Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For the Moleskine!

This is an entry for Avalon.ph's Win a Moleskine Colour a Month Daily Planner 2010! contest, wherein the following question must be answered: What are you thankful for this 2009? I always appreciate opportunities for reflection...not to mention an opportunity to win a Moleskine product. :D So, here goes! Wish me luck. :)

What are you thankful for this 2009?

The first thing that comes to mind is a milestone. April saw my graduation from UP Diliman and the end of 18 years of schooling. As a student I was above average at best, but the completion of my studies elated me as only a milestone can. I had accomplished something significant - it was a turning-point, the beginning of my life as an adult. An earning adult, since I had started working as a programmer at a local software company two weeks before. A college degree and a job; as far as I was concerned, I was all set for whatever was in store for me.

The second thing is learning, especially about myself and my capabilities. By May I had been assigned to a project with difficult clients; being new, I was given only minor tasks, but I felt the pressure that was constantly bearing down on my team. I was barely a month in the team when I started spending nights at the office along with my teammates just to get things done. Although some of us got sick from working late hours, we managed to pull through and finish our work. Fortunately the pace became manageable after several weeks, although our clients continued to be difficult. When the project was concluded in September and I was transferred to another project, I had already learned a lot about my skills as a programmer, as well as how much more I still had to learn. I'm very lucky to be in a company that actively fosters learning - not only do we have access to the internet and a well-stocked library of reference books, but we are also encouraged to share our knowledge with one another. I've learned a lot from the expertise of teammates past and present who guided me and helped me whenever I got stuck. I look forward to the day when I'll also have a lot to share with my future teammates, whether in terms of experience with a project or technical know-how.

Lastly, self-discovery and acceptance. Granted, this process did not take place only within the space of one year; it took many years, starting from the moment I noticed the gradual changes in the way I think and form opinions. This is where diaries come in handy - reading my old missives reminded me of the things I considered important (and worth recording), and my attitude towards them. This year marked an upward trend in my thoughts, mood-wise; I've been more positive, more open to change and more reflective. This in itself is something of a milestone to me, since I spent most of my formative years in a gloomy, pessimistic state. I've been happier this year than I ever remember being in a long time, and this is quite a lot to be thankful for. I realized a lot of things about myself which I would never have thought possible just a couple of years ago, such as my fondness for the color pink (I used to hate pink for the sake of hating it). As my friend put it, I've mellowed out. I love my life, and I'd love to keep on improving it year after year.

Looking back, 2009 was a really good year. I'm looking forward to 2010 and all it will bring. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Hair's Breadth

I washed my hands quickly before taking my first bite of dinner; the stink of unknown garbage bins and dung piles still clung to my fingers, but I didn't have the heart to wash it off completely. Our dog Yuri paced near our front door, his tongue hanging out. His eyes were bright and eager. I took him by his chain; my hand went for a portion of the chain near his collar, so that he almost choked. In my mind I could remember the tightness of my fingers around his throat just minutes before; they were not nearly so tight as his teeth had been around the kitten's body.

Yuri had been making a fuss in the garage. When I looked out of the sala's high window I saw a cat rooting in the drainage hole in front of our gate; I assumed that it was the source of his agitation, and would have dismissed it if not for my curiosity. I stepped out of the house and found him scrabbling and barking in a corner of the garage, far from where the cat was trying to get at the fish bones my mother had thrown out. As I got closer to him I finally saw what he was getting worked up about: a little white-and-gray-striped kitten, barely a month old, toeing the narrow space beneath our gate. It moved slowly, blithely unaware of Yuri's excited barking. I wanted to catch it up and play with it; I imagined how its fur would feel on my skin, if it would scratch or bite me, if it would purr. Briefly I began to imagine what would happen if Yuri got to it. It was small enough to fit under the gate with a little effort, and it seemed to be trying to do just that. The thought didn't continue into my mind, however; instead, it transcended the hair's breadth from possibility into reality as the kitten became a gray blur that Yuri was savagely trying to crush in his jaws.

