Monday, June 20, 2011


With the ever increasing popularity of social networking, the term friend has now been overused, misused and sadly abused.

My Facebook page maxxed out on the number of friends that can be accommodated by a single profile.  And when I make a quick review of the five thousand people supposedly attached to me, receiving updates on my shoutouts, whereabouts and what-the-hell-I-am-all-about any given point of my living history, I realize that I barely know ten per cent of that grand total.  

I guess for some it can be quite an achievement to boast of such numbers. That sort of trend has been going around since the time of Friendster (remember that?) or MySpace (that now sounds like ancient history).  The more names attached to your page, the greater justification you have for earthy existence or so you think.  

I wouldn't even think about the sheer number of Twitter followers I have --- over eight thousand --- which is really menial compared to other media people who actually foist the fact that they have hit the millions who get a constant update of their state of being in 140 characters.

But now considering how in a span of one week the local newscasts have consistently warned about the dangers of Facebooking and Tweeting, everyone begins to rethink if this is really quite a harmless diversion.  Aside from all those social theories that say that too much time in front of the computer leads to  a) the development of anti-social behavior due to isolationist practices and deprivation of actual human contact  b) a form of deliberate escapism that can lead to much more complex personality disorders considering one usurps conscious time in virtual reality and c) really very bad eyesight --- the dangers have reached the level of physical threats.

Uhm, a tv-director-slash-actor was literally slashed and stabbed seventeen times by somebody he encountered in Facebook --- and a call center agent was tied, stabbed to death and robbed by her so-called boyfriend who she also encountered and chatted with from the same networking site.  

Well, yes --- the dangers have always been there: you just don't invite anybody to the privacy of your abode if your level of familiarity has been limited to small floating windows on a computer monitor ... enhanced by webcams.  You don't expand your circle of friends by collecting people from the internet --- because you might as well hold a soiree or a tertulla in a zoo.  Inasmuch as there are some of us who have been emboldened to find a sense of adventure in meeting up with people they barely know out of a hope that something meaningful can come out of such gambles --- be assured that there are as many horror stories as there are fairy tale endings as far internet link-ups are concerned.

A friend of mine once said that the phenomenon of the internet age is that it made the art of blind dating extinct.

Quite true.  Social network sites can turn into catalogs where one can easily browse through available merchandise and pick out the ones that (more or less) come closest to chosen specifications.  There is always to the webcam in the messenger services or Skype to defy the challenge of distance and time zones.  The world has become much, much smaller --- and dating has literally been computerized.

The act of ultimate culmination is the eyeball when the friends can finally get to meet.

Perhaps if we tried explaining to our grandparents what was meant by finally meeting face to face someone you call a friend, then they could not and would never understand.  For anybody to say that requires either a lot of human trust ... or a sense of defiance and recklessness to scavenge whatever is out there in the virtual universe and hope that this would translate into tangible reality.

Ah, but there is where the sadness lies.

How easy it is to call anyone a friend nowadays.  Whereas before, we were much more careful in discriminating people who we have to show niceness out of choice or out of circumstance.  There are friends who we cannot help but befriend because we work with them, we need them in our jobs and there are social norms to follow ... 

And there are also those who have occupied such special spaces in our heart, people who we tend to trust more than our relatives --- and most likely know more about the real us than anyone next of kin.  Those were the handful who we truly branded as our true friends.

But certainly not all the 5000 names that fill up my profile page in Facebook. Or the 8000 who follow me in Twitter. They are people who think they know me because they know my name.  My real friends have been around for more than half my life: unlike those found in social networking sites, they cannot be unfriended or erased.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I only knew my father after he died.

No, it is nothing as dramatic as the kind of  stuff that proliferates on prime time commercial television.  But like all things in life, you never fully appreciate anything or someone until the familiarity and complacency are replaced by a sense of loss.  

Unlike most Baby Boomers, I came rather late in the lives of my parents. 

I was more of an afterthought, a postscript to the married years of Nena and Totoy when their two older sons have already stepped into college. I was a menopause baby.

Thus I grew up with brothers who were old enough to be my father --- and my Dad who could pass for my grandpa.  My father was already forty-four years old when I came into his life. My mother was forty-two.  Nena almost died in order to have me not only because of her age but due to heart ailment.  But she and Totoy agreed that I should be born. So there.

