Monday, August 30, 2010

Downfall In The Midst






It began with a secret experiment early last week. The goal was to live through an entire day with just twenty pesos in my wallet - just enough for a jeepney ride to take me to work and back home again. Interference from outside sources, especially my mother was not allowed. Requesting for loan or spare change from colleagues and friends was subverted. It was a test of endurance: to instill in one's mind the value of humility. The experiment was a success, save for some days when my presence was required elsewhere. Saturdays were spared from such parsimony. Engkanto nights will always remain the same.

Now you ask why I did allow such state to happen. Truth is, I have foreseen its coming. The problem is that I didn't make preparations to cushion myself from the blow. Looking at the bigger picture, it was inevitable. I spent a fortune during my sister's wedding. I had to enroll in school to finish my masters. I also had to pay for the car's yearly registration since the responsibility falls under me. There was no way I could shift from one career to another given the circumstances at work. Talk about being cornered.

The bottom line is, I spent beyond my means.

The bills are piling up before my first paycheck shows in my bank account. Assessing the situation, I am set to lose my entire salary next month just by paying off some debts. Don't get me wrong, the expenses are still manageable. The supreme sacrifice is just a way to ensure that I have room to maneuver when the bills for October come.

Living next to the ledge has its perks too. The view is more breathtaking when you're a few steps away from the ravine. You get to appreciate life as it is - without its material comforts, its ravenous appetite to acquire more things, its natural affinity to turn a back to those who cannot afford to get more from it. You are always one step ahead knowing that your every move might lead to your downfall, and that itself is already a reward.

Unless you get tired of living a half-life.

The month is coming to a close. The future maybe bleak but these little exercises in frugality have somehow made a dent and prepared me to hold the line until overturning the situation could be possible.

Mami Athena would say its forbidden to speak "wala akong pera," for it attracts bad vibes across the cosmos. She even claims that she never felt so wala just by not telling those three accursed words when issues about money are laid down on the table. The mistress was right, my remote investments will stay intact and it will remain so even if I could not afford to leave the house. As for an entire month living off with just twenty pesos several days a week, the challenge and the promise of experience is as exciting as the hardships I could imagine.

It's not as bad as you think,

For when you go past the hurdle, nothing can bring you down anymore.




Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kutong Lupa (Last Part)






Naupo kami ng kutong lupa sa table katabi ng pintuan palabas ng bar. Madilim ang buong paligid. Mangilan-ngilan lang ang mga bisita na karamihan ay piniling umupo sa inner room na mas malamig dahil sa aircon. Tahimik sa aming puwesto. Ang mga waiter na dati rati'y abala sa sunod-sunod na order ng mga parokyanong nakikihalakhak sa mga gay impersonators ay nakatunganga't nagkukuwentuhan lang. Ibang-iba ang dating ng lugar nang isinama ko ang bunso ng barkada ng gabing iyon. Hindi gaya dati na paulit ulit na may bumibirit sa stage ng


Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone
How do I get you alone



hanggang sa magkasawaan at mga kanta naman ni Celine Dion at Mariah Carey ang pagtuunang kantahin.

Umorder kami ni bunso ng tig-isang bote ng San Mig Light. Hindi pa man nadadampian ng beer sa aming mga lalamunan ay binanatan ko na ito ng katanungan.

"May problema na naman sa inyo no?" Hindi ito umimik sa akin. Sa halip ay naglabas ito ng panyo't animo'y nagpupunas ng pawis. Nangingilid na pala ang luha ng binata.

"Hindi ko na nga alam gagawin ko kuya eh." Nangangatal ang kanyang boses, pigil ang anumang ibig isigaw ng kanyang damdamin.

Dumating ang aming order habang unti-unting nag-oopen up ang kutong lupa sa akin. Taimtim akong nakikinig sa kanyang kuwento habang ipinaglalagay ito ng yelo sa baso. Sa unang pagkakataon ay nalaman ko ang sitwasyon niya sa bahay. Nalaman ko rin kung bakit ganun na lang kasaya ang kutong lupa sa tuwing nagkikita kita ang magkakabarkada. Nakakalungkot man isipin ngunit kagaya siya ng karamihan ng mga PLU ngayon. Tago ngunit pilit kumakawala. Palaban subalit piniling hindi magsalita. Rebelde pero laging isinasaalang alang ang kapakanan ng pamilya. Hindi ako magaling bumasa ng ugali ng tao, ngunit sapat na ang pagkataong pinapakita ng aking kasama upang makiramay sa kanya.

"Alam mo hindi ka nag-iisa. Lahat kami ay dumaan sa ganyan." Muli kong naalala kung gaano ko kamuhian ang aking ama noong buhay pa siya. Sinong mag-aakalang ang pinakapalabang anak ang siya ring hindi nakakalimot dumalaw sa kanyang puntod tuwing ito'y naliligaw sa bayang kanyang kinalakihan.

"Talaga kuya?" Mabilis ang binata sa paglagok ng beer. Tila pilit nitong nilulunod ang kahinaang buong tiwala niyang pinakita sa akin.

"Oo naman! 5 years from now, pagtatawanan mo lang lahat ito."

Nagpatuloy ang aming kuwentuhan habang lumalalim ang gabi. Nakuwento ko sa kanya kung gaano siya kamahal ng barkada at ang pangungulilang mararamdaman ng lahat sa nalalapit nitong pangingibang bansa. Upang lubos na maipaliwanag ang kanyang pinagdaraanan, ginawa kong halimbawa ang ibang mga kutong lupa na dumaranas rin ng hindi pagkakaunawaan sa pamilya.

"Kita mo naman si shoti, mas matanda pa sayo pero kung bigyan ng curfew ng nanay eh parang teenager lang." Ngiti ang isinukli ng binata.

Humaba lang ng dalawang bote at kalahati ang aming usapan. May pasok pa kasi ako kinabukasan samantalang siya naman ay tumakas lang sa kanila. Gaano man kaikli ang aming panahon, pinilit kong ibahagi sa kanya ang mga aral na natutunan ko sa buhay. Naroon ang babala ng pagiging kumplikado ng mga problema, at ang paniniwalang higit na matiwasay ang kanyang magiging landas dahil sa mga nakakatandang nakapalibot at handang umalalay sa kanya.

Nang gabing iyon ay naisip kong napapanahon na ang mag-recruit ng mga bagong kutong lupa na magiging katro-katropa ng aming bunso.

Hiningi ko ang aming bill at kaagad itong binayaran. Mabigat man ang loob ng aking kasama ay bakas na sa kanyang mukha ang kaginhawaan na may nasasabihan na iba.

Naalala ko tuloy bigla ang huli naming pangtritrip sa kanya - sa isa ring inuman sa piling ng mga engkanto.

-

"Darating na si shoti. Dali isuot mo na tong sando ko para makita niyang hunk na hunk ka na!" Sumunod naman ang binata. Pagbalik nito galing banyo ay sa kanya ang tingin ng lahat ng nasa paligid.

"Pucha para tayong may ka-table sa gaybar ah!" Pabirong sabi ng pinuno.

Tuloy ulit ang inuman. Subalit ilang minuto pa ay nagsimula ng magreklamo ang kutong lupa.

"Akin na yung t-shirt ko. Ang lamig lamig na..."

"Ah hindi! Kelangang pakita mo kay shoti yang masels mo!"

"Baka hindi dumating si shoti ah!!"

"Edi pagyabang mo na lang sa utol ko yang braso mo." Ang tinutukoy kong utol ay si Lukayo.

"Pangako yan ha! Magdadamit na ako pag dumating na sina Lukayo."

"Depende kung papayagan ka niyang isuot ulit yang T-Shirt mo." Halatang asiwa ang aming pinagtritripan.

"Dali, flex ka muna ng masels kunan kita ng picture." Who would have thought na sa entry palang ito magagamit ang litrato.






Sa inumang iyon kung saan wala si Ate Bianca, ang kutong lupa ang kaisa-isang tumba. Subalit ang kutong lupa ring ito ang kauna-unahang nawalan ng tama nang ipakita sa kanya ang mga litrato ng isang engkantong nagdamit babae at rumampa sa stage para sa isang initiation na tradisyon na sa kanyang pinagtratrabahuhan.

"Balang araw ay mag-susuot ka rin ng gown."

