Another shocking tragedy

Last Sunday, between 5 to 5:30 pm, a pillbox bomb exploded during the traditional ‘salubong’ for bar examinees along Taft Avenue. What was meant to be a celebration of achievement turned into a bloodbath of broken dreams. Upon telling my friends of the shocking news, they instantly assumed it was a fraternity-caused incident. And true enough, it was, with reports saying the act was from a Manila-based law school fraternity.

Having signed a college-required agreement NOT to join a fraternity/sorority entering my freshman year and having no desires to be a doctor or lawyer (where the network becomes useful), this incident only taints the abuse of these organizations further. As a UP law professor present at Taft said in a statement:

That night, as we processed the raw information coming our way through various sources, it became clear that it was related to fraternity rumbles between rival fraternities of a Manila-based law school. Some had seen men in black running away a few seconds after the sound of the explosion. Others fed raw information about the rumbles that were ongoing among several fraternities of some of the schools in the university belt. All of us, to a person, in that room, didn’t find the news surprising as much as shocking. Many of us knew just how stupid and senseless fraternities can get when it comes to proving their manhood and their brotherhood to each other but, that night, a new realization came to me–probably also to the others in the room–the savagery of these “greek lettered” “men” who beat each other and others to a pulp had transcended known civilized boundaries.
– Attorney Teddy Te

Like the Hong Kong tour bus tragedy, I am left in anger, shock, and uncertainty. Did this really have to come to the point that these so-called “men” have to go beyond human reason and damage the entire lives of future lawyers? If we already know how senseless fraternities can get in the first place, what then is the solution to stopping their immature mentalities and acts? It was also mentioned in the statement that banning these organizations will only suppress these said acts, obviously making matters worse and escalated further because they are hidden. What then have we become, if we already expect such awful, and ruthless acts from an unnecessary fraternity war?

What irks me even more is that there isn’t much exposure on the matter. It was only an online headline and according to DLSU sources, the explosion site was instantly cleared the next day. You could tell me that it’s a public road, but goddamnit, it’s also a crime scene. No one is dead but lives are damaged, and I have witnessed how catastrophic losing the ability to walk can be.

A bigger issue is at hand, and that is the line professional schools must draw in these fraternities/sorority’s need to prove their ‘camaraderie’ or whatever it is they stand for. Unfortunately, our justice system tends to forget. The irony would be our supposed justice system not resolving an incident which injured future lawyers for life.

But I am only an outsider looking in. It’s best to conclude this post with Atty Te’s wise words:

Other greek lettered societies must also do the right thing: more than just condemning the act and saying that ‘we don’t do things like that”, they must ensure that in admitting people into their ranks, they are absolutely certain that those with issues, those with homicidal streaks, those with anger management problems, those who are in fraternities for the absolutely “wrong reasons” should not be admitted; and if, somehow, some of these have made it into their number, that they are courageous enough to ensure that they are not let out into decent company unless on an extremely short leash.

The culture of “my brother, wrong or right” must stop. There is such a thing as fraternal correction and, if necessary, discipline.

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A half-review on a messy process

Ever wondered what it would be like to get into your friend’s head? I’m not talking Inception (although that would be creepy yet interesting) or mind-reading. It’s the ability to understand–or at least know the full, raw train of thought they go through before what they say out loud comes out. What goes on before they bring out a smile, frown, or a puzzled expression that comes with a witty or expected statement. I still sound like I’m talking about mind reading aren’t I? But the thing with mind reading is, you don’t have your friend’s permission. They could be completely unaware or realize you’re in there and feel violated (mind rape!!).

What am I really talking about then? I’m thinking (and publishing online as I write this) I can read what you’re thinking, with your full permission. Only you choose to put it out there, without me probing inside. There’s slight editing obviously, but it feels raw and confusing still. But you’ve given me your permission to sift through and attempt to understand.
That’s what I’m reading with Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

There are books you just can’t put down. There are those you can put down but intend to finish. You need to pause, digest everything–they’re a lot like life. You have to take a break to absorb what just happened and how it will relate to the rest of your life. That’s exactly what keeps you reading with Eggers. You can’t quite understand some of it at first, but you thread through, as you probe into his word vomit and clever, unplanned remarks. It’s a memoir that is uninhibited. It’s not a tried and tested structure, but that’s what makes you want to read it. Will it work? Sometimes it doesn’t. I get lost. Then I realize, that’s a lot like me when I think or go through an average day. We get lost, but do things to make sense of it. That’s why I write. That’s why I eat, why I laugh, why I sleep, and why I crack jokes.
Egger’s Pulitzer finalist will keep you guessing, wondering… but still reading. Look at me, I still am.
Hence, the half review.