Despite all that sacrifice, the age difference between my parents and I  explained a lot of things about how, through the years, the love we had for each other lent itself to be misunderstood. I grew up in a house full of adults and ruled with an iron fist by my father.

When I think back, I remember two extreme sides of that man.  

Oh, my Dad had this really vicious sense of humor --- which I inherited.  When he was comfortable and in his elements, he would go into a tirade and never cease to enjoy the pure pleasure of laughter. He would dish out the most vicious jokes like a machine gun.  He had such scathing wit.

But when he got into the extreme side of his mood swings, my father was insufferable.  He was one of these people who wanted to make everyone else miserable whenever he felt awful: I marveled at my mother's capacity for patience and tolerance.  I have come to believe that she was a template for all the suffering heroines of telenovelas even before that kind of media heroine was concocted by hacks and hackers.

My mother stood by my father through everything.  She chose to be with him ... and like most of the women of her time, she endured.  I asked her once if she ever contemplated on leaving my father --- and she gave it some thought before she finally said, "No."  She said that Totoy was a womanizer --- even to the extent that during their wedding day she was shocked to discover that he hired bodyguards to insure that no one disrupted the matrimonial ceremonies at Santa Clara Church in Pasay City.  Of course that anecdote made me laugh so hard ...and I still break into a smile when I remember the way my mother recounted that ridiculous scenario.

Nena also said that despite all of Totoy's women, there was something about him that made her persist and prevail. She knew that one day Totoy would get tired of all these little diversions and come home and play the role he loved doing best. That was being a Dad.

He was a good father.  He was a dedicated provider.  My mother's anecdotes about how my dad literally pawned his life to find food and shelter for my mom and two elder brothers during the Second World War is something that I should write about some day.  My kuyas were four and two years old at that time --- and my father would walk all the way from Pasay to Intramuros and back just to do business and buy food for his family.  

That was a side of my father that I did not see.  Yet the stories did not surprise me at all for I knew that my father always believed in living up and being accountable for one's responsibilities.  He often told me that: when you get into something, you don't do it half-heartedly. You give everything within your capacity because that speaks of your character.

Oh, yes! His sense of determination and regard for discipline were two things that shaped my growing years.  For he was a man with a lot of unfulfilled dreams as well. My father was pretty set to pursue a degree in law even if he was already married and with two kids.  My mother once told me that he was all set to do this, laid out all his plans ... and then the Second World War broke out.  The four years of devastation simply forbade my Dad from proceeding with his ambitions.  I do not know how that affected him because he never spoke about it.

I surmise that he accepted the forfeiture of his own personal ambitions as the price he had to pay for being a responsible provider.

And that was most likely the reason why he wanted me to take up law.

His two older sons had other career choices --- but being that addendum to his life, he must have thought that this was fate providing yet another option.  Aside from his sense of humor, one thing I inherited from my Dad was my love for writing.  Oh, my father wrote such beautiful letters with such impeccable and sophisticated English.  When he sensed my love for writing, my Dad encouraged me without going overboard and fawning over my literary pieces. He was quite thrifty with his praise ...inasmuch as he was such a Scrooge when it came to money matters.

His ultimate sign of support for my writing was the gift he gave me when I was in Grade Five: he came home with a second hand Remington manual typewriter that he purchased from the equipment being replaced in his office.  Together with the typewriter, he gave me a ream of bond paper and said, "Go write." 

And to this day I still have that typewriter encased like the most precious possession in my existence --- for it was with this machine, my father's gift, that I practiced all my writing through all those salad years. 

I knew I disappointed my father when he realized that I had no interest in pursuing law.  But he never spoke a word to berate me or even openly express his sense of loss. I knew he had his doubts about my chosen career, fearing that being a professor of literature did not exactly promise a future of security yet he never discouraged me from pursuing what my heart and mind desired.  

He knew I loved to read ... and write.  And if there was one thing I loved so greatly about that old man was that even if he was never demonstrative or verbose about giving approval, he made it a point to make me feel that he was indeed proud of me.  I would hear stories from relatives and friends about the way my father spoke about me.  Later, as I would point out, I discovered how through all these years he kept tab of everything I did despite moments when I felt that he was not in approval of certain choices I made in my life.

But one of the most memorable stories I heard about my Dad was what he did the day before he died.

