Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Conversations In E Minor

"Oh, great, she's bringing out the headwaiter," I snickered as the radiant soprano led the tuxedoed tenor to center stage, to bask in the audience's thundering applause.

"Shhhh Ruddie, stop it!" scolded Ternie, making frantic hand movements as though he were trying to swat away a swarm of pesky bottle flies.

"Where are the flames? I want her to ride into the flames now!" I heckled, undeterred.

"Ruddie, behave!"

"It's not the Ring of the Nibelung until the fat lady fries!"


Thus went a snippet of our intermittent sotto voce exchanges as I sat through Wagner at the Philamlife with the musical connoisseur, blogspot deserter, and friend known as Eternal Wanderer.

Or Ternie, as we like to call him.


"Sooooooo," Ternie began in his signature way. "How have you been?"

We were taking a leisurely stroll from U.N. Avenue to Remedios Circle to have dinner after the show. How very New York, both of us thought simultaneously. Him in sensible shoes, I in ill-fitting dress boots that pinched with every step.

I had been bothered by many things of late and part of why I invited Ternie along to watch the program with me after my original date bailed was the opportunity to get things off my chest.

And yet, this is what I said instead.

"I'd like to talk about many things," I glanced at him, " But you know that if I do, the word becomes flesh. And then it dwells among us."

He nodded quietly in agreement, and we spent the rest of the walk in relative silence.


"You're a cougar!" hissed Ternie with no small amount of wicked glee.

"Excuse me?" I protested as I dug a fork into the Chicken Kiev.

We were at Café Adriatico, the last bastion of gentility on historic Remedios Circle, now ringed with Korean videoke bars and other assorted blights. I had just - well, not vented. "Sighed" is a more accurate term describing how I gave him the Cliff's Notes on my current affairs, pun unintended.

"You're like a sugar daddy, dating all these young boys." he continued as his eyes narrowed accusingly. "Dirty old man."

"Hey," I said evenly as I put my fork down lest it ended up in his jugular. " I like older men. Except that the older I get, the deader they become."


"Speaking of young men," he teased. "There's someone who really really wants to meet you."

"Name names," I demanded. "Or in this case, name name."

"He keeps asking me about you," Ternie went on. "What you look like, how you are in person, how you talk, etc."

I continued demolishing my Chicken Kiev, and without looking up, replied:

"He must be a sucker for disappointment."


"Who have you met from blogspot?" Ternie pressed.


"Aside from you and Kane, no one."

"Who would you like to meet, then?"

"Well," I thought. "I'm supposed to meet Nyl, but that's neither here nor there."

"Why citybuoy?"

"I like the way he writes and thus, I'm curious about him."

"Anyone else?'

"Engel," I replied. "But mostly because I have to give him the trinkets I promised a long time ago - hopefully before the world ends on the 21st."

"That's it?"

"I owe Karl dinner and drinks, but since I'm teetotaling again, it's going to be just dinner."

"Oh, Kane."

"Yup. Besides, we never got to discuss the 'death' of whatsisname."


"The very one."

Oh. And there's also maybe one more.

But that'll just be my secret.


And it's not what you're thinking, either.


"Why don't you ever post about your love life?" Ternie inquired as the waiter plunked down his coffee, conveniently forgetting mine.

"I have," I countered as I tried to flag down the errant waiter while computing how much less his tip was going to be. "Just...cryptically."

"Do you feel it's too personal?" he prodded.

"Well, I guess," I conceded. "Don't get me wrong. I don't mind people who blog about their love lifes and sex lifes."

I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't enjoy reading some bloggers' accounts of their latest conquests, or the ongoing telenovelas that are their relationships.

"I just feel it's too much information to share on my blog."

"But if you posted about your love life, your blog hits would surely go up."

"Oh, you mean like soltero's? Or tristan's?"

He shrugged.

"People do enjoy gossip, don't they?" I went on. "And titillation sells, no doubt about that."

I paused as the waiter finally brought my espresso over. "My love life - such as it is - is boring me to tears, and I won't do my readership any favors by boring them with it as well." 

Brown sugar. 

"And while I won't be disingenuous enough to deny I have a sex life...I don't really like to kiss and tell."


"I like to talk about my love life as much as the next guy. But maybe not in such detail."


Because the devil, like God, is in the details, too.


