It’s the month of February, also called the love month. It is only now that I realize that since my mother gave birth to me in November, then that means–and I am certain about it–that I was conceived in February. After this realization, I began to look at the month of February in a meaningful, funny, and a special way now. =)
Not many people know this–even my sister who only found out about this just recently–that I am a fan of the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion love team. They’re still considered to be the most unforgettable love team in Philippine cinema. And for me, they’re still the most lovely pair I’ve ever seen in local showbiz.
It was 1980s. They were young but they were good actors even back then. It seemed they have internalized the roles they played in their movies together because from reel to real, they fell in love to the delight of their fans. And at a tender age of 18, Sharon got pregnant. Then they got married that was attended by many VIPs and was widely televised. Years later, because of infidelity on the part of the guy, they separated and their marriage got annulled. Much like the story that happens in some of their movies.
I was just a little girl when they became a sizzling pair in showbiz. It was in 2009–adjusting in my new job– when just out of the blue I thought of collecting Sharon-Gabby movies because I was at that time craving for romantic movies to watch. When you’re single and unattached, you like watching romantic movies. Yes, a love story with a happy ending to be more specific. (Or maybe because I was pressured and stressed at work that watching romantic movies gave me comfort.) So I collect and collect Sharon-Gabby movies. Since I like Sharon, too, even without Gabby by her side (she’s a really good actress in her own right!), I also purchased movies she did with other male actors. And how wonderful it was watching those movies!
A collector’s item
Presenting my collection of Sharon-Gabby movies etc.
Unpleasant and terrible things do happen. So let it not stop us from appreciating the pleasant and beautiful things that do happen. Like–
I am so happy to learn that Drew Arellano and Iya Villania finally tied the knot after nine years of being together. Drew is a host of my favorite TV program “Balik-bayan” which now became “Biyahe ni Drew” and Iya Villania is an actress/singer/dancer. I am this positively affected because I like Drew, in fact he’s my TV crush, and I also like Iya, because she’s one of the most beautiful faces in showbiz whose personality complement that of Drew. They’re both lucky to have each other.
I am also awed and entertained by the enthusiasm and gracefulness Michael Christian Martinez has shown during his exhibition in figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. To be honest, I didn’t know there was an Olympic going on (because I wasn’t reading the paper nor watching the TV) until my younger brother told me so. So late in the evening until around 2 o’clock in the morning, my brother and I would still be awake just to catch his performance on ice. And what’s fascinating about Michael was that he seemed not to care about the ranking. The way I saw him in each of his performances, he was just simply happy to skate and proud to represent his country, our country, the Philippines–a country that doesn’t snow. He is the first skater from Southeast Asia to qualify for Olympics and the first Filipino figure skater. And he’s only 17 years old! He didn’t win a gold medal, even a bronze, and he finished 19th in the overall ranking, but I won’t ever forget that smile he flashed after his every performance, win or lose.
He remembered the time he had hooked one of a pair of marlin. The male fish always let the female fish feed first and the hooked fish, the female, made a wild, panic-stricken, despairing fight that soon exhausted her, and all the time the male had stayed with her, crossing the line and circling with her on the surface. He had stayed so close that the old man was afraid he would cut the line with his tail which was sharp as a scythe and almost of that size and shape. When the old man had gaffed her and clubbed her, holding the rapier bill with its sandpaper edge and clubbing her across the top of her head until her colour turned to a colour almost like the backing of mirrors, and then, with the boy’s aid, hoisted her aboard, the male fish had stayed by the side of the boat. Then, while the old man was clearing the lines and preparing the harpoon, the male fish jumped high into the air beside the boat to see where the female was and then went down deep, his lavender wings, that were his pectoral fins, spread wide and all his wide lavender stripes showing. He was beautiful, the old man remembered, and he had stayed.
That was the saddest thing I ever saw with them, the old man thought. The boy was sad too and we begged her pardon and butchered her promptly.
— The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
This book is thin, about 127 pages, but how come it felt like I was reading a 1000-page book, feels like I won’t ever reach the ending. Just when I made a declaration to my younger brother that this book is boring me to death (I don’t relate to fishing!) but still resume reading it anyway, suddenly, things began to change, to excite me.
The Old Man and the Sea is a story about a down on his luck fisherman, an old man, who sailed far across the ocean in solitude despite warnings from his devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin. Hoping to catch lots of fish this time, he got the biggest surprise of his life when he caught a giant marlin that’s totally different from the fishes he had caught before from long ago. Not just because of its great size but because of its strangeness and courageous attempts to be free that pushed the old man into a tug-of-war with the giant fish for a long number of days. And the kind of journey he went through just to protect his most-prized possession–and his life–from an impending bad weather and the predators of the sea was really astonishing.
