Three Thousand Days of Solitude*

[ Notes : Scary and creepy enough to mention, but we had been trying to ID a song that we heard a few summers ago but couldn’t place, when all of a sudden yesterday while chewing the fat, there it was on MTV we saw, the evanescent artist and title, Jack Johnson and Flake, and sure enough it brought back pleasant memories of our first months in NZ.  Then came another revelation.  Must have heard D McLean’s American Pie hundreds of times before we discerned more than one religious reference (good and evil) as well as the use of the word dirge, which we understand is a funeral song.  Just goes to show that you go through life missing tons of detail, and it might serve us well to go back every now and then to review.  Which is why we focus now on one important aspect of life the past decade, i.e., more than anything else, the reality of living alone. Apologies for the inordinate length of this email ! ]


When one is single, you have time to scale rocks like these, thanks Prof. Vincent Ty for the Grand Canyon pic!

When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.- Gertrude Stein, writer & art enthusiast

Dear friends :
GIVEN OUR FAITH in the massive role that Fate assumes when we discover, and lose, the love of our lives, why should we expect anything less when searching for love anew?
We ask this not just because of our being severed from the ranks of those blessed with love these last few years, but also because, improbably, we had discovered more of ourself during our solitary journey, in the process learning to appreciate, albeit at a relatively advanced age, the virtues of living life alone.
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Fittingly, it was the youngest of our brood, Brent, the one that represented change most dramatically, who non-chalantly informed us late last year of that symbolic change in our life.
Papa, matagal na pong dumating yung letter galing sa court.  Dinala na ni Kuya kay Nana, baka kasi kailangan mo.  Diba mas madaling ipadala sa yo from them?
He said this with so little guile and irony that we could not but assume that he was unaware of the import of the document that he helped send to his grandmother.
Almost 10 years to the day she left, the formal ties that had bound us to Brent’s mother were cut asunder by a magistrate who knew neither of us, had no knowledge of the love and regret that passed through and between, and would never care to do so, now and forever.  However, this judge’s routine act was the final stage of a process that had spiralled inevitably from union, into separation, and ultimately into annulment, sad but crying out for closure.
While it was representative of a milestone in our life, such event was not the defining moment of the last decade.  Not that we are saying there was one, but the moments we spent alone, attempting to learn more about ourselves, pick up the pieces of the past we left behind, and grasping at straws to see if anything remained of our future, was the scrawling pad that helped us mark the time.
No surprise to anyone but after a short and unremarkable stint in university, we spent practically all of our adult life ( till the turn of the century ) as a married person.  We fell in love, fell in lust, and fell out of love (not necessarily in that order) within the span of around 15 stressful but relatively happy years. 
We have nothing against love and marriage ; in fact it works for most people we know.  Just that the premise of marrying for appearance’s sake, and later staying married to anticipate little ones coming, works but for a limited time.  After that, you realize you are faced with the prospect of living with someone, anyone actually,  for the rest of your natural life.  You had better like that person a whole lot.  Obviously we ( and the ex ) hadn’t thought that far.
There are simply too many unknowns, a nearly infinite number of variables, an endless list of dos don’ts and TMIs that you wouldn’t have dared ventured to know but now need to memorize in dizzying detail in a consensual union, some pretty, others not-so, and still others downright scary to know about another person.   Nobody should have to be forced to know another person on that level.  To be fair to the ex, not even the wisest and sagest counselor could have prepared either of us for the too-close and sometimes disturbing familiarity that (at some point) all spouses endure, re each other.
Sana wag nyong masamain ang cynicism natin regarding the sacred institution ( both in social and religious milieux ) of marriage.  You have read enough of our rants and raves to know that we are a firm believer in the formal union of man and woman, especially as it relates to the blooming of love in the form of stable unions and closely-knit families.
Just that there are two great caveats always breathing down the neck of even the strongest, stablest and securest (couldn’t help lining up three s adjectives) marriages.  At the risk of exposing our long-held bias/es :
First is that there is no deadline beyond which either partner may no longer bring up the issue of finding and discovering oneself, that great task that simply cannot be accomplished with the spouse and kids waiting at the dinner table back home.
How many hectares of marriage landfills have been used up to the brim because of that reason?  How many wives ( and husbands ) have upped and left, after years of domestic bliss, to undo the fact that they married too soon, failed to fulfill their potential, or neglected to find THE ONE ( not Keanu, and not Jet Li ) that would complete their incomplete halves, for the rest of eternity?  Here’s a scary word : soulmate. As in,  I need to find my soulmate, surely you understand that?  How many relationships have poofed and dissolved into nada because of the epiphany and dread that one might end this life without having met one’s soulmate? Ngeeee.
Second, and we submit that husbands are guiltier on this aspect ( but wives are not immune ), that there comes a time ( some refer to it as  post seven-year itch ) when one partner grows restless and out of God-given excess sexual energy, decides either to embark upon a quest to prove his/her manhood/womanhood ( as if it wasn’t already proven ) or to stretch the limits recently set by either ( or both ) age and inactivity. 
Another terminology for the condition : mid-life crisis, which may or may not come by mid-life, but the symptoms are nearly identical : insecurity about oneself, a constant need to prove one’s virility and potency ( egged on in part by all those steroid drenched Vit. E ads ), and an irrational urge to counterbalance all these with returning to the familiar every time one strays too far from home and hearth, natakot ka rin kay Kumander. 
The marriage may or may not survive this pair of issues, but it’s a good bet that whatever happens, bonds will be strained and the partners will have to undergo a bit of reinvention and renewal if the union is to be preserved and maintained. ( Ya think? )
To make a lengthening story less long (sorry for that), and strike quite close to home, our union did not survive, pointless denying it, and at least on our part, we had neither the maturity nor perseverance to fight for it all the way, not that it would have lasted regardless.
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Empirically, out of our losses, a few gains. Which law of the universe states that matter destroyed is always reappearing in another form ? Not that we are rationalizing the event, but especially because we had a family support group ( of the financial and moral kind ), a doctor bro who was astute enough to recognize potential life-threatening problems as they emerged ( he endured many a wet shoulder from our lachrymose tales ) gave us valuable, morale-boosting and keep-your-chin-up pep talks that saved us from many sessions of booze and self-pity, or worse.
And partly because of more-or-less repaired mental health, we were able to visit more places in the first five years of reclaimed singlehood than in all our previous 35 years put together. 
We marveled at the length and breadth of the Great Wall, witnessed the economic miracle that was Singapore, were thrilled beyond limits in Disney World, and visited the quiet and understated beauty of New Zealand.  Not only were Providence and a very generous aunt there to make the trips possible ( no way we could have afforded it ), we almost surely wouldn’t be available had we stayed attached.
We read all sorts of books the past few years, both mundane and life changing, pedestrian and inspiring, commonplace and beautiful beyond description.  Whoever said that books are friends who never leave you must have been unmarried throughout most of his / her life.  Or maybe loved books more than having a potential life partner.
We must have said it at least once in our many musings but hard as it is to imagine for most married people, it’s possible that one can be alone without being lonely.
Ironic, but probably the one thing that can make living with oneself truly difficult is when one has gone through most of life with someone else, and therefore cannot fathom the unlimited possibilities inherent in striking it out alone.  To those who face the prospect or are already living the unexpected alternate reality of singlehood : it may be daunting , but not impossible to be equal to the challenge.
For ultimately, as we discovered, the one person you live with is yourself.  So smile at that beautiful creature in the mirror, bro / sis !
Thanks for reading and thanks for the memories !
*Just another title borrowed from the Great One, G. Garcia Marquez.

