are we floating yet?

fishies go pook
Gouache on paper, 2002

The need not to look foolish is one of youth’s many burdens; as we get older we are exempted from more and more, and float upward in our heedlessness…. — John Updike

Exemption as the luxury of age.. another resonance of the glass that is half full.

When we were young and reckless, we used our youth as an excuse to do stupid things. Now our license (still to do stupid things) comes from the smugness of old age–it’s actually “mature” not to be bothered by propriety.

A friend recently wrote about the regrets of his youth: that of not sounding the school fire alarm for fun, of not going to prom night with the girl he liked, of not saying proper goodbyes.

Got me thinking that you can only regret something that you purposefully walk away from. Regret comes from knowing that you didn’t go for something, you backed down.

I once mouthed that my epitaph will read “She was brave.” Maybe that statement came out of realizing I didn’t want to live in regret.

Reminds me of that Calvin and Hobbes quote:

In the short term, it would make me happy to go play outside. In the long term, it would make me happier to do well at school and become successful. But in the very long term, I know which will make better memories.


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Wrote this on October 9, 2006–three years ago!–and yet my wish is the same: I want to be brave. 🙂


fly you fool
Fly you fool, Pastel on paper, 2002

“Openings come quickly, sometimes, like blue space in running clouds. A complete overcast, then a blaze of light….” –Tennessee Williams

The more we need to be watchful!

While it is necessary to have that clarity 1) that possibilities are endless, and 2) that we have all the time in the world to pursue them, there is also that urgency to be ready, exactly for those blue spaces in the sky…

In a conversation with a friend months ago, the idea of “missing one’s boat” was brought up. Either we don’t recognize it or we’re not ready to get on it when it comes..

How often do we wake up with the vigilance of being ready to be called for battle?

Whenever I read or watch epic movies like Lord of the Rings or Narnia, I get nostalgic about moments of impending glory (or doom), where BIG things are at stake, and there is seriousness in giving one’s all. When I was a kid I romanticized the wars of history, wishing (naively) for the same kinds of battles we learned about in school–bolo fights, guerilla tactics, hiding in caves, etc.

Do you ever think of what battle you were meant to fight?

Everyday, we’re all on a spiritual / transcendental battle– we yearn for deep joy, for answers to all our questions.. There’s also the battle for intimacy with the self…which many leave unfought…

Still, there is that one battle, assigned to us individually.. it is a practical one, concrete, of this world. And it is not a battle of light consequence: If we fail, back down from it, or worse, never realize it, the whole world becomes weak, broken… As Galadriel told Frodo:

“You are a Ring bearer, Frodo. To bear a Ring of power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.”

There may be just one boat for each of us, but I believe that we get a lot of prep time to practice. Many mini-boats–or openings–come our way, and everytime they do, we get the chance to build up the skill (and courage!) to get on them.

Friends, here’s to 2007 and to openings!

habits for the busy

Gouache on paper, 2005

One of the few “peripheral mails” I welcome in my inbox is the Mission Calendar from O, The Oprah Magazine. Last month was an ode to the body:

Renew your body by shaking up routines, opening to new experiences.
When people get busy, they rely on habits–wearing the same clothes,
eating the same food, taking the same route to work–to save time and

Habits to compensate for lack of a source of relief. Never thought of them that way.

As one whose eyes light up with novelty, I’ve always looked at habits as a burden. What’s more routine for me is to vary my routine.

But admittedly, I do miss the habit of school uniforms, packed lunches, and school buses, when real world concerns were taken care of by Mom and the trivial things that occupied our heads really were the most stupid, most useless (but most interesting) of concerns.


Gouache on paper, 2005

Recently picked up “Entrepreneur’s Helpline” by AIM Dean of the Asian Center for Entrepreneurship, Alejandrino Ferreria, and was pleased to be reminded of the importance of vision—be it for a business, company or oneself.

He says vision is not invented but discovered, the fundamental question being “How do you see yourself many, many years from now?” Always in reference to the future, to something better than the status quo (He says an entrepreneur must find the status quo unacceptable).

Yesterday, I tried motivating 15 high school kids from Cavite to flesh out their personal visions, using Ferreria’s guidelines and various self-mastery tools I’ve picked up from advertising and creativity classes:

  1. List your core values: Include universal, cultural, and personal values which are important to you; shortlist to 5; subject them to a stress test (if you rate honesty as a non-negotiable, would you return money that you found in a cab? P1,000,000? What if it’s an even bigger amount? If your answer is consistent, then you’ve found your core value).
  1. Ask yourself:
  • Where am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do I get there?
  • Am I getting there?
  1. More on Self-discovery- Fill in the blanks:
  • I really enjoy… (15 things)
  • I am really good at… (15 things)
  • I am interested in… (10 things)
  • In ten years, a famous paper is to do a feature on me, planning to interview three people closest to me–a parent, sibling, friend. What do I want them to say about me?
  • I admire… (3 people)
  • I secretly admire… (3 people)

These tools are to help one formulate his/her vision, which is a statement that must be unique (it can’t be anyone else’s), and it must excite (inspire, not frustrate: “Mukhang imposible, pero kaya!”).

My personal question (quest?) now: WHAT IS THE FILIPINO VISION? Among the Presidents I’ve lived through, I can remember Ramos as the only one who provided a vision (operative word: provide). I know Malaysia and Korea had contemporary leaders with visions…

Off the bat, I would start with this–The Philippines: politically and economically efficient, ethical and resilient, with a citizenry united in the pursuit of everyday excellence.

More on this later.

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On the side, I like how a friend describes Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga: “He provides the vision for the project.” He says he’s truly a visionary–to me, a word with such magic resonance. People I know who’ve met him or at least heard him speak have been unanimous in saying he’s an inspiring man. His Vision 777 for Gawad Kalinga aims to provide 700,000 Homes in 7,000 Communities in 7 years, with a firm deadline on 2010. As of today, they have built hundreds of thousands of homes (but still less than halfway through), have penetrated 500+ Communities, and still have five years to go to complete the dream.