My Dad had a stroke and was comatose for almost four months. He was already in his eighties and our doctor was quite honest in telling us that his chances for a full recovery was close to nil ... and maybe indeed it was time for him to rest.  There was only our doctor, a nurse and my Mom with my Dad at the ICU of Makati Medical Center when, much to everyone's surprise, he woke up.  He saw my mother beside him and he held her hand and said, " I love you very very much, Nena." Then he went back to sleep.

Everyone in the room cried.  And the next day, my Dad left this life.

I did not know what to think when I heard about this. 

Not once in my life did I hear my father say these words to my mother. But I knew he loved her. I knew that he loved her very, very much. I was just so surprised that there was this side of my father that I never knew ... that there was this other Totoy who could actually say such tender words that fathers don't usually say in front of their children.

It was about two years ago when my mother gave me an envelope for safekeeping.  I did not know the contents of a relatively thick but ancient manila envelope that she kept inside the secret corners of her cabinet.  She just told me to read them when I had the time.  I assumed they were the usual documents that required legal guidance from my lawyer. But I was quite surprised.

When I got home, I opened the envelope.  Yes, they were documents of a different kind.  They were the love letters of my father to my mother.  And they were written in his beautiful penmanship using his favorite shade of blue black Quink ink.  I was stunned as I slowly read each letter of the young Totoy professing his love for the young Nena ... and how he promised to take care of her and be the faithful man who will be by her side through all forms of challenges and adversaries.

I could not believe that these were the words written by my father.  I did not know this man ... I never saw this young man who could conjure such language and express such tenderness.  

Then amidst all these love letters to my mother, there was one that seemed so out of place. It was a letter he wrote to my brother in Toronto. 

I do not know how my mother got a hold of this specific correspondence but it was included in the stash.  Here he wrote about me: at that time I was in the States on a scholarship --- and my father was beaming with such pride, saying that he was happy for all of us --- and that the true fulfillment of any father was to see the happiness of his children, regardless of choice and definition. He was assuring my brother that I was going to be all right. And he was proud of me ... and my choices.

Now it was my turn to cry.

I never knew my father. I only saw his entirety when he was gone.  And even if it has been almost twenty years since he left us, I suddenly miss him all over again.  I wish I could celebrate Father's Day too.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


We were about two to three thousand students at the time we were in college. I was there when the first batch of co-eds were admitted into then De la Salle College.  There was much consternation about that: not everyone wanted the girls into the Taft Avenue campus but when Martial Law was declared in 1973, holding a referendum was suddenly outmoded.

Oh, that was really beside the point.  There was no way the boys could have stopped the girls from coming into the campus.  The first one hundred co-eds went through the eye of the needle --- which was another term for hell--- in the hands of the hostile boys who didn't want them there in the first place.  

And what we all precisely recall is that they were made to use these ridiculous school uniforms made of ramie in ecru and white, so similar if not completely impersonating the daily wear of the ticket girls in Greenhills Theater.

But the co-eds survived quite happily ever after.  Whether the boys liked it or not, they made themselves feel at home.  At La Salle finally became a home when the girls settled in.

By 1977, the first batch of co-eds graduated from the bastion of the Christian Brothers. By then, the college had become a University. Together with the first group of young women to be called La Sallites (eventually becoming La Sallians), we were the graduating class to usher in the age of the university. It was not surprising that the valedictorian amongst all the summa cum laudes was a co-ed.

Thirty-eight years later, there are sixteen thousand students in De la Salle University.

When I came back after years of absence, I no longer recognized the campus.  

Whereas once enormous trees surrounded the Marian Quadrangle, now there is a building.  The legendary handball courts are gone.  And there is this monolith of an edifice called the Yuchengco Building ... and the old Saint Athanasius Gym has been relegated to old photos and memories. Brother John Hall (where the Dramatics Guild used to hold its rehearsals) has become a canteen. 

The campus has even crossed Taft Avenue as it slowly encroaches Saint Scholastica's College.  There are buildings owned by the university expanding left, right, front and back of the original campus.

But despite what resembles a viral invasion, some familiar buildings are still there. Changes have taken place but thank God for the constants in life.

The original Saint La Salle Building facing Taft Avenue is too sacred to be demolished although has undergone so many facelifts that portions of the edifice have become unrecognizable.  