It took me a full two seconds before I could grab onto Yuri and try to prevent him from killing the kitten. Yuri growled at me - it was the kind of growl he used when he was enjoying a meal or a favorite bone and didn't want any interference. The sight of his exposed teeth kept me from forcing his mouth open. The kitten's struggles grew weaker, until I was certain that it was no longer moving. There was a stink, a terribly familiar stink that reminded me of the cats that pillaged the garbage cans of my dormitory years ago. Another thought, this time born from cold fact, thudded forcefully into my head. I dug my fingers into Yuri's throat, cried "No!" and "Ma!". My mother's arrival and the successful attempt to remove the kitten from Yuri's grip were like a grim ritual that simply needed to be completed. The kitten's limp body had a puncture wound the size of a baby's fingertip near its neck, and its underbelly was streaked with bright red. It was the kind of red I was used to seeing in movies, the kind that I immediately thought of as fake. It looked garishly real as the kitten's lifeless head and limbs lolled in my mother's hand. A part of me was still trying to will it to move, that small part that had realized ahead of the rest of me how much danger the kitten had been in, and how much I could have done if I had been quicker. For several seconds I felt utterly useless.

Mild anger gave me thoughts of kicking and slapping Yuri to ease my disappointment; I was surprised at how I couldn't feel my old affection for the dog who had been with my family for over seven years. It took some time for me to acknowledge the power of Yuri's instincts, which awakened whenever a cat happened to come within 10 meters of our house. He couldn't help himself.

Possibilities, however, continued to play in my mind - my skin allergies acting up due to the nearly invisible ticks that inhabit a cat's fur, the feeling of eight tiny claws tentatively digging into my palm, the opaque blue of a young kitten's unfocused eyes trying to see my own. I had thought of reaching through the gate's steel bars to take the kitten; the moment of indecision that stalled the movement from thought to action had sealed its fate. I could only hope that, should another event requiring quick thinking arise, my thoughts will not be so sluggish in crossing the hair's breadth between possibility and reality.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


In a Makati-bound shuttle similar to a schoolbus—two long seats, backrests below the windows at opposite sides of the vehicle, separated by a narrow aisle:

A woman in her mid-forties, fussy peroxided curls, tight lemon yellow baby tee, straight black schoolteacher slacks cinched around a full waist. Flesh-colored full panties, synthetic, peeking as she bends over. Canvas handbag with embroidered trains and checks, three-inch plastic Donald Duck keychain. Chunky candybar phone, entry-level, oversized letters, tiny screen. Translucent plastic rosary beads, shiny faux silver medal smaller than a peso in lieu of a crucifix.

A woman in her mid-thirties, mocha skin, wavy hair ponied at the base of her neck. Heart-shaped face, small eyes and nose, abbreviated eyebrows. Dry peeling lips, full, tired. Small, capable hands. Centimeter-long fingernails kept meticulously clean. Silver chain and pendant, slightly tarnished. Corduroy boatneck top, black, elbow-length sleeves, sliver of slender white bra strap near her shoulder. Dusty black pants. Black rectangular backpack, laptop size, molded rubber support pads at the base. Fat little hardcover book on economic/legal matters, heavily annotated in bright blue ink.


At the far end of the right-hand seat, as seen from the middle of the left-hand seat:

A young man in his early twenties, large eyes and rabbit teeth from a distantly remembered childhood. No longer scrawny—a grotesque tattooed monster snarls from an enlarged bicep half-hidden under the sleeve of a slightly rumpled polo shirt—but still short, still only inches taller. Hair growing over a recently shaved skull. Hands overridden with veins, (perhaps) scars lurking beneath fabric. Slim, elongated black bag, zipped shut, containing small items that make no sound when disturbed. A wistful, almost childish look of exhaustion during brief, stolen naps. A face grown somewhat sharper, somewhat older, with the inevitable (yet still incomplete) angularity of manhood.