I bought this book because I’m curious to get to know the works of Mr. Ernest Hemingway who committed suicide in 1961. This is my first book by the author.
J.D. Salinger’s entire literary output consists of one novel and 13 short stories, all written before 1959. Twenty-nine years have passed since his last interview — 44 since his last published story — and yet when news broke of the writer’s lawsuit against the author of an unofficial Catcher in the Rye sequel, fans reacted as if the 90-year-old recluse had stripped naked and run down the street. Salinger was back! Well, sort of. Actually, not at all. The suit was filed in a Manhattan court by Salinger’s lawyers; the author has yet to make a public statement or appearance in connection with the proceedings. And as literary fans know all too well, he probably never will.
Salinger began to withdraw from public life following the 1951 publication of The Catcher in the Rye, which holds the dual distinction of having been both a banned book and required reading in U.S. schools. As adulation for Catcher spread, the author recoiled further. Salinger stopped giving interviews in 1980. In 1986, he sued to prevent biographer Ian Hamilton from reprinting letters the author had sent to fans and friends. Almost everything known about Salinger comes from court transcripts or his daughter’s 2000 memoir, Dream Catcher. Today, a new Salinger publication or interview would spark a literary firestorm. Not that such an event is likely to happen; to the creator of Holden Caulfield, we are all a bunch of phonies.
Howard Hughes had always been eccentric. The billionaire business mogul and aviator had obsessive-compulsive tendencies; once, during a movie shoot, he became so fixated on a flaw in one of Jane Russell’s blouses that he designed a unique kind of underwire bra to fix the problem. But no one knew what to do when he finally cracked. In 1947, Hughes locked himself in a darkened screening room for four months, doing little more than eating chocolate bars, drinking milk and relieving himself into empty bottles. Later he moved from hotel penthouse to hotel penthouse; by 1950, he had gone into complete seclusion, refusing even to appear during antitrust hearings concerning Trans World Airlines, a company he controlled. Rumors began to circulate about the former Hollywood hobnobber’s Valium addiction, cadaverous frame, scraggly beard and twisted fingernails. He never recovered, dying in self-imposed seclusion in 1976.
Born Greta Lovisa Gustafson in 1905, Garbo grew up in a Stockholm slum and happened into acting after a film director discovered her in a local department store. By 1930, the “Swedish sphinx” had become an icon of the silver screen, captivating American moviegoers with her androgynous appeal and husky voice. Her first spoken words onscreen — “Give me a vhiskey” — were later eclipsed by the line “I vant to be let alone,” from the Oscar-winning 1932 film Grand Hotel — a declaration that perfectly encapsulated her approach to the outside world. The actress shunned all the trappings of Hollywood life, refusing to sign autographs, declining all interview requests, leaving fan mail unanswered and avoiding film premieres and awards ceremonies — including the 1955 Academy Awards, despite the promise of an honorary Oscar.
Ironically, her wariness of the spotlight only made her that much more appealing to the media. “I feel able to express myself only through my roles, not in words, and that is why I try to avoid talking to the press,” she once said during a rare statement to reporters in a plea for privacy. In 1941, at the age of 36, Garbo announced a “temporary” retirement; it would last 49 years, until her death in 1990 in Manhattan, where she lived by herself — she never married and bore no children. Her apartment on East 52nd Street, filled with expensive pieces of furniture and art, belied her poverty-stricken upbringing — except perhaps for the beloved dime-store blow-up snowman that she kept near a carved Louis XV chair.
You know you’re a recluse when the New York Times runs an article with the headline “Gregarious for a Day.” (For the record, the reporter described her as witty and charming.) Since the 1960 publication of her best-selling novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which has sold more than 10 million copies, the Alabama native has steadfastly, albeit politely, rebuffed interview requests. Though she does show up in public from time to time, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author — a distant relative of the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee — almost always declines to speak. When asked in 2007 to address the audience at the Alabama Academy of Honor, the octogenarian responded simply, “Well, it’s better to be silent than be a fool.”
Emily Dickinson was a textbook recluse. She spoke to visitors through doors, gave treats to local children by lowering a basket from a second-story window and listened to her father’s funeral from the privacy of her bedroom. She didn’t leave the family property for the last two decades of her life. Of her nearly 1,800 poems, fewer than a dozen were published while Dickinson was alive. Some experts speculate that her reclusive behavior was prompted by social anxiety or other mental disorders; others attribute it to overprotective parents or the deaths of close friends. Whatever the cause, Dickinson was known for her solitude in life and her masterly poetry in death.