-

Nilakad namin mula bar hanggang sakayan ng jeep na tuloy pa rin ang kuwentuhan tungkol sa kanyang problema. Naroon rin ang manaka-nakang harutan na lagi naming ginagawa sa tuwing nalalasing. Limot man sa alaala ang eksaktong dahilan kung paano kami naging close (yun ba ay noong sinama ko siya sa O-Bar para ibugaw sa mga bading habang pinipitik na pala ang cellphone sa aking bulsa o kaya naman ay noong may sinama akong nognog na hipon na pinaringgan niyang kamag-anak ni Aling Dionisia, pero siguradong hindi iyon noong may inimbitahan kaming blogger na katakot takot na pintas ang inabot sa kanya matapos itong umaming maka-kapuso.) Sa pagpupumilit balikan ang aming nakaraan habang nag-iintay ng sasakyang mag-uuwi sa kanya, hindi ko namalayang nasa harap na pala namin ang FX patungong Montalban.

"Dito na ako kuya, salamat ha?"

"Ayos lang, mag-ingat ka."

Sinarado ko ang pintuan ng FX bago pa man ito makasagot sa akin. Subalit bago tuluyang makalimutan ay kinatok ko ang bintana ng sasakyan para ipaalalang mag-text pagdating sa bahay.

Tango ang sinukli ng kutong lupa.

Ang pulang ilaw sa traffic light ay napalitan na ng berde. Nakaandar na ang sasakyan at malayo na sa aking kinatatayuan ngunit pinili kong pagmasdan ang FX habang ito ay unti-unting nawawala sa aking paningin.




Friday, August 27, 2010

Kutong Lupa (First Part)






Nakatayo ang binata sa labas ng Chowking na akala mo'y callboy na naghahanap ng booking. Suot niya'y stripes na polo, shorts na batik-batik at tsinelas na gawa sa goma. Ang aming pagkikita ay biglaan. Pasado alas-diyes ng gabi nang sabihan ako ng pinuno na problemado ang bunso at naghahanap ng kainuman. Gusto niya sanang lumuwas galing Novaliches, subalit dala ng masungit na panahon, pinakiusapan niya akong samahan ang lagi naming nakakainumang kutong lupa.

Mga dalawang taon na ang lumipas mula ng ipakilala siya sa barkada. Sabi ng marami na hawig niya si Piolo Pascual kaya't lahat ay kaagad nahumaling sa kanya. Nang magpakita ito sa inuman ay hindi kami nagpansinang dalawa. Marahil ay dala ito ng pagkakailangan, pero sadya ko talaga ang maging suplado sapagkat nayayabangan ako sa kanyang asta. Bukod pa rito, madali ko ring nakagaanan ng loob ang kanyang kasabayan na ngayon ay nagtratrabaho sa Singapore na.

Dumaan ang ilang buwan at napabalitang nakarelasyon nitong si Piolo ang isang ka-miyembro na alamat na sa barkada. Naging usap-usapan rin ang pagsama nito kung kani-kanino na binigyang kulay ng ilan na pawang kilos hindi kaaya-aya. At dahil ilang kami sa isa't isa habang unti-unti namang humihina ang kapit niya sa grupo (kabangga niya rin kasi ang ibang mga batang recruit na mas malapit sa puso ng mga lamang lupa) dumating ang araw na siya ay nilaglag ng pinuno.

Ilang buwan siyang nagpalipat lipat ng sinasamahan. Sa mga clans na kanyang nakasalamuha, kadalasan ay katawan at hitsura ang habol sa kanya. Ang iba naman ay sinamantala ang kanyang mabuting pakikisama. Lamang tiyan ang naging tingin sa kanya. At dahil nasawa siya sa ganitong kalakaran, muli siyang lumapit sa pinuno upang ibalik sa grupo. Madaling naawa ang pinuno lalo pa't nawala na rin naman ang mga batang may ayaw sa kanya.

Sa madaling sabi ay muli siyang tinanggap ng mga engkanto.

Naalala ko, nagpakain si Papa Pilyo noong kanyang graduation. Celebration daw yun dahil nakatapos siya ng pag-aaral. Ang hindi alam ng nagsidatingan ay yun ang unang pagkakataon na sabay sabay naghapunan ang barkada. Muli siyang napalapit sa mga tao. Ang ilan, gaya ni PGR ay lihim na umibig sa kanya.

Subalit marunong na ang kutong lupa. Alam niya na hindi maaring magsama ang karir at barkada. Maari siyang lumandi, subalit ang limitasyon ay malinaw na sa kanya. Dahil dito'y higit siyang hinangaan ng mga binata. Tampulan man siya ng tuksuhan ngunit alam ng lahat na kulang ang sigla kung wala siya sa inuman.

Maharot, Makulit, Batang Jollibee, Mahilig sa Bottomless Iced Tea. Ilan lamang ito sa bansag sa aming bunsong kutong lupa. Ipain man namin siya sa lahat ng lalaking naliligaw sa grupo, sa hirap at ginhawa, barkada ang aagapay sa kanya.


Dumating ang Nestea Ice Tea (maya kwento ni Bianca kung bakit Nestea Ice Tea and kanyang pangalan)... medyo nabuhayan ng konti.. siyempre.. makulit itong si Nestea Ice tea kaya pampadagdag ng sigla sa tagayan.. Pero teka parang may hinahanap itong si Nestea Ice Tea? Hinahanap niya si Procopio.. naghanda pa man din si Nestea Ice Tea .. nag short pants ito para kapag nahimasan sila ng hita ni Procopio ay hindi siya lugi. Ayun kay Bianca at nag enjoy yata itong si Nestea Ice Tea sa himasan nila ng hita ni Procopio. Pero sa kasamaang palad ay wala si Procopio nung gabing iyon. Kasama daw ang kanyang jowa na nagcecelebrate ng kaarawan. (biglang bumulong itong si Bianca. May pabirthday sex daw kasi ang jowa kaya di makakarating si Procopio! hahaha)


Nestea Iced Tea Ibottomless ang Saya!
Engkanto Blog,
May 11, 2010




"Mugs... mukhang may problem si Nestea... kausapin mo nga.. gusto yata ng company tonight.. di na ako pwede umalis ng bahay." Ang eksaktong text sa akin ng pinuno.

Katatapos ko lang maghilamos at magsipilyo ng ngipin nang maisip kong may kapalpakan nga pala akong ginawa sa trabaho.

Kaya't dali dali akong nagbihis at nagpaalam sa bahay para sa isang meeting sa opisina na ang conference room ay matatagpuan sa Cubao.





-tobecontinued-

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Real Story






Two days after the rescue blunder, more information emerged as to what happened during the shooting. Survivors said that some hostages put up resistance as Mendoza started to go berserk .

Besides Ken Leung Kam-wing, the 58-year-old managing director who tried to stop the gunman, his daughter, Jessie Leung Song-yi, 14, died saving her brother Jason Leung Song-xue, 19.

In the last minutes of the standoff, Mendoza herded the hostages to the rear of the bus but kept tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn handcuffed at the front of the vehicle. As the first rounds of shots were fired, which killed Tse, several hostages tried to disarm Mendoza, according to reports. This was when the killer went berserk and shot randomly.

Joe Chan Kwok-chu was quoted in one report as saying that Mendoza then walked down the aisle and kept shooting. After endless rounds of gunfire, tear gas forced Mendoza to walk to the front of the bus, exposing himself to the marksmen, who killed him.

But according to Tracey Wong Cheuk-yiu, in another interview, Mendoza pointed at the air when he fired his first shot.

She said most of the shots were fired from the outside earlier.




The Hong Kong Standard
Police May Go It Alone In Deaths Probe





ARK






I was at Dunkin Donuts in Gateway this evening to meet a friend for a drink. The air was crisp outside, and the street was still moist after a brief downpour drenched the city. Standing outside the bakeshop, an old lady passed in front of me. Crooked and staggering, she was gazing at the tables inside the glass window as if the chairs were calling her to take a seat.

In a wet and desolate August, one could not resist the allure of the pastry place. The warm breath of black coffee, the sweet soft bread sprinkled with nuts and glazed with fruits and chocolate, the hearty ham sandwich that could fill the longing of an empty tummy. She entered the bakeshop without getting anyone's attention. Choosing a table next to a corner, she put her belongings on an empty chair and began counting the coins inside her cotton purse.

There were many customers inside Dunkin Donuts. A guy in his mid-forties sat next to my table and was chatting with a sporty good-looking hunk. At a table behind me were two guys, perhaps agents from a nearby call center taking their break. At the counter queued three students placing an order for the bread of their choice. Everyone seemed in transit, including me, while the old lady holes herself up in a quiet spot until everyone leaves and the pastry place closes down for the night.

