Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heart Of Emptiness

"I'm too old and weary to be out in the streets at night," I tweeted an hour before my work ends at 10'o clock.

At the back of my head, I was worried that I'd be mugged when I step foot in Cubao or get robbed inside a Malaguena jeep. A co-worker's grandmum passed away and knowing that only few at work would ever find time to attend the wake, I decided to go solo after my shift.

The trip was uneventful. Instead of passing through Cubao, I took the much longer Pasig route with a colleague who is about to give birth next month. After parting ways with her in Rosario, I hailed a jeep going to Marikina. Another short ride from the city square and I arrived at the gates of Loyola at half past Eleven.  

What I knew was that the chapel is located outside the memorial. It turned the other way around, the chapel was at the bosom of the cemetery. To get there, one must cross the eerie expanse while suppressing his instincts to flee. Sure it was dark and brooding, but of all the things I wouldn't like to happen is that my mind plays tricks on me.

After all, no one in his right mind would go on a stroll inside a campo santo at night.

I could have left in an instant. But I have journeyed this far and a retreat is not an option. Mustering all my strength, I plugged my ear buds and played trance music on my Ipod. I didn't let my eyes wander as I tread  the main road and instead, locked my gaze at the floodlights waiting at the end.  

"But I'm scared of the dark?"  A voice inside me mumbled.

"Who isn't. But this is who we are. We stick to our guns even when there's a choice to flee." Another voice replied.

"But you're a chicken shit. Who cares if you don't attend the wake. As if the colleague would get offended by your no-show.  He didn't even know you'll come."

"We're already here, we chose to be here - at this hour because - the mind said so."

"And if our colleague is not there."

"Then we will wait. Our presence, even if unseen, justifies all this walking."

"We're near."

"Wait, let me get my camera. If something shows up in the picture, then let's keep it as a remembrance."

"For what,"

"So we would always remember where our balls are."

Loyola Memorial Park
11:30 pm

And I was able to walk the entire length of the cemetery without flinching or screaming in a falsetto voice and in doing so, learned that I am still a happy camper even when alone. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vanity Faire Two

Last April, a friend of mine stayed over at my place while waiting for his date to pick him up. This tropa used to think less of appearance (he was already commanding the market) and more of career opportunities. But because he found a job that pays well, things have started to change.

The boy suddenly paid more attention to vanity.

As my barkada prepared for his date's arrival, I took a peek at the contents of his bag. He then laid it on my bed. What I saw changed my impression of him forever.

Adidas Body Spray, Bench Hair Fix, Cetaphil Facial Wash, and an expensive perfume I can't recall. These men's beauty products overwhelmed me.

Where's the koboy bestfriend I once knew.

Two months after his revelation, I began to have my own line-up, which is slightly fewer that what average "metrosexuals" would include in their accessories. The places I once avoided - Watson and PX, are now my sanctuaries. The clothes I once ignored - the fitted ones - are the ones that now fill my closet. And the cheap sunglasses I used to claim as my only "luho" will have a replacement in the future.

I'm thinking along the lines of Oakley and D&G.

Vanity Faire One
Fullmetal Dreams
August 6, 2006

It was Jollieboie aka Rocco Sison who decided to drop by that Thursday evening. With him was a big bag full of stuff he will bring to a secluded island off Quezon. His Fil-Spanish date asked him to spend the Holy Week with him, and since his transport and accommodation were already attended, Rocco said yes to the invitation. 

He chose my house as his staging ground before leaving for the province.

My exposure to his vanity side was short, it was almost fleeting. Ironic as it may seem, but at a time when I was happily domesticated, the last thing I should be worried about was my appearance. But because I was riding the high winds of my newly toned body, for me it was time for a makeover. Gone are the days when I would be satisfied with Kissa Papaya Soap and Celeteque Facial Wash.

Overnight, the female-sounding bar of Papaya extracts and fatty acids was replaced by an icy-menthol imported soap. A facial foam wash took the reigns of a formulated cleansing agent - which actually dried my skin, and while I didn't change the roll-on brand, I chose a deodorant with manly scents. Rexona grey used to be my preferred underarm protection, but I simply got bored with its smell.  

Years went by and my grooming line stayed faithful to the original. The facial foam is still there and so is the icy soap, which I love buying in packs of three. There are times when the dictates of budget tells me to cut down on my grooming, but not even a recession could force me to shift to cheaper alternatives - yet.

To this day, my best friend never knows how much his unintentional show and tell had changed me or how much I felt more confident going out and meeting people knowing I am well-groomed. Only once did I accompany him at Landmark to buy his needs, but by then, I have learned what there is to learn. And every time I return to Watsons to replenish my own grooming needs, my thoughts return to that evening when  Jolliboie dropped by before meeting his date.

Looking inwards, it was the beginning of my evolution.

Next: Mugen's 5 essential men's care products. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Euphoria Morning

Chris Cornell's Sunshower was played many times over on NU-107. And yet, I didn't bother listening to it from start to finish. I might have found Cornell's vocals too raw, or the song gained radio airplay at a time when my sound preference had already shifted to Electronic music.