The Saint Joseph Building where the Library is located still stands proud --- as those of my generation would recall the classrooms on the upper floors where most of Humanities and Commerce courses were taught. And what used to be the Engineering Building called Saint Benilde has now been called the Miguel to avoid confusion ... mainly because there is a College of Saint Benilde located a stone's throw away in Vito Cruz.

And there is no more football field. Instead, the centennial building is slowly rising on the precious patch of green where the traditional of football was immortalized by the La Sallians even before the Azkals became fashionable.

Along the hallways of the La Salle and Saint Joseph Buildings are framed photos of the graduates of the institution from the time of its inception until God-knows-when.  

A co-teacher and co-graduate of mine, Cristy Rodriguez and I searched the framed graduation photos looking for the Class of 77.  And there we were: I was right under the photograph of Dr. Eric Nubla of Makati Medical Center.  I still had hair.  And the memories came back like a flash, a deluge ... including all the faces that filled the graduating batch of more than thirty years ago. There is this sudden urge to find out, imagine or even pre-suppose what ever happened to all the characters who filled up your graduating batch.

Immediately after college I spent the next eight years of my life as a teacher in La Salle.  I do not recall how I got convinced to enter the academe: I somewhat slid into it because of the faith and trust given to me by the late Brother Andrew Gonzalez.  

I also recall how my father was somewhat taken aback when I told him that I was teaching courses in the then Languages and Literature Department of my Alma Mater. 

My father did not protest but I knew deep in his heart that he was disappointed.  

He had wanted me to pursue a career in law --- or something more lucrative as he would probably term it.  Being a professor even in one of the most respected institutions in the country was not considered lucrative in the order of things considering that cultural and intellectual enrichment were not taxable by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. He knew that I loved to write --- and he could not go against that because I got that interest from him.  He knew I loved to read ... and my father also realized that I got that from my mother.

So my father did not protest: he told me that it was my decision to be a teacher --- and just to make sure I had a good chance to have a better life with that chosen field. He was somewhat proud that I pursued my Masters Degree because once upon a time I thought my greatest dream was to have any hallway or even latrine in the University named after me. 

My father was even happier when I started to write for television because what I earned in a single week writing a script for a drama anthology was equivalent to what I got as a monthly salary as a university lecturer. He said that I was, at least, doing something lucrative so that I can afford to stay as a professor.

But again, that was beside the point. During our time, what was important was that you were doing something you really loved to do ... and not a job just to bring in money. We were young ... and there is a sense of invincibility that accompanies the folly of such an age.

Those years spent teaching and pursuing my graduate courses were some of the best in my life.  I was in my early twenties --- and my students were about three to four years younger than me.  It was easy to relate to them because they always felt it was something about us.

The pleasure and fulfillment in teaching and walking on the sacred halls of the university are indeed priceless.  No one can fully grasp or appreciate this unless one also possesses this calling for, as I always said time and again, teaching is not a profession. It is a vocation. It is a commitment that is self-satisfying as well as an endless process of learning and unlearning, of discovering and reinventing.

In 1988 I had to give up my ties with La Salle.  

There were many reasons behind that somewhat painful goodbye but then we do what we must do ... and even to this day, we brandish the courageous motto that we must move on.  My departure from the academe was necessary.  I remember one of the more senior officers of the school telling me, "Come back when you have accumulated enough resources to be able to afford to teach again."  In more vulgar terms, what she meant was: return to the classroom when you are rich enough to afford a teacher's pay.

I also remember one of my co-teachers telling me, "Get out of here. Go into the world and make the most out of life. You cannot simply stay inside the campus and call this your world."  I appreciated his concern. It was only after I left the sanctuary of the academe and looked back at what transpired through the years that I truly understood what he meant. He was not belittling the role of the teacher: he was telling me that I need more than a graduate degree to be an effective instructor of life. I need to learn about life by living it.

Maybe what the university did not understand was that there are times when you have to leave home in order to equip yourself with more experiences and greater wisdom.  

Oh, life inside the four walls of the academe can be such an addictive comfort zone where books and theories, discussions and elaborations assume the form of life.  But that is not life itself. That is not the life that the students will confront when they are handed their diplomas and introduced to the wilderness which is out there. 

As a teacher, you must tell them about that. You cannot simply elaborate on theories.  You must usher them into reality ... without forfeiting their capacity for idealism.  Here is real life, Kids: now make it better.

