Rabid

I would have gone on blaming poverty for what happened: If that area of Mandaluyong had been more affluent, if the houses had been gated, if the dogs in these houses had been vaccinated against rabies, or at least fed well to keep them from being rabid, if I hadn’t had to walk, if I hadn’t had to buy oily to-go dinner.

But poverty can’t be a generic scapegoat, in fact it can never be a scapegoat because it’s futile to file a case against it before a judge, or flog it to death, or gas it. It was an uneventful Saturday evening that was to be stirred by an incident I found funny and sad at the same time.

I just finished working out in a gym a few blocks from the condominium where I lived when, thinking that eating out is too much of a hassle and expensive, I bought deep fried chicken from the nearest Ministop on my way home and like a mouse coming from a rampage of a farmer’s produce in the village, I carried my loot home with insouciance. I could not remember anything that was ominous that night. It was like any other.

From afar, I saw a pack of thin dogs, standing steadily, not in a pouncing stance, at ease, but obviously in a prowl for something. I sensed the stench of their hunger still I did not mind. I was never scared of dogs, not even the stray ones, not even the rabid-looking stray ones. As I went closer to the pack, the smell of deep-fried chicken must have caused them to panic. Food was close. What got between them and dinner was a figure of a sweaty man whose pheromones never meant anything for them but a stumbling block to be intimidated or annihilated.

At first, they attempted to intimidate me with their fierce barking. It did not work. My dinner was with me intact. One of them couldn’t be satisfied with a mere display of the pack’s braggadocio and mustered enough gall to bite me.

I went blank. My dinner was with me, still intact.

The dogs stopped barking and ran away. I was left on the middle of the street, trying to recall what my fourth grade Science and Health teacher told the class many years back–thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water. I ran to my unit, did exactly that, took a quick shower, and ate my dinner.

While eating those chicken breasts, pictures of my life flashed before me. Was I going to die, I asked myself. I imagined myself salivating profusely, limbs bound to my bed using a nylon cord, hydrophobic, afraid of the ray of light that passes through a slit in the window pane, waiting for death, my mother crying by my side, my head turning a complete 360 degrees. Finally, I begin spitting green goo.

Although I have no interest in going past the age of 50, dying in my 20s is unfortunate, and dying because of rabies is tragicomic. So I finished my chicken, took a jeep to Mandaluyong Medical Center and went straight to emergency. I was advised to go to the nearest animal bite center. There are three in Manila: RITM in Alabang and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, which are both government hospitals, and Victor Potenciano Medical Center which is a few steps away from my building. The last hospital charges like Saint Luke’s and RITM is in the other end of the Metro, too far I sometimes suspect the existence of Alabang is a stuff of fiction.

Before I flew to San Lazaro, I had myself injected with ATS (anti-tetanus serum) and tetanus toxoid.

(to be continued)..

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Remembering a rainy afternoon

It’s raining hard outside, it has been so since this morning when we woke up. We took a bus together, but then I got off alone in front my place, ran upstairs to leave the external hard drive, then caught a quick breakfast at McDonald’s on Boni. I rested a bit, watched some reruns of a fairly neurotic reality TV program on cable, took a hurried bath, then hopped on a jeepney to the center of Mandaluyong. I got rained on looking for the office of that company that specializes in wedding pictures. After almost 30 minutes of waiting for all the files to be transferred, I braved the rain that showed no sign of abetting.

Soaked with rainwater, I reached my place, took a bath again to avoid getting sick (I am not really sure if there is a correlation between taking a bath after having been rained on and not getting sick) and prepared my stuff for gym. I did routines for my shoulders as having broad shoulders will compensate for the undefined abdominals that’s giving me a hard time these days. I guess the good-ol’-days of eating to my heart’s content without accumulating a millimeter of adipose tissues in my mid-section are nearing end. After all these, I’m off to work.

So here I am, staring outside on a rainy Wednesday afternoon thinking about how my day has gone so far. This, I think, is one of those forgettable afternoons that would simply pass me by, but instead of letting it go like all the other afternoons similar to it, I am documenting it to make it less forgettable than the rest.

Lucky

I am not exactly living a life of a loser as few of my previous posts seem to suggest. I do not spend my entire day working myself to death or emaciating myself until I go limp at the gym. Not infrequently do I stop and smell the flowers, or keep still and feel the blowing, cool February breeze as it caresses my droopy eyes that, I admit, badly need rest.

I can still appreciate (yes, I still can!) the goodness in others, the taste of my generously syrup-ed pancakes at breakfast, the scratchy sound of Gavin De Graw songs that emanate from my aging laptop, the taste of freshly served, piping-hot cappuccino, the beautiful view of Mandaluyong from my windows at night, or that person whose voice over the phone is enough to let me forget about the drudgery of daily existence.

I guess all I need is to slow down just a bit and reflect on what this long, unforgiving day truly means.

After all, I am still a lucky guy.

On being a model

I do not want readers of this blog to think that I was shanghaied into believing that I can be a model because I clearly know that I am not model-material. However, grant me some benefit of the doubt. This story is for real.

