What’s a good aftenoon?

A drizzle outside enough to cool the afternoon heat.

Deep-fried squid balls.

An ice-cold regular Coke, not the Zero, definitely not.

An early 2000 acoustic song by a band trying to make mama proud.

An SMS from a college bestfriend asking if it is also raining outside.

A strawberry-flavored Rebisco Sandwich.

Lying naked with somebody and exchanging sweet-nothings to each other.

Writing, of course.

Nothing can be better than this afternoon.

‘Coz we all just wanna be porn stars

I’m not wont to be easily swayed by the bandwagon; even so let me write something about the not-so-recent media hullabaloo involving a celebrity cosmetic surgeon and several women immortalized in a collection of, according to reports, around forty sex videos that documented his virility and talent in giving cunnilingus, of course the favor has to be returned, and these women giving the exhibitionist doctor a head, excuse my language, fellatio sounds more dignified, I believe.

Sex in the Philippine society has always been hushed, downplayed, “subtle-ized”. This does not, however, preclude the fact that most Filipinos, if given a chance, would unleash their repressed sexuality, orchestrating it to an extent that approaches the tradition of the theater, the circus, the American wrestling. The advent of technology chipped off the rocks that kept the water behind the dam. Lo and behold! We’re flooded with sex videos, ‘scandals’ we call it. The secrecy and the clandestine nature of these acts, almost the criminal element of it, make them very popular.

Although the production value is often amateur-ish, the acrobatics not at all breath-taking, and the actors not consistently appealing, we are often drawn to them because they involve real people – people whom we want to shame because of their guts to publicize the most private aspect of one’s life; while at the same time we fancy the idea of us being in the video, of being the subject of the steamy acts, the object of a hidden public’s fantasy.

For inasmuch as we all want to be a rock star, being a porn star is next in line of our someday-I-want-to-be list albeit secretly.

We ostracize Hayden Kho because he has done something we wished we could’ve done. Senator Revilla, a womanizer himself, expectedly spewed a fiery speech against the doctor, a fury more of an expression of defeat and envy than the aim of helping Katrina Halili and Kho’s victims. Revilla’s record of having the most number of conquered women in Philippine show business, second to his father, Revilla Sr., has been broken by an obscure boy toy of a plastic surgeon to the stars. What can be more humiliating than that?

It is pathetic how we use so much energy discussing this issue, a waste of precious airtime. We can just go silently with the case, punish Kho if indeed he erred, and go on with our lives.

After all sex, minus all the garb and frills, is just about having orgasm.

Sex in public

A post script to an afternoon in Binondo

From the LRT station in Cubao, we took LRT2 train to Recto and walked almost a quarter of a kilometer to LRT1 in Doroteo Jose which is a station away from Carriedo, the nearest station located a few blocks from the entrance of Binondo facing Quiapo. A night before that we searched in the web for places where we can have a taste of Chinese cuisine. Something which we did not really expect to be authentic but more of a fusion, since the addition of Filipino flavors is already a part of the equation.

However, we did an unforgivable mistake by going there on a Sunday as most shops in Chinatown open at 8 and close at 2 o’clock in the afternoon during Sundays. When we arrived there at around 30 minutes past three we were greeted by almost desolate streets and shops that were about to close.

binondo church

But not wanting to miss the opportunity, we strolled along the narrow alleys of Chinatown. Using the guide my friend found on the internet, we looked for those eating places. Only one of the seven places in our list was open. I cannot anymore remember the name but they specialize in fresh dumplings made from leeks, cabbage, and meat. The dainty restaurant is on a lane perpendicular to Ongpin street several meters away from Binondo Church.

There were two women inside the restaurant that did not really look like a restaurant. It was more of a recently-cleaned up store room. One woman stood up, greeted us, and waited for us. The other one continued with her kneading of the dough. Although we already know why most of the stores were closed, we still asked them that question just to spark a conversation. The answer was what we expected. After giving us the menu and the service tea which did not taste bad at all, she went back to her place and helped the other woman in the kneading of the flour. They did it almost methodically, very expertly.