Now that La Salle is celebrating its 100th birthday, I have returned to teaching.

Oh, yes, the more than two decades away from La Salle has taught me a lot --- maybe even far more than what theories, assumptions and presumptions can offer.  Books are wonderful records and explorations --- but they are only stimuli and not life itself.  That is why I have always believed that the best professors are those who transport their students from the lofty world of intellectual excitement to the harshness that is called reality. 

But in between, the years have also been kind. Some of the most memorable moments in my life shall always be the times I bump into my students from the past.  I remember one special occasion when I was invited to attend a pre-reunion gathering of the very first batch of students I ever taught in the university.  I was surprised to see all of them --- some recognizable, some completely changed but all still very much a part of a life I considered enriched by memories and opportunities.

Of all the congratulations and updates I received from the students of my past, one remained most unforgettable.  She approached me and said, "I never had a chance to thank you for opening my world to a love for reading. Now all my children love to read too ... and that is because you made me fall in love with books."  I must have muttered something but I knew deep inside I was rewarded with a trophy far greater than any recognition for writing and directing or being one of Manila's most talkative persons. I was affirmed as a teacher.

What even surprises me is how far my students have gone.  Like a proud father, I tell people that Cesar Purisima and Leila de Lima were my students in La Salle. So was Edu Manzano --- but that's a different story all together.

Today I have about twenty students in my Film Writing class.  

They are of the age of the children of the first batch of students I taught.  It somehow surprises me to realize that some of my students have not only become parents but grandparents as well. But that does not matter. Age is only an assigned digit. Passion is timeless. It knows no deadlines.

And as I return to La Salle, to a campus that has suddenly become unfamiliar because it has evolved, I realize that I am doing the only humble thing I can possibly do in my life. I have been blessed with purpose ... and it is payback time. 

It is time to pay back all the professors who have shaped my life and gave it form and meaning: thank you, my dearest professors Brother Andrew Gonzalez, Cirilo Bautista, Carolina Garcia, Emerita Quito, Aurelio Calderon, Milagros Tanlayco, Marcelino Foronda, Ophelia Dimalanta ... and Doy del Mundo.  

The cycle continues.  And I thank God for making me a teacher.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I overheard a group of young people whisper then giggle while looking at a couple having cups of coffee in a restaurant.  

The man with his wife, both in their sixties, were sweet: he had his walker deposited beside his seat while his wife assisted him in eating the ensaimada they were having for merienda. It was obvious that he was recuperating from a stroke or some damaging ailment that has affected his mobility. And his wife was wiping the corner his mouth where grated cheese and sugar seemed to have collected.

The young people from the other table saw this gesture privately shared by the couple and ... they laughed.  

One of the young ladies in the group, perhaps in her early twenties ... the sort who was not very pretty but believed that being a fashionable victim can create an illusion that she can be a threat to Anne Curtis ... went to the extent of muttering a diring-diri "Yuuuuch."  Her girlfriend, not any prettier and certainly not an iota nicer could not help but verbalize her feelings that very moment:"Kadiri. Such old people!"

This was followed by the comment of one of the males who had a very demented concept of wit. He said, "If those were my grandparents, I'd drag them back home." Another in the group added, "Kasi naman people that age should not be allowed to go around the mall without alalays."

I was dumbstruck. I have never been so appalled in my life.

Here I was ... so completely touched by the sight of a couple who may have been together for years, for richer or for poorer, certainly in sickness and in health ... showing how much love they have for each other ... and this group of yuppies can only expel such words of disdain and contempt because they were old? 

Since when was being old a reason for this kind of attitude and discrimination?  And what does this sort of behavior indicate about what the world has become today? Have we completely thrown away the principles of respect for elders as well as seniority?

Would these smart-ass, IPhone wielding urban maggots felt the same way if their parents or grandparents were the ones showing such a display of candid affection?  Or do young people feel such ... greatness and omnipotence ... believing that the prime years of their lives would last forever and that the world will twirl around the axis of their well-toned, gym-buffed SPF protected skins and bodies?

Unfortunately they are up for a very big surprise.  

