Just One Last Time?

At the moment I’m writing this sentence, I have exactly 3.5 hours before I’ll find myself up in the sky, buckled up and bound for Kuala Lumpur.

I’m going back to our rural home in the Philippines because my grandfather, who I mentioned in my previous post, just passed away. Despite having attended a funeral in my early childhood years, I cannot remember a single fragment of it. This will be my first ever memory of attending a funeral in full awareness of a mind obsessed with remembering.

In the past few weeks, I’ve learned the importance and fragility of family bonds and relationships. I’ve witnessed how people can change and draw themselves closer when someone in their family is gravely ill or, in my case, is welcoming death. I’ve witnessed also how people can be stubborn and resist the opportunity for change, forgiveness and reconciliation.

I’ve been going back and forth between my home in the city and my grandfather’s home in the rural town. This will be my fourth time going back. Other than seeing my grandfather one last time, I don’t know what else is in store for me. My extended vacation has been full of unexpected circumstances and surprises, not always pleasant.

May God bless him and grant his soul eternal peace.

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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I’ve got less than a week before I fly back to Australia.

I’ve spent most of my summer break here in the Philippines to escape the stinging, arid heat of Perth. Despite having flown back home to my birthplace countless of times and initially having plans to visit multiple tourist destinations, this is probably the most memorable time I had in the Philippines despite not seeing any resorts, beaches and other typical tourist attractions. During the past eight weeks, I experienced my first door-to-door Christmas carols with a group of youths from a local parish, run for a cause, participated and won a local Sayawit (dance-and-sing) competition with the same group of friends, greeted the new year the Filipino-way, celebrated my sister’s grand and extravagant birthday début, visited my cousin in prison, watched my first Mr. Gay, all while witnessing my grandfather’s health deteriorate.

With experiences like these, I’d be lying if I said I learned nothing significant. In all honesty, I felt a continuing urge to share my thoughts and feelings during these past eight weeks. Being an inexperienced writer, I’ve gone through frustration after frustration, confusion after confusion, attempting to write down my tangled thoughts and feelings from this wired mess in my head.

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A view from the house we rented for the summer break. Ain’t no beach resort! Copyright of hiddencanvas.wordpress.com

I’m still keen though; I still feel the need to share the same thoughts and feelings as strongly as before. I believe that writing them down will help me understand myself better. You know what they say: writing, in itself, is an act of exploration and discovery. Now that I’ve fully immersed myself in the experience and my break is coming to a close, I’ll have many opportunities to put words to my thoughts. It’ll be my pleasure to share what I’ve learned.

Well then, I got a lot of exploring to do!

2013 New Year’s Eve

The sounds are familiar, tucked deep in the recesses of my mind. Memories of long passed childhood, creeping to the surface.

From inside my house, different coloured lights flash through my window curtains and heard a discord of sounds coming from outside. Fireworks going off simultaneously or all at once, whistling, crackling, popping, engines roaring; karaoke blasting; children and adults shouting and party blowers tooting. Lured by all the sounds and lights, I dashed out to see the commotion. And true enough, gathered within the narrow strip of road, everyone was making as much noise as possible. My mind was overstimulated by the sights around me! Cars and motorcycles are revved up, children with sparklers are running all over the place, and fireworks exploded in the sky and sprayed in the streets. A little girl tugged at my shirt and pointed at the sky beyond the rooftop, “Kuya! Look!” I looked up and saw two lonely lanterns floating higher into the sky.

Only three hundred and sixty six days ago, I was in a different world. A word in where you watch fireworks on the television or from a designated spectator’s area. The streets are quiet and deserted, save for a few houses where parties are being held. Even so, noise is controlled for fear of complaints from the neighbors and the police.

In this world, at least for me, New Year’s Eve is more of a quite contemplation of what’s passed and what’s been done. However in this other world of sounds and lights, New Year is not just welcomed with wide open arms, but also with loud, pompous, shameless and uninhibited greeting. This year, New Year felt strangely familiar, like a long lost and almost forgotten childhood friend than an aquaintance who’s just passing by. I like this loud New Year. It’s been a long time since I’ve last seen him.

