Sunday, January 29, 2012


I remember two of my late maternal grandmother's favorite words: "adelantado" and "antipatiko."  

My Lola Tating would really grit her teeth whenever she said those terms to describe people who have crossed the boundaries of what she felt was important to one's dignidad and amor propio.

But I guess that sort of thing is all but gone nowadays, right?  Together with the generation of grandparents ... and even parents, the way of the world is so different now that what was considered good manners and right conduct about thirty years ago are now archaic behavior. You know, something that approximates gladiators bashing their brains out with clubs and chains ... or Christians being fed to lions.  That sort of thing.

If my Lola Tating were alive today and heard half the things I hear ever so often, I would ask myself --- what would she have done? What would she have said?  Oh, she would have gone into her trance and start sputtering complete paragraphs in Spanish machine-gun style which nobody in the household understood except my Mom.  But even if I look back with amusement at the way my Lola would give such premium to manners ... and propriety, it still and will always make a lot of sense.

Even if we all have to concede that time brings such inevitable changes that not even Bible-wielding, Miss Etiquette tome bashing zealots can stop, one can only look at the scenario and ask ourselves --- how far or better yet  --- where have we really gone?

Is something apparently wrong done by too many already considered right?  (Is that how you call a certain social practice --- or malpractice --- a part of evolving tradition?)  

What is that thin dividing line between straightforward honesty to in-your-face crassness?    In a world that demands pagpapakatotoo and chill ka lang, what is that demarcation between being downright true to one's self from being insensitive, inconsiderate ... and even textbook bastos?

Worse, what is the margin that divides pagpapa-cute from being apparently nakakaumay, nakakadiri, nakakaduwal or even nakakasuka?  Whatever.  We are living in an age that celebrates the various shades of gray that there is no more clear distinction between black and white.  And what makes it worse is that nobody really cares.

I imagine I am writing this because I have reached that point when I keep asking myself if something I experienced was actually a sample of kabastusan or have I just transformed myself into an official fossil?  Despite all my attempts to remain au courant (I know the lyrics of the choruses of Moves Like Jagger and Superbass!) and within the groove of the world below thirty years of age (I can use steady and astig in six different ways in all possibilities of available sentence forms!), I still get appalled by certain seemingly acceptable behavior.

For instance, has it been considered cute to openly, blatantly, shameless and unequivocally not ask but demand a gift?

Case Study 1:

    ME:      Hey, how are you doing?  Merry Christmas!
    PERSON:  Merry Christmas! Gift ko?

At this point, my entire body temperature drops as I stare at the creature waiting for him to acknowledge that he actually gave a punchline.  But nothing follows. Instead he says:

    PERSON:  Saan na ang gift ko?

And when the conversation has reached this point, I give myself two options which include:

a) Smile, give a perfunctory so apparently fake goodbye then leave.
b) Go into a tirade that goes: "Kapal ng mukha mo ... ang tanda-tanda mo na, naghihintay ka pa ng Christmas gift? Ano ka? Special child?!"


Case 2:

      PERSON:   Huy, s'an ka na? I was trying to call you last
                week pa?
      ME    :   Oh, I was in Boracay with some friends.
      PERSON:   Wow, saya naman ... Pasalubong ko?

I do not have to even wait for some really cheesy canned music to come in blasting from the Universe to redeem the level of cantankerous brazenness of creature pretending to be homo sapien demanding a pasalubong from ... uh, the second most beautiful beach in the world?

What did he actually expect?  A t-shirt? A pair of board shorts screaming EAT ME IN BORACAY or a bottle of smuggled white sand taken specifically in front of the most expensive resort in Station 1?  Do you actually expect any souvenir from Boracay? If I had my way I would take him there and have a tribal tattoo done right on his face.

My question is --- really now? Is it socially acceptable nowadays to be downright kapal-muks because it is supposed to be cute?  My Lola Tating would have screamed, Cabron!

Maybe this is nitpicking.  Maybe this is only one very apparent sign that menopause is on the way but there are so many changes in social behavior that bother me.  For instance:

(a)  Yes, there are numerous benefits to group texting ... It certainly spares you the trouble of writing by hand or even having something printed or undergo risograph just to wish all your friends a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year ... or Kung Hei Fat Whatever, right?  Just press the keys ... then send all, and even your friends who have died six years ago and who still hold a sentimental part in your heart will receive the message in his corner in heaven.

