Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I have become predictable.  People who know me can guarantee that when the Easter break is practically emptying the city for five days of going on leave, I can be found on the Island.  

That is what I call Boracay.  I will not even go into that argument about not calling it "Bora" but instead adding that all-so-vital final syllable to identify "Boracay."  Any which way, there is only one Boracay ... whether you call it by any other name. The world knows about this spot in our archipelago of seven thousand islands.

Well, why not? Some time or another, it was adjudged the second most beautiful beach in the world.  Really now? If I still got my facts right, it has now been demoted to being the fourth most beautiful beach on the planet.  OK. I can understand that.  

I can completely surmise why there was this supposed demotion from being second best to only the fourth finest.

And that is why I am writing this blog.

Lest I be misunderstood, I love Boracay. Let me rephrase that: I still love Boracay.  But the problem is that it is no longer the same Island we used to know ... and its transformation has become saddening.  Some say that what has happened to the once pristine paradise is inevitable: it is called evolution. Better yet, it is nothing more but commercialization.  Or democratization. There is nothing wrong with that.

We all know that vacations make good business.  The Department of Tourism can attest to that: It is more fun in the Philippines --- and any such claim will not be complete without featuring the legendary powdery white sands of Boracay ... together with that iconic grotto located right in front of Willie's Resort and Nigi-Nigi Too in Station One.

We all know that the more tourists you have, the louder the sound of the cash register ... in dollars.  The more establishments you have lining that five kilometer stretch from Station 3 all the way to Discovery Shores, the more vibrant the business that can take place.

One of the resort owners even commented that there is technically no off-season in Boracay any more.

Whereas before the 01 June to 15 October is considered the cheapest time to fly to the island because of the change in the direction of the wind. When the Hanging Habagat comes in and the monsoon rains start pouring, enormous windbreakers line the beach to protect the resorts from the onslaught of sands being blown straight into the living quarters. 

The waters become choppy but also messy with the debris from the other islands blown onto the shore. Rough waves make it difficult for swimmers even more than the green algae that forms each time the seas get warm enough to spawn these seasonal specimens.

That was before.

Now the off-season is that time of the year when the Koreans and the Taiwanese start flocking in.  They come to the Island from their flights straight from nearby Kalibo which is only an hour and a half away from the Port of Caticlan.  The influx of tourists has become a year long process --- that is good for the business but is it really beneficial for the island?

With no time to rest and to recover from the injuries of human life plodding down the stretch of the beach, carelessly throwing non-biodegradable waste or even challenging the sewerage and waste disposal system of the island, some imbalance is bound to happen. It is already happening.

The island can only take so much ... and no amount of reasoning or justification in the name of commerce and industry can compensate for the ecological violations taking place.  Whether we would like to admit it or not, we all know that, at this point, Boracay is already overpopulated.  Worse is the fact that the construction of new establishments --- not only resorts but multi-storey residential condo buildings --- are ceaseless and not merely ongoing.

No one has ever thought or maybe gives a hoot to the sad fact that Boracay can only take in so much.

I will admit that I missed out the real glory days of Boracay when people literally camped on the island's shores.  According to some who reminisce with such pained feelings --- there was a time that the stretch of White Beach was bare, except for the coconut trees that have now been pushed back from the shorelines to accommodate resorts, restaurants, diving hubs and the likes. What was even more fascinating were the fireflies.  

Yes, there were fireflies that lit the surrounding foliage not to mention the glimmer of the ultra-fine white sand that resembled talcum powder, sparkling under the moonlight.

My best friend Manny Castaneda remembered how it was close to impossible to walk on the beach when the sun was high up in the sky because the whiteness of the sand created such a glare that it was painful to the eyes.  "But now," he notes with a sense of loss, "the sand is no longer white. It is the color of pulvoron. And it is no longer as fine as it used to be.  Plus the fact that the fireflies have now been replaced by strobe lights and neon signs."

But I guess that was inevitable.  

When I adopted Boracay as my home away from home, it was very, very different. That was about ten years ago.

I remember that between the Tirol resort Sea Wind and all the way to Friday's at the very tip of Station One, there was nothing but coconut trees and wild vegetation.  Now every available space has been occupied by resorts of various sizes catering to specific kinds of clientele. We still go to that area to spend our Happy Hour outside White House where we can get subzero Pale Pilsens for half the price.  That is where most Beach House music is played --- a lovely sight especially during sunset --- but nonetheless so different from the Boracay we knew before.

