Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reflections on the Year of FIVE and 11 DAYS IN AUGUST and what's next

As a kid, I spent a lot of my time drawing. In fact, during summers, I’d split time between going to piano lessons and art school. I wanted to draw the X-Men that was my favorite comic book as a kid.

Things changed for me when I began to play a lot of football and baseball in school. More so when I discovered music. I wanted to be in a band and began to write songs. In fact, I used to have a notebook filled with lyrics to songs that were finished and half-finished. Some of them I collaborated with classmates of mine.

During class plays, I’d help write the scripts and on occasion co-direct them. It was around this time that a classmate of mine, Allan Roño, asked me if it was all right to add my name as co-author of an article he was writing for The Eaglet, the Ateneo Grade School newspaper. I objected and I remember very well what I said, “I can’t write well.”

“It’s okay,” assured Allan. “Since we’re best friends, you’ll get co-credit for an article.”

So that was my first foray into the world of journalism and it wasn’t even something I wrote. And by the way, I still have a copy of that article in my portfolio.

After graduation from grade school, I was given some money as reward for a job well done (or so I think). I promptly bought the Lord of the Rings Trilogy from National Bookstore (75th Anniversary edition). I had seen the animated film prior to the reading the book so you can say that Ralph Bakshi’s film literally opened new doors for me.

In fourth year high school, there was a time when I got back an essay marked with a “F” with a note to see the Prefect of Discipline. I asked my teacher, Mrs. Esperanza Chee Kee, the mom of Parokya ni Edgar’s Gab Chee Kee why and she said that I had plagiarized my essay. I was aghast. What I wrote was 100% bullshit. I crammed by writing about Babe Ruth, that late and great New York Yankee. This time being the before the digital age, there wasn’t much access to info on the Babe so I completely made up everything I wrote except for some basic stuff I had seen on a sports almanac that I had.

The prefect of discipline investigated and said that everything was 100% original (he declined to use my description of ‘100% bullshit’). It there I first had an inkling I could write.

In college, I got stuck in the English honors section where I fared rather badly in the writing of essays and papers. I was in a class of my peers many who I knew back in high school as terrific writers. For the most part, I was getting ‘Ds’ and ‘Cs.’ I never got an ‘A’ at all. Our bible that freshman year was Strunk and White that began the deconstruction of my writing that was heavily influenced by Robert Frost, Tolkien, and Stan Lee.

After school, I also began to contribute to the features section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I wrote about comic book artists (While Portacio and Gerry Alanguilan), musicians and bands (Rizal Underground, Parokya ni Edgar, Peter White etc), and diplomats. Then I moved to writing about the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (the forerunner of the PBL and the D-League).

But that all changed when I got into advertising that further changed the way I wrote. The basic tenet of advertising copy is to say things in the fewest possible words while saying a lot. Kind of difficult at first but when you get it down pat it’s easier but no less challenging. With my life 24/7 in advertising, I couldn’t write for the Inquirer anymore.

It was while working in an ad agency where I first began to do public relations and that entailed a different style of writing and thinking. I wrote or ghostwrote columns, reports, Senate reports, and papers for a variety of people from businessmen to politicians. I also did some jingles and campaign materials for some of them. Sorry, I won’t mention whom because these are trade secrets. But I think I got good at it because in two agencies I worked with I did a lot of in with the PR teams (in addition to my regular copywriting jobs). But after several years, I called it quits as I wanted control with my life and not surrender it to ad agencies and clients who thought they were the target market and not the actual target market.

But the changes in my writing were sweeping. I had graduated from trying to be a clone of so and so to ultimately finding my own style that was a mix of David Halberstam, Frank Deford, Jack McCallum, and Rick Reilly. It was a mixture of a historical perspective with behind-the-scenes reporting while trying to find that human touch to go with a dose of humor.

While living in New York, I stalked then Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada outside their Park Avenue offices. I had some scripts and plots about the X-Men and Daredevil who were my favorite characters. Only I wasn’t the only one with the idea as there were hundreds of others so my chances were even slimmer. I did meet Mr. Quesada eventually at Midtown Comics in Manhattan where I turned in a sheaf of notes but never heard from him. I thought back to my artist friend Gerry Alanguilan who went through dozens of rejections before he finally got a break.