The blogosphere is dying, I thought. To seek fame - or notoriety - in it is like trying to elbow for a prime spot on the deck of the Titanic. I'd once mentioned that the dearth of bloggers and new blog entries - at least the ones I subscribe to - can be attributed in no small measure to the instant gratification of Twitter. It requires time and effort to solidify one's thoughts in complete sentences, that would eventually form coherent paragraphs that ultimately have a point and hopefully make some sense.

Then again, coherence is not necessarily a function of word count, or 140 characters.

"Mabuti naman at nag-post ka na," I grumbled at Ternie as I ordered another round of coffee.

"I've been busy rin kasi," he apologized. "And also, I'm mostly on Twitter."

"By the way," he demanded, suddenly coming to a realization. "Why aren't you on Twitter?"

'Coz I don't follow twits, went my mental reply.

"Come on, get on Twitter na!" he enthused. "Everyone's there. It'll be fun!"

It was my turn to narrow my eyes at him. 

"Oh," I interjected archly while sipping my second espresso for the night. "If I wanted to chat, I'd go on YM."

"You're so mayabang," he chided.

"Fine," I said as I put down my cup. "Let's see. If I were on Twitter, what would my tweets be? "

Ternie sat, eagerly awaiting.

"Candy and Coke. This is what I've been reduced to."

"I'd have killed myself by now if I wasn't so afraid of dying."

And what would probably be my default tweet, if there was such a thing:

"Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut."


"I thought you wouldn't be caught dead in Malate," I grinned as we walked to Nakpil after dinner. I had left my car there earlier, unwilling to risk not finding a suitable parking spot in U.N. Avenue, as well as apprehensive about not finding my vehicle there anymore after the show.

"No, that wasn't me," Ternie protested.

I'm pretty sure it was you, I thought, as I chuckled inside.

"Maybe it was someone else," he offered. "Maybe engel."

"Yeah. Maybe."

The bar was disappointingly full, but my suki waiter quickly produced a spot for us, although it was a bit cramped for my taste.

"They know you here," remarked Ternie.

"I get around,"  I shrugged.

Two rounds of Coke later, my "date" - one of the "young boys" as Ternie called them - showed up. And after the proper introductions, Ternie stood up to go.

"Thanks for the night," he said as we bid each other goodbye.

"My pleasure. And you're welcome."

"Dinner's on me next time." he promised.

I'm thinking foie gras.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Misfortune Cat print from here.

Is it just me, or have you ever thought that malas is not just some abstract concept, but a living, breathing entity? One that can be carried like a virus and spread by certain people, just like in the vernacular phrase "Ingat, baka dapuan ka ng malas." 

Superstition imbues places, objects, actions, words and dates with inherent qualities of fortune and misfortune. "Malas ang bahay na yan," we say of houses and establishments located at crossroads, or tumbok. Or places where tragedies have taken place, and succeeding inhabitants have consistently experienced strange happenings and/or reversals of fortune until they abandon said places.

"Malas ang petsang/buwan na yan,"  caution I-Ching and Feng Shui practitioners, as they calculate and divine "auspicious" dates for life-changing events such as weddings, baptisms, business launches.

If places, objects, and dates could harbor malas, could some people themselves be walking harbingers of misfortune, through their own making or not?

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Père Lachaise, Part 2 : The Celebrated Dead

If there is anything like a cemetery for the stars, you can't get any more prestigious than Père Lachaise. As I mentioned in Part 1, one of the come-ons to get people to start burying their dead in Père Lachaise was the inclusion of notable celebrities among its inhabitants.

The plan succeeded beyond all expectations. If Hollywood has its Maps to the Stars' Homes, in Père Lachaise, you can buy maps to the stars' graves.

And oh, what a constellation it is. Its resident luminaries - a cross-section of artists, writers, politicians, and other cultural influencers the world over-  read like a Vanity Fair Who's Who spanning the centuries.  Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Bizet, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Honoré Daumier, Isadora Duncan, Max Ernst, Victor Hugo, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Marcel Marceau, Charles Messier, Modigliani, Yves Montand, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein and lover Alice B. Toklas, among many others.

Like his famous ètudes, Chopin's final resting place is a study in restraint and simplicity. Devotees leave blossoms on his modest tomb as tokens of their respect and love for the great composer.

But over on the rock-n-roll side, things are a little... different. One of the most famous celebrity graves in Père Lachaise is James Douglas Morrison's. Better known to the world as Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors.

