Makati, Paranaque

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Near the Jaime C. Velasquez Park at Salcedo

I was stunned by the efficiency of things. But first, I was stunned by the candor of the Starbucks barista at Leviste, who remarked that I still wanted hot coffee despite the heat wave. I didn’t tell her that I was buying coffee because my body needs it, and that I woke up from a room that wasn’t too hot. But more importantly, I bought coffee because my body needs it.

Salcedo Village on a Sunday is a world in itself. You can walk around the well-manicured lawns, text while crossing the street, do similarly risky things, and be fine. I imagine there are people who live here who rarely set foot outside the village because they think that to do so is to court danger. Unlike them, I’m in Metro Manila for a reason, so I stepped out of the utopia for a few hours.

I went to Paranaque to check up on people and things. I expected the Skyway toll fee to be around 150 pesos, but it was only 72. Once again, stunned. I thought prices of things would have doubled, tripled while I was away.

There were the same old shops along Dona Soledad Avenue, which wasn’t comforting. Comforting would be seeing the Zagu store near the Sunville entrance. The BPI and the Mercury Drug branches were right where they’re supposed to be. It’s always comforting to see BPIs and Mercury Drug stores. New restaurants have opened; there’s now a Chowking in the spot where a bakery used to be. It was a bakery that looked like it sold only two types of bread, ones you wouldn’t eat. Not pandesal because obviously you’d eat that. If there are restaurants in Betterliving that you love, you better appreciate them while they’re still there because they’ll be gone soon. You can’t expect shops and things to stay in Betterliving forever; only the BPI branches and Mercury Drug stores do.

Annex 35 is still cramped and difficult to drive in. I remember Jom teasing me about it several years ago. He was hoping I’d be offended at his observations that our subdivision is inferior to the other subdivisions because the streets are narrow and most of the homeowners’ cars are parked where they’re not supposed to be. But what made it all ridiculous according to him was that the security guards at the entrance were insanely strict. The punchline he was probably going for was: Who would want to rob this village!? I didn’t have the heart to tell him that unambitious robbers would.

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I regret taking off F&Z’s plastic cover

People are welcome to help themselves to my college textbooks. It’s tough to declutter because people nowadays like fewer books in their homes. That’s not an opinion. Everyone wants digital versions of everything, which to me is not the best way to live. If you’re not spending on physical books and music CDs, what is it that you do for fun? I could never give up my book and CD collections, but I know that the lack of storage will always be an issue. I almost gave away many of my books a year ago because I thought they were just going to rot in their poorly ventilated, cramped shelves, and I knew I had to do something. So, I could never be accused of being unevolved. But I’m glad I didn’t give them all away! They are to me what children are to straight people. I’m not proud of the fact that I used to cover my books in plastic, but that corny habit turned out to be hugely beneficial to some of my books that have been saved from quick degradation. I’m very sorry I took off Franny & Zooey’s cover. It’s not too late to save her, though.

Manila!

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I was furious at the Grab driver who went to the wrong pick-up location, so I left a nasty comment about why I cancelled: “The driver went to the wrong location and asked stupid questions”, which was stupid feedback because it was I, in fact, who misused the app and pinned the wrong location. I rarely take cars for transportation for this and other reasons.

In the Thai Airways flight, I noticed how Pinoys often have to be told what to do and what not to do (eg, don’t stand up while the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign is on, remain seated until the plane comes to a complete stop, etc.), but I’m pretty sure this happens a lot on flights with non-Pinoys. I should stop obsessing over Pinoys’ behavior on flights.

NAIA 1 looks brand new and no longer repulsive. I wondered how DDS peeps feel about landing in an airport that was named after an Aquino.

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7-11 Hotdogs and their soggy bread – I don’t miss them!

We went to Marikina for Lei’s mom’s wake. I didn’t peep at the remains because I… didn’t want to. Her son Khalil has grown facial hair and hips. He didn’t recognize me — as he shouldn’t! — so he didn’t make mano. That’s alright, I don’t look like someone you would mano.

Program scheduling idea for future wakes:

-Put a podium near the casket. Don’t come out until there are enough guests to entertain.

-Hand out leaflets with details on how the person died. If possible, include information about the deceased’s “journey”, from the first signs of the illness to the hospital admission to the doctors’ final diagnosis, to the present.

-Field questions from the guests. There should be no more than 10 questions per session, or it could go on until the wee hours of the morning, which would exhaust you and defeat the purpose of holding such a session in the first place.

-Huge crowns of flowers almost always look gaudy and probably cost a lot. Ask guests to just give monetary donations. Cash is the ONLY thing that will help the deceased’s family. Kind, consoling words and hugs are okay. Flowers are just future trash.

