Archive for September, 2007

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Katana

September 30, 2007

Katana
Photo Taken from http://llbbl.com/data/RPG-motivational/target49.html. These Demotivators are hilarious!

In my opinion, the katana is the best sword type ever made. Its professional design makes me drool. Its silvery sheen makes want to feel its length with my fingers, savoring an almost metallic tang that forms in my tongue. Its history makes me want to clasp its handle tight as I picture battles and intrigue from ages past. It’s just so mysterious that I wish I had one with me.
Judging from the cost of an original, traditionally manufactured katana, which is also called a nihonto; it would be quite a long time before I could get my own self bought katana. A minimum of $8000 or approximately P400,000 isn’t cheap! Now I’m not even suggesting about the multi million dollar types. These stuff could could cause weakening of knees and passing out from their mere presence.
So I have to content myself with learning how these are made. Thanks to the National Geographic Channel, I got a grasp of the techniques used in katana manufacturing. One person is not enough for one blade. One week is not even enough for one blade. So that means one dollar is not enough for one blade*.
About nine days are required for forming the alloy. The blacksmith typically loses a lot sleep the entire time. He has to make sure his apprentices are not horsing around. One mistake could could mean the difference between steel that the gods would be proud of and steel fit only for commoners. That statement, however, is another way of saying that low quality steel usually ends up as spoons and forks.
Steel that passes the test is sent to another smith. This guy doesn’t get the easy work all to himself even though he has apprentices in his employ. In fact, he is endowed with perhaps the greatest responsibility. One mistake and he nullifies the work of the blacksmith before him.
His job, basically, is to form two materials in one blade from one steel. Martensite for toughness and brittleness, and pearlite for softness and flexibility. The marriage of these two materials produces a sword with an edge tough enough to slice through bone, but flexible enough not to break during combat.
Then the blade is sent to another specialist, the polisher. This guy, as the name implies, polishes the sword to perfection. He typically works alone. Nothing should break his concentration as he reveals the cutting edge of the blade. Whetstones of various types, shapes, and cost** are scrubbed lovingly on the blade. His is the most dangerous job. One mistake and he could nick his fingers or various other anatomical parts. If he’s not careful, he gets a bloody mess to contend with.
Now I don’t have to mention the casing and handle manufacturing. Suffice it to say, they receive the same excellent and perfect treatment Zen Japanese are known for. There are thousands of katana around, but very few of them are made in the traditional manner. One of these traditional blades, by the way, is waiting for me.
Now if only I could shell out a few thousand dollars…

*Forgive me for the lame remark. I needed something that has a “one” ring to it, not LOTR mind you.
** Some of these stones cost thousands of dollars each.

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Viva Iligan Part 2

September 29, 2007

Today is officially my city’s fiesta. There’d be dancing and ceremonies down town, but as mentioned earlier I’m staying home. Protestants vary in opinions. Some genuinely find the rituals nothing short of offensive whilst some offer pretended or genuine disinterest.
Being curious and somewhat taken aback by the fact that I, a true born Iliganon, know nothing about Iliganon culture, I decided to do a little research on what happens come fiesta time. Please note that I wouldn’t even dare think of jostling with the masses under the noonday sun. Thus there would be no firsthand report here. Everything I report here is hearsay except for radio broadcasts.
Fiesta season starts on what the locals call as “Pagnaog ni San Miguel“, translated as the Descent of San Miguel. People here say, “Munaog na si San Miguel.” San Miguel will descend. So I thought that this was merely spiritual in nature. San Miguel would descend on the city and bestow his blessings upon it. I could never have been more wrong.
What people refer to as his descent is actually a very physical event. On non-fiesta days, his statue is kept above the altar in Saint Michael’s Cathedral beyond the reach of his devotees. On fiesta days, however, his statue is brought down on the altar. Masses would gather at this date and celebrate. Someone would lead the saying of the Vivas, and the people would answer alike.

Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor San Miguel! Hail Lord San Miguel!