The dumplings I was accustomed to are those salty ones with distinctively peppery taste and are strongly seasoned; the ones they served us were different. They looked like they were boiled more than steamed for the shells were watery. The taste was mild and delicate. The filling, made from a mixture of leeks and a little meat, was not overpowering.

Dumpling

Our conversation focused more on our ability to judge a good dumpling, a good wine, a good pasta, a good pizza, a good orange juice, and a good coffee. I related to him that years of gulping instant coffee dulled my taste buds so that they cannot anymore differentiate between good brew from a synthetic one. For me, as long as caffeine kicks, a coffee’s aroma, texture, and whatever value added by the marketing strategy of a brand of coffee are immaterial. And then our conversation proceeded to defining cosmopolitanism. We went on arguing as to which is more cosmopolitan: Makati or Manila. I vouched for old Manila because of its diversity; he said it’s Makati because of its modernity.

We decided to walk around again and eventually watched Ded na si Lolo, a film directed by Soxie Topacio in SM Manila. But before that we had to brave the throng of pedestrians and devouts swarming in the Vicinity of Quiapo Church.

It was a perfect place to plant a bomb, I thought, if the object is to kill as many civilians as possible.

Walking from Sta. Maria church to Plaza Miranda, which is around 200 meters, took us almost thirty minutes of snail paced walk. The place is an analogy for pandemonium; everything was in utter disarray.

I guess, storytelling need not be profound much less high brow. Storytelling is simply telling the events in the simplest possible way with no other aim but to relate the events. We went home that evening tired but sated.

An apology

Board

Seeing a white, blank space is one of the most painful sights in the whole universe. And whenever I see one, I am attacked by an urge to fill it up as soon as I can with written words. I don’t stop until I purge myself with all the rubbish collected during the day. And for this reason, I am asking for an apology. Readers pointed out the cryptic character of my writings, the unreadability, and the almost masturbatory tone. I know I am not supposed to write for my own sake alone for writing is not supposed to be selfish. If it has to be self serving then it will not be as painful as it should be. But writing is a painfully excruciating hobby, if indeed it can be called a hobby. Calling it as such is an insult to all those people who sacrificed their own happiness just so truths are concretized using abstract language.

This apology is also for people who thought there is more to fathom from thoughts written here when in reality, that’s all there is to it. Our propensity to assign meanings on something we do not entirely understand makes fools if not the opposite out of everyone of us who spends precious time reading somebody else’s thoughts that are as ambiguous and unclear as ours.

Anomie-ed

While riding a bus from LRT Buendia to Boni MRT station, while the faceless crowds of people in Ayala Avenue were scampering on their way home or to wherever they are going, I felt that this sense of alienation I have been trying to ignore since I arrived here in Manila forced itself in my psyche again, but stronger and more overwhelming this time. And although I am not a fan of Joseph Conrad, I am reminded of a line in his short story An Outpost of Progress:

Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every significant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd: to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion. But the contact with pure unmitigated savagery, with primitive nature and primitive man, brings sudden and profound trouble into the heart. To the sentiment of being alone of one’s kind, to the clear perception of the loneliness of one’s thoughts, of one’s sensation – to the negation of the habitual, which is safe, there is added the affirmation of the unusual, which is dangerous; a suggestion of things vague, uncontrollable, and repulsive, whose discomposing intrusion excites the imagination and tries the civilized nerves of the foolish and the wise alike.

I feel, this time, like a man stripped of the security my society used to provide me. In a way, I feel I am trapped in a place where the rule is that of a primitive man’s.

When I look at it, I realized that for somebody outside, the image of me inside the bus staring aimlessly at the crowd outside is as alienating as any other images of the members of the crowd are also confronting while they walk in their stilleto or pointed-toe leather shoes on the cold concrete of Ayala Avenue, as they wait in line for the cab, as they ask themselves whether this reality is worth the other realities they have to give up.