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In front of Goto Bob in J. Molina Street

After the wake, we went to Goto Bob, a karinderya that serves exquisite-tasting goto. I have no words for how good the goto was. It was creamy, warm, and brothy, and the beef bits were tender. The calamansi made it even more exquisite. The tokwa’t baboy was cold, so I ate only the tokwa. Goto is 25 pesos. It’s a meal I truly won’t forget.

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On the Grab Car on the way home, the radio station was playing the same old ballads. Realization: This is why legacy artists like Barbara Streisand hold concerts in far-flung countries like ours; our radio stations play their songs for years because there is a demand. “I Finally Found Someone” by Barbara Streisand and Bryan Adams was a #1 hit during the early ‘90s. It’s not my favorite Barbara Streisand song, and guess what? I don’t  have a favorite Barbara Streisand song.

Britney Spears Lip Syncs Because Humans Are Not Worthy

Britney Spears is not the first artist to lip sync on her world tour and she won’t be the last. Beyoncé will lip sync in her upcoming world tours, but her people will be smart enough to know that she has a reputation to uphold. That means she will lip sync but will perfect her craft: acting like she’s running out of breath for flawlessly dancing and singing. And people will eat up the deceit.

Britney and her people couldn’t be bothered to record ‘live’ vocals because she has had it. She can sing but her priorities now lie not in showcasing her stellar pipes, but in putting on a show. People will keep complaining like live vocals are super important, as if it’s the year 1997 or 1998 when artists must be able to both belt and bop or perish.

Britney is on a world tour, carrying around her 10 and 20 year old babies… her songs. She hasn’t been performing songs from ‘Glory,’ her last album. It’s an excellent album that’s considered a flop because it was hitless. I blame ‘Britney Jean.’

Britney Jean is one of the very few remnants from my childhood that I can fully enjoy (and have people know about such enjoyment) without coming off like an old man. The other remnants are Megaman and Archie.

Lola Gigi has died

I probably won’t be going home to attend the funeral, to pay my respects, because I haven’t been in the company long enough to be allowed 5 consecutive days’ vacation and because the financial situation is not ideal. The thought of going to Manila to be with the family occurred to me for approximately 30 minutes, but I immediately ruled it out.

It’s very sad, but especially for daddy because that was his mother.

I thought it wise to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 2 after hearing the news of Lola Gigi’s passing because nothing takes away the sadness out of any situation more than an episode of RDR All Stars season 2 (and other seasons, too). The episode was the one where the remaining top 5 queens were reunited with their family – sister, mother, grandmother – in a challenge that required them to drag up their family to look like part of their drag family. Detox won.

The episode featured Roxxxy’s story of abandonment, Detox’s daddy issues, and Alyssa Edwards’ mother’s 1st year death anniversary. Sob stories were all over this episode.

But still, I think, no one has had it worse than the four of us who lost our mother at a very young age. My brother at 13, me at 11, and my poor sisters who were way younger. It’s probably wrong, but that’s what I would always think about every time I hear of someone’s mother’s passing. That includes Alyssa Edwards’ and my daddy’s.

We don’t have the monopoly on motherlessness, but we know that life so well having experienced it for so long. We started living that life at an age when it just isn’t right to not have a mother.

I know that nothing will ever come out of reliving a painful memory and thinking the world owes us a mother. But you can’t shake off these feelings and these awful, vivid memories when they strike you.

When I think of our life’s greatest hurt, I think about what ‘great hurt’ other people have experienced. To me, my brother, my sisters, life turned for the absolute worst on 24 June 1994, the day after my 11th birthday, when mommy passed away. People lived through horrors much worse than what we’ve been dealt with, but that is our horror and we will never stop living through it.

How to Trick Your Single Man Self into Saving Money

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The life of a single man is filled with hardships. It is a life that refuses to recognize satiation. Faced with such hardship, how must a single man cope?

It’s simple – pretend you’re the father of four. Adopt the mindset of a daddy. Pretend to have fathered not one but four precious children. They may not all actually be precious, but as your children they must believe they are.

Essential to this pretense is ridding yourself of fatherly pleasures – drinks at a bar, Cuban cigars, fine wines, and other daddy pleasures you could think of. As a father of four, these pleasures ought to be banished from your mind and have, in its place, the children’s food, clothing and tuition that you will pretend you’re paying for all by yourself because your wife left you for another woman. Rid of all these, you’re on your way to having the fattest single man savings account.

Also essential to this is having a stable job, and also discipline and a powerful imagination. You may be pretending to be a father but you should never not want nothing. But since you are, in fact, a thirty-something single man, you have no trouble imagining what it’s like to be a father of four. It’s just the sort of thing you that consumes you, having no children to kiss goodnight, which is not as sad as it sounds.

