Monday, December 24, 2012


I wish there was as much a big fuss when Donaire won.

Somehow the Legend from GenSan has so eclipsed everybody in the arena that the nation's focus has been solely dedicated to his adventures --- and, of late, miscalculations.

That, I guess, summarizes 2012.  The year is coming to an end and reviewing the series of events that will define its place in local history reveal that it wasn't all that bad.  Win some, lose some.  What is even more important is the learning that takes place when we get the beating.

For again that is one thing that we often take for granted.  We learn more from losses rather than the moments of feverish joy when we savor victory.  Success when mishandled can be toxic ... and even carcinogenic.  Success when misrepresented can result to delusions --- and presumptions of invincibility.  And that, my friends, is bad.  Really, really bad.

But when you are down and out, languishing on the mat beaten to a pulp by circumstances, that is when you get to realize a helluva lot of things.  Give or take the physical/emotional/mental stress and pains, what hurts most about defeat is that your ego has been so pulverized that you could have turned into an amoeba and nobody would notice.  What is most vicious about defeat is that sympathy alone cannot restore your strength and even your self-respect.  When it reaches a point that you feed on sympathy because of defeat, that is when you realize that you are really in deep shit.

That is why the whole issue of the RH Bill Debates go so much father than Senators and Bishops versus liberals and feminists.  Somehow in the unfolding of events --- while discussions were flourishing, debates were heating and arguments were being hurled from one side to another, great realizations were offered to the citizens of the Republic ... or at least to those who still want to think and not merely be swept away by the beating of drums or the dance of the bandwagons.

The lessons unfurled were quite loud and clear:

(A) Nothing rules the august halls of all three branches of government than the art of politics and politicking.  The senators and congressmen proved once and for all that they will do anything --- and by this I literally mean anything --- to insure that they will get their votes in the coming elections even it meant pretending to have concern for their souls.

(B) Alliances and strategies form the heart and soul of every politico if he wants to survive.  Some legislators are far better than others while there are a noticeable few who are just so clumsy that they actually ended up looking extraordinarily stupid even when they are trying to sound principled and smart.  As one of my more jaded and opinionated friends muttered, "Aw, come on. That is just such a bad script that it makes me puke."

(C) Some elected officials take great pains and effort to show to the world that they are so unfit for office that they have become such jokes.  I will not go into particular details as to how this sad state can be achieved but local legislators are very creative (or dismal) with the ways and means they show us their exceptional stupidity.  Some are overcome with such a great sense of pride --- that they forget that one of the tenets of integrity is humility and an acceptance that there may be Clark Kents in the world but there is no such creature as Superman.

(D) Integrity, honesty and accountability are things of the past.  Nowadays, you can babble all you want and step all over everybody ...or even forsake any attempt at credibility and you can get away with it. Why?  Because you are not only personifying entitlement at its worst --- but you are waving the flag of immunity right at our faces.  If this should be an example of leadership by example, then my dear friends, we are not only in deep shit. We are swimming in quicksand.

After the RH Bill has been processed, reprocessed and practically ground to innumerable shapes and forms with arguments ( Note: to this day, I still do not see the big brouhaha about the use of the terms safe and satisfying sex or what can be so offensive about that!), one thing came blasting straight from the trumpets.

(E) The power of other institutions to pressure, manipulate and even threaten politicos and the population has been so diminished.  Practicality and reality over theocracy and superstition? Whatever.  All the needling, cackling and grandstanding eventually ushered in the conclusion that times have changed.  

Does that mean that we as a nation have succumbed to immorality, promiscuity and all that preludes the assault of fire and brimstone?  I think not.  We have decided to start thinking for a change --- and outgrown centuries of bullying.  In other words, we have stepped out of the Dark Ages to find a more meaningful relationship with the Almighty with greater respect for human life rather than a preoccupation for the hereafter.

Then, of course, we still have to go back to the Pacman.

His shocking and demoralizing performance against Marquez was said to be inevitable by some.  It was only a matter of time.  There are those who insist that he should have retired three fights ago --- when he was still an undefeated legend.  

That is water under the proverbial bridge.  The fact is that he went on and on and on.  If we are to abide by the irrevocable law of nature, all things must come to pass ... and, as I said, there is no such being as Superman.

It was heartbreaking to see Pacquiao on the floor --- a sight that was once unimaginable but now so real.  It was hard to deal with the fact that legends are decided upon by the collective mind of a people --- and that, at the end, the boxing hero is still a mortal being subject to the changes brought about by the irreversible time.  

The country was heartbroken to see Pacquiao fall.  But it was bound to happen when he chose not to retire --- and it did.

Now he promises a comeback ... amid his other preoccupations that include politics and a career in media.  This frightens us all the more.  What can make him finally stop or does he want to return to the boxing ring where all final judgment on his character and career will be made?  The more reasons we should be terrified by the possible conclusions.

We also felt the same sense of loss when Janine Tuganon almost brought home that elusive crown that lands on the head of the supposedly Most Beautiful Girl in the Universe according to the Kingdom of Donald Trump.

But, hey, let's get real here.  Are we really overreacting? After  all, the Miss Universe crown is only a marketing ploy for the Trump group of companies to find a yearly spokesperson for its promotional charity work.  I had mentioned before that this is not exactly the selection of Miss United Nations to find a most beautiful woman who will be sent to North Korea to negotiate about nuclear tests --- or made to join a select panel to bring peace to the Middle East.

Yet we are still irked --- nay, dismayed and even infuriated --- that the beautiful and smart Janine lost to the American representative who dressed as a cross between a Christmas bell and Anne Boleyn in the Evening Gown Competition.

I will confess that I almost chewed a handful of Valium while watching the Live Satellite feed and the dreaded Q & A for the five finalists came in.  When Miss Venezuela gave an answer that not even the Venezuelans understood and Miss U.S.A. sounded like a giggly girl under the influence of helium, Janine Tuganon of Bataan delivered what I consider as the best answer given by any Filipina in that contest --- including those of the two past winners.

