Wednesday, January 16, 2008


TYBS#21 (MAY 2007)
Here’s another short short that got lost in editorial limbo. This case is worse than most because MANUAL, the men’s magazine where this story was supposed to come out in, had already commissioned the illustration and I had already been advised of a possible publication date.

Just goes to show you can never be too sure. It doesn’t come out `til it comes out.

I’ve probably been watching too much of The Sopranos lately but people reneging on their word just makes me want to do an assault on their office with a baseball bat and see how their polished glass tables measure up against my aluminum friend. Then we’ll get a real answer out of these debauched socialites who think journalism means gift bags and envelopes with cash.

In any case this story is an excerpt from the short novel “Faith in Poison.” It’s part of my upcoming second book (a collection of four novellas) News of the Shaman. Coming soon. I hope you watch out for it.

Meanwhile, here’s a middle finger to the glossy that commissioned this piece (the artist adds his own “up yours” as well), jerked us around and never put it out or paid for it. Getting a venue for publication, here in TYBS, is still a means of empowerment and cherished autonomy. Enjoy the story.

* * *
Mutha Load

At times I call up friends that I haven’t seen in a while but have bumped into recently. Rico is one of them. I call and ask him if he’d like to have a beer, catch up, whatever.

“Um, yeah. S’okay.” Rico says with his scratchy voice, “but I got to take a bath first. Why don’t you come over here and hang out so you don’t have to wait?”

Fortunately we both lived just a few blocks from each other but we never knew `til we met each other purely by accident the other day. I didn’t know he still lived at his parents’ old house.

Rico takes baths that stretch up to two hours long depending on his mood. But I say yes since it’s just a trike ride away.

Once there, I’m greeted by the maid who’s about to go home for the weekend. Rico, his frizzy, curly hair standing up in deformed spikes, tells me to wait, make myself comfortable. That everything is pretty much still where it was since elementary. Then he goes off to shower.

I must say that Rico’s house is a veritable three floor mansion and has rooms furnished like a five star hotel. Him and me go way back to primary school. We used to watch a lot of dirty movies in his bedroom and, in high school, smoke pot and cigarettes.

One thing Rico has as well is a gorgeous mother, the real MILF/Stacey’s mom kind. She’s still young, having had Rico and his sister when she was barely out of her teens. I remember she had incredible light brown skin, a handsome face that radiated freshness and the biggest tits off a Filipina I’d ever seen that wasn’t in the movies. Rico’s father was a big shot stock broker who was often on business trips abroad.

One time, we had to use the Playstation (God knows what his parents play, simplified Dance Revolution?) in his parents’ room and I had to sit on this chair where his mother’s bra and shorts had been left hanging.

I somehow found a section of that day’s newspaper to cover my upper body. Then I let Rico engross himself in beating the hell out of the other racers in Jet Moto. This precaution up, I started sniffing the inside of the cups and, I tell you, I had enough fuel for erotic fantasies to last me a decade. The scent left on those D-cups were part honey and part sea spray. Still jack off to it from time to time, the memory losing only the details but none of its essence.

I kept smelling it for the next half hour, pretending to be engrossed with an article about some new hemp that was undetectable to tests. That was until Rico finished the damn game and we had to go down and eat.

That day I cursed Shakey’s delivery for being so fast.

Anyway, I never got the chance to do that again on account that I never really got back into their house. See, they had a big family dispute. Turned out, Rico’s dad was cheating on mom. This was before he died of avian influenza. I remember he looked like some emaciated, undead aswang in his coffin. Horrible.

I suppose I should have said sorry to poor Rico. Fantasizing about my buddy’s mom doesn’t help friendship any. But he doesn’t know it and lack of that knowledge keeps him (and me) from harm.

Well I’m here now. Rico’s still in the shower and mom can’t be anywhere over 40 (or thereabouts – she was in her late twenties when I pulled that stunt). I want to find out if my luck will hold since, with the maid gone, there’s nobody else in the house. My fantasy mom, I’ve been told, is off in Hong Kong shopping her ass off.