Burning the Midnight Oil Via Both Ends of Your Candle : Feeling Wasted / Then And Now

[ Note pls : The term wasted as used here is limited to one’s physical state after puyat and disrupting the body’s normal craving for sleep, and NOT anything else ha Thanks for reading, pasensya na po medyo mahaba ! ]

Dear batchmates and friends :

A JAGGED FRAGMENT of an urban legend persists in both Kiwiland and Perlas ng Silanganan, we recently learned. Don’t know if you’ve heard of it but owing to thousands of years of survivalist evolution, our unfailing circadian rhythm and our irreversible and inalterable body clocks, the human body’s efficiency is at its lowest ebb somewhere between midnight and break of dawn, specifically half past three in the morning.

At this time one is neither fully rested nor dead-tired, muscles tensed to the point of near-fatigue but not yet ready for the free-fall of gravity, either. You’re on the verge of pondering the majesty of the cosmos yet the reason for your staying awake at this time (whatever that may be) keeps all your senses alert for a jillion and one things every multi-tasking moment.

You can’t blame yourself for drifting between extremely focused and partially distracted, at a time when ordinarily it’s too late to turn in but too early to rise, and if any time of the day was an invitation to get depressed, this (3.30 am) was probably it.

You are sorely tempted, at an hour when even moomoo think twice before challenging the dark (darkest before dawn, remember?), to plumb the deepest, darkest recesses of your soul, all because you are by yourself and everyone else has turned in.

** ** ** ** **

Hard to believe though but there were/are certain periods in our life when THIS time of the day was our lunchtime, when we were just in the middle of our to-do list, inching our way toward our daily quota, or scurrying towards the next task in our program of duties as First World Slave.

We burned the midnite oil, not entirely by choice, sometimes for survival, but ultimately gaining much more than just the sweldo earned at the end of the workday (or worknight). Though it’s true that how rested you are depends on the so-called quality of sleep you get, sleep is still sleep in any language, meaning for most of us proletarians, we grab sleep whenever and wherever it’s available.

If you need proof, just look at the teenager, maybe your teenager who makes up for his/her all-nighter by sleeping the majority of the next day. Does it look like it matters to him/her if he sleeps by day or otherwise?

Siesta, power naps, forty winks, shuteye are just some of the terms of affection for the slices of sleep that have become so important to us in our present multi-tasking day and age. It works for some people, for others not, but in a culture where most human activities are carried on based almost purely on how well we make tagpi-tagpi, band-aid management and making do, can we be blamed for getting zzz’s on the wing, on the run and in bits and pieces?

At the call center we worked 3 summers ago, our last local gig, we stood out immediately, because just by looking at the amount of excess hair, hip-hop pants and haywire hormones in the air (PDA*, HHWW* and making out in the bathroom), we could instinctively tell we weren’t in our age group. more than three-quarters of our co-workers were below 25, and all-nighters, working 12 hour shifts and binge drinking afterwards (for this particular reason, drinking places in Ortigas Center catered to the early morning crowd) were 2nd nature to them.

(We almost cringe when saying this, but the blessed souls in our own team affectionately called us Dad, Tito and Tatay NOel, and the monickers kinda grew on us, being the unofficial senior citizen of the group.)

Each room in the call center was devoted to a set of callers devoted a particular product / service, were committed to a focused goal (particular number of units sold, clients served) and were supervised by a team leader or manager who had the power of life and death over such team.

Given this backdrop, we at many times recalled the classroom / Hogwarts setting, especially since besides stragglers like us, most of the inhabitants therein were kids hardly out of school or had just graduated.

Added to that the perpetual air-conditioned, frigid environment, the tense but cordial atmosphere and the constant, intermittent reminder to stick to performance goals (if you hadn’t passed the half your calls-made, products-sold milestone by lunchtime, you were in deep kimchi with the team leader) and the unending cigarette breaks (it seemed everyone smoked, coffee just didn’t completely hit the spot; the tobacco became part of the work culture) and you get more or less an accurate perspective of why day extended into night, and night extended into day, without pause or serious reflection in our call center. Not even time to ask ourselves what the heck am I doing here with kids half my age?

By the time the sun peeked through the temperature controlled window, we were either groaning at the prospect of not yet meeting the daily goal, or smiling with contentment of having bagged your quota and the respect of much younger peers. Fatigue and the shift- long drop of energy from staying wired for 8 hours would not set in until we dropped off to listless, often dreamless sleep, only to repeat the exact same process 16 hours later.

** ** ** **

THESE DAYS, ostensibly the air is a bit more relaxed, with us relying on the famous laid – back Kiwi temperament and the fact that we are there to just get the shift over with as quickly, clinically and as painlessly as possible.

It’s not known as Windy Wellington for nothing. Sudden temperature drops, wind chill factor, and the occasional glacial winds from the South Pole all contribute to sometimes transform an initially muggy summer night into an early autumn ordeal. The mill we work in is wedged somewhere between the seashore and the Hutt Valley, and extremes in climate are known to visit this place within the span of one short day.

Bisor and we are well aware of that, and between monitoring of machines, testings of wheat moisture and flour protein content, cleaning our assigned floors and checking for makulet na bird and pest colonies, our plates our full. Constant coffee breaks (we gave up smoking two-and-a-half years ago), license to take five whenever our attention span wanders and a short walk outside for fresh (but chilly) air are our timeless weapons against sleeplessness and weariness.

Professional courtesy prevents our bisor from formally inspecting our work or checking up on us, but technically since any boo-boo on our part reflects on his shift, he often takes a cursory peek at our production log, joins us on the control platform every time a bin fills up and makes it a point to pass by the floor we clean, just in case we may have missed a spot. We always take criticism constructively, positively, especially since on the red-eye shift, there are only two workers, he and we, and so we have no choice but to be joined at the hip, and rely on each other’s instincts, for the rest of the graveyard shift.

The tasks are largely a solitary adventure, broken only by the sad wail of the sensor alarms on wheat bins filling up and the same containers emptying, their contents eventually turning up as final product in the flour silos. Birds of all sorts swoop down every now and then, escaping the cold, chancing a few patches of stray wheat grains we haven’t spotted and cleaned, even a rare penguin losing its way from the nearby sea to stray into the mill. But usually, pigeons, seagulls, even sturgeons, finches and terns seek shelter from the many structures in the compound.

By the time colleagues log in to take over from us at daybreak and we head home for much needed tulog, we are so adrenalin – filled and hyper from the many challenges met and hurdled, that we need time to decompress and wind down.

We know we can’t do this forever, a job that every three weeks demands that we turn our sleep cycle inside out. But we would be less than true to ourselves and the armies of hardy, do-everything, can-do and overachieving expat compatriots who never say no and always find a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of their workmates.

At the back of our mind, we know it’s a blessing that the night shift exists, because hardly anyone else wants it, always finds a way to avoid it, and unlike most of the staff, it always gives us an incentive to keep the celfone without voicemail in case Boss should call when someone calls in sick, usually those na nakatoka sa night shift.

It is both cynical and challenging, but you are only as good as your last shift.

We sometimes find comfort in it, does Kuya Germs still shout his favorite catchphrase before patalastas time back home : Walaaang tulugan ?

Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa, saan man tayo sa mundo.

Thanks for reading !