And, goddamn it! She lost.  I, like so many, felt so cheated. When they placed the crown on the wrong head, the winner looked like the Red Queen in a cheesy version of Alice in Wonderland. The elegant Miss Tuganon had to settle for first runner up ... and I am still mad.

But, hey! I had to slap myself back to reality. I kept telling myself that the promise of greater economic growth which may include exceeding the projected growth of the GNP has got nothing to do with winning the Miss Universe crown.  This has all got to do with ... not even the preoccupation for beauty ... but the hunger for heroes and role models in our country.

Yes, it all boils down to that.

Whether it is a Senator trying to defend himself to prove his invincibility and how he is above it all from the accusations and lacerations of the angered mob ... or the fallen boxing champ ... or the girl who almost became queen, the hunger is for one and the same.  We need heroes who can personify and embody victory for us. 

The year was said to be very good for the Filipinos.  The numbers attest to that in terms of our economic growth and the strength of our stock market, the excitement brought to foreigners to invest in our country.  But it is as if all these are enough to make a nation of people (not of numbers) happy: we still revert back to the same old-same old mythology that requires some among us to be invincible --- and therefore adored.

So win some, lose some. It goes much farther than that. 2012 may be eventful for some, significant for most ... but for us as a people, we know that we could have done better. And hopefully next year we will and we can.


Don't react. I am going to play Scrooge.  

I am going to say it the way it is and it isn't going to be pretty.  

What makes it all the more appalling is that it is Christmas.  But then, so what?  

I am going to say what I've been itching to say --- and rock, rock from heaven ... if it hits you, I don't mind you getting pissed ... or dropping dead.

So here goes.


(1) I hate the sense of entitlement of some people to think that they can demand Christmas presents from you.

I can hear my mother in the background feeding me that brainwashing sort of stuff you get from ultra-Christian upbringing. It goes something like this:

"Hijo, that is why you are blessed by the Lord because you must be generous to share."

Yes, Ma. I heard that line about a zillion times before and it is true.  I can also quote a whole litany of famous words of wisdom that go:  

"You can't take your material possessions with you to the other side." (Well, not unless you want to be buried with your cars, your jewelry, your high-tech gadgets --- and even your trophy minions who make good accessories to impress others about how powerful you are. The Egyptian pharaohs use to do that ... and the Chinese bury their dead with effigies of everything from ice cream cones to mock-up mansions.)

But there is that thin dividing line between being generous and being had.  There is that disturbing demarcation between being saintly, godly, unbearably human, self-effacing, self-sacrificing ... from being merely abused by all the buffoons of the world who think that Christmas is the peak season for extortion.

What I hate the most is the kakapalan ng pagmumukha ( translation: Guiness Book of Records-worth thickness of facial epidermis ) that would impress even a pachyderm.

Hey, listen, you Bozos of the World: just because they are playing Jingle Bells to death does not mean that the Heavens have given carte blanche license for everyone to go around anyone to get their share of Santa's imaginary goodies, right?

Well, this leads me to the second point.

(2) I hate those white envelopes being passed around with hastily written inscriptions that read: Merry Christmas.

Everybody knows this.  Everybody has received this.

You get this from your mailman. You get this from the guy who delivers your weekly or monthly magazines. You get this from the garbage collector. You get this from the streetsweeper.  You even get this from the ghost who supposedly lives on the balete tree at the end of the road.

Issue #1: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Call me stingy, call me tightwad but I am not going to give a single peso to anyone who is just there because he is doing his job.  

If you deliver my weekly issues of Time Magazine, then this does not qualify you to be my immediate circle of friends and familiars.  When my magazine subscription runs out, will you still remember to wish me a Merry Christmas? Fat chance.  So there.

Issue #2: Do I know these guys personally? OK, let us make it simpler. Do they know my name?  

I certainly do not know theirs ... so I assume that they must at least remember my name since they deliver my magazines, collect my garbage, haunt my street, etcetera. But chances are they don't.  Otherwise, why would I be getting this generic white envelope with a clumsily written Christmas greeting --- or worse --- something that came straight from a rubber stamp that must have cost him about P25.00 to commission?

So this leads me to the third issue.

(3) I hate the kind of social pressure given to gift-giving as if it were a measure if you are a man or simply a textbook sonofabitch.

Some people are naturally generous.  They give at the slightest provocation.

Some are armed with more than enough resources so give na lang nga sila ng give.  But there are others who, despite limitations of what they have, would still go out of their way to give.  These are the generous ones. And I am even more impressed when they do not call attention to themselves each time they render some act of charity, benevolence or magnanimity.

Gimme a break.  We all know that some people make such grand gesture of how mabait they are as long as they can get media mileage from their pagkakawanggawa or pagkabanal. Yeah, the end justifies the means --- but I still choose to barf. chances are, people who make such a production number out of their acts of charity have plans of running for public office in the immediate future.

Therefore with all that grandstanding about GIVING, the heat is on.  Anybody who chooses to think and rethink about not only what to give but also who deserves to be given are categorically lumped into the species of the greedy, tightwad, spendthrift, anally fixated sub-humans.  In short, we are the assholes of the world.

But then again, consider ...

(4) I hate the idea of giving gifts just for the sake of saying you have given some body a gift.

I understand this in the context of the corporate world.

I made the latest count: I received three planners, two wall calendars and a partridge in a pear tree as company giveaways.  You don't take that personally.  They buy that en bulk together with note pad cubes, wall clocks, umbrellas, mugs and keychains.  You can even throw in the eco-friendly tote/shopping bags to remind you that beyond Christmas, the Polar caps are melting.

But then again, there is that whole conscience ride about having to give some one a gift because it will not look right if you don't.  Am I making myself clear?  Have you also found yourselves in similar dilemmas when you tell yourself, "But I have to give him something because ... uh, I just have to." Not that you don't want to ... but then it has all come down to the level that you have to.

