Friday, November 23, 2012


A fascinating adventure of one seemingly-courageous-but-totally-freaked-out-geek in search of a beautiful, attractive, but totally freaked out teen rebel he’s absolutely in love with. A captivating, intricately planned road trip complete with a lot of weighty baggage and quirky, clever characters—this is what John Green’s Paper Towns is, his third young adult fiction novel after Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines.

Paper Towns follows the story of Quentin Jacobsen, also known as Q, and his quest to find his runaway ideal girl, Margo Roth Spiegelman, the archetypical attractive high school queen bee at Winter Park High School in Jefferson Park, Orlando, Florida. Margo, who’s had enough of the fake attitude of her friends and the controlling demeanor of her parents, decides to leave Orlando, aptly referred by her as a paper town.

“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town.” – Margo (p. 80)

On the night before her departure, Margo takes Quentin in a joyride around Orlando, soliciting his help in exacting revenge against all the people who pretended to be her friend all that time. But more than a sinister payback scheme, the joyride proved to be the start of a long and arduous baptism of fire for Quentin, hatched by the courageous and scheming Margo.

When Margo disappears the following day, Quentin is baffled and goes on a fanatical search for her. Examining the different clues she left behind, Q tries to dig deeper into the Margo that he knew, but as he dug deeper, the more he realizes he doesn’t know Margo at all. That the real Margo is very far from the Margo he knew—smart, but reserved, damaged, and has a thing for escapism. He also learns more about himself than Margo as he progresses through the adventure: that he was capable of things he thought he can’t do before. This is where this charming young adult fiction turns into a heart-warming, thoughtful coming-of-age story.

Helped by clever and funny friends Ben, Radar, and Lacey, they analyze each clue for hints regarding Margo’s whereabouts. The whole process is excruciating, filled with a multitude of setbacks, misread clues, and out-of-nowhere disappointments. It was only when they go back to the very definition of “paper towns” that they realize what Margo was referring to and where she was—in the real paper town of Agloe, New York, a fictional town added to US maps to prevent copyright infringement. In the midst of this new found information, they hastily head out on a road trip across the East Coast to reach Margo before it was too late.

Paper Towns is the first John Green book that I’ve read. Before that, I became fascinated by John Green only through his YouTube vlog Crash Course: History. It was only when my blogger friend Clarisse E. mentioned The Fault in Our Stars that I realized that the John Green she was referring to was the same John Green I was watching and realized that he was an author too. Hence, I embarked on a journey to discover all things John Green.

John Green writes in an honest (sometimes too honest) and thoughtful voice through Quentin Jacobsen. You see an overanalyzing teen geek mushing over the sudden disappearance of his ultimate crush when Q talks. The right mix of sentimentality and comedy is what made the prose charming and attractive indeed. And while the book is dominated by geeky characters, Green did a good job of differentiating each one of them: the goofy and sometimes out-of-the-blue action star Ben Starling, and the ever-techie-help-a-friend-in-a-drop-of-a-hat Radar.

I read Paper Towns at a time when I was devastated by the sudden disappearance of someone I dearly loved, and somehow it helped me go through the process of moving on. How after two and a half years of being with her and thinking I knew her too well, I didn't know the real her after all. Or that I might have known the real her but time and distance had changed her too well that what I knew of her turned out to be false already. 

“When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.” – Q, (p. 361)

In Quentin’s search, we are reminded of the challenges all of us go through in our own enigmatic road trips in life, and the bravery, cleverness, and audacity we have to muster in order to get to our destination and bask in the glory of having reached it. It also reminds us that ideals such as being there for our friends, getting to know ourselves and others better, and not giving up on people valuable to us, are still ideas worth their weight in gold.

In the end, Paper Towns is one book that I definitely loved reading and would like to recommend to teens and adults alike (but most importantly, to teens), whether geek or not. And when you finish reading, read it again. Every turn of the page is worth it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Plato: For the greater good.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration,
as a chicken which has the daring and courage to
boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom
among them has the strength to contend with such a
paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the
princely chicken's dominion maintained.

Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its

Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered
within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and
each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial
intent can never be discerned, because structuralism

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Timothy Leary: Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment
would let it take.

Douglas Adams: Forty-two.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road
gazes also across you.