* PDA – Public display of affection. HHWW – Holding hands while

Puna’t Puri ng Kabayang Naligaw sa Middle Earth

[ Notes from YLB : Thanx 4 that heartfelt shoutback Melanie, your dad doubtless sees you now and is smiling at you; we take exception to speculation that the ex NBA Champs BostonCeltics are getting long in the tooth, but we can’t deny that we saw with our very eyes that Kevin Garnett was beaten by his man 2 out of 3 fastbreaks late in the game, & Paul Pierce admittedly is slowed down by injury… sorry kung makulet, but pls tell us, any1 out there, why a team that has a $100 million payroll can’t afford more than one true point guard??? …we know the heat / humidity are just starting to rev up back home kabatch,& we feel your glistening sweat, wish we could absorb some of the chill in colder climes elsewhere & toss it back 2u…  sorry 4 d longish pamagat, it started out as a working title and kinda grew on us… Please tell us (1) how we sound in Taglish below, and (2) if anyone else wants a link to his business / networking website from, just send us a buzz; thanx for the and kudoses, BrotherKirby, awesome pix  in VeepCarol’s place of the shindig with AndyLim ! ]
Dear Mahal :
Salamat kay God Mahal at naayos rin ang papel mo finally. Parang di ko maimagine na after four years masusundan mo na rin ako rito.  Napabilib mo ako sa tyaga at patience mo sa paghihintay at paghain ng visa application, alam ko masalimuot proseso nya pero natapos mo rin nang maayos di ba?
Mangilan-ngilan lang naman mga paalala at reminder ( pareho lang ) sa yo para di ka magulat pagdating mo rito sa ating temporary adopted land :
1.  Siguro ito ang pinakamahalagang paalala Mahal, pagtawid mo ng kalye rito, titingin ka muna sa KANAN at hindi sa KALIWA. Paglampas mo ng gitna, sa KALIWA ka naman magmamasid. Ewan ko bakit ganito ang pamamalakad nila rito, pero may kinalaman ito sa RIGHT HAND DRIVE o paglagay ng manibela sa kanang bahagi ng sasakyan.  3 taon na ako rito at nagkakamali pa rin ako twing tumatawid, minsan kapag minamalas, ngali-ngali na akong masagasaan; nasisigawan at minumura pa rin ako ng mga drayber.  Mas grabe minsan si Kuya Flatmate, binubuksan pa rin nya minsan ang passenger side ng car nya at napapasigaw nang, nakupo, ninakaw ang manibela bago sya matawa at makitang mali na naman ang bukas nya ng pinto.
2.  Kakaiba ang accent ng mga Kiwi at Maori ( tribu ng katutubo ) rito Mahal, palibhasa nasanay tayo sa American accent na mahahabang vowel at nakabuka ang bibig madalas, wag kang magulat sa pananalita nila. Minsan me pagkaBisaya sila magsalita, minsan naman parang Ilokano.  Wag kang matawa Mahal, bagkus pakinggan mo sila nang mabuti at sanayin mo ang sarili mo sa mga impit nila.  Madalas, malumanay sila magsalita, parang Ilonggo at minsan ka lang makakaranas ng taong di sanay sa banyaga tulad natin (tayo na ang banyaga rito ha?).  Merun din namang mga salbaheng intolerant at wag naman sanang racist pero kakaunti lang sila.
3.  Kaya ko po pinaalala sa yo na magdala ka na ng mga toiletries dahil como mataas ng bahagya ang sweldo rito, mataas din ang halaga ng mga produkto nila lalo na mga gamit sa katawan tulad ng shampoo, conditioner, jabon at deodorant, atbp.  Para sa kanila ay katanggap2 lang ang presyo pero for us in the Philippines, hihimatayin ka.  Kaya yung mga pinakamaselan mong gamit, bilhin mo na dyan, mga 1 buwang supply.
4.  Wag ka ring mamangha kapag may nakikita kang mga Kiwi (yun pala ang tawag ng mga puti sa sarili nila) na parang mas mahal pa nila ang mga alaga nilang hayop kesa sarili nilang uri.  Aso, pusa at kung anu-ano pa, sobrang malapit sila sa mga ito at higit pa sa pangu2lila nararamdaman nila kapag nawala o namatay ang mga ito.  As you might expect, tiba-tiba mga veterinarian o manggagamot ng mga hayop dito, pero kadalasan pet lover din sila; halos atakihin nga sila nung sinabi ko na sa dakong Norte natin, kinakain pa ang aso at minsan pusa.  Hindi ito biro para sa kanila, muntik na akong sapakin ng bisor ko.
5.  Dahil summer ang dating mo rito, baka manibago ka rin sa Haring Araw na sumisilip pa rin sa kanluran dakong mga 830 n.g., extremes kasi yan. Pagdating naman ng winter, halos alas ocho na n.u., pero pababa pa lang ang buwan at lumiliwanag pa lang.  Malayo kasi tayo sa equator Mahal kaya either masyadong mahaba or masyadong maigsi naman ang araw.
6.  Kung tutuusin Mahal mas swerte ka pa nga sa akin, dahil open ang WP mo at pwede kang magtrabaho kahit kenino, basta nakursunadahan nila abilidad mo. Ayusin mo lang ang pakikitungo mo sa kanila, mga magiging boss mo, at siguradong magkakasundo kayo.
7.  Lastly, di naman sa tinatakot kita, nagaalinlangan din ako minsan, pero ang mga puti rito ay madaling magkagusto sa Asyana, lalo na sa mga Pinay.  I’m sure nabalitaan mo bout mga internet dating service para sa mga puti, ang una nilang hinahanap bukod sa mababangong bebot ay yung mga magagaling magluto, marunong mag-alaga at katamtaman sa katawan.  Ed diba ganon karamihan ng mga kalahi natin?  So there, mag-ingat ka na lang at wag kang magpaligaw rito hmm?    Siguro, ako dapat ang matakot.
Naku, I’m sure every day will be an adventure for you here Mahal, nagpapasalamat ako na at least makikita mo ang lahat na dati’y kwento ko lang sa mga chat natin pero ngayon ay mararanasan mo nang 3D, high def at THX-sensurround.
Counting the days po.
Gua ai di.
ingat palagi, ha?

Kwentong Dad para kay Melanie L

we met a few interesting looking guys on the way to market...

[ Note from YLB : We never met Melanie up close and personal in HS and therefore didn’t even see the shadow of her recently departed father then.  But in many ways we feel the loss felt by our dear batchmate, whose gift of magnetic charm we were lucky enough to enjoy in many a reunion.  Deepest sympathies, Ganda.]
Dear Melanie and kabatch :
NO TWO DADS are alike.  The sum of our experiences, bondings, feelings, conflicts and resolutions with our papas are unique to every son and daughter.  While it would be nice to group together our collective feel-good (and feel-bad) stories about Dad, each relationship is a story in itself, we hope you agree. And hopefully, most will have ended (or continue) on a positive, upbeat note.
If your Dad is anything like mine, your history with him isn’t as dramatic or tumultuous as the one with Mom (sorry for the frankness) where every issue is a drama, and every debate has a potential to end in screaming match, tears or messy embrace.  Dad is more likely the stabilizing element in family, usually choosing logic and good sense over I-know-what’s-best-for-you or tough love approaches that often turn us 180 degrees away from what is thought to be best for us.
But the twist in my Dad kwento is that for many years, I didn’t see him and take advantage of the comforting father-son banter that punctuated much of my adolescence and now, each of my recent visits back home.
The years of estrangement weren’t consecutive but more cumulative, the first hiatus caused by too many good times in university; the second when we naively thought we could start a family without any help from lolos and lolas, the third when, picking up the shattered pieces of a broken brood, I was too ashamed to show myself to the folks, and the present fourth now that I am overseas.
Amazingly, each time I make my way back to the family home, thirsting for the familiar and seeking out the love I selfishly presume will always be there , my father patiently waits to reassure me that everything is as I left it.  It’s almost as if he knows I will return each time, definitely older but not always the wiser.
I may be stretching your patience here in not making my point, sorry.
It may just be me, but fathers have this special quality of being nearly god-like, possessing special knowledge about you and your so-called life, but not revealing it too much too soon, lest you not benefit from it and stumble over the giddiness of newfound knowledge.  (Apologies if I sound heretical.)
They have this inexhaustible reservoir of tolerance, calmness & forebearance, our dads, sometimes not even betraying the slightest hint of how immature, silly or unready we are for the tasks for which they patiently prepare us. 
Before we know it, we gain loads of confidence by merely listening to their steady guidance, the sureness of their touch, and the counsel of their years.
When we are severed from them by distance, death or forgetfulness, we regret the additional time we could’ve spent with them had we forseen the future, not realizing that each moment we shared with Dad is already a gift in itself, that nothing can take all those moments away from us.
Is there anything more gratifying than being in the presence of a person who knows that he participated in your creation, that you cannot help but be beautiful in his sight, and that, at the end of the day, you can do no wrong in his eyes?
Mourn not for the moments lost dear Melanie, but for the good times you and your dad jointly and permanently etched in your store of memories.  A treasure that neither age nor death can ever take away.
Prayers, hugs and sympathies from all of us.

