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.

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Casual Fun Idea: Read David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding, Diaries 1977-2002

As expected, the book is a delight. Imagine taking a peek at David Sedaris’s diaries and reading about stuff that happened to him in real life, from the ‘70s through to early ‘00s. Of course, these had already been edited, but they’re ‘raw’ compared to the finished and/or stylized essays in his other books.

Some observations, thoughts, feelings:

1. He’s a well-known author with a huge following, so of course his diaries would be of great interest to millions of people who’ve read him and love him. But a book filled with seemingly nondescript, humdrum entries would have to be extraordinarily entertaining to be worth buying. So thank goodness his diaries are funny. I think it’s difficult to fake funny.

2. It’s great to read a famous author’s diaries and not have it be packaged as an ’insightful peek’ into his inner life. It definitely is that, but it’s terrific that it’s just really a collection of his diaries, like, ‘here are David Sedaris’s diaries, culled from his years of diarizing, transcribed from his numerous notebooks. We think you’ll enjoy it, and some of you, we’re pretty sure, will do find it immensely readable, enjoyable. Some of you will not, and that’s okay.’

3. Some of the most interesting, life-changing events happened in the ‘90s. It’s when he moved to New York. It’s when he ‘decided’ to have a crush on his long-time partner Hugh. It’s when he found work as an Elf in Macy’s, which resulted in the hilarious ‘Santaland Diaries.’ Thank you, ‘90s.

4. If you’re thinking of keeping a diary, try to leave out most of your thoughts and feelings. Just tell your notebook what happened and see how it turns out after several days’ or weeks’ entries. Hilarity, comedy, drama, tragedy could still ensue if you diarize well.

5. You really could make something out of your diary entries, compile them and turn them into a bestselling collection of essays. The ‘trick’ is to buy small notebooks that you can carry around wherever you go.

6. It’s difficult to determine whether he knew his diaries would be read by the general public someday, and whether that line of thinking was a contributing factor in creating what is now ‘Theft by Finding 1987-2002.’ He just kept writing and look how that turned out.

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.

A Sexy Songkran, a Non-complaint

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I should be very pleased with how Bangkok handles its party city aura. To have a truly enjoyable night out in this city, you must be out by 7:30 pm and getting tipsy by 8-9:00 pm. Go out late, say, 10:00 pm, and you miss the best seats and people in the crowd are already on their way to sobering up. This teaches you to schedule your nights out responsibly. But do you always want your nights out to be scheduled properly? You do not.

In Manila, you text friends at 10:00 pm and tell them, ‘I’m in the cab now and on my way!’ while you’re stepping out of the shower, secure in the knowledge that they will believe your claim of being stuck in eternally horrific EDSA traffic – they know how it is and they will spin the same yarn about traffic. You shower at a very early 10:00 pm if you feel like being punctual for once.

You arrive at your pre-party bar, usually Barcino or Distillery at The Fort, profuse with apologies. Mostly, no one cares and your friends would even commiserate. By 12:00 midnight, you go to the main bar whose bouncers are at their most alert and from 12-1:00, Manila party peak hours. At 00:00 in Bangkok, you’re on your way home telling your party companions in Line that you had fun! In Manila, you call in sick for work the next day because there’s no way you would make it to the office after partying ‘til 4-5:00 am. Here, you take an instant soberer sold in 7 Eleven.

I should be very pleased because, like my daddy, I believe that conversations beyond midnight cease to make sense – I’m okay to separate from friends when the conversations start to get punctuated with yawns. He had a more cutting phrase for it but the essence of his belief is that you’re bound to find yourself deep in bullshit, enjoyment-free conversations if you stretch your drinking sessions when the beer stops tasting like heaven (if it ever did) and starts to have the consistency of vomit.

