I was on a jeepney that was waiting for passengers in front of Miriam College when this woman and her beautiful, though a bit pensive, daughter climbed up the rusty and rickety jeep going to UP. I secretly took their picture together. The baby and her pretty locks reminded me of Heidi who is running about her Swiss Alps, hair fluttering and all.
I want to eat peanut butter, just peanut butter. I want to have a straight eight-hour sleep, not three, four, or five. I want to ride a tapir, not a tricycle, a jeepney, or a train. I want to stay home for a whole day and finish everything in my reading list. I want to swim some more lapses. I want my mother’s laswa soaking in hot Dinorado rice. I want to go to Pampanga and be with my sister, I miss her doting kindness. I want to ride a plane, now. I want to see a giraffe kicking a hyena in the face. I want to fill this page with non-sense. I want to splatter Jollibee spaghetti on the first person I meet wearing white. I want to insert my wet middle finger in the electric outlet behind me. I want to shout at the people living in the room facing ours and tell them how gay the color of their curtains is. I want to glutton on a gallon of stale vanilla ice cream. I want to drink the water from tap downstairs and wait if I contract cholera or die from typhoid. I want to seal the room shut, turn off the air-con and find out how long it will take before my lungs collapse because of asphyxia. I want to have a fishbowl, without a fish, because I can’t have a fish. I want to have a birdcage, just the birdcage, I cannot have a bird inside. But if I can, I want to have a myna and teach it how to eloquently blurt all the expletives I know.
I want to take a shower. I want to eat, I am hungry. I want to wash all my dirty pants by hand. I want to confess to the owner of the stray wi-fi signal named Belkin_e0d37a that I am having a free ride and that I am willing to pay him for the time I, unintentionally, used his signal to publish several of the posts here. I want to delete my Facebook account. I want to apologize to my readers for me having written this far and for them having read this extent.
I want to extract all my molar teeth using a pair of pliers. I want to shout at the top of my lungs that I am . I want to think that I am being read. I want to think that what I have to say matters. I want to.
I want to simply continue writing this. I want to clean the house. I want to water the plant I have always wanted to have, but never had. I want to see my vibrantly verdant bougainvillea (it would have been this species) crawl and colonize the house until the living room resembles like a Peruvian sarcophagus. I want to know why I am entertaining these thoughts and have mustered enough bitter gall to publish them.
I want to think that by writing these things I want but cannot have or do I am finally acknowledging that some things go nowhere. And that other things, the nonsensical ones especially, get to be written down here.
Last night, after a tiring strings of travels using a combination all imaginable modes of land transportation in a modern metropolis — tricycle, MRT, LRT, jeepney, bus, and several hundred meters by foot from Shaw in Mandaluyong to Katipunan in Quezon City for my class in Ateneo to my part time teaching job in Makati — I arrived home nearly exhausting all my reserved energy, using up all my arsenal of reserved hope that I thought to be inexhaustible.
After an endless litany that went to nowhere, a monologue that lacked clarity and coherence, whose absence of a thesis statement boggled even me, and which despite it being endless, it ended because I got no energy to continue. And I was at a lost for the right words to describe what I felt. My brain came to a sudden halt, ceased to work, and surrendered everything to the comforts of a deep sleep.
This morning while attempting to put my thoughts to writing, I was surprised to learn that this one I am writing now is my 500th post. I’ve posted in this blog 500 articles! Some articles that made sense, some that didn’t, some that reflected nothing but my narcissistic tendencies as a writer and a person, some that shamelessly exposed my darkest insecurities, and some that defy rational categorization.
And some more to come.
And it just felt good posting this 500th one.
Since I was scheduled to work half-day last Thursday, from Laguna, I went back to Makati for a quick, late lunch, it was about three in the afternoon, then proceeded to Katipunan with my friend to submit an application to Ateneo. From Ateneo, we then decided to take a jeepney to UP Diliman as we thought there were going to be plenty of jeepneys plying Katipunan. We were mistaken.
Drivers of public transportation these days prove to be more tenacious, recalcitrant is more apt, than their predecessors. This driver who parked his old, rickety, stainless but rusty made-to-order jeepney made us wait for more than what was comfortable; it was almost a quarter to five that time, and good sense told us that government offices in the Philippines close on the dot (closing time is the only time they are never late at). So we demanded he return the 14 pesos we paid, and we took a cab to UP.