Note: Forgive me for being lazy with this post... This is just a handful of loosely-connected character studies focusing on the external appearance ('cause I tend to fixate on that ^^;;). I didn't really intend for them to have any kind of structure; I guess that's something I can try to come up with in the future, when I'm not so busy with the day job. ^^;

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It's easier not to say anything when my mother complains. When she unties her hair in the confines of her room, big brush in hand. When she pauses, expecting me to agree. When she changes the topic to something that doesn't cause her grief, or remind her of the mistake she made at the altar decades before. It's easier to sit silently by her side as she pours out her frustrations, although it's not so easy to be young and still dependent on the cause of her pain.

No, it's not so easy to be unable to say anything other than empty words of comfort.

Note: Having fun with my new phone ^^ It's got this little memo application that can save a memo of up to 1000 characters. I know it sounds silly, but this looked a lot longer while I was keying it out on my phone XP hehe. Now this post seems way too short, and vague. ^^; Minimalist I'm not, I guess.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Advice for Sandwich Eaters

If you're going to pack sandwiches for a snack and you have a regular 8 to 5 (in my case, 9 to 6) job, you should never pack them the night before. Pack them in the morning, just before you leave for work. If you don't, they're going to taste funny, as the following story will attest.

On the eve before my first day at work I was a bit excited - I made my sandwiches myself (partly to save my mother the trouble of making them the following morning, partly 'cause I wanted them to be just right :P). One with orange marmalade on white bread, another with my mother's chicken salad on whole-wheat bread. I wrapped them in plastic and stowed them away in the refrigerator for safekeeping. The next day, while I was seated in the shuttle on my way home, I could already feel the hunger pangs gnawing at my gut; eagerly I fished out the orange-marmalade sandwich and bit into it. It was a bit flat, since it had spent the better part of the day squished in between my lunch box and my bottle of water, but that wasn't what worried me - I could barely taste anything in it, apart from the bread. There was this barely noticeable layer of moistness that made the middle of the sandwich a bit mushy; it was the only proof I had that I had packed myself a sandwich, and not just a couple of slices of white bread. I finished it and started on the chicken-salad sandwich. That one was very much like the one that had preceded it, except that the bread was grainier and there were these little dehydrated bits of meat in between the bread slices. It was then that I figured out what should've occurred to me the night before.

The bread had had almost a full day to absorb the liquid parts of the filling; sadly, for some reason it didn't absorb the corresponding flavors. The following day, when I ate the sandwiches my mother had packed earlier that morning (strawberry jam on white bread and chicken salad on whole-wheat bread), I confirmed my suspicions: the bread hadn't had enough time to absorb all of the filling, and I could still taste the stuff that went in between the bread, like pureed strawberries or mayonnaise and pickle relish. Eureka. Another minor epiphany that (sort of) improves the quality of my life.

And so, I reiterate my advice: if you're going to pack sandwiches and you won't be able to eat them for several hours, don't pack them the night before. Pack them just before you leave. They'll taste better, trust me.

PS I was going to write about the programming I've been doing, but I figured that would be incredibly boring so I settled for the next best thing. :D Strawberry jam rules. \m/

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hai World

Message from an alien planet? Maybe, if LOLcats were aliens with a rudimentary knowledge of structured programming. This is the classic Hello World program in LOLCODE, a programming language inspired by LOLspeak (the slang used in LOLcats). I've got a weakness for all things cute, and the minute I saw this tiny program I couldn't help myself. It's. Just. So. Cute. X333 Blatant disregard for grammar and horrendous misspellings aside.

For someone who's familiar with programming, LOLCODE isn't that hard to understand. It's actually almost like pseudocode, since it uses human-readable phrases as statements. So far, it seems like the language hasn't been developed much... It would be really interesting if it could be. I think I'd enjoy writing programs with it. ^^ (Can't imagine writing anything really big with it though...debugging would be hellish. XD)

Here's another LOLCODE program for my...I mean your enjoyment. :D It prints the contents of a text file to the screen.
PS If esoteric programming languages like this one are your thing, you might wanna check out brainfuck and Whitespace; they're pretty amusing, to say the least. ^^

PPS I also liked this "translation" of Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios into LOLspeak. ^^; Yeah, I know, too much cuteness. And there's probably something fundamentally wrong with referring to a country as a "cheezburger," and its national hero as a "kitteh". But anyway, I especially liked the third stanza, where the blood which Rizal offers to the Fatherland is referred to as "red splashies." Cuteness. XD

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Three-day-old beddings. Slightly dingy teddy bear. Threadbare Winnie-the-Pooh pillow, already torn at the corners.