I go to where I remember the main bedroom is and find it unlocked. The room’s smaller and more feminine now, more geared to a single person. I spot some clothes on a chair, but there’s only a shirt and jeans.

Unfortunately, the clothes cabinet is locked. I rummage in the drawers and find the old, worn Kama Sutra book his dad kept in the library along with a mother lode of Hustler and Shaved on the bottom of a mahogany desk.

Me and Rico read them in secret whenever we could. What Rico didn’t know was that, when we were leafing through the sex manual, I imagined his mom and me in the myriad contortions detailed therein. I close the drawer and shrug. This wasn’t what I came for.

I open the door to the bathroom and bingo! It’s a black bra hanging on the laundry hook behind the door with a bonus: lacy, translucent undies, almost see-through. Those maybe-I’ll–get-lucky kind you find in any woman’s wardrobe. I grab them both and step back out, tossing both garments onto the bed.

I pick up the bra first and sniff. Still the same old Rico’s mom scent: equal parts sweet honey, salty sea and a faint trace of sweaty musk. I realize I’ve gone to sit on the bed with the panties on my lap. That I’m clutching the bra to my nose. My head is swimming like a cyanide-bonked fish. After I don’t know how long I drop the bra, pick up the undies and inhale deeply.

I am on my knees in an instant, my strength buckling under the strong feminine odor. Riding the sensation I find that Rico’s mom has lost none of her touch on me. What I previously mistook for sweat is stronger here, the musk aggressive, delivering a kick to my synapses, filling my jeans to bursting. Painful and splendid.

There’s a bit of spotty, whitish discharge in the middle, no more than a few centimeters long but quite visible on the material. I lick it. It tastes salty, viscous but languid as it goes down my throat.

I hear the shower turned off and Rico walking back to his room. I take a last sniff and put the bra back on the hook behind the bathroom door. I fold the panties neatly and stuff it in my back pocket. I turn off the lights and gently close the door as my hard-on dwindles.

Illustration by Nelz Yumul aka Dark Bulb (

Monday, January 7, 2008


TYBS # 20 (APRIL 2007)
I picked up a guitar again in 2004, after a hiatus of several years, in an effort to revitalize myself from the trauma of a particularly long relationship -- the break-up of which was no less scathing either.

It was a cheap classical guitar that probably cost no more than Php2, 000 and, in retrospect, I probably should have detected that it wasn’t intonated and that the frets buzzed in places. While my guitar buying skills have since improved, back then I just wanted something with six strings that would play.

At about the same time I enrolled in a basic drum class, having entertained rockstar thoughts of pounding the skins for a long time. I finished the course with my sense of groove improved but my coordination and drumming still dismal. My pathetic attempts at rolls, diddles, paradiddles and syncopation were met with howls of protest from our dogs. Okay, so practice at home was a bummer.

I contended myself with improving my guitar skills and was satisfied to see that I was getting better, bit by bit. I was content learning songs and just singing to myself. I never once thought I’d actually be able to play in a band.

In 2006 I got work at the marketing arm of a major TV network and got to hang out once again with an old friend, multi-awarded writer and all around rogue Iwa Wilwayco. Iwa also played bass for avante-punk band The Brockas. It was he who suggested we form a band. I was going to be the drummer; despite my protests, despite my protestations that my skills were totally basic.

I’d tried it out with another set of friends previously, also as a three-piece, and results were so dreadful that the bassist never wanted to jam with us again. Still, Iwa can be pretty convincing when he wants to so I agreed. We tried it out with the same guitarist and it was still appalling. A few weeks later we tried it out with another guitarist, our officemate Oji.

Here’s the twist: Oji and I arrived early at the practice studio and decided to noodle around while we waited. Then we decided to switch instruments just for fun. He at the drums, me with his guitar. Oji, it turns out, after a few quick runs and blazing hits, was a pretty amazing drummer. So we decided to stay in our positions until Iwa arrived.

