2022-12-10 ● Thank You, Garden
Growing up, I would wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the early morning and quietly go to the family den where the computer was, so I could dial-up to the Internet, totally undisturbed. It would make me think that I was the only one who was awake at that hour, but still, to my surprise, someone in the same city, or a totally different part of the world would be, too. When you think you are completely and utterly alone, there is always someone out there that feels the same. That’s why the first thing we say when we program something on the computer is “Hello, world”. We want to let the world know that we are here, that we exist, and hope that it will reach someone, somewhere, someday.
As a child, I liked being on the Internet because for the first time in my life, I could carve out a corner for myself, that I could cosy up into: a small plot of land that was abstract and immaterial, yet felt very real, even if intangible; someplace I could call my own. I found that many others felt the exact same thing. And then the Internet stopped being this place to be alone in.
In this residency, we each said our greetings and introductions, but as we close, instead of saying “goodbye”, I think it is more important to say “thank you”. Together, we formed a space to be ourselves in, to know and understand one another, and conspired to imagine better worlds, a more caring Internet. I think a community garden is a metaphor that fits this best: we’ve laid the foundation, and have each planted our hopes. The garden will keep growing, into something bigger that will sustain us and others for the future to come.
I have a lot of gratitude to you, Taeyoon and Barbara, for allowing all of us to come together like this, and to all my fellow residents, for sharing and planting seeds.
And to Nami, I am also very grateful to you, that you were someone, somewhere, someday, that I was able to reach. Thank you for reaching back out. :)
Thank you, all. :)
2022-12-04 ● Pen on paper
I really enjoy watching stationery hauls, especially my friend Danice’s videos. I love collecting stationery, and most recently, fountain pens. My current go-to is a Kaweco Sport in iridescent pearl with an extra fine nib, and the ink I’ve been using is Tono & Lims Rose Quartz, a soft pink hue that I love.
I received a cute sticker pack and notepad from my sister-in-law that she illustrated and designed herself, sent via my brother who recently came back from the Philippines. A new Daiso also just opened, and I bought a bunch of washi tape and envelopes (among many other cute, non-stationery things). In hindsight, my earliest memories of hoarding started with stationery from National Book Store.
I haven’t been writing as much these days. I used to take a Field Notes notebook wherever I went, but at some point it started to become cumbersome and I would just rely on my mobile’s notes app. But there’s a different satisfaction from cognitively offloading everything that’s in my head onto a blank sheet of paper.
I bought two A5 Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks a while back to use for regular journalling and bullet journalling. I get very ambitious about starting new notebooks, especially diaries, before the start of a new year (equivalent to a “go to the gym” resolution). I’m definitely not a minimalist, but I’d like to simplify both my digital and analogue tools, and use them in an organisational workflow that is both sustainable and fun to me.
I also want to reconnect with friends offline, so I’m thinking of sending letters— “This could have been an email, but it wasn’t”. Since I’m feeling ambitious, maybe a paper newsletter, too, like Keet’s Secret Pocket. Perfectionism will be the death of me, but it’s now or never, hopefully more now rather than never.
Just get pen on paper and start writing!
2022-10-06 ● Maka(walang)hiya
My buddy Keet and I started a zine distro called MakaWalangHiya Distro and we finally debuted at Canzine! I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s a play on words, after the makahiya plant (aka Touch-Me-Not, or mimosa pudica, because its leaves shyly close up when touched) and the concept of “walang hiya“ (having no shame) in Filipino culture.
We started this distro because we wanted to close the gaps between Filipino creators from the homeland and the diaspora. We aim to feature and sell more works from either parts of the world, and are not limited to personal and literary zines, comics, TTRPGs, posters, cards, and stickers. We also want to start a database of location-agnostic Filipino creators, writers, designers, and artists, hopefully to connect and foster the larger Filipino creative community regardless of where they currently are, or where they were raised and grew up in.
We are also especially concerned with what is happening in the current political milieu in the Philippines. We distributed some free zines about prison abolition, anti-fascism and anti-imperialism by Makò Micro-Press and Kwago, as well as free zines about Filipino consciousness and spirit by Sikodiwa. To our relief, we emptied out our free pile, and we hope that the messages contained in those zines reach near and far, Filipino or not. Never forget!