Daing na bangus, fried and salty. Cold, juicy tomato wedges. Vinegar and soy sauce mixed in a tiny bowl. Unsweetened pineapple juice.

Pale blue mint toothpaste.

Papaya soap. Apple shampoo. Coconut conditioner.

Lavender baby powder. Floral-scented deodorant. Perfumed body lotion and hair polish.

Sticky-sweet baby cologne.

Remnants of smoke from garbage fires. Exhaust fumes.

The first honest patches of sweat under my armpits, around my breasts, at the small of my back, between my shoulder blades, above the curve of my stomach, on my nape, near my collarbone.

Later in the day a friend tells me, "You still smell the way you used to." Exactly which smell she's referring to, I'm not quite sure.

Note: Finally, I'm beginning to live up to the title of my blog. Today's post is mostly half truths about me ^^ I'm not sure if I made the right decision with first-person POV, but third-person seems a little awkward...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Each glance is like a message, given either with careful intent or without a second thought. The lingering of eyes on eyes, the questioning curve of an open mouth, thoughts failing to make the transition into words. There is that brief spark of something - yearning, infatuation, desire, endless dubious possibilities - that struggles against the strictures of circumstance, often only to fail and evaporate.

He's ahead of them, his pace quickened by the power of his calf muscles. Dina, the girl she often talks to in class, is jogging beside her; the semester is almost over, and she's asking for Dina's contact information. Dina smiles as she agrees to give them later. At the sound of the words "phone number" and "email address," he turns to look at them for a few seconds. It's the first time he's ever looked her way during the warm-up jog before class.

Infatuation is a tricky thing: it convinces the stricken that her object of affection is worth the hours of sudden, irrational kilig, of contemplating a dozen possible futures (all of which, in truth, veer very close to impossibility), of agonizing over missed chances. It gives her the impression of reciprocation where, in all likelihood, there is only indifference. It feeds a steadily burning ember of longing that will send forth several little flames, each one more brilliant than the next, before finally collapsing into a small, mixed pile of memories.

On the last day of class her classmates bring out cameras and start snapping away. She poses shyly, a short girl with tanned skin and eyes that are reduced to slits when she smiles. In a few of the photos he's right beside her; she leans a little to her left, and he leans a little to his right. They both smile widely for the cameras.

Opportunities are still opportunities, however. Every awkward conversation, for all its sterility, may yet lead to something more. A friendship? A new love? A fleeting acquaintance, never to be remembered? It is difficult to say, at best. But the admirer continues to have faith in her flighty emotions; she persists, overcoming fears of rejection and humiliation. She grabs whatever awkward moments come her way. After all, there's always that possibility of something more, however small.

They talk of common subjects, teachers, grades. The conversation has more pauses than anything else. When she asks him about whether he likes the same things she does, he says he feels like an interviewee. She takes this as a bad sign - hours later, she'll be sorry she didn't tell him stories about what she likes, instead of just asking him if he has the same interests - but there's still a little room for hope. Even though the class is over, they might be able to talk online; there, behind glowing, impersonal computer screens, they might not be so awkward. If he decides to reply to the cheery messages she plans to send. If she's lucky.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday at the University

This isn't the first time that I didn't go home for the weekend, but this is probably the first Sunday that I walked around a bit and saw how sleepy UP can be. I was on my way to meet one of the graduate students from my thesis lab; I figured I would walk, since I wasn't sure if there were any Ikot jeepneys around. I was already at Molave Residence Hall when an Ikot passed by, empty save for a handful of passengers. It rumbled along at a leisurely pace, unmindful of the conspicuous lack of vehicles on the roads. I suppose neither the driver nor the passengers were in any hurry to get anywhere.