Youth passes far too quickly.  Youth flashes in your eyes ... and before you know it, young you are no longer. Even without the aid of numerals to calibrate your age, you easily slide into being a youngster to a hormone berserk young adult to a ambitious material-obsessed adult ... then to mellow hypertension/uric acid troubled middle age ... eventually reaching the senior stature when the young believe you should be best turned into a pot of fertilizer.

Sometimes you do not even feel the passage of decades.  

Being too preoccupied with making a living, you forget about having a life.  You are so busy trying to make so much money to have a good life ... so much so that you completely forget that life is passing you by faster than you can fatten your bank account. You spend sleepless nights and countless hours keeping up with trends, purchasing the latest gadgets and foisting just how far you have gone with the brand of car you are driving, the condo unit you are amortizing or even the human being you are copulating with just to prove to the world you have a good life. 

Then it hits you. You need your blood pressure checked ever so often. Add the blood test. The mammogram test too. The endoscopy would help. Also the colonoscopy. But that's all right: you have a platinum health card to match your credit credentials.

The only way you come to terms with aging is the fact that what you can do in your 20s you can no longer do when you hit your 30s. 

Whereas you can go on and on like the Energizer Rabbit for more than thirty-six hours straight (that including slaving for your bosses then partying until you froth in the mouth), when you are in your 30's all that hyperactivity seems to slow down. 

That's when you develop blood pressure problems, gout and the start of smoker's cough. And insomnia. And anemia. 

When you hit the fourth decade of your existence, you also feel the law of gravity at work. That is your metabolism has slowed down so much that no amount of working out in the gym or participation in marathons at Global City can make you lose the hateful four inches that have grown around your midsection.

You are in your forties when awful arch from your nose to your chin  makes you look like a marionette. That is when you start counting your laugh lines and the crow's feet. That is when you consider a hair transplant because Minoxidil is no longer working to cure that receding hairline. Etcetera. Etcetera.

That is aging. No one can escape that. You can ask the help of Vicky Belo to nip, tuck, inject and pull up or out an inch or two ... but your body clock will still keep on going.  You will still age. Even she will tell you that.  

But here is the good news. There is nothing wrong with that.

There is nobility and honor in aging.  

If you make the most out of your years and give meaning to what has been loaned to you in your present life, then you should wear your age like a badge of honor.  For the real pride of human existence is when you justify the years you spent on this planet --- on what you have made of yourself not in terms of fame or wealth It is how you have changed lives, affected others ... and more so, added dignity to your character despite and in spite of your imperfections because you are human.

When I looked at that old couple, I knew that they possessed something that those bunch of air-headed yuppies can only hope for.  That couple have found each other: they have discovered the kind of happiness that so many yearn to possess but nowadays only very few get to keep. They have found peace with themselves and with the world.  

In a world so obsessed with youth, having lived through too many years has become quite unfashionable.  That is why many try to hide their age though science or methods of camouflage and deception. But the wiser ones deal with their years with excitement and pride. They tell the kids out there to go screw themselves. The wisdom of collected years is far more priceless than the folly of the innocent and ignorant who believe they are brilliant.  

Besides, I dare ask: how many of those condescending, giggling and contemptible yuppies will ever get to live as long and as happy as that couple they called yuuuch? I doubt that very much. I really doubt that very, very much.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


There are two things I remember from my late father.

He insisted that one's penmanship reflects the degree of dignity in a person's character.  He had such impeccable handwriting.  I remember my Dad using the same Parker pen for years, rendering those beautiful perfectly looped l's and p's in his favorite blue black ink. 

Another thing that my father always insisted on was punctuality.  

Oh, that old man hated being late.  He always told us that it was the height of being insensitive, inconsiderate ... and (to use a term often sputtered by my mother) so maleducado to make anybody wait.  My father said that once you make an appointment, you actually enter a contract which requires a commitment. You actually allocate your time inasmuch as you make demands from somebody else's time ... and it was only out of respect for the other person or persons that you get your ass out there at the precise moment agreed upon by all parties concerned. One's sense of time reflects the all so precious palabra de honor.

That was why my father never understood the crassness and inconsiderate behavior in others by not feeling any sense of offense in being late. Not only did he find this vulgar but also insulting. For my father, wasting somebody else's precious minutes of the day is tantamount to downright kabastusan.