Ang Manny P at Ang Mga ooh-eep-dabalyo

liked his outfit but a bit too warm for me.

stormtrooper garb never goes out of style

Dear friends :

SOMETIME in March when Manny Pacquiao meets challenger Joshua Clottey to defend his numerous titles yet another time, a new record will be set.
No, it will not be the 40,000 expected attendance ; although it will be a healthy number.  Actually, depending on demand, the numbers could reach all the way to 100,000, which is the physical limit allowed by the Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Neither will it be the orgy of lucre generation, what with pay-per-view, ticket sales, advertising revenue, on-site product placement, arena traffic (incidental sales and event sales), and so many other money-making opportunities that a singular fight makes possible.  Don’t forget additional income generating events by Nike, San Miguel, No Fear, and all other brands Manny endorses.  The fight will probably make at least the Top 10 Money Making Fights in History.  Putting King Midas to shame, anything with Manny’s name on it turns golden.
Titles? Neither, still, will it be the number of titles our Pambansang Kamao will defend, we honestly don’t know which of the dozens of world titles he will put on the line, assuming he still holds them; we know he was at some point the WBO World welterweight champion, Ring Magazine light welterweight champion, and is also the former WBC World lightweight champion, WBC World super featherweight champion, IBF World super bantamweight champion, and WBC World flyweight champion, former Ring Magazine featherweight and super featherweight champion. 
Practically everyone and his cousin now knows that he is not the first Pinoy, but the first anyone in history to win  seven world titles in seven different weight divisions.  No additional feathers in his cap in this area, but it’s a good guess.
The asterisk in this particular fight, against an up-and-comer with a healthy purse and teeming numbers of onlookers, is the expected record number of politicians and candidates for high public office that will first, be well-wishers on ringside before and during the fight, and impromptu Team Pacquiao wanna-bes and camera-hungry congratulators right there, scrambling to be in the ring, as soon as the match ends expectedly in a Pacquiao victory.
We don’t say this with sarcasm or irony although the situation is over-ripe and heavy with such; how idiosyncratic is it that people who are expected to campaign for votes tens of thousands of kilometers, literally an ocean away from their bailiwicks and constituents, are in a sports arena filled with non-voters, raising the gloved fists, sweaty arms and slick torso of a Visayan pugilist?
That is because, of course, this is no ordinary Visayan pugilist.  Manny P has become the improbable Filipino icon of the 21st century, very nearly the Asian that gives this side of the globe its human face, the entity that currently provides around 85 million ethnic Pinoys all over the planet a distinct identity and national pride.
If you can believe it, Manny has the potential, if not the actual media power and savvy to eclipse both Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, rivals the brilliance of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade combined, and is almost literally in a league of and unto his own.
With compatriots we hardly knew in a far corner of the globe, we cheered, wept and embraced when Manny knocked an unsuspecting Ricky Hatton straight out of consciousness and into Dreamland late in the second round May last year.
We watched open mouthed  on YouTube two Decembers ago as Manny outclassed, outsped and outpunched a clearly befuddled and confused former great Oscar dela Hoya for 11 rounds before the latter called it quits.
Again on YouTube just last November (we couldn’t afford pay-per-view and the nearest Pinoy’s house was more than a few blocks away) we cheered on our own and gaped in wonder as Manny weaved in and out, switched from puncher’s to boxer’s stances, and back, to keep Miguel Cotto off balance and made a bloody mess out of his face in the process, incredibly keeping his date to perform in his own concert barely a few hours after the fight.
With every punch landed, millions of Pinoys roar with gigil and delight.  We grit our teeth and brace ourselves for every hit that Manny absorbs (computerized sensors record an average of 150 to 200 punches per fight; Manny is a good receiver as well as a giver), we jump for joy as a nation when the opponent totters dazed and glassy eyed, we thunder, tens of millions of us, when the vanquished finally drops to the canvas and Manny raises his arms to the heavens in supplication and thanksgiving.
Indeed, we cannot help but take it personally everytime Kuya Manny raises his bloody gloves in triumph each time.  We celebrate in his every victory and dread his every (potential) defeat.  Why is this so? 
It’s probably more acute for us overseas, the swell of pride and ache of familiarity for things Filipino whenever impending news of a Pacquiao fight arrives and the day dawns.  All Pinoys gather round flatscreens and a undefinable sense of community and kinship prevails.
Besides the personable nurses,  efficient IT professionals, irrepressible teachers, incomparable caregivers and overachieving domestics that we are known for, Pinoys more often than not are overlooked, this is only a guess but sometimes we are a bit too efficient for our own good.  We like to be team players.  We prefer to be agreeable and not rock the boat. 
Save for the historic 3000 pairs of shoes, the urban legend that both the Unabomber and Osama bin Laden had a Filipina wife, and the fact that the White House has a Pinay chef, don’t forget Leah S in Miss Saigon a decade ago, Pinoys don’t singularly get a chance to stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the class.  Make no mistake, we all have something to be proud of.  But Manny makes this so scintillatingly obvious, even for just the moment.
Everywhere we go, as soon as we introduce ourselves as Pinoy, especially to Mexican, Irish and Thai counterparts in the migrant forest, two words estabish rapport.  Manny Pacquiao?  Yes yes yes, and we adopt a mock boxer’s stance, which sends our acquaintance into howls of delight, I love your Manny Pacquiao, and no further effort to establish familiarity is necessary.
Boxing, athletics and excellence in such is universal.  Even if your guy beats my guy any day of the week.
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Is it just us by the way or has Manny’s persistence with utang-na-loob psychically found more common ground with untold masses of his countrymen?
Before he became a household name 15 years ago, a dehydrated (from the battle to make 112 lbs), fatigued (from lack of sleep) and visibly stressed Manny lost the first of his titles to Medgoen Singsurat, and the Pambansang Kamao returned home with his head hung, back to being a nobody.  Then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza slapped him on the back, encouraged him to hang on, pooh-poohed his incipient money woes, and even gifted him with a roof on his head. 
The rest, as they say is history.
These days whenever Manny P comes home in triumph, before anything else, even before paying a sorely needed courtesy call to Ate Glow ( the media distraction is worth more than anything else ) he visits his former patron, in fact the latest victory parade in Quezon City ended (or started) at the DENR, where Sec. Atienza now holds office. Malimutan na lahat wag lang si Mayor.
It’s probably only the reflected pride, the sense of being Filipino, and the pagtanaw ng utang na luob that appeal to Filipinos all over the world whenever watching, discussing or even just reading about Manny P that makes such an impact, but you can be assured :
In Dubai, when their brown-skinned co-expats bully them, their employers tell them they can’t be paid as highly as their white-skinned colleagues, and when they sleep 8 to 12 to a room just to preserve the precious foreign exchange to be sent back home, our OFWs whisper : at least I still have Manny Pacquiao.
In Chicago, New York, L.A. and other First World outposts, when we work shifts no one else wants, get bypassed or overlooked come promotion time, simply because we are too polite to complain, when we turn the other cheek whenever we are slighted, mocked or made fun of, just because we are harmless little Pinoys, our migrant brothers and sisters can say: at least I still have Manny Pacquiao.
In Milan, London and Paris, when, living dangerously, we often change jobs at the wink of an eye, take any hardship and situation in stride, avoiding immigration, police and border authorities deftly expertly and as long as the mighty euro beckons, we live to fight the next day because our kapatid can still say to himself / herself : at least, I still have Manny Pacquiao.
In many ways and on many levels, Manny Pacquiao has become larger than life for us, but because he has, all throughout the twists and turns of his journey, remained all-too-human, he remains in our hearts.
We have become Manny Pacquiao, and Manny Pacquiao has become us.
Thanks for reading !

