IN the pre-information technology age, all it took to read anyone like a book was certain tools like phrenology or a reading of the physique’s tell-tale signs, after Shakespeare, “Our bodies are our gardens… our wills are gardeners.” (There are a lot of inept gardeners who can’t even tend bars or beer gardens.) And sri lanka, the richness of character is evidenced by its form, gait, and movement— aah, “the quality of life is determined by the quality of movement.”
To read another’s mind, get that bloke’s speech/writing pattern down pat—the barrage of verbiage or economy of words points to the mind-set, the psychological make-up. We use words, words use us. We define with words; words define us.
It has become hip in cyberspace to come up with a list of 25 facts, factoids, and whatever you fancy jotting down about yourself… the list-up is plunked pat on one’s Facebook, Desktop Dating or Friendster account… para may maunawaan ang mga kaibigan hinggil sa ‘yo. ‘Hirap din talaga makipagsosyalan, pero pagbigyan natin pati mga masugid at masungit na tagasubaybay sa tudling na ito:
1. Learned ABC, the first few English phrases, and read the primer “Pepe and Pilar” at age 3. Tutored by Nanay—that was in 1957 when a transistor radio passed for household entertainment.
2. Sang to himself in the early boyhood years but the adults got wind of such, turned him into a jukebox of sorts, no dime needed to put into— threats of a spanking did it. The erstwhile choirboy would rather not sing under duress to this day.
3. Fell in love at age 3 with Mimosa pudica—the lowly makahiya—for its sunburst of pink pistils and thorny stems that defied the graze of goats. Learned later that its infusion can staunch post-partum blood-flow… the plant certainly lives up to its name, mahiyaing puday.
4. Fell in love anew at 4 with Eichornia crassipes—the water hyacinth—for the peacock tail array of its blooms-- so many Argus eyes looking back at me. (Hopefully in adoration.)Then it turned out the runaway plant that clogs waterways had roots that took out the noxious odors and toxins in water.
5. Collects seeds and rootstock of plants he chances upon roadsides and mountain trails—nope, he’s not out to do a bit of Shunamitism on ‘em the way der Fuhrer Adolph Hitler’s minions did… uh, seeds can pack fiery life force in themselves.
6. Sleeps on his prayer rug whenever his panganay na apo is at home; two or three cats sleep with him, usually curling up about his tummy… they’re probably keeping themselves warm, uh, does he have bonfires of vanities and verities in his belly?
7. Loves to cook slow food—the sort that entails a layering of flavors and melding of savory notes. Learned such cookery from Lola and Nanay.
8. Does a pray-over, blessing, mantra, katha, sulat, oracion on whatever he cooks to render ‘em kosher. Dr. Masaru Emoto figured that intention can transform the molecular structure of fluids into wonderful patterns, did he not?
9. Whips up one-of-kind “Balbacoa a la Dong,” bovine trotters in a rich cocktail of pureed liver, black salted beans, camote chips, and a bevy of spices—that don’t hurt those with gout or arthritis. And his “Kimchi a la Dong” is dulcetly incendiary.
10. Learned the rudiments of brujeria from a mangkukulam-turned-born-again-Christian in the 1980s. Mangkokolum na, Kulamnista pa ngayon.
11. Learned shorin-ryu karatedo and kobudo weaponry atop a sawdust dump in the 1960s; earned kuro-obi rank at age 10. That’s gaining more ABC—agility, balance, coordination.
12. Still does aubade or a daily salutation to the sun as if he’s into Shinto.
13. Misses the Angelus of halcyon days—so he makes do with the rites of vespers hour before a TV set, doing a Sufi scholar’s chant… “Allahuma kaffi…..” (And that’s just the beginning.)
14. Turned into an unabashed doting gramps at age 54, 30 years after he became a father.
15. Bitten by dogs for countless times in his childhood years—but remains a rabid company of the canine kind… they’ve got what it takes to carry a decent tune.
16. Still does cartwheels, sanchin kata and headstands… and what passes for the six healing sounds of qi gong like a gleeful imp… despite his age.
17. Is a huge fan of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen, Eraserheads, and Billy Joel… plus Philip Kindred Dick, Howard Philips Lovecraft, Walter Lippman, Harlan Ellison, and Ray Bradbury. They do poetry, don’t they?
18. Adores Bach, Hydn, Beethoven, Beatles, Vivaldi, Van Halen, and Wagner. They’re into heavy metal that’s gone way, way off the table of elements, are they not?
19. Still makes the rounds of wet markets, sniffing for rare finds, say, ulang (crayfish) or ayungin (silver perch)…
20. Watches “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Cats,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” again and again and again… Breathless over a “Sweeney Todd” vignette with the protagonist howling, “My arm is complete…” the hand’s extension a flat razor blade with chased silver handle.
21. Was then squeamish and unreasonably afraid of the talahib and cane sugar grass blade… now packs three butterfly knives (baling sungay) like needful articles of underclothing… just in case.
22. His ring finger is longer than his middle finger… augury pointing up sangfroid… reptilian cold bloodedness under pressure… supposedly a lycanthrope’s tell-tale physical trait.
23. Stern consentedor of a father… kasabwat ng mga anak sa kabalbalan.
24. Has a monitor lizard’s keepsake scar on the first phalanx of his middle finger, left hand… been bitten there, biter was cooked into delicious adobo allowing me to bite back. Nemo me impune lacessit.
25. Usually writes with legs tucked in a lotus pose as if still curled in a foxhole, uh, didn’t Voltaire say, “To write is to be at war?”