We first went to the College of Arts and Letters then to Mass Communications after we almost got lost in the circuitous mini-avenues of the Diliman campus. The guys wearing those painfully neon yellow vests, who seemed to replicate themselves by the hundreds, were really courteous and adept at giving directions. But I swear they all look the same. I suspect they’re the pilot project of the biotechnology department or else nuclear physics center of UP.
At the College of Mass Communications, my friend had a brief chat with the college secretary who’s a friend of his. They haven’t seen each other for more than four years, so I expected a long and crisp catching up. Crisp it was, but long not at all. After less than 10 minutes of chat and the customary exchange of business cards, we bade goodbye but not before she handed us two white envelopes that contained the invitation for the Gawad Urian that was to be held several blocks away in Adarna Hall, formerly UP Film Center, that night.
But before that, the cunning weather got the better of both us. We were running out of cash so we had to scurry and searched the campus for ATMs. My memory told me that there’s supposed to be one right across the block adjacent UP shopping center, but my machine was nowhere to be found.
Lo and behold, there’s the guy in painful neon yellow vest again, but he seemed to have gained a lot of weight and doubled his previous body mass index from 20 forty-five minutes ago to forty-five. It did not bother us much though because he was in his usual courteous self and again gave us a very easy-to-follow direction.
When we reached the place, just somewhere at the back of the university shopping center outside the university accounting office, and after I withdrew my meager salary for the summer, I sighted this pretty but anorexic pussy cat (I even suspected she’s bulimic):
I went near her to take a picture of her, but this one was her only clear picture that my old phone was able to capture because she was simply gyrating, like a cat in heat, well she is a cat. In heat, that is. She circled my right leg, gave me that pleading look as if she wanted me to take her home.
“Gusto niya lang bigyan mo siya ng pagkain,” the guard at the accounting office said. He must be the anorexic pussy cat’s master.
So scheming of her.
Post script: We fell in line outside the Film Center amid the drizzle. According to the invitation, the program should start at six. But diva as all the stars in Philippine showbiz are, the program did not start till 7:15 because the nominees were not done donning their do and their dresses. (I abhor artless alliterations, but not as much as abhorrent artistas). Despite the heavy downpour outside, we hailed a cab to Quezon Ave MRT station and had a nice, warm dinner in the food court of Glorietta.
I enjoyed that evening.
For results of the 33rd Gawad Urian, follow this.
I spent the whole afternoon taking pictures using my very old phone. Not bad, I think. But I’m not venturing into photoblogging yet.
Bumbilya (Light bulb)
Tuktukon nga Grills (Rusty Grills)
Choco (My landlady’s dog)
Sementado nga Pader (Concrete walls)
For minimum wage earners with a family of four in Metro Manila, that is, those earning PhP 382.oo per day (roughly 8.50 USD) food options are narrow. It can range from eating two meals a day, which is not good for the health, or buying a recently advertised sauce-like concoction that can be mixed with rice called Sarsarap, which according to Jimmy Santos, its endorser, is at the price of one jeepney ride, that’s 7 pesos. If one is willing to risk diseases such as kidney stones, liver problems, and death of taste buds (as this product is in the lowest echelon of taste) then, by all means, go ahead.
But for those who have a money to spare for food which means a whopping 50 per cent of one’s daily wage spent on food, then the options are widened, a little bit, although not that much. Unlike in other Southeast Asian metropolis where street food are fairly decent, the array of food sold along the sidewalks of Manila is dangerous at worst and bland and oil-drenched at best. But good ones are not lacking.
Below is a simple guide that you can use to get the best out of the side walk culinary tradition of Manila:
- The rule is, the farther they are from the main thoroughfares, the cheaper are the food. A price difference of four pesos per dish and one peso for a cup of rice will mean a lot if you compute your total consumption in a month. That’s 5 pesos a meal multiplied by 3 and again by 30. That’s 450 pesos of savings a month.
- Look for a City Health Certificate or a Sanitary Permit or the equivalent. This, however, calls for discreetness. You don’t want to face the ire of the person selling the food by asking her at point blank whether she has those permits. You can make use of your observational skills by looking around. They are required by the local government to post these. If you find none, then I suggest you think twice in going there again for your next meal.
