Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I used to like laboratories. Its one of my favorite subjects way back in college I found interesting. The discovery, thrill and challenges in each experiment made me yawn-free. And my (tor)mentors just loved that.

From General Chemistry to Analytical Chemistry to Organic Chemistry, their corresponding laboratory moments were breaths of fresh air. Though I enjoyed listening to principles and theories, I just liked the fact of being involved in an actual application of those studies.
During these times, the laboratory apparatus was our bestfriend. They too had different personalities that I found fascinating. Dealing with them for a number of years inspired me to write a poem/snippets for some of them.

The Tripod
All my life, I am a missionary. I reach
out to the common tao, prioritize their needs
over mine. This is my destiny.

The Flask
I am a catwalk vamp, my fragile body's
flawless. A single and permanent wrinkle
means the end of my career. Too soon
to be categorized as has been.

The Bunsen Burner
Like a paid lover, I only provide
what is expected of me. Call me
a professional user, I can live with that.
Purely business, no more, no less.

The Wire Gauze
The loyal bodyguard, that's me.
I'd rather be the one jabbed instead
of my client. I'll repel the infiltration
of hostile forces. All in my hands.

The Stirring Rod
I cast a spell every now and then.
A single wave transforms a transparent liquid
to aqua blue, then lavender
or renders it invisible.  
Its one of the most enjoyable poems I have written. I could have turned them into riddles. A year before our thesis year, one of our requirements was to submit a technical study about a possible product in the years to come. Our (tor)mentor was strict. She wanted us to be more creative and imaginative. To her horror, our classmate proposed a study of “Helmet from Coconut Husks”. We can’t stop laughing, well, our classmate might have been frustrated by the constant rejection of our teacher.

Anyway, I proposed this topic even without consulting enough related literatures; I thought this might get her interested. And lucky I was my topic “Condom Production from the Latex of Jackfruit” was accepted. I cited the population explosion problems and the unavailability of rubber trees in our country as major reasons for this one. This study made me realize that production of a certain item required careful analysis and thinking -- from the raw materials to the process operation to delivery. I drafted a poem inspired by the original raw material.


Lament of A Rubber Tree

The glint of your bolo was an omen;
as its blade scored my skin, you funneled
viscous blood, sold and stored it
in exchange for rupees and ringgits.

Every two days for thirty years,
if not you, your sons, returned,
sliced another portion until my batiked body
exuded nothing.

I may die now in the burning sun,
soon be a memory,
but am still with you ---
in sheaths that protects, in balls
and dolls your children play with;
even in my clones, synthetics.
I still breathe. I still bleed


On our final year, we had an experimental thesis, our group had “Proposed Formulation on Panel Board Glue Mix”. This thesis required an actual product / result to prove the feasibility of the study. Our group had experienced a lot of problems; I think having our report in typewritten format had the sympathy of our professor. Hehe! Modesty aside, our group was awarded as the Best Chemical Engineering Experimental Thesis. Oh, those memories.

Going back to the opening lines of this entry, yes, I used to like laboratories. Not so much now. I am currently enjoying another field of Chemical Engineering, the Process Engineering. Hehe!
Anyway, I still think, life is like a laboratory… full of assumption, experiments and sometimes serendipities.



  1. The anthropomorphism you created of the laboratory apparatus in this collection of poems is amusing. I particularly like

    The Stirring Rod

    I cast a spell every now and then.
    A single wave transforms a transparent liquid
    to aqua blue, then lavender
    or renders it invisible. Magic.

    This is just like in the process of writing poetry. Poets in that manner are alchemist - creating magic.

    We must be seated opposite a table if we were classmates back in school. Chemistry just bores me.
    Good that in nursing, we only have 2 chemistry subjects and the only thing we were required then was to make soap. I think our group just got a good grade because of the crazy advertisement I made for our project. I'm good at coming up with crazy ideas, only I experiment with words not with chemicals.

    I wish you well ~ Jeques

  2. @jeques, hehe, i liked stirring rod too. heck, i even used it to describe me (look at my profile) hehe.

    well, its good to experiment, be it in words or chemicals. thanks

  3. Oh, I see. Your anthropomorphism to a stirring rod. Cool!

    I have a poem, "My Anthropomorphism to a Leaf," which I will post in my blog soon. We have favorite things that we can personify in our works. And it is amusing how we can make them us. I also wrote me being a pen in my poem: "My Pen's Dirge"

    I like the word "stir," yeah, we can create ripples in the mind.