The Works and Personas of Mark Beard

We encounter artists who create works bigger than themselves, and sometimes, there are those who are much more interesting than the work they create. One such example is Mark Beard, also known as Bruce Sargeant, Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon, Edith Thayer Cromwell, Brechtholdt Streeruwitz or Peter Coulter. No, you read that right! That’s one person right there, but with 6 different personalities!

From left to right, top to bottom: Mark Beard (b.1956), Bruce Sargeant and model (1898-1938), Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1849-1930), Brechtolt Steeruwitz (1890-1973), Edith Thayer Cromwell (1893-1962), Peter Coulter (b. 1948) (Image credit: John Coulhart)

Very impressive, isn’t it? Not only does he look and dress dramatically different in each persona, each persona has its own individual painting style and detailed biographies. Many artists and writers (bloggers included) take on an alter-ego in their work, but this is a different level altogether!

Mark Beard is an American artist whose works and those of his alter-egos are widely collected by museums, elite gallery circles, salons and individuals alike. According to John Coulthart, Mark Beard refuses to settle with the notion of branding oneself, which involves establishing and sticking to only one style and public image. He is an incredibly accomplished artist, working in multitude of mediums which include bronze sculptures, ceramics, architectural maquettes, oil paintings, graphite and conte drawings, murals and theatre sets. I can imagine why someone would need six alter-egos with a brilliant mind and talent like Mark Beard!

A quick Google Image search reveals that Mark Beard is famously known as his alter-ego Bruce Sargeant (b.1898). Sargeant is Mark Beard’s great gay English uncle who created homoerotic pieces that glorified the male form. One of his very famous works (two latter images shown above) is a mural in Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Sargeant died in 1938 in a freak wrestling accident.

Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1849-1930) is a French artist who is known for paintings of wild and exotic animals. He moved to England, became Bruce Sargeant’s teacher and privately taught him at his home. Before his death, his former student Edith Thayer Cromwell nursed him and Sargeant designed and created a bronze plaque in memorial and honour of him.

Brechtholdt Streeruwitz (1890-1973) is an Austrian artist who worked in the style of Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism. He was taught by Michallon and thus was a colleague of Edith Cromwell and Sargeant. He was a soldier during WWI, and because of an injury, was forced out of the war. He’s married with two children. After an unsuccessful marriage, he lived and died in America.

Edith Thayer Cromwell (1893-1962) is a lesbian American artist who was influenced by the American avant-garde. She paints nudes, still life, wildlife and landscapes in what I believe is largely in the style of Fauvism and Impressionism. Her mother’s premature death turned her into the only child. Michallon was her teacher and friend, and eventually Sargeant became her friend and confidant. She was semi-retired due to a series of heart attacks and painted until she died.

Last but not least, Peter Coulter (b.1948) is an American artist who was taught by both Streeruwitz and Cromwell, and thus his works express influences from both of his teachers. Coulter worked with political elements such as the Holocaust and the American slave trade. Coulter appears to be still alive as I couldn’t find any information of his death, which is confusing because the information I found about him are written in past tense.

Isn’t Mark Beard quite a handful? This guy is crazy! I still find it difficult to wrap my head around the notion of multiple alter-egos whose lives cross and influence each other, which ultimately influences Mark Beard in the end. I wonder how much of each alter-ego’s biography is real, if he dresses up and talks in an accent every time he plays a character and if he will create a new alter-ego when he finds a new painting style to explore and experiment with. I’m fascinated by Sargeant’s subdued, sculptural and statuesque bodies. I like how Sargeant selectively flushes certain parts of the body, especially the joints, as if to suggest tension or stress of the body in perpetual motion. Or maybe the body straining to come alive. It also effectively expresses warmth and intimacy much needed by the petrified men.
I would really like to meet this man! I wouldn’t mind at all if I get to meet his five alter-egos in the process! That will be exciting!

I got my information from these websites. I recommend reading them!:

Daily Prompt: Childhood Revisited (Chasey With The Rain and Watching Rainbows)

I was riding my trusty and prized children’s trisikad in random loops, turning right and left on the whim. Did I ignore my mother’s instructions or was she not there, I can’t remember. All I remember was that it must have been during siesta or nearing dusk as I was alone in the stretched concrete courtyard.

The courtyard was only about five meters wide, but to my little child’s eyes, it was as vast as a basketball court. I didn’t care if there were hidden eyes looking down at me in any of the terrace houses that line the edges of the courtyard. The endless possibilities of fun and discovery of a vast, empty space excited me. No one was here. Nothing was here. It’s all mine!