You Can Never Go Home Again

( originally written 12th December 2009 ) 

Star Wars costumes seem to be a perennial favorite among the natives

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :
ONE rainy afternoon in smoku,* our favorite packing guy (among mill people, millers and packers get along better than with their own kind) snorted at the paper.  It wasn’t a dismissive snort, but one that was more in disbelief or incredulity. 
An anecdote in a front page feature on unemployment talked about how discouraging job hunts were, mentioning that for one job position alone, as much as 100 hopefuls were lined up applying.
Things were never this bad, I can’t imagine a hundred people fighting for one slot, mate.
He was more incredulous when I told him it was nothing surprising back home to fight for one job among hundreds, in a work force that grows by tens of thousands every year. There are only so many gigs going round for an ever-increasing labor market, making it an overwhelmingly buyer’s market, so only the very best get considered for the plum posts.
That’s why back home, it’s SOP to enter an employer’s lobby, fight your way towards the receptionist, fill up an application ASAP, and wait the obligatory 2-3 hours before any appointment is set.  One hundred vying for a job? Par for the course, although incomprehensible to quite a few Kiwis for whom a five to ten minute wait at a stoplight is a considered a traffic jam, and who only two to three years ago changed jobs at a whim, a well-loved tradition here.
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Don’t have all the facts, but another work mate lamented a news article accusing this country of being host to one of the “most polluted rivers in the developed world”; and a cursory look at the news photo showed the river waters to be a dark bluish green, definitely not bereft of the verdant hue redolent of aquatic, freshwater life.
In so many words, we told him, could you contemplate a river ever-present in your life, but one that’s been dead since before you were born? Could you ever imagine a river so dead that you could never expect anything living in it? And lastly, how to describe a river that every moment that you behold it smells, of rotten egg, sulfur, and effluents that will destroy any vibrant organism it touches?  Well, if one could do any of these, one would indeed begin to understand that a polluted river in this country is not such a bad thing, and two, that polluted in the THIRD world is in a totally different universe.  No one deny it, Anak ng Pasig po tayong lahat.
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Lastly, still another colleague recently bewailed the fact that so many compatriots of his, as much of 20% of the total workforce, have crossed the Tasman Strait to find a better life in Australia.   In his  convoluted worldview, life in our temporary adopted land had fallen to such new lows that people here couldn’t wait to get out and work anywhere else, US, Canada, UK, anywhere except here.  Indeed, how horrid was it that low wages, high taxes, and having to compete with migrants for precious jobs had combined to make continued existence here such a chore, our colleague lamented.
Hearing his tirade, we immediately brought our proud Pinoy passport the next day, whereupon we asked him to read a ubiquitous rubber stamp on the Limitations page.  In both plain English and Arabic script, he read “Not Valid for Travel to Iraq”. And to his plainly clueless eyes, we patiently explained what it meant.
Do you know that most of our countrymen are so desperate for work that they will work anywhere overseas?  Yes, even in the most dangerous places on earth, you will see people lining up in employment agencies across Manila, literally waiting night and day for a placement in such places. 
Life is still not that hopeless back home, but the allure of working for the almighty dollar (or pound, dirham, Euro, fill in the blanks na lang) is so dizzyingly sweet and romantic, dramatically changing family fortunes in so short a time, that Filipinos are willing to do anything and risk life and limb if the prospects of a less deprived life are improved.
And this is why our hapless government, to save us from ourselves, has to legally restrain us from working in Iraq. 
Kind of makes you look at life here in perspective no? we told our pañero.  All of a sudden, he realized, life here ain’t that bad.
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So would it be too much of an exaggeration to say that bottom line, we are the whipping boys and rag dolls of the world whenever we allow ourselves to be conscripted into voluntary servitude across developed lands?  In oil-rich Iraq, we toil at the peril of suicide attacks, smart bombs (that purportedly avoid “soft” targets but kill civilians anyway) and friendly fire; in Lebanon, Pinay domestics are pushed over azoteas whenever their masters are in foul moods; pregnant Pinays can be found all over UAE jailed for adultery; their rapists are usually employers who escaped prosecution, but the rapees aren’t so lucky.
Don’t even get us started over Sarah Balabagan, Delia Maga and Flor Contemplacion.
Re the first topic above, while it’s true that the recession and economic chaos has affected everyone from Warren Buffett to the rice paddy farmer in Indochina, our perennial Third World resilience carries us across most hardships, equips us to brace ourselves against most of life’s tsunamis.  Indeed, what has happened in the last 24 months, recession-wise, that most of us haven’t experienced throughout a good part of our 3rd world existence ?
Said it recently, but it is quite apropos to most of our situations, Christmas or no: Kapag maigsi ang kumot, matutong bumaluktot.
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The sad implication in all these, kabatch and kabayan, is that after finding out how much better off you are overseas, and how bad it will continue to be back in the motherland, the home you cherished in your memories and hope to return to someday has in fact ceased to exist.
You can never, in your heart and mind, go back home again.
Thanks for your time !
* Smoku – Breaktime in Kiwi talk.

YLB to Unica Hija : The Audacity of Love

One of a kind collectible ata ito.

With General Grievous, we think he's a Sith Lord

[ Note : was thinking of something to blabber about when we realized that Valentines was just a few days away. Thus our topic, advance happy heart’s day everyone! ]

Dearest Nicole :

TERMINAL, CHRONIC PRESUMPTUOUSNESS is an ailment that is very hard to recover from, as the name of the condition implies, and especially as regards your unica hija the situation is no different.

I labor under the misimpression that you will heed the counsel of the years, my counsel, no matter how flawed it is, and that despite the many mistakes I have made in my life, you will find it worth your time to listen to your old man.

One caveat though. On the subject I am about to rant and rave, I am no expert, in fact I have stumbled, risen, and stumbled again, many times over. I have only the benefit of committing the same errors enough times to know that you learn only through your mistakes, and that the race goes not to the one who runs the fastest, but to the one who keeps on running.

** ** ** *

I cannot emphasize enough what I say here now : Love is a powerful thing, it’s not just a romantic platitude to say that Love makes the world go round. It is a primeval, elemental force that has not begun to be understood by all the wisest men in the world. It is like a potent talisman that unleashes tremendous power to a prudent user, but wreaks havoc to those who do not learn to harness its awesome strength.

Look anak, I’m not trying to be vague, pahocus-pocus sounding or purposely trying to conjure obscure images of otherworldly powers. Love is very real, and very definitely life-changing. It literally creates and shapes destinies before our very eyes, so fundamentally that we take it for granted and are largely unaware of it.

By posing just three questions that have heretofore always remained at the back of your mind but which you’ve been itching to ask, I can show you how Love is related to almost all of them.

Probably the most obvious is : despite the love that existed between your mother and me for many years, why did it not survive beyond your adolescence, for all its vaunted longevity and intensity?

Well, the only way I can answer that is, presuming the gift of love that has been generated and nurtured between two people, it is not nearly enough to accept and allow its existence. To borrow from Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, with great love comes great responsibility. You have to recognize that especially after the honeymoon phase of a relationship, you progress from the stage of being in love with to loving a person. I’m not saying your mother and I didn’t do this, probably we just didn’t do it long enough. For that I am truly sorry.