You could give yourself a vice or two so that the father you imagine yourself to be isn’t someone who’s living in total unlivability, which could render the fantasy overwhelmingly horror-filled. The vice could be a gym membership (tell your self that the kids will benefit from having a fit dad), books (you want your kids to be readers), or dolls – but just one.

First of all, your kids should not be toddlers. You are not supposed to be a happy father who had just experienced the joys of fatherhood, but, rather, the hooys! of fatherhood. You should be experiencing the kind of fatherhood that involves lots of shouting and, when the children are all full-grown (no one below 16), actual shouting matches that embarrass the next door neighbors whose thin walls are especially built to hear you. What you should be is a father who is so bitter at having forsaken cigars and brandies over having to raise four precious kiddies. You’re a father who knows real resentment. Be the daddy who doesn’t take kindly to people using the word ‘resentment’ lightly.

Your eldest first child is an artistic child who doesn’t really have artistic tendencies. There will be some bursts of creativity in this child but it will soon be suppressed by the slow but eventual gravitation towards a life of artlessness. First-borns are either destined for greatness or become the family’s greatest downfall. The details shouldn’t have to matter because your first-born is, by default, a big deal. This is the child for which plenty of your resources should have been spent. It is the child for which you had to sell your collection of belt buckles because the first child had to have piano lessons and attend a ‘basketball clinic’. The first child must have had some daffy lessons taught him so that he could become a prodigy. This child grows up becoming the kind of child who adores the song, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ by Prodigy, which is not at all a sign of downfall.

The second child raised a true and alarming sense of panic. It’s the child that, at first, you can’t believe has happened… but did.

The third and fourth child do not grow up to be interesting teens, much less, adults. They have interests, sure, but giving them quirks or personalities won’t be necessary; they only need to exist. Just having two more children when having two mouths to feed has already proven to be an insurmountable commitment, not to mention, an awful of lot of people to send to college. Your actually single self shouldn’t have to comprehend the complexities of this scary scenario, but imagine the savings if you commit to this fantasy!

Then, you can go back to your single self, heave a sigh of relief that you’re the father of no one, with a savings account that needs work but which doesn’t have to be spent on milk and tuition unless it’s you who need them.

We Need to Get Our Friends Back

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Their social media personas seem to have been taken over by monsters who took away all the fun out of our friends’ posts and their capacity to share Oatmeal comics and Buzzfeed listicles that used to bring joy into our life. Now our friends in social media share only dark, disturbing discourses about geopolitics and narcotics, seemingly bedazzled by the genius of their statements on the latest ‘insanity’, ‘idiocy’, ‘inanity’ of world politics. Where have the how- to-make tiramisu videos gone? Where did the Starbucks posts go?!

We don’t have to demand from these monsters to stop talking about what’s happening in the world. It’s good that some of them are doing it and enlightening those who have, at this bleak time in social media, chosen the path of complete silence. Even though we need our friends back, some of our friends do seem, thankfully, uncorrupted by said monsters and manage to post things that don’t get in everyone’s nerves. They remain sensible in what is shaping up to be one of Philippine social media’s darkest moments.

But it’s too late for some of our friends who have succumbed to the allure of seeing their obnoxiousness attract engagement from folks with similar inclination.

Some friends of ours might even try to provoke/compel/trick you into coming out of voluntary silence and contribute to all that racket. These are friends that might even tag you and ask you to change your profile photo to that of a sunflower in protest of … something. Whatever happens, don’t allow yourself to be bullied into thinking you have to contribute to the noise. Any time you feel like adding to all the drama, think about whether what you’re about to say will add anything of substance. Think about the fun gifs of cats you could be posting instead. Post those instead, why don’t you.

We really need to get our friends back. Make social media fun again.

When Someone in Your Life Has Cancer

 

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I was once tricked into watching the first season of ‘Breaking Bad’. It’s a great show and I love that the driving force behind Bryan Cranston’s transformation from science teacher to science teacher/meth dealer is his need for cancer treatment money. I love it when money problems work their way into the plot or become key to a character’s motivations. I don’t mean I enjoy financial problems fiction like ‘Julia’ (starring Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton) or ‘We’re the Millers’, but I enjoy a story more if it doesn’t conveniently ignore the reality that about 80% of the time, people make life-altering decisions based on how much money they have or don’t have. Think gone girl Amy Dunne when she realized she has no more cash with which to torment her victim, Nick Dunne.

I couldn’t watch the entire first season of ‘Breaking Bad’ but, mightily, I tried and succeeded. I don’t remember much of the show except for how it made me feel. It took me back to a time when my mother was being destroyed by cancer, and it’s not because she resembled Academy Award nominee Bryan Cranston; she looked like Academy Award winner Julianne Moore when she was healthy, but because the reddish piss and the hair loss were painful to watch. Every time I write about my mother’s cancer and death, and speak seemingly so dryly of it, it’s as if I’m so detached from that scarring life event and as if I’m about to send it to an essay-writing contest which, I don’t know why, isn’t something I would want my mother-cancer essays to sound like. The truth is that I will never be un-detached from it and going off on tangents like this is why I would never ever win essay-writing contests that I would never ever join.

