Surprise!

I’ve always wanted to take graduate studies abroad, so two years ago, I started sending out applications to various universities and scholarships. It’s not always fun coming up with lengthy essays detailing how unique and deserving I am (lol) to get a grant, and satisfying the long list of requirements was very challenging to say the least. I’m poor, so there’s no way I can go to universities without a scholarship. That’s why when I got accepted to universities I wanted but got rejected by three scholarships, it hurt a great deal. It’s like getting the grandslam of self-doubt and disappointments. It’s also quite humbling.

So I tried again, this time for an Australian scholarship. I made it to the interview phase, and a month later found out I got in, but as a reserve candidate. I was in scholarship limbo and it was frustrating, because I really wanted the scholarship but I was unsure if I could make it. At that point I just decided to wait for the universe to do its job. The waiting game was a bit torturous, so when I found out a while ago that I made it and will be leaving this June (and that I need to basically sort my life out in two months), I was shocked and stressed out. In a nice way.

*five-second koala dance*

So this post, aside from being an obvious humblebrag, is basically a huge thanks to people who have helped me from Day 1. Thanks Ma’am Chua, thanks Neeks for my recommendation letters; thank you Jess and Claire (see you soon!!!) for your scholarship tips; and thank you to all my close friends who’ve been very patient sounding boards. Thank you to everyone who told me I’d get it even if in my head I was saying “How do you know?” and most of all, thank you to the Australian taxpayers who are basically paying for my education. Long live mighty Australia, tbh.

I’ll be leaving in two months so if I suddenly get clingier than usual and ask you to have coffee or dinner, see a movie or play Resistance please know that: it’s not a date and I’m not a multi-level marketer trying to recruit you to sell products. Hopefully I get to see all of you friends before I leave.

Lastly, if you’re planning on getting a scholarship abroad, it isn’t always easy. I got rejected thrice but decided to try it out one more time. Try and try and try; cry a little, then do it again. It will work. 😉

Millennial pains, simple pleasures and a metaphorical lump of coal: My 2014 in review

In the future, when I get really, really old, barring Alzheimer’s or dementia, I’d look back at one particular year, equal parts tumultuous and agonizing, but nonetheless full of insights that will make me nod meaningfully while I stare blankly across a porch, gingerly clutching my urine bag. Gross.

2014 was, for me, an ECG chart, a roller coaster, a mercury in a thermometer, or a dick. It went up and down, up and down, and it made me want to scream at God while I cry and dramatically pull weed from the ground. 2014 was life’s harsh way of telling me that I’m already an adult, and that I needed to experience more adult things aside from watching porn if I were to grow up into a proper man.

Pondering some serious shit
Pondering some serious shit

Starting the year with a heartbreak, because life
In February this year, just weeks after I posted on Facebook a post that read ‘February: no doubt the best month of the year,’ my father died from prostate cancer. It sounded like something straight out of a tv series that involved angsty millennials and divine irony. It was the ultimate buzzkill to end all buzzkills, because February is also my birth month. And Facebook’s algorithm had the gall to tell me ‘It’s been a great year; thanks for being a part of it.’ Fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg. Continue reading “Millennial pains, simple pleasures and a metaphorical lump of coal: My 2014 in review”

Movies and suicidal teens: Why Cinemalaya’s #Y makes me feel uneasy

Back in college, I was once forced to defend the moral acceptability of suicide in a debate. In my effort to win for our team, I said there’s an unwarranted social stigma against people who are just exercising a legitimate solution to their problems, and on the basic level, killing yourself doesn’t impinge on the rights of other people anyway, so really, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. I argued that there’s a need a demystify the very personal decision of taking one’s life, that there shouldn’t be a problem in ending it because it’s yours anyway, like a personal property no one should have an opinion about or power over. If you have a car and your neighbor blows it up, you can sue him, because it’s not his. But if you blow up your own car without any collateral damage, you’re perfectly fine. It’s the same with life, if you can accept the crude analogy.

In some countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Colombia, and some states in the United States (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico), assisted suicide- the one where a physician usually administers a lethal drug to the person- is legal. I’m alright with the idea of killing yourself, but if and only if you’re terminally ill. If it’s about suicide of an otherwise healthy individual who seems resigned to his/her sad life, I think the government should err on the side of prudence and focus on the value of promoting life and positivity instead of telling its citizens it’s okay to be defeatist.

I was never a fan of killing one’s self, and I still am. At that time, though, I had to win a debate round, so I tried arguing why it’s okay, even if you’re healthy. But it’s not, okay? Killing yourself when you’re not terminally ill is not cool.