Minutes passed and my friend would arrive soon. Watching the old lady as she accounts for her meager earnings after toiling the entire day; her serene grace concealing the tenebrous tales of her sordid life; The styrofoam cup half-empty with warm water to soothe a grumbling stomach, a watchful soul could easily hear a longing heartbeat.

Leaving my chair, I walked towards the counter to pick a donut on sale. A bunwich was what I had in mind, but given the dwindling wealth, which continues to drain my resources, any bread of kindness would do.

"Miss ano diyan yung donut niyo na hindi matamis?"

"Honey Glazed po o kaya yung..." I wasn't paying attention to the attendant. My eyes were glued at the muffin costing 28 pesos. I cannot afford it.

"Magkano yung Honey Glazed Donut niyo?"

"P9.50" I still have enough coins for a jeepney ride going to work tomorrow.

"Sige yun na lang kunin ko."

The friend texted just when I was about to get my change. Walking towards the old lady I humbly offered the donut snugged inside the plastic bag.

"Kain po kayo..." Her somber face suddenly glowed with delight. After all, who would offer such a treat when she didn't ask anyone for it.

"Thank you," Her eyes disappeared under her wrinkly, smiling face.

Leaving Dunkin Donuts to meet my friend on the other side of the boulevard, some callous eyes caught my passing as I chance upon the old lady's gaze still trailing my direction.




Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Postcripts To A BloodBath






Note: I am reposting this entry as an expression of disgust over what took place last Monday. The scenario below could have happened. Nobody has ever spoken about what took place during the final hour inside the nightmare tourist bus.

Speculation is possible.

Some readers, I've heard, have already prejudged the entry believing it was true. Read. Analyze. and understand what was the biggest mistake ever done that night. It was not about the hostage taker. It was about how the hostage taking was handled.



This is Fiction:





Mr. Mendoza was already upset even before he saw on television what the policemen did to his brother. The other tourists who remained inside the bus were complaining. Wei Ji Jiang wanted to go to the bathroom. Dao Chi Yu was hungry and the rest were just groaning and whining like they have forgotten that our lives rest in Mr. Mendoza's hands.

The hostage taker, as you know him was really nice. He treated us okay and even let the elders and the children leave the bus. He said your policemen treated him unfairly. He was a policeman too and was accused of doing something he had no knowledge of. But your government didn't listen so he used us to get everyone's attention.

Things would have never turned for the worst if he didn't see how his family was dragged out of their house and taken into custody. He was watching the news all the time as we huddled around each other behind the bus. He shouted some words in your language then started shooting in the air. A girl about my age started screaming. Mr. Mendoza demanded her to stop but she didn't understand English. God, he had to slash her neck with a knife just to put her to rest. Her boyfriend who tried to hit him was shot in the head.

Tension was rising. You can see in his face how scared and confused he was. The bus driver ran away leaving him alone with strangers from a distant land. I can see him walking across the aisle, sometimes pointing his machine gun to one of the tourists. But he tried his best not to hurt us, especially those who really cooperate.

I guess its in your nature not to inflict pain on others unless it was necessary or when madness poisons your head. I remember him saying that he will free us before sundown and implored us to forget everything when we return home. But his words don't matter now. The policemen were trying to force their way in, while we all lied down to shield ourselves from bullets. Mister Mendoza blindly shoots at his enemies which I think kept them from rescuing us. I hear sobs under the chairs. Some were even shouting the names of their loved ones even when the air merely eat their words. Kevin Tang tried to escape when the glass door was shattered, but one shot and he slumped on the floor with blood gushing from his mouth.

Heavy rain pitter-pattered on the rooftop. In old Chinese saying, it means an end to a struggle. Finally, somebody was able to open the escape hatch at the back of the bus. Freedom. But I knew Mister Mendoza was still alive. I knew he was just waiting for a chance to strike back at his enemies. So I told those around me not to escape. Let the authorities come for us instead. Then there was gunfire. He was firing at his enemies with a machine gun. Those who were at the escape hatch fled abandoning us once again. It's like a nightmare with no end and to wake up means a certain death. Then somebody from outside the bus threw a canister. It forced out a black smoke that is so painful to the eyes and putrid smelling to the nose. People started screaming. We cannot breathe. Some ran in front of the bus but Mister Mendoza warned them of stray bullets. It was too late. One was hit on the chest, the other was hit on the shoulders. Bullets were now flying. Its like the authorities thought we were all dead. Mister Mendoza realizes his fate and said sorry to everyone, dead or alive. He then ran towards the front of the bus where he would meet his maker. As he passed by my chair with bullets whistling overhead, I clutched my hand on the velvet curtain and wrapped it around my face. All I could think of was to stay alive - for my child who is waiting for me back in Xinjang. I know I will survive,

I will come home.







Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mabuhay, Welcome






Ang kuwentong ito ay tungkol sa dalawang magpinsang lalaki na minsang nahilig sa Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. Ito ay bahagi ng kanilang kabataan na nagkaroon ng impluwensya sa kanilang paglaki at pagsibol ng sariling pag-iisip. Limot man sa alaala ang marami sa mga detalye ng patimpalak, nandito pa rin ang beauty contest na magpapaalala kung paano nagsanga ang kanilang mga buhay.

It was the year 1994. The government was in dire need to promote the country to the rest of the world. Kung sino man ang naka-isip na i-hold dito sa Manila ang Miss Universe ay tiyak na umani ng maraming puna lalo na sa mga naniniwalang mas makabubuting ginastos ang pera sa pagbibigay tulong sa mahirap sa halip na ginamit sa paghohost ng pageant. Subalit mapilit ang gobyerno. Long-term investment daw ito para sa bayan. Dahil hawak ng Kapamilya Network ang promotions at PR ng nasabing beauty contest, inabangan ito ng sambayanan.

Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nais i-prove ng magpinsang magkatunggali. Ang isa ay rich kid samantalang sidekick naman niya ang isa. Puwede rin sabihing sagigilid, kung papansining mabuti ang income disparity ng pamilya ng dalawa. Just the same, maaring nagkahawaan lang sila ng hilig na lalong ginatungan ng isa pang pinsan na kabilang sa mga batang kakanta sa evening gown competition. In the spirit of common bonds, pareho nilang inabangan ang coronation night.

Matatandaan na puspusan ang pagbui-build up ng ABS-CBN sa Miss Universe. Bukod sa mga trivia katulad ng:

  • Winning answer ni Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz tungkol sa how she will welcome the astronauts should they land the lunar module in her country upon their return. (Bronxdude alam mo ito!)

  • Pinoy pala ang naging asawa ng kauna-unahang Miss Universe title holder noong 1952

  • Tagalog ang salitang ginamit ni Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Moran nang ito ay nag-introduce ng sarili.

Mayroon ring mga palabas kung saan binahagi ng ibang Miss Philippines Representatives ang kanilang karanasan sa mga nakaraang Miss Universe pageant. Naroon ang isang nakasaksi ng catfight sa pagitan ng dalawang contestants. Ang isa naman ay harapang pinagsabihan ng organizer na huwag maging masiba sa salad. Ang karamihan naman lalo na ang mga naunang representatives ay pahirapan ang pagpapaalam sa konserbatibong pamilya bago ipadala sa competition. Mahilig magpuyat ang isa sa magpinsan at dahil ang mga news and information programs ay pinapalabas pagkatapos ng the World Tonight. Lahat ng trivia tungkol sa beauty contest ay na-absorb ng kanyang musmos na utak.

Subalit hindi nagpatalo ang kanyang contender. Dala ng karangyaan at sa tulong ng tiyahing nagtratrabaho sa Tourism Department, tatlong malalaking photo album na puno ng litrato ng Miss Universe 1994 Representatives ang napasakanya. In full support rin ang kanyang ina na sadyang ginastusan ang hilig ng kanyang unico hijo. (Sabagay, sino ba namang nanay ang hindi magiging proud na may taste na ang kanyang anak pagdating sa babae sa murang edad na sampu) Walang nagawa ang karibal na pinsan kundi mamangha, at kahit na nagtratrabaho sa Remate ang kanyang tatay bilang editor, hinala nito na napunta rin sa kanyang pinsan ang litratong pinapadala sa kanyang ama.

Naalala ko na crowd favorite si Miss Belgium noon. Bukod kasi sa mala-anghel nitong mukha ay natural na mahilig sa puti ang mga Pilipino. Nauso rin ang pair-up ng mga artista sa contestants (Van Aimeren - Alcasid, Torres - Mulach) pero nalaman rin natin na kung gaano kababaw ang showbiz, ganoon rin kababaw ang kanilang pag-iibigan.