When I reached the road on the right of Engineering I came across rows of cars and SUVs parked beside the sidewalks. The road had temporarily been closed off from the intersection that joined it to the Academic Oval; joggers of all ages clogged the Oval with a continuous flow of human traffic. Many of them ran in groups, chatting amongst themselves as they took advantage of the empty Oval to run outside the bike lane. A man and a woman were playing badminton on the road next to the lagoon. I hunted around for the cyclists who hung out at the food kiosk in front of the Faculty Center; in their helmets and brightly colored tights, they whiz past the joggers on the Oval during the weekdays. They were nowhere to be found.

By the time I had passed the Faculty Center I was feeling a little hungry, but the tiny sidewalk stall of my suki for monay was deserted. The large blue cooler that she kept her bottles of C2 and water in was bound to her wooden table with a rusty chain; the colorful beach umbrella that shaded her from the weather wasn't there. The other food stalls on the street were similarly devoid of their usual occupants. If I wanted to grab a bite to eat I'd have to go all the way back to the Shopping Center, whose eateries are open all seven days of the week. At that moment I marvelled at the many ways in which the UP community catered to one of its basic needs: convenient, cheap food. On a weekday I could have had my pick of fishballs or footlong hotdogs, taho, dirty ice cream or cheesecorn. Or, if I had had a half hour to spare, I could have gone to CASAA or Katag, the canteens nearest to me at the time. (I suppose I should also mention Kenneth's Kitchen, the canteen at NISMED, but I've never eaten there, and I keep forgetting that it's near the Faculty Center. ^^;)

The road to the second Engineering Library's building (also the home of the Department of Computer Science :D) was the emptiest and quietest of all. I could hear the birds and insects in the trees, and the perpetual wheezing of the telephone and electricity cables overhead. I was almost at MSI when I heard the first rumble of an approaching vehicle; it was a half-empty Ikot. The morning sun was beginning to sting my skin. When I got to the waiting shed in front of Science I sat down on the raised concrete, there being no one around to notice. On top of the hill across the road, my department's building stood desolate, like the proverbial haunted building. One of its glass doors was open; there was no sign of the graduate student I was supposed to meet. I pulled out my cellphone, sent her a message and proceeded to wait. A few more Ikots passed, each one slowing down in front of me and honking like a persistent hawker. I ignored them.

It would be several more minutes (or at least, it felt that way) before I heard a familiar voice calling my name across the road. I got up, waved, and hurried to where she was; there was little need for caution, since the road was empty. The sun beat down on us, all vestiges of early morning cold already gone. I felt sleepy and more than a little hungry. I envied one of my roommates, whom I had left sleeping contentedly thirty minutes before. A slow Sunday like this one is just perfect for sleeping in; unfortunately, I had to help one of my thesis lab's advisers with a last-minute errand. Sigh. Oh well.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Funeral

I shed tears before the coffin was lowered into the ground, but not because I could feel any sense of loss, or remorse. My cousin was trembling as he leaned on the coffin, a crisp thousand-peso bill trapped in his fingers. He works as a seaman; he had been away when my uncle lost his battle with emphysema just a few days ago in a public hospital. The second in a brood of five brothers, my cousin was the only one among them who had a job, and for years he had been working to make sure his father had money to spend. He kept repeating how sorry he was for not saying goodbye each time he left home to go back to his ship. His pregnant wife wept quietly beside him as he laid the bill onto the coffin. All around him, behind oversized, darkened lenses, tear ducts were triggered; hands reached into pockets for folded handkerchiefs. His sorrow had become ours, fleetingly, as his voice shook with the weight of his words.

* * *

The wake before and the lunch after the funeral were mini-reunions of sorts. Before I visited my uncle at the hospital two weeks ago, I hadn't seen his sons for a year or so, and I was surprised to see how much (and how little) they had changed. There was a lot of laughter and small talk as relatives from the provinces arrived one after the other. Other cousins I hadn't seen in years were there too, some with children, some heavy with child. Everyone was busy catching up with everyone else. My uncle's sons wove among the guests every so often to hand out cupcakes and crackers on plastic trays. In the small room next to the viewing room was a table laden with several kinds of ulam and pots of rice. It could have been a party, if we weren't in Funeraria Paz.