I just finished working out and was on my way home. I usually walk from my gym which is located in a condominium several blocks from the place I am staying on Boni. I was crossing the corner of a street when a Lexus SUV pulled over in front of me. The driver, smiling, excused himself and ask if I have tried modeling before and if I have some sort of a portfolio. I was incredulous and did a mental picture of myself that time — I was wearing a pair of diminutive gym shorts, cotton shirt, and was sweating all over. Assured that I did not look like a prostitute, I smiled back at him and said no. He was with a small boy, his son probably. I thought, any man who’s smart enough (save decent) wouldn’t pick up a prostitute with his son in the car at 6 in the evening in one of Mandaluyong’s busiest streets.

He asked if I wanted to model for a big department store. “This man got to be kidding me!” I said to myself. And serious he was. He gave me his business card (ring card, he called it) and got my number. Then I said I had to be going as I still had tons to read for that semiotics presentation I would be delivering in class the following day.

Me modeling? Come on!

Perfidious thoughts. Yuck.

A positive post from a perennially negative man

The sunlight, diffused by my dusty glass windows gives my room a provincial feel, only of course it can’t truly be provincial because EDSA is honking and raging  21 floors below, and the screeching sound of cranes lifting slabs of reinforced  concrete for the two condominiums being built just across the street can still be heard, albeit subdued. Thanks to the insulation my room affords me, I can still enjoy the slight silence of this morning.  Quiet Saturday mornings like now remind me of laid-back mornings in Polomolok when I did not have to force myself to leave the bed and to be woken up by our house help’s guttural, “Gusto nimo mag-kape, Kuya?“.

What happened last night was beyond my comprehension. I was left in my room alone; too tired to run after [this and some succeeding sentences will drop the object of the verb], I opted to just sleep it off and let the next day come up with synthesis of what had happened. I woke up today feeling nothing, the incident eight hours ago remains as enigmatic.

I’ve changed. I guess what differentiates my current self from who I was, say, a year ago is that I expect less from my relationships now. Yes I love still, more passionately by the day, and never shall I feign affection, but when things become as blurry as my window, I keep myself from rushing to wipe it clean right after. Now I let things take their own pace. After all, the dust and hardened grime from the heavy rain of last night are now giving my room a beautiful, rustic glow.

Recto Day

We consider Sunday ‘Recto Day’. My sister who stays in Pampanga comes here to Manila on a fairly regular basis, after every two weeks, to buy stuff for her ukay-ukay business that is rapidly making headway. My younger brother and I would accompany to carry her tote bag for her while she carries on her back a Jansport-ful of Guccis, Louis Vuittons, DKNYs, Pradas, Dolce and Gabbanas and when she happens to be lucky, some pairs Manolo Blahnik stilettos which according to her customers are incomparably beautiful but painfully punishing to their well-pedicured toenails.

Coming from Mandaluyong, I take the MRT to Taft then transfer to the LRT1 line going to Monumento. I alight at D. Jose station and meet her at Chowking in the corner facing the long lines of run-down cinemas on Recto and stalls selling pirated DVDs on Avenida. My brother, who is coming from Makati takes the route from Gil Puyat/Buendia.

After a glass of cold coffee gulaman called nai cha, which my sister loves, and a heavy breakfast for me, we begin treading the street going to Carriedo passing one by one her suki who give her great discounts, after patient bargaining. Need I say? From Avenida, we either cross the other side of the street or brave the crowded street market to Quiapo church, dodging fortune tellers, toy vendors, and young children selling Sampaguita or leis made from colorful Everlastings. Experience tells us that ukay-ukay supplies in these areas are being replenished every two weeks, usually on a Sunday.

I eagerly look forward to this weekend activity because this is a time for the three of us to catch up on each other’s life and talk about the latest gossips involving our parents in Mindanao and younger siblings who are both studying in a university in Iloilo. We talk a lot about work, our individual love stories, and plans for the future. I notice we often talk about almost the same things but we do not seem to get tired of them because they make us feel secure; these talks remind us that despite the complications in our lives, complications that we may have a hard time sharing even to each other, still simple things like family remain constant.

Of course, other than this, we also get to experience the bustle of old Manila that is hard to come by in newer cities like Mandaluyong or Quezon City. It is a good thing that the three of us never really like malls that function as the only source of cultural immersion in these cities bordering Manila. We all agree these drab buildings are suffocating and magnify boredom several hundred times.

But Manila, the old Manila, that is, is different. It’s alive. These more modern cities that comprise Metro Manila may rival Manila in terms of business opportunities but they all pale in comparison to the culture and the brand of cosmopolitanism the capital has. The noise of Ortigas in Pasig, or even the sleek Ayala Avenue in Makati are irritating, and to borrow Emile Durkheim’s terminology–alienating, but Manila redefines the idea of noise, and to anyone who has had a taste of it, it’s called music.

And what better way to get immersed in this soothing diaphanous cacophony of sounds but on the streets of Recto.

We end the eventful day by saying good byes to each other and sending our sister off to a bus to Pampanga but not before buying a box of freshly-baked diced mungo or ube hopia from Bakers’ Fair.

500th post

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.