All over the place

Focus, focus, focus. I lacked it in college, leading to an unimpressive (but not terrible, thank god) undergraduate transcript. I lack it in my scheduling, causing chores to be undone and non-priorities fulfilled instead. Work, is an even more complicated scenario. You could liken my job to those fashion interns on reality shows–or maybe Betty Suarez would be a more accurate comparison (minus the Henry Grubstick, obviously :)). Multi-tasking, deadline shifts, the need to be superwoman. Not that I don’t mind multi-tasking. I’ve done it since grade school, nothing’s gonna stop me now. But I’m turning 23 soon, and at some point, I have to define where my career and interests will lean.

The past year has been one of major decisions, events, and opportunities. Resigning from my first job after less than a year. Dealing with a family accident. Struggling with my savings, paying for bills. And now, I’m in a job I’ve dreamed of. Dreams become reality, and of course, such a reality comes with a price. It’s not all it’s cut out to be but the mere promise of it all gets you by. This can lead to something greater. Isn’t that what gets us through? The potential, the coming together of dreams that have been thought of, built, and worked hard for? And then the need for patience comes in. I’ve waited. Having waited in college, when I was unsure of who I was and what I wanted to do. Then there it was. Now, here I am. Writing for magazines after graduating from a technical degree. But the unsatisfied thirst and hunger of being human persists. I want to get published. I want a reader to open a book and aspire to be something great. I want to see the world, lose myself in the culture of Southeast Asian neighbors and cold Western nations. But, oh, oh, where does this all go? And when does the building up start and come to a staggering finish?

With three months into 2012, I’ve decided it’s time to own my early-twentiness (yuck) and put everything together. Little projects, whether it be a blog or that ever-growing reading list. Seeing the world, learning how much bigger everything and everyone else than our daily, self-centered existence. Increase that damn portfolio and find the time for what is necessary. It will take months, years, but there is nothing like working towards something higher. Things have begun, ended, and are yet to start again. Here’s to embracing life and taking it by the reigns.

Feast at the Crystal Jade

Last Friday, I had the opportunity of being present at the media lunch/launch of Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao. “Xiao Long Bao” stands for steamed soupy pork dumpling, a popular snack among Filipinos. But the Xiao Long Bao’s reach goes beyond the local branch opened at Virra Mall, Greenhills. The restaurant’s international branches include Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore. Pinoys can look forward to the La Mian, a Chinese noodle that is hand made by trained chefs. In order to introduce the Crystal Jade’s diverse menu, we were served a fourteen course meal of appetizers, soups, and viands.

First on our 14-course meal was the restaurant’s specialty, the Xiao Long Bao. Unlike the usual dumplings served in Pinoy-Chinese establishments, the Xiao Long Bao presents its taste as a subtle treat. The pork doesn’t overpower your mouth, and the savory hot broth with it makes it even more satisfying. We were served two rounds of this–I almost didn’t leave enough room for the rest.
Then we had the steamed vegetable bun. In eating layman terms, it’s siopao with vegetables. But the veggie bun is elegantly done, and could appeal to serious meat lovers. At the same time, it satisfies picky vegetable eaters like me. Their less satisfying vegetable appetizers were the radish pastry and cold cucumber with minced garlic. The former exaggerated the batter while the latter did not float my cucumber boat. I’m a big fan of cucumber, but it didn’t quite work with so much garlic. I prefer keeping it simple with little flavoring. Served with these cold vegetables was the sliced pork roll with cucubmer and garlic. Thankfully the pork balanced out the cucumber-garlic taste I didn’t enjoy.
The oddest appetizer of them all was the crispy eel wuxi style. It was savory and sweet, but was reminscent of dilis. By itself, it wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t sure if it jived with the previous and succeeding dishes’ tastes.

Despite the slightly disappointing appetizers, one-fourth of my appetite was already full. The next dish, however, begged to be finished: Spicy and sour soup in Sichuan style. It was an explosion of flavor, overwhelming my taste buds in all the right places. I also enjoyed the abundant use of black fungus and other mushrooms.
Soon enough, we got started on the main viands. I barely had any room after the soup, so I started just taking a few bites of each to know its taste. The sauteed chicken with cashew nuts was fragrant in the mouth, although I could barely taste the spicy sauce. The sauteed string bean and minced pork with olive was good in itself, but didn’t quite complement the chicken dish. But the string beans weren’t something I’d eat by myself either.
Thankfully, the noodle with dried shrimp and peanut in spicy sauce evoked a loud “mmmm” from my mouth. The dish reminded of kare-kare, but without the protein element. The peanut ingredients soaked the noodles perfectly. If only my stomach had enough room!
As the lunch ended to a close, we were served the ever-familiar Fried Race with Diced Chinese Sausage, Shrimp & Egg in yang Zhou Style. Three worlds: yang zhou fried rice. The nostalgic familiarity suddenly reawakened my full appetite, leaving a little space for the Filipino staple. Ending our meal were two desserts: the mango pudding and deep-fried souffle ball with red bean paste. The pudding provided the needed sweetness after a long meal, but lacked the fruit element fresh eaters after. The souffle ball, on the other hand, pleased with its red bean filling. It just takes awhile till you get to the pasty center.
Overall, the Crystal Jade offers a filling and extravagant Chinese food experience. It’s the appropriate stopover after a tiring day of shopping, especially now that the -ber months have hit. Taste it all for yourself to know what flavors await you.

