Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year Summed In One Prayer

New Year's Eve. 

I was slouched in the sofa after coming from the annual long walk along C6 in Taguig, when the Favorite Aunt asked me to lead the Media Noche prayers. I have been asked to welcome the occasion with an invocation. But given the very advanced notice this time, I was able to put my thoughts into words, and come up with a rehearsed petition that is befitting for a blog entry.

"Our Father, we gather here tonight to celebrate the coming year as one family. We are here to thank you for the bountiful providence, as well as for looking after our loved ones and keeping them safe. We are deeply grateful that despite the highs and lows of our days, you never fail to lift us from our sullenness. And for all the times we have hurt another, we ask for forgiveness, and ways to make amends.

We offer our prayers for those who are not with us tonight, namely [insert the name of the sister here, who spent the New Year with the in-laws] and her family. May you keep them safe and away from harm, our prayers also go..."

For some strange reasons, the phone I was holding went sleep mode, and the text I was reading disappeared. I tried scrolling down the app where I put the draft, but the touch screen refused to follow. There was the awkward pause, while everyone around the table was waiting for me to conclude. Even the Favorite Aunt tried to continue the invocation, yet being unused to spontaneous thoughts, I was forced to follow through by scrolling down the text until I come across the part I was supposed to supplicate.

"... to those who look after us. May you also bless their loved ones. Lastly, we offer our prayers for the uncertainties that lie ahead, that you may guide us and give us strength when hope seems to falter. Please bless us, our father, as you have been, in Jesus name, we serve your will. Amen."

No side comments came after the prayer, as everyone was eager to begin the post-midnight feast. All I heard the next day was a commendation from my mother, who actually liked the prayer. I told her that I panicked when my train of thought was disrupted.

In hindsight, though it was embarrassing to lose your poise during a solemn moment, the delivery actually sums up how my life has been in the past year: On another note app on my phone was an outline of the things I sought to accomplish. There were pleasant surprises that were not part of the draft, and disappointments too, when notions of order suddenly crumbled just when you thought things were going according to plan. In the end, I had to live through the setback; of that mistake of relying in the strength of another, and carry on with the task I had to finish with little fanfare, or praise from those who were my life's quiet observers.

To this day, sticking to what I was set to do, despite the circumstances, remain my biggest accomplishment. 

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

NSA (Finale)

Previously: NSA (Second Part)

It was past 2 in the morning, and the biting cold had forced me to swivel the chair and reach my blanket so I could wrap it around my naked skin. I work, only in my jerseys, and despite having to set up my mobile office in unfamiliar grounds, the old habit remains even when the wall air conditioner blew frigid air into the room. 

Behind me was he, laid motionless in bed. Snoozing in a semi-fetal position, he has been reduced to a hunk of log, splayed under the sheets after imposing dominance over me. Occasionally, I would leave my workstation to fix the blanket so it covers his body. I would then plant a kiss to which he would respond with a faint smile.  On the nights I stayed over, he would ram the gates twice or thrice before bedtime, and yet, even with a lube-coated hole foreseeing another assault, I remain steadfast in my resolve to block his access into the more delicate corners of my being. Lust is lust, I guess, and perhaps, after the repeated deed never intensified the feelings, he had understood that it maybe nothing more than just a temporal need to be owned.


I have never truly grasped the concept, even when subconsciously, I already lead myself into such tryst in the past. How come two souls would become intimate, and leave their hearts unguarded when, after the cum has been wiped clean, they return to their hardened selves - and the time spent spooned in bed, while sharing the most sheathed of secrets would fade into obscurity, like their moment together is nothing more than just a story-in-passing?   

And Jake the Dog is no exception. Over the course of our after-sex pillow talks, I have learned that we have too many straight friends in common. It was he who revealed that a classmate whom I have not spoken in years gave birth to twins. In return, I told him that one of his colleagues, whom he almost got into a fistfight was my mentor in the university. In the realm of our mutual passions, he found it astounding to have met someone who used to play Star Control 3 as a kid. When I went over his place the second time, I showed him how Civilization 5 looks different from its incarnations. He bought a copy of the strategy game the next day and spent countless sleepless nights playing it as the Egyptians.