It is only when the song was played - for the last time - by the same radio station did it hit me with elegiac discontent. "Why only now?!?" I bemoaned while leaning my forehead against the glass surface next to the disc jockey's booth.  Maybe it was the pervading glum that allowed me to absorb the message and the climactic vocals near the Outro served as my soft pillow that evening. I was grieving and Sunshower made me feel it wasn't the end.

Alternative music lives.

Released in 1999 as a bonus track for Cornell's first solo studio album "Euphoria Morning," the single was also featured in the Great Expectations' soundtrack album.

Chris Cornell went on to become the front man of the rock supergroup Audioslave. He seldom spoke about his first solo album, which flopped commercially. Sunshower on the other hand edged closer to being forgotten. No explanation was ever given as to what the single is all about. Yet, for all its obsolesce, the song plays best when everything around seems to crumble. It is a depressingly uplifting song that leaves you hoping  - for better days - even when the timeline remains uncertain.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writing For Children: Second Verse

After Jojo P. Belated Happy Birthday, Ate.

In the forest live three bears. Papa bear works in a bank. Mama bear picks the honey and berries and baby bear goes to school. Every breakfast they see each other on the table. Having to spend all day out in the woodlands, they need energy to stay healthy.

On the table are three kinds of food. Papa bear's favorite is oatmeal porridge with berries. Mama bear loves wheat bread with honey and baby bear enjoys eating a bowl of cereal with fresh milk and dices of apple.

One day, baby bear wants to know where his cereal comes from. So he asks.

“Mama bear, mama bear, where does my cornflakes come from?” Papa bear grunts.

“Your cereal comes from the cornfields.”

“I don't get it. I saw a corn before and its bigger than my arm!” Papa bear continues to eat his oatmeal while smiling at Mama bear.

“A big scary machine grinds the corn into small pieces until it becomes this.” Mama bear picks a small piece of cornflake from Baby bear's bowl.

“How about your bread, what is it made of?” Mama bear stops spreading honey on her bread to listen to baby bear.

“This is made from wheat.”

“What is wheat?” Baby bear looks at Mama bear with excitement

“Wheat is a kind of grass that grows in cold places?”

“Like the grass that cows eat?” Papa bear starts laughing.

“No, it's a different kind of grass. Do you know that Papa bear's food is also made from grass?”

“But I though he is eating porridge?”

“And his porridge with sweet berries is made of oats.” Baby bear scratches the back of his ear.

“I really don't get it.”

“There are different kinds of grasses. Rice is a grass that grows in rainy places. The wheat in my bread and the oats in Papa bear's porridge are grasses too that grows in cold places.”

“Like mountains”


“Like places with snow?”

“When the snow melts and the sun comes out, yes.” Mama bear tells.

“What Mama bear is telling you is that the cornflakes and the wheat bread and my oatmeal porridge are all made from plants.” Papa bear finally speaks.

“Like the fruits on the table or the leafy vegetables that we ask you to eat sometimes, grasses have seeds and grains that we can turn into food.”

“Ahhhh now I get it.”

“Very good.”

“Can I plant those grasses in the backyard?” Both Mama bear and Papa bear looked at each other.

“Yes you can, but can you take care of them?”

Baby bear just smiled and went on to eat his cornflakes.

The bear family finally finished their breakfast and they all went on to have a merry and healthy day.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pay It Forward

I was about to leave the office this evening when the boss called my attention. I thought he would talk to me about the recent drama at the floor, but instead he asked my opinion about a certain ex-agent who left the workplace without a word.

"Mugen, basahin mo ito." I leaned forward to read the email on his laptop.

The letter was from someone who had gone AWOL many years ago. The sender said that he regretted his decision and that he hadn't found work since his departure.

"If it's not too much to ask," the letter said. "I would like to ask your good office to grant me a certification of employment." He has found work in a warehouse, which unfortunately requires previous job experience.

I vaguely had an idea why the boss asked me to read the letter. What happened next caught me off guard.

"Anu sa tingin mo, pagbibigyan ba natin ito?"

It was only a month ago when I nearly resigned because I have lost faith in my leadership. The boss had to got me drunk just to reconsider my decision. In that one-on-one talk, I've learned how much we are alike. The management styles are so similar, I even told him that he's an older version of me.

A price was exacted after I decided to stay. Much as I have found my confidence again, I felt I am in no position to decide on matters as important as the one in the letter. Why should be I held responsible for someone I barely know? I don't even know how his absence affected the operations of the company.

For that reason I was at first, undecided.

"So what's your decision, Mugen?" The boss asked again.

I could have played the mean card and consider ignoring the agent's plea as part of life. But I am deeply aware that despite the downturn in the business, and the unresolved issues at work, we are still blessed. Just days ago, the arrival of a new client has diversified the business. Bentusi's little company, on the other side of the fence, is swamped with writing jobs. And despite the imaginary nightmares plaguing the homeworld, our heads are above water. Much as I would like to ignore the Architect guiding our lives, my heart tells me now is the time to be compassionate even to someone who has never touched my life.

"Payagan na natin sir." My voice was doubtful. I even had to asked him what he thinks.