- Look for clues on how they wash their plates, spoons and forks, and glasses. I have this horrifying experience in Hanoi when a woman serving me a bowl of pho ga (chicken noodles) used a bowl reeking with detergent suds and then dipped in a grayish water and was rinsed with a little hot soup then without batting an eyelash gave me the pho. What made me almost regurgitate what I ate was when I saw after I finished the bowl that the pair of chopsticks I used were merely dipped in soapy water and was given to the next customer.
(But being a poor student, I was left with no choice but to smile and act as if I did not see a thing. I vowed never to let a similar death-defying experience happen again.)
If a carinderia does not show any evidence of running water, run for your life!
Bringing your own utensils, although a very smart action, may not be socially wise. It is a blatant assault on the food seller’s attempt on sanitation that can lead to really bad service, small food portion, or a scornful look.
- The more food choices there are the better is the carinderia, generally.
- But be careful with “recycled dishes”, e.g. sisig, lechon paksiw, dinuguan, menudo. These are dishes that can use ingredients from a previously cooked dish which has not been completely sold out. According to health authorities, dishes that were heated up several times contain more bacteria after it has cooled than those heated for the first time.
Spotting reheated dishes is fairly easy. Look at the pan used where the steaming dinuguan or caldereta is served. If there are marks of dried sauce or brownish hardened residue, the probability of it being reheated is high. Moreover, since they are left-over, the amount of the dish in the display will also give you an idea. Suspect if they are served in a small plate of a smaller pan relative to the rest of the dishes served.
- –Silog, a totally Filipino invention is a good value for your hard-earned money. And the best thing about this is the convenience, not to mention the price and the different combination of egg, friend rice, and meat. Almost all medium-sized and bigger carinderia have this.
- It is not suggested to drink the cold service water provided by these stalls. It is unimaginable that they will bother boiling the water nor will they pay for water in containers that have undergone reverse osmosis. In your dreams. You can either buy a bottled softdrink, which is not good for your health and with mark up comparable to those in Hyatt Hotel (Kidding. But almost.) or just bring your own water canister.
- Ask for free soup. All carinderia in the Metro have complimentary soup, with no exception. This soup is an equivalent of the French bullion or a lighter version of a bouillabaisse, if you’re lucky it can contain a small cube of meat or a few leaves of cabbage.
- As a rule of thumb, the more suki or regular customers a carinderia has the more reputable it is. You may also ask the seller the province she came from. Filipinos are regionalistic, if you want to be a preferred customer, go to a carinderia whose owner, or at least the woman serving the food came from the same province as you did.
- Establish friendship/network/rapport with the woman selling the food. engage her in a coversation about her family, politics, love, any topic that you can think of. This may mean bigger serving, a rare knowledge on what is the specialty of the house, and discounts. Addressing her using her first name will mean so much for somebody who passes the day serving strangers and nameless faces. It is discouraged to talk about the actual food you are eating (for reason you will learn if you indeed decide to talk to her about the food she is cooking).
An old print of a food stall during the Spanish era in the Philippines.
I was on my way to Espana Boulevard hurrying to catch an FX or jeepney going to Cubao when I inadvertently blocked the way of a red Toyota Innova. I passed the van without realizing that I almost caused an accident when I shortly heard a malicious horn from the car. The owner then opened the window of her car and shouted a crisp:
Gago ka! Putang ina mo!
(The first statement is untranslatable to English; the second one can be literally translated as “Your mother is a whore.”)
She was a middle-aged, middle-class, professional-looking woman. She looked like somebody I did not expect to say those words.(She was almost the age of my mother whom I cannot imagine to be capable of uttering such statements).
Money may allow some of us to have the opportunity to ride an expensive car, buy signature clothes, or live in an opulent house but unfortunately it will never buy proper breeding, taste, and manners.
It was the first time I heard these cuss statements meant for me said in a very dead-serious tone. It utterly disturbed me; not that I took her statements personally, but it was more of an unpleasant and disappointing amazement.
I did not know how to respond. I was about to give her a dirty finger or an expletive as malicious if not more than what she hurled at me as my reply; however, just in time I opted to remain civil and instead coyly gave her a smile. I knew that the encounter I had with her would ruin the rest of the day, and indeed my day was consumed with thoughts of the woman’s face, the intensity of her words, the flaky make-up she covered her face with.
Thoughts of her kept haunting me. Thoughts of her words caused me to cringe and squinch. I’ll never get used hearing curses and swears. Staying in a big, alienating, tough city like Manila will never, ever, be an excuse to be rude and to forget about proper demeanor.