Syd Barrett was dissatisfied with music. A founding member of Pink Floyd, he left the group after two albums but found little more contentment in his two solo efforts. He tried forming another group, Stars, but quit after three performances. Barrett tried returning to the studio but struggled through just three days of recording before selling his solo rights to his record label and moving into a London hotel. When the money ran out, in 1978, he walked nearly 50 miles to his mother’s house in Cambridge, leaving public life behind. Syd began to use his birth name of Roger and passed the time by painting, gardening and reportedly writing an unpublished book on art history. He made no more public appearances, and died in 2006. Accounts suggest that Barrett disliked being reminded of his musical past and kept no contact with other Pink Floyd members. His sister offered one of the better explanations for Barrett’s aversion to public scrutiny: “He found his own mind so absorbing that he didn’t want to be distracted.”
As author of Calvin and Hobbes, the beloved comic strip about a mischievous 6-year-old and his stuffed tiger, Bill Watterson’s work appeared in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. He was the youngest person to receive the National Cartoonists Society’s highest honor, the Reuben Award — a prize he would win a total of three times. Throughout his career, Watterson consistently resisted pressure from publishers to merchandise his comic, believing that it would devalue the characters.
Despite a large and passionate fan following, Watterson retired the strip in 1995, citing frustration with the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. He has since retreated from the public eye, declining interviews and public appearances and refusing to sign autographs or license his characters. For a time, Watterson stashed autographed copies of his books on the shelves of a local family-owned bookstore — until fans started selling them for higher prices. It remains to be seen if the world will hear from Watterson again.
Even among reclusive novelists, Thomas Pynchon reigns anonymously supreme. Almost nothing is known about the author of some of the most seminal, mysterious and generally difficult works of 20th century fiction, and the novelist would like to keep it that way. Pynchon has avoided nearly all media since the 1963 publication of his first book, V., and only a few known photos of him exist. When his 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow won the National Book Award, Pynchon had someone else accept on his behalf. He has denied all publicity requests but one: in 2004, he agreed to appear on The Simpsons. Pynchon even lent his own voice to his character, which was drawn with a bag over its head.
When the pressures of fame grow too great, not even $50 million can keep some artists from ditching the limelight. After signing an eight-figure megadeal with Comedy Central in 2004, Dave Chappelle abandoned his hit show in May 2005, fleeing to South Africa in the middle of filming the show’s third season. In retrospect, many saw signs of his slow but sure meltdown coming years earlier. During a 2003 stand-up performance, he reportedly told his audience, “You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you’re not smart enough to get what I’m doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid.”
After his flight to South Africa, where he stayed with a friend, rumors raged about drug abuse, mental instability and problems with the network. The only one of those things that seemed supported by his behavior were the creative struggles with Comedy Central. Yet in an interview with TIME just after Chappelle flew the coop, the comedian refused to blame the show’s producers. Instead he cited some people in his inner circle and himself for the stresses that seemed to be troubling him.
“All that stuff about partying and taking crack is not true,” he told TIME. “Why do I live on a farm in Ohio? To support my partying lifestyle?” Chappelle returned to his Ohio estate after several weeks in Africa, but he never went back to The Dave Chappelle Show — though he later promoted the documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in 2006. He has returned to stand-up sporadically and was even rumored to play Rick James — one of his most popular parodies on his show — in a biopic, though that eventually fell through. He’s no Thomas Pynchon, but he was still the best recluse of 2005.
Marcel Proust spent plenty of time alone with his inner monologue — as his novels make plain. Nervous, frail and sensitive, Proust was still a fixture of French high society until his mid-30s. But after his father’s death in 1903 and his mother’s in 1905, Proust’s health deteriorated, and he gradually gave up the fast life. He spent the remaining 17 years of his life a virtual recluse, working on his novels.
By 1919, Proust rarely left his soundproofed Paris apartment, complete with a bedroom encased in walls of cork to keep out noise. He worked in a sunless writing studio with the window shut as protection against the asthma that had plagued him since the age of 9. The isolation took its toll. The writer Leon-Paul Fargue recalled Proust around this time as pale, with hands that seemed frozen. “He looked like a man who no longer lives outdoors or by day, a hermit who hasn’t emerged from his oak tree for a long time,” Fargue wrote.
Writing his 3,200-page masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time, Proust often slept during the day and worked at night. He once became so absorbed in his writing that he didn’t stop for three days. Another time, he walked to the Louvre to refresh his memory of a painting, only to realize once he got there that it was midnight. When Proust met James Joyce in 1922, the two literary geniuses barely spoke. “Of course the situation was impossible,” Joyce later said. “Proust’s day was just beginning. Mine was at an end.” Proust died of pneumonia and a pulmonary abscess in 1922.
Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed. I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn’t do it. I can’t always pray when I feel like it. In the first place, I’m sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard. I used to get in quite a few arguments about it, when I was at Whooton School, with this boy that lived down the corridor, Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a very nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn’t like the Disciples, then I didn’t like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked them, but that He picked them at random. I said he didn’t have time to go around analyzing everybody. I said I wasn’t blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn’t His fault that He didn’t have any time. I remember I asked Old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That’s exactly where I disagreed with him. I said I’d bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell. I still would, too, if I had a thousand bucks. I think any one of the Disciples would’ve sent him to Hell and all–and fast, too–but I’ll bet anything Jesus didn’t do it. Old Childs said the trouble with me was that I didn’t go to church or anything. He was right about that, in a way. I don’t. In the first place, my parents are different religions, and all the children in our family are atheists. If you want to know the truth, I can’t even stand ministers. The ones they’ve had at every school I’ve gone to, they all have these Holy Joe voices when they start giving their sermons. God, I hate that. I don’t see why the hell they can’t talk in their natural voice. They sound so phony when they talk.
–The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
That’s Holden Caulfield speaking his heart out, 17 years old, who dropped out of school three times.
If ever me and Holden get to meet one day, I will tell him that he has a good point there about Judas. To be really honest, I thought, too, that Judas went straight to Hell. I thought, too, that Judas lost that hold on redemption when he killed himself. You know, after listening to Holden, I think Judas got his redemption when he became aware of his mistake before he hanged himself. He was repentant and full of anguish. His pain was probably unbearable that he killed himself. Thanks Holden for that wonderful insight.
The Catcher in the Rye, according to my research, is a prescribed reading in some high schools and universities. (In the schools I went to this wasn’t a prescribed reading so it’s an honor to have read this now.) I read also that this book became controversial during its release in 1951 because of its “vulgarity.” Because it talks about teenage angst, drugs, sex, identity crisis, and homosexuality. But as a reader, I don’t see anything vulgar about the book. I am guessing that those people who lived in 1951, who reacted negatively about this book were to me–to use Holden’s words–“just a bunch of phonies.” Because you know what, I’d rather read this very honest book than talk to an insincere person.
J.D. Salinger gained instant fame after writing The Catcher in the Rye. He got offers to turn this book into a movie but Salinger, in reply, wrote this:
J.D. Salinger died in 2010. The interest of some movie producers to adapt this into a movie is still strong. No longer around to guard his book, I think movie producers should strictly comply with the author’s wish and leave this book alone.
He may just be a plain old man to you but to me, he will remind me of my elementary days in Balara. He was a photographer–and still is–taking pictures of special events, most especially graduation day. He just hangs around in schools around UP Campus.
It was last year, around October, when I saw him getting out from a jeepney along Commonwealth Avenue. I was in Grade 6 when I last saw him and he definitely doesn’t know me for I am just one of those kids that he photographs and I do remember this picture that he took of me upon my mother’s request, who was a teacher in Balara. I remember I was this awkward little girl, with a boy-cut hair, and wearing kung fu shoes in a photo he took. I still have it to this day. It’s in my photo album.
That’s why I will never forget this old man. So without thinking twice I called out his name, out loud– “Mang Per!”
Getting his attention, he welcomely said in Tagalog, “O, how are you?” as if he really do know me. I introduced myself and told him that I know him. Told him I was one of those elementary students he took pictures of in Balara and I said my mother was a teacher there.
“How’s your mother?” he asked. I said my mother passed away. Again, he was this cool guy pretending that he knows me, even my mother. I guess random strangers have approached him the way I did, you know, former children who are now adults who never forgotten about him. I mean, who can forget Mang Per? This was his same look more than 20 years ago, and yes, with that same hat (except that he aged, of course).
When I was younger, I thought he was tall. A lanky old man. And I remember him with his bike, which he would use to roam around UP Campus. That day that I saw him I realized he wasn’t such a tall man after all. I am one inch taller than him now.
“So how are you, are you now married?” he asked. I said I’m not. He said I should try not to end up like him, single for life. He said it was a sad life not to have been married. I said that’s a blessing in disguise. There are many who are married but are living miserably, only a cause of headache. I then asked him if he’s still active as photographer. He said, not anymore. There are so many competitions now, he said. Anyone who has DSLR and know how to point and shoot are now making professional photographers an endangered species. (He was still using film when digital photography became the “in” thing.)
Then I said goodbye. He was a gracious old man. So simple and kindhearted. Oh dear, I really wish him well. He is now in his 70s. May God continue to bless him. I learned from someone that Mang Per has gone back to photography. Somebody gave him–a random stranger who introduced himself as one of those kids he took pictures of–a DSLR.