For somebody who does not have a formal study on sociological theories, I may loosely use anomie as this feeling of normlessness and the seeming lack of order in the world surrounding me. The universe is indifferent toward man. And this evening, while inside that cramped bus, I especially felt this non-forgiving indifference. It is lamentable.

159. Man Riding Uptown 6 Train 9-4-2008

Letting go of my favorite Chucks

I am thinking of throwing away my pair of white Converse shoes but a friend, who is very sentimental, told me to keep them because they represent the hardships I have gone through during my study in Vietnam. The sole of the right pair looks like the mouth of a gaping alligator and the left, although a little decent-looking, is already showing signs of imminent demise.

Like a pair of Levi’s, the more they are worn and torn the better Converse shoes look, to a certain degree of course, as they are also governed by the law of diminishing marginal return. My pair of white Converse, which served me well, have gone past their serviceability. Being sentimental myself, I am reminded of the bicycle I left in Hanoi which I named Peggy.

That pair of Chucks were half a size smaller than my normal shoe size but eventually after repeated wearing matched perfectly the contour of my feet. They were too comfortable that I never washed them since the day they were bought more than a year ago fearing that I would be depriving myself of their comfortable fit. And I could not afford to let go of that sense of security the pair gave me even for a single day for washing.

Letting go of things we have gone accustomed to can be painful especially if we already personified them, gave them names, and associated our life’s most important highs and lows to them.

I’ve always loved wearing Converse shoes. They represent comfort, quality, and style. A pair of black or blue canvas is so versatile that it can go with any kind of statement and mood. The worn appearance is dependent on the owner’s history of wearing them which make each pair of Chucks unique.

It is also why an old Converse shoes is too difficult to let go because it is like throwing a way a certain part of your self, of your spirit that the pair has already imbibed and become part of it.

I will store them somewhere to be revisited someday when memory will have to need something concrete and corporeal.

chucks

How to tell without actually telling it

There are some stories in our lives that will have to remain untold because we think that they are inconsistent with the image we want to have for ourselves. It is not hypocrisy, that I am certain of. It is more of our own human tendency to discriminate and decide what we want to become, how we want the world to perceive us, or how to live our life. Although using this line of reasoning, one can infer that choice has a big part in the equation, in reality, though, it only has a marginal role. Choice only figures after fate has done its job.

We met almost a week ago. But it seems that the story will end here, and the pronoun will stay in the first person plural because utilizing the third person singular will give away that person’s identity. I am not being hypocrite, I am just being wary. A college friend said that the world is too dumb to understand, too oblivious to care, too petty to matter. When she said that line, I almost laughed at the melodrama of the content of what she said and the stiff-upper-lippy manner she said that truth about our species.

This has happened several times before: being involved with somebody and finding out in the end that the affair is but a series of hot flushes of temporary psychosis that can be treated with short, cold shower.

silhouette-tips-1

The thin lines created by the light coming from the cinema screen almost made the silhouette of that person as conspicuous as the darkness. I tried to focus my attention on the movie we were watching but the silhouette forces itself on me. I became less critical of the plot of Angels and Demons and more appreciative of the effort made by the director to make the outrageous storyline more believable. I forgave his flawed assumption that a fictional movie should also be an illogical one. All because of the person I was with that time gave the supposed sharp images from that movie a soft sepia tone reminiscent of 60s films.

Tom Hanks played well the role of an academic caught between his objective university high ground and the scandals involving the Vatican. He is not the muscular, physically agile protagonist who can dodge dangers with martial arts skill or dexterity with guns but he is smart enough to analyze the clues within cutthroat deadlines. The owner of the silhouette is just as interesting.

To entertain is one of a film’s many functions. For Angels and Demons, that is its only function, and it did accomplish the only thing it was supposed to do. It will be very tempting to read it using any available literary approach but doing so will defeat the purpose of the film. For like the presence of an anti-matter cum bomb, the film itself has a logic taken beyond the possible bounds of our ability to comprehend, in the same way that that person, the owner of the silhouette, transcends narrative.