"So be it." The boss gave a faint smile.

I cannot recall if I told him why I came up with the decision, but the series of e-mails revealed how desperate the fellow was. Before he left, I overheard the boss mumbling, "Good Karma rin ito," to my relief. True to our nature, we followed the dictates of our heart.

Business is not as good as it was a month ago. I even had to give up a potential raket in order to help a non-salaried agent make both ends meet. But so far, under my watch, the agents were able to reach their quota. The high-wire performance made more challenging because of the articles I churn out for the raketship without anyone knowing.

The agent will get his certification. I will personally see to it that it will be signed tomorrow. As for the future, we leave everything to grace. What's important is at this junction, we showed the better sides of our humanity and decided to pay forward the gifts that we have recieved.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travel Writing

It was past eleven in the evening. A heavy downpour earlier that night has left much of the city under flood water. Drenched, (I forgot to bring my umbrella so I used my bag to cover my head) I boarded the fifth jeep I passed by. An FX from Ortigas won't be coming.

Besides, it's getting late.

The jeep was snarled in traffic. The four lane avenue was overwhelmed with cars and trucks trying to squeeze at the middle. A few blocks away, the road had sunk beneath the murky torrent. A nearby creek has overflowed again.

I could have taken a nap while waiting for the vehicles to untangle themselves. But the thrill of seeing the jeep wading through, with waves lapping against a surface kept my mind awake. Despite being in my 30s, some childish wonders remain. I used to get upset when the jeep I am riding deliberately avoids passing through flooded streets.
The cars were still not moving. To keep myself busy, I thought of drawing the rosary and use the idle time to commune with the almighty. But prayers require a special time. It is as if everyone inside the jeep shared my faith. The attention I'd be getting might cast me in a bad light. 

So the next thing I did was to press the keypad of my Samsung phone. It's easier to pretend texting someone instead of running my fingers on the wooden beads, half-exposed inside my backpack. But composing a message to a friend wasn't my idea of passing time. I was penning the words of the blog entry you are reading right now.

I have always known that the mind travels inside a moving vehicle. Maybe its the change of landscape that allows a person to ruminate, or perhaps the dizzying passage of objects in a frame drowns a writer in contemplation. I have experienced it before, inside a G-Liner Bus going to Recto. The last rays of sunlight ached my hungry soul. So strong was my urge to write a poem, but to do it in a piece of paper using a green pen will only give me a headache.

Lately, I take advantage of the mind-speak to write articles for the raketship. The swiftness of translating thoughts into sentences outruns anything I create while churning words in a study. A 500-word essay gets done in 30 minutes. Minus the editing, the time saved enables me to do other things.

Including harvesting of good thoughts.

For some reason, this lullaby of the head never gets broken. Even right now, when the jeep parts the deluge  in front of the Jose Rizal University. Any moment, the engine may go kaput and we, the passengers may be forced to dip our feet into the icy waters of Kalentong. But here I am, bent on making this disarrayed thoughts a solid narrative.

There is a reason for the flowering of words. The heart becomes eloquent when the mind finds clarity. I cannot say how it is done, but the words seem to flow, like a river on its transit to the sea. The trip is like a short story. The plot can be told in many ways, but the idea is what's driving the storyteller to reach the port.

I am getting closer to home now and this mental monologue is coming to an end. Two more road crossings, a bridge over a railway and a metro station, whose underbelly becomes the basin of Manila and I am off this vessel. To publish this musing in its pure form depends on my fancy. Perhaps, I may find it too pretentious, too cluttered, or its soul maybe lacking. Disappointed, I might ditch the exercise completely. What is important is that I got myself a blog entry at a time when my voice threatens to disappear under torrents of other worries.

To wade through, like the jeep inches me towards my destination. 


And for the first time we learned the perils of collective thinking.

"A letter supposedly written by one of the survivors of yesterday's tragic hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand has been making the rounds online, highlighting the continued lack of information on what transpired during the ordeal. The letter continues to fuel public curiosity about what really happened inside the hijacked bus.

The letter, undersigned by "Bang Lu Min, Survivor, Quirino Bloodbath", gave a compellingly detailed account of what allegedly transpired in the tourist bus during the hostage crisis.

The letter painted a picture of the hostage taker, former PNP Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, as a reasonable man driven to kill out of agitation and desperation.

"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," the letter continued.

The letter first appeared in response to a Yahoo! Philippines News Blogpost, with a link to a Facebook post that has since been taken down.

The letter was reposted on several blogsites, and was quickly picked up despite the lack of verification.

The spuriousness of the letter became apparent later in the day when the Hong Kong government's Information Services Department published an official list of the names of the hostage victims. 

There was no mention of a "Bang Lu Min" anywhere on the list."   