Oliver North: National Security was at stake.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its
sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a
fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while
believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt
necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at
this historical juncture, and therefore
synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself,
the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the
objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came
into being which caused the actualization of this
potential occurrence.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed
the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing
events to grace the annals of history. An historic,
unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt
such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to
homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.

Salvador Dali: The Fish.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from
the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Epicurus: For fun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Johann von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken
was on, but it was moving very fast.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Jack Nicholson: 'Cause it (censored) wanted to. That's the (censored)

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Ronald Reagan: I forget.

John Sununu: The Air Force was only too happy to provide the
transportation, so quite understandably the chicken
availed himself of the opportunity.

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Mr. T: If you saw me coming you'd cross the road too!

Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow
out of life.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Molly Yard: It was a hen!

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Chaucer: So priketh hem nature in hir corages.

Wordsworth: To wander lonely as a cloud.

The Godfather: I didn't want its mother to see it like that.

Keats: Philosophy will clip a chicken's wings.

Blake: To see heaven in a wild fowl.

Othello: Jealousy.

Dr Johnson: Sir, had you known the Chicken for as long as I have,
you would not so readily enquire, but feel rather the
Need to resist such a public Display of your own
lamentable and incorrigible Ignorance.

Mrs Thatcher: This chicken's not for turning.

Supreme Soviet: There has never been a chicken in this photograph.

Oscar Wilde: Why, indeed? One's social engagements whilst in
town ought never expose one to such barbarous
inconvenience - although, perhaps, if one must cross a
road, one may do far worse than to cross it as the
chicken in question.

Kafka: Hardly the most urgent enquiry to make of a low-grade
insurance clerk who woke up that morning as a hen.

Swift: It is, of course, inevitable that such a loathsome,
filth-ridden and degraded creature as Man should assume
to question the actions of one in all respects his

Macbeth: To have turned back were as tedious as to go o'er.

Whitehead: Clearly, having fallen victim to the fallacy of
misplaced concreteness.

Freud: An die andere Seite zu kommen. (Much laughter)

Hamlet: That is not the question.

Donne: It crosseth for thee.

Pope: It was mimicking my Lord Hervey.

Constable: To get a better view.

How about you, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It’s that time of the year again.

Like people awakening from cryostasis, Christmas trees are brought out from old boxes covered in dust along with their matching trinkets, balls, and accessories—cleaned and polished to be set up just in time for the Holiday Season.

This is what I did throughout my long weekend beginning Friday. But unlike many of you who have old Christmas trees, we opted to give away our old one to a relative, and instead, bough a new, 7-foot tree from Divisoria. Being the only guy in the family, I was tasked to take charge of designing the tree with the help of my sister. Last year’s theme was gold; Hence, we decided that silver will be this year’s motif.

I was in for a surprise lesson in life with this weekend task.

Out of leftover silver ribbons from last year, I made bows to fill up what looked like a barren tree. Bows were never hard to make since I’ve always had a thing for arts and crafts—it was like tying shoelaces. But the perfectionist in me would always find something wrong with a thing as tiny as a bow. After cutting the ribbons into identical lengths, I tied them to knots one-by-one; and each time, the other half of the bow is either shorter or longer than the other one. I had to untie some of them before knotting them again to the proportion I desired. Some bows had to be cut on the edges in order for the length to be the same. All in all, I came up with 19 bows out of 3 yards of ribbon which I attached to the tree using a handy glue gun.

Wondering where the life lesson in this anecdote is? Some of you might have already figured it out.

I would like to believe God has made ribbons out of us. He chooses which ribbons he will tie into a bow and hang on the Christmas Tree of Lifetwo people for each bow. Sometimes, the way we are knot with another person into a bow isn’t as proportion as God hoped it to be, either one side is longer or shorter than the other. Hence, He will untie the knot and loop it once more, repeating the process if needed to get His desired bow. If He has to clip a few inches from our ribbons just to produce a perfect bow, He’ll do so.  The perfect bow hangs on the Christmas Tree of Life, where opportunity, happiness, and contentment grow.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Hence, He knows very well that change is the only thing that is permanent in this world. And just like any season, Christmas ends too. He will have to bring down the Christmas Tree of Life and untie the bows He had decorated the tree with. Not that they don’t deserve opportunity, happiness, and contentment, but rather to give chance for other bows to be tied and hanged on the tree next season. He could do the same motif again if He so desires, He may not. We will not know for sure.