Unsurprisingly, Jim Morrison's grave is one of the most-visited in Père Lachaise. As a matter of fact, it's so popular that authorities have been hard-pressed to prevent the rampant vandalism that occurs with regularity there. So much so that the relatives of the inhabitants of the adjoining graves have filed complaints with the authorities.

Proof that even in death, sharing close quarters with celebrities isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Despite steel barriers impeding (but not quite preventing) people from actually walking up to it, Morrison's grave is littered with shells, cards, letters, flowers, and liquor bottles left by visiting devotees. There used to be a bust of Morrison marking the site, but over the years, people defaced the sculpture until it was finally stolen in 1988.

Other Morrison devotees have taken to writing graffiti on the trees near the gravesite.

In the 1990s, Jim Morrison's father placed a flat stone on the grave, bearing the Greek inscription "KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY." Perhaps due to Morrison's ultimately-destructive personal demons, the inscription has been translated as "To each his own daemon." But there are others who believe the real meaning is "true to his own spirit."  


Another famous "resident" of Père Lachaise is the Irish playwright, author, and pundit Oscar Wilde.

Larger-than-life, his grave could only be larger-than-death.

After his incarceration for "the love that dare not speak its name," Wilde immediately fled to Paris, where he later died of meningitis, alone and destitute. Ever the wit, upon being presented with a massive medical bill, he is said to have replied "I am dying as I have lived - beyond my means." 

And of course, there are his supposed famous last words. Wilde, a lifelong aesthete and champion of beauty, is said to have risen from his deathbed, looked around at his cheap Parisian hotel room, and then, pointing at the tacky decor, declared that "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

Friends put up the money for his plot in Père Lachaise, and young sculptor Jacob Epstein created the massive granite Art Deco angel keeping watch over the grave. 

The angel, in true Wilde fashion, has a scandalous little story of its own. Apparently, the sculpture originally came complete with an oversize stone penis, which scandalized Parisian do-goodniks so much that someone broke off the offending appendage sometime in the 60s. This being Paris, unconfirmed rumor also has it that the angel's missing genitals were used for years by the cemetery's director as a paperweight.

Like Jim Morrison's grave, Oscar Wilde's final resting place has also given birth to a tradition: the leaving of kissmarks on the angelo castrato . In the 1990s, public interest in Wilde's tomb grew, attributed to the Hollywood film about his life released in 1997, as well as his death centenary in 2000. The leaving of lipstick marks on the granite monument became an act of devotion to the great and fallen hedonist.

Sadly, Wilde's descendants have recently put a stop to this tradition by cleaning up the statue and installing a 7-foot plate glass wall to prevent any more devotees from planting their kisses and "destroying" the monument. 

Yes, even after death, party-poopers still rain on Wilde's parade. So now, we can kiss the tradition goodbye.

Boo! Hiss!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Culture Vulture

Music soothes the savage beast.

Or does it?

Misquoting William Congreve's famous line* like the rest of us, so begins a particularly memorable episode of The Electric Company's "The Adventures of Letterman." Attending a classical concert, the villainous Spellbinder - no doubt entranced by the music - turns a bassoon into a...a baboon! Hilarity, of course, ensues, until Letterman saves the day by taking a double "L" from his chest and transforms the non-music loving simian into a less-disruptive balloon - which floats quietly out of sight.

Early evidence that I was a young troll.

What's this piece of childhood trivia got to do with anything, you ask?

Nothing, except that I've been going on an Arts & Culture bender of late, and I know deep down inside I'm just Spellbinder hoping to either create chaos or soothe the savage beast within.

Hopefully both.

Because I am given to obsessions - not all of them magnificent - I could not rest until I kept my promise to Brendan, my ex-protége. And thanks to the constrictions of his indentured servitude and the ensuing resetting of our momentous date, I ended up seeing Phantom of the Opera twice as a result.

Satisfying that sophomore - and sophomoric - craving for attention ironically did not slake my thirst for the limelight. Instead, it reawakened an ancient lusting so much so that as naturally as Claudia wanted to suck blood in Interview With A Vampire, I, too, wanted more.

Encore, encore, s'il vous plait, encore.


I ended up watching King and I twice, as well, this time escorting Mara - yet another "lady friend" - laden with faux bijoux up and down Newport's casinos, causing the eyes of the tai tais to narrow even further. Had I been more of a gambling man, I'd have played baccarat like Bond and she'd have moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo while waiting for the house to open. 