August 25, 2010

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cranial Calisthenics

Maraming nakikita habang naglalakad sa kahabaan ng Shaw Boulevard:

Mga kaduda-dudang nilalang na nakatambay sa tabi ng ATM Machine | Mga madidilim na mansyon na taimtim na nagmamatyag sa tabi ng nangungulilang daan | Mga binatang may ka-text at tila may katagpo sa labas ng 7-Eleven | Mga kainan ng goto, tapsilog at sisig na bukas magdamag | Mga GRO na naghahangad kumita, nag-iintay ng parokyano sa labas ng beerhouse | Mga paslit na naglalakad sa tabi ng tulay pasado hatinggabi | Mga bantay ng pasiyente na nagyoyosi sa labas ng ospital, nagmumuni kung kailan mailalabas ang minamahal | Mga kuliglig na humuhuni sa tabi ng isang condominium na kilala sa taglay nitong Lumivent aesthetics.

Pero higit sa lahat, nakita ko ang aking sarili kasama ang isang matagal na kaibigan, pinagmamasdan ang mundong madalas ay pinapasintabi namin na lang.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"If you approve the "Kulo" exhibit, please replace your nose with a penis in your profile pic."

@jppgalang posted this challenge on his Twitter account.

I wouldn't mind biting the bait. It's as easy as grafting the stiff cock of Matt Hughes, my favorite porn actor  and then attaching it to my face. I'm sure my partner won't care. The people who follow my twitter account might even find it hilarious.

The problem with Mideo Cruz's exhibit is that it caught the nation's attention for the wrong reasons. First, the religious and secular divide is already big. With the bishops losing their credibility after the SUV scandal, and families turning against one another because of the Reproductive Health Bill, the Kulo installation provided more ammunition for the opposite sides to hit each another.

guess how big  his equipment is

trust me, it's bigger than this.

I read somewhere that the art exhibit was unheard of until someone trashed the gallery last month. The liberals in turn howled in chorus while their freedom of expression is being torched by the righteous. But before you agree, let's not forget, the fanatic who stormed the Cultural Center of the Philippines was also practising his right to express his opinion.

You may call it performance art minus the applause.

The ruckus over the exhibit is quite ironic. The twisted creation has been a mainstay of small galleries for  years. No untoward incident ever occurred and while the artist didn't get praises for his work, he was free to indulge his perversities. It's true, the Christ image is shocking, even sacrilegious. But it won't make me desecrate the halls of CCP and demand the balls of the artist shoved in his mouth.

My dirty, dirty mind can spawn better ideas to shock the flock.

Kulo is a work of a person in need of love, or at least mind-blowing sex with hung guys who love to bareback. Mideo Cruz loves cocks, and that's how I see his controversial work. Humor aside, I think his life is in tatters and despite providing various interpretations for his work, nothing will change his perception. For the artist, his creations are subliminal work no matter how the audience loves to piss at them.

It's like talking to a Bible-thumper about the merits of other faiths.

The furor over Cruz's work raises questions to the limits of  freedom of expression. Does art need to be censored when the public finds it distasteful? If Mideo Cruz's works are taken down because of public pressure, what will be its implications to other artists?

Does art need to conform with morality?

The controversy has become a matter of national interest that the Senate even launched its own investigation.  We all know that the circus is meant for the media. Meanwhile, the social fabric see-saws with a broken fulcrum, and it would have been better if we avoid these distractions. Population growth, job creation and food security should be our immediate concern.

As for me, while the Poleteismo exhibit hardly offends my sensibilities, (I even find some of his works grotesquely enamoring) I side with those whose sacred beliefs are violated. Mideo Cruz deserves to be ostracized.

Let him have sleepless nights.

There are limits to expression - including art - and the Christ image with a penis ashtray for a nose has already crossed the line.  

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It is never my plan to leave the country, not even for a short vacation. I don't have a passport to start with, and I even doubt whether I'd be given a visa should I decide to get one.

As I begin to see the real cost of going abroad, not even my secret stash can hold out to the imminent cash burst. Lacking in wardrobe, an overhaul alone will cut deep into my pocket. Not to mention my strong  attachment to the ground. Only a week of uprooting and I will wither like a shrub planted in a new pot.

These things, I get to learn as the day of my partner's departure came close. I was with him when he bought his luggage, as well as some of the toiletries and undies he will have to wear. The partner said it will cost double when he buys it elsewhere and despite my subtle objections to his splurge, I let him do all the shopping. The thrill of getting new stuff is all part of the experience.

As the countdown continued, I cannot help but be vocal with my longings. Who would enjoy being the one getting left behind. But this muted protests soon gave way to acceptance. It is perfectly understandable for him to be excited, the sights and sounds of a continent across the blue waters seldom reach one's shores.

Quebec, Toronto, Ottawa, no matter what history books or even Google Map show, I would never step foot in these citiess.

Not even in my wildest dreams.

For this reason, I embrace my partner's voyage with open arms. Guided by faith that his joys and adventures will be mine, I have learned to let go no matter how strange my days would be.

But before he left, I made sure the best parts of me will be his most intimate companions.


In my days of disquiet nights, I was comforted by objects that cradled my juvenile wonders: Cloudless sunsets, a night sky lit by a billion stars, alternative music from my college years, old-school anime, that forced me to cut classes just to follow the episodes, wide open spaces, swathes of forest, the smell of burning leaves, smiles from strangers never to meet again, little mysteries to keep the faith strong.

