May 31, 2005

The General May 2005 Archive

TODAY’S OFFICIAL ENTRY IS ALL ABOUT FEAR
May 11, 2005

Today, Inez is going to talk to herself while she finishes news for the Office and tries to do research on how to get to Meteora and walk around without dying or spending too much. Spending too much, of course, is worse to her than dying.

So, Inez, where shall we begin?

First, let’s look at ALL your buyers. Why? Because once they’re done with the book, they’ll start to REVIEW it. My goodness. That scares you, doesn’t it? Scares you silly, it does. Reviews. They’ll probably have a few nice things to say — nice cover, nice picture, nice summary, nice font, maybe — and lots of nasty, mean, but TRUE things to tell you, too. Your prose is too archaic. Your characters are too many and underdeveloped. Did you actually GO to Meteora? Why didn’t you use a Philippine setting? This is too prudish, too unlikely, too illogical, too stupid.

So, Mira liked it, Sonny liked it, Ya thought it was spectacularly written, and Ai is coming out with a review. Now that’s more like it. Encouragement! That leaves us with JB (oh, the criticism possible, and from Summit no less!), Earl (mercy? mercy!), Dr. Chel (oh, my boss! My boss!), Clem (oh, my officemate! My officemate!), Benjie (his MOM!), Denise (A lawyer!), Tita Mila (high society!), Tita Rosel (more high society!), Ma’am Mida (my mentor!), and more people still waiting to get their copies…oh good heavens…good HEAVENS!

Now what does this mean, Inez? Are you afraid? Yes, very much so. What will they think of me? you ask. Will they like this book? Will they think they paid good money for a good book? Or will they go and tell Inquirer…

OH GOOD HEAVENS! I ALMOST FORGOT! Inquirer! Will they like my work? Will they hate it? This is the make or break newspaper, national circulation — what will happen? HELP!

Now that we’re into printed reviews, let’s talk about SPEED magazine.

Ah, more fear. A rating of 7-8.5. Ma’am Mida told you it was good: every writer has their 7-8.5’s, which could mean that they’re going to be better, and that their audience could grow with them. And yet, you fear the rating, Inez — you fear it as though it meant nothing that Ai, who wrote the review, also said she liked your story. You fear it as though Sir Manny, your boss at SPEED, did not tell you that the tone of the review was so well strung that people would still like to buy the book. And you fear…you fear…

What else is there? Ah, yes, the recent discovery that, before monks are laid in any ossuary, they are buried in the ground. After three years, the soul is reborn, according to their beliefs; and they are dug up, mere bones, to be placed amongst their brothers. What did you do? You put the monks DIRECTLY into the ossuary as though they were animals to rot away. Now what excuse could you possibly have for THAT?

Well, let’s see. I could always make it appear that nothing of the flesh means anything in eternity.

Huh? What about the SMELL from the ossuary? Wouldn’t that just cloud the entire monastery and make the monks gag?

There’s that, I guess.

You GUESS? So what will you do now?!?!?

Create a tenth edition and apologize even for the persimmons? They were, after all, cultivated in Greece only in the 18th century. Before that, however, Israel had its own version of persimmons. Besides, the fruit speaks of an appeal for forgiveness, and I suppose that counts for something, if you think about Battista and Catherine and all the stuff and yes, whatever, whatever…

We’re not done with the ossuary-burial thing yet. Not to mention the fact that hermits lived in caves and did not make monasteries before Athanasios came along.
That’s why it’s FICTION!

And the ossuary-burial thing?

Oh, right. OH DEAR. What am I going to do now? Let’s see. The Ossuary is beneath the monastery, well out of reach and smell. It would be tiring to go all the way down just to bury somebody. If that’s a poor excuse, then maybe we could say that the old thing really was to go and bury someone down there, but maybe the monks wanted to be close to each other and away from the reminder that something happened. Or that they felt themselves unworthy of a certain somebody. Or they inwardly believed that because of a certain somebody, their souls had already risen…and all they waited for was death…because TRUE HAPPINESS WOULD BE ON THE OTHER SIDE WITH…THAT CERTAIN SOMEBODY! Except for one of them who chose to be buried in the earth because HE IS THE ONLY ONE WITH THE RIGHT TO HOLD A CERTAIN SOMEBODY FOR ALL ETERNITY!

Now THAT’s more like it!

Man, that was the MOST spoileriffic discussion I’ve ever had with myself!

SALES, SALES , SALES
May 6, 2005

Order of the day is meeting up with people to fulfill orders at the Glorietta 4 Food Court. This is the part I love, where I just sit down, hand out books, coyly re-accept them if someone asks for my autograph, autograph them and sign a dedication in, return the book, and get PAID! Oh, yes, take that, Milflores Press! Take that, Customs Office! Take that, every press who ever dared to call me colonial! Ha! We are so…

Never mind. Anyway, everything was in the spirit of fun, and money (hahaha), and new friends! I met Denise, first through Friendster, after I posted my ad in the Classifieds. Denise is a lawyer, a fellow UP-Dilimanian, and now a new friend who was enthusiastic about reading my book. Good luck, Denise! (Talk about author confidence!)