However, despite the recognized bonds, there remains a void that yearns to be filled. I feel it in his refusal to speak my name, or his recollections of past encounters, which, for some reasons never bothered me. I may have removed my Grindr and Wechat apps, and yet, I too was open to meeting guys who might show me a different perspective. This is not to mention the constant reminder, that I too recently, gave my heart to someone only to see it get broken.

I have never moved on.

It is unfortunate that despite our displays of affection, our respect for each others' space, and in my case, that undeniable need to perpetuate his story, our time has ended. Given our forked paths, and his re-entry into the limelight in the coming weeks, no longer do I see a fourth invitation.

Not even a Viber message from where it all began.

And so it ends here, with this final log. Written for the very purpose of honoring a memory, Jake the Dog himself may not have been aware. He said last Christmas that I was too kind, when I suddenly made my presence felt with a parting gift. I was tempted to shoot back and say that rarely do someone opens his door to me, and that meant everything. I just hope that after all that was said and done, and after leaving so many material memories behind, I may stand out as one of his most unforgettable encounters,

Because in my realms, I already made him an immortal.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Gift Of Giving


The cylinder piggy bank stood undisturbed in a corner for almost a year. I have this disaster scene in my head where money-dispensing machines fail and people kill each other in queues just to get hold of cash. Nobody knows the piggy bank's real purpose is for emergencies, and its existence would have remained unknown, had I not learned that it can no longer accept spare change.

My first reaction was to buy another so I can fill it with coins. The original need is still in place, and given the children and the aging matriarch at home who would be in danger should my disaster porn happen in real life, I would be eternally grateful for the foresight caused by my disturbing thoughts.

But a new belief is emerging. Something that is full of compassion: an act rather than self-preservation, it leaves everything to chance in exchange for fulfillment in performing deeds that benefit the greater whole. 

After all, nothing good comes out from worrying.

And so I picked a recipient that would find the coins most useful: The organization that sends the first teams when disaster strikes in the country. I already lent my strength and time with them to repack relief goods when a powerful storm hit Tacloban. I saw them work to provide aid. 

They resoundingly delivered.

It was a two-hour walk from home to their office in Intramuros. Mind not the method of the piggy bank delivery. I had spare time, and thought, the stroll would be a good way to work out. I arrived, barely unannounced. Even the guard was baffled with my presence. After being escorted in the receiving office, a volunteer opened the cylinder repository. The coins were carefully separated and then counted. The spare change accumulated was worth more than two thousand pesos.

More than an act of kindness, I find the deed a civic obligation. A responsibility, each and everyone in the community should be made aware of. And because it was done a day before Christmas, an obvious intention to mark the occasion, my wish is for this new habit to take root and become a tradition. In a time of prosperity, and relative harmony at home, may this be an offering, an expression of gratitude for that providence that keeps on giving.

Sharing the gift of lovingkindness from my family to yours. Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NSA (Second Part)

"Ikaw yan?!?"

I browsed his Instagram before looking at him again.

He grinned.

"I know your name, but I can't recall your face." I seldom watch the shows where he sometimes deliver his stories.

And like those before me, I was stunned beyond words. Clearly this guy is someone I can't match, no matter how I prop my Social Media network. Even the gaming host whom he had never met knew him by name. At that moment, I just want to sink into my chair and disappear. Jake the Dog is too much for me.

But then, who am I kidding? I was trained to be like him, had I pursued what I learned in the university. We are of equal minds no matter how I drifted away from the profession.

And I do write stories still.

"So anong reaction ng ibang ka-meet up mo kapag nalaman na ikaw pala siya?"

"OA." He mimicked their gestures in an exaggerated manner. We both chuckled.

From there, I did my best to lift my image. I stuck with what I know about his work, and what I do in real life. There was complete honesty on my part, as people like him hound the truth. In return, he told me many things about his profession and the TV personalities he worked with: That a much despised anchor actually is smarter than the one who switched networks; of how politics nearly tore an institution apart. Much as I would like to spill the rest of the details of his revelation, every word he said was off the record.

Not even his name can be revealed.