But when you get a message like, "Kumusta ka?  Ano ang gawa mo?  (How are you?  What are you doing?)" or "Saan ka? (Where are You?)" for a text message, then you certainly feel so insulted.  You know that whoever sent this message is not merely greeting his world of friends a good morning but is actually waiting for some nincompoop in the herd to actually reply and acknowledge his existence.

Sheeeesh.  Now talking about vampires, right? Such energy vampires ... that telecom companies make money out of!

(b) There are people who really go out of their way to make you feel bad, right? And worse, they make it sound like they are saying all that crap because it is for your own good.  That is something that really gets my goat.

I have told my friends time and again ... that according to approximately six books on modern etiquette written within the past fifteen years by at least four authors that ... it is bad manners to call anyone fat.  Can I repeat that just for the sake of those who chanced on this blog and still moves his or her lips while trying to decipher what is onscreen?

It is considered impolite to call anyone fat.  Come to think of it, no one has any right to comment on the addition of substantial or inconsequential weight (or its reverse) to anybody not unless you are the person's (1) personal trainer   (2) physical therapist  (3) caregiver or (4) family physician.

Does it give such a rush of pleasure for anyone to say, "Huy, ha? Ang taba mo ngayon, ha?"  (Hey ... you're so fat nowadays, huh?) Does this also imply that the speaker gloating over the Human Porker is flaunting his or her supine features that boast of exquisite curves or near perfect fat percentage?

For whatever reason --- such questions and observations do not indicate friendship ... but insensitivity ... not unless the other party is practically as big as a buffet cabinet and is about to flop over and bust his entire circulatory system.  That case, you do not need gentle persuasion to warrant the attention of your friend about his weight.

You need an ambulance.

(c) Well, I never lie about my age.  I am actually proud of it. I am proud of my age because I know I still look good having gone this far and with even farther more to go.

But I now understand why some people --- especially women  --- would rather reveal the pin codes of their ATM cards or reveal the exact size (down the millimeters) of their husbands' penises than expose their real biological age.  (Yet I know some women who would also shout to the world their real age, then strike a pose.  They would scream, "Yahoo, I am fifty-something!" or "Proud at sixty-five" --- Pak! Posing! Snap-snap!)  These are women who spend forty five percent of their waking hours in the gym taking up Pilates, Body Jam or Retro Dancing or Belly Dancing or even Pole Dancing ... OR ... These women have bodies that can best approximate that owned by the Bride of Frankenstein.  They are proud of their timelessness brought about by every available option and advantage brought by science.

But anyway, that is only half the argument. One has to be sensitive (and must have very good reasons) to ask for another person's age if it is apparent that the other party is past his or her golden years.  Worse are those who ask for your age, then go: 

"Talaga lang, ha?  Fifty-seven ka lang? No way!"
(Your immediate dilemma is which do you choose: give him a slow and painful death that would make him beg you to end his life or a quick blow that should send him straight to hell where he can ask the age of Satan.)

or worse: after replying to his question about your age, he goes ---

"Wow, really? Ang tanda mo na pala."

(That does not require any dilemma whatsoever.  Death should be instant but still painful to which you will justify by saying, "I am just making sure you do not get to feel old in this lifetime.")

Ah, well ... it is as if issues like these are still considered big.  There are those who will feel that this sensitivity of mine is simply kaartehan ... but still.  I still believe in what my Lola Tating used to say about people who are adelantado and antipatiko.  

I still believe my lola was right.

Friday, January 27, 2012


"A friend overhears during MAMMA MIA opening: "The best! That's why I watch only Broadway plays because it's ALWAYS excellent compared to local productions. Pinoy musicals are corny. Sometimes I dont even understand their Tagalog." 

The statements above formed the shoutout posted this morning by my friend Vince de Jesus  which completely created a brain crash of sorts for the rest of my day.

Last night was a big event with the Gala Performance of Mamma Mia , right?  Everybody who was anybody or wanted to think they were some body was there. The gliteratti and the culturatti were well counted.  And that was expected.  Nothing was wrong with that.  I mean if you really want to watch the umpteenth revival of a musical featuring the songs of the Abba and dance to the tune of Dancing Queen or weep/be moved to an ultimate significant human experience the moment the lead actress bursts into:  

I don't wanna talk about things we've gone through,
Though it's hurting me, now it's history.

then it is fine with everybody.  The rule of law is: Man, if you can afford the ticket prices and you have the time and the get-up and the social manners to cavort in fine company --- then go!