When I started making Boracay my yearly pilgrimage, bancas from the Port of Caticlan would bring us right to the shoreline of our  resorts.  We used to laugh when the high tide made it impossible for us to plunge straight to the waters to walk our way to the shore of our resort where our Welcome Drinks wait for us.  The boatmen would literally carry us piggy back until the water was ankle deep and therefore easier to walk to the shore without soiling our shorts or pants.

There was also a time when Boracay was the summer capital of the party people.

The entire stretch of Station One --- with its most popular seaside clubs namely Cocomanggas and Club Paraw -- would be the venue of the big summer events mounted by major sponsors that included cable channels, cigarette brands, liquor labels and other lifestyle products.  Starting Holy Wednesday and culminating on the big event on the eve of Easter Sunday, the shoreline was blasting with House, Electronica or Trance music.  The big event was Slinky Night (usually staged at the beach front of Hey Jude right beside D'Mall) where everybody danced the night away and would refuse to go home until about 7 or 9 of the following morning.

I used to tell people that while taking that short boat ride from Caticlan to Boracay, one would suspect that the island was owned by the two largest telecommunication companies in the country. All the sailboats and paraws literally screamed the names of Smart and Globe.  As if this were not enough, small planes would fly across the island with enormous streamers announcing the latest promos ... or helicopters would fly over swimmers, people riding banana boats, playing beach volleyball or just usurping the beauty of seas and sands during the late afternoons.

Broadcast networks and publications would send platoons of reporters and cameramen to capture the private lives of celebrities as they would spend their Easter break frolicking on the island.  The greater the exposure and excitement generated by the people and activities on the Island, the greater the market value has been upped in Boracay.

But all that has changed now.

Popularity ... and accessibility have their consequences. The moment the RORO transport allowed an even larger number of people to be towed into the island ... or as soon as more airlines gained access to Caticlan and Kalibo, the greater the number of tourists who were able to spend time (but not necessarily as much money) on the Island.  Now there is a ferry from the Port of Batangas that can bring in people all the way to Caticlan for a little less than P700.00 or P1400 roundtrip compared to a non-promo ticket in any of the major airlines servicing the Ramos Airport costing more than P12,000.00 to and from Manila.

Indeed democratization has its effects: exclusivity of Boracay as a vacation hub has been lost.

Oh, yes: there are only a few who can afford the high-end hotels and resorts (with the cheapest rates per night at around P18T during the peak season) but the going daily rate is at least P4,000 if one chooses a seaside residence.  In that sense, a certain degree of selectivity still remains --- not unless a room is rented by fifteen people who all decide to live the life of a can of sardines for the Holy Week Penance.

But offshore hostels can go as low as P2000 a night for a relatively large room, shared by as many as five to six people.  And this makes Boracay suddenly not only accessible but also available.

One thing is already very evident last Holy Week: the beautiful crowd are no longer there.  They have been replaced by throngs of Koreans, Taiwanese, token Europeans (now definitely outnumbered) and a lot of locals flying in, boating in or even swimming straight to the island.  The presence of the telecommunication companies is no longer significant ... and the events have been so ho-hum and predictable compared to those mounted in the past.

Undeniably, with an even larger number of people going to the island compared to the past, the mounting of impressive concerts, dance parties and events has diminished, turning the big nights pale by comparison to what can be remembered from the immediate past.  When I asked another Boracay devotee why this was so --- why the events ended up more tame and lame as more people came in --- he replied with resignation, "Yes, there are more people on the island now ... but they are not the same people who partied here before."

I looked around and realized that it was true.  The people who used to give insanity and therefore sparkle to Boracay have moved elsewhere.

"Pretty soon," my friend added, "Boracay will be the next Puerto Galera."

I also did my own little exercise in Mathematics. I couldn't figure out why with the mushrooming of so many hotels and resorts, how could the cost of hotel or resort accommodations escalate?  Does it now follow that the greater the supply, the cheaper the cost? Or has that got to do with a much larger demand from an entirely different group of people who are now dominating the island tourist population?