This would be the time that San Miguel would be closest to his people. They could now touch him, kiss him, and wipe their handkerchiefs on him so that his blessings could be spread to whatever these hankies touch. Last year was particularly violent for him. He lost an eye to the ministrations of his devotees.
Now I haven’t seen a Catholic-Protestant debate resulting from this practice, but I’ve heard that it could lead to pretty large volumes, textwise and soundwise. Take for example the case of one Protestant minded teacher. She kept repeating “God is a Jealous God” in relation to the devotion to San Miguel. She also lambasted why the Descent of San Miguel was declared a holiday. Even though I agree with her views, except for the holiday part, her approach was far from ideal. It offended both Catholics and Protestants in her class. They were grumbling about her for hours afterwards.
Then there was this other conversation from a Protestant minded neighbor. “Munaog na si San Miguel karon,” said his coworker. San Miguel is descending today.
Munaog or Ipanaog,” was the neighbor’s reply. Will he descend,or will someone bring him down?
“Cge,” said another guy, “Muuna sa ko.” I’ll be going ahead, guys. Apparently, he knew what was coming next.
Fortunately, the devotee couldn’t get it. He asked, “Unsay kalahian ana?What’s the difference?
To a Protestant it could only mean that San Miguel has to have people bring him down. He doesn’t even have the power to come down himself, how much more could he help those who pray to him. Anyway, it was one debate narrowly averted.
Whether he’s powerful or powerless, suffice it to say the people are genuine in his “veneration” or “idolatry”, depending on your perspective. There was this devotee who said:

Nagapasalamat ko ug dako kay Sr. San Miguel
kay gihatag niya ang tanan sa amoa.
Gikan pa mi sa Ditucalan.
Nangnaog gyud mi para sa iyaa.
Nagapasalamat giyod ko kay San Miguel.

I am greatly thankful to Señor San Miguel
for giving everything to us.
We came all the way from Ditucalan*

We came here just for him.
I am greatly thankful to San Miguel.

So if you’re interested in the sights of Iligan in fiesta. Visit us next year. Enjoy the parades and the dances. Enjoy whatever it is my city celebrates this time. One thing I’m mostly sure of, I won’t be there with you. I’ll be at home savoring the holiday season.

*Ironically, this is near Muslim majority land.

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Viva Iligan Part 1

September 28, 2007

It’s fiesta time in the city but we Protestants wouldn’t have anything to do with it, that is except for binging food* prepared by Catholic hands and enjoying the carnival.
I may sound like I go pamista during the season, but I do not. My first and last eating of fiesta food was way back in time. I don’t even know if I had started school at that time. A neighbor invited our parents, but they instead sent us there. To this day, I don’t know whether they were invited or not. Suffice it to say, we went to our neighbor’s house and ate the food. No prayer to God or whatever saint was offered. We just and chatted and ate. It was ironic to not that all the guests were all Protestant.
Growing up Protestant shielded me from the events of fiesta time. Studying in Manila did not good for any cultural observation. People there don’t seem to be interested in fiestas. I only knew that fiesta time equals holiday season, and so instead of going to school we stayed home. Sometimes, we go to the carnival, but we haven’t been there recently. I don’t even have plans going there. It seems to have lost its thrill. The religious aspect of the fiesta was none of my concern until now.
The patron saint of our city is San Miguel. Catholics add Sr. before the San in formal conversation. He is the Archangel Michael, protector the people of Israel. The reason why he became a saint is beyond me. The reason why he became a patron saint in my city is clouded in legend.
One legend states that the Spanish priests** couldn’t decide what saint to dedicate my city*** to. So they sent for saint statues to be presented before them. One of them got a blindfold and declared that the patron saint of the city would be the statue that he’d first touch. So the priest grappled for a while until he touched one of the statues. He got so excited he kissed the statue and exclaimed, “This would be our saint. This is our saint.”**** He only realized that he was kissing the devil at San Miguel’s feet after he removed the blindfold. Then by literal extension, we got San Miguel as patron saint.
Real Saint
Having been elevated as patron saint, the people started to pray to him. They asked***** him to bring them food, harvest, rain, mercy, and above all protection. My city is situated a few miles away from the Maranao capital of Marawi. Marawi was a stronghold of Islamic presence that the Spanish never seemed to be able to subdue permanently. San Miguel seemed to have answered their prayers. While the Maranao raided and kidnapped people from as far away as Manila, my city stood firm against them in its entire history.
Another miracle attributed to San Miguel is the protection of my city from the Japanese during World War 2. The story goes that the Japanese bomber planes could not bomb my city because the ground apparently disappeared before them. All they could see was water, water everywhere. To which a Protestant minded neighbor replied, “Why would the Japanese bomb this city? They have their airstrip here. Who would want to bomb their own airstrip?”
So at best, a Protestant response to San Miguel is disbelief at one end and indifference at the other end. Of course, what goes between mainly, the usual Catholic-Protestant debates still hold. But it’s for another post. And since I cannot in good conscience declare a Viva****** to San Miguel this season, I would instead say Viva Iligan!

