1. I am obsessive-compulsive (I think). I like my DVDs lined up perfectly, wherever they are. (At around 6,000 titles now, it's hard to keep them in one place, so they're all over my cramped unit, but arranged oh-so-neatly.) I can't leave the house without checking the locks at least three times. I accumulate seemingly useless stuff--empty boxes, wrappers, paper bags--on the premise that later on I'd find good use for them. Also, writing takes so much out of me because, unlike other writers/editors I know, I can't leave a story unfinished and leave it for tomorrow, even if my brain's gone comatose. I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway, as I would spend the night agonizing over how to finish the piece. So I plod on until the very last period. Then I toss and turn in bed trying out alternative words and phrases in my head, until I lose consciousness from sheer exhaustion.
2. The first "grown-up" book I read was Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express"--grown-up only in the sense that it was the first book my mother allowed me to read from her restricted bookshelf, which had Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Anya Seton, Victoria Holt, Jeffrey Archer, all the potboilers. I was 10 or 11 years old, and by then I had gone through every single Hardy Boys title, and had waded through my lolo's Readers' Digest collection that went as far back as 1947. "Murder on the Orient Express" had a sprawling cast of characters and a convoluted storyline. Mother said if I could tell her who the murderer was at the end of the story, I was free to browse through her books. I got it right; every major character in that story plunged the knife into the poor victim. Outlandish plot, but it had me feeling very clever for days.
3. Speaking of books, a confession: I've not been able to finish a Harry Potter title, and I've never read "The Da Vinci Code." I slogged through the first chapters of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" wondering what all the fuss was about, and finally gave up. "The Da Vinci Code" was of no interest because its central premise, that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and they sired a royal bloodline, was something I had already read in my high school years in "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," and I was in a Catholic seminary at that time. Umberto Eco also made mention of it in "Foucault's Pendulum," and even Nick Joaquin riffed on it in a Holy Week column for the Inquirer many years ago. So when I saw Tom Hanks say to Audrey Tautou in the movie, with all the earnestness he could muster, "You are the last living descendant of Jesus Christ," I couldn't stop laughing. Yes, I can be insufferably smug.
4. Not many people know this, but I was an HR guy before I got into media. I spent nine years in Human Resources, three of them as a callow HR manager, before I resolved that my true passion lay elsewhere. It took me that long because I was extremely insecure about my writing abilities. My college major was AB Philosophy, not Journalism. And while I did heavy work in corporate communications, writing for the major papers seemed daunting, out of my league. The first inkling that perhaps I could pass muster was when I wrote a review of--would you believe--Carlo Caparas' "The Maggie dela Riva Story." I was so disgusted with the movie that I dashed off a flat-out, foaming-in-the-mouth pan and faxed it, without thinking, to the lifestyle/entertainment section of The Manila Chronicle, then under editor Thelma San Juan (if I remember correctly). Two days later it got published. Teodoro Benigno was my idol then, so, imitating his style, I called Mr. Caparas "the Grand Panjandrum of Pap" (hahaha!). Seeing my byline in a mainstream broadsheet for the first time was a thrill. I haven't lost the feeling.
5. The two words I hate in the English language are "albeit" and "enthuse." What's wrong with "although" that people would opt for the more pretentious "albeit," and the even more risible "enthuse"? My dislike for the latter word stems largely from the dubious way it is used. Example: "'I can't live without my [brand name] card, it's so flexible and convenient!,' she enthused." What the--"enthuse" over a credit card? I'm not making this quote up, I remember it from a press release I edited. The culprit: the writer's misguided thinking that he shouldn't repeat the verb "says"--as in "he says"--after every quotation. So he tries to come up with increasingly laughable variations: "he says" morphs to "he notes," graduates to "he avers," then polevaults to "he enthuses." At which point I begin hurling imprecations at the monitor. Please, nothing wrong with repeating "he says," because readers normally glide over these explanatory phrases when reading. In fact, you can excise them out altogether once you've established who's speaking. "Enthuse" is as phony as you can get, and over-enthusing can lead to a coronary!
And now it's your turn, Chris, Corsarius, Abaniko, AnneMac and Pam!