I found myself working for a cancer clinic company, which required me to read about cancer and immerse myself in that disease’s world. I’m not just being dramatic when I say ‘I found myself working for a cancer clinic company’ because truly, I did not know that when I hit ‘send’ on that application button, I would have to immerse myself in cancer reading material. In general, responsible people shouldn’t be finding themselves working for clinics that they didn’t know would necessitate cancer readings. It’s just insane.

There is but a tiny connection between my brief stint as cancer content manager and finding out that someone I love has cancer. I guess the connection I’m trying to make is that… cancer is forever? That it will haunt you (me) in ways that we can never anticipate. I thought I wouldn’t have to think about cancer again, but it apparently is not through with me. Here are some things that I’ve realized.

(They’re all for ‘you’ because that’s what I want.)

You make the cancer about you.

By thinking about what could happen to you when someone in your life is diagnosed with cancer. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with a type of laryngeal cancer and somehow, or not surprisingly, I found ways to direct discussion about what it could mean to me, who is, for 31 years now, has never wavered in making itself the unrivalled center of my attention in any event that has ever occurred.

‘How about me? Am I healthy?’ ‘Have I said enough affectionate things to her today?’ ‘How is she for money?’ ‘If it had been me, would I be able to handle it as bravely as she does?’ are some of the thoughts you may have. Someone in your life finds out he has cancer and you think about your own health is perhaps not the best way to be. I think it’s sick. I also think it’s the kind of impulse that is inescapable.

You develop a protective brotherly or maternal instinct previously absent.

There’s a reason why some people are single or childless. That reason often has to do with a person’s inability to care for anyone but themselves. What grows is not a parental instinct but more like a strange desire to punch the face of those who dare disrupt the ill person’s aura. You are not always capable of doing something about this but you develop the instinct anyway and you are helpless against this. Don’t fight it.

You see the rationale behind people’s habit of posting inspirational quotes superimposed on pictures of waterfalls.

Not until you are faced with the sickly face of the person whose problem you didn’t previously know existed will you realize how valuable, how encouraging to the spirit a life-affirming quote as plain as ‘Life is short’ is to the person who posts such things.

I’ve never read a waterfalls-backdropped quote and thought, ‘Hmm, what a wonderful thing to post on Facebook,’ or ‘Hmm, thank you Facebook friend, I really needed to know today that I’m blessed beyond my wild imaginings,’ until recently. I’m often the kind of social media participant who scrolls down fast to get to the Onion and Gawker posts, then scroll further down to find a Guardian or New Yorker literature essay that I would share a link of as part of an ongoing and hopefully not a lifetime effort of making myself seem smarter than I really am, as reinforced by the supposedly non-stupid things I occasionally share. The truth is I’m not above appreciating these quotes; I just don’t often acknowledge the little ways in which they help some people’s spirits.

You turn into a cancer expert.

Sometimes, you even become an alternative cancer treatment expert. Precious health tips such as ‘Don’t eat sugar’ or ‘Eat vegetables’ become staples in the list of things you occasionally tell that someone in your life who has cancer.

You give such pieces of advice like parents who scold their 9-year old children maybe in an attempt to be funny and frivolous. This is fine, well intentioned, and makes you feel good about yourself, but it fails to consider that the reason why sick people eat whatever they want is because they have lost the ability to taste food. ‘Eat kale chips and tofu salad’ isn’t something a person whose tongue is razed with chemo meds wants to hear.

You have to stop whining.

Specifically, you stop lamenting your lack of reading time or, say, the woeful state of your professional career. It’s tricky because you feel like your problems are valid and deserve great, undivided attention, but is not having a stable job really that life-threatening in the grander scheme of things? Yes, of course, especially if you’re feeding babies, parents, or anyone else that isn’t you.

When someone you care for has cancer, all of your serious problems suddenly seem so trivial, stupid and basic. Especially, iTunes kinds of problems. People who are way ahead of their peers in gauging the level of basicness of some problems don’t need for someone in their life to be struck with cancer to realize that some problems aren’t worth cultivating drama for. Then of course there are those who do. Uncertainty about your future shouldn’t be thrown away, but when the wallowing gets to be too much that it consumes your entire being for days, an angel whispers a gentle reminder about how being a whiny bitch isn’t the best way to be. That whispering angel may be using strong language (eg, ‘whiny bitch’) but it does so gently because it realizes that your problems are yours to own and handle and they are still real. Angels are considerate and in-the-know. Angels are real.