But alas, I have other ways of losing money - like watching musicals at least twice with different transvestite dates on my arm.

And because musicals are but a gateway drug, thanks to Gibbs Cadiz' helpfully-informative blog, we just barely managed to catch the tail end of Lisa Macuja's Swan Song Series performances : Giselle once with Mara, and in an encore reminiscent of Brendan's original failure to keep a date, I ended up watching Carmen twice: the first night with Mara, the next with Ayen. But a happy occasion, that, because we were privileged to witness a bonus dance from the prima ballerina as well as a song from her sister, in celebration of their parents' Golden Anniversary that last night. 

In between those, there's the ongoing National Theater Festival at the CCP. Mara and I had a grand old time watching Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino, Mae Bayot, Jenine Desiderio, and the rest of the spirited cast of Mario O'Hara's Stageshow - both as a gesture of support for the theater couple as well as my own nostalgic interest in bodabil.

Annoying Orange's mom was a more cultured kind of citrus.

Next stop : mighty Europe! The rainbow's gonna tour, dressed up, somewhere to go! We'll put on a show!

Oh, wait - I channeled Señora Peron there for a nanosecond.

Must've been all the jewels.

At any rate, our cultural calendar will take us to a whole new world on November 16th at the Meralco Theater, which, unfortunately, means I would be missing Joey Reyes' Sayaw nf mga SENIORita  in its debut run at the CCP that very same night. I'd love to see how closely it hews to its inspiration The Boys In The Band, but I'm not too keen on battling EDSA traffic to catch its succeeding performances at the AFP Theater. 

Nevertheless, should we fail to catch it at all, we are ready to console ourselves with Ballet Philippines' Dragon Song/Rama Hari back at the CCP on the 30th.

I always need a Statler to my Waldorf.

Lest I come off as a braggart and a snob, let me confess that these cultural excursions are hugely an elaborate - and expensive - exercise in social trolling born out of boredom. Be that as it may, I do have a genuine - if selective - interest in watching live performances, aside from those given by myself and my lovely accomplices. I still lament learning too late that Wicked had a short run in Singapore earlier this year, and would watch Evita every week if they ever bother re-staging it here. 

But why the trolling, you might ask? Isn't attending artistic performances sufficient in and of itself? 

Well, for better or worse, every gay man craves some drama in his life. And no drama is larger than life than when it is within the context of an opera, soap or musical. Speaking of which, the last musical opera I remember watching locally was a tragicomic staging of the already-tragic La Traviata. A theatrical - if well-meaning - travesty held at either the CCP or the Met, such was the trauma that I can't recall exactly. But I do remember its come-on was that it was an "experimental" version that "enhanced" the music of Verdi by altering the libretto with a smattering of Tagalog lyrics by none other than Rolando Tinio, if memory serves. 

Mal canto Tinio?

Opera is already inherently given to caricature as it is, but hearing Violetta singing that she was repairing to fucking NOVALICHES for her health could only send even the most solicitous of Filipino audiences into uncontrollable tittering. 

Be that as it may, I would still gladly sleep through Wagner at the Met - if we ever manage to convince any touring opera companies to grace our karaoke-infested shores.

(EDIT: In between the time I wrote this and the time I published it, I have learned that the Manila Symphony Orchestra, in celebration of Richard Wagner's birth bicentennial, is featuring Australian Wagnerian soprano Claire Primrose and Filipino tenor Randy Gilongo this Saturday, November 10th at the Philamlife Auditorium.)

So now it turns out I can sleep through Wagner at the...Philamlife.

It ain't over even after the Fat Lady sings.

It's a new addiction, this conspicuous cultural consumption - one I haven't really had since I was a child and the official escort to my grandmothers. There was always a sense of excitement in the air on those special nights when the women of the house transformed from lola, tita, and mama into these elegant perfumed ladies. And there was that thrill of anticipation before the show, and the grown-up feeling of mingling with the adults during intermission beneath the CCP's majestic capiz chandeliers.

I guess I miss all that...theatricality ? Or maybe I just miss the dressing-up part.

At any rate, unlike the Phantom's sequel Love Never Dies, this current infatuation of mine with the performing arts shall most certainly not last. But while I am caught in its entrancing embrace, I guess I've no choice but to enjoy the ride.

And with that, I shall leave you with this - my first lasting impression of Caro Nome from Verdi's Rigoletto - as interpreted by a dog.