That jam felt like we weren’t thinking, or thinking effortlessly. What poured out of us unthinking sounded very much like punk rock. It was undemanding, fierce and immensely enjoyable.

“Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want,” said Kurt Cobain in his Journals. So we decided to be a punk band. Due to our busy schedules we couldn’t do another practice session. But a month later we got our first gig.

Okay, so I still didn’t have my own guitar. No worries, our drummer would lend me his axe. In 2003, at an interview with Radioactive Sago, frontman Lourd De Veyra asked me: ‘Why aren’t you in a band?” I quickly answered: “Because I have real bad stage fright.” Hmmm, hot to deal with my paralysis in front of a crowd at my first live performance? Our bassist squeezed my shoulder. He’d help me through it. He had just the thing, he said. No worries.

I wanted to say, whoa, wait wait, can we slow things down? This hobby is turning out to be more than I bargained for. And I knew that from my bedroom to the stage (albeit a very small and cozy stage) was the distance of light years.

Several days after the show, this is what I wrote in my journal. Forgive the gut-spilling sentimentality:

“I can only remember my first gig, the first time I played live, in fragments. The reflection of cymbals on translucent glass, the concrete sidewalk, the bemused and confused expression on Tanya’s face, the humid air and the texture of drizzle at my shoulders.

“We were at a gallery called Pablo at Cubao’s Marikina Shoe Expo. The event was the opening of a one-man exhibit by our drummer’s friend. His art combined the techno, the erotic and the grotesque. Hours previous to this our bassist had helped soothe my colossal stage fright by giving me a pep talk and infusing me with tons of, ehem, medicinal herbs.

“Afterwards, I was half-stoned and half-agitated, light years better than nervous. We had no singer that night but, at the last moment, Iwa’s bandmate from The Brockas, Earl, showed up to help us with synths, sound design and just general noise.

“I remember feeling an elation -- unexplainable, exhilarating and undeniable -- welling up from somewhere in my gut. I could only ride it. The chemicals and the decision not to let the crowd get to me had an incredibly freeing effect, especially on my playing.

“The Jesus Mafia’s sound was raw, forceful and awkward in places. It was also full of energy and barely contained mayhem with just a hint of pretentious avante-gardeism (thanks to Earl’s earsplitting feedback).

“Though I had strapped on a borrowed guitar, the effects box sounded like a mess of peas rattling inside a tin can and I couldn’t hear myself half the time, I think that first gig was, for me, what Zen disciples called the experience of `a koan unfolding in your mind.’

“I couldn’t believe I was a part of such a product. I could barely believe I was making it. When the last chord sounded and the crowd clapped I understood why the electric church espoused its brand of enlightenment as matchless. Such unrivalled shamanic ecstasy.”

The distance from the bedroom to the stage turned out closer than I thought. I loved the fact that music is now so expansive and vast that even making controlled noise is welcome and even valued as a sign of aural vision. Thank you, Sonic Youth. Thank you, Velvet Underground.

I am thankful that despite the drama and the personality skirmishes that seem to come with the territory, the musical scene appears to be a generally congenial and friendly one (not the industry, though).

What was once just a means to therapy for me has led to my overcoming stage fright, learning to function in a musical unit, enjoyed trying to make songs, converging with bandmates at shared musical influences and generally just gaining a whole new field of creative space. Music is an immediate medium, writing, on the other hand, flourishes in the aftermath of comprehension.

I have since learned to use an electric guitar and a few pedals to boot. I now play in two bands, the punk band Jesus Mafia and the metaltronica band Tabloid Lite. I have no expectation, hopes or ambitions with my music or these bands except that we get to play together whether live or in a studio. Though I would prefer to play live when possible – it’s just more exhilarating, as if every gig is a minor crisis situation you must learn to thrive in.