Something must have caught my attention. I wasn’t on my trisikad anymore. All I remember was that a cool breeze was blowing from and the sky has turned grey at one end of the courtyard. I must have been mesmerized by it all, because before I knew it, I was playing Chasey with the rain.

It was both intimidating and exhilarating! Unlike my neighbors who I play with nearly every day, here was something that I’m not sure of. I don’t know how fast it can run or the possibility of it outrunning me. The sound it made as it hit the concrete floor, drawing ever closer, was not as familiar as the shouts and laughter of my peers. But here it was, chasing after me. At that instant, it became a friend.

The sky must have gradually taken on a grey as it raced towards the other end of the courtyard, consuming the brightness of a fine day along its path, attempting to also consume me with its shower. But I didn’t look up. My eyes were set on my house. Like most boys at my age, I was determined to beat it.

Before finding shelter under the eaves of my house, I took a quick glance behind me to see how much I’ve outran it. The courtyard was nearly covered by the curtain of rain that was still drawing closer and it has inked most of the concrete floor in dark-bluish grey. Catching my breathe whilst enjoying my victory, I watched it run past my house and envelope the entire scene.

Not long after, aside from the sense of pride I got from ‘outrunning’ the rain, I was rewarded with at least two full arcs of rainbows in the sky when I went out to check if it was dry enough to play again.

So I stood there for a few minutes, watching rainbows… Just mesmerized.

This is my response to this Daily Prompt:
What is your earliest memory? Describe it in detail, and tell us why you think that experience was the one to stick with you.

Daily Prompt: Audience of One (I’ve Been Waiting)

Hey!

How are you? What have you been doing lately? It’s been ages! I’m missing you! When are you coming back? I couldn’t find anyone to play tennis, go mountain biking or camping with. Everyone seems so busy or lazy! Remember the time I skidded of the bike trail and injured myself? Man, that was embarrassing! Again, thanks for giving me a shoulder to hang on to while we walked back to camp. We shall go camping first thing’s first when you come back!

I’m currently reading this amazing book called ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. Are you reading anything? I’ll let you read mine once I finish it. AND you should let me read yours too, whatever you are reading. Also, we must visit Italy! It sounds like an absolutely exciting place! We shall go there for the architecture, the art, the pizza, the food, the people, the language, the history, the culture and the gelato. Oh my god… The gelato.

I also just started writing a blog! Since you left, I needed someplace or someone as an outlet for deep and serious thoughts. I miss those sleepovers during our childhood days when we talked and talked late into the night. The most profound thing you ever said during those days was that the Boogieman does not exist because Boogieman sounds like booger, and booger belongs in our noses, not under our beds. You completely convinced me then! But anyway, I’ll let you know my blog address in my next letter, when I’ve written enough to not bore you!

And last but not least, when will you take a look at my sick design and help print it off on a shirt? I need to put the blame on someone if something goes wrong, and I think you’ll make the best candidate! Haha! Just kidding! I want to make sure we are the first ones to wear it before selling it to everyone else.

There’s so many other things I want to do with you! I hope you reply as soon as you get this! If you can’t write back, give me a sign… Anything! Let me know you’re somewhere out there!

I’ve been looking, I’ve been waiting for twenty years. When will I finally find you?

Love
Your future bestfriend

This my response to this Daily Prompt:
Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

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This question was brought up during one of my classes in high school. I thought it was another one of those ‘chicken or the egg’ questions where the answer is ambiguous. And like all ‘chicken or the egg’ questions, we were separated into ‘born’ group and ‘made’ group, and thrown into a heated debate on who’s more right.

I threw myself into the ‘made’ group and I swear we were taking the lead! But before we realized, class was over. We waited for our teacher to have the last say, to take a side, but noooo she didn’t. Instead, she dismissed us and left us hanging.

My classmates didn’t make a big deal out of it.
Leaders are made, stupid!
But, I did.

I believe partly because I wanted to be right, to affirm my beliefs and perspective on leadership. But mostly because I was a leader myself. An incompetent one.

Fast forward two years and I’m still a leader of a youth group.