Unless my calculator is malfunctioning, my computations proved that a weekend in Bangkok is much cheaper than three nights in Boracay.  I tried to figure out how this happened --- and I guess my Braun calculator is pretty much correct.  Food is cheaper in Bangkok ... and, believe it or not, a four hour air travel to Thailand is much cheaper than an hour plane ride to Caticlan. Go figure out that one.

Maybe I will stop going to Boracay soon. I and my friends are already thinking of possible alternatives: Coron, Panglao, CamSur, Bantayan Island... Pagudpud.  I mean, hey ... this is the  Philippines, right? But then I think of Juice Bar, Epic, Real Cafe (with darling Nadine and her mother), Del and Tita Loi of Nigi-Nigi, and the bulalo soup at Smokes ... then I realize that I can never really leave Boracay.  Or even forget the happiest moments of my life spent there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Once upon a time we used to boast that the Philippines is the second largest English-speaking country in the world. Or so we would like to think.  But I guess that was too many solar cycles ago, right?  

Lately an alarm button was pressed because of the quality of English being spoken and written by Filipinos.  So whatever happened?  Ah, well ... we can blame everything and anyone from those who insisted that English was only a second language and that being makabayan meant recognizing the National Language as the medium of instruction in all levels of education.

So I guess that was how words like sinturong pangkaligtasan or salipawpaw na sumasagitsit came into existence. Cute, to say the least.  But I still feel a bit uncomfortable calling a chair as salungpuwet or brassieres as salungsuso.

Then again, when one really gives considerable thought, the imperative to be able to speak and write proficient English is not really such a big deal. ( To prove my point lest I be accused of being self-defeating by writing this blog in English and claiming its inconsequential use, allow me translate: Kung talaga namang tutuusin at bibigyan ng wastong kaisipan at pagmumuni-muni, hindi naman talaga malaking kabawasan sa pagkatao kung hindi siya dalubhasa sa wikang Ingles. There. Impressed? Naks!)

Indeed it has become a standard measure for the Filipino to be able to speak in English ... or at least try with great effort and even blood-letting determination.  

I will provide considerable excuse (or even license) to our beloved call center agents (aka the customer service representatives) who have to literally impersonate Americans while dealing with them over the phone so as to given an illusion that the service is being rendered somewhere in the armpits of the American Midwest and not at the wee hours of dawn across the Third World Pacific.  

Those trained, studied and mastered put-on accents are doing so because speaking wersh-wersh is part of the tools of the trade. But hearing a whole pride of such specimens of nocturnal professionals can be completely discombobulating. Or even mind-boggling.

(Once I was in an elevator at ELJ Building in the ABS-CBN Compound and found myself tightly squeezed in between twelve to fifteen call center agents all talking in crisp and varying twangs of American English.  For those precise moments from the fifth to the ground floor, I was certain that I was in the Twilight Zone.)

However, what is even more disturbing if not dismaying is when Filipinos are forced or even feel that they are being pushed to the edge of the cliff to speak the Queen's Language.  Last Sunday provided two exceptional examples of such nerve-wrecking, mind-bending and soul-wrenching events.

OK, I will confess: one of my guilty pleasures is watching Project Runway.  

Of all the reality shows, this is one that (somehow) provides some real challenge and measures degrees of innovation, creativity and ... ta-ra-raaaan ... intelligence.  And besides, I like Heidi Klum far better than Tyra Banks because there is something a bit more sincere with Seal's ex-missus than Miss Bank's acerbic syl-la-bi-ca-tion each time she says to the girls that one of them will not have the chance to be A-me-ri-ca's Next Top Mo-del. I guess it has got something to do with Ms. Klum's Nordic origins ... and Ms. Banks desire to be Ms. Congeniality under the influence of uppers.

When a local version of the show was mounted, it was --- to say the least --- a commendable effort.  

Over and above the gay twittering and bitching of the local top designer wannabes, there is always the teddy bear charm of Rajo Laurel and the schoolmarm refinement of Joji Lloren reminding us that, yes, there was a time when the real Candida and Paula existed outside the walls of Intramuros.

But somehow there is something that is so particularly disturbing about the third edition of the show. Unlike the first and second which were particularly engrossing, the most recently launched season has something quite wrong about it.

Something seems to be amiss and I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out why watching an otherwise favorite show of mine is now as enticing as fulfilling a dental appointment for a scheduled root canal.  