We tried explaining to him that Filipinos never really took appointments all that seriously. We explained to him that together with palabra de honor and delicadeza came the sense of manana time. We tried to convince him that it is not a personal assault or insult to come late because ... uh, we are ... after all, Pinoys in the Philippines.

That is why when you ask someone, "What time do you want to meet?" ... you never get a reply like, "Let's meet at 9:00AM" ...or worse, "Let's see each other at 9:02:30AM, Bangkok Time."  Filipinos will always mumble, "Around nine?" (which actually means anything between 9:00 to 9:59AM assuming that you have agreed that the time being mentioned is in the morning).  Seldom can you come across someone who will be there at the exact time you set for your appointment.  

There are people who have this natural predilection for being tardy with a cause.  Let me clarify that.  

Some people are genuinely late because they have fifteen thousand possible excuses for tardiness. In other words, they are just clumsy and careless but not deliberate or malicious.  They never get there on time because they always miscalculate their ability to get from Point A to Point B: this is usually because of their lack foresight or they really have bad timepieces to get them through their days. Or they are certified space cadets who cannot get through the day without the aid of Prozac.

There is always the excuse of Manila traffic (and how can you argue with that?)or even the endless possible combinations and permutations of domestic/personal/ international tragedies big and small which can be a valid cause of delay.  

(I have often asked myself why city folks of the Metro still use traffic as an excuse. Considering we all know that this city's main thoroughfares are as clogged as their sewers, you would think that urbanites already know that it is necessary to give more than enough leeway to be able to meet an appointment. If you know there is going to be a bottleneck traffic mess somewhere, then is that not reason for you to give allowance by leaving your point of origin earlier? Ah, but that is so un-Filipino, I guess.  As I told my Dad, Filipinos never look farther than the tip of their noses.)

But there are others who make a career out of being deliberately late.  And their reasons are equally valid ... because they exist in their own parallel universe where Elvis is still alive.  

Well, yes: there are some who love dramatic entrances.  

These are the people who a) hate being the first to arrive at a party only to find themselves nibbling on appetizers while waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive or b) love being the last to arrive to make sure that their entrance will be reason enough to celebrate. So that is why when Filipinos host parties, you never take the call time seriously because everybody hates being the first to arrive. And sometimes they do not even need any form of social gathering to make dramatic entrances.  They want not only to be counted but noticed.

Even with business meetings, airport departures or dental appointments, Filipinos find themselves always in a hurry to get to a designated place on time.  They will always have the reason to be rushing and beating the deadline.  Foreigners do not understand this --- and, maybe like my father, misunderstand this practice as disrespect for somebody else's time or downright lack of discipline. But perhaps it has got something to do with our natural sense of creating excitement or our appetite for panic.

We love the adrenaline rush.  We also love to feel like we are losing control.  We love to trip, stumble and hopefully not fall. And, perhaps as an addendum to all this, we love to procrastinate.  Inasmuch as we have all these excuses why we are late, we have an equally long list of reasons why it is still too early to make a move. So look at where our country is now? If my Dad were still alive today, I would hate to listen to a two-hour lecture called his opinion.

Oh, but the worst kind of latecomer is he who deliberately makes people wait just to prove to everyone how important he is.

In show business, such creatures are quite common.  They have become facts of life for people in production who are trained to be patient and learn the art of waiting as if it were part of their survival kits.  Whereas there are luminaries who still believe and practice punctuality to the point of being obsessive, there are those who manifest their insecurities by making everybody wait for them for hours ... and without even giving these poor minions the benefit of a token apology.

These super-assholes make the production feel that it is their obligation to wait ... because it is equally the privilege of anyone to work with a star of such proportions. Ah, OK. Time to learn how to cross-stitch, embroider, crochet, knit or play marathon games of Angry Birds just to prove your love for such self-proclaimed demigods.

But that, I guess, is a different realm all together.  Some people need to foist just how indispensable they are to the lives of others by showing them a little bit of power ... and making them feel a dosage of timely misery.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have inherited my Dad's preoccupation for punctuality.  And there are times I ask myself if it is really worth all this aggravation to be so particular to be on time or to deliver promises on or before deadlines.   Yes, this can be all so frustrating considering that a great number of people around me do not take the same priorities seriously.  

But I keep remembering what my Dad used to tell me: "Punctuality is a virtue of kings."

So I just keep telling myself that in a world of commoners, I would still prefer to behave like royalty.