The coronation night was a celebrated event. Sixteen years later ay nasa pandinig ko pa rin ang opening song ng Miss Universe. As expected ay nakapasok si Charlene Gonzales sa top 6. Nagpaka-pilosopo pa ito sa tanong na "High Tide or Low Tide" na ang sagot naman ay nakakabobo rin. Disappointed ang lahat nang si Sushmita Sen ang naging Miss Universe. Matatandaan na may isang binatilyo ang ininterview sa TV Patrol at taklesa nitong sinabi na hindi siya payag na mukhang mabantot ang title holder ng pageant. Talk about racial discrimination. Bingo tayo sa mga bumbay kung naimbento na ang YouTube noon.

Looking back, hindi lang ang dalawang magpinsan ang sumubaybay sa pageant of 1994. Tama nga ang gobyerno, long term investment ang desisyon nila na ang Pilipinas ang maghost ng Miss Universe. Sapagkat kung mayroon mang isang dahilan kung bakit laging nananalo sa online voting ang Miss Philippines, at nakikipagtarayan (sa facebook) ang mga tao sa tuwing inaalipusta ang kanilang kandidato sa Miss U ngayon, we could always trace the reason as to how it all began.

Hindi na muling naulit ang kumpetisyon sa pagitan ng magpinsan. Hindi na rin sila nag-usap tungkol sa Miss Universe pagkatapos noon. Matapos ang mahabang panahon, ang isa sa kanila ay tuluyan ng nangibang-bakod. Hindi man siya naging beauconera (nung last time na pinilit siya ni Bronxdude manood ng reruns ng Miss U sa DVD ay mas pinili nitong hanapan ng ka-eyeball ang isa pang kaibigan sa Planet Romeo) ay naging expert naman ito sa pagpapaligaya ng kapwa lalaki.

Samantalang ang kanyang katunggaling pinsan, bagama't nasa choir, hindi pa nagkaka - girl friend at napapabalitang nahihilig sa Glee the Musical ay naninindigan pa ring

straight.



Here in the Philippines, they have a word.
A great way to start up each day,
When you want to say “Welcome, we wish you the best”:
Just smile up a smile as you say,
Oh, oh, Mabuhay!





Saturday, August 21, 2010

Exoplanet









Astronomical:

Star: Gendorf
Planetary Designation: Audy 01106820
Adjective: Audean
Stellar Type: G3V (Yellow)


Orbital:

Apigendia: 182,300 km
Perigendia: 160,233 km
Orbital Period: 435.34353 days
Satellite: None


Physical:

Mean Radius: 5,243 km
Mass: 5.2434 x 10 kg24
Climate: +/- 13 centigrade
Axial Tilt: 22.86586 degrees
Gravity: 1.112 g
Prominent
Terrain Types: Temperate Forests, Lakes, Mountain Ranges,


Atmosphere:

Surface Pressure: 100,324 kPa
Composition:

76.24 Nitrogen
22.36 Oxygen
1.10 Water Vapor
0.25 Argon
0.05 Carbon Dioxide


Habitability Status:

Planetary Sentient, Symbiont Candidate,


Symbiosis in Progress


Orbiter images show that Audy 01106820 to be a single-continuous landmass. It is heavily forested with several large bodies of water prominent on its surface. No planet-wide oceans were observed. Massive mountain ranges dot the equatorial regions while a large impact crater of recent origin was seen near the northern arctic region of the planet.

Audy 01106820 was previously unoccupied. However, data gathered shows the planet to be within the habitation range of the people of the planetship. Preliminary symbiosis was already undertaken.




Friday, August 20, 2010

Twilight Of The SSR






Teach us to embrace the love we left behind
so we could banish the ghost, at last
and bask in the light of peace.




I found him sitting in the front row of a videoke corner at Robinson's Place Ermita. He was waiting for his turn to sing his favorite tunes, like he always does as a pastime.

Tucked at the far end of the mall next to a famous gym, the amusement center is like a hidden sanctuary for the bored and the lonely. Often seen by kids and blue-collar workers as their temple, it reminds me of how different I am from my lover. Being an anti-mall person, I will always have to bear the fact that we can't really enjoy going out together.

But this is our special day. Therefore, I had to endure the mall just to be with him even if it was a half-hearted effort.

He sang three songs, the ones in his mental songbook since time immemorial. The giggling girls at the back (who looked like low-class hookers) screamed as my buddy reaches the end of his performance. In fairness to my beau, he has the voice. If only I am as good as him, I wouldn't mind having a duet. Unfortunately I'm not. The last time I was forced to sing was during the PEx Grand Eyeball held recently. I had to down six mugs of San Mig Light before I could croon to the timeless Crazy For You.

We immediately left after his turn. As we searched for a place to dine at, he noticed a small woman talking to someone on the phone. Inspired by her accent, my buddy spoke to me in English. He insisted that we should do it to improve his confidence for he was planning to apply in a Call Center.



Like all other anniversaries before, this year was not spared from the annual jinx.

Several days ago, Havok made a surprising comeback. It was followed the same day by a colleague's promotion from being a One-Night Stand partner to being a Fuck Buddy. Last night, the boyfriend disappointed me by forgetting that today is our anniversary. He even insisted that our founding date falls on May instead of April.

Of course, how can I forget. He was the first friendly eyeball after breaking up with the ex.



Finally, we decided to eat at the food court instead of dining in at a restaurant. He said he preferred rice for dinner and the only decent place I know was the Kamay Kainan. For reasons only known to my tummy, I had this craving for Kare-Kare and Lechon Kawali. Only that food kiosk serves the dish I have been craving all day.

However, the Fried Squid Rings from a nearby kiosk caught my buddy's attention. The kiosk was well lighted and very tidy, and their dishes were served in huge trays which appealed to our hungry eyes. When I've learned that their combo meals were relatively affordable, we changed our plans and chose to eat at Panda's instead.

Over our dinner that includes Sweet and Sour Pork, Pancit Guisado, Fried Squid Rings and Chopsuey, we talked about his grades. One thing I'd always be proud of my partner is his string of academic recognitions. Like me, he is a working student and compared to the laid-back environment I enjoy in the masters program, he is struggling to keep his scholarship in a prestigious college along Taft Avenue.

It is the reason why he frequently stays in my place. Not to be with me but to use my computer for his research and school projects.

After our sumptuous meal, we skipped his habitual window shopping by leaving the mall and proceeding to Malate immediately. He wanted to have a brief stroll after months of absence. As always, I've been his patient listener as he spoke about his plans and frustrations in life. He told me that he wanted to have his own computer. I told him that I could save his money for him. He also wanted to have more time for himself, to which I suggested that he should live in Taft instead. For me, no matter how many issues he brings up, it doesn't matter. So long as I could manage my own personal issues - whether he finds about it or not, I could still lend an ear and provide a way to make his life easier.



I would like for us to spend the night in my place, but apparently he had other plans. I didn't buy his excuses, but instead of making an issue out of it, I simply didn't complain.

Moping around was easy. But I see no point in doing it. I wanted to prolong our time together though and the only way to do it was by volunteering to accompany him to Monumento, where he will ride a jeep going to his rented apartment. The long, uneventful travel would bide me more time to bond, even if we're not uttering a single word.

As the jeepney speeds along Rizal Avenue, I noticed a significant change when it comes to his openness. A few years ago, he would insist on finding a girlfriend and marrying her in hopes of ending his confusion. This insensitive claim left me frustrated knowing that I have no future. He also used to get mad if I showed little hints of intimacy by brushing my arms against his when it hung on the estribo.

Tonight, it was he who brushed my arms and poked my finger just to show his affection. Such display of intimacy showed the openness of our relationship and its endurance no matter how complicated it had become as time passed.

Since it was getting late when we arrived at our destination, I asked him to ride the first FX we could find. It may have been a very anti-climatic parting but at the back of my head, I felt a strange lingering sadness as his vehicle faded away from my view. It felt like struggling to hold on to a past that is fast disappearing. Now that my views have drastically changed, I don't know what to believe or look forward to in a relationship that I'm trying to work out for myself.

Since I know it suited him well.

A friend asked me if I still love my partner. I told him that I don't know how to define love anymore. I just do whatever I think he needs, even if it means ignoring my own. I guess it is another sign that I'm already over with the cheesy stage and I see romance in a pragmatic and cynical point of view.

But just this once, do you want to know what I honestly feel?

I'd give everything just to see him sleep in my bed, so I could hug him, kiss him and make love to him before I face another uncertain day when the sun comes tomorrow. I want to feel secure in his arms while his warm naked body presses against mine.

I know, it's just wishful thinking.