Eventually, we both lost interest in the trivia game after spotting some contestants checking Google in secret. Jake the Dog and I were becoming absorbed in our little bubble that it no longer mattered if we were losing or winning the quiz.

We paid our bill and transferred to a watering hole across the gym. Over bottles of beer, the getting-to-know part became more personal. Engaging. I had to tell him of the breakup, of how I thought of the guys on Grindr, of how much I am enjoying the night in ways I didn't expect when the two of us competed in the trivia quiz game.

He too, felt the same.

Time flies when two people are having a good time. And just like that, it was nearing midnight. I don't know how tipsy he was, but should we part ways, I can still carry on and have a few more bottles with friends.

Yet, the events of the night was already set. Planned without words before the meet-up took place, I knew where this will all ends, if I manage to make a good impression upon my date. 

"Thank you for the evening," I told Jake the Dog.

"It was fun." He said back.

There was silence, followed by sly smiles. Someone's waiting for the other to make a move.

All that is needed is the invitation.

"Uhm, would you like to chill at my place?" I smiled.

"Oo ba." 

The details of the night will forever be untold. What I can tell is that I went home the next day at past 10 in the morning.


Friday, December 19, 2014

NSA (First Part)

Previously: The Wheel Winds Again

He found me on Grindr because of the name I used in that gay dating application. I was Finn, and he was Jake the Dog. For those who watch shows on Cartoon Network, the unmistakable association creates a connection. Conversations flowed as we have one thing to bind us - our hook-up names - and on the third day of the Scorpion Week, just when I was wrapping up my three-day room cleaning, I decided to remove my account after accepting his dinner invitation.

"As a courtesy," I told him.

"You're going too fast," he warned.

Jake the Dog and I agreed to meet at a gourmet restaurant that serves artisan Cronuts. He was a bulky guy in his early thirties. He had a tribal-inspired tattoo on his forearm, uses a mix of English and Tagalog to speak his mind, and wore signature clothes that made mine look like they were bought from a thrift shop. Impressions alone suggest that his hypermasculine metrosexual vibe is out of my league, but it's still too early to judge how this hangout would end. 

There is still time to make an impression.  

It turns out, the first few minutes was devoid of pretensions. We were evenly matched - in the head - and because we belong to the same generation. I have barely warmed up my seat when the restaurant owner asked us to move upstairs and join their trivia game. Looking for ways to impress my date, I urged him to accept the challenge despite my limited knowledge of the quiz topics.

We squeezed the small talks between the gaming rounds. Flesh outs of the half truths we told each other during our morning online banters: that he works in the advertising industry; that he attended his Freshman year at the very halls of my university; and that, he is into intense sports like surfing and kickboxing. I was just at the tip of the iceberg, of knowing him in-depth when my date confessed his love of photography. When he shared his Instagram to show his pictures; of his out-of-town trips and foodie adventures, I was not prepared for the big revelation: 

That the guy in front of me was a TV personality. 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our Maximo Oliveros

When my younger nephew's nanny decided to leave one day, the house was thrown in disarray as we cannot run as a .holding with just a single maid.

There was no time to assess the situation, and within days, a new maid was dispatched from Iloilo care of my sister's mother-in-law.

The house breathed a sigh of relief.

But the new maid is no ordinary housekeeper. She's a he, and puts on makeup, and wears skimpy short pants that attract attention. Had it not for the fact that he was my brother-in-law's distant relative, he would never set foot inside the house.

And there was reason to be weary sharing spaces with the effeminate man.


We have two young boys in the family, and mean stereotypes tell that men wearing ladies' accessories "corrupt" young children. They are not to be trusted with valuables and information too as they are masters of deception. The latter statement came from my mom's beautician, a female hairstylist, who has probably a lot of gay friends of her own.

These doubts were brushed aside when I reminded the Left-leaning members of the family of their socialist agenda. 

How can we achieve labor equality if we can't even give this man a chance.

"Malay natin," I said. "Okay naman siya."

"Who knows" I told myself. "He might lead the way for me to finally leave the confines of my closet."

