Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cafe Bola (First Part)

The menus were being passed across the table.

It was followed by a moment's silence as everyone scanned the food offered on the laminated paper. Among those who were at the gathering was my mother, seating on her wheelchair at the kabisera. The wheelchair was a gift from me six Christmases ago. My aunt sat next to her. She was the one who brought the tickets and invited us to join her "Christian Conference." Across the table sat another aunt who brought her two children at the "ministry." My cousins were busy discussing what pasta to eat while family gossips and thoughts about the conference were shared among the elders. Between soft chuckles recalling family histories and loud announcements of orders to the waitress, I sat quietly with my eyes fixed at the black and white portraits hanging on the white-washed wall.

Perched halfway between the ground and the ceiling were a collection of old photos telling a story of how the construction of the Araneta Coliseum took shape.


The last speaker left the stage after delivering a 45-minute talk about taking action to achieve one's dreams. I forgot what he shared but the events that followed stunned everyone at the big dome. The lights went off then it was followed by a female voice complaining why it turned suddenly dark.

"Ay bakit pinatayan ako ng ilaw?" The familiar voice boomed from the man-sized speakers.

"Helloooo!! May tao ba dito?" One could almost feel the excitement as the audience slowly recognizes the celebrity behind the voice.

The spotlight beamed across the ring. Its aim directed at a Kapamilya celebrity I just saw on a TV commercial the night before.

"Kala niyo hindi ako nagpupunta sa ganito no?" It was Ai-ai Delas Alas. The Araneta Coliseum thundered in cheers and applause.

Who would have thought a celebrity known for her slapstick humor and candid films would be very active in such religious events. Like everyone who was caught unprepared by her surprise appearance, it was easier to believe that someone was impersonating the actress rather than her breaking her routine to show up at the ministry. Yet the truth was there standing before us. Ai-ai was on stage doing an impromptu stand up performance while the main preacher, who did an inspirational talk earlier that day, showered her with good testimonials over a live video feed from Cebu.

"Grabe na stre-stress talaga ako rito" The actress nodded her head left to right. "Kung hindi lang wholesome tong pinuntahan ko eh kanina pa ako..." Her complains were followed by a loud snicker from the audience. I'm sure those who were attending the same conference in Cebu were pleased to know that Ai-ai belongs to their community.

The actress spoke snippets of details about her family. Yet it was clear in her little pep talk how fulfilled she is with her life. She even joked about looking for a boyfriend among the audience to the giggle of everyone.

"Maganda naman ako, mayaman pa. Yun nga lang, may tatlo akong anak na dapat matanggap ng magiging boyfriend ko." Ai-ai then spoke to the people in front. "Mas mabuti siguro kung si brother na lang ang manligaw sa akin. Mapapatino niya sigurado ako"

Her punchline drew another round of guffaws from the crowd.

Before performing a religious song (where her shaky voice gave way to brief sobs) and a Christmas medley she performed with an off-tuned melody, Ai-ai asked a single favor from the audience. At this point, it was hard to draw the line between her ice-breaking jokes and her heart-warming longings.

"Hinihiling ko po sana na ipag-pray niyo ang aking career at pati na ang aking pamilya." This time, the comedian spoke in a serious tone. "Alam niyo naman na libre lang ito kaya kahit yun na lang po ang TF ko..."

A feeling of admiration gushed in my head. I was short of shouting "awwwwwwww," and what stopped me from my tracks was my sense of propriety and the solemness of the moment. As she spoke about her need for prayers, I recalled her box-office movies, her string of big-time endorsements and then by realizing how she was able to put faith at the core of her everyday living,

my heart melted when I was finally struck by her achievements.




hugh said...

i thought Ai Ai is a Catholic.. well, regardless of your religion, these conferences are helpful, especially to lost souls.

btw, i miss eating at Cafe Bola...

Galen said...


You must have read the reference to "Christian" as the branch and not the religion. Don't worry, it's a Catholic event. Though, they borrowed some elements from the Christian practice of worship.

Ai-ai is a Catholic. And Cafe Bola in Araneta, is a good place for dating. Lol.

thecurioscat said...

haven't tried cafe bola.

Yj said...

one must really have to have strong faith in order to overcome the hardships that Ai-ai had to go through in life....

napanood ko kasi siya sa isang tv show na nagkukuwento ng buhay niya...

nakaka inspire.... masarap kumain sa cafe bola... although hindi ko pa nabibisita yung branch nila sa araneta.....


Galen said...

The Curious Cat:

Medyo mahal yung food nila. Pero maliit lang serving. Maganda yung ambiance. :)


Kaya nga ako natutuwa sa kanya eh. Napanood ko yung storya ni Ai-ai sa maalaala mo kaya. Hehehe.

Marami lang tao sa labas ng Cafe Bola sa Araneta. Parang extension ng Malate sa rami ng...

colorblind said...

ooops, kala ko the title was some kind of euphemism. never thought that there is such a real place, and what a name hehehe. my ignorance simply underscores my primitive lifestyle tagabukid na nga! hehe

Galen said...


It's actually a restaurant. And it represents a lot about this two-part entry.