smells like team spirit

The last two days in less than 50 words:

“I excuse myself I’m used to my little cell
I amuse myself in my very own private hell” *


Day one of office team building gig at Tarawoods in Tanauan, Batangas: Drunk from a lethal combination of gin-beer and wiggy from no sleep or at least not enough. With friends at first: laughing, swapping stories, bonding. Then alone staring at the night sky, enjoying the sound of crickets and little wings and other things unseen.

Upchucking your dinner and finding yourself locked out of the guesthouse in the bitter late-night cold is never fun, but I’ll chalk it down as an “experience.”

Day two: From Tarawoods straight to the waiting office. Floaty head, watery eyes and a bellyful of Extra Joss to keep the Sandman at bay. A pile of stories to edit and upload and a bite-sized Toblerone for dinner (better let sleeping ulcers lie). CCR’s  “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” playing on and on on Youtube.

Ominous droplets of something dark in my hankie every time I cough.

Maybe there is such a thing as clean, sober fun. But I’m not acquainted with it.

(Photo courtesy of TJ Dimacali)

* from Alice in Chains’ “Private Hell”



Saturday night in Antipolo, while waiting for our roasted pork belly in Shopwise, Charmaine and I discovered the Germans’ secret to happy livers.


Priced less than two cans of the local Red Horse, but twice the wallop. Tastes better, too.

You have to give it to the Krauts. After all, as my wife pointed out, they gave birth to Octoberfest, which is to beer freaks what Wacken Open Air Festival is to heavy metal junkies.

Anyway, it was an eventful weekend we had, with the imported ballbuster providing the proverbial icing on the cake. Even our little Raven, still far from croaking ‘Nevermore’ but getting there fast, was drunk with new experiences.

the victim

“Anything can be misused. Furthermore, every individual has to assume responsibility for his or her own actions, even the poor and the young. A social system that decrees otherwise is inviting intellectual atrophy and spiritual stagnation.” – Novelist Tom Robbins on the use of illegal drugs.


Big words there: intellectual atrophy and spiritual stagnation. And I can’t help but notice these in some of my friends who are walking around these days with a weird sort of jerky uneasiness, like zombies in a George Romero flick. I saw one of them earlier, in Antipolo, looking dazed and confused and shaking his fist at Pepeng. “That motherfucker!” he kept on referring to Pepeng, as if Pepeng was a member of the House of Representatives.

I’ve been hanging out with this freak for so long that I instantly knew what’s troubling him. A notorious “frequent flyer,” he’s no doubt talking about The Stuff. Now that Pepeng has rendered many North Luzon roads impassable, there have been significant delays in the delivery of almost everything from that region.

Everything, including my friend’s precious Stuff.

(For those who are not in the know, North Luzon – particularly the provinces of Kalinga, Mt. Province and Benguet – has been endearing writers, loners, poets, artists, musicians and perhaps Bernard Palanca for years now for its… its… well, just click here.)

I put my hand on my friend’s shoulder and told him about how depressing the days are and how somebody seemed to have kicked the world in the gonads. But he wouldn’t have any of it. He just looked at me and I saw that his eyes were crystal clear, like a baby’s. That’s all I needed for a conclusion.

The bastard has been clean for days now, and he’s not comfortable with it. Another victim of the “motherfucker,” indeed.

birds, beer, baby

Had an eventful but tiring three days that can be broken down into the following statistics: 18 San Mig Lights, 20 hours of travel, five hours of sleep, five new CDs, 12 new “friends” including a town mayor in Pampanga, a pack of cigarettes, two skipped meals, and one banged up body.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m still alive and functioning.

The two-day seminar on avian flu that I attended last Thursday and Friday went well. I met a lot of  interesting folk and even drank overpriced beer with them in this swanky place called Copa’s inside Holiday Inn in Clark Field. Also learned a lot about the topic that could be useful in my trade in the future. Friday morning I found myself in Candaba swamp gawking at – but not exactly admiring – migratory birds.

Back in Manila I got invited by my office-mates to drink at Tonio’s Grill along Timog Avenue. I arrived there late and was surprised that more than half of the office showed up for the gig. It was fun. Stories and jokes flew like birds (haha!) with every bottle. Even the music was good: mostly 90’s alt-rock sang by a singer who reminded me of Lisa Loeb. I ordered one beer after another until I forgot that I just came from a swamp and totally lacking sleep. I wasn’t home until 6  a.m. Saturday.

My wife is handling her pregnancy pretty well. At the CD sale in Quezon Avenue she bought music designed for expectant  mothers – cool, relaxing stuff with a lot of piano, flute and Spanish guitar in it. She has also developed an appetite for sweets and is sleeping a lot lately. We agreed to name our child either Layne Elrick (if boy) or Raven Lee (girl).



It’s Friday night and I’m hanging out with Charmaine and her workmates here in their Makati office. There’s home-cooked food and lots of beer, so naturally there’s also the quintessential Filipino pastime: the videoke. From where I sit here in my wife’s cubicle, I can hear somebody belting out a Michael Learns to Rock song outside. Later – or when I’m inebriated enough – I’ll go there and cover CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Meanwhile, I’ll stay here and listen to Yngwie Malmsteen and his amazing fingers.