One good lesson though that we can cull from that, and it is the fact that just because one an the other are destined to be together, that they will live happily ever after. Far from it. In fact, a declaration (and affirmation) of love often signals the start of an adventure in dedicating one’s life for your loved one.

Are you still reading this? Baka nakatulog ka na ha.

If not, I go to the second question you seem to have asked me in gestures and in phrases. Given his rather reckless adventures in romance, is your brother not loving too much, or too hard? You may laugh at my response, but I think it may be the opposite. What he truly loves, he cannot possess. And to compensate for this, he turns to those companionships that will not reject him. Do you know what I mean? Rather than being rejected by what he considers pure, noble and ideal, he prefers to dwell in a comfort zone of those who will accept him.

It sounds trite but it is often true. Men offer love for intimacy, while women provide intimacy in return for what they perceive is love. While women learn early enough not to extend expectations based on this reality, men take a little longer. But then again, for some reason, women, who i submit are smarter than men, seem to have a blind spot in matters of the heart. Both for you and for my peace of mind, I sincerely hope you learn from the mistakes of your parents and heed the lessons of history.

On that note, you should probably just give your brother a little more time.

Which brings us to a third question, which you have asked in many forms : if it comes to such a point, do i follow my head or my heart, when i feel like falling in love with someone?

The only way I can answer such a query (which I hope doesn’t translate to reality in the near future) is, notwithstanding all the fear generated in me (and most probably your mother as well), I go so far as to say this: if you dare to love someone whom you feel in your heart of hearts deserves such love, you will not regret it. Scary words from a scared dad, but engraved in stone. Ironically, not all the purest and noblest intentions will assure that you will have made the right choice. For in matters of love, who can tell, until the day we die, whether or not we have made the right choice?

** ** ** **

What I’m trying to say anak, I guess is that you should not deny yourself the discovery of Life that Love makes possible, but at the same time not be overwhelmed by the crests and troughs of the roller coaster that is Love. It is one of the truly defining experiences of our existence, but it comes at a great price : Love consumes you, and if you allow it to do so, it overcomes you pitilessly, remorselessly, till you are but an empty shell.

If I sound too passionate about a subject matter that you might not care about, it is only because I know the time is soon coming when you will fall in love. At least, you can fall back on your father’s feeble words.

Promise you’ll tell me if and when you do fall in love, OK? I just wanna (grr) see the guy.

I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful daughter like you, I love you and I miss you always.

Please kiss sabay hug your bros for me OK? Happy Valentine’s Day !


Heirs of The Blue-Eyed Son of Heaven*

Taken at their Intrams, we know it's an improvement of the race :)

No connection to the story; just had to show off Nicole's pic at 17 🙂

[Notes : Seriously : did anyone really think there was ANYTHING at all scholarly or even halfway academic to back up whatever rantings and ravings we’ve been spewing here? We say this only because we want to assert beyond the shadow of a doubt that it would be a good joke to rely on any of these lines burned in the book of our life for guidance much less assurance, EXCEPT as written evidence of the random ejaculations (oratorically ha) of a distracted mind.  Very flatteringly, a batchmate has opined that we can sporadically pass these off as entertainment, thank you kind sir (and madam ); one well-wisher even calls it sometime therapy for her (maraming salamat tambien), the truth is, selfishly spilling our guts on electronic paper is our form of talk therapy, catharsis and electroshock cod liver oil (do they give that still to kids these days??? ), you are actually doing us a favor by humoring us and pretending that our tongue-in-cheek emails make sense… are we making any sense ???]

  Dear batchmates and friends:   

WE MUST HAVE been dropped at least once as an infant, sniffed too much airplane glue or licked more than the usual industrial – strength lead paint off our rusty crib (left by previous users KuyaTim & KuyaDonald), or maybe were left by Yaya too often, too close to the microwave oven / TV (same radiation), as in our advancing middle age we are still the ADHD, bipolar, dyslexic and hypersensitive / hypochondriac / allergic / multi-phobic adult child that we have always been in earlier decades.  

We can’t sit still.  Our nanoseconds-long attention span rivals that of Fr Tchou’s capuchin monkey.  We sometimes wake up feeling we have two right hands or feet, which wouldn’t be so bad except that we are sometimes left-handed, we are either exuberantly joyous or suicidably depressing, and incredibly, we still come up with new allergies everyday. (May one be allergic to one’s own sweat, single-digit Celsius, fresh air and drinking water? )  We are sick of ailments that haven’t even been discovered. And everytime we conquer an old fear, a new one crops up right in its place. 

Notwithstanding the positivity of double negatives, we came across in Yahoo! a new one to watch out for: phobophobia.  That’s right, the fear of being afraid.  Now THAT’s a cool new species for all those phobics out there… (dont forget: nothing to fear but fear itself, oo naman)                       **                    **                    **                    **  

We’ve given up trying to talk like the White Man, at the risk of abusing his hospitality.  Wait, that’s unfair, cuz we have abandoned the way the LOCALs talk here and that includes the indigenous people from whom the European settlers later appropriated the land, fellow accidental migrants and of course, everybody else who wants to sound like proper British subjects. 

Actually, Kiwis no longer sound British, they are somewhat a cross between neutral American and neutral BBC English, but definitely NOT Australian. They have their own quirky terms the way Pinoys do, but generally to an unaccustomed ear it is easy to mistake their dropped r’s and underaccented syllables for the Queen’s English.  

Instead, we try not to speak with a pronounced Pinoy accent, try not to rely on slangish speech (theirs or ours) and above all, speak slowly. Another way to say it would be : instead of trying to understand them all the time, we now focus on making them understand us.  Which in a way makes sense, since there are lots of them, and only one of us !   Sounds crazy, but crazy enough to work.

 As in, we don’t know if it’s wishful thinking, but we feel that if we stay with our original way of talking, we impart the sentiment that it’s important enough for us to make them try to understand, or at least get used to it.  This is not the ideal situation, for sure.  We all know that Pinoys / Chinoys are famous for adaptability, to the extent that we at times become better speakers of a host’s tongue / accent than the locals are (think Lea Salonga in West End) …  tama powba o hinde?

In our earnest desire to be accepted or assimilated into society, we are famous for internalizing how they sound, they who have come ahead of us and graciously accept us newcomers into their land.   When we do this, we keep alive the fiction of being two persons in one body : at work and at home … we present a face that is katanggap tanggap to the world at large, and when we return to hearth and home, we revert to the language of our childhood.    For some it works, for others not… ewan ko saan po ako papanig, but for now we are a hybrid of Jimmy Santos / Willie Revillame (who we are told we resemble) / Manny Pacquiao, and if not for the sad comment na sana Pinay na lang kami,  our predominantly male workmates seem to find our twang mildly amusing. For now.                     

**                    **                    **                    **                    **  

Which brings us to a related topic, particularly to race-related awkwardness : we go so far as to wonder if, relative to their peers in a UCB (United Colors of Benetton) community, caucasian kids are predisposed to growing with more than a healthy ego.  You can’t blame them for that, in our tortured analysis. We don’t mean a puffed-up, stuck-up, full-of- yourself kind of personality, but a overly well-structured sense of self and of race.    

They are brought up with the notion that their freedoms and ways of life were purchased by the blood of patriots (as with most cultures) and they see that the liberal democracy that is the backbone of most of governments is the result of such historical sacrifice.   

They are told from toddlerhood that theirs is the greatest country (or culture) on earth, and indeed, as they marvel at the dimensions and grandness of the fat of their land, what could be bigger, or better?  Mass media and cultural references not just in their land but worldwide all but shout out the fact that the white-dominated and white-supported culture, values, religions and way of life are superior, and truly in many ways they are.   