Keet and I also collaborated on our split-zine, All Girls, about growing up queer in all-girl Catholic schools. It was a tumultuous process to write it. I had to dig up a lot of memories and feelings that I hadn’t thought about for years. I interviewed two other friends who were in the same year as me at school, and maybe telling their stories gave a sense of relief and closure. Our wish is that our stories can be of some use to others who might be going through the same tough things. Akap.
We launched our website, finally! Thanks to Snow for her great work on the pixel art, as always! We’re figuring out logistics for our shop, and want to reach out to some creators to sell their work, maybe partnering with local risograph printers to make limited copies in Canada as opposed to having them send them off via expensive air mail from the Philippines.
Hope the kickoff at Canzine keeps us at this momentum! There are so many great Filipino artists out there and we want to spread the love.
2022-09-25 ● Living alone on Mactan Island
My Lolo lives alone in a hut on Mactan Island.
Except he’s never been there.
He tells me in excruciating detail — but is it a dream? Or memories from another life? He seems lucid, with pointed clarity, similar to whenever he recounts stories of his time as a soldier in the siege of Bataan during World War II.
My Lolo has always had stories to tell.
He was only 21 when he was drafted into the Philippine Army as a junior reserve officer, interrupting his law studies in university. To be more precise, he showed up at their door before they even had to come and find him, as all reserves were to be called to active duty.
Pearl Harbour had just been bombed by the Japanese, and because of the special arrangement between the United States and the Philippine Commonwealth (known as the United States Army Forces in the Far East, or USAFFE for short), the Philippine Army was to be temporarily inducted under US command. Lolo was assigned to his hometown, Bataan, and was designated as an intelligence officer since he knew the terrain well.
No one knew at the time, but it would later become the setting of the bloodbath known as the Bataan Death March.
Growing up I always knew Lolo fought in the war, but I didn’t completely understand what that meant. He joked a lot about the question my cousins asked him when they were younger, “Lolo, did you die in the war?” And he’d laugh, “If I did, you would not be here!”
In 2010, Lolo accomplished one of his lifetime goals: publishing his experiences in the battlefields of Bataan. Before finishing his manuscript, he would let me read his handwritten notes of his accounts of the war. Sheet after sheet after sheet of yellow ruled pad paper, everything down to the tiniest details. It was titled: Waiting for the Enemy: Defending Bataan to the Limit of Endurance.
I think it’s been more than two decades since I first met that strange, yet, familiar young wartime soldier. I am still only a few pages into his memories, and I cry a little. It always feels like he is reading the words out to me aloud. They sound exactly like him.
In his book, Lolo quotes a part of a poem about the Battle of Mactan, between Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu:
“Rose slow the eastern sun
Out of the darkness dun
To watch in its long run
I’ll come visit you in Mactan Island someday, Lolo. And then you can tell me all of your stories all over again, from the beginning, right through the end.
[Originally written for a short-lived email newsletter called Hot Spring Eggs on 2021-08-06. Today is his 4-year death anniversary.]
2022-09-21 ● Notes from a 38-hour layover in Taiwan
[Content warning: Photos of food]
In 2019, before the pandemic blew up, I traveled home to the Philippines for the holidays. I was supposed to only have a 9-hour layover in Taiwan, but it turned into 38 hours because a typhoon closed the Manila airport, and all flights going in and out were cancelled. After several hours of waiting, waiting, waiting, getting on a shuttle bus, getting to the hotel to find out we had to partner with a stranger for a room, waiting, and then eating a very sad, complimentary lunch buffet, I decided to venture into Taipei from Taoyuan.
It was a very small, quiet adventure, considering I don’t speak Mandarin, but I managed to get on a bus that would take me to Taipei. I didn’t know how much the fare would cost, but someone saw that I was from away, and he kindly came over to help me count my bills, and let me know how much I needed to put into the bus’ collection box. He also signaled to me when it was time to get off once we reached the city.
I was surprised to see so many people on motorbikes, and plenty of bicycles. Although cars and buses roamed most of the streets, there was still plenty of room for motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians. The area was also densely populated, and I spotted many small subdivisions and residential buildings throughout.
I went into a Mos Burger to order a coffee, and leisurely looked around for a bit, going in and out of shops, convenience stores, fast-food joints, a small mart, and a bakery.
Everything felt so vivid and colourful.
I wandered aimlessly, taking in as much as I could. I originally planned to go to the night market, which was ways away from where I currently was, but I didn’t want to risk getting lost and stranded alone, at night, in a city whose language I did not speak.