What triggered this memory, and thus the question, was that I had enough of my emotional episodes of feeling crap, lacking and unworthy whenever I feel that I’m not progressing into a better leader. While I always believed that leaders are made, I always blame myself for not being born a leader. I wasn’t born for this role!

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I didn’t want to be a goner or a hopeless wannabe, and so I decided to read up on the topic here, here, here, here and here and watched several TED talks here.

In summary from what I’ve read, apart from knowing that particular personal characteristics and temperaments are embedded in born leaders, leaders are mostly ‘made’.

Yes!

Interestingly, I noticed one thing that I personally think is fundamental in leadership that a few of the sources mentioned, albeit sometimes subtly, while the others did not. It’s that without a reason or an inspiration to lead, there will be no leaders in the first place. There’s no need to lead when there is no reason to lead! This sounds very commonsensical at first glance but this took me by surprise.

After finding out that leaders are more often ‘made’ than ‘born’, this realization is more important than before.
You can’t train a leader and expect him to flourish if he doesn’t know why he’s doing it in the first place. Unless a powerful idea or dream is imprinted in the hearts and minds of the leaders, there will be no passion or motivation to drive the leaders, and consequently their followers into striving and fighting for that same idea or dream! Passion is contagious. Effective leadership is contagious and charismatic, confident and convicted.

On the other hand, a born leader will not recognize his role if he doesn’t recognize the need for him to take one. If the idea or dream is not strong enough to tug at his heartstrings, he will not move. He will never truly know he is a born leader without anything significant to fight for.

But don’t take my word for it! I’m merely your anonymous blogger. Simon Sinek from TED talk elegantly delivered the importance of a reason, idea or a dream in this timeless talk:

I think it’s time for me to do some introspecting – what drives me, the dream I am pursuing, and the reason of my leadership. And if after introspection do I find out that I don’t have a powerful motivator, it’s time to find one! It’s such a relief to know that I can be trained into a better leader and that leadership is a lifelong journey, even for the born leaders.

Anyways, to conclude, whenever someone asks you the question whether leaders are born or made, lift your chin up and say this proudly:
“Leaders are mostly made, but there are no leaders when there is no reason to lead”.

Darn! I wish I knew this two years ago!

Daily Prompt: Success! (Man is His Own Enemy)

I felt a pang of anger and sadness both at the same time as they assembled the booth. They were messing around and being half-assed with the task that I entrusted upon them. Despite the wasteful amount of tape and ropes that was used, the booth kept falling down as it was poorly taped and tied together. One even threw a pair of scissors into the cardboard walls out of frustration and made holes in it. Quietly whilst controlling my temper, I fixed and re-assembled the booth… and it did stand up, just as I expected. I was, after all, the only person who painstakingly prepared the parts. The booth looked good but it didn’t matter anymore, I was badly hurt inside seeing the lack of care and respect they have for the things I’ve made. The amount of time and effort I put in it, day till night.

I held onto that grudge, producing poisonous thoughts about them. I struggled between making the decision to let them know my feelings and withholding the guilt they deserved.

Dusk came. But I still needed to let go of this negative pent-up feelings. I messaged someone I thought I could trust, but they were busy.

So here I am now, writing to you, a complete stranger. I feel the urge to write something. I wanted to do this Daily Prompt. It has been on my mind lately, but I couldn’t find the right words to write. Fortunately for us both, recalling that event and stumbling upon this post has helped me remember a quote that never fails to strike a chord in me:

Man is his own worst enemy – Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Success to me means a lot of things. A good home, a good career, a good lifestyle, a good small group of loyal, dependable friends, and hopefully, a loving, lifelong partner. But signing up for a WordPress blog and seeing life through other’s eyes has helped me open my eyes wider. Success was never about the attainment of superficial things. Yes, we want to be loved, but it was never about attaining others for ourselves.

I think true success already lies within us. I strongly believe that God has already blessed us with everything we need. True success can’t be touched, seen, felt, heard or tasted by the body. True success is not short-lived. True success that is timeless is in words. Self-control. Discipline. Love. Contentment. Joy in little things. Compassion. Gentleness. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Humility. They already have been planted. Nurture these and soon harvest its fruits. Fruits that will make you happy. We know success is synonymous with happiness.