A truth revealing itself to a person whose heart was left beating after a special event brought new life into it.

Hoping it would never end.




Ikaapat
Fullmetal Dreams
April XXX



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Question Of Beaucon






Kung ang FIFA, PBA at Boxing ay para sa mga boys, at ang Avon Beauty Products at pag-aalaga naman ng mga bata (two things na hindi puwedeng makumpitensya ninuman) ay pag-aari ng mga girls, ang Miss Universe naman ay area of expertise ng mga gays. Of course, this is a very chauvinistic point of view. Pero for the sake of discussion, hahayaan natin ito para sa aking blog entry for today.

Bali-balita noon sa mga call centers ang pagkakaroon ng significant number of absences at leaves ng mga agents tuwing coronation night. Hindi ko alam kung totoo ito, pero sa dami ng mga bading na nagtratarabaho sa BPO, tiyak na may kabuluhan ang nasabing balita. Nakabasa rin ako ng blog entry dati tungkol sa isang sex orgy na nauwi sa beaucon party. Kuwento sa blog, tila walang idea yung straight-acting na organizer sa sagradong araw ng mga bading. Nanood daw muna sila ng coronation with matching commentary and all. Of course natuloy rin ang sex pagkatapos ng pageant. Yun nga lang, ang usap-usapan daw habang may milagrong nagaganap ay Miss Universe pa rin.

Meron rin akong friend na ang pangalan ay Bronxdude. Heto talaga ang Miss Universe fanatic. Memorize niya ang lahat ng winners mula kay Armii Kuusela hanggang sa pinaka current title holder last year. Sigurado akong alam niya rin lahat ng venue at host countries ng Miss U, pati na rin ang mga winning answers sa Q&A portion. Ewan ko na lang kung hindi sa kanyang kaadikan ay alam niya rin lahat ng national costumes at designers na sinuot ni Miss Philippines mula 1952.

So what makes beauty pageants very important to many gay people? Honestly hindi ko alam. It is the same question running inside my head when I meet people who worships Mariah Carey or admire Lea Salonga o kaya naman they watch Glee the Musical. The last time nga na nakapanood ako ng Pageant ay dinownload ko lang yung evening gown theme music ni Nelly Furtado. Nakalimutan ko nga kung sino ang title holder nung taong yun.

Now going back to the question, what makes beauty pageants - especially Miss Universe worth the time? Is it about the question and answer portion? The dresses and national costumes of the contestants? The overall production of the event? Or is it the journey of each contestant on their way to winning the crown?

Puwede na rin natin isama yung taon-taong pag-asa na mapunta sa Miss Philippines yung crown at yung sangkatutak na kapintasan pag sumablay ang contestant ng ibang bansa.






This is the first of a three-part series. Meanwhile, much as I find it unusual, I will openly throw my support to Miss Venus Raj dahil naging kakaiba ang kanyang paglalakbay para makalahok sa Miss Universe Pageant ngayong taon.




Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Room 718






IV


She would bring pack lunch to work for everyone to share. The mistress takes pride at her cooking and whatever dish she puts on the table becomes an elegant masterpiece. Sometimes its creamy Kare-Kare. By special request, its tangy Pork Binagoongan. If budget permits, she would cook Cream Dory in Butter and Lemon sauce. I do not remember the colleague who requested the dish, but the first time she forced me to taste it, a pangaean lover was born unto me.

The boys in the QA Department would enjoy the food heartily. Hers is a bacchanalian feast aimed at destroying attempts to cut down on calories.

"You're so thin, kumain ka nga!" She would scold me as extra rice passes from one plate to another.

"Busog na ako mami." I would say. Of course, she would get annoyed.

Meanwhile the three big boys who work in the department would just eat and eat without any care in the world. With an efficiency of a vacuum cleaner, everything's devoured on the table leaving the team leaders with scraps to enjoy.

Then she would force everyone to swallow fish oil capsule for dessert.


V


There was a vicious debate between the boss and my superior a few days before she complained of headache. The issue was about performing a diagnostics to assess the leadership capabilities of the junior officers. The concern was that some agents are doing better than their superiors in terms of grammar and product knowledge. To level up the field, the superiors would be given short training to be at par with their best subordinates. The boss raised a situation where a Team Leader fails such enhancer. What would become of that officer? Would that officer be sacked or demoted? Nobody could give a straight answer.

The debate went on from Tuesday to Thursday. It was said that some officers merely became muted spectators as the two stalwarts traded barbs at the conference room. Emotions ran high, I've heard, but in the end, the boss was satisfied with my superior's defense. On the third day, she was visibly exhausted. With her earnings from a raket delayed, pressures began to build up at the home front as well.


VI


"Mami I bought you cupcakes." She was at the floor when I interrupted her talk with a team leader. It was raining outside and I handed her two cheese cupcakes I brought from the office canteen. Beset by pressures at home and a series of long meetings at work, she forgot to eat anything during the day.

"Thank you." Her sweet smile was heartwarming. There she was, a very tough woman defying odds thrown against her. Much as I would like to stay that evening, I had other errands to do.

Who would have thought it would be the last time I would see her at work before she was brought to the hospital.


VII


"Nandiyan na yung Neuro ni Tina." Kuya Eddie, her husband said. "Ikaw na ang kumausap sa kanya.." He was looking at Phomela, Mami Athena's daughter-in-law.

Having a background in Nursing equipped her to speak the same language as the doctor.

She went to the ICU without a word.

Everyone feared that the patient, the mistress, my superior and my friend would require a brain surgery to take the clot out from her brain. Budget constraints aside, prognosis would be hard to categorize.

It was August 11 when the true cause of her illness was found. It was also the feast day of Claire of Assisi. Being her devout follower, Mom and I went on a pilgrimage to Katipunan to say our prayers to the patron saint. It was also to give thanks and request for intercessions about matters only our heart speaks.

The nurses in the ICU said that had she arrived a day late in the hospital, the clot would have become a major stroke. Minutes passed while everyone held their breath. I was waiting for Daniel to arrive when Phoemela emerged from the ICU. There was a family talk

and I chose not to be privy in their conversation.




While you were in pain, we were there holding you hand.
We wish for your suffering to end. You even joked seeing goats in the ER
I know you were just trying to amuse us.
But what I saw that evening was how fragile you could be.



"Start ka muna tumayo sa bed bago ka magsimulang maglakad sa banyo." Her Neuro instructed. It was Mami's first week at the hospital.

Despite the tubes finding their way into her skin, she was already far from our worst fears.

"Bukas ititigil na natin ang IV mo. Pero you still have to be strict with your diet."

Perhaps she was just plain lucky. Maybe she is still called to "wreck havok" on peoples' lives to change them for the better. We may never know the plan for her. What was hinted is that something transformational was at work during the worse days of her illness.

For if everything merely happens without reason, the gloomy premonition of the unloved HR officer could have come true.

But praise be, it didn't.

"Pagaling ka kaagad. If all goes well, you may be discharged by Monday." Said the highly esteemed doctor before slipping out of the recovery room.




Monday, August 16, 2010

TNB










I wouldn't mind doing a 5 reps, 10 sets
na upside down sit-ups gaya sa picture.
Pero shit naman, kapag stripped down at ganito ka-hunk,
ka-moreno, at ka-chinito
ang human fulcrum ko,
tao lang ako para hindi tigasan at magkalat ng precum
sa trunks.



galing dito ang litrato


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Remnants Of A Supernova





After Canonista



If your panels break
And your signals stop
And you hover not
My flares will burn you,
eat you up
Swallowing your
disintegration
For an eternity of migration
Become a part of my
eternal salvation
What remains of us
will travel forever
In light years to
remember.




Planet Romeo
Summer 2010


The purpose of the expedition was to search for hook-ups. Mirc has become a world too small, a spread out was required. Scout infiltration proved successful. Just hours after the account went online, the profile Havok scored victory with a neighborhood hunk. Days passed and meet-ups became a regular activity. Though meetings were of a "friendly" kind, near-misses were apparent. Bed wars never happened simply because nobody wanted to be blamed for starting out a "fight."

After a discovery lead him to nearly cross a professor in college, Havok decided to turn his presence in the website into a learning pursuit. It became a study in human psychology and gay sociology while keeping his very naughty personality. Disastrous romantic endeavors taught him to keep check his emotions, since Mugen has a tendency to get attached. In the end, he tried his best to suppress his ability to feel.

Realizing that he lost track of his main purpose, (For love was too elusive, while getting a fuck might be a costly transgression) he began a hasty retreat from the website. Abandoning all connections, he has managed to save one:

The person he finds too valuable to be left behind.