That, my friends, is a bitch.

It is a bitch because chances are ... you are going to give this creature anything but anything (a planner, a wall calendar, a thermos mug, a wall clock) just for the sake of clearing your conscience. 

But then, the easy way out is when you actually re-wrap a present you received last year ... and pass it onto somebody else this year because you realize that you either have no use for what you got ... or you just hated it.

Hmmm.  This brings us to even deeper thoughts about why ...

(5) I hate it when I am burdened by the pangs of conscience each time I recycle a gift.

Definition of terms: a recycled gift is one received in the previous year(s) that the recipient has decided to put back in a box, re-wrap and pass it on to another human being under the pretext that it is a thought-out offering to celebrate the Birth of Christ.

Argumentation Point for Point:

5.1.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving a gift you receive to somebody who you believe deserves it better than you. Recycling can be termed as practical and even eco-friendly. The fact that you are giving somebody something that you have no use for ... or cannot find in both conscience and taste to appreciate ... is not an act of vulgarity. Maybe a proof of frugality ... but not one that demeans the receiver or the giver.  

5.2. There is something somewhat malicious, condescending or even insulting about passing on to another something that you do not like or you think has absolutely no place in the order of your human existence.  It does not only suggest scrimping on gift-giving expenditures --- but an easy way out. Not only do you diminish the clutter, but you impersonate generosity by handing the unappreciated gift to somebody else.

But this is also why ...

(6) I hate it when I get back from the recipient the same gift I gave him previous or some earlier year.

It can be interpreted as part of the karmic cycle.

This is when you actually receive the same gift you gave somebody the year before.

One actually has the choice to make a scene (perhaps end a friendship or ... in a worst case scenario, commit murder) or to just act coy and let this fly over your head.

After all, considering the delicacy and fragility and importance of friendship, will a faux pas involving gifts be reason enough to grow completely ballistic and result to threats of death?  

Of course not. But, damn ... it certainly says a lot of things especially when the receiver gives you back the same gift while smiling and saying, "Merry Christmas."  This can only mean that he or she is trying to make a point or he or she is a textbook imbecile.

(7) I hate it when I get text messages that demand for Christmas gifts from people who I have not seen or heard from the whole year.

Oh, come on: we all know that Christmas can also show the worst in us.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: God rest ye merry gentlemen and all that BUT when people pop out of the blue and send you a text message that reads:  


... at first, you are left stunned.  The completely floored and then infuriated by the level of brazenness that some low lives can get.

Again this is when you feel so violated because of that sense of entitlement of people that they can just go up to you a demand a Christmas present.

I posted a Twitter question to my followers, asking them for suggestions as to how to respond to such a text message.  I realized that most of those following me in that social media site are actually nice and polite and true children of God.  Some had straightforward replies:


Others had witty responses:


But my reply was ... uh, far more (how shall I put this) politically incorrect and reeking of the vulgarian side of me which I hide relatively well by being such an eloquent bitch. I texted back this creature with the following line:


So there.

(8) I hate carolers who cannot sing a note to save their lives and expect to get compensated for desecrating Christmas songs.

Just a while ago, a Facebook friend complained about carolers.

Why is it that the moment you hand them your money, they stop singing and disappear?  Well, it is because you are actually encouraging these street urchins to believe that Christmas is a money-making venture!  You ask what is the best thing to do with such tone-deaf munchkins singing Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer and making it sound like Psy with dyspepsia?  Throw a pail of cold water on the buggers --- and let's see if they can still caterwaul their version of O Holy Night!

OK, so it is part of the Yuletide tradition to have carolers ...but you just wish that those who indulge in such perpetuation of centuries old customs actually have some semblance of respect for music. Or have functional vocal chords...even if this has been diminished to a fund-raising activity.

And please, I want to get teary-eyed hearing The Christmas Song (Chesnuts Roasting on the Open Fire) or I'll be Home for Christmas or Pasko na, Sinta Ko ... because of the emotions that these song carry to literally pierce my heart.  I want to cry because these songs capture if not encapsulate everything beautiful about Christmas ... and not because there is an entire platoon of tone-deaf morons who think they are singing but are actually creating havoc in the natural order of the Universe.

And speaking of the natural order of the Universe, can somebody please explain to me the next entry.

(9) I hate traffic in the city during the Christmas season.

I just need one question to be answered:  Where the f--k do all these cars come from to clog up every major thoroughfare and side street of every city in MetroManila?

There is only one way to describe the Christmas traffic: it is a perfect way to have a nervous breakdown or suffer a stroke while seated behind the wheel.  

I cannot believe the sheer volume of cars, jeepneys, buses, vans, trucks, cargo vehicles --- and even flying saucers --- clogging up every roadway in the city.  

Is it a tradition that starting 16 December ... all the cars, including those in the junkyards ... rise from the dead and flock to the streets of Manila for some insane pilgrimage to the direction of the malls?  

The saddest part is that not only are the streets constipated with all these carbon monoxide sputtering vehicles ... the drivers are irate, irritated and having various degrees of mental anguish, including some prone to paranoia or dementia.  The streets become unhealthy not only to the lungs but also the minds of drivers.  

It is not surprising that one day a driver will just snap ... and become a serial killer right at the corner intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard.

And finally....

(10) I hate the sheer volume of crowds populating the malls during the Christmas rush.  Worse, I hate all those irresponsible parents who drag their babies/toddlers right at the heart of all this fiasco.

I committed one of the greatest mistakes of my life.

At 4:00PM, 18 December, Sunday ... I went to a mall.  I should have known. I should have used my common sense.  I should have trusted my instinct.  But the inner shopaholic in me got the better ... and I ended up being at the far end of worst.

