to make you less than you are, as if by merely seeing a thing some part of yourself will be taken away from you. Often, you will feel it will be dangerous to look, and there is a tendency to avert your eyes, or even to shut them. Because of that, it is easy to get confused, to be unsure that you are really seeing that thing you think you are looking at.
You see how complicated it is. It is not enough simply to look and say to yourself, “I am looking at that thing.” For it is one thing to do this when the object before your eyes is a pencil, say, or a crust of bread. But what happens when you find yourself looking at a dead child, at a little girl lying in the street without any clothes on, her head crushed and covered in blood? What do you say to yourself then? It is not a simple matter, you see, to state flatly and without equivocation: “I am looking at a dead child.” Your mind seems to balk at forming the words, you simply cannot bring yourself to do it.
For the thing before your eyes is not something you can very easily separate from yourself. That is what I mean by being wounded: you cannot merely see, for each thing somehow belongs to you, is part of the story unfolding inside you.
– Paul Auster, In the Country of Last Things
“This is not just an elevator; it is a metaphor for life. Everyday people ride the elevator to move between levels of a building. But elevators are designed with the status of the people intended to use the elevator in mind. The extremes range from extravagant parlor-like compartments for the rich, to shabby almost forgotten platforms for the poor. With this installation, it is the intent of the artist to draw out the black and whites.
Society has placed a border around the so-called separation between the have and the have not. It is our duty as a people to question this imposed rule of thumb; to ask ourselves is it right for us to accept this permeable doctrine as truth. We are expected to not notice, to let it slide, after all it is only a ride in an elevator.”
I remember an article written in defense of plastic surgery where a woman defends her implants by saying “They’re just breasts! It’s not like I’m having surgery on my soul!”
This hits a sensitive spot, considering the largest billboards where I live are dedicated to the glories of larger breasts, aquiline noses, porcelain skin, and high fashion. A billboard–especially one on Edsa–is a very public space. Unlike a magazine ad or a TV ad, it can’t choose its spectators, especially in a city that depends on millions of everyday, necessary journeys from end to end. I hate looking at the ridiculous amounts of space devoted to the Belo group, I hate looking at larger than life images of Celine Lopez and thinking that this is the backdrop for Metro Manila, that this in some aspect creates a context for where I live.
It’s too simple to say something is terribly wrong just by looking at things on a semiotic level. It’s one thing to say we’re fucked just because dichotomies exist between what’s on the ground and what looms overhead, and quite another to do something about it. But I can’t help but bring this back to thinking about how space has been utilized in this city because it’s the clearest example of how little we know about where we want to go. Some cities shoot straight up, eliminating their pasts with a wrecking ball while others fan out and brood over their history until they rot. The Manila skyline dips and rockets and plateaus yet never wholly reshapes itself.
So what does this have to do with elevators? Elevators are only really useful in tall buildings. We have lots of those but last year, after visiting my tita in one of them I thought it would be fun to use the stairs and trek down from the 14th floor all the way to the basement. When we got to the parking lot, the guard stopped us because he thought we had stolen something. Maybe I’m assuming too much, but it just goes to show who elevators are really meant for.
(Untitled  Ralph Eugene Meatyard)
I’d like to be painfully obsessed with something, to have something that I could compare with breathing (besides breathing itself).
I’m no Buddhist. I’d want my heart to break if certain things are taken away from me, material or otherwise. Really break. It changes the way you see things, the way you live life, the ease or unease that bears itself upon you each day. I’d like something purposeful to invest in. I used to think it was dance, then it became music, then photography; then i realized it was nothing, really. And that’s what broke my heart. All these things in which I find so much purpose are so fleeting, their value so arbitrary and forgettable. I didn’t like the idea of being anal-retentive and undisciplined with a short attention span.
But that’s why we record things, because they’re bound to leave us at some point. My dad had a thick photo album specially made for him by his parents when he was in college. It was bound in blue leather and had his name embossed on the cover. When my dad would see me leafing through it, he’d make sure to tell me flat out that what I was looking at weren’t photos or report cards or certificates, it was all (in his words) “Your Papa’s bullshit,” which is a pretty nasty thing to say to a 7-year-old, it’s not right to encourage unhealthy levels of cynicism for small, naive and impressionable people.
It took a while before I realized how wonderful it was that someone else thought my dad’s records were worth preserving, that it was worth it to dignify his memories with bound leather and layers of parchment, before it all turned into “bullshit”.
The Hungarian word for “photograph” directly translates into “to make it last forever,” a verb.
So I guess if I were Hungarian, I could say I’m taking a photograph, and in the same breath say I’m adding substance to memory, or simply, remembering.
i have 5 minutes to get this down before i head off to math class. math 11 take 2. lovely.
i had an interesting conversation with my favorite kamuning-fairview route jeepney driver. the same driver who offered to drop me off right in front of my gate when i fell asleep on my way home and was the only passenger left. \
after the prerequisite “kamusta ka na? musta valentine’s mo?” he asks me
jeepney driver man: anong year ka na ba? 3rd year college?
me: first year po
jdm: laki mong babae ah!
me: sa ateneo po maliit lang ako, anlalaki ng mga tao dun eh. *grrr*
jdm: girlfriend ko dati ang tangkad, 5’7…ganito lang kami
*he holds up his pinky and his ring finger*
jdm: grabe naka 11 years na di ko pa siya nakakalimutan.
me: sino ba yung nakipagbreak (usi na kung usi)
me: di na kayo nagkita ulit?
jdm: pumunta siya ng maynila. second year college pa lang ako nun, sa probinsya, ayun. muntikan na akong magpakamatay. nawalan ako ng gana para mag-aral. pero nakaraos din, ayun, 11 years na.
me: siya po ba yung pinunta nyo dito?
jdm: oo. 11 years nang paikot-ikot sa rota na ito, di ko pa rin mahanap. siguro may asawa na at anak. siguro di niya ako makikilala kapag nakita niya ako. 11 years na eh.
me: baka nag-iba siya ng anyo.