnel; the thing will attempt to swallow the metal up.

5. Delivering my first baby. Or rather, how my fingers slipped and slipped trying to forcibly extract the thing out of the vagina. A word of advice for future generations: Do the maneuvers on the child like manipulating a hammer.

6. The 24-hour duty. It was a tiring marathon, but the learning was endless. Over time, one learned to identify the mothers based on individual bad behavior more than their names.

7. Hazel (not her real name), our most entertaining patient during the 24-hour duty. It was a delivery worthy of the stage. "Makinig ka: Hindi ka na dalaga. Nanay ka na." "Sige po!"

8. The two worst SGDs of my med-student life. The first one featured a faculty preceptor that tried to assume the role of moderator, then would ask me (the student moderator), "Moderator, why aren't you moderating?" The second one was a disaster that shall no longer be discussed.

9. My patient with polycystic ovarian syndrome and a BMI of 42. But only because she was so amazed at the fact that I'm only 21. I hope life will be kinder to her.

10. The tiredness at the end of each day. It's enough to ravage an otherwise fecund person.

And then, when all of it was done, thinking, "It's done. It's finally done." I gave it my third 4/4 in the end-of-rotation student evaluations. I loved this rotation, I really did, but it's not something I'd look for in my spare time.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Poetry News to Welcome Christmas

Never underestimate the power of wine, unless you have vague intentions of becoming the next Anne Curtis (of the John Lloyd-slapping kind) or just want to shake off four weeks of waking up at 5:30AM for the glory of vaginas and mothers in labor. Yesterday was our last day in OB-Gyne, and though I pretty much enjoyed the entire thing, it's not something I'd go looking for in my spare time. BUT, four of my poems have found home in three international publications!

1. "Twin Sorrows" will be in Stone Telling 10. It's a last minute submission, something I whipped up one arid May morning, which makes its acceptance even sweeter. Stone Telling is an online speculative poetry magazine; it's upcoming issue, coming out "soon," will be a double feature, or so I read.

2. "The Flood" will be in Pedestal Magazine December 2013. Pedestal is also a webzine (online magazine) with an interest in genre writing (fantasy, horror, surrealism, etc.). The upcoming issue is its 13th anniversary issue, so hurrah! Plus, the fact that they accepted only 22 poems from literally over a thousand submissions, said the editor.

3. "Shapes" and "Geography" will be in Sentinel Literary Quarterly February 2014. Sentinel is a UK-based quarterly that aims to be a "magazine of the world." The two poems were part of my collection, "His Final Attempt at Fiction," until, of course, it didn't win in a certain high-brow writing tilt and I decided to "un-collect" the thing.

By the way, have you seen "The Desolation of Smaug"? Four words: Lee Pace. Benedict Cumberbatch. That is, a deliciously effete elf-king and a very eloquent dragon brought to magnificent animated life. 

 Forgive me: I'm in a rather celebratory mood.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

PDI Review: 'The Addams Family' by Atlantis Productions

My review - er, post-run reflection - of Atlantis Productions' "The Addams Family" was in yesterday's Inquirer - here. Late post is the result of OB-Gyne duty, my first 24-hour in life (psych duty three, four months ago is not counted), but more on that in the next post.

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'The Addams Family': Too bad it closed too soon

The sad thing about Atlantis Productions' final show for the year, "The Addams Family," is that it closed too soon - Dec. 1, after a mere three-weekend run.

The idea of the musical's premature departure as the work of its ghastly, death-fixated characters certainly makes for an entertaining thought, especially since, in Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's paper-thin book, they have become subservient to a dry-as-dust, all-too-human plotline.

The titular clan of macabre eccentrics invented by American cartoonist Charles Addams now has to contend with that mundane thing called love.

Wednesday, daughter of Gomez and Morticia, has - gasp! - fallen for a "normal" boy named Lucas Beineke, and has invited the boy's parents over for dinner in their Central Park residence (yes, the Addamses now live in the middle of that New York City greenspace).

Shabby grandeur

As designed by Faust Peneyra, the family residence exuded shabby grandeur. A golden proscenium bearing a few cracks contained the red velvet curtain that greeted the audience at the start, and, for most of the show, highlighted the relative emptiness that defined the interior of the Addams house.

But the fitting atmosphere (with lighting design by Dong Calingacion) couldn't disguise the shallowness of this two-and-a-half-hour musical.

"A Disastrous Dinner," like another episode of a forgettable late-night sitcom, would have been a more specific title.

Factoring in Andrew Lippa's eclectic but otherwise unexceptional score, "Addams" seemed more like a run-of-the-mill vaudeville - a potpourri of song and dance numbers whose only purpose, it seemed, was to delay the arrival of the spine-chillingly corny ending.

But if this Atlantis production proved anything, it's that, with the right people, miracles could happen.

At the Meralco Theater where it played its 10 performances, "Addams" gracefully rose above the shortcomings of its source material to give Gomez and his family a rich and spirited life.

The director was Bobby Garcia, who, barely three months ago, also spearheaded a surprisingly terrific staging of "Carrie," the infamous musical adaptation of that Stephen King novel. [REVIEW]

Golden move

Garcia's golden move was finding comedy in creepiness. This "Addams" did not try to scare us to death; it wanted us to die from laughter, or at least have a flatulent night or two.

And who wouldn't have, with one of the year's finest acting ensembles at the core? This was a cast that obviously reveled in delivering the musical's bodily dysfunction-heavy humor, and more importantly, found the right balance of "normal" and animated eccentricity in their portrayals.

One only needed to see how they went for the show's first big laugh to be convinced of that.

In the opening number, "When You're an Addams," a dance segment ensued (choreography by Cecile Martinez); "Rigor mortis!" Gomez shouted, and everyone went stiff as sticks, the audience deliriously chortling in the dark.

These Addamses felt immediately familiar - the neighbors everybody avoids and gossips about, and not just those distant characters from the '90s TV series locally broadcasted by Cartoon Network.

Eula Valdes cut a sultry figure as Morticia, but she's also that nightmarish mother-in-law who'd rather die than see her daughter marry someone "normal."

K-La Rivera, she of immaculate voice and leading-lady poise, scaled Wednesday down to a bastion of teenage toughness and confusion.

Funniest character
And Carla Guevara-Laforteza transformed the poorly written role of Lucas' mother Alice (the Beinekes are treated like flimsy cameos by the book) into the funniest character on that stage.

Jaime Wilson was virtually unrecognizable as a squeaky-voiced Uncle Fester, the crowning achievement of Johann dela Fuente (makeup and hair) and costume designers Pepsi Herrera and Edwin Tan. His inspired disappearing act was more than enough to forgive the fact that his role was no more than a bloated sort-of-narrator with a senseless Act II solo titled "The Moon and Me."

But the heart and soul of this "Addams" was TV personality Arnell Ignacio.

In a performance fueled by unerring comedic instinct, his Gomez was, all at the same time, conniving father and conflicted husband, passionate lover and clueless party host.

Ignacio oozed with magnetic charm as he put on the role's many delightful aspects, like a magician showing off his box of tricks.

In a production that sparked despite its material's flaws, Ignacio was the brightest flame. This was his show; without him, "Addams" would have been only half as lustrous, half as hilarious.