It started to get cold, and I felt drops of rain. I lacked warmer clothing, and I was beginning to run short of adrenaline, so I decided to end my tiny adventure, and got back on the bus from whence I came. I promised myself that I needed to come back, under fairer circumstances, but for the time being, I had to say au revoir, Taipei.
2022-09-20 ● Got the spirit, lose the feeling
C and I watched the Pet Shop Boys and New Order last weekend. We’d been waiting two years to see them since the cancellations due to the pandemic. The wait was worth it, Pet Shop Boys were fantastic, and their stage production was so artfully done. After them came New Order, it was the first time I had seen them live and they did not disappoint. They played Ceremony, one of most favourite songs, along with new and old songs, and for their encore, they surprised with Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, a song that they hadn’t played live since 2018.
We’d missed seeing lives, and this year the stages opened back up again (for better or worse) and we went on a concert-watching frenzy. I still wear a mask, and I am still wary of being in close quarters with other people, even in outdoor spaces. C had caught the virus several weeks ago and had since recovered, so she banked on her short-term “immunity”, post-COVID. (The science behind that, I am not so sure of.)
Nevertheless, it was good to see bands we enjoyed playing again (and they seemed to be happy about it, too). Especially older bands, whom we had an unrelenting sense of urgency to see before, well, anything happens. (Knock on wood.)
Because heaven knows, it’s got to be this time.
2022-09-12 ● Everything is connected
My friends and I went on a hike at The Tree Museum the other day, off of Gravenhurst, Ontario. It was a good break from spending weeks (or more?) in front of the computer. I had been wanting to get away (not too away), and the museum was open only from June to October, so this was an opportunity for a lovely change of pace.
I’d forgotten how great hikes can be for my body and mind. My head was mostly empty, just trying to take everything in, one step at a time, left leg, then right, left, then right, remembering how my limbs work as if I hadn’t used them in a while. I felt rusty, with cobwebs and all.
Forging on ahead, trying not to trip over any stones, roots, or plants, but stopping to see the mushrooms and the trees, and any small animals or insects (we spotted a chipmunk and a grasshopper). Left, right, left, right. Making a mental and physical memory of it all.
As we ventured further in, I could feel sweat on my skin, but under the shade of trees, the air was nice and cool.
The trail took us on several meandering paths deeper into the forest, and peppered throughout were, some large, some small, pieces of art installations. While there were those that seemed to completely integrate themselves into their surroundings, others felt almost invasive and out of place. It was interesting to see how the artists described their perceived relationship between humans and nature.
One of the works was as old as 1998! To the point that it had been engulfed by the soil, plants, and trees, as if it had always been there.
We shared the books we were reading recently, and A is currently reading The Secret Life of Fungi. She mentioned how, for millennia, mycelium and trees have their own network where they share and exchange information in order to survive.
A also mentioned that trees like to move very slowly, at their own pace. Ah, how I, too, would like to be like a tree, when everything is going by so quickly and there isn’t enough time for anything else.
As I caught my own breath, I remembered that slowing down is more important than hurrying up.
Continuing on thinking about biomimicry: how can we be like nature, forming human and environmental networks of care in this fast-paced, capitalist, technocratic, utilitarian rondo to destruction? It reminded me a lot of Taeyoon Choi’s Distributed Web of Care and creating diverse communities focused on trust, accessibility, and inclusivity; building with nature, not against. I think we often forget that she is our first elder and ancestor, and with that should come reverence and mutual respect.
K started singing an old song by Joey Ayala, “Ang Lahat ng Bagay ay Magkaugnay” (Everything is connected.) I roughly translated parts of the lyrics:
Lupa, laot, langit ay magkaugnay
Hayop, halaman, tao ay magkaugnay
Land, sea, and sky are all interconnected
Animals, plants, and humans are all interconnected
Iisang hantungan ng ating lahi
Kamag-anak at katribo ang lahat ng narito
Sa lupa, sa laot at sa langit
We are all tribespeople here, together
To the land, the sea, and the sky
Ang lahat ng bagay ay magkaugnay
Magkaugnay ang lahat
All things are connected
We are all connected
2022-09-08 ● Gitlab CI Config to Neocities
I use GitLab’s CI pipelines to stage and deploy my changes over to Neocities. I used to use Neocel (a command line tool to deploy to Neocities) in my build scripts, but it’s not deploying my files correctly anymore so I’ve gone back to this build script. I want to outline the steps I took to remember what I did to get it working again, so this is a note to myself.