Funeral cosmetics had transformed my uncle's face. His round, full jowls had somehow become flat, and his mouth was a thin, dark line barely an inch above his chin. I hurried away from the coffin, as quickly as I had sneaked up to it as soon as we arrived. In my mind I couldn't connect the man behind the glass window of the coffin to the shrunken man on the hospital bed who communicated by writing messages on a pad of paper. The latter had smiled at me kindly when I fumbled for words during my visit to the hospital; it was the same smile he wore in the framed photograph that faced everyone in the room.

* * *

Throughout my life I seldom saw my uncle and his sons. During the rare times that we would be in the same room he would clasp my hand in his meaty palm and ask after my schooling. He always smelled of cigarettes and beer; the essence of both seemed to mix naturally with his sweat. Once, when I was in elementary, he gave me a folded hundred-peso bill to spend as I wished. I had never held a bill that was worth so much before then.

At the funeral I said goodbye to a man I barely knew beyond a name, a face and a set of mannerisms. I wished his family well, kissed cheeks, clasped hands. I watched my cousins' faces go pink as they cried. I listened to my mother chatting with a relative (or family friend) whose name and face I didn't remember, to my father laughing at some comment I failed to catch. I turned around and observed the raised grave markers several meters away; a number of them resembled old wooden desks. I paid attention to the ebb and flow of emotion that radiated from the tent sheltering the coffin from the late morning sun. I felt it, released it, felt it again. I sipped my mother's leftover juice from a foil tetrapak. Once the coffin had been covered in dirt, I walked away, following my relatives back to the viewing room. It was the last of a tiny handful of memories about a man who shared my genes, my heritage, and very little else.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Field Trip

Although I didn't see any white bats in the caves of Mt. Banahaw, I might not have been surprised if I had - I've been told that the mountain is a hotspot for mysteries and psychics. I didn't get any strange vibrations while I was there, though, so maybe the spirits were content to just watch us from the jagged rocks and dense foliage of the mountain; they must have gotten used to seeing long lines of students and tourists slipping and sliding amid the smooth stones of the stream beds, since the mountain is also a popular tourist spot and field-trip destination. At any rate, I did get to see some interesting things, such as a rock that allegedly contains the imprint of Jesus' left foot; apparently he had a large sole shaped like the bottom of a fat rubber slipper. Not to mention the miraculous streams, said to cure any and all diseases. The guide told one of my classmates, who wore thick eyeglasses, to rub some of the water on his eyes; she said it would improve his eyesight. I'm guessing that the residents of the little villages at the foot of the mountain must not get sick that much, since some of them seem to take their baths at those same miraculous streams regularly (I even saw one woman brushing her teeth in the middle of the stream ^^ must be good for tooth and gum problems, too).

Our teacher had told us we'd be wading in streams quite a lot, but I hadn't really understood how much until he changed his denim pants for loose house shorts; he looked like he was getting ready for a trip to the beach. ^^ He took the liberty of inviting us into the clear flowing water of the streams, and splashing us as soon as we turned our backs on him. I have him to thank for the water-shaped splotches within the screen of my cellphone. (Well, technically he did tell us to wrap our valuables in plastic, and I did forget to, but still. XP) Anyway, it was fun. All that splashing and wading and slipping and sliding and stretching my hamstrings to reach high footholds. I'm just glad I didn't fall flat on my face (if I had I might've smashed it on the sharp rocks), and I only got one bruise. Just below my kneecap, which hit a smooth stone hidden in knee-high water at the bottom of a cave.