Once I thought my definition of hell was to be literally locked in a claustrophobic elevator with ten other people and a videoke that played nothing but biritera music.  It just so happened that the ten people in that elevator are all aspiring contestants for reality competitions on tv.  For all eternity, I will be hearing "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going", "I Have Nothing", "And I Will Always Love You" and other songs of similar timbre by very, very bad and ugly singers.

That for me is eternal punishment.  That for me is my concept of hell.

Until last 18 December.  

I suffer from claustrophobia.  But the moment I stepped into the mall and swept by literally a tsunami of bickering, snickering and twitting people, I did not only feel crowded. I felt masticated.  I felt like I was being pushed, shoved and caught in a current of heated, breathing consumer-obsessed creatures swallowed by the Beast of Capitalism.

To go from Point A to Point B took me forever. It did not help that I was not only protecting my crotch, I was also making sure no cunning and creative pickpocket will be given the chance to augment his loot for the day courtesy of my wallet.  Between feeling crushed and violated and abused and exploited, I realized that it was hopeless to enjoy all this.

And all the while this was happening, the pipe-in music provided a ghastly counterpoint. The music playing was Jolly Old Saint Nicolas and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

But deep inside me came an inner scream --- that primal rage that simply shouted: GET ME OUT OF HERE!

So call me Scrooge.  Call me whatever.  But don't get me wrong. There may be ten very good reasons why I cannot stand the holidays ... but I have a hundred more to prove that this is still the best time of the year to assure ourselves that ... well, we need each other.  And it's all about giving, sharing and celebrating a very special baby's birthday.

OK ... OK ... Merry Christmas, Kids.


OK, I'm glad it's soon going to be over.

It happens every year.  Nothing has changed.  You tell yourself you will not allow the natural course of the Universe to disrupt your equilibrium by the virtue of pre-planning.  You remind yourself that as soon as the "Ber"-months come marching in, you will start your Christmas shopping.  And why?

What is the advantage of starting to buy all your Christmas gifts as early as September?  Simple. You don't even need Martha Stewart to remind you that it's a good thang. It all boils down to common sense because:

(A) You tend to spend less if you have more time to shop and select gifts for the names you included in this year's list.  Panic buying means unreasonable spending.  And you remind yourself of all the sales that are ongoing all year round.  As long as you give gifts which not perishable, then why not get them before everybody else goes into a panic mode to get something if not any thing for everyone?

(B) You have greater chances of getting the most appropriate gift for each and every appointed recipient.  Because, come on ... face it!  When there is too little time to dilly-dally and to seek for the specific amid the foray of shoppers, you grab what you think is the closest thing to decent ... regardless of whether or not who you will give it to will appreciate your idea of spontaneous discrimination.

And, most, importantly:

(C) You get to spend more time to savor the act of gift-giving.

The process of gift-giving into three stages:

(A) The excitement of the hunt
(B) The ecstasy of finding the right gift ... otherwise known as the Eureka moment and
(C) The creative challenge of gift-wrapping or the art of packaging.

You see, there is a separate thrill in wrapping presents.  Whereas others settle for the cut-and-dry department store wrapping department (where you will be indulging in extra spending but leaving your fate to the skilled hands of others), there is nothing personalized about generic wrapping.  Chances are, the present will be wrapped in paper emblazoned with the logo of the store --- and everything about the gift is just so ... standard.  Yes, it will look decent. It will be neatly done. It will be impeccable in its quality. Much like a cute middle-aged nun.

But then there are only a few who would take time to indulge in such matters.  What is important is that you get through that Christmas list fast before everyone else plunges into the capitalist whirlpool while department stores are blasting "O Holy Night" mashed up with "Jingle Bell Rock."

Really: many (like me) feel ambivalent about Christmas.  Some even forget that indeed the reason why we deck the halls with boughs of holly is because we are celebrating the birth of a man who changed the entire course of human history more than two thousand years ago.

Nowadays it has all boiled down into, well ... the thirteenth month salary, the Pavlovian response to hearing Christmas carols piped into the sound systems of malls and department stores. It is all about the colorful lights and lanterns that line up the city or even embrace the very structure of buildings in the little patches of the metropolis.  It is all about the food, the tiangges, the parties.  It is all about the ham, the fruitcake, the smell of special dishes cooked during the season that fills the house with so many memories of years.

It is all about the Christmas tree.

And these are what make Christmas beautiful.  It is all about the memories --- and how we keep on adding more and more remembered moments into that treasure box that we gift wrap as a present to ourselves.  That is the gift that we unwrap each year to validate all the harassment, all the fatigue (yes, fatigue) and all the traffic we have to endure each time we have to brave the thoroughfares that cut across the city.

Christmas is both fun, funny and a nightmare.  Now that it is the Big Night right before all the reunions where friends, family and familiars will gather together to affirm and reaffirm the validity of clan and social unit.  Although there is supposed excitement in that, the truth is that this has become a ritual.  

Christmas has become a very good reason for relatives living in lands far away to come home to roost: not only are the bonds of family and friendship reinforced by the need to regather and reaffirm.  The reason goes far deeper and wider than that: it has got something to do with assurance, reinforcement and even re-energizing. Christmas becomes a reason (if not an excuse) to manifest this need for regrouping in order to assure ourselves that despite how far we are compelled to leave our homes to find work or to rebuild our own world, we still come back ... we still come home.

So despite all the effort put in buying gifts, cooking the best food and dolling up the house with fairy or LED lights, the bottom line is that these are not and can never be everything that Christmas can mean to us.  Yes, there is that joy ... another Eureka moment when you hand that gift that you braved seas of shoppers in the mall to obtain.  There is that quiet thrill in anticipating the reaction of the person the moment he unwraps his or her present.

But more than that, it is the joy of knowing that there is someone who you thought about, tried to figure out and eventually rewarded with a gift to show that there is something between the two of you ... in the context of the season.

Christmas is both a sad and happy affair.  It has got nothing to do with how much you've got ... or what sort of presents you gave and received this year.

