Thursday, September 04, 2014

Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım

Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
Bilmiyorum Ne Haldeyim
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
I'm on a long and narrow road,
I walk all day, I walk all night;
I cannot tell what is my plight,
I walk all day, I walk all night.
Dünyaya Geldiğim Anda
Yürüdüm Aynı Zamanda
İki Kapılı Bir Handa
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
Soon as I came into the World,
That moment I began my fight,
Through an inn with two doors,
I walk all day, I walk all night.
Uykuda Dahi Yürüyom
Kalmaya Sebep Arıyom
Gidenleri Hep Görüyom
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
I walk in sleep - I find no cause,
To linger, whether dark or light,
I see the travelers on the road,
I walk all day, I walk all night.
Kırk Dokuz Yıl Bu Yollarda
Ovada Dağda Çöllerde
Düşmüşüm Gurbet Ellerde
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
Forty-nine years upon these roads,
On desert plain, on mountain height,
In foreign lands I make my way,
I walk all day, I walk all night.
Düşünülürse Derince
Uzak Görünür Görünce
Bir Yol Dakka Miktarınca
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
Sometimes it seems an endless road,
The goal is very far from sight,
One minute, and the journey's o'er-
I walk all day, I walk all night.
Şaşar Veysel İş Bu Hale
Kah Ağlaya Kahi Güle
Yetişmek İçin Menzile
Gidiyorum Gündüz Gece
Veysel does wonder at this state,
Lament or laughter, which is right?
Still to attain that distant goal,
I walk all day, I walk all night.

Translation: Nermin Menemencioğlu

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Abun d-bašmayo

Abun d-bašmayo - The Lord's Prayer
Syriac Orthodox liturgical music
Arr. Andy Paul Chen for guitar, vocals and bowed psaltery, after Gareth Hughes [source]

ܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ
Abun d-bašmayo
ܢܬܩܕܫ ܫܡܟ
Nethqadaš šmokh
ܬܐܬܐ ܡܠܟܘܬܟ
Tithe malkuthokh
ܢܗܘܐ ܣܒܝܢܟ
Nehwe sebyonokh
ܐܝܟܢܐ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ ܐܦ ܒܪܥܐ
Aykano d-bašmayo oph bar`o
ܗܒ ܠܢ ܠܚܡܐ ܕܣܘܢܩܢܢ ܝܘܡܢܐ
Hab lan laḥmo d-sunqonan yowmono
ܘܫܒܘܩ ܠܢ ܚܘܒܝܢ ܘܚܬܗܝܢ
Wašbuq lan ḥawbayn waḥtohayn
ܐܝܟܢܐ ܕܐܦ ܚܢܢ ܫܒܩܢ ܠܚܝܒܝܢ
Aykano doph ḥnan šbaqan l-ḥayobayn
ܠܐ ܬܥܠܢ ܠܢܣܝܘܢܐ
Lo ta`lan l-nesyuno
ܐܠܐ ܦܨܐ ܠܢ ܡܢ ܒܝܫܐ
Elo paṣo lan men bišo
ܡܛܠ ܕܕܠܟ ܗܝ ܡܠܟܘܬܐ
Meṭul d-dilokh hi malkutho
ܘܚܝܠܐ ܘܬܫܒܘܚܬܐ
W-ḥaylo w-tešbuḥto
ܠܥܠܡ ܥܠܡܝܢ
L`olam `olmin

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sea of Trees

A sparrow in a tree
In a sea of trees,
It falls from its perch;
It is buried by the leaf litter.
The maggots eat it;
The worms return it to the soil.
The forest stands
The world is proud, the world moves on
Only the Lord mourns.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Excerpts from Report to Greco