Close ties keep them in constant contact. And while face to face meet up remains an ambitious plan, their blog and facebook links keep them updated with each others' lives.



Remember what I told you about keeping your poems?
Now that my old phone's inbox messages are to be deleted,
I'm posting what I chose to be the best of them.







Saturday, August 14, 2010

ICU






I


"Bakla! Bakla! Bakla!!" I said in a hushed voice. She flinched a little but didn't move at all. Sprawled uncomfortably in her bed, her agony spells all over her face. It has been a week since she felt the sharp pain spreading across her head. Nobody could tell how long before relief comes and finally saves her from her misery.

"Sabi ng doctor, may nakitang blood clot sa brain niya." The office staff, Miss Nenita said. "Maliit lang naman pero kung hindi naagapan, baka mas naging grabe yung stroke niya."

She did a comeback a day after witnessing first hand the drama happening at the ER. I was there with Daniel at past midnight believing everything will be fine. Her medical tests showed nothing. We thought her constant headache was caused by a drop in potassium after eating nothing for three days. She was extremely weak when we saw her.

What we didn't know was that her tribulations were just beginning.


II


Serious pronouncements were made this time when doctors saw the result of her brain scan. Intensive care was immediately required thus, she was made to stay at a unit dreaded by patients and loved ones alike.

Her spot lies at the darkest corner of the empty room. It was her choice - after all, she was the only patient there. She has always been photosensitive as far as people remember. Unlike other convalescent souls I saw in such room before, no plastic tubes connect to her body. She doesn't need the aid of oxygen and other sophisticated machines, and the apparatuses clinging to her skin reveal only her life signs.

"Well the heart rate of the patient is normal. There's a slight drop in blood pressure but no need to worry about it. She still complains of headache earlier but since she's resting, wala naman kami naririnig so far."

"But how about the medicines? Meron na ba siya iniinom for her blood clot?"

"Yes meron na, binibigyan namin siya ng..." The tablet names have already blocked my thoughts.

"Iniintay na lang namin yung Neuro niya para sa next steps na gagawin." Unable to stand the gloom, I returned to the visitors lounge where her son and his girlfriend kept vigil.


III


"Yung maliit na blood clot na ganyan, traydor yan eh." Said the unloved closeted HR officer during a meeting. "Well, its a time bomb waiting to explode." He said nonchalantly.

Swear, if it wouldn't be a grave offense at work, I would have hit him with an office chair.

"He will have his time," I said to myself grudgingly. "When Mami Athena comes back, she will know what he said."




Friday, August 13, 2010

Aposelene






We used to think that nothing will come between you and clubbing, but we are all wrong. Gone are the Friday mornings when you would craft some nasty excuse just to get out of the house and party til daybreak. Sometimes you would even sneak out and say a prayer to the gods of disco balls while hailing a cab so you wouldn't get caught. Those were the good times Mugs. Blame old age for the change of heart. You can even make reference to the last stand-off at O-Bar as your epiphany. But as far as we care and as deep as your mood reveals, your Malate hiatus will remain indefinitely.

Go on. Don't be shy, you can lie in your bed and hug your pillow until you fall asleep.




Thursday, August 12, 2010

Postpaid Special Offer






Noong isang linggo ay may tumawag sa akin mula sa Globe. Dahil masipag daw ako mag-reload (30 pesos kada araw) ay nabunot nila ang aking number for a very special offer. I will be given a new phone from Samsung. Touch screen ito at ang price tag sa mga mall ay umaabot ng 7K plus. Tao lang ako para hindi mabulag sa kinang ng bagong telepono at dahil libre ito kung papayag akong maging postpaid subscriber ay madali lang akong napa-yes sa ahente.

Subalit meron pa akong remaining balance na hindi pa nase-settle hanggang sa ngayon. Ito ay sa dati kong linya ng telepono na pinaputol matapos marealize kung gaano ito kasakit sa bulsa. Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit mabilis ko ring binawi ang matamis kong oo sa kausap. Kunsabagay, kaya ko rin namang mabuhay sa paload-load (na inuutang) lang.

Ngunit mapilit ang binatang ahente at talagang kinausap pa nito ang kanyang manager para idulog ang aking problema. Walang kaso daw kahit mayroon akong pending balance sa kanila. Na-draw na daw ang aking number at ito'y hindi na mababawi pa. Sa madaling sabi ay tagumpay ang marketing department sa kanilang campaign. Bukod sa dalawang taong contract sa Globe ay mababawasan ng P500 ang aking kinikita kada buwan.






But would people ever believe that just two years ago, I used to pay 3 thousand pesos every month for my phone bill. The hefty price was paid in part out of the desire to be in constant contact with the ex-boyfriend. I would call him every day for the next four years to know if he went to work in the morning and call him again at night to make sure he arrives home. Eventually he learned to send a text message announcing his whereabouts, but habits then were nearly impossible to break. I would call him everytime he needs to talk (sometimes just to say "I miss you" which would eventually mean as something else) and even share phone credits just for him to text back. (because he doesn't have enough money to pay for a reload while affording a vanity soap he found at a mall)

Receiving the box of the new cellphone accidentally opened some old wounds I thought were already gone. It stings when I am reminded that the money spent on the bill could have been my savings. The Samsung phone is now under my possession. Glad to say that my gadget taste is improving.

Yet now I am feeling strangely withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Nokia I bought last year will be handed over to my mother. She will have a new phone.






So I start a revolution from my bed
'Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside, summertime's in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out

Oasis
Don't Look Back In Anger






Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Pathfinder | C-6 Last Part






The C-6 expedition was a test of skill: To prove that the once hardy explorer still resides within him. Living in an old house along a cranky alleyway as a kid, he learned to explore pathways leading to a sure exit. It doesn't matter what street he found himself in. Somehow, he would find again the narrow bend leading back to his home. What mattered was to briefly savor the open road after getting out of an almost suffocating passage. And then he would set course for another obscure alley until he finally charts the entire network of walkways.






There are no public transport routes that ply along the new road. Most vehicles still converge at the heavily congested Manuel L. Quezon, where slow-moving and insidious jeepneys hoard for passengers along the two-lane street. On the contrary, private vehicle owners who turn right at General Paulino Santos Avenue will find the highway all for themselves. C-6 remains a relatively unknown parkway whose hidden charms appeal only to the denizens of a lakeside city.

Built over land reclaimed from Laguna de Bay, the paved road may appear finished but its stretch spans only a handful of villages. Signs of civilization may have began to appear - like the street lamps installed by the government to illuminate the road. But online sources tell the electric bulbs don't work. A useless garnish perhaps. In a land where the very stones beneath the highway were unearthed from unnamed places, nobody questions why the light bulbs along the road never spark.






There were also nipa houses nearby. Built from light wood which floats when the lake swells after a heavy rain, these were the true settlers who learned to live alongside the waterlilies. The two-lane strip, whose sides remain surrounded by greens may appear pristine, but smoke rising from the burning piles of trash has already smudged the watery landscape.

Walking over the earth dike, the panoramic view unravels as the lakeshore begins to take shape. Across the Bai were the hills of Tanay, whose barren face hides behind the reclusive haze. Far beyond were the faint peaks of Sierra Madre. Diffused sunlight, whose rays gleam over the summit reminds everyone that a day has come to an end.

My journey is nearing completion. Alongside lovers, friends and families alighted in their motorcycles; joggers finishing a lap or two before heading home; locals living in their boats and water homes, whose rustic way of life has been forever tampered by the two-edged superhighway, we all gazed at the mother lake as darkness swallows the horizon. I may never know how much land I covered while my heavy bag, my digital camera and my iPod Mini clung over my body but it was worth every step.

Turning my head before crossing the road where the Hagonoy Floodgate controls the flow of a nearby creek, the rolling plains reveal the reward for undertaking such expedition.






The seemingly bleak void is suddenly filled with distant lights.

The next time I find myself there, I will most probably be inside a speeding car.





Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ER






This was sent through the corporate communications network this evening. We would like to request for your prayers for Mami Athena's recovery as well.

Thanks



I would like to inform everyone that Mami Athena was rushed at the ER of [name of hospital withheld] this evening. She persistently complains of severe headache, body pain and intermittent fever since last Thursday. This was compounded by her overall body weakness. As of this writing, her condition has stabilized. Her initial medical tests revealed a severe drop in potassium level and a slight hint of infection. A battery of tests are still under consideration.

We would expect her doctor to recommend a full week's rest. Lets hope and pray for her speedy recovery.

Sincerely,





Note: Thanks Daniel for coming to my aid. She always speaks highly of you.




Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Pathfinder | C-6 Second Part






I used to spend the weekends at my favorite aunt's place in Paranaque. When school gives way to a two-day break, she would pick me up at my lola's house in Santa Mesa and bring me home to be her son's playmate. The village where their house is located sits next to a super highway dividing two towns. (now both cities) For the longest time, I was curious as to what lies beyond the other side - the rotunda after the railway crossing in Bicutan. The early maps of the metropolis never showed any major roadways east of the expressway. Not even the favorite aunt knew what street comes after the elusive east service road.

Thus, a new world has been opened when satellite images from Google revealed the area that was once to me a mystery. Streets were unnamed, yet the major arteries connecting the realms already known to me were all too familiar. It was like feeling a blood stream of your skin. Still, expeditions were yet to be organized. We were confined to the mighty expressway darting swiftest to home in Manila. Exploring Bicutan going to the heart of Taguig and into Pasig City would remain a luxury only afforded by a promise once the breathtaking expanse of the lake comes into full view.


"Currently, the southern terminus is at Barangay Lower Bicutan in Taguig and connects with the intersection of M.L. Quezon and Gen. Paulino Santos Avenue. From here, the nearest major intersection is the Bicutan exit of SLEx."

- VistaPinas



It was a rainy afternoon when the mission was executed. I went to the favorite aunt's place to deliver the chocolates and snacks - of local variety - as a pasalubong for my cousins abroad. Time was running short for it was getting dark, but I was determined to pursue the expedition out of faith that something good will be reaped from the trip.

The overhead walkway crossing the expressway was thick with people. Most have defined destinations, while mine would be a journey of discovery. At the back of my head, I picture a lonely stretch of a highway at the far reaches of civilization. No houses would be in sight save for some nipa huts sitting far from each other. I am expecting an unpaved road, where no sane vehicle would dare pass.

Passing by the railroad crossing and descending into the rotunda was already a no-man's zone to me. I asked a vendor for directions and she instructed to ride a tricycle that would take me to Jollibee. This fastfood chain she referred to lies at the densely settled side of Bicutan - near the spot where the ground embraces the shore of Laguna de Bay.

It was past 5:30 in the afternoon, amidst retreating nimbus clouds and intermittent rain, the tricycle speeds across a downward avenue. Craning my neck to have a better view of the road ahead, I caught glimpse of a brown-blue expanse stretching beyond my poor eyesight could see.

The lady vendor spoke true. There was the bug-inspired fastfood chain to my right. Crossing the intersection and into a narrow two-lane road, I have finally discovered the southern terminus of the Bulacan-Rizal-Manila-Cavite Regional Expressway.









"Please just this once, do not let it rain." I let my thoughts drift in the air while a Pascual Liner Bus incarnation soars across the expressway. Thick clouds assemble in the eastern sky threatening to bring endless rain later that afternoon.

"I hope it wouldn't be too much to ask, but I want to see a sunset when I find myself walking by the lakeside."


-tobecontinued-





Friday, August 6, 2010

The Pathfinder | C-6 First Part






Seen from an altitude where Boeings and Airbuses glide through the sky, the unobtrusive bend at the tip of Bicutan appears impressive despite its unfinished state. It is the terminus of a road less-traveled: a back-door passage in the making to the already congested arteries of a sprawling metropolis. How it was conceived may have been lost to memory. Its final completion remains to be known. What exist at the present is a portion of the circumferential road that will connect the two major expressways linking the capital to the rest of Luzon.

Known as the Bulacan-Rizal-Manila-Cavite Regional Expressway or C-6 to those who have passed along its two-lane stretch, the circumferential road would serve as a beltway for buses and trucks going to the north and south of the country. C-6 would bypass Metro Manila by slithering through the outskirts of the city. Its Northernmost entry point would be in Marilao Bulacan and its Southernmost end point would be at the heart of Cavite City - just across the city hall. However, much of the cityside would have to be torn down and paved with asphalt or even blood before the two major expressways get to meet. There will always be the issue of right of way, of communities being uprooted, and even the bidding of road construction will always be a powder keg for corruption.

How I learned of this new circumferential road was already lost in memory. Like its creation, I cannot recall whether it was at the SONA of the ex-president where she made reference to its construction as a measure of progress, or was it in Wikimapia where its muddy vein first appeared. Suffice to say, the discovery sparked the old flame for finding new passageways. I was pouring over maps since I was a kid. But the critical mass to embark on an expedition was still lacking. How can I enjoy the view without someone to share it with? The desire took a backseat until such time I started stalking a blog that struck a chord with my inner nature.

Determined to discover the new circumferential road the blogger wrote. I followed his directions until I found myself at the exact spot where the end of the road gives way to wide open spaces.








On my way home, a trigger made me remember the map that gave birth to the pathfinder in me. It was a colored illustration of Manila. The city landmarks were drawn in isometric view. I remember the Quezon Memorial Circle, the rotund Araneta Coliseum and the surrounding Cubao Commercial Center, the names of hills that make up the Sierra Madre Range east of Pasig, the glitzy Ayala Avenue lined with buildings that are now derelict compared to new office towers.

It was a city map laid out in my grandfather's home office. I remember tracing with my little finger the roads that lead to certain destinations: Edsa begins in Taft Avenue and ends in Monumento. Marikina was still a flood plain and so was Cainta and Taytay. There was still no mention of Fairview and the edge of Commonwealth Avenue was the Iglesia ni Cristo Central Chapel. Manila then is Manila now, except the city is cluttered by too many skyrise condominiums sprouting like mushrooms every year. The map was lost to oblivion, but it served its purpose well. The next thing I knew, I was beginning to pay attention to jeepney signs and their destinations.


I would discover these places myself many years later.


-tobecontinued-





Thursday, August 5, 2010

Between Fag Hags and Gay Men






Aside from Mami Athena, I keep another hag at work.


GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

yeah!
pano ba matuto ng seo?
laki pala ng sweldo pag magaling ka dun

mugs says:

haha
ask tina (mami athena)
hindi ko rin alam

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

ur a guy so u shld know
oops d pala hehe

mugs says:

im a hybrid
strong ang feminine side ko

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

hihihi
and im also a hybrid
alpha female

mugs says:

lesbian ka!

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

NO

mugs says:

fine
you're a sexy mom
sabi ni zeki

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

yeah!

mugs says:

wait till
zeki goes to school
bigyan ka pa niya ng santan flowers na pinulot kung saan

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

awww

mugs says:

tapos mag cu-cut na sha ng hearts tapos ibibigay sayo
o kaya yung mga stars na pi-nin ng teacher niya ibibigay sayo
hahaha

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

yan ba ginawa mo sa mom mo nung maliit ka? hehe

mugs says:

haha wag ka, nanalo ako ng pinggan sa peryahan, binigay ko sa kanya
tapos first christmas gift ko ata sa kanya eh stockings na binili ko sa Mercury Drug malapit sa amin.

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

wahaha
so kikay

mugs says:

weh
anong kikay dun
basta abangan mo na lang
i don't know how kids learn
pero pag nagbigay na siya ng santan sayo, alam mong lumalaki na anak mo
next time roses na ibibigay niya sa iba! Hahahaha!

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

no sakin lang un
no gf til 40 na sya hehe

mugs says:

gawin mo na lang siyang straightacting na PLU
make sure hunk siya ha, tapos gwapo yung bf, para dalawa kaagad boys mo
by that time siguro, mas open na ang society

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

magiging president pa sya ng pinas

mugs says:

taas naman na pangarap yan
basta make sure matuto siya ng basketball
tapos mga close contact sports
para pag naging bading, lalaking lalaki
hahaha

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

hahaha mag football yan and basketball

mugs says:

pano pag nainlab sa bestfriend niya?
na gwapo rin?

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

okay lang.
nandyan na e ano pa ba magagawa ko
d ka ba nag sports?

mugs says:

hindi
lolz
geek ako by nature, second ang pagiging spiritual, nagkataon lang na kelangan magpataas ng market value kaya nagevolve at naging gym bunny

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

wahaha i knew it
so a sign that a guy is gay if he isnt into sports?

mugs says:

bakit yung mga bading jan sa floor adik sa volleyball?
tell tale sign eh kapag di marunong mag basketball

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

oic

mugs says:

usually pag ang bading magaling sa basketball, barakong barako yun!