I also had some short stories complete with artwork by some friends that I tried to shop around to no avail.

It was around this time where I began to write letters to my parents, relatives, friends, and classmates from New York. I wrote them in straight up prose detailing my adventures, heartaches, experiences, and thoughts; sometimes even in poetry.

Many of them were circulated about by my mom, aunts, and some friends. One newspaper asked if they could publish them as a series of essays and letters about the life of immigrants abroad. My first real chance to get ‘published’ and I said no. Imagine that!

Coming back home to the Philippines, I was asked by then VP for Planning Fr. Tito Caluag to write about the Ateneo Blue Eagles for the school’s website. I leapt at the chance. With the basketball season over, I first wrote about the Ateneo Men’s Football Team that detailed their championship year of 2006. The following year, I finally wrote about the basketball team. A year after that, I had taken over from Paolo Trillo writing the Blue Eagle Bulletins.

I was also working as Marketing Manager for Solar Sports at this time and Jun Lomibao and Ricky Alegre of Business Mirror met up with me for an ex-deal. They also asked me to write for them. Now I had tried to come back to the Inquirer before this but was told they had a full house of writers. Business Mirror gave that opportunity to get back in the game.

I also put up my blog, Bleachers Brew, with the massive help of a former girlfriend. I’d say that the blog was a huge blessing and boon. Thanks, Mai. Forever.

From there on the floodgates opened – Philippine Free Press, FHM, Men’s Health, Homestyle, Football Philippines, Blueblood, and Rebound to name a few. Then came the Philippine sub-site of,,, and the PBA website. 

I’ve also done a few documentaries on television (including a boxing special that I am very proud of plus a couple of sports specials for Solar Sports) and one for Ateneo.

There have been so many ups and down through these years. You get to do something then get pushed out by all the politicking and the sipsipan (neither of which I am good at) that has left me unhappy and discouraged. However, in spite of all of that, I’ve managed to stay head above water.

Over the years, I tried my best to write lengthy pieces about the Blue Eagles, the NU Bulldogs, the Letran Knights, Perpetual Help Altas, UE Red Warriors, Smart Gilas, Azkals, and Loyola Meralco Sparks to name a few, but there never seemed a format to tell the entire stories until Five (I also previously wrote The 18th Banner on Ateneo's Season 71 championship season) and now there’s 11 Days in August.

I am so happy to be given the opportunity to write Five (about the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ five-peat) and 11 Days in August (the FIBA journey of our national team). It didn’t contain everything I wanted to put in there because of the format (coffeetable form) but I am not complaining. That will serve as the jump off platform for something more detailed and comprehensive.

And both have made 2013 all the more surreal and memorable for me. Who would have thought this, right? I certainly never did. Not where I came from with all the hardships, challenges, and heartaches. But I am grateful. Eternally grateful.

A few years ago, Coach Joe Lipa got wind of some of my stories from the United States and he encouraged me to release them in book form. I finally did but it has taken a while because a lawyer friend of mine advised me to change the names of people and some circumstances because they also tell of sensitive incidents (read: the lives of TNT Pinoys I had met in the US). I could never find the impetus to finish it although everything is done except the layouts.

Writing Five, the book that chronicled the five-peat of the Blue Eagles and 11 Days in August, has given me the impetus and experience and will to get it done.

I’ll be finishing Turn On the Bright Lights – that book about a short period of my life in the United States. I’ve been given the impetus and inspiration to get it done. Looking at getting it out in limited numbers by the end of the first quarter of next year. And there’s a surprise book that came out of nowhere and am honored to have been asked to write it. I can’t say whom it is about. There’ll be a time for that. Hopefully, soon. And there's another one as well. I can only shake my head and say a prayer of thanks. Almost everyday too.

I have said on occasion that I intend to move beyond sports and it is something I have started about a year ago already. The full shift won’t happen until a few years from now. All I can say you’ll see more varied material from me in 2014.

Recently, I have tried going back to sketching and drawing but my skills have clearly atrophied. But that’s not going to stop me. Am still giving it that old college try.

As for that dream of one day writing for Marvel Comics? Who knows.

I never thought I’d be doing all of this so…

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