Christmas is happy because it brings people together.  But it is sad that materialism has so crept in that we often mistake the ties that bind us with what we can buy rather than what we can feel.  If it has reached a point of quantifying your love by what you can offer in terms of the purchasable and the perishable, then Christmas becomes nothing more than capitalist exploitation.

Christmas is happy because it gives us an excuse to be foolish, to return to our childhood and to baste on the familiar to give us a sense of tradition.  But it is sad for those who have no one and nowhere to come home to ... because, most definitely, Christmas is not a good time to spend alone.

Many of us are relieved. By this time, all the dishes have been cooked and ready to be served.  The kids are restless because they can't keep their eyes (and hands) from the gifts that are deposited under the beautiful tree. And a number of us are too exhausted yet mustering our energies to get us through this night ... and the whole day of tomorrow when the endless family reunions demand exchanges of anecdotes, memories and Instagram photos to record yet another year in our lives.

And after all that trouble of having to plow through traffic, get the right gift, have it wrapped in the most creative and exquisite fashion, tomorrow morning the entire living room shall be a mountain of debris of torn Christmas paper, loose ribbons and stray pieces of transparent Scotch tape.  After all that trouble ... there will be another Christmas coming soon next year.

Then it is back to the same cycle all over again.

Friday, October 19, 2012


It's true.

You wake up one morning and you realize that youth is gone.  Those days sped by too quickly --- that you were either too busy to realize that your "younger and more careless days" have gone or you were thinking much older than your age that you completely forgot how it is to be young at all.

Whatever which way, what they all said before was true.  

Youth speeds by --- and is wasted on the youth.  One thing is that you actually believed that youth was going to last forever ... or you kept procrastinating on being young because you always wanted to get ahead of everybody. Unfortunately when you finally decided to do all the things you always wanted to do you realize that it doesn't look or feel all that good at all. Or you don't have the energy to do half of what you should have done when you still had the strength to do it.

For instance,  there must be a deadline, a cut-off age when anyone can wear carrot-cut or skinny jeans.  

There comes a certain point in both the male, female or even gender bender's life when wearing skinny jeans becomes a death-defying act of courage --- or ridicule.  Maybe there should also be a law passed by Congress that sets a maximum age limit for women to wear leggings or jeggings or whatever it is you call that aberration of fashion. It is either that or a minimum penalty tantamount to bail can be posted by anyone who chooses to dress in a fashion meant for people half their ages --- with sincere hopes of impersonating youth.

Well, there are certain cases when the violation of other people's sensibilities reach the level of the criminal.  Or the criminally insane.  There is a difference between keeping young ... from desperately clinging onto youth.

But, of course, there are those who would say that age is just a number.  You are as old as you think you are --- or you make yourself to be.  And there is also such great truth in that.

Perhaps the worst thing that you can ever do to yourself is when you keep insisting that you should act your age.  When you come to think of it, how should we behave anyway at any given point in our lives?  It is all a matter of knowing exactly what you want, where you want to go ... and who you want to be.  More so, it has got everything to do with who you have become.  

Unfortunately, to arrive at very definite conclusions about all these is a lifelong task.

Because the point is that until the day we die we will still be asking ourselves as to who we are --- or what we have become --- or what else we can be.  This is something that should not have age limits --- becoming.  As long as you can still become someone else --- something else --- or whatever --- then you still keep the right to live.

That is if you choose to have a life and not be chained to having a living. Those are two things so completely different from one another: having a life and having a living.  Some people mistake their means of living as their lives.  That doesn't really leave much of a life for them.  Ask me: I have been there: once upon a time I believed that I was only as good as the work I created or how much applause I received or how much money I can stow in the bank.

Now I realize that it is really a lot of crap.  I know people far richer than me who actually think they are alive but are just a notch above being zombies to their work.  

I can also tell you stories about some of my colleagues who are so much younger than me but who have sacrificed their lives for their careers (because they want to believe that their validation can come if they are good, obedient soldiers) and I will tell you what they went through while undergoing chemotherapy.

And how did they get there? Because they stagnated while deluding themselves that they are growing.   

You have to keep on asking --- because you keep on changing. And by changing, you are growing.  Oh, and we can go into all those arguments about the only constant thing in life is change, blah, blah,blah ... then swim into a cesspool of cliches.  Regardless.  It's true.  You cannot be the same person for more than two years.

I have always believed that to keep people interested in you, you must be interested in yourself.

You stop being interesting when you start thinking of nothing more but yourself --- or how great you are --- or how much money you have made --- how many cars you own --- and how you have enough Hermes and Louis Vuitton bags to last you for the next five reincarnations.  Because, my dear, there is another truth that has been told and retold a zillion times before and it will only hit you when you reach that age when you start burying friends and peers. No amount of karats, Birkins and trust funds can guarantee you heaven --- or even impressive memories among the living that you have left behind.

You cannot take any of the living proofs of one's mortal success when you finally become (as Professor Keating of Dead Poets Society said) "food for marigolds."  They actually mean nothing ... because all that really matters is just how much you make out of your life and what you make do with the years that have been loaned to you.

And that again is what makes life all so beautiful and interesting.

That is why my most miserable moments in life are when I feel I need to do something interesting with myself and I can't figure out what it is that I should do.  

Admittedly, I get bored doing the same thing over and over again --- that I tell myself that if I cannot move onto to another phase at my age and after all the years that I have been doing more of the same, then what is the point?  

There is nobody to blame but myself for it because ... oh, come on, let's face it: we cannot go through life blaming somebody, everybody or any body for our personal frustrations and failures.

You are who you are at any given point in time because you allowed it to be so.  

You made the decisions that eventually got you there. You may have committed mistakes (but who doesn't?) but you don't marinate in your own miserable juices feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, you learn.  Then you do what you are supposed to: you move on --- hopefully with stronger and with more wisdom.  It's sounds as simple as that although in practice it is not. But that is the way it is.