As I write this my new electric guitar (a black PRS Tremonti SE) is about five days old. I have named her Loviatar. I have since put up my old electric guitar (a fire red RJ imitation of an SG `61 Reissue) for sale. Her name was Siva.

Tomorrow Tabloid Lite will have its second band practice. I would like to see how Loviatar fares with an actual stack of amps. I would love to see what kind of music we produce. Here’s to the sound and fury. Here’s to thrills of the electric church.


TYBS #19 (APRIL 2007)
Here’s another minimalist that never saw the light of day. Probably because some short short anthologies only wanted a popular monster in their genre rosters, and horror was the least of these that they could abide.

The monster in this story, however, is prominent enough in Bicolano and Bisaya lower mythology. Some say the madres and padres are a kind of restless ghost, so transfigured by rage and violent death that their limbs become long and their faces grotesque. While some say they are products of horrid pacts with demons. That becoming a mockery of undeath is the price the hosts of Hell enact when the frail mortal sorcerer, having run out of possessions both material and bodily, bets the last chip in his stack and loses (i.e. his soul).

A month back my Managing Editor (who hails from Bicol) was telling me about an encounter she had as a child with an uncannily tall and long gentleman wearing a huge buri hat with a jerky, almost shuddering way of moving, as if his body was being pulled by strings. He had a rictus face, as if he had eaten something sour, and this expression never changed. The tall man didn’t do anything except turn around, walk into the forest and disappear to a filmic fade before he could reach the tree line. Sounds like a phantasma to me.

Whatever the phantasmas are – whether madre (female) or padre (male) – your best bet when meeting one is to hide or run like hell. I hope you enjoy the story.

* * *
The Phantasma

She was tall, androgynous and the ceramic Saint Francis I carried was inverted in her cat-slit eyes. I could see her clearly, towering over the crowd, amid the press lining our plaza that Good Friday. The tight collar of her dress framed her swan neck, was draped across her collarbone.

She could have easily been one of those emaciated, bag of bones people so frequently shown in the fourth world documentaries that even her clothes could not hide it. With virulent strains of avian influenza making the rounds her fevered visage, pursed lips and the swaying, bobbing motion of her head like silent coughs mimicked the afflicted.

Only once before had I seen one of the madres. That night I had played hooky with a girl I was courting and a few more minutes of gratification had overcome the fear of a beating, the terror of the shadowed trails. I ran home with the sky running duskward far too quickly.

A few more steps around a corner and I would have run into her. I pressed my back against a wall and risked a glance round the bend.

Her gait was half-stumbling and half-dainty, her hair undisturbed by the breeze. Her hands clutched at the air like brushing away cobwebs. She wore a wistful, far-away look and the distress in her mouth made me want to ask her what was wrong. Through the translucence of her diaphanous, white dress her nipples were embossed like pencil erasers. There was only the scruff of her feet against loose stones. She made no other sound.

They haunted the streets and small roads leading to interior villages when they’re deserted, the windows boarded and the garlic bulbs hanging above the crosses chalked on doorways. Father had warned me not to block their way if I chanced them like this, on one of their walks.

“You must not meet the phantasma, be it madre or padre, or try to pass it by,” my father had advised, screaming into my ear. “Stay on the roadside, boy! Stay out of its sight and it will do you no harm!” He whacked me once on the shin with his cane so the lesson would sink in.

So I scampered behind a balete, crouching, trying not to piss as she shambled by. Just inches away, her head brushed the low branches as she strode forward on impossibly long limbs. When she vanished before turning the next corner I dropped my knuckles from my mouth and wiped my tears on my sleeve. Thank you for the caning, father.

Yet now there was no other option but to pass her by as the procession advanced. I could not shake her gaze. In those green, reptilian eyes I was the bearer of an inverted icon in an equally distorted parade.