*The actual line is "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast." Which, if you ask me, is far FAR more interesting than the more popular misquote.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Père Lachaise, Part 1

Despite the sadness they hold, cemeteries can be beautiful places. Serene and peaceful, they can lend themselves to quiet reflection. Even moments of clarity, when life itself becomes too cluttered and noisy with the business of living.

With that, I'm sharing some pics I took last year of the lovely Cimitière du Père-Lachaise, or simply, Père Lachaise.

It says a lot about Paris that something as macabre and mundane as a cemetery can be a famous tourist attraction. But Père Lachaise, of course, is no ordinary necropolis.

Built on a hillside, Père Lachaise aka Cimitière l'Est (East Cemetery) is Paris' largest and is supposedly the most-visited cemetery in the whole world.

Its Wiki entry states that the cemetery owes its name to Louis XIV's confessor, Père Francois de la Chaise. At the time of its opening in 1804, Père Lachaise was considered too far from the city proper and thus had few interments.

Moreover, Parisian Catholics refused to bury their dead in a place that had not been blessed by the Church. Thus, in its first year, Père Lachaise held a total of only thirteen graves.

Something had to be done to attract more people to bury their dead in Père Lachaise. And proving that there is nothing like star power even in the afterlife, the cemetery's administrators re-interred the remains of La Fontaine and Molière in Père Lachaise, amid great fanfare.

Over time and with more French notables among its roster, Père Lachaise's strategy worked, and more and more people clamored to be buried among its celebrities.

As proof of its growing popularity, within a few years, the number of Père Lachaise's residents grew, from a few dozen permanent graves to over 33,000 in 1830.

Such was the population boom that the cemetery grounds required expansion five times from 1824 to 1850.  

Père Lachaise remains an operational cemetery to this day and is still accepting new burials. 

As you can see from these pictures, the graves at Père Lachaise range from humble headstones to grand, massive monuments.

People may be buried in any of Paris' cemeteries as long as they lived in the capital or they died there. But Père Lachaise now boasts of a waiting list, as very few plots are available due to its historical significance and popularity.

There are also mini-chapels dedicated to both the well-known and the unknown. 

Many tombs in Père Lachaise are like this "telephone booth" sized structure; just big enough for a person to enter and say prayers and leave offerings for the dead.

Just like some of our local cemeteries, many graves in Père Lachaise contain the remains of multiple family members. This is done to save space in order to accommodate new "residents."

In recent times, Père Lachaise has adopted leases for its gravesites. If a family does not renew the lease, the plot is emptied of its contents and a new grave is prepared for a new inhabitant.

Plots can be bought in perpetuity, with 50, 30, and 10 year lease options. And unlike most traditional Filipino cemeteries, the coffins in Père Lachaise's graves and mausoleums are usually located below ground.

By official count, at least one million people have been laid to rest at Père Lachaise. If we add the cremated remains at the Aux Morts ossuary, the total number of residents in Père Lachaise lies in excess of 2-3 million.

Not bad for a necropolis that only started out with thirteen graves.

Le plus grand faible l'hommes, c'est l'amour qu'ils ont de la vie.
Man's greatest weakness is his love for life.

Père Lachaise text info courtesy of Wiki.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Memento Mori

Père Lachaise, Paris, 2011

"There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does."
Hazel Grace Lancaster, The Fault In Our Stars

I recall reading somewhere that we die three times.

First, our actual physical death. 

The second, when everyone we ever knew have all died, too. 

And the third, final death is when our name is uttered for the very last time.

People share a natural fear of mortality, but where we differ lies in the reasons why we fear annihilation. Some of us simply fear the unknown; Death, of course, being the greatest of these. 

Others fear being forgotten; indeed, the thought of no one ever knowing or remembering you once existed is terrifying. To experience and be experienced : that's what make us alive. And therefore to be forgotten - to spend an entire lifetime on this earth without anyone even knowing or remembering you existed - is a particular kind of annihilation. 

That is why people who have been reduced to vegetative states or have suffered some sort of damage that prevents them from knowing, sensing, and experiencing the infinite stimuli that make up existence are considered dead - brain-dead, anyway. For without the "consciousness" of existence - the knowing that one is alive - then one may truly just as well be dead.

To be forgotten is to be reduced to nothingness.

On this Day of Remembrance, I must remind myself that.