Nothing is more pathetic than a drama queen who validates his or her existence by sharing his or her sob stories to others without any process of learning whatsoever.  That does not warrant admiration but admonition.  Anyone who is addicted to weeping is such a loser ... that it is also this creature's decision to be a magnet for tragedies.

So what am I really trying to say?

Youth goes away too fast, beauty dissolves too easily through the years and science can only help you to a certain extent.

When all beauty fades, you only have Botox and all the available technology to aid any form of preservation but more likely than not --- you end up nothing more than beautifully preserved like something out a taxidermist's workshop.

When all else goes away, what you realize that indeed there is nothing wrong with the natural process of aging because we all go through this --- and what is important is that we do it with dignity and with enthusiasm and excitement.

I will be fifty-eight years of age in a matter of hours and I have come to realize a lot of things:

(A) If I were leading a normal nine-to-five job, I would be up for forced retirement in two years by Philippine Labor laws.

(B) I can no longer boogie for thirty-six hours straight without ending up really cranky and resembling somebody who is either undergoing critical hot flushes or suffering from a dangerous personality disorder.

(C) I am out of the market as far as the dating department is concerned because in a highly digitized youth oriented world, anyone past the age of 35 has worldly use only as fertilizer.

(D) My capacity for patience has diminished tremendously because I feel it is a waste of time to tolerate just so much of stupidity, incompetence or even vapidity.

So that was when I realized I could take the dangerous route of being a cranky Uber Bitch quite typical of any menopausal mammal who is saddled with textbook hormone imbalance. 

That was also the time I accepted the fact that wisdom comes with age --- together with certain necessities like Metamucil, supplements like Vitamin E, Lecithin, garlic oil, fish oil and Vitamin C overloads.

But again ... so what?  If there was one big resolution that I am most proud of was the fact that seven years ago, I decided to go back to the gym ... and has stuck to that routines at least four times a week ( and sometimes hitting the workout space as much as six times when my schedule permits it) for at least two hours per session.

A friend of mine asked, "What the hell are you doing to yourself?  Do you actually believe you can still train for the 2016 Olympics?"  But I have a much higher goal: I am self-indulging.  I am doing this for nobody but myself because I owe it to myself ... even at 58 ... no, because I am turning 58.  I want to be better looking at 58 than I was at 48 or even 38! When I join the spinning classes at Fitness First and see kids half my age unable to last the 45 minutes high impact cardiovascular exercises, I smile proudly and tell myself, "You have done well, Old Man. You are doing very, very well."

Another big change I put into my life five years ago was when I decided to stop smoking.

I found it stupid to keep my nicotine addiction while indulging in non-stop workouts at the gym.  That seems to be an exercise not only in contradiction but also self-deception.  I did not require nicotine patches, electric cigarettes or even a guru to tell me to kick the habit. I just stopped. 

It did not require the the implementation of the Sin Tax for me to throw away my Philip Morris packs and only use my Flick lighters for the tea candles used in aromatherapy.  I simply thought of myself ... and learned to love myself far much more than any dependence substance to make my life any easier.  Loving yourself is a far better solution to turn your existence into something delightful... certainly not the smell of tobacco that clings onto clothes, curtains and even the lining of your mouth.

My biggest validation does not come from trophies that, after about an hour of celebration, lands on a shelf to collect dust and which people forget what the hell they were there for.

My biggest joys do not come from all the praises I receive because of my work ... and not because of who I am.

I am turning 58 in a few hours and I think I have found a better definition of fulfillment.

A number of months ago, I was invited to a dinner at the Canadian Ambassador's residence together with a bunch of extremely interesting and intelligent people gathered for the purpose of discussing the effects of social media.  I precisely remember the Ambassador's assistant seated beside Karen Davila and the subject of conversation led to my age.  When I was asked how old I was, I smiled and said (rather proudly), "Oh, I am fifty-seven."

Both Karen Davila and the Ambassador's assistant were stunned. The Canadian diplomatic officer said, "What? No way!"

I smiled.  Yes, and I am turning 58.  And I have decided to be very, very happy.  I have a life.

I can actually fit into a pair of skinny jeans and not look ridiculous.  And I know as long as I love the life I choose to live, then I shall be ... well, yes: ageless.

Friday, September 28, 2012


It's official.

The kerida is the new hot pan de sal.  

In other words, in na in na ngayon ang mga kabit.  Sorry, ever-loving-ever-loyal-ever-suffering wives.  The mistress is the new flavor of the month. As a matter of fact, she is selling faster than ... uh, chicken inasal ... because box office results irrevocably and irrefutably point to the triumph of the kulasisi over the maybahay or the ilaw ng tahanan.

Yes, people of this archipelago that has remained the only nation on the planet not to recognize divorce:  in our stuffy, constipated, ultra-rightist Catholic country where condoms are considered the rubbers of Satan --- we are now celebrating the age of the commercial other woman.

But wait!  Lest we be misunderstood by this celebratory tribute, certain clarifications and qualifications need to be resolved.

Two blockbuster movies in the span of one year assure not only the movie producers but also the public that mabenta talaga ang mga home wreckers.  

But these are not your traditional buwisit sa buhay women who come as curses meant to facilitate the downfall of man because of his untamed libido.  No, no, no!  We have evolved farther than that. We have advanced tremendously.

After all, the phenomenon of the querida mia in Philippine popular culture has been around since Pinoy machismo became a quality measuring admiration rather than admonition.  There is no doubt about that either.  When politicians who reach the higher if not the highest offices of the land flaunt their mistresses and put them on the same pedestal as their legal wives, what can you expect?

To exercise pagka-barako, you need willing and able women to fulfill the macho needs.

In a nation that boasts of such precious devotion to the tenets of Christianity, we turn the blind side on men who can't keep their zippers closed and who need to affirm their masculinity by spreading their seed not only shamelessly but with a sense of pride.