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

meron kce noon sa account how would she know kung gay daw ung crush nya
hahaha

mugs says:

i would say, does your crush play contact sports?
like football or basketball
if he does, most likely he is straight

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

parang naalala ko nasabi ko yata kung may cockroach if he would scream like a girl wahaha

mugs says:

hahaha
bakit naman ako
pag may ipis, pinupulot ko pa

GANJAGIRL IS IN DA HAUS! says:

or if he checks out his nails na nakaopen instead na nakafold

mugs says:

yun ang di ko alam
lol


-


Zeki almost got confined in a hospital early last week. His mom said it was because of a respiratory ailment they didn't expect. Her troubles coincided with a serious cash shortage that left her in the throes of helplessness. She is a single mom who tries to make ends meet with her small salary.

It is as if heaven heard her plea, relief came unexpectedly from friends. "Bigla na lang sila tumawag sakin for no reason at all!" She said during one of our Marlboro breaks. "Nahihiya pa ako nung una pero gulat ko na lang, nandun na sila sa harap ng bahay para dalhin si Zeki for check-up."

The timely intervention from Ganjagirl's circle of single-mom friends kept her son from developing Pneumonia. Short of calling it a miracle, she's my chat buddy whenever I wish to talk about spiritual things. As for her whose peace has been restored despite the troubles of everyday living, she discovers that happiness can be attained by performing random good deeds to strangers.






Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Diaspora






Mom and I had a hearty talk about the people who leave the country to work abroad. The subject was brought up after she disclosed that a cousin is seriously mulling the idea of moving to the United States to teach in a university there. That cousin is my favorite aunt's son. Being the only child, there is a chance that his mom will follow and stay with him for good.

"But is it a good place for retirement?" I asked.

"Sigurado ko, mababagot lang siya doon." We both agreed.

Mom too had a pending petition granting her permanent residence in a city next to the Big Apple. It was another aunt who sponsored her passage but as time revealed, she became less and less excited to travel outside the country at the expense of leaving us behind.

"Imagine mo na lang, magsta-stay ako sa bahay ni Aunt Lyta mo sa New Jersey eh anong gagawin ko dun?" she quipped. "Isa pa, wala naman katulong, wala naman mag-aasikaso sa akin at sa huli, tiyak mamimiss ko lang kayo dun.

Her assurance left a faint smile on my face.

Truth is, we all had our dreams of going abroad. When I was a kid, the thought of being petitioned by an aunt used to be a source of comfort when other kids pushed me around. To learn that my cousin and his mom - the favorite aunt - would go on a month-long vacation to stay with our relatives in California kept my hopes up. That was until I have outgrown the dream and acknowledged the reality that my place is here in the country.

Sometimes, I still joke around the idea of applying for a media-related job say in Dubai or Hong Kong.

"Pero ipagpapalit mo ba ako para sa mas malaking suweldo kung nakakaya naman nating mabuhay ng maayos dito?" My mom would always ask.

Save for a passport that I never bothered to acquire, I could easily slip out of the country to find work in Singapore. I have friends there who could offer me free lodging until I get hired by a multinational company. I have never doubted my talents nor my ability to survive in extreme conditions elsewhere. What's the use of knowing other cultures when I couldn't find practical applications for it?

I guess it all boils down to the deep reasons behind my lack of interest in joining the bandwagon of OFWs around the world. First is the recognition that my family comes first and they count on me for assistance. Should unforeseen events happen at home, they expect my presence would turn the tide against the perils threatening our way of life. Second is the value of accomplishment based not on financial gains but on how long you walked with people around you. We are hippies at heart: ideal, counter-cultural, hungry for understanding the essence of existence and appreciative of things we receive no matter how small they are. We sometimes get into trouble with delayed bill payments or some surprise expenses coming out of nowhere, but so far we are being provided. We may dream of the big life too. Like when my mom would feel envious of the opulent few who prides living in big houses featured on Urban Zone or when I would feel a tinge of hopelessness knowing that my entire cash reserves depend on the almost-basic salary I get from work.

But life is still a party and we couldn't ask for more.

In the end, the choice is always a tricky one: Enjoy now with your loved ones, or get rich only to realize your loved ones have already left - or at least, have become estranged by your presence. Freewill guides our decisions and the one we pick usually reveals our urgency in life.

They say the country is suffering from a massive brain drain. Nurses, IT Professionals, Pilots and even Weathermen have left the country for greener pastures elsewhere. Though they may have the right to do so, one must remember, not everyone could leave. Like in a ship close to capsizing or a small kingdom being overwhelmed by invaders, or a company downsizing after its major account pulled out, for others to flee, someone must stay behind.

Whether for love of the family, sacrifice for the country or merely because the home is my comfort zone, the diaspora of entire generations will not be my becoming.





Monday, August 2, 2010

The Firestarter














Sabi ng kaibigan kong si Vin-Vin dati, tiyope (duwag) daw si Ultraman kasi takot siyang mamatay. Samantalang si Magmaman na kahit nag-iisa (kasi wala siyang Ultra Brothers na tutulong sa kanya) ay handang ibuwis ang buhay para sa mga taong kanyang pinaglalaban.

Siyempre, hindi ako pumayag. Tablahan ito kung tablahan. Talagang inabot ng katakot-takot na pagdedepensa ang ginawa ko maipagtanggol lang ang aking paboritong superhero. Si besprend naman na dapat sana ay gumigitna sa aming dalawa ni Vin-Vin ay puro Mask Rider Black ang inaatupag. Naroon siya't palihim na nagprapractice ng Rider Punch at Rider Kick na magagamit rin pala niya noong may bumatok sa ulo ng bunsong kapatid niyang si Mimay.

Nauwi ang patalbugan sa wala. Although may point talaga si Vin Vin na todo-todo kong nirefute, ngayon ko lang tunay na naintindihan kung ano ang nais ipahiwatig ng aking kaibigan.


-


Magmaman had a darker theme than Ultraman. A humanoid giant hailing from the underworld, he was tasked to protect the living from mutated beasts, oversized reptilians and space aliens who are bent on destroying the world. I cannot recall many things about the series except SAF (the special team responsible with fighting the mega beasts) was destroyed in the end.

It took some time to sift through the scattered memory - of minor characters dying at the end of the episodes and squadrons of jet planes taking part in shooting projectiles at the enemy. I cannot remember what Mizaki (the human host) looks like but the giant bear (Moku-Moku) who helped Magmaman defeat a monster only to die to protect him had already gained immortality in one of my juvenile sketches.

Very few people would remember this Tokusatsu and only the truly geek ones would appreciate watching the series all over again. It may have crude special effects that are full of Karate Chop moves (Magmaman doesn't fly) or protagonists who never had any character at all. Yet, for recognizing how this red giant has given me a discerning mind that can see through sugarcoated realities and for leaving a childhood that is worth remembering, I took some time to search on Youtube the intro song of the series.





Sunday, August 1, 2010

Because We Have Always Been






I was crossing the boulevard when I saw through the gaps between the overhead railroads how beautiful the sky was. It was almost 5 in the afternoon and while wispy clouds quietly march under the blazing sun, it diffuses the sunlight leaving a soft haze filtering the blue horizon. The occasional wind caresses the skin. It trails large swaths of the epidermis, which would usually bear the brunt of the same fiery orb especially when work shift ends in the afternoon. Some people crossed the boulevard as well. Others are waiting for a jeep that would plant them elsewhere. The rest are just there to pass time or do business in the street. And while everyone hurried on with their lives on a blissful dusky weekend, a desire to slow time became the impulse of the mind.

Thus I began to walk leisurely.

And tried to see things the way a sentience would see life for the first time.

Earlier, the FX I boarded at Baclaran covered the stretch of Roxas Boulevard in minutes. On my left was the bay, and beyond was the mighty silhouette of a sleeping mountain lying in the heart of a peninsula. At Quiapo, I waded through a sea of people as mendicants, traders and the faithful converge at a plaza fronting a sacred Church. Finally, as I exit a convenience store (with a Minute Maid on my hand) before taking the final crossing going home, I chanced upon a lad standing behind a lamppost who looked around as if waiting for someone. His spectacled eyes scanned every person walking towards his direction. Firmly holding his mobile phone, one could feel his anxiety. My hope is for the stranger he is waiting to arrive soon.

These scenes remind us how everything remains in place only for a moment. Like the azure sky and the staggering ball of light which the wistful clouds tried to hide. Soon, everything will be engulfed by darkness. And while subjects under the sun passes over to the dominions of the night, the threshold becomes too fleeting, one cannot help but hold on to things that are bound to pass.

They say no sunsets are alike and its grandeur lies at how dramatic it casts a shadow over the living. Finding my place in the order of things, its no wonder I have always been faithful to the dusk knowing that after embracing twilight, the things I hold dear will probably be mine no more.