Two years later, still in college, I had to write a paper on suicide reporting, and it was then that I learned more about suicide. Contrary to popular belief, suicide isn’t caused by a singular event, say, losing a bet in a casino or having your humiliating sex tape leaked into social media. Suicide is caused by a confluence of factors: toxic environment, unhealthy family dynamics, bad friends, lack of support systems and a host of other things that only need a trigger to blow up. That is why the Society of Professional Journalists reminds reporters not to attribute a person’s suicide to a singular event, because psychology shows that motivations behind killing one’s self are way deeper and more complex that what we usually think. What separates the suicidal people from the normal ones is that the normal ones are capable of overcoming problems because they are free from the lethal combination of external factors that drive them to their breaking point. Suicidal people have it differently, which is why I was slightly disturbed after seeing #Y, one of the entries in this year’s Cinemalaya (Philippine independent Film Festival).

#y

See the movie’s trailer here.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Continue reading “Movies and suicidal teens: Why Cinemalaya’s #Y makes me feel uneasy”

Woke up to this horrible news today

The Hollywood Reporter reports that American Idol alumni Michael Johns, 35, died from a blood clot from his ankle. Reports are still hazy on the details, but multiple sources have already confirmed his death.

Michael joined AI Season 7, and he was one of the best voices in the history of the competition, as far as my opinion is concerned. Here’s his audition video:

Continue reading “Woke up to this horrible news today”

On protagonists with secret pains but are totally cool about it

If you’ve just seen Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and raved about how fantastic it was, I want you to know that you’re not alone and there is no shame in your enthusiastic appreciation. It’s so good, no?

guardians-of-the-galaxy

Continue reading “On protagonists with secret pains but are totally cool about it”

We saw a four-hour film that’s not Nymphomaniac

My friends and I decided to spend more than four hours of our Sunday to watch Lav Diaz’s ‘Norte: The End of History,’ or as my friend Elfer put it, Norte: The End of Attention Span. While a swarm of pre-teens lined up for She’s Dating the Gangster (God bless Philippine cinema), my pretentious friends and I decided to check out the other Filipino film which was screened at Cannes.

norte

The film, loosely based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, revolves around an opinionated law school dropout, Fabian, and his frustration with the Philippines. In actualizing his Machiavellian desire to rid society of evil, he kills an abusive usurer and her daughter, and flees to the city. An innocent father of a poor family takes the fall. After four years, Fabian returns to the province to atone for his sins, but his guilt and intellectual convictions drive him on the dangerous edge of sanity.

In coming up with my opinions on a movie, I rely on my immediate impression after the film ends, after which I rationalize why my thoughts and feelings were such. It’s my first time to watch a Diaz film, and I’m afraid I struggled digesting the four-hour opus. Up to now I still don’t know what to make of it. In explaining my thoughts to a friend, I said I thought understanding the film was like learning German. I know a little German, but I don’t really know German.

Let’s start digesting it then.

Continue reading “We saw a four-hour film that’s not Nymphomaniac”

We sell quilts at discount price, living in an Amish paradise

I have a list of things I’m genuinely fascinated about, and the Amish people are in there, along with zombies, honey badgers and gingers.

The Amish are immigrants from Switzerland who went to the United States in the 1600s during the schism in Christianity. They are known for their plain clothes, their religious convictions and their aversion to electricity and technology- they’re much like our grandparents. They also have their own language called Pennsylvania Deutsch, which when spoken sounds like a non-angry version of German. Here’s Weird Al Yankovic making fun of them:

Continue reading “We sell quilts at discount price, living in an Amish paradise”

A non-exhaustive guide to convincing people that you know shit about the World Cup

It is perhaps the most bloodcurdling moment for hardcore, authentic football fans the world over- the time when insufferable idiots like me jump into the World Cup bandwagon to join in on the booing, cheering, pseudo-online analyzing and hashflagging because not doing so practically isolates one from the cool part of the world. Sorry we’re not, sor-ry, waka waka, eh, eh.

Truth be told, I am the Jon Snow of football. I knoo nuthin. I played only joke football (sipa bol) outside school when I was a kid, and my appreciation of the World Cup was only confined to buying a team Brazil Havaianas and an oversized ÂĄEspañoles Luchan! shirt in 2006. I watched the Netherlands and Spain final in 2010 without rooting for anyone, saw the Philippines versus Sri Lanka match live in 2011 (viciously supported the Philippines with face paint) and interviewed the Younghusbands for an article, and that’s about it. Those are about the most footbally things I have ever done in my life. I don’t watch matches outside the World Cup; I don’t have a clear grasp of who plays where and I don’t use a first-person personal plural pronoun when referring to clubs (We won against Bayern Munich today; Our team will do better next time; We’ll never walk alone, etc. etc.). I’ve always regarded football as a sad, boring sport full of vain multimillionaire drama queens who regularly flop because they can’t properly score a goal.

