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
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
[ 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
Dear friends :
( originally written 12th December 2009 )
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.
** ** ** ** ** **
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.
** ** ** ** ** **
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.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
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.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
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.
[ 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 !
[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.
* Son of Heaven – A former honorific for the Emperor of China.
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 ! ]
( originally written 3rd November 2009 )
[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