1. My father spoke only rarely, never laughed, never engaged in brawls. He simply grated his teeth or clenched his fist at certain times, and if he happened to be holding a hard-shelled almond, rubbed it between his fingers and reduced it to dust. Once when he saw an aga place a packsaddle on a Christian and load him down like a donkey, so completely did his anger overcome him that he charged towards the Turk. He wanted to hurl and insult at him, but his lips had become contorted. Unable to utter a human word, he began to whinny like a horse. I was still a child. I stood there and watched, trembling with fright. And one midday as he was passing through a narrow land on his way home for dinner, he heard women shrieking and doors being slammed. A huge drunken Turk with drawn yataghan was pursuing Christians. He rushed upon my father the moment he saw him. The heat was torrid, and my father, tired from work, felt in no mood for a brawl. It occurred to him momentarily to turn into another lane and flee--no one was looking. But this would have been shameful. Untying the apron he had on, he wrapped it around his fist, and just as the colossal Turk began to raise the yataghan above his head, he gave him a punch in the belly and sprawled him out on the ground. Stooping, he wrenched the yataghan out of the other's grip and strode homeward. My mother brought him a clean shirt to put on--he was drenched in sweat--and I (I must have been about three years old) sat on the couch and gazed at him. His chest was covered with hair and steaming. As soon as he had changed and cooled off, he threw the yataghan down on the couch next to me. Then he turned to his wife.

"When your son grows up and goes to school," he said, "give him this as a pencil sharpener."

2. The priest had placed himself at the head of the grave, where he swung the censer up and down and murmured prayers under his breath. I leaned over the newly dug soil. Mold, putrefaction; I pinched my nostrils. Though I felt sick to my stomach, I did not go away. I waited. Bones? What bones? I kept asking myself, and I waited.

Suddenly the man who was bent over and digging stood up straight. His torso emerged above the pit. In his hands he held a skull. He cleaned the dirt off it, inserting his finger and pushing the mud out of the eye cavities, then placed it on the lip of the grave, leaned over again, and recommenced his digging.

"What is it?" I asked my uncle, trembling from fright.
"Can't you see? It's a dead person's head. A skull."
"Don't you remember her? It's out neighbour Annika's."
I burst into tears and began to howl.
"Annika's! Annika's!" I cried. Throwing myself in the ground, I grabbed all the stones I could find and started to hurl them at the gravedigger.

Wailing and lamenting, I screamed how beautiful she was, how beautiful she smelled! She used to come to our house, place me on her knees and comb my curls with the comb she removed from her hair. She used to tickle me under the arms, and I giggled, I peeped like a bird.

My uncle took me in his arms, carried me off a little ways, and spoke to me angrily. "Why are you crying? What did you expect? She died. We're all going to die."

But I was thinking of her blond hair, her large eyes, the red lips which used to kiss me. And now...
"And her hair," I shrieked, "her lips, her eyes?..."
"Gone, gone. The earth ate them."
"Why, why? I don't want people to die!"
My uncle shrugged his shoulders. "When you grow up, you'll find out why."

I never did find out. I grew up, became old, and never did find out.

3. Pateropoulos in the first grade: a little old man, very short, fierce-eyed, with drooping mustache, and the switch constantly in hand. He hunted us down, collected us, then set us out in a row as though we were ducks and he were taking us to market to sell. "The bones are mind, the flesh is yours, Teacher," every father instructed him as he turned over his wild goat of a son. "Thrash him, thrash him until he becomes a man." And he thrashed us pitilessly. All of us, teacher and students alike, awaited the day when these many beatings would turn us into men. When I grew older and philanthropic theories began to mislead my mind. I termed this method barbarous. But when I came to know human nature still better, I blessed, and still bless, Pateropoulos's holy switch. It was this that taught us that suffering is the greatest guide along the ascent which leads from animal to man.

4. One day while reading the legend of Saint John of the Hut, I jumped to my feet and made a decision: "I shall go to Mount Athos to become a saint!" Without turning to look at my mother (Saint John of the Hut had not turned to look at his mother), I strode over the threshold and out into the street. Taking the most outlying lanes and running all the way for fear that one of my uncles might see me and take me back home, I reached the harbor, where I approached a caique, the one which was ready to weigh anchor first. A sun-roasted seaman was leaning over the iron bitt and struggling to undo the cable. Trembling with emotion, I went up to him.

"Can you take me with you, Captain?"
"Where do you want to go?"
"Mount Athos."
"Where? Mount Athos? To do what?"
"Become a saint."

The skipper shook with laughter. Clapping his hands as though shooing away a hen, he shouted, "Home! Home!"

I ran home in disgrace, crawled under the sofa, and never breathed a word to anyone. Today is the first time I admit it: my initial attempt to become a saint miscarried.