The snippet is available here.
This is what my current build script looks like. I’ve split the job into two steps: build and deploy. I’m using Eleventy as my static site generator, and I first run a job to build the files to its output directory, _site (removing any possibly old files so that the build is clean).
After that, I run a job to deploy to Neocities. To do this, I had to first create a Gemfile in my site’s root directory that has these two lines:
I cd to that directory and run bundle install (sometimes the Gemfile is saved with a .rb extension, I had to manually remove it in order for it to be recognised by the bundler). This generates a Gemfile.lock file that must be committed to the repository.
Going back to the build script, I set the docker image to ruby:2.6.5 because the command line tool I’m using to deploy is Neocities’s CLI built on Ruby. I also need to specify the environment as neocities, and add a few steps it needs to do before it executes the deployment script.
First I need to create a file type variable in my site’s GitLab CI/CD settings using the API token I get via Neocities. (This can be found in the Site Settings of your Neocities account.)
More information from GitLab’s official docs.
The type needs to be File, the key should be called NEOCITIES_TOKEN, and it should also be protected, masked, and scoped to the environment of neocities that I specified earlier.
Now I can go on to the deployment script which I copied from here. Essentially it checks if the NEOCITIES_TOKEN variable exists, and if it does, move it over to my Neocities config to be able to log into Neocities. I add additional commands to cd _site because that is the location of my files to be uploaded. Then I run the Ruby Neocities command to push everything in that directory to my Neocities account’s root directory.
Now each time I push to my main branch, this whole pipeline runs.
It took me ages (and one million broken pipelines later) to get this right because I didn’t read and follow instructions in a linear fashion. 🤧
2022-09-08 ● Dance first, think later
I was going through old files on my hard drive, and came across some prototypes of websites I made in my teens, but never published. I was always so caught up with trying to make things “perfect” and kept putting off before they were complete (when is a website ever complete, really?). Decades later, in just this past month, I’ve since pushed three websites, and I have to say that it feels good. My teenage self would be proud, but also probably terrified?
Remember when there was no CSS and we had to do all layout styling via tables? Dark times. (Although I had to create an email HTML template recently and it uses the same kind of layout hacks, and I did not want to go back to there again.) Kalawakan, the Filipino word for “space” was also an old LiveJournal handle. I very much loved space-themed things. I originally meant this to be a blog, maybe. Also, these links are still some of my favourite websites! Brings me back.
I was a fan of Murakami Haruki when I was younger, and I was reading The Elephant Vanishes at the time, hence the elephant (and the quote, I think?) I don't know what I intended this to be, perhaps an index for a collective (another concept from the 00s).
I was always waiting to be ready, until I never was. The emotional discomfort of pushing something incomplete or unfurnished to production never sat well with me, and that’s why I almost never published anything publicly. But now I know the satisfaction from seeing my work out in the wild, even if it’s on training wheels. The whole point of it all was to create and have fun, but I took myself too seriously. I still do. But progress is progress! I’ll try to remember more to dance first, and think later.
2022-07-12 ● Like a newborn
Since the start of the pandemic I started keeping a diary: what times I’ve been waking up or going to bed, what I’ve been eating — how much of and when, how many minutes I spend in the shower, what medications and supplements I’ve taken (they're a lot); mundane things that don’t mean anything to anyone, maybe not even to myself, although I suppose it is useful to know how much water I’ve been drinking or if I’m getting enough Vitamin D — I heard Vitamin D helps during the winters to boost your mood, but it’s not even winter, and I still dread waking up every day, past noon, but getting up anyway to drink a terrible cup of instant coffee, and scavenging for some stale bread from the back of my freezer (it had been there for ages); when the world started to open up again, I wondered if my solitary planet would burst out of its bubble, and suddenly thrust me back out, like a newborn upside down, covered in blood, my umbilical cord about to be cut, crying for my mother or crying because I’m alive and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
2022-07-05 ● Hello, Navi
Testing, testing, 123. Is this thing on?
I kept trying to launch this at the start of the pandemic, but always had an infinite number of excuses to fall back on. And now that this is finally (finally!) up, out into the aether, I am at a loss for words. And I often have been for quite some time now. Writing doesn’t come as easy anymore, my memory isn’t as good, mental clarity has gone out through the window, and I can’t find the right words at the right time.
But I’m here now. Maybe that’s all that matters.