*Some won’t even dare eat such “food offered to idols”. My opinon? See 1 Cor. 1:1-8, but it’s still a conscience thing.
** Filipinos were not yet allowed in the priesthood at that time.
*** Actually, it was still a tiny fort/town at that time
**** Get a Spanish dictionary. I don’t know Spanish.
***** Catholic theology would say that it would be more appropriate to say that San Miguel interceded for God. Yet the testimonies of San Miguel’s devotees sound like San Miguel himself answers prayers.
****** Loosely translated “Long Live” as analogous to “Long live the King”, but since San Miguel is immortal it would be more appropriately translated as “Hail”.

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New Worlds 5

September 26, 2007

New Worlds 5

New Worlds 5: The Fifth Philippine Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention is happening on October 27, 2007, at the Glorietta Activity Center!

Step through the stargate or through the wardrobe in costume or in Muggle clothing! Bring your lightsabers and phasers, your amulets and cutlasses and wooden stakes, or even the One Ring and your chakram! Scoot over in a 1976 Chevy Impala or park your Viper nearby! Watch the Activity Center transform into a hub of science fiction and fantasy for Daleks and the Losties and heroes, where vampires and mecha converge over dice and boardgames!

New Worlds 5 is presented to you by the New Worlds Alliance. Spread the word of sci-fi and fantasy! Be a geek and be proud!

Visit http://www.newworlds.ph. 🙂

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Robert Jordan Dies

September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan
Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time saga has died, and I am grieving.
It’s not because of the still unfinished book. Nothing has gotten my blood boiling these few hours more than the realization that there are people who “feel sad” with his death because he didn’t give them the book they’ve been craving for ages!
And I think it’s not because of the story. I could barely recall most of the details of the books. In fact, I don’t even know where one book ends and one begins. The boundaries are blurred to me.
It could be the company. I’ve met all kinds of people because of Robert Jordan. I’ve done a whole lot of things that I wouldn’t otherwise have done without his influence*. I wouldn’t have entered into the Geekdom without him. I would have been alone, not knowing what to do with the treasury of knowledge that the mundane masses wouldn’t be able to relate to.
Thankfully, I met others like me through his influence. There’s nothing like meeting people who have read almost the same types of books you have read. It’s like a homecoming party, except that you didn’t know that you were ever lost. It’s a sense of belonging arising from shared experiences witnessed in pages of text and imagination. It just makes one proud of knowledge that others refuse to acquire even though it’s open for all.
I owe all this and more to Robert Jordan aka James Oliver Rigney, Jr. I may have never met him, but I knew a part of him through the words he weaved in his books. They say the concluding book will be published. I am ambivalent to whatever may happen. I grieve every time I remember him. I don’t even know if I can touch that last book.
It’s just that as with the rest of WOTdom, I still grieve for the passing of Robert Jordan.

*Princes of Florence, anyone? Saw me on National TV (Studio 23 Breakfast)? Have a Manila Bulletin pic? Want a Starbucks Frappe or a Seattle’s Best Coffee Javakoola? Hit on oosqai aka Lalabu?