In that distortion, the statue’s bald head tucked under my chin, I looked like a page torn off some tantric manual. The suffering Christ beside me was also upside down mirroring a warped orgy with the four girls who guided the miniature carroza. Their figures cavorted as they strained on the upward slope.

She did not step into my path. She did not reach out to drag me into one of the empty alleys. Instead she blinked. And blinking, her eyes went back to a dull sienna as if some nictating membrane had merely disguised the human within her.

With the unblinking stare broken the rush of the crowd came back to me and with it the shouts, the claps and the brass as the band started playing the backdrop for the Golgotha’s reenactment.

Over my shoulder I saw her put on a pair of sunglasses then walk away into a narrow street.
* Photo by Chad Michael Ward (


TYBS#17 and 18 (MARCH 2007)
The artist known as Dark Bulb is a visionary. He’s also one sick SOB. Trust me. When you see his work you’ll see shades of Dave McKean (The Sandman, Cages), Chad Michael Ward (The Pain Box, various CD covers) and Ashley Wood (Metal Gear Solid) plus an unrivaled infusion of what he calls the techno-erotic.

On art that is half-drawn and half-manipulated by the PC, beautiful women cavort with massive robots, skull-headed fairies sit in thinker poses and meditate on eternity, vampires, mecha and cyborgs frolic in the same playground of pop culture and imagined world that Dark Bulb has created. It’s like Philip K. Dick meets Heavy Metal at an AVN porn shoot.

Sometimes whimsical, often morbid and always sexual, techno-erotic is no doubt an apt term. You can tell I like this kind of art. Maybe that’s why I’ve bought four of his pieces, two of them commissioned. That’s my initiation into buying art.

Dark Bulb is the artistic moniker of Nelz Yumul. An art director at a major TV network who’s been making a name for himself with the kind of images that strikes you like a match in a dark room, or the kind of revelation Neo had upon finding out he was inside the Matrix. Laid-back, phlegmatic and cacklingly jovial, Nelz recently opened a solo exhibit at the newly opened F*Art Gallery.

Titled Twilight Concoctions and Other Delights Nelz says that “Half of the work here is new. The new stuff is playful and exultant. This is thematically dreamy, not just dark.”

Influenced heavily by music, movies and comics (“I like the indie presses more than the mainstream comics like Superman and Batman,” says Nelz. “I like Kitchen Sink, Vertigo, Onie Press. Also world manga and the works of Paul Pope.”) the works on this exhibit run the span from mildly fantastic to unsettlingly disturbing.

“I’m not very detail oriented,” exclaims Nelz, adding that he uses a combination of Photoshop, traditional drawing and Painter to give his stuff texture and life. “I’m more on the overall effect getting across. If the work conveys my message accurately enough then I stop.”

He points to a painting where swans and stars frame little children wearing headphones; his paean to the pleasures of listening to music. “Like if I want this to convey music as being dreamy and listening to it like a heavenly activity then I think about it for a day and then work on it the next day when the image comes in. I work very fast. I can do an average of five paintings per day.”

With such a severe work ethic it’s a wonder he can even shoot the nubile girls he has on his art. Then I find out that most of them are taken from the Net. “Most of the girls I use are from the Net and they’re usually 70s and 50s models. I like the idea of the old girls being natural and glamorous. No alterations, nothing fake. I find them very pretty.”

The problem of poses and getting figures accurately though is solved by using the most readily available model around: himself. “I’m the cheapest model, too. I just take pictures of myself and then manipulate them. Though I would very much like to get something going with nude models if there are women out there who’d be interested to pose?”

To be immortalized in a world of metal and flesh is a great cause. Any women out there willing to shed their clothes and be lit by the Dark Bulb? Just look at the pictures here and send me a letter if you’re interested ( I’ll get in touch with Nelz for you. Also check out Nelz’s art on-line:

Twilight Concoctions runs `til the middle of April 2007. The F*Art Gallery is located at K-1 cor K-D streets Kamuning Road, QC. And is open from Mondays to Saturdays.