5. Early the next morning my father took me by the hand.
"Come," he said.
My mother became frightened. "Where are you taking the boy? Not a single Christian has left his house yet."
"Come," my father repeated. He opened the door and we went outside.
"Where are we going?" I asked. My hand was trembling inside his massive palm.
I looked up and down the street. It was deserted except for two Turkish women at the corner who were washing at the tap. The water had turned red.
"Are you afraid?"
"That doesn't matter. You'll get used to it."

Turning the corner, we headed toward the harbor gate. We passed a house that was still smoking and many others with broken doors, blood still on the thresholds. When we reached the main square with its lion-scupltured fountain and the huge old plane tree at the edge, my father stopped.
"Look!" he said, pointing with his hand.

I looked up toward the plane tree and uttered a cry. Three hanged men were swinging there, one next to the other. They were barefooted, dressed only in their nightshirts, and deep green tongues were hanging out of their mouths. Unable to endure the sight, I turned my head away and clung to my father's knees. But he grasped my head with his hand and rotated it toward the plane tree.

"Look!" he ordered me again.
My eyes filled with hanged men.
"As long as you live--do you hear--may these hanged men never be out of your sight!"
"Who killed them?"
"Liberty, God bless it!"

I did not understand. Goggle-eyed, I stared and stared at the three bodies that were slowly swaying among the yellowing leaves of the plane tree.
My father swept his glance around him and pricked up his ears. The streets were deserted. He turned to me.

"Can you touch them?"
"No!" I answered, terrified.
"You can!... Come!"
We went close; my father crossed himself hurriedly, repeatedly
"Touch their feet!" he commanded.
He took my hand. I felt their cold, crusty skin against the tips of my fingers. The night dew was still upon them.
"Kiss them! Do obeisance!" my father now commanded. Seeing me try to make a break and get away, he seized me beneath the arms, lifted me, bent my head downward, and forcefully glued my mouth to the rigid feet.

He put me down. My knees could not support me. He leaned over and looked at me.
"That was to help you get used to it," he said.

Once more he took me by the hand. We returned home. My mother was standing behind the door waiting anxiously.
"Where in God's name did you go?" she asked, seizing me avidly and kissing me.
"We went to do obeisance," answered my father, and he gave me a trustful look.

Tresha Remembers

Tresha remembers.
Tresha remembers the time before the two hurricanes swept across the country, bringing houses and driving people, Down-down-down.
Tresha remembers the day when she met her own angel, an uncommon honour for one before their time is due.
Tresha's angel came with a host of many others, who descended upon the homes in the shantytown, filling each one up, reciting strange prayers. Presently, they were about to take leave.
Tresha's angel followed them. She was tall, slender and noble. She was decked in simple clothes, but her face shone, Shone, more brightly than all the rest.
Tresha followed her, ambling along the dirt path, her neighbours' doorsteps. She walked by her side as the host left the town.
Tresha reached out for the angel's hand, and her fingers closed around her own.

Down, down, down the slopes to Batangas, Tresha remembers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Witch-Musician

"Uakti is a mythical musician described by the Tucano people of the Alto Rio Negro region of the Amazon. According to the legend, the creature had holes in his body such that they would produce sound when he ran or the wind blew through him. This music seduced the women of the tribe and so the other men burned and buried his body. The myth holds that out of Uakti's remains grew the palm trees from which the Tukanos' flutes are made. The women of the Tukano Indians are thus not allowed to play flutes."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A disorganised reflection upon events occurring from May to July 2014

Advance apologies for incongruities in language, punctuation, or etc.

1. Prelate Javier Echevarria's visit, 17 May
2. Mission Trip Tagaytay, 29 May - 5 Jun and related events
3. Singapore and Southeast Asian Pipe Band Championship, 8 Jun
4. Grad Trip Kuching and Rainforest World Music Festival, 21 - 23 Jun
5. Retirement from GENUS, 26 Jun
6. Chinese RCIA at Holy Cross, 2 Jul and subsequent Wednesdays
7. Science and Engineering Retreat at Nativity Church, 9 - 12 Jul and related events
8. Commencement, 14 Jul and related events
9. Graduate cell group formed with Sr Sandra, 15 Jul and subsequent Tuesdays
10. Completion of CTIS Philosophy Course Translation tasks, 19 Jul
11. Lunch with the Chinese-speaking Catholic community, 26 Jul
12. Briefing for postgraduate course, 31 Jul (upcoming)
13. Diocesan Vocation Discernment retreat, 1 - 3 Aug (upcoming)

Living at the turning point of life has been eventful. I have graduated, but it is not so much a radical break from life as I know it into a world that is a linear combination of existential emptiness and fruitful labour, and more of taking a breath at the surface of the water before diving back in for another four years. Life goes on at the same place, and the same people are within reach, although some things change.