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Guilty and Not Guilty

September 12, 2007

Erap Guilty
How could the former President Erap be acquitted of perjury and still be convicted of plunder? I think his alleged perjury was an instrument in obtaining his plunder conviction. Is this some sort of compromise between the government and him?
He says the government, as a compromise, offered to turn the other way if he chooses voluntary exile. This just goes to show that Erap does not have an inkling of diplomatic processes. He chose not to accept the deal, and he should have lived to that whatever the outcome. He should not have whined about the supposed deal. The government has the right to deny everything he said about them.
The former president chose to take it all. He put too much faith on his masa, thinking they would ultimately acquit him. Yet the masa is impotent. The government has effectively divided and silenced them. There are those who still have deep loyalties for the former president, but without the higher ups to organize them, they would not pose a threat to government stability.
And what about those in the higher ups who used to support him? Some have whored themselves to the Administration, effectively withdrawing their support from Erap. Others, even though they still have Opposition sympathies, have turned a blind eye on Erap’s plight.
Despite what illusions Erap may harbor, his is not the face of the Opposition. In fact, the Opposition does not have a face. It is too diverse to hold anything but a nominal unity. I think this is a good thing. They may not hold much power over most matters, but they hold much sway in matters where they agree, where it matters most for the people.
So one corrupt got accused, and got convicted. There may be some hope still in our judiciary system. Hopefully, others will follow in the footsteps of Erap. May I suggest Abalos, the COMELEC commissioner be next?

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Laugh Trip

September 5, 2007

It was supposedly the night before I left Cebu.
My cousins wanted me to show me around their city, and they decided to bring me to 22nd Street, a comedy bar. The plan was for me to join them later since I had a date with my high school classmates, with one of whom I hadn’t seen since high school. The date stretched into hours. My shame was growing by the minute, and I had to text my cousins that I would be more delayed.
nagsugod na ba? lingaw na ba dira?
Has it started? Has the fun began?
O.(Yes). Can’t stop laughing.”
After what seemed an eternity, we split up. They went to their respective homes, and I caught up with my cousins at 22nd Street. Having heard rumors about the place, I sneaked up while the performers up front were busy interrogating a luckless member of the audience who was forced to volunteer.
It was as hilarious as 4 screaming fag hosts could muster. Almost nothing and no one was spared the butt of their jokes. The humor was bought at the expense of others, but it came without guilt. It was for everyone’s amusement, except perhaps for the subject of the jokes. Yet there was a risk the laughter brought. Anyone, and I must repeat, anyone, can be their subject. Hoping and praying, avoiding eye contact with the hosts, and staying in a dark corner, or in the middle space of the hall is no guarantee for safety.
Paalala lang po. Wag po kayong mag turtleneck,” said the host to a bald man. “Magmukha po kayong roll on deo.”
Just a remider. Please don’t wear a turtleneck shirt. You’d look like a roll on deodorant.
The host also noticed two tables with nothing on top, occupied full with students. “Paalala lang po. Hindi po ito sinehan. Mag-order kayo!
Just a reminder. This is not a movie house. Order something!
Then when my cousin’s friend who had wild hair arrived, “Dumating na po Simba.”
Simba (The protagonist of The Lion King) has arrived.
Then another cousin’s friend arrived. She was wearing a sweater. “Ma’am, giniginaw ba kayo?”
Ma’am, are you freezing?
Apparently, the joke hit her hard. She said, “Makatigulang ba akong buhok? Gitawag man kog Ma’am sa bayot.
Does my hair make me look old? The fag called me Ma’am.
Then there was this old gay man who volunteered to be on the hot seat. “Naku. May taning po ang kabadingan. Di na bagay sa edad mo nyan.
Yikes. Being gay has a limit. It no longer suits you at that age.
Now there were dozens more jokes were they came from. I don’t have the time nor the memory to record them here. Most of the jokes, however, were of the green kind. So stay away if you’re easily offended. But if you do have the chance to be a part of their audience, remember to be inconspicuous and stay unnoticed especially if you have a short temper. As in the words of one host,”‘Wag po kayong magalit. Mga bading lang po kami, mahinhin at malambing…
Please don’t get angry at us. We’re just gays, delicate and affectionate…
They can get away with murder with that statement. But I think anyone who can deliver that kind of humor deserves more.