The little bear personified my romantic proclivity, and now that I found my significant other - to express those leanings, my life has been defined by blissful contentment. I do not wish for more. As for the plush toy, he retired to his little corner on my personal altar; a reminder that even when dark clouds converge, part of me basks in eternal sunshine.

And now that Baabaa and I are bound to live in different coasts I decided to let him be the custodian of everything that brings joy in my often sordid and troubled life.

Two days before his departure, the partner said that his grandmother used to put a rosary inside his bag. With his lola now staying in the province, it was my wooden rosary - the one I've been using to invoke the heavens -  finding its spot inside his baggage.

I will get by on my own. Maybe this distance is good, for the absence of the other would bring us even closer. Whatever life deems as fate, I am ready to face squarely. For beyond the vast ocean, across the brown landmass, behind towering mountains and glittering cities bustling with people from all walks of life,

soars my love.

My heart belongs to the Notthewimpykid, my soul will always be by his side.

Happy Monthsary Baabaa.

Mental Note

There is something true and sincere in my tears.
For this reason, I seldom shed them.

T-Minus 6 Hours

Friday, August 12, 2011

Twilight Zone

It would have been an ordinary day at the floor. I have three agents working under me and the volume of tasks, while predictably few should be enough to keep the team happy.

The shift started with everyone in high spirits. One agent was recalling the events of the previous day (she learned from the Patroness how to spot if a person is gay by looking at the length of his index finger), while another agent counted his earnings from selling bacon strips to our other colleagues.

Meanwhile, I was aiming to start writing the travel article for Bentusi. Long overdue for submission, my thoughts swung back and forth between my day job and the deadline, which until now hasn't been specified yet by my editor. I was halfway done with the first item when one of the agents started complaining about the trickle of work load.

"I won't make my quota today," Madonna - not her real name - said with a tinge of surrender in her voice.

"Nah, let's be optimistic, everyone will make their quota today!"  I assured.

Time skipped in measured thumps and the next thing we knew, four hours had already passed. As a policy, I tally the shift's production to make everyone aware of how much they have to make before they can get pass the quota. Sometimes, they hit it way before the half-shift. But on dry days like this, not a single one has managed to secure a safe spot.

I informed the boss of the alarming situation while rallying everyone to continue hitting our target.

"Let's do this!" I exhorted.

By then, I was keeping tabs of our output so I could release a bulletin after an hour. The trickle became a drip and my fears were reinforced by reading the consequences of the riots in London - which is one of our market.

It didn't help that across the Atlantic, another market is reeling from a financial turmoil. Being more of an unnecessary expense, I knew that the service we offer would be the first to suffer should the Americans or the British decide to tighten their belt.

And I think it is already happening.

At past 8 in the evening, we were still short of sales. It would have been at least acceptable if just one or two  still need to reach the quota. But if it's all of them, then there's a crisis. Such situation only happen when our hosting site goes down or the submarine cable connecting the continents suddenly gets cut because of a tectonic shake.

The boss was made aware of the problem and while being at the mercy of our client's advertisement, I even asked our middleman if he noticed something strange about the service that day.

"We'll I noticed that it's strangely quiet, but I don't see any system error over here."

"So does it mean the riots made a dent on our market?"

"Perhaps, but maybe it's because our promotion didn't work." The middleman explained.

I was told later that night that the trickle of tasks was already being felt days before I returned from my rest day. It just so happened that it reared its ugly head when I thought the team would have a cake and tea run on a pleasant Thursday workday. One hour before the shift ends, I was hoping that at least one agent would able to get pass the quota. But at the back of my head, I knew that the trend was turning against me. Even people with boundless optimism would have to embrace the truth someday.

Shift ended with no one hitting our target. The boss might have subtly accepted the company's loss, but this is how it works in any business. I was told that a soft-sell campaign will be initiated the next morning. Eager to bounce from the slump, I told the team that they will have priority access should the morning shift requires extra agents.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grace Under Pressure


A home-based agent is facing troubles at home. He could not go to work, (since he has to look after a family member confined in a hospital) nor even use his desktop computer. (because it is broken and in need of repairs) With him not around, I am left with two agents handling the work. It would have been easy if I am directing the instructions on the floor but I was on vacation.

The boss was out of town and my immediate superior was sick.

I made a list beforehand of agents from the other shifts who could take turns filling in for my third agent. Trouble started when one of them, the first one to fill the post sent a text message saying that he couldn't log-in at home. He wasn't able to buy the prepaid card needed for his Internet and could not leave the house because of the kids.


"WTF!" I could have said in a text message. "You said yes when I asked for volunteers last Sunday night, and I even reminded you yesterday to be prepared. You gave your assurance that you will be there and now this?!?" I wish I have the candor of the Patroness but instead of turning ballistic, I merely replied like this,

"Akala ko ba ayos na ang lahat? Anong plano natin niyan?"

Then and there I realized that no matter how I appear incompetent to some people, there will always be someone more disappointing than me. I hid my frustrations despite the agent offering alternatives and when it was certain that I could not rely on his assistance, I called the office - from Starbucks - to ask someone to fill in.

The problem was resolved, temporarily.