During this year’s Songkran, I was home by midnight, very safe and quite dry. I wasn’t shivering in my soaked shirt and shorts and not delirious with naughty glee from the water-splashing extravaganza. My face was chalk-free and my feet were just sufficiently yucky from Silom’s muddy sidewalks strewn with trash. On the contrary, last year was truly gross and dirrty. Songkran 2015 had us crawling our way through Soi 4 and debating the merits of going home while things were just beginning to get interesting. But that’s nothing compared to Songkran 2012. Tiger beer in hand, I was destroying Caucasian men and women with my water-powered armalite, demolishing fellow tourists left and right.

What happened?

I’ve only been to a few Songkrans and I hold no authority on fun, but it looks like the joyousness is drying up. As long as there’s water and soaking-wet voluptuous people in white shirts or shorts, there ought to be no lack of joy for people who delight in such a sight. I don’t know if Songkran is getting repetitive for me or the festivities have really been watered down so that the water fights seem very controlled and less outrageous, but it doesn’t feel as fun as it used to. This year, Songkran was just sexy.

1,000 Words a Day

My adult planner
My adult planner

When I was in high school, there was widespread fear among boys related to masturbation. The fear has to do with the frequency with which it was done and the potential resulting harm for those who came up with abnormal numbers. Sophomore year is Biology year, so questions on the dangers of jacking off are often raised. This is the time in a boy’s life when it seems alright to ask your biology teacher to kindly specify potential risks involved with rabid jacking off, ie, are we in danger of emptying out our ball sacs if we do it twice or thrice a day – what a regular boy would otherwise think of as perfectly regular intervals. This isn’t a question I myself would ask so I was grateful for other boys’ curiosities as it allowed me to keep asking questions about things not involving me or other boys’ penis.

Even though I didn’t ask this question myself, I can’t deny that fear has not been sowed in me concerning that topic. I may not have had the balls to ask if my ejaculate could possibly run out (a question which would appear bastos at first but has formed in every boy’s mind in the school I went to) but the fear associated with that possibility, I took semi-seriously; for one whole year, I noted all the days in the year when I jacked off. I put an asterisk on all the days I did because it would have been silly and useless to put ‘masturbated’ as planner entries seeing as that word is too long and too obvious. It simply would not have made sense to write even jakoled in the planner because it just didn’t feel right. Planner intruders would have been very suspicious of that habit so I cleverly employed asterisks.

When you become an adult, you shouldn’t have time noting days when you masturbate, even though all it takes to do it is an asterisk. Doing so could only lead to a sharp drop of your self-worth, although if you’re doing such a thing now, or something similar to it (maybe the number of sex partners you’ve been collecting?), it’s never too late to stop and benefit from a slight self-worth rise.

I have more important things to note in my planner right now because I’m a grown-up who can do whatever he wants, mostly. I don’t put marks on my planner anymore to indicate days when I do the essential, but I make sure to write down the number of words I committed to paper every day. The goal is 1,000 words because Stephen King and Jessica Zafra’s workshop notebook recommend it. It’s not so hard especially if you’re filled with feelings. But some days, you just can’t have enough of a fuck to sit down and have a feels-fest with paper/Word. Some days you are like Beyonce – totally fierce and fabulous but utterly incapable of writing original content.

This year’s planner does not suffer from silly little compulsions to detail ejaculatory habits, but highly inconsequential little things are still very much a part of most entries. From this habit, there is no immediate amusement and when my own writing is failing at bringing me amusement, I cease seeing the point. I simply go blind as to why anyone would want to write 1,000 words every damn day! There is no joy to be had from seeing ‘abs, chest’ or ‘abs lite’ in my tiny planner, and since the planner is very tiny, there is no room allotted for any meaningful thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, no amusement derived from back-reading.

To meet the self-imposed 1k words a day, I sometimes write movie and book reviews which are not really proper reviews. I try my very best not to disappoint my reader – myself – because myself is such a ruthless, vicious critic but only to its favorite art – itself. I don’t cherish the times when I go back to my reviews and think, ‘what a lousy person this is who writes!’. The same thing applies to my big notebook of thoughts and feelings. I put nasty things in cringe-worthy things in there. I put ‘gay!’ or ‘ulul’ in some entries where they are most rightfully deserved. The main advantage of doing this is obvious – when you are super vicious to yourself, you feel as if no one has any right to do it to you.

