What I’ve Learned
I’VE BEEN IN PUBLISHING FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS. I got in The Philippine Star in 1996. I was 20, if I’m not mistaken. I think they hired me because of my name, but good thing I had talent. Not everyone did ( laughs) .
I WAS ALWAYS RESTLESS and I never wanted to put myself in a box. I tried all kinds of journalism. When I read Nick Joaquin’s dictum that [goes], “There are no bakya topics, only bakya writers,” I took that to heart.
THE GREATEST LESSON I LEARNED FROM MY FATHER, was that if you’re born with a name, you have to make something out of it. My dad did that. He was living under the name of Carlos P. Romulo. But he fought hard to add value to that name rather than just rely on it. Unlike a lot of people I know and I grew up with, who just did everything on borrowed will. It’s such a waste. If you have this name to go by and it opens doors, better make sure that you can stay in long after the name is gone, long after the door has been closed. It doesn’t stay open forever.
ALEXIS TIOSECO TAUGHT ME HOW TO BE GRATEFUL. He had such a pure love for cinema and he asked for nothing in return. But he demanded a lot from everyone. He demanded a lot because he gave a lot, but he was always grateful for whatever he got. He always said there was much to repay. All the time, he kept on saying that and he put it in an essay that we did together. He taught me to be grateful, that we can experience these things, that we can look at these things, that we can enjoy them, and [that] we’re living in a time we’re living in now.
I WAS A VICTIM OF NOSTALGIA. I always thought that it was a better time. Ever since I was young, I read a lot of the classics and everything. Then Alexis made me grateful to be alive in the present. His death taught me a lot of things. That you can’t choose your end so you better make the most of whatever you’ve got until it’s gone.
I WORKED IN THE FREE PRESS. I joined it on its 100th year. But at the time I joined the Free Press, it was really on its last legs. So there was not much to do but read the archives. So I read almost every issue the Free Press had in its archives. Oh my god, what a history lesson. And writing lesson. It’s the same headlines, even same names, recurring all throughout Philippine history and Philippine politics.
MY DEFINITION OF SUCCESS, for Esquire in particular, isn’t everyone’s great success. Everyone would point to the usual like the Eraserheads issue, which I thought was a success, but I thought it was more successful to put Erwin Castillo on the cover the next month, because I thought, this was something no one else would do. And we did it brilliantly. And we didn’t sacrifice our principles or what we thought our readers should read. So that was a great success to me.
IF YOU PUT A CELEBRITY ON THE COVER BUT YOU SAY NOTHING, THAT’S THE BIGGEST FAILURE OF THEM ALL. ‘Cause if you have a chance to work with a celebrity, you can’t just rely on them, you have to say something more profound or something other than just mere “look at me, I’m a celebrity,” if you can get people or even the celebrity to engage more, then that’s better. There always has to be a turn of the screw.
I LIKE SUBVERSION. Irony is my best friend. Although a lot of people have told me Filipinos don’t get irony, they only get slapstick. But still why would I have to dumb myself down? Or [condescend] my readers if I know that a significant number of them get it? Criticism is better than no reaction at all. We’re meant to provoke.
THIS INDUSTRY AND ALMOST EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY IS BUILT ON COMPROMISE. You can compromise a little bit or a lot but the thing is, if you compromise too much and it still fails, that’s a double failure. And that’s what you want to kill yourself for. But if you risk something and it still failed in the eyes of many people, but you knew what you did was right and good, then I’m perfectly okay with that. My fear is not living up to the standard that I set for myself, which is always pushing [boundaries].
I HATE BAD WRITING. I’ve been at this for a long time and I’ve put so much into it and then somebody just gives you a piece of shit. You say, “What’s wrong? Do I look like a toilet to you?” Sometimes the language just doesn’t sit well. Sometimes it’s so obscene to me for you to submit substandard work. Somebody once said, “Writing is easy. You just stare at the page un- til your forehead bleeds.” So if you do anything less than that, it’s not good for me.
SOME PEOPLE THINK I’M TOO INTENSE. WHY SHOULDN’T I BE? We’re doing magazines, we’re doing publishing. We’re so lucky. We’re doing things we love. Why shouldn’t you be intense about it? And who said being intense can’t be fun?
I CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND WOMEN. I [don’t even know] how to start with them. Every one of them is really a mystery to me, to be honest. That’s why I’m so fascinated by women. That’s why I want to hear them talk and just let them talk. I can’t [follow] how they think. I really don’t.
MEN ARE BORING. MEN ARE THE SAME THE WORLD OVER. They’re driven by the same things. Women seem to have a unique sense of needs. I wouldn’t be an expert at women at all. I wouldn’t know what to tell them, that’s why I only listen.
I DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOVE AND SEX. I’ve fallen in love with a lot of inanimate objects or concepts and ideas. But people, not many times..
I REALIZED I LIKED THE STRUCTURE OF RELIGION. I liked the rituals. I liked doing the things that were required of me to show my devotion. I liked the discipline of it. That’s why I wouldn’t subscribe it to anyone else because it’s a peculiar kind of faith. I really like going to church, I like hearing the songs, I like going to confession, I like the ceremony of it. But whether or not I believed in all of this or God is something else.
WHO DO I PRAY TO? SAINT JUDE, THE PATRON SAINT OF LOST CAUSES. Early on, in the ‘90s, it was just so appealing, the title. I’m going to go for the guy who really caters to people who are hopeless and who have hopeless causes.
I BELIEVE IN ENTROPY MORE THAN HOPE. It’s more interesting to me.
NO, I’M NOT GOOD AT GOODBYES. That’s why I never say it. I just disappear.