I know some of you can relate to this as it reminds us of those moments when we felt we were part of a “perfect bow” with someone really special. I’ve felt these moments before, ever so more recently. But sometimes, God throws a caveat by untying the bow we have with these people and/or by trimming our ribbons. Don’t be discouraged by these caveats, as God never lets any of His ribbons go to waste and wants all of them to hang on His Christmas Tree of Life. He ties these ribbons again at a different time until He gets the “perfect bow” He and all of us desire.

God is the ultimate quiz master, much like Alex Trebek in Jeopardy. Sometimes, I cannot tell the difference between God and Trebek. While God won’t definitely chase a robber wearing only His underpants, Jeopardy-wise, He and the host are the same. Like an episode of this ubiquitous quiz show, He let’s us pick a category where our “questions” will come from and which “value” of question we want to answer. He then lets us place a wager of how much we are willing to endure and sacrifice in order to stay in the game. Sometimes, we win. Sometimes, we lose. But the great thing about God being our quiz master is that we can always take the test again. He won’t judge us no matter how much we fail in His quiz; He will always find a way for us to win on our own.

This is how I experience God in my day-to-day existence. I cannot label it Christian, Catholic, or otherwise; I would like to define Him in my own terms, much like most people today. Hence, I won’t question anyone’s religious beliefs, let alone, impose my own. If your experience of God brings out the beauty inside of you and helps you reach the maturity and nuance you desire, then more likely, your experience of God is right and true.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Photo from
We watched the campaign and followed their tweets. Their pick up lines and epic memes filled our timelines and feeds. And throughout today, we held our breaths with fingers crossed, until Barack Obama won and Mitt Romney lost.

But this was not the United States of America. This was in the Republic of the Philippines.

It’s undeniable how much this election has affected the Filipino nation more than the Americans themselves. After all, we’ve got 4 million of our own kind in the Land of the Free and growing, steadily making their mark in American history and culture. Such is our significance in the US that we even saw some Filipino-Americans vie for public office or the Tagalog signage in some polling places. Here at home, given the almost 50 years of American presence, this US election simply reminds us of our brief and distant interloping with American politics and heritage, the same way we are reminded by our fascination for all things stateside. Most of us grew up learning more about DC or Marvel comic book heroes than our own local patriots. Who doesn’t get an iPhone or iPad from relative/benefactor in NY or LA? Even I get to receive a balikbayan box from Sacramento at least once a year filled with all the bits and pieces of the American dream. Call it colonial mentality or whatever you want but you cannot deny the special relationship Filipinos have with America. Hence, it is only normal that we feel mesmerized, even captivated by each twist and turn in this election.

But there is more to scratch in the surface of our jubilation. There is more at stake here, especially for the millions employed in call centers and other business process outsourcing companies. For customer service representatives, copywriters, graphic artists, and other workers relying on subcontracted work from the US, this could spell disaster as four more years for Obama could mean a waning of job opportunities this sector has relied so much on. For thousands of Filipino TNTs (illegal immigrants), this means having to dig deeper foxholes to avoid tighter immigration policies knowing that Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than his predecessor. It does shed some light though on the future of immigrant children born in the US, as the re-elected president promised the passage of the DREAM ACT giving amnesty and opportunities to alien minors.

Notwithstanding our expectations, we were also awed by the American practice of democracy and became green with envy at how orderly and mature their elections were. Not that the candidates are actually mature with all the berating and mudslinging, but at least (unlike here) they stuck to policy issues and not on candidates’ psychological records or the authenticity of their humble backgrounds. It’s like standing side-by-side and seeing the parallels between them and ourselves. Nobody gets a bullet in his head for defying the political status quo; no one is sourgraping when the final results are shown on tivo. We are all dreamers today, outside looking in, wondering at why we can’t make the same system work without so much of a glitch. We were all students, taking notes of lessons to apply on our own.

At the end of the day, we all went home thinking once again that America is the greatest nation on Earth and we are just a bunch of islands in the Pacific. But deep within our psyche lies a determination to define what this nation is: that we are more than just the sum of our colors or land masses. That we are the Republic of the Philippines. And there is no better way to determine that than by consecrating ourselves to our sacred duty of voting judicious candidates in our upcoming elections.
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