The Reading List

After staying up late to finish Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, I only thought two things: one, that’s it’s about time I started on my major writing goals and projects, and second, “Oh my god. That was awesome, but I need to read something with sunshine and rainbows to balance things out.” There’s no denying the pure awesomeness of Collins writing, but what really gets you is her execution–genuine and flawless, especially when it comes to depicting the horrors, injustices, and bloodiness of war. Just when I thought reading statistics and investigative pieces on TIME were enough to convince me that the business of war (why else would governments still allow them, right?) is the most unethical and unnecessary, Collins convinces you even more with the human element of it all.

But war is war, and my prefers-to-be-positive brain needed light and/or happy reading. Thankfully my fellow bookworm lent me Nina Garcia’s The Little Black Book of Style. It’s a fun and practical read, and the tips she gives are easy to apply to any kind of wardrobe. Although, there’s much editing to do with my current pieces, which are mostly old, worn out and not wearable. I’ll save that act for another post, though.

Next on the list is Malcom Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw. It’s kind of the perfect complement to Garcia’s book, since I need to expose myself more to non-fiction work. I’ve started the first few pages and yes, he is one of the best examples of “show, don’t tell.” Those three words are a number one rule for any writer, and even after 5 years into print, I still struggle with. Gladwell is officially up there with Collins, Murakami and Gaiman among the alive writers I look up to. After What the Dog Saw, I’ll go through the rest of his work and then maybe try a new author all together. Who do you recommend?

When I grow up

As kids, we keep telling ourselves (and our peers) these four words, with hopes and dreams of becoming big. Then, we had no notions of paying bills, getting through taxes, and having to build the rest of your life. The teens hit, and your parents give you more freedom to meet people and somewhat stand on your own. But those four words are still said, as you pour through textbooks, snooze or listen through lectures, and shamelessly (or shamefully) flirt with the apple of your eye. The dreams are still there. But the responsibilities grow a thousandfold.

And the dreams are still there. At 22-going-23, there is so much to be done for my career–planning and a clear vision of which road to take included. I wouldn’t have imagined myself like this at 16. Just like Lea Michele said, (paraphrased) when I was younger, I thought I wanted to be married by 24 or 25. Now, no way! It’s too soon. Too soon. A relationship is one of many other things.

Oh, and every adult’s favorite: responsibility. The consequences to pick up, the money to be paid/spent/saved, and the plans that society dictates to build. The government and people around you sometimes refuse to cooperate (well always, for the former), making you look bad, no matter how well you perform with the rest.

Sorry, I’m just frustrated. Forgive this self-indulgent entry. I’m tired, have home-WORK over the long weekend, and not enough time to see my friends and hang out. Surely, others have worse problems, but hey, I’ve got a right to feel bad.

Keeping track

Life. It’s random. Entropy explains that the world’s natural reactions fall into disorder. But it is our human need and perception of law and order that keeps things in their “place.” Languages communicate to maintain an idea of clarity. This blog, I push myself to update and write to practice my chosen craft and also to record the significant moments of my life. So, a quick update on the last weeks’ latest happenings:

The move back south
My darling sister has recovered quite quickly from her accident the last few months, allowing us to move back to our home in Alabang. The commute is less of a bitch and communication (plus blog updating, Facebooking, and downloading haha!) within easier reach. Not to mention, the sweet reception of childhood friends welcoming me back. There really is nothing like the south’s slightly less crowded malls, clear and smog-free air, and friendly neighborhoods. But I will miss my grandparents, the frogs’ noise at night, trips to Forever 21, and riding the train home with officemates.

Fruits of our labor

Lonely Planet Philippines issue 2!

Wedding Belle’s latest issue and Issue 33 of DPP. Late post of 33 though, on my part.

Pet project

A few months ago, I decided to start a blog other than this one–one that specializes on a particular topic. After racking my brain for something specialized, I decided to do a TV blog. September is the perfect time to finally get started with this project, what with fall seasons coming up. I’m very excited about this project and I hope to improve my wit with this one. Visit me on the other side at Television Tease.