The Mission Trip airdropped me to the Manila suburbia, showed me how to love in a foreign land. The poverty of the shanty people was shocking, but I also saw in it something familiar... the dejection mirrored that of my hometown, which in addition to material destitution had also the pathetic emanation of a nation who has no soul, a nation who tails false gods, a nation with high-speed rail built across war-zones; what a scene! How do we find the faithful in such a place? Where do they dwell, what do they do? I only wish I knew, or found out earlier!

The takeaway from Tagaytay was a hangover that abhors a remedy, a message, a missionary spirit that is a fire in our hearts, there to burn on kindling, as far as we manage to sustain.


Three kinds of souls, three prayers
1] I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.
2] Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
3] Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break!

(Nikos Kazantzakis, Report to Greco. DISCLAIMER: No imprimatur on this one!)


Postgraduates start on 4 August. The briefing will take place this Thursday. It is time to start reading again, and blend in nicely to what business I will be busying myself with. The busy days come with the blessing with the motivation to attend morning masses. If anything, let it be a chance to give up the day to the Lord in advance, all the days, just as the Opus Dei fellows do.

Prelate Echevarria gave a talk to the faithful in Singapore the other day. I forget most of what he said, but I never want to forget this. He said, "If you are at home with the Lord, you can be at home anywhere." This is a perfect license for Christendom to put themselves in all sorts of uncomfortable places and situations and still be at ease, as if they were at home. My commando instincts are tingling!

If you are at home with the Lord, you can be at home anywhere.
I don't know how to worship in Chinese now, but I can learn. I am able to. I don't know most the people, but I can earn their friendship. I have to. My comfort zone has been small and boring. It's time for a change.


The faith bit in "faith and good works".
I always recite to the priest, "yes, it is good to keep the communication channels open." Now I have to live it. The family now says grace before every meal, and it's passably good progress.

Catholicism in Singapore now has a charismatic bent since roughly the point when Archbishop William became Archbishop. I now regularly find myself in a crowd shouting to the Lord at the top of my voice, singing in a pitch so high it hurt my throat. Maybe after all I can reach him better in silent times than in emotionally charged times like praise and worship, because it was in one of these times that he brought me through the Acts of the Apostles, and it made for a very productive reading.


In the same stroke I would also like to talk about the earthly stuff.
I took leave from the Guitar Ensemble. It was a sudden decision, because once I got down to it, it was very easily made. If I may add a list:

Stay in GENUS:
The juniors would love to have me around.

Tuesdays are now dedicated to graduate CG.
Tuesdays may be re-dedicated to Chinese CG, or not, depending...
Saturdays are reserved in case I get to join the pipe band.
Personal philosophy regarding music diverged from that of the ensemble consensus.
Sitting down for long periods of time not very beneficial to physical fitness.

And so on and so on.
I shall be getting my musical adventures a breath of fresh air hence.

Anyway, the tradition for students here upon graduation is to fly to somewhere exotic for a Graduation Trip. I no longer have any patience for sightseeing in tourist destinations, but a concert is still very welcome. The nearest concert is the Rainforest Festival in Kuching, at the foot of Mount Santubong. A yearly event, it ran for many years while Singaporeans have been kept in the dark, because publicity somehow never reached there.

This year's guest artists seem to be rather big on the percussions.
I also mentioned the pipe band. That seems to be on hiatus for now.

Time to go and sleep.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Tamzara - Dances from Armenia
Trad. Arr. Andy Paul Chen after Ithikon Akmeotaton (Mannheim 2006)
For the classical guitar, standard tuning (surprise!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Feet of the Hanged

And so it happened that the hellenes, who had been of this land since antiquity, were told that they did not belong to the new nation-state and were killed off, village after village. And young Nikos Kazantzakis kissed the feet of the hanged.