Next came Benjie, one of my bestest friends, along with his mom, to whom the book will reportedly go first. Benjie is bent on killing me, I think. Then there was Jane (who kindly brought her camera, and who had her picture taken with me, as seen here), a former student who still believes in her teacher. How…strange, Jane. Are you all right? Kidding.

JB of Top Gear also came along to pick up his copy. He seems to scare me the most, as he’ll be passing the book on to people in Summit for potential review — of course, that all depends on whether he actually will like the book. SANCTUARY does get pogi points for appearance though. That counts, you know.

After all the meetings, I finally had to pick up the last shipment in Quezon City and drop off even more books for Ma’am Mida. And then I ran back to give another copy to my dear friend Earliekins/Earl/Earlene, whom I met at Glorietta that same evening with Vlad. Earl paid for her book, Vlad ordered one. SALES, SALES, SALES!!!

Now, if I could only get that ISBN and get this book out…and if only I weren’t so scared about ONE MAJOR BOOBOO I MADE. More on such silliness later.

ALLOW ME TO ROCK, ALLOW ME TO ROLL
May 5, 2005

It’s fun to talk for my office, because I get to forward a cause I love. Genetically modified organisms for agriculture. Yes, yes, oh yes, I love speaking out!

This time, it was to report on our communications activities for a project — an extension, and a bigger speech than the last one in Indonesia. As usual, I was sprightly and (hopefully) well accepted. I did get invited to get coordinated with the Cornell Communications Team…which delights me no end. Delightful, delightful.

Again, Papa Ramon, I owe you big time! YEAH! We are so cool! We are so brilliant!

We are so mayabang…

THE POST OFFICE WILL NOT HEART ME
(BUT I DON’T CARE)
May 2, 2005

There’s a reason for me to hate customs one more time. Grrrr.

But I think they’re going to hate me even more when they read this. Fat chance — they’ll probably be surfing the net for get-rich-quick-schemes, because I THWARTED THEIR PLANS!

You can check out my very last entry for April if you want to know what brought me to this dark, dismal, but very amusing place. In summary, I knew I was going to pay the post office something for my books. They had arrived all together, all 20 of them in separate boxes, in sack-like parcels called M-BAGS (money bags? miserable bags? Maybe. Hmmm. maybe-bags?) which cost PhP 100 apiece. I had a total of 400 pesos to pay.

Ooooh, but these thugs had HELL to pay if they asked me for anything more.

This is how the adventure went. Since I had to pick up 20 books in 4 boxes, I tugged Felma, our househelp, along. My mother warned me beforehand to bargain and plead and bargain more and plead more because I “look rich” (can’t help it!) and I looked young anyway. I also warned Felma not to say a word if I pretended to be an attorney. I was ready to spout out, “But according to article 7 section 3 of the International Customs Code…”

A lawyer, a liar, and I would do anything to not pay anything.

So there I was, trembling within, and facing two dark, sinister, and highly heat-irritated men. I politely, sweetly, and as charmingly as possible asked for my package.

I’ll be translating everything from the vernacular from hereon.

“Were you the one who called last week?” the customs officer asked.

“Yes,” I tried not to falter. I did call them the week before, and I had banged the phone down when they stupidly said that I could wait for as long as I’d like to get the packages if I didn’t have a car. They didn’t have the brains, apparently.

Anyhow, I was confident, but I was determined to be nice. So, while Mr. Customs Officer Number 1 went off to the back to get my boxes, Mr. Customs Officer Number 2 sat down and looked sheepishly (piggishly too, as I pity sheep and love lamb) at me.

The boxes came at last, and were opened. First, the M-BAGs were slashed, despite Felma’s plea if we could take them home to put our garbage in. Where was my one hundred bucks going to, then?

Second, the labels atop the boxes were unfolded to reveal the Lulu insignia, as well as the number of books inside the box. I was holding my breath down at this point — I wasn’t sure if the price of the book was printed on the label, because customs bases prices on the price of the box’s contents. My buyers know how expensive my book is. I knew I’d be in for days and days of negotiations. What if I just called an army in and waged a bloody war?

Third, the boxes were opened. I pleaded for customs to be careful, as they took away the wrapping paper and brought 5 books out for me to see. The high which should have taken me by the chest now sat patiently at the base of my diaphragm, waiting for me to craft my words.

“Are those yours?” said Mr. Customs Officer Number 2, still as piggish as ever.

“Yes.” Duh, I thought, no. They just happened to be in the box during the time of delivery. I’m after the paper.

“You wrote the book?”

“Yes,” I was determined to be monosyllabic, but show off my smile, as though I were still a child.

“Where is it set?”

“In Greece.”

“Have you been there?”

I started to laugh, “No.”

He started to scratch his head in disbelief. Careful, I was tempted to warn him, your brain might fall out. “Look at this drama Filipinos have,” he began, “Writing a book without having gone to the place!”