I was planning on buying an agimat as a souvenir, but when we passed by the little shops on the way back my eyes latched onto a T-shirt bearing the words "I was there" and a cartoon of two red footprints. At the time my legs were quite sore from over three hours' trekking through steep, muddy trails, and I was thinking about how apt the message on the T-shirt was. I had been there, to the streams and caves of Mt. Banahaw - the persistent ache in my calf muscles was proof enough of that. So I went and got myself that T-shirt. ^^; I still feel bad about not getting an agimat though...not that I believe in the power of talismans, but it's not the kind of thing you would buy at other tourist spots, I guess. After all, Mt. Banahaw is also the home of religious sects like the Rizal worshippers, who believe that Dr. Jose Rizal is an incarnation of God. If anything, it seems like an apt place for getting mysterious (or purportedly mysterious) artifacts. Anyway, Agimat the white virtual bat will have to do. ^^ (Click on him to wake him up; he'll follow your cursor around when it's in his lair. ^^ If you mouseover the little tab labeled "more" at the lower right corner and click on the fly that will appear, he'll use his echo-location to find it and eat it. :D Cute, ain't he?)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

At the Job Fair

What with graduation being only a couple of months away, I found myself wandering amongst the booths at the Engineering job fair last week, checking out companies like a shopper in a supermarket. Actually I felt more like a teenager window-shopping at a mall - I didn't have any copies of my resume with me, because I didn't know that you could fill up application forms and leave your resume at the booths. I was wistfully looking around, avoiding the glances of representatives from companies that had nothing to do with IT. A few of them reminded me of the sales attendants at department stores, the ones who watch your every move as you browse through the merchandise; as soon as anyone stared at the signs on their booths or the flyers on their tables for more than a couple of seconds they would home in, like flies to exposed meat. Most of them, however, seemed not to care if anyone took interest in their companies, leaving me to read their posters in peace.

My curiosity got me talking to the people manning booths that I found interesting in one way or another. I didn't visit every IT booth - I skipped the ones I had no interest in, like IBM and Accenture. (Sounds snooty, I guess, but I'm just not into mainframes or COBOL. XP) I suppose that was an unwise decision, given the current state of the economy, but at the time I was just looking at what the participating IT companies I'd never heard of were offering. It was only after I had met up with other Computer Science students at the fair that I realized they were holding many, many more flyers than I was. ~.~ Anyway, I got to talk to different kinds of company representatives at the job fair, and each one falls under one of four broad categories:

  • HR people
Most of the people manning booths belong to this category. Some of them had nice smiles, and actually recognized me when I went back a couple of days later to follow up my resume. Unfortunately, a lot of them couldn't describe in specific terms the type of work being done by the software developers from their company; one in particular barraged me with spiels with a stubbornly serious expression on her face. She seemed impatient with me whenever I asked a question, and she didn't smile at all while she was talking, even when she first approached me. She was exactly the kind of representative I don't want to talk to at a job fair. -.- At any rate, it was probably a good thing that her company's software developers worked on mainframes; I only approached her booth 'cause I was curious about the snazzy (but uninformative XP) posters.
  • young Engineering alumni
I usually see these people giving testimonials at company talks, but at the job fair I saw a couple of them manning the booth of a big company. They were dressed in crisp corporate clothes, like the students who were coordinating the job fair; if they weren't manning booths I could have mistaken them for upperclassmen. They looked bored, and weren't so keen on telling me about their company and the kind of work they did. (I guess they must have been in the HR department, but they still seemed like students...the UP vibe hadn't quite worn off yet. ^^) One of them perked up when he saw from my resume that I was from Manila Science High School, like him; sadly, that was pretty much the highlight of my talking with them. ~.~
  • managers
These were the people I wanted to talk to at the job fair. They have a solid knowledge of the kind of work their company assigns to software developers, and thus are able to answer all sorts of questions. The longest talks I had were with managers. One of them was a middle-aged woman from a startup company; after I handed in my application form she asked me all about my programming background, then proceeded to give me a detailed overview of what work would be like if her company decided to hire me. It was practically an informal interview, the only difference being that I was clad in old jeans and a loose T-shirt instead of a knee-length skirt and a blouse with puff sleeves. (Now that I think about it, I wish I wouldn't have to go through the whole business of putting on a corporate costume and being in a formal atmosphere. It's so much easier to talk informally...at least, I won't be as nervous. o.o;;)
  • invisible people
Quite a few booths were manned by people under this category. They don't put in any effort at all in recruiting the students wandering amongst the booths; they don't even bother to pick up the fallen flyers on the floor. They just hang around, silently watching the goings-on. I avoided their booths; they looked kinda creepy. :P hehe.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Four guys. Ski masks. Lead pipes. A black car, parked just inside the entrance of Fine Arts. A pudgy male victim, with a torn black shirt and a slightly bleeding head.