At past 4 in the afternoon, the agent who came to our rescue had to go home. Since I was in contact with the office all the time, I also knew that an extra hand won't be needed. There were no queues to attend and I still have to make sure those left behind reach their quota.

So off I went to UP Diliman with my partner to watch Zombadings. It was our third activity for the day after meeting a new friend in Makati for lunch, and then swinging at Landmark to shop for my partner's needs abroad. Despite the busy schedule, I made a mental note to ask the agents to give an update about their output before the film starts at 5 pm. It is the only way I could make sound projections as to how to divide the work among themselves.

The reports came in while me and Baabaa were slowly inching towards the cinema door. Output for the day was indeed low. There's a chance the team won't make their extra earnings.

Assured that I won't be needing extra help until the end of the shift, I sent a text message to other volunteers not to log-on to their computers. I even told the last one not to come to work two hours ahead of her shift so as not to spoil her evening. But just when the operations appeared to be running smoothly, a text message came from one of the agents.

She works at home.

"Mugen, I think you would need to send an SOS to others," the text message said. "I'm having trouble with my Internet connection."

Of all the things I never took into the equation, it is someone's Internet going kaput. The movie had just began and instead of laughing with everyone, I was resolving a crisis happening elsewhere. Fortunately, the officer-in-charge for the graveyard shift was available. I told him the problem and he promised to stay until I can find a replacement.

Meanwhile, the agent at the floor sent a text message. It's time for his break and he would have to buy food outside.

It is as if the world came crashing with only a single agent - not from my shift - looking after all the accounts.  Had the boss and my superior found what's happening, I would be in deep shit. During the time there was no one on the floor, my thoughts were divided. Should I ask another agent from the other shifts to look after the accounts or let the OIC from the GY Shift do all the work?

I decided not to complicate matters further.

Ending credits rolled after two hours. Not only was I not able to enjoy the movie, my thoughts drifted back and forth between work and the boyfriend. Expecting more unforeseen troubles ahead, I decided to go to the office after the movie. So much for the date, I could have at least dropped home my partner. But instead, duty called and I had to be there to answer.

When I barged into the door, I was pleasantly surprised to find the last agent who volunteered sitting in her cubicle.

"Didn't you get my text message earlier?"  I asked.

"No. I thought you're on leave?"

"Yeah, pero ang daming sablay, had to fixed em all." Blame it on redundancy or lack of efficiency. But when eyes are looking, it's difficult to leave things hanging loose.

And so I found myself on the floor with the situation finally under control.  Lousy as it may seems, but in times like these, I get to appreciate my true value.  This is what I'm getting paid for.

I may have wrongly trusted  my instincts, but I chose to give chances to people everyone thought were unreliable.  Some did deliver, while others, I prefer not to ask again.

Seldom does life give second chances.

Two hours before the end of the shift, I was already sleeping in my office chair. Tired and exhausted, I decided to leave things unattended for I am at least a nudge away should trouble comes knocking.

Besides, I have already paid the price.

So much for the 300 pesos I spent for the phone bill; so much for watching a comedy film when stress was  getting ahead of leisure time. In the end, I hope the sacrifice was worth it:  that I was able to handle the situation with grace, and that the boss won't learn the plan didn't work.

The agent who wasn't able to help during the first two hours of the shift went to a web cafe the next day. I told him to log-off. Someone was already assigned to volunteer.

Meanwhile, the lady who lost her connection just when I thought I did the right thing assured her presence during her time of volunteer. Whether she did honor her word was beyond my reckoning. Someone else would judge her performance.

Finally, as for the one who conceived this grand assembly, it would be best to follow conventions. In this world, not everyone is reliable and only few would go the extra mile even when their source of income is at peril.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Into Dust

A complementing song for a somber Sunday afternoon.

Beside me today
Around broken in two
Till you eyes shed
Into dust

Mazzy Star
Into Dust

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Under Grey Skies

It is the second time since June. The bold Mr. Mugen sends his resumes elsewhere. These emissaries never fail to court attention. Interviews are set. Promises of future business stir expectations. While interviews hardly bear results, the sweet after taste of imaginary fresh harvests embolden Mr. Mugen to search for greener fields.

At the moment, Mr. Mugen languishes in self-doubt. Weary of work and mired in leadership, he sought to break free. Pressed against the wall, the only escape he knows is to run away from his duties. But for someone who seldom says "no" for an answer, plans for liberation flips  when the chief asks to reconsider.

After all, he has been thriving in the oasis for many years. The last time he tries to leave, Mr. Mugen learns that he is still under the graces of the chiefdom.

"Basta sa akin ka muna ha? Unless you find a better job offer, then I'd let you go." Why does he need to show his feelings? Why the need to get attached, boy?

"We both know you were born for something bigger," Bentusi once quipped. "How long will you postpone your future?"

But Mr. Mugen knows he is a creature of habit. And like his entire life has been, he is best at creating: of being at the forefront of making tiny ventures grow.

So he goes out at past midnight to have an audience in the business district, maybe his last until the itch to send his emissaries kick again. The invitation, he feels, may shape the next decade of his career. Who knows, somewhere beneath the thick layers of faithlessness, he knows where he is good at.