My version of success is really difficult to attain. But I believe it’s not impossible. I still think material things are important enough to survive in this world. But let’s all aim higher. Let’s all aim to attain something bigger than ourselves, yet is already inside us. Today, I nurtured my self-control and gentleness on myself. If one day I am remembered, not for what I have, but for what I have become, for my happiness and consequently for the happiness of others, let me truly say “Success! Life well lived!”.

Conquer ourselves for true success already lies in us.

This is a late response to this Daily Prompt:
What is a life well lived to you?

The Good, The Wicked and the Misunderstood Witches

It was the first theatrical performance that I went to. The show is called Wicked and it focuses on the lives of two witches before Dorothy and her dog dropped in in the land of Oz. And what really happened in Oz. The production has won many awards and I was one of the many people privileged enough to watch their show.

I’m not here to write the entire plot of the show. That’s not nice, that’s not fun. I think there are people out there who have done that. Instead, I would like to share one aspect of the production’s success which is the exploration and journey on the theme of friendship. One of the many things the show has shown me is that true friendship, the kind that’s loyal, bold and understanding, does amazing and magical things.

Popularity has a lot to do with how comfortable your experience is in society. We are judged by how we look, our mannerisms and how we act in front of others, our values, interests and what we are into. And with popularity comes the support of the community. Every action taken ripples and inspire many. However, we are all victims of circumstances. It does not discriminate. When we are caught in it, it’s all too easy to place the blame on someone else. We can stay in our cozy little bubble, running away from it, or stand our ground and let it change us for the better. It’s all good until one little undesirable accident tarnishes your reputation and everything is at risk of falling down. Suddenly, you are scared of being pushed to the back of the crowd.

Society runs heavily on first impressions – the first-encounter judgement. It manifests in the shop fronts and their clothed mannequins, resumes, the first day of school or work, our profile pictures. We encounter so many people in our lifetime that we can only afford to spent more time on those who made a good impression on you. Unless we are put in a position where we have to spend some time with them, they make you uncomfortable or do not provoke your interest. If the book cover has a boring title, has no interesting illustrations in it or is really thick, it goes back on the shelf. The book stays on the shelf, collecting dust, until the day someone makes an effort to read it, unraveling great and marvelous stories no one has heard before.

Glinda is blessed with beautiful, curly blonde hair; glowing, beautiful skin and a charming demeanor while the other witch, Elphaba, despite apparently scoring fewer points in the ‘looks department’ (which in my opinion, is questionable) and being socially awkward, is blessed with intelligence, strong wit and moral will. They will later be known as the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West respectively. If you remember what happened near the end of the children’s story Wizard of Oz, this may sound like bad news to you. The unpopular kid had it worst while the popular, social butterfly goes unscathed. This may also sound like good news to you because we all know and want the ‘evil guy’ to lose. We all know that the emerald-skinned witch is evil. Because the book says so. But what we are never told are why and how did she come about being evil. What if she really wasn’t ‘wicked’? What if both the wicked and good witches were bestfriends up to the point when Dorothy clicked her heels and returned magically to Kansas?

Glinda and Elphaba are two personalities thrown together into one cauldron, both having something good and bad to offer to the result. These two polar personalities bubble and sizzle as their lives are stirred together in the heat of circumstance. The air of ‘first impressions” and ‘popularity’ rises, the smell of ‘ego’ and ‘discrimination’ hangs in the air. Elphaba finds her voice and sacrifices the popularity she has learned from Glinda and the acceptance she has gained from her latent talent over to her moral beliefs and values. Glinda still has her feet planted in her comfort bubble, fearing the backlash of her popularity, as she struggles to support her friend who has decided to step out of it. More stirring and the violent bubbling of the concoction eases down as each personality lets the other’s strengths overpower and make up for their weaknesses. Glinda has learned how to use her popularity for good and mustered the courage to speak up for justice and against discrimination. Elphaba has learned how to forgive and accept herself and consequently see both the beauty and imperfections behind the fancy, embellished facades of others. Both witches has become stronger than they were – stronger than the demons that weakened and harassed them. Together, they achieved more than each can achieve alone. It’s the marrying of strengths to weaknesses that gives the concoction its potent effect on others and the society. True friendship is bold, loyal and understanding.

I heard a song and it brought back memories of a show – a show about the triumph of friendship over discrimination and injustice. And this is what the song provoked me to write and share about.