Indeed, how often have we heard the phrase/s (in its infinite variations) I / we thank God for allowing me / us to be born in the best possible place on earth to be, God’s You – nited States of Ay-merica, Amen?  And many times, how hard has it been to argue with this breathtaking logic?  

But the important thing is that this is reinforced in the child’s mind in many many ways, well until adulthood.  In short, white children are told many of the same things Asian and other non-white children are told, but they are given the added physical evidence of their education.   In contrast, many Asian children are taught to be respectful, deferential and sometimes almost unquestioning to their elders and those in authority; down the generations the sanctity of family and the hierarchy of values dies hard; for  most families God — whichever religion you subscribe to — country and family might as well be the cornerstones by which lives are lived.  

In other words, more often than not, in the majority of the world outside the Americas and Europe, the “self” as an independent entity is subsumed or worse, absorbed by omnipotent / infallible social institutions which, later in life, turn out to be not so omnipotent / infallible at all.  In the meantime, the “self” has gone under, submerged and most likely diminished for the collective good.  

We’re not saying this doesn’t happen in the first world, where values continue to be valued, nor are we saying that Asian traditionalism has not begun to be crowded out by humanist, personalistic values.  Just that it’s easier to understand the White Man when seen against how he grows up and how he is educated.  Very simplistic for sure, but worth thinking about.  

We hasten to add that children in many, many cultures are brought up with the same nationalism, respect for history, etc.  But First World kids are given reinforcement,  many times over, beyond what they read in textbooks and hear from teachers.  

Can we blame the Caucasian youth for feeling that the world is his for the taking?  

We almost hate to bring this up relatedly, but in this day and age, when you have media reporting things like the pregnant Muslim woman stabbed to death at a Germany  courtroom in an obviously hate-related incident, and a Virginia justice of the peace refusing to participate in an inter-racial marriage, you gotta think, have we gone forward or backward in the goal towards a UCB world?                     

**                    **                    **                    **  

Last Na Po To. We chanced to catch Connector of The World, a regular CNN mini-segment devoted to people who by their talents and energies are able to connect peoples all over the world.  That day’s Connector was one of YoungShi’s fave authors, Paulo Coelho, whose great work has been translated in a record 63 languages and has been reproduced in around 100 million books.  But that’s not what we found remarkable and memorable, watching his short Q & A. First of all, we expected, based on reading The Alchemist, an abstract, swami-like philosophizer.  He actually looked like a sharp, well-dressed, worldwise Latino CEO, which is probably what he is now, with all his worldly and unworldly success.  Even more surprising was one of his answers, particularly to the question What would you tell mothers is the most important lesson they can give their kids? (We’re paraphrasing here.)  He said : Teach your kids to keep alive the spirit of rebellion, and to be not so politically correct all the time.  With all its implications and subtexts, we leave it here . . .

Thanks for sharing your time and thanks for the memories.

YLB NOel  

* Son of Heaven – A former honorific for the Emperor of China.

Renouncing Ice Tubig And Other Un-Pinoy Un-Patriotic & Un-Principled Unthinkables

with anime warriors, Megamall June 2009

only 1 bottle of agua left, so 1 of us was gonna lose his head for it...

Dear batchmates, officemates and friends :
WHENEVER WE PLAYED sandlot (actually concrete) basketball in scorchy summers of yesteryear, it didn’t matter one bit if we won or lost, played whole court or half, or even half an hour or from sunrise till sunset.
It only mattered that we had fun, that we made new friends, and that, at the end of each game, we drank ICE COLD water or beverages without which no session would be complete.
Those days, bottled water was an alien concept, refreshments were limited to tap water streaming live from the hose, and if we were lucky, both Coke Litro and chunky ice might be introduced to each other for our halftime entertainment.
No Viva, Evian, Mineral Spring, Gatorade, C2, Tropicana, Powerade, flavored water or any other beverage that one might fancy, whatever your physical exertion. Just plain water or soft drinks, preferably on the rocks, and we do mean icebergs when we say rocks.
In its strapping youth, the body can take all sorts of extreme temperatures, from the 40-plus degree heat of the noonday sun, to water-nearly-frozen that shocks your throat and alimentary canal, and which you insist on imbibing in the spirit of refreshment and the fact that no drink is too cold when you brace against the fury of equatorial heat, in the middle of God’s Own Summer.
In fact there is a cottage industry in the Islands among all who possess an enterprising nature to sell, during hot hot months, ice tubig which is water placed in plastic bags, chilled till it is partially converted to ice crystals, then peddled to ballers with arid tongues, burning throats and parched pores who proceed to swallow their wares whole immediately.
In 1970s Hogwarts (what we call our school), luxuries were few, but one of the amenities we appreciated were water fountains from which icy water sprung forth, stream steady and always free. In the humid weather and sweaty clime, it was a blessing that we absorbed ( literally ) many times a day.
Years later, across seas and with a wary eye on wellness and preserving the body, we wave a sad goodbye to drinking water in extreme temperatures, something almost unthinkable for a Pinoy born and raised in the tropics.
it is about as inconceivable as giving up sleeping in front of an electric fan or air conditioner, dancing around in the rain or taking ice-cold showers in chilly chilly mornings, or as long as endurance allows.
weytaminit ( kapeng mainit ), we HAVE given up those things. Staying in front of a cooling appliance inevitably dries up our tubes and gives us slight discomfort; dancing in the rain, especially in single-degree weather can be hazardous to one’s health, and of course taking in sub-polar baths exposes you to risks you don’t even know about, especially at 44-and-a-half ( not yet 45, beeh ).
Yes we know, the inevitable surrender to the years, the unstoppable onslaught of age, bowing gracefully into the night and all that.
But there’s no denying we enjoyed such activities when we were younger, so much younger than today. Does anyone remember the time when one couldn’t catch some zzzz’s without a fan lulling you to sleep, kudos to those guys lucky enough to have aircons but not all of us enjoyed that privilege. Even worse, when a power failure intervened, our yaya would shush us and patiently use the abaniko while humming some Bicol lullabies. That wasn’t so bad.
Rain was always a special treat, sure it stopped the game, what with slippery floors and a heavier ball to heave ( especially the leather type ) but in exchange you got to cool down and shake off the lethargy brought about by infernal heat, made more brutal by the humidity.
Well, we still think about singin’ in the rain, but we no longer have the free time to do so, unless the rain catches us unawares while commuting to and from work; hypothermia resulting from rain exposure is also not unknown in these parts. Dont forget the occasional hailstorm. Iwas pusoy lang po.
Ice-cold showers were just a way to bring down the steam and geysers trapped in us all day, which weren’t alleviated by the traffic, nakakabitin na rains and smoke and smelly smog that seemed to be everywhere.
But after surviving sub-zero temperatures (that no one seemed to mind, except us Asians) in frigid latitudes, hearing about how GMA’s press secretary succumbed to a sudden heart attack after a cold morning paligo, and learning that we subject our fragile organs to needless shock in the morning when we take cold showers, we realized that we didn’t need the aggravation.
Which brings us back to chilled water, all its attendant pleasures, and why we can’t afford to crave them any longer.
Drinking cold water was like a sensuous caress of all that ached in us during a summer day. It cooled down the heat-weakened muscles, erased the fumes from dangerously baking skin, and restored the width of dilating vessels all over our blood-red network.
It brought us back to earth in the midst of flaming insanity, restored civility in the heat of the athletic moment, and calmed us down for future wars. It’s no accident that you see ice buckets, water coolers and all sorts of containers not only during sports meets but also in more cerebral – type confrontations like debates, conferences, seminars and trials. You need the ice water not just to line your arid plumbing, but also the clear the mind and maintain focus on the task at hand.
But after reading about a health warning on the Internet ( which therefore makes it infallible ) that cold water turns the meal you’re eating it with into instant sludge, which puts added pressure on your digestive system, which in turn stresses out your cardiovascular system, we decided it was pressure we could do without. Our cold-drinking days were over.
Sure, there’s still cold soda, cold beer and other things that we gulped down chilled, but these are different. More of the occasional drink than anything else, and we would do our very best not to munch anything with the aforesaid beverages.
And of course it helps that we’re overseas far from warmer shores, but hey, di naman po tayo magpapakahirap na umiwas sa cold drinks kung sobrang init. We’ve been drinking cold for so many years now, but the body isn’t growing any younger. We need all the help we can get.
And that’s why inasmuch as it’s atypical for Pinoy, we avoid ice tubig for the rest of our days.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for the memories!


