Mang-aagaw, Inggitero, Pokpok, Magaling

I have had it with the astig affectations of people who want so badly to be perceived as maangas, who may or may not actually be. People who announce themselves as maldito but who stay up all night for American Idol. I’m tired too of certain personalities’ quirky quainticisms. In my humble opinion, only Zooey Deschanel, Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor and Barbie Almalbis have any right to be quirky.

People want so much to be cool they forget how much nicer it is to be warm although of course you can be both. This involves everyone: blog, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr personalities that announce themselves as ‘not your ordinary guy’, ‘weird’, ‘bipolar’, ‘a walking contradiction’, ‘creep’, Heavily Introspective Person, Wandering Despondent Person, etc. The About Mes of the social networks have intensified the desire to be perceived as anything but ordinary. Even those who claim they’re ‘just a simple person’ are also gunning for something special about being simple, you can tell. But what do I know, I only have 500+ friends in Facebook.

Actually, no. Sign me up for barkadahans with more of these types! My life would never not have a use for social immersions like these, the kind that drives me to false admissions of ‘I’ve had its!’. Gives me a reason to dramatically raise my hands up in fake surrender. But forgive me for talking about people so much as if I actually know that much about people. I don’t but it’s such a fun activity pretending.

Stepping into my life unannounced is ‘Isang Napakalaking Kaastigan‘ by Vlad Bautista Gonzales, and I knew I was in for a treat. Not the kind of treat though that this brave little title seems to promise: kaastigan that is big. My expectation is that it will suck. It’s been a while since I plunged into a nothing kind of book that is also annoying (like the essay collection, Wala Lang by Bud Tomas which is truly a nothing book, meaningless, impactless and truly worthless, to me at least. Promise delivered!), so I had to get it. Even the author’s name is kind of a giveaway; Vlad is most certainly short for Vladimir, a name fancied by most Filipino parents who think old vampire names are fancy. Sort of like the modern parents who name their kids Rafael so they’ll have someone in their homes nicknamed Rafa, so the family sounds like it has a tennis player genius for a member. Or Vladisimo, whatev.

First lesson of the moment is never assume that all announcements of selves as astig are false so that you avoid mistakes like mine, having assumed that this Vlad Bautista Gonzales guy is just like every other quirky, Zooey Deschanel-posing girl or guy in your socials unleashing, asserting his rightful, adorable quirkiness and coolness in the world. Vlad is in fact cool.  And before this assignation of people as being actually astig or not gets cloying, let us settle on the truthfulness of Vlad’s right to be called exactly that; Vlad is astig.

Not being an expert on coolness myself, it’s tough to justify my perception of him as astig. But here are reasons why I think he is:

1. You know how when people sometimes get suddenly nostalgic about the fairly recent past, saying things like, it was better in the 90s or how certain pop culture things were better in any other time but now? Those always incite snark and inward battles with the self. This sort of sentiment has been rightfully mocked by the precious Generation X where it was implied that the young is always in some kind of yearning for… something. That something, ever elusive, is always yearned for by malcontent-with-the-present people. Vlad does not get nostalgic for the sake of making pa-cute references to the pop culture events of his youth by punishing the present. In Balutin Mo Ako ng Liwanag ng Iyong Pagmamahal, his recollection is full of hilarious observations of the movie Bituing Walang Ningning’s plot, acting, fashion and dialogue (all ridiculous).

Some samples:

     ‘Yung eksenang pagkatapos mabuhusan ng alak si Dorina. Kumanta siya ng “It’s My Turn”, sabay montage ng 75% ng mga nangyari sa pelikula, ipinahihiwatig na ‘”Tang-ina mo, Cherie Gil, humanda ka sa last 20 minutes ng pelikulang ‘to!”‘

     ‘Ang mga kantang ‘pinasikat’ ni Lavinia Arguelles na halos puro Stevie Wonder at mga kapanahunan niya, puro di-orig na kanta’.    

Very funny, yes?

2. He doesn’t end his reminiscences (the essays are from an old, probably extinct blog) in the manner of the twisty, catchy ending heavily favored by twisty, catchy ending-favoring blogger/writers. He just ends. That’s very appealing to ME.

3. He rhapsodizes about things like Burger Machine without coming off as pa-cute (because how could you not be aiming for cuteness when romanticizing a goddam burger place). ‘The Burger That Never Sleeps’, his ode to the Eraserhead (or Ely Buendia)-endorsed burger machine makes you nostalgic about it indeed. It makes you go, ‘Onga no wala nang Burger Machine’, instead of ‘Ngeee, pa-cute.’

3. He’s not like Bob Ong. Vlad writes well.

4. He talks about/spoofs TGIS (Thank God It’s Sabado), the 90s TV show that starred the 90s pa-sweety stars of GMA 7. And on Kiko (the Red Sternberg character), this: “Akala ba ninyo kayo lang ang may problema? Ako rin, meron, lahat naman tayo, meron, but all we can do is settle these differences and make up, guys. We’re a barkada, we are, really!” As well the boy bakat bits.

5. The whole of ‘Mang-aagaw! Inggitero! Pokpok!’

This book is mind-blowing.

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