But what is particularly upsetting is when you hear fellow Filipinos bark comments such as the one narrated by Vincent as overheard by his friend at the lobby of the theater.  

To come up with such a determinedly and proudly bigoted statement to allegedly prove to anyone within ear range that he/she/it is:

a) sophisticated enough to appreciate all the fine things that First World culture can offer, including a glimpse of what this creature feels is the mammon of all high cultures ---Broadway! --- thereby making him/her/it notches above the rest of the millions of his/her/its countrymen who speak in ----- ewwwwww --- Filipino!

b) capable of spending money to polish his/her/its spirit with the niceties brought about not only by his/her/its allegedly private (perhaps even foreign) education but also with the benefits brought by an environment surrounded by true culture!

c) merely subsisting and co-existing with all the rest of his/her/its kababayans, tolerant but not accepting of their inherent kabakyaan, kababawan and kabaduyan but still keeping that polite front in the practice of daily condescension in the time-held traditions of the senyoritos/senyoritas must still exhibit civilized behavior towards their muchachas/chimays. 

Granted that is so, do we really take it against these fine prince and princesses of the so-called privileged classes to think that works in the local language --- that is Pilipino productions --- are basically corny and incomprehensible, if not lacking in depth and therefore their attention?

Let me just react to this mind-boggling scenario with three points:

a) Mamma Mia is an amusing musical but it does not exactly require genius nor does it provoke a lot of mental juices to understand what the whole thing is all about.  Yeah, there is this whole visual delight --- and all the familiar songs of Abba --- but, Honey, this ain't even Sondheim, right? I mean, will this little piece of Filipino royalty claiming that Broadway is the best appreciate real masterpieces like Into the Woods --- or Sweeney Todd  -- or Sunday in the Park with George?  Of course not. I bet you, this self-proclaimed culture vulture can't appreciate any musical where he/she/it can't hum any melody, right?  

So I imagine this specimen of Filipino cultural mutation will prefer singing I am What I am instead of Somewhere from West Side Story because the former has a disco version.  I betcha.

b) And what's this hasty generalization about all Filipino musicals being corny?

I, together with so many Filipino theater people, who have worked so hard in bringing Filipino musical talent to the fore take offense in such careless and --- well, idiotic statements --- from some piece of either misguided/miseducated or simply demented cultural snob whose only claim to fame is a new outfit from Forever 21.  At this point, it no longer matters from what theater group you belong ... whether you are from Repertory Philippines (that has staged one of the best productions of Sweeney Todd ever) or PETA ( who can dare question the popularity of Caredivas?) or Gantimpala Productions or Trumpets or.... It does not matter any more.  There is a concerted effort to bring back life to Philippine theater.  More so ... to give the theater artist who has sacrificed far too much to pursue, hone and excel his or her craft: to give them the respect they deserve is the only decent thing to do.

But I guess if you think that anything homegrown in your homeland is corny and incapable of excellence, then you cannot possibly be capable of any form of decency.  

If you have to live off foreign bodies, then that makes you a parasite.  And cultural parasites are basically amoral creatures ... as authentic as the Hermes and LVs sold in Greenhills.


c) There is nothing wrong with foreign productions being brought here.  The foreign artists make money from us ... and we hopefully can pick up a point or two.  Belonging to the arts is an endless process of learning and evolution.  Anyone who shuts his mind and insulates himself from the rest of world will suffer from atrophy, wither and die.

But there must be that clear-cut distinction between appreciation and blind adoration. To succumb to a mentality that still insists that anything foreign is better than anything made here (in this day and age) is reserved for retards.  OK, that was a politically incorrect term. I mean, nobody ever calls anyone retards any more. But I will still call these people retards because I have absolutely no respect for them and they do not deserve political correctness.

Remember that Lea Salonga together Leo Valdez, Junix Innocian, Monique Wilson, Isay Alvares, Janine Desaderio, Pinky Amador, Joanna Ampil, Robert Sena and the whole group of brilliant Filipinos who rocked London's West End with Miss Saigon never gave up their Filipino identities and instead flaunted their origins with singular pride.  And to this day, they have earned the respect of musical communities on all sides of the oceans ... because they were proud of who they were and where they came from ... and how they want the tradition of excellent Filipino musicality to be passed onto generations.