Me, in an ikot jeep that slows down as the driver, interest piqued, watches the goings-on with a look somehow akin to wonder on his face. My eyes taking in every detail - the broad shoulders of the assailants, the shiny finish of the getaway car, the car's plate number, one of the assailants taking off his ski mask behind tinted windows as the car smoothly slithers past us and away, never to be seen again, perhaps.

I took note of things that might have been helpful, if I had decided to go to the police. What the assailants were wearing. How tall they might be. The color of their skins. The car model and, yes, the plate number. I don't remember the exact time or date, but I could ask my classmate; I was on my way to meet her when I saw the whole thing. I wouldn't be able to identify the four guys - I was too focused on the victim, watching them pummel him as if I were in a dream, unable to move or look away - and the car probably belonged to someone else who would deny ever having a part in it. I remember what one of the guys was wearing, though - a blue- and white-striped polo shirt, and denim pants, just like the others. Bits and pieces. Nothing that could really help, but I saw it. I was there.

Maybe I'm writing this down to convince myself that I really did see it happen. I was already looking out the window when I saw these four guys running in front of Fine Arts, surrounding a fat guy, hitting him with slender pipes and grabbing his clothes. I was thinking, hey, what are they doing? They can't really be trying to hurt him, are they? Those must be rubber sticks or something. The fabric of the fat guy's shirt ripped; I thought, no, this is real. Since the four were running, they couldn't land a good hit, but one of them stood still for a moment (or did I just imagine him doing that?) and hit him with what must have been a solid crack on the skull, drawing blood. Then they were at the driveway, the four running for their car as a security guard came running and shouting. In the back of my mind I was aware of relief as I started to register what I had just seen. The fat guy was lucky. Apart from the bloody head (which wasn't really bleeding much, from what I saw) he had gotten away with just a torn shirt, and maybe a few scratches when he tripped and fell. He was lucky, I thought. He's okay.

It took me several minutes to think that maybe they had just mistaken him for some other guy, since I had never heard of anyone with ski masks and lead pipes attacking someone in Fine Arts; they were always at AS, NCPAG or Engineering, or even right outside a dormitory like Molave. At least one guy had been killed by getting mistaken for someone else. A few days later I thought, maybe they had gotten him somewhere else, if they were really serious about it. Maybe he wasn't really lucky.

Now that I know this, I wonder what I'm supposed to get from knowing that it really happened. Or what I should have done, even if I was sure that what I had to say wouldn't have helped much...and there were many other people who saw, many students at Fine Arts who were watching with dazed expressions while someone who was probably another student was attacked right in front of them. Other students like me. What would they have done? What did they do? They might even have known the fat guy. Maybe they talked about it or blogged about it (I never looked, or thought to look), maybe it will be reported in the year's first Collegian issue. Maybe no one will even remember that it happened. Except for me, and maybe you, if you believe me.

Monday, January 5, 2009


One week without a dial tone means not being able to:

  • check if there's a new chapter of Goong
  • read the sequel to Hana Yori Dango
  • browse for aXXo rips
  • listen to A-sides, the Soundgarden best-of collection I'd never heard of until recently ~.~
  • look up the voice cast of Mononoke Hime
  • catch up on Butch Dalisay's recent articles
  • read the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler
  • check for updates on my friends' blogs, send messages to my brother who was in Switzerland, greet my YM contacts a Happy New Year, discuss draft revisions with my thesis partner, join the World Peace Project...