    I wish you well ~ Jeques

  4. nice post john, di ba na-print na sa jpiche last time ang imo poem? i could not remember. it is my first time to read your lament of a rubber tree, that's very creative. grabe, amo na guro ganipis na imo buhok sa panumdum poems no? hehe, jok lang, but neway, hanga gid ako sa poetic mind mo. and now, your creativity extends to photography, a chemistry magic :). btw, si tashi guid na ang strict ay? kay bu-ot man ko ya bala :)!

  5. @jeques, hehe, my mind even sometimes produce tsunamis hehehe

    @ms beth, yes, this wasnt published when i was in college. regarding the poem sa tshirt (gin request ko si jill kag mamang) ngita copy para sa akon.

    3 tshirts actually (10 reasons to date a chem engr, chem engr are complex creatures and kim-ing) hehe

    sagad sagad sa imo ba, bal-an mo nga si ms tashie? ehehe

  6. Just a random thought.

    The movie shutter is a Thai film about photography.

    You're now in Thailand and you're crazy about cameras. Hopefully, you don't have neck pain yet.

  7. tukayo ang galing mo talaga. talentado! haha.. writing poems/snippets seems like a piece of cake and it just flows freely from your mind. :)

  8. @benj, long time no hear. hehe. have to check that movie. thanks. i still do. my neck, my eyes, and my hands lol

    @tukayo, naks naman. dati pa yan. nung gumagana pa utak ko hhee

  9. hahaha,tawa gid ko tomai ah..of course i know all of the experiences we had in the laboratory even if we're not in the same group..but in the pappers im one of the proud members..ako yata ang security guards nyong apat na boys,hehehe..the only rose among the thorns,hahaha.ngaa gani naimpon ko sa inyo?na amnesia na ko,hehehe..basta im so glad we belong in one group..the best experience we had in iloilo..daw mga piho,hehehe...nice tomai!!!

  10. @mamang, dasig sa imo malipat ba. hehe 3 lang kami bala upod mo. hehe ngaa 4 man hambal mo? hehe

  11. I can relate to your poetry; I have a chemistry background too. I agree that these would make great riddles!

  12. this was far more than poetry it was a whole lesson in something i have no knowledge of,, but found my appetite whetted for more... thank you so much for opening that door....

  13. I could see some scientists pulling their hair out at this. Nice.

  14. I was a student of Chemistry for five years. Those chemistry labs can never be forgotten. We spent more than half of our college life there. Attending lerctures were passe. But lab work, a must. I loved the verses created for those much loved lab apparatus.

    We scientists, have we ever stopped creating?

    Now I write poetry on mathematics. I recently submitted three poems to my school magazine. In case you do not know, I teach mathematics.

    Now we have maths labs in schools. That is something different...

    Housing my soul

  15. thanks all, chemistry is one interesting subject. we are dealing with it everyday :-)

  16. I liek the way you've brought lab equipment to life. I enjoyed the whole post a lot. I used to spend a lot of time in laboratories

  17. I think you should read the book "my experiments with truth".. life is indeed full of experiments we try out

  18. very interesting read...enjoyed your reflective touch wih the lab...but more so the rubber was beautiful

  19. Can I just say that this is the first time that science interested me? The poems written were wonderful and should be sent to science teachers the world over for use...seriously.

  20. thanks for your kind words, really appreciate them :-)

  21. wow these poems are amazing. For the first time I start to like chemistry. You make it sound like a wizards place of magic

  22. I have always enjoyed science and doing experiments but you made it something more and it was a great post to read thanks.

  23. What a fun poem - I wont' look at lab apparatus the same way again, might just be caught talking to a Tripod soon.

  24. You take me out of my realm with these, and it's a lovely experience.

    The Lament is gripping. I have often wondered what it is like for a tree to be drained, though around here I see this happen to maples, not rubber, trees.

  25. Enjoyed finding scientific tools a source for some poetic imagination! The result is so refreshing and enlightening.

  26. I enjoyed your poetry anthropomorphisms in the lab equipment poem, very immaginative!
    The tripod was my favorite.

  27. This was some fascinating stuff, totomai--and I can see why these poems are your favorites.

    Want to ask why you say you 'used to like laboratories'?

    Thanks for putting a lot of thought and time in this post--it was juicy!

  28. Fascinating! Enjoyed the read...

  29. Your writing is fascinating~ the tree's interpretation is brilliant! Thanks for sharing!


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