[ NOte : Thanks for all the support re WordPress, now if anyone has a site you want linked from ours, please send us the website address and we’ll link it within the hour ! ]

Adios Vanidad / Hola Mortalidad

( originally written 3rd November 2009 )

Not so Willy Revillame anymore

24 hours after, we were pretty and pink again...

[NOTE : we’ve never done this with eight fingers on the keyboard, but you learn something new everyday …instead of giving you a clinical / journalistic account of what happened to us recently, we’d rather make kwento from the heart, through the road-less-traveled prism of memories forged, lessons learned, dreams dashed, and hopes gained…]

Dear batchmates, batch, kabatch and friends :

ULTIMATELY and in the end ( a double redundancy ) two things became apparent : we would have to stop gobbling food and we would never be able to eat apples the same way again, and secondly, we would never view in the same way again, the handicapped, disfigured, or all those bundled under that generic term mga may kapansanan.

All this, from a rather minor bike accident that nonetheless left us out-of-commission for 72 hours, but gave us a six-hour tour of a First World E.R., including but not limited to frontline services, orthopedics, radiology and physiotherapy; and firsthand view of how healthcare and meds are subsidized in far-away lands.

For the record, we suffered facial abrasions, thank gosh no stitches naman, 2 chipped teeth ( goodbye forever, closeup smile ) and a minor pinkie fracture. But being the eternal baby that we are, we were admittedly traumatized beyond the cuts, bumps, tumbles and bruises we sustained that fateful Thursday that forever altered our face ( and the rest of our body ) as we have known it.

First, the emergency van that arrived to fetch us to hospital was rather quick as firemen, the medics even offering to salvage the piece of ivory that sprung from our orifice, baka maihabol pa raw, but we had already drenched both our shirt and sweater crimson with sparkling Type B positive, patch me up na, please. We felt right at home at the E.R., though, as we waited as much as 120 mins (parang PGH or barangay health center, take your pick) among other non-life-threatening cases, and as no one was complaining, we weren’t about to rock the boat. Literally we sat there holding our cracked helmet, gashed knapsack and blood soaked hi-viz jacket…

At that point our fervent wish was that our nose remained intact, as 20 years ago, from a wayward elbow we sustained a deviated septum that caused us countless clogged-up nights and a proboscis no longer as confident as years past. Thankfully, a thorough exam proved that, though chockfull of abrasions and unflattering puncture wounds, the nose was none the worse for wear…

Which, unfortunately was a lot better than our outlook for two front teeth, knocked out as we used our face to break our fall. The Good Samaritan who led us to level ground (we fell while negotiating an incline) and called an ambulance recalled us dazed and bloodied, but vain enough to look for whatever portion of tooth that could be salvaged, before being treated for first aid…

But no matter. No concussion, no stitches and no bones (save for a battered pinkie) was more than we could hope for, except that for the loss of blood, a nearby constable couldn’t help but ask cursory questions if more than just a bicycle was involved.

Through the interminable waiting (bout which we daren’t complain, everything was free and everyone else waiting their turn), the numerous xrays ( to uncover fractures as well as anything we might have inadvertently swallowed… like tooth fragments ) and the cleanup / patchup job, a few inevitable realizations dawned on us:

we would never again be able to clamp down on whole, crisp, unpeeled apples again, crack peanuts or shell watermelon seeds with bare teeth;

we would never again be able to smile at anyone (not just the fairer sex) with the same amount of confidence and charm;

we would not likely, or at least in this lifetime be able to be as fluid with our digital movements as before, not that we were ever a piano virtuoso but would we ever regain the same movement with our fingers?

Shortly after we were briefed about how long healing would take place and the follow up appointments we would need to make (more xrays, more exams, and more waiting), we allayed our own uncertainties : goodbye to the whole wild eating thing, but maybe the charm and fingers weren’t lost forever…

          **           **           **           **

We’ve always been a gobbler. Not gobble, gobble the way a turkey does but wolfing down and gulping our food as if mauubusan lagi, it did help that we had 4 brothers competing for the same limited slices of shrinking pie. But our mishap made our front teeth not only gingerly sensitive but also functionally unable to bite into anything harder than the soft part of sandwich bread, buti na lang we could eat rice 3 times a day.

But chewing was another story, every grinding movement in our mouths painfully difficult, the sharp edges of the newly serrated front teeth also creating ulcers above and under our tongue.

A concerned kabayan suggested we try sampling liquid cereal, smoothies of all sorts as well as oatmeal, wheatgerm or even arroz caldo, if we could ever find it. We were warned against relying too much on instant noodles especially after what the internet said about MSG and the perils of too much salt on everything.

In the end, we learned that if we chewed care-ful-ly and slooowly, taking care to not let anything touch the front teeth while eating (an unlikely, but not impossible task) eating would still be a temporary agony, but not as much.

          **           **           **           **

The facial cuts and bruises were, as you might expect, something else. It was nothing that wouldn’t eventually heal, but for now almost the entire left side of our face was covered from forehead to chin with deep abrasions that made it painful for us to just smile and twitch our cheek.

Improbably, we had become even more marginalized the minute we entered the mall to purchase painkillers and antibiotics from pharmacy: not only were we Asians (well actually we refer to anyone not Caucasian, but since Asians occupy probably 90% of this group, we might as well refer to it as Asian), we also looked roasted and on steroids; sorry but that’s the kindest way to describe it.

In short, we had become a caste within a caste, very nearly an untouchable.

There are only two ways to address such a sight, when you’re fortunate enough to be “normal.” You either pretend everything is hunky – dory and avoid looking at the person, or you inevitably can’t help but stare longer than the socially acceptable 3 seconds max. Or at least, something approaching those two mini-scenarios, cuz that’s how we reacted to something that we now looked like.

For the moment, we find ourselves proverbially on the other side of the fence, after jumping such fence rather recklessly. It only took us one trip to the mall to discover that, with all the bandages and cleanup job done on us, we were still being avoided like the plague.

To illustrate, the injured part of our face looked like an upright multicolored chicharon bulaklak, dominated by bright red and shiny welts crisscrossing our forehead, temple and cheek. Definitely not a pretty sight, to say the least.

Most of the adults made an effort to avoid staring, but instead acted as if we looked TOO normal, which definitely wasn’t the reality. The kids with the adults were more candid, staring without malice with some actually pointing at us. A bit unnerving, to be the center of attention, and not because you’re eye candy.

But we’re not chicharon, eye candy, other things yummy, or even the source of attention, fleeting though it may be. Inasmuch as we’ve been one all our lives, we’d just like to be treated as a regular guy, admittedly a pretty battered one at that. For now.

           **           **           **           **           **

After 5 days, the welts and abrasions have reduced in both size and scarletness, but we still won’t be attending any blind dates. The physiotherapist also designed us a cool, neat glove-sized cast to serve as a splint for the next few weeks. Sick leave has allowed us days off work, but only for a week. The rest hopefully will be answered for by workmen’s compensation.

We just hope we can heal completely in time for the olds and the loved ones back home, our regular shift, and our fragile ego. Not necessarily in that order.

Keep safe & healthy everyone