Thus rose the status of the querida. Well, yes: gone were the days when women who are certified adulterers were made to wear scarlet letters to isolate them from the rest of law-abiding (ergo decent) society.  Nowadays, it has become a status to be a kabit. 

(And sometimes they are even better dressed than the real wives.  But that, I guess, is part of one's professional requirements, di ba?)

I remember quite clearly someone of significance in local society declare that,"If a woman chooses to be a kabit, she better be a big-time mistress than some slut who settled for the dregs of the earth."  Oo nga naman. If a woman has decided that she will go to hell and be condemned for all eternity, then she better make the most out of her human existence.  "If you are going to the fires of hell, you might as well be dressed in diamonds and brought to the gateway of Satan in an expensive car and not riding an overloaded passenger jeep."

Yes, there is great logic and practicality in that.

Considering how mistresses are being portrayed onscreen nowadays --- it is all about practicality thrown in with a dash of really intense emotion called --- uh, true love.  Self-effacing, unconditional and almost masochistic love.

But the argument goes much farther than the more than P200M gross of the most successful movie about romanticized adultery. 

It has everything to do with the metamorphoses of the femme fatale from vicious slut to not-so-virgin martyr. 

This is, after all, the digital age when women can have the time of their lives and unashamedly go around carrying paperback copies of Shades of Grey and announce that they are titillated by the prospect of an S and M relationship.  Nanang ko po! This is the age when kolehiyalas and even upright mall-shopping wives can actually declare that they fantasize the use of handcuffs and whips in their bedrooms as long as the male in the room looks good in an Armani or Hugo Boss.

What else can shock you?

So what's the big deal about boinking a married man if you are ... in love?

Oh, but we have seen this dilemma portrayed and personified since the heyday of Tagalog Ilang-Ilang and Virgo Productions. And that was the time when only twenty per cent of Filipino movies were in color. This is the same stuff as the Lolita Rodriguez-Eddie Rodriguez-Marlene Dauden love triangles in Sapagkat Kami ay Tao Lamang.  

This was no longer the age of Carol Varga or Bella Flores who portrayed husband poachers by looking like harpies, complete with arched eyebrows drawn pencil thin, red lips and nails painted in equally sinful crimson to look like talons.  The modern day keridas are vulnerable lost girls (Anne Curtis in No Other Woman) or vestal virgins who surrendered their virtue out of love and sacrifice (Bea Alonso in The Mistress).  

Twenty-first century mistresses justify their fallen status because "they are confused" or "they are in dire need of love" or worse ... "they did this out of need." This is the same cry for help that Lovi Poe portrayed in Thy Neighbor's Wife.  This is the dilemma so emphasized by the character of Sari from the screenplay of Vanessa Valdez.  And this is the interpretation of that obsessive character played by Anne Curtis in Roel Bayani's box office hit.

They were all victims of love.  And that changes the rules of the game, you know.  Love!

All put simply --- times have changed.  The kerida is now the victim. You got that right: the other woman is the aggrieved party. She has assumed the role of the suffering waif because circumstances have conspired for her to be in that fallen state ... and if she has hurt anybody, it is because she has no choice but to do so.  Fate has been so unkind that for her to find happiness, she unwittingly hurts somebody ... who just happens to be another woman.

The mistress ... rather than the legal and recognized wife ... is the new heroine.

Whew! If anybody should be so narrowminded or bigoted to condemn a poor girl for being waylaid on the twisted and damned path, then shame on you.  Hindi ka na naawa?  She only got there because ... she needed to do so ... and more so, because she fell in love.

A moment of thought here.  And really serious contemplation. 

Is there actually absolution introduced to the situation because of the circumstances that compelled a woman to have an affair with a married man?  Was it not her choice as well to be in such a situation ...and even if the legal wife is as despicable as the witch who took care of Rapunzel or even the stepmother who treated Cinderella really shabbily ... she is still the legal wife, right?

(As my mother used to say when issues like these were discussed on our family dining table, "Buntot mo, hila mo!" You chose to be in that situation ... so don't go around saying that you had no alternative! She would usually add, "Tonta!" to emphasize her moral stand about mistresses.)

But then again, we are not talking about real life here.  Yes ... this  is called romance.

Movies are not meant to be taken as guidelines for evolving social behavior.  They are merely escapist entertainment... that just happens to shape social behavior and determine moral fiber.

Box office success is measured by all the swooning and braying of the audience by the sheer electricity of John Lloyd Cruz' puppy dog eyes looking at Bea Alonso's angelic face ... or meaty, beefy Derek Ramsay caressing the most desired body in the seven thousand isles of the Republica de Filipinas called Anne Curtis. 

What is even more interesting is that hoards of women ... middle aged women and housewives ... are actually crying and cheering for the kabit, watching and re-watching these movies over and over again.  This made a behavioral scientist wonder, "Are all these repressed Pinays actually fantasizing about being the kabits because they are so bored being the wives?"

Or they could be praying that in their next lifetime they will be reincarnated looking as beautiful as Bea or Anne?

I wouldn't be surprised.  

"Do you think if their husbands or boyfriends started practicing what these guys believe as their right to infidelity ... that all these handkerchief-squeezing women sympathizing with the cinematic kabits will also feel an iota of sympathy of the woman stealing their men?"

Hmmmm ... I thought ...

"Sige, tingnan nga natin ..." said my behavioral scientist friend.

I replied, "Eh, siguro kaya nga they want to be kabits na rin. For a change. For the experience."

After all, the kabit has more fun, leads a more exciting life ... and if you are going to look like Lovi Poe, Anne Curtis or Bea Alonso ... well, why not?  The kabit has become the new status symbol as media (not only films but also television) seems to say that, "It's OK to indulge in adultery because it adds spice and drama to life."

And at times like these ... who couldn't use a touch of drama here and there?

There is no room to be bored, otherwise you will be boring. So go for it, Girl!  There's that fairy tale affirmation in the movies!