Somehow we all thank God for giving us not only such talented artists but dedicated Filipinos who are exerting effort to perpetuate the tradition of musical theater despite all odds ... and mutants who think that by sounding superior to the rest of the population, they can escape from being Pinoys.

Unfortunately some people who think that by acquiring the right accent, the proper brand of education or even overdosing on glutathion can somehow disguise their being ...uh, Pinoy.  But, let me quote somebody these people are supposedly familiar with:

"There are rich people. And there are those with money." --- Coco Chanel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Maybe it is because I had a really bad week.  This is not exactly the best way to open my blogs for the year but ...  So the Water Dragon entered and I was down with a bronchial infection.  Three other friends of mine were also stricken by some respiratory ailment or another, blaming everything from pollution in these parts ... to the destruction brought to our biological systems because of climate change. Whatever.

Somehow we are not expected to answer all these questions fruitfully. And even if the bad week is now over (as I am present progressively recuperating after days of gulping down enough water to fill up a pool and so much dosage of CoAmoxiclav and paracetamol to beat this infection), I still believe 2012 is going to be a great year.

While in this semi-pathetic state of feeling perennially sluggish and suffering chills for almost a week, I have also realized a handful of very important things.  Call them morsels of wisdom fed to you while lying on a curtained cubicle at the ER of Saint Lukes with a kind nurse puncturing your left hand to insert the intravenous needle: you can only be as miserable as you make yourself to be.

Now wait: do not get me wrong. I did not get into an entire "I Whistle A Happy Tune" state of mind.  Nor did I start warning the sweet nurse that if she comes close to going beyond my threshold of pain (I also warned her about my fear of needles --- or just the sheer act of being punctured) that I would scream loud enough to give a cardiac arrest to the patient situated in the adjacent cubicle who is suffering from severe food poisoning (as far as I gathered eavesdropping from his conversation with the attending ER doctor --- it was the dinuguan he ate last Sunday lunch, still taking effect on a Wednesday evening. I surmised he was worse off than me).  Instead of feeling oh-so-sorry for a) being all alone in the ER chilling with fever and being hydrated and fed with paracetamol intravenously and b) hearing all these whimpering, crying, suffering patients overpopulating what must be the busiest department of a major hospital in Quezon City --- I told myself, well, it could have been worse.

Besides, despite all my obsession for working out and the fistful of supplements I take everyday (name it, I gulp it down: Multi-vitamins plus extra dosages of Vitamin C and E, Soy Lecithin, Fish Oil, garlic oil), your body's gotta give sometime or the other.  And who am I to think that despite my religious devotion to the gym and the way I particularly watch what I eat that I will not succumb to the ailments that have struck the rest of the mortals?  These things just happen. And, yes, we take all the necessary care and precautions ... but the bottom line is still ... yes, we are like the rest of the mortals.

I decided to do something drastic for the rest of the week.

I pushed aside everything I had to do and decided to go back to the burbs and take a rest.  Yeah, yeah: I know it is going to mess up the rest of my schedule for the following week but ... I would rather be up and about with the right frame of mind and in better health than to play the suffering martyr dedicating my life to work that may and can kill me. A good friend of mine once said, "We all work hard to have a good life ... and a good life is not one which is only about working hard." Makes a lot of sense.  He is the same friend who once entered my hospital room more than ten years ago when I was confined for internal hemorrhage and said, "So this is what you've been working for? Well, at least you have a beautiful room to be proud of. I bet your coffin will also be splendid considering how hard you are also working for it." 

Yeah, I got the message ... you bitch!

Now, at my age, I have come to realize that I am in a line of work in which no studio or network will pay for my hospital or funeral bills ... or worse, even invest premium in the work I give the moment I stop bringing in the money.  Oh, come --- we can get stuffed down our throats with all the slogans of camaraderie, one-ness, we are family and all that crap ... but the point still remains: this is part of business and we only get personal when it is useful to do so.  

So I am spending the rest of the weekend finishing an entire season of Big Bang Theory and The Voice. I am also taking my sweet time blogging. And I am already feeling better.  

How can I not say that 2012 is going to be a friggin' great year, Honey?