I can’t help it if I have a good imagination and if I’m smart, I was tempted to say. I simply laughed harder, “But remember, you’re a Filipino too!” I told him. He simply laughed, then took a look at the boxes as Mr. Customs Officer Number 1 put them back in and slipped my Lulu receipt into place. At last, no sign of price or value. I could work my magic.

“Those are books,” was Mr. Customs Officer Number 2’s remark, as though I didn’t know what they were, “Those are books, so I have to tax them.”

“But sir,” I said slowly, but never condescendingly, “I’m only a student!”

“But they are books. Why did you have to have them printed in the States?”

“Because no publisher here will take me.”

“It’s expensive in the US.”

“No it’s not.”

“We still have to tax the books. How much are these?”

“Actually,” we Filipinos often have the nasty habit of beginning our sentences with “actually.” This time, I’m not translating from the vernacular. I really DID begin my sentence that way. “Actually, I really don’t know. See, the price will depend on me, on the reviews, on the publisher, on the number of books printed–”

“Yes, but this is expensive to print.”

“No it’s not.”

“How much is this? 10 dollars?”

“I really don’t know. If you look at the back of the book, you’re supposed to see a barcode, which will tell you that the book already has a price. Now, there isn’t any barcode, because there’s no price yet. These are all sample copies, and author’s property. They don’t have a price.”

“That’s impossible. You can’t possibly have free copies.”

“Of course it’s possible. It’s the States. They give authors free copies. I should know. I’m in publishing.” (Wait, I am? I had to fight not to look as bewildered as I felt)

“I’ll have to charge you 10 dollars per book.”

Quick Mental Calculation: 20 books times 10 dollars is 200 dollars, or around 12000 pesos. HOLY…”But Sir!” I leaned on the counter, wishing to wring his neck, but still being very nice and pleading, “I’m only a student, and I couldn’t possibly pay you 10 dollars for a book whose price I don’t know anything about!”

“But it’s expensive to print this!”

“No it’s not.”

“All right. 5 dollars per book. I said 10 dollars, but now I’m lowering it to 5 dollars per book.”

So this is what it was, eh? A bargain? Would he issue an official receipt for my payment? What would 5 dollars, or about 6000 pesos, do? Feed him? Add to a beer house’s or girly bar’s income? I would not hand any money over, and I was determined to win. Help me God, guardian angel, Papa Ramon. HELP ME!!!

“I couldn’t pay that! Look, these are free author copies.”

“How can they give free author copies?”

“This is the States. They’re rich.”

“Five–”

“Those books don’t even cost a dollar each,” ooooh, I’m good at this, “Now think: a printer in the States mass produces a hundred thousand copies. The price goes lower — much, much lower, until it goes below a dollar. That means each book costs less than a dollar to print.” (It does?)

“What?”

“It’s true.” It is? “It happens because of the bulk printing.”

“Then what about shipping?”

“Shipping is free. My publisher has many sponsors.”

A long, long pause.

It must have been mere moments, but it felt like years, from my last sentence to his, from the end of my long string of lies to his version of bargaining. I wasn’t going to lose — I was the lesser demon, after all, and I didn’t want to relinquish anything in my wallet besides the 400 pesos stamped down on my forms and required of me by law.

“Are you sure you’re not going to sell these books here?”

“Of course not! I can’t even afford to pay you, so why would I sell books without barcodes? I’d be sued, and I can’t afford to be sued!”

For God’s sake, this is the post office! Why would I sell my books here? I’d go to the mall and sell them there, that’s what I’d do.

“All right,” Mr. Customs Officer Number 2 finally said, waving me away as though I annoyed him, “Give her the books.”

“But she has to pay the 400 pesos,” Mr. Customs Officer Number 1 spoke up good-naturedly.

Mr. Customs Officer Number 2 wasn’t so keen on being corrected, “Fine, fine. Go and pay.”

Good lord. My heart was pounding in head, wiggling through my intestines, and weighing my feet down. I said, “Thank you,” and ran up to the cashier on the second floor. Please God, I pleaded, let my luck hold out for another hour. Just another hour.

The cashier took so long to come, but it was an opportunity to pray. And pray I did. Please God, don’t let him make me pay. I can’t. Please.

I paid the cashier, then ran down and fetched the books. Mr. Customs Officer Number 1 handed me the boxes with a blank stare. Mr. Customs Officer Number 2 began nodding away.

Again, I thanked them, then began walking to the street, going as briskly as my lies would allow. Just for another hour, I pleaded, joking with Felma that we had to run before the thugs changed their little minds. Thank God they didn’t, all through my torturous wait for a taxi, through my smooth ride home, and through my laugh-out-loud session with my mother as I recounted the entire experience.

I paid NOTHING.

Take that, Customs! TAKE THAT!

Next time, I’m having my books delivered here, in Los Banos. Can’t afford to meet up with the same people again. Aaaaaah. Scary.

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