I could attempt to write a short story for each day that I’m alive and not convulsing in the asthma wing of some hospital. I’m not incapable of stirring up drama involving non-fictional characters in my life, therefore, if I get desperate enough to do it I could really stir a big one up and milk the experience dry. I could do this and I know it. Stirring Turds could even be the title of the resulting short story collection that would result from the milking.

Minor inconveniences that plague the middle class life are always victimized by unwarranted middle class people’s milking, so why not commit and perpetrate that type of victimless crime?

Since I’m evidently a nice person, I wouldn’t be able to write fiction about people I care about. This is exactly why I need more people in my life that I really could never care about. There are a lot of them already, for sure, but I forget about them fast.

How about mining the Facebook timelines of your friends for fiction material? I don’t know if someone’s already had this idea so bravely said out loud before but if you’re a struggling fictionist looking to win your first Pulitzer and this idea wins you Pulitzer or money, leave a comment for the thanks.

I would do that myself but that would mean more time on Facebook than I care to spend. I love spending time on Facebook but spending more than 15 minutes in it is not going to produce any of the following: great short stories and wonderful, calming feelings. But I could be wrong.

Indifference ban

Things happened today in Manila, Philippines: a person who has had it with this world committed suicide via the trusty killing machine, the MRT, and caused traffic along EDSA where I pass by daily, and it allegedly happened around the same time I was on commute (In my opinion, people who commit suicide in public places, especially in Philippine public transportation, and in rush hours, are not thinking very reasonably) — totally unnoticed by me; blackout in the gloriously hot Metro Manila and I wasn’t as affected as affective people who are highly affected by all things that happen in this world and maybe also elsewhere, because I was using a laptop (so my work went uninterrupted) and I was spared from possibly grave air-con-related inconvenience because I was fine with the combination of early morning extreme air-con cold and sudden mellow, moderate office heat; and lastly, there is a election-related liquor ban being imposed because, maybe, the people who think about these things (congressmen? MMDA?) are very simple-minded because I, also sometimes insufferably simple-minded, just fail to see the sense in this, although I don’t feel like this ban is going to affect my being because there is leftover liquor in the ref and I’m lately not caring so much about being very drunk as to be roused from what I humbly think is a very senseless, snicker-worthy reason and occasion to ban liquor.

As the second child in a family of the kind that I have, there is strong evidence to support the occasional suspicion that the universe is evidently, undoubtedly indifferent to the idea of me. Maybe of you, too. Based on these observations of mine, too, I seem to be indifferent/want to affect an air of indifference to many disgraceful, mind-blowingly senseless events, but the universe, which would not suffer to be out-indifferenced by any fool, is way more indifferent and don’t I forget it.

Mariah’s Thing

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‘My thing is that I have to be myself and if that means that in that moment I don’t hear you, I don’t see you and you don’t exist to me at this moment, then that’s what it is.’

Mariah Carey, best person singer in the world, may have accidentally articulated how we (or just I) should feel about peoples and things that need rebuking off of our aura, when the quarrelings with Nicki Minaj led to things such as this quote which she eloquently and generously elucidated in an ET interview.

My interpretation of this is: Be yourself. If within yourself something doesn’t exist in your specific moment which can be totally whatever, don’t exhaust any of your senses by hearing, seeing or smelling something that is not existing in your moment. And then let it be.

A practical application of this is: instead of making a ‘Whateveeeeeeer!’ comment in any of your social networks “‘friends’s” posts, which you have to admit the internal struggle to not do can sometimes seem so insurmountable, you just nonchalantly block everything off because, hello, you have just been guided by Mariah’s non-existent beings moment management. Learn.