He was generally met with ambivalence in the first weeks after his arrival. Arielle, as we call him, can cook well, (his vegetable dishes are divine) and ever since he took charge of the laundry, never did my clothes leave a foul smell again.

But the nonchalant attitude didn't last long. The head maid, who calls him "bakla" eventually lost patience. His refusal to finish household chores earned him the ire of my sister. I would describe him as someone who needs to be winded, like a machine, to do his job. For when he does nothing, and receives no tasks, he was out of the house, in the company of other men who are tambays in the neighborhood. 

Twice, I spotted him talking to them and this too I shared with urgency with the matriarch during one of our late night conversations.

The small offenses piled up until it became clear that he is bound to be replaced. My sister, his direct employer dislikes him. The matriarch worries about the kids getting confused of his gender. Soon, instructions were sent to my relatives' helpers to look for a new nanny, a female, who can actually be relied on to look after the kids.


The search ends weeks later, and a new maid was found. It was the Favorite Aunt who arranged for her travel. I woke up one afternoon to find her in the kitchen. And I knew, with one glance, that someone has to go.

Just when he had finally stopped talking to the tambays who did nothing but ask favors.

We could have looked for a replacement job for him. A relative who lives a street away has a beauty parlor. There might be a job opening for a new stylist. I could have asked friends too on Facebook and Twitter if they needed a helper. While both ideas were plausible, they didn't convince the women of the house to set forth and initiate the search. They simply wanted him back in the province for reasons of safety. 

Given Arielle's curiosity of urban folks and his mediocre work habits, we cannot guarantee he would be treated well by other employers. 

He simply has to do it on his own.

And so he left a day before my birthday, a week after he helped my mom de-clutter the Master's bedroom, and after receiving a simple "Thank you card" from me. Had he been someone else, someone who would tirelessly work day and night to put the house in order; someone, who would not court trouble by associating with people we naturally distrust; and had he won the Alpha females' favor by becoming one himself, like I did, to prove I am no pushover, he would have stayed, and his wages will directly come from me.

After all, it has been my fantasy to have a flamboyant guy dressed in French maid costume serve my needs. That, of course, belongs to my future.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Only What Is Needed

There is no limit to the spending as Christmas Day approaches. There are still a lot of people in the list - colleagues, neighbors, and helpers, the kindred who needs to be remembered. The shopping rush gets trickier as the Raketship demands attention.

Tradition stays, time has to bend.

It was one of those pleasant discoveries of last year: The Japan Home Center warehouse outlet. Who needs 168 at the bosom of Divisoria, when you can find gift items at P88 pesos at the fringes of Timog Avenue. As the materialist lust takes over, cultural leanings follow. This year, the deep pockets offer nearly limitless choices. Only the habit of diversifying held me from completing the list.

Now you ask, what to find at this thrift store: home items of great variety, fancy dining implements the Japanese use everyday, stateside beauty products - generic in packaging, yet classy by pedestrian standards, and so on. These and other goodies, one can give away without breaking the wallet. Without guilt, I bought them all at a price a quarter of what I spent at the Toy Kingdom sale last week.

But there is the setback. A trick I learned long after the acquisition was secured.

As the local government ordinance mandates stores to replace plastic with paper bags, I was caught unprepared when the bought items were returned. A spending oversight left me with two gigantic recycled pulp bags without handles. The loot had to be carried in such a manner that would limit my movement. And because I left the store at the middle of the rush hour, no cab driver would dare travel the streets of Manila and return sane after enduring the gridlock.

Had I known, never would I resort to hoarding.

I was able to get home through means that no longer matter in this story. What is essential is the lesson: of the fact why the Japanese are always seen carrying paper bags in anime and not with our Polyethylene pouches.

"Acquire what is only needed." The voice of reason comforts. "Or suffer the consequences of greed, like what your unready arms have to bear now."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Anti-Gay

From Carlos Celdran's Facebook Page

I look at the picture and see two bullies. 

One invokes the name of the Almighty for righteous indignation, the other calls on the power of humor for sublime retribution. Without context, it is not easy to sift through the message: to side with who is right and who is wrong. For reasons only God knows, they converge at the same event every year. Two opposing creeds marching side by side, for a right to voice out their beliefs.