But!

But the World Cup, like any other major international sports event, is something one shouldn’t miss. It’s the biggest sporting event in the planet and it’s like the Halley’s comet: it only appears once in a long while and by the next time it happens you’re probably dead already. There’s just something about fighting for national pride by kicking a ball that captivates people to a point approaching religious fanaticism, and how could you just miss that? How could you?

But if you’re a football noob like me who wants to take part in the Waka-Waka Tiki-Taka Goo Goo Gaga awesomeness that is the World Cup, it’s not enough that you just randomly babble on about stuff without doing your homework. If you’re faking it, fake it good. Fake it til you’re so fake and don’t let others blow your cover. Don’t tweet go David Beckham win for England. Don’t. Let me help.

Continue reading “A non-exhaustive guide to convincing people that you know shit about the World Cup”

Writing fiction

View this post on Instagram

🙂

A post shared by Jovan Cerda (@jovancerda) on

Today I met with the ruler of the universe, Jessica Zafra, for a small get-together with her and the participants of the Write Here, Write Now workshop. We met late last year and worked on our novels while Jessica did her best to make us realize the sorry state of our creative writing. Of course she gave us constructive points. We were supposed to come up with our manuscripts last Sunday, and I was able to send mine three minutes before the deadline passed.

My story is all about losing and how to deal with loss. It’s about a black Jewish lesbian midget from Mississippi who lost her kitten, and how she battled rednecks who took it from her.

Kidding aside, it’s about a depressed college student who tried pulling himself together amid guilt and self-loathing, and how something that happened in the past left him jaded toward an opportunity to start anew. That’s all I can say about it right now, because we’ve yet to work on the final draft. I can say, though, that the story is set in the University of the Philippines around 2009, and the characters are based on some of my friends and people I know. I used real places and inserted pop culture references around that time, because well, I’m the author.

Jessica said writing Bildungsroman novels especially in the first person point of view usually falls into the thinly veiled autobiography territory, and that scared me a little because I’m quite the private person and I don’t like giving people an idea of how weird I am. I tried my best to distance myself from the main character.

The story begins with these two paragraphs:

Continue reading “Writing fiction”

#RP612fic: Tandang Sora, palabang lola

(Originally written for jessicarulestheuniverse.com three years ago. Happy Independence Day, Philippines!)

Maynila, 1896 — Isang misteryosong sakit ang dumapo sa mga Katipunero. Halos kalahati sa kanila ang isa-isang tinubuan ng nagnanaknak na pigsa sa singit, na nagparalisa sa kanilang pagsagupa sa mga Espanyol. Dinala ang mga maysakit sa tahanan ni Tandang Sora, upang magamot at magpagaling.
“Conching, bunutin mo ang puno ng bayabas sa harap ng bahay,” ang utos ng 84-taong matanda na matamang nakatuon ang pansin sa mga nakabukangkang na Katipunerong namimilipit sa kanyang harapan.
“Ngunit Tandang Sora, nakabaon sa semento ang puno ng bayabas.”
“Nais mo bang tumulong sa Inang Bayan, Conching?”
“Over!” ang tahimik na sabi ni Conching sabay labas ng bahay bitbit ang isang gunting.

Wari’y nagsasagot ng Sudoku ang matanda habang nginunguya ang mga dahon ng bayabas na nasa kanyang harapan. Maya’t maya’y idinudura niya ang mga nginuyang dahon sa isang palanggana. Nang maubos niya ang buong puno, tumayo siya.
“Makinig kayong lahat mga Katipunero. Bihira ang sakit na dumapo sa inyo. Hayaan ninyong isa-isang itapal ni Conching sa mga nagnanaknak ninyong singit ang mga nginuyang dahon ng bayabas.”
Ilan sa mga Katipunero ay narinig na nagsabi ng “gross” pero wala rin silang nagawa.

Nang matapos tapalan ng bayabas ang mga singit ng mga Katipunero, lumapit ang matanda kay Conching.
“Ipahid mo ito sa kanila pagkatapos gumaling ng sugat,” sabay bunot ng isang bagay sa bulsa ng kanyang saya.
“Ano po ito, Tandang Sora?”
“Contractubex, para mawala ang peklat. Dyahe kaya yung may peklat ka sa singit.”
“I know right!” ang sabi ni Andres Bonifacio na nakikinig pala sa matanda.

Continue reading “#RP612fic: Tandang Sora, palabang lola”