He knows where he performs best.

But at the back of his head, a gentle stroke of wind reminds him of his words. Like a pine-scented whiff of cold air coming from the bosom of Greenhills, he knows his vows.

"Basta dito ka muna ha?" An awkward nod.

So no matter what the outcome of this next interview, no matter how brilliant Mugen was able to soft-sell himself, at this point, the heart already knows the answer.

"Honor thy words. The future can wait a little longer."

One hour later, after the interview. "Double the salary. social media writing work."


Friday, August 5, 2011


We were told as kids about the birds and the bees and how babies are born by referring the whole magic of creation to the flight of the ignorant storks. It was the easiest explanation a parent could make when the million dollar question "Mommy, where do babies come from?" is raised.

Sex and intercourse will always be a taboo subject. Nobody in his right mind would reveal the whole shebang to a seven year old boy who is curious about certain mysteries.

I don't know about you but I've learned the secrets of procreation ahead of time. Growing up in a family where porn magazines are kept on the highest ledge in my dad's private quarters, or squeezed behind the row of books in an easy-to-pick spot near the bed have its merits.

As early as grade five, I've already read The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort. It was carelessly left in one of the bookshelves in the master's bedroom. I may not be able to absorb the words completely but the diagrams helped. The workings of the sex organs were discussed, as well as the sexual positions and how babies develop from the tadpole and the egg were covered.

For this reason, when sex education was first introduced in grade six, the perverts in the class were laughing their asses out, while I sat quietly in my chair.  "Kids," I must have said.  "When will you all grow up?"

Of course, I would always refer to sex as "kantot" the moment I stepped foot on the school bus.

Now lets turn the clock backward, when browsing my dad's stash of porn magazines was my favorite  pastime. I was six or seven years old at that time. I have no idea why the girl had to put the boy's "bird" inside her mouth, or why the girl opened her mouth in sheer pleasure when the boy slid his rounded sword inside the girl's "glazed strawberry donut" hole.

My innocent mind thought it was their way of fun and those strange positions in the pictures were their acts of pleasure. When I got caught by the maid one afternoon and was scolded by my mom for my curiosity, the magazines had all disappeared and the images were slowly forgotten.

It was however, just the beginning.  The truth will reassert itself in the most unusual of places.

There are many dogs in our place. Some are real bitches while the certified breeders would even mount their own grown-up puppies. Talk about incest. Being a street kid that I am, everything I see around me gets figured immediately. When the dogs are in heat, the tropa (ages 9 and below) would sit by the sidewalk to bear witness as the dogs fight for that one bitch that would carry their offspring.

When the challengers retreat and the victor claims his prize, we would watch intently as the action begins:

Dog mounts the bitch.

Using his powerful hind legs, he would thrust his pelvis at a steady pace while the virgin bitch cries in pain. The boys would then cheer at the spectacle

After minutes of pumping, the canines' sexual organs lock.

The male dog would then turn around to position himself opposite the female.

The long wait begins as to when the two exhibitionists-in-the-alley would unlatch themselves. When it's a virgin bitch, the locking would most likely last an hour.

No, I cannot recall someone dropping a pinch of salt over the dogs' sexual organs. But I remember a gush of liquid from the bitch when the male dog unlatched itself.

Sometimes we get bored, we would then stop watching the mating dogs and go on with our business of playing our street games.

Save for those lucky bastards who were able to watch classic porn on their betamax, this is how we were introduced to the ways of creation. The dust-covered memory all came back after seeing this photo uploaded  at the TNL blog.


tama na yan kant... na!! 

We will only be kids once. When we get to see a couple of dogs fucking in the street today, I'm sure we would spare not a moment's pause, a slight chuckle or even a hint of disgust at the desperate animals. Instead we would walk quietly, avoid the canines-in-heat and proceed to our destination.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Makulit, madaldal at madalas ay nasa lansangan. Ilan lamang ito sa mga paglalarawan sa akin noong ako ay bata pa lang. Lumaki ako na kasama ang mga kasambahay at dahil sa medyo pasaway, a little creativity is required para ako ay madisiplina.

Hindi uso ang palo sa amin, (kasi naman, mga parents lang ang puwede gumawa noon) kaya naman kapag gabi na at nasa kalye pa rin, ang mga kasambahay na ang gumagawa ng paraan kung paano ako mapapa-uwi o kaya ay mapapatulog.

Using their time-honored tradition, (kung saan sa kanilang probinsya ay usong-uso gawing panakot ang mga walang malay na aswang, white lady pati na rin yung kapre sa puno ng balite.) lahat ng mga ginawang panindak sa mga yaya ng mga matatanda ay ipinasa rin nila sa mga bata.

There is of course, the urban twist.

Hindi ko alam kung pareho tayo ng kinagisnan. Basta ang alam ko, ilan lamang ang mga panakot na ito na talagang sineryoso ko nung kabataan.

1.  "Huhulihin ka ng bumbay at ilalagay sa sako"

Likas sa Pinoy ang maging racist. Likas rin sa atin ang mahilig mangutang. At dahil ang mga bumbay lang ang nagpapautang ng walang collateral, sila ang madalas tinatakbuhan kapag nagigipit sa pera.