Thirteen years had passed since the day I embraced my sexual preference. It was a slow and agonizing path toward recognition. While I no longer have gay issues to speak of, a part of me stays in the closet. No one at home really talks about me bringing in my exes and flings. 

No one bothered to ask it straight. 

Hence, I stayed away from the advocates and their Pride Marches, out of fear of being identified. 


To be forced by the family to make the unrehearsed confession.

But it doesn't mean my sentience is asleep. Every year, since the first Pride Marches were organized, I was invited to join the parade. I could have showed up, and blog about the event. Or even participate as an observer, and really find out the heart of the advocacy. While acceptance among straight and gay people of every hue remain a pipe dream, I have never doubted the capabilities of my tribe.

I am content with the social arrangement. Liberal thought is already catching up. 

Now back to the subject, I see photos of them -  the wretched ones - every year. The Caucasian pastor and his little brown-skinned puppets stood by the curb, raising their paper boards screaming with hate and outrage over the perceived immoralities of those they wish to repent. 

And the sinful heathens poke fun at their presence.

I do not know what exactly takes place when these two people converge: the advocates and their antagonists, and if in their tensest moments, does one see the other as a fellow human and not the enemy of whatever deity they side with?

Do those with the loudest voices, give space for the minority to air their side?

But if history were to be the judge, the advocacy will cease to exist without the other's presence. The reason these Pride events take place is to remind everyone about LBGT's rights. In the absence of those who have long desired their complete disappearance, what reason there is to wear pink and parade the streets of Manila, like the rest of humanity still cares?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Badinggerzie Generation

The gene runs in the family, my mother tells me. There is a distant lesbian relative. Another one is gay. Both from the father side. While I always adhere to nurturing as reasons for deviation, the causes no longer matter. Time has caught up, society now tolerates preference.

My own journey was hard-fought, for there were no masculine gays during my awakening. All the out guys were flamboyant. Screaming fags, whose presence amuses the straights. I can take the credit for joining the revolution. For I was among the first of the anonymous who crawled out of the closet, and into the Internet I recognize the person I would become.

Ten years into the future and the kids of today are a little more open. Even the hypermasculine ones now show their faces; in their various stages of undress without the judgement bore by the men before them. And in this time and age, while real acceptance remains a distant dream, I am certain that tomorrow will be more gay, open, and the stigma, which my 4-year old nephew from the cousin's side will be short-lived.

"Ang kaso, hetong bunso eh lalambot-lambot." My aunt said the last time we talked.

"Lalambot lambot?"

"Alam mo na.." She then bent her arm backwards to show the gesture.

"Nabugbog nga ng tatay niya nung isang linggo." She continued. "Inapakan pa nga sa likod."

"Bakit daw?" I shook my head.

"Sabihin daw ba na babae siya. Hindi ko alam kung saan niya nalaman yun."

"Pero sobrang lambing na bata. Matulungin pa."

"Sabi niya sa akin, mag-aaral daw siya ng mabuti para di na kami mahirap."

Remembering the conversation one afternoon, while shopping for gifts for the brethren's children, I thought of giving the Grover shirt this Christmas as a succinct recognition of his gender choice.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Grateful Days

It is the time of the year, when guiltless shopping becomes the conscious pursuit; when unplanned phone calls to friends add to the monthly phone bill; and when the credit cards find their best use, because it is more wounding to pay in cash for the acquisitions you will part ways before the holidays end.

And it is the season of reminiscing too; of the times when a kid, now a fully-grown man, used to linger under a Christmas tree, his happy thoughts glued to the presents, some with gift tags bearing his name. The soft tiny lights blink with perfect timing, leaving the boy suspended in that dream-like gaze he would recall with pained longing.

Therefore, with unconditional fidelity to memory, in spite of how time had changed everything; and as an expression of gratitude for the kindred, who always matter, we embrace tradition as it has always been: with child-like thoughts and with a heart unburdened with troubles. And in the days of plenty, when the side jobs provide more than what is required to live in bounty, may this year's grateful days touch more hearts, 

And share the gift of giving to many.