But I guess the zealots of the Catholic Church are too preoccupied fighting their battle with the RH Bill to really give much concern to a trivial problem like this. It is really so harmless ... and even entertaining.  Yet the indispensability of condoms in such liaisons is practically a cardinal rule, right?

Let's not go there.

Besides, escapism ... especially in romance ... is the national anesthesia.  It keeps us from thinking about the circus in the senate, the Scarborough Shoal and December 21, 2012.

So I guess ... it is on with A Secret Affair --- coming soon at a theater near you.

And more kabits to come. Oh, these are such exciting amoral times.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


I am not even going to discuss politics.  Not even the Reproductive Health Bill which is the reason why this national perfidy is taking place.  

I am writing out of exasperation.  Add disgust to that.  And a feeling of utmost disillusionment.

I feel exasperated because this has been going on for weeks now and the level of discussion and argumentation has literally gone to the dogs.  No, let us not insult our canine friends to show how cheap and low it got.  Let us just say that I feel exasperated not only because of the brazenness exhibited by the events. I am even more dismayed by some reactions.

I am disgusted because this had to happen to people who should be the first to make sure that events like these do not and should not take place.  If the very people who should serve as examples of civility, decency and just downright respect for what is right from what is wrong --  are the ones who foist their sense of (a) entitlement  (b)ignorance or (c) unreasonable empowerment, then how do we expect anything better to happen to our country?

I feel disillusioned because the people who should be saying something are either keeping quiet or mumbling (whether apathetically or apologetically) that "it's all right" and that "we do this all the time" --- or worse, "what's the big deal?"

I am sorry, Sirs. But for me this is a big deal.

This is a big deal because people look up to your kind to embody the best and brightest of the country --- because you are wherever you are because we, the citizenry, placed you there.

This is a big deal because you give such casual statements, turn your backs on us and tell us to go fly a kite and not make an issue out of something that will be forgotten by the time Manny Pacquiao has another fight.

This is a big deal for me because I should respect the chosen individuals who have been privileged with the responsibility to make the laws of my country.  I would like to think that you guys are there not out of birth right --- but because the people put you there to protect us --- and to tell us: This is the way we are going to do it and, as your Chief Executive has said over and over and over again, this time we are going to follow the narrow but straight road.

We are not tolerating bullshit.  We are not allowing abuse of power.  We are going catch, try and get rid of all the hoods and hoodlums with all the power and might that is given to us because of our positions.

In other words, you are the elders of the land.  We look up to you because your actions should speak louder than your promises. Even your privilege speeches.  Why do you think the country literally fell on its knees crying when Jesse Robredo left too soon?  Because he didn't talk much. He just did what he had to do his way --- without drum rolls or chest beating.

OK. I should be the last to say that I am the paragon of good morals and that I aspire to be the next Filipino vying for canonization. That is not in my roster of present ambitions nor will it ever be a part of my bucket list.  But I still believe that there is what is right ... from what is wrong.

I am exasperated, disgusted and disillusioned because I am a teacher.

I have been a lot of things --- but I enjoy being a teacher most.

I guess in everything we choose to do in life, we are all teachers.  

We become teachers because others observe our actions, learn from our decisions even our mistakes and listen to our words.  

Even politicians are teachers because the country sees how they conduct their affairs through their intelligence, wisdom and demeanor.  The citizens look up to elected officials because they have been entrusted with the responsibility to draw the blueprint of the future of their constituents.

I am exasperated, disgusted and disillusioned because there is such irresponsibility and insensitivity with what is happening.

It is irresponsible to shrug off dishonesty and treat it like it's one of those things or that it is a fact of life. It is not only irresponsible but dangerous when the Elders of the Land are the ones saying this or not saying or doing anything at all to correct the mistakes.

It is insensitive because ... what moral authority can any teacher have if one of their students submits an assignment or a piece of research ripped off from another source without acknowledgement or attribution? How can a teacher say, "You are going to flunk this course because what you did was wrong ...and that this is cheating ... this is deplorable ... this is unacceptable?" What if the students looks at the teacher straight in the eye and replies, "But don't they do this all the time? So why is it such a crime when I do it?"

What sort of signals are we sending young people by all this calculating and strategic behavior?

Yes, we can laugh and make jokes about this.  

We can create worldwide trends bashing allegedly guilty parties and make such ingenious memes  to spread all over the internet to celebrate if not castrate personalities who we think have IQs that can challenge the depths of the Philippine Deep. We can try to outdo each other in concocting the cutest to the meanest jokes as if to immortalize this moment of buffoonery.

But we are not realizing the depth and scope of the consequences.  We may be cringing with disgust or anger at the turn of recent events and refuse to be amused by the circus --- but what sort of messages are we sending to our kids?  

That all this is just another bad joke?

That something wrong becomes right just because it is being done by so many at some time or the other?  Worse, it is a practice within the sacred halls of power in the kingdom?

That the newly discovered Eleventh Commandment is Thou Shalt Not Get Caught while the Twelfth reads Thou Shalt Not Admit a Mistake Even When Caught With Your Skivvies Down Your Ankles?

That you can just turn around and ignore the allegations without confronting the issues and addressing the problems because one day people will get sick and tired talking about it ... and the problem will go away?

What is funny is that ... they are right. We forget too easily because another newsworthy event will eventually pop and all will be forgotten? Or almost.  That in a year's time, no one will even remember these questions regarding propriety, honesty and ...even just good manners because other people have taken center stage and claimed the spotlight.

One day the laughter will die down ... and we will run out of jokes. 

But the signals have been sent loud and clear to the population ... the young population.

Everything will be all right ... if you just wait long enough for everyone to forget that there was (once upon a time) THIS problem.

Now this got me thinking: all this numbness and shortness of memory will lead us to amorality.  And that is far worse than just being immoral. That is when nobody give a damn about being right or wrong because we have surrendered all the distinction.

Instead, we just choose to laugh about it.