Yun nga lang, mataas ang tubo sa payb-six.

Para man lang makabawi sa patayang pagbabayad, ginagawang panakot sa mga bata ang bumbay. Sino ba naman kasi ang lalapit kay manong na naka-turban, makapal ang puting balbas at bigote, at madalas kakaiba ang amoy. I'm not a racist but I don't come close to people strange to me.

Hindi man kami umuutang sa bumbay noon pero kumakaripas ako ng takbo papasok sa bahay kapag dumadaan na ang bumbay para maningil ng utang sa mga kapitbahay.

2.  "Hahabulin ka ng lumilipad na kabaong"

Kung magkakasisihan sa kung sino ang unang nagpauso ng panakot na ito, una kong ituturo ang Shake, Rattle and Roll. Pangalawa ang Gabi ng Lagim sa radyo na talaga namang nagpapatakip ng tenga ko kapag nakikinig na sina ate.

Mga kupal sila.

Paboritong panakot ito kapag gabi na at ayaw ko pa matulog. Madalas ang banta sa akin, makikita ko daw sa bintana yung kabaong tapos biglang mawawala. The next thing I know ay nasa harap ko na ang kabaong na may kasamang nangangamoy at naaagnas na patay sa loob.

Grisly much?

Ilang gabi rin akong napatulog ng nakatalukbong kahit sobrang init habang iniisip na yung kabaong ay lumulutang lang sa ibabaw ng kama ko.

3. "Naglalaro na ang mga duwende sa likod bahay."

Minsan nang natawas ang kapatid ko. Ayon sa basa ni Tiya Sabel (ang resident albularyo sa lugar namin), napagkatuwaan daw si utol ng mga puting duwende na nakatira sa likod-bahay namin. Ilang beses na rin nagkuwento ang mga matatanda ng mga mapanindig-balahibong "encounters with the unknown" sa kusina. Katabi lang kasi nito ang lugar kung saan naroon ang mga lamang lupa.

Totoo man o hindi ay mabilis akong napaniwala sa kuwento. In fact, sa sobrang takot at respeto ko sa mga duwende, pati yung kabute na umusbong sa harap ng bahay namin ay inakala kong bahay nila. If I remember it correctly, nag-iwan pa yata ako ng alay sa mga kabuteng iyon.

Tuloy pa rin ang "encounters with the unknown" sa bahay kung saan ako lumaki, pero sa panahon ng Facebook at Camera Phone, tila hindi na masyadong benta ang mga duwendeng minsan ay binalak ko pang kaibiganin.

4.  Aswang in the City

Sa panahong nagbi-binata na ang pamangkin ko, hindi ko alam kung bebenta pa rin ang ideyang ito: Imagine, matandang babae, mahaba, hindi nagsha-shampoo at nakalugay ang buhok, luwa at mapula ang mata, may malaking pakpak gaya ng sa paniki at nahahati ang katawan sa dalawa. If I know, Baby Lenin would ask, "Uncle bakit hindi nahuhulog yung organs niya?" Siyempre tameme na ako. Ang alam ko lang, para masunog ang aswang ay dapat binubudburan mo ng asin (or abo) yung lower part ng katawan niya.

May isang panahon rin na napabalitang may naligaw na aswang sa kamaynilaan. Sabi sa Taliba, namataan daw ito sa Letre, Malabon kung saan hinihinalang nakatira sa squatter's colony ang aswang.  Siyempre, kahit sa Santa Mesa kami nakatira, wala kaming idea na napapagod rin sa paglipad ang aswang, at kung kakain man ito ng fetus na nasa tiyan, marami naman na malapit lang.

Pero hindi nagpaawat ang mga kasambahay. Sa tuwing pahirapan ako sa pagtulog, lagi nilang sasambitin, "Sige ka, makikita mo yung aswang na nanlilisik ang mata sa bintana."

5.  "Hahabulin ka ng tsinelas"

Ako ay naniniwala na habang dumarami ang mga BPO at Call Centers sa bansa ay higit na nagiging "westernized" ang ating values. Sa halip na palo ang abot ng mga bata, grounded ito kapag gumawa ng kasalanan. At dahil busy rin ang mga magulang sa pagtratrabaho, madalas ay ang kasambahay naiiwan para magbantay ng mga anak.

Hindi ganito ang buhay noon. Kung makulit ay may palo sa puwet. Kung pasaway at nabagok ang ulo o natanggalan ng ngipin, sinturon ang katapat. Kapag nawala ng ilang oras at hindi mahanap, (kasi nangapitbahay na) sa sinturon rin ang uwi ng bata. Kapag mababa ang grades sa school kakalaro sa labas, ang sinturon rin ang magiging kalaro mo.

Tingin ko naman na hindi pa mawawala ang palo bilang paraang ng pagpaparusa, pero naman, kung Havaianas lang ang gagamitin, please, kamay na lang.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This was Mugen.

Late 2009

With his work-out routine becoming very erratic, leaving him with extra fats and several pounds of  mass on his tummy, he will get back to his old form again.