OK, I will forgive Tweetie de Leon as a host because she is just starting out in this resurrected career and still lacks the spontaneity and humanity that she used to possess when she was still Faye in OK Ka, Fairy Ko.  

I will even let Apples Aberin behave like a Fashion Gestapo when she tries to assert her point and terrorize the contestants. I still remember that comment given about her by one of the earlier fashion neophytes describing her as a model who got lucky. Bwahahahahaha!  

If I can withstand all these little minus factors, then what is bugging me? Then it MUST be the contestants, right?  

I do understand that in a reality show extra effort must be invested to come up with a memorable personality amid a line-up of the usual suspects.  Each and every one of these fashion apprentices must try to win recall points from the audience even if one or two really look like they need extreme make-overs or have regular consultations with a professional life coach.  Catching the attention of the viewers is a must if you want to have a career after so many weeks of being under the media microscope --- and being gay isn't enough. You have to be gay na gay or (as proven by this present group) on the eve of premature dementia.

But then upon discussing this serious problem with fellow Project Runway enthusiasts, we arrived at a common conclusion: it's all right to hear Rajo, Joji, Apples and Tweetie (even if she is reading from cue cards) speak English ... but the contestants are something else.  

We all agreed that this batch of aspiring designers is such an assortment of characters that they might as well have been a menagerie. That's good for the interest of the show ... until they start speaking ... in English.  That is when you want to switch channels or beg Rajo to suggest to producers to have the contestants' lips double-stitched.

When asked to explain the designs they created while standing on the elevated runway, the moments that follow are torturous.  It is somewhat uncomfortable to see someone grope for words to encode thoughts especially in explaining design aesthetics of a dress put together in a day from materials purchased from Carolina's.  

But to watch and hear some philosophize-slash-agonize over the agreement of subject and predicate ... or simply to pinpoint a subject in a whirlpool of dependent clauses ... that is tantamount to indeed having a root canal ... without anesthesia. During the first few sentences, you cringe. By the time Tweetie signals the end of the discussion, you realize that there is a substantial difference between compassion and masochism.

We ask ourselves a very simple question: Bakit ba hindi na lang pagtagalugin ang mga nilalang na yan, ha?  Kahit naman tatlong boteng agua oxigenada ang ginamit sa buhok ng mga yan para maging blonde, Kuya ... Pinoy na Pinoy pa rin ang mga hitsura nila, di ba?   At saka, teka ... One's proficiency in the English language has got nothing to do with the degree of creativity that can be exhibited in a friggin' dress, right?  That is why some of them look like they overdosed on Imodium each time they tried to speak in what sounds like a language derived from the planet Uranus.

It is bad enough that you have to deal with someone with the hairstyle of Theda Bara ...or another who is already dressed for December 21, 2012 ... but do we (the audience) have to hear them turn the English language into tattered hemlines?

As if I had enough of bad English on a Sunday evening ... that is, until I realized what was showing in the other station.

Annual beauty pageants are such hilarious fiestas --- really. And we Filipinos have an insatiable appetite for such glamour fests especially now that our crop of beauty queens almost ended up with the crown on their well-teased lacquered big hair.  It is already a part of our summer tradition --- like a rite of passage comparable to the circumcision of boys hitting the age of puberty --- to over-indulge in over-made-up beautiful Filipinas parading in swimsuits and all dying to represent the archipelago in the international beauty showdowns.

Watching beauty contests can be such a guilty pleasure too.

Unlike a reality show like Project Runway Philippines, the big beauty contest is not necessarily a celebration of restraint in taste. Oh, no!  This is one big event where all the young girls are made to dress like they are going to a South American prom, wearing gowns that are wish-fulfillment of every gay fashion designer armed with a sketch pad, thimble, needle and six yards of jersey or industrial satin. They are all made-up as if there is no longer any remaining tomorrow or (for some) as if their faces were readied by some of the more famous establishments lining Araneta Avenue and associated with crematoriums. 

I am not even going to talk about all that hair and all that costume jewelry.  Someone once said that it is only but fitting that transgenders be allowed to join such pageants because, after all, even real women are made to look like transsexuals in such events because of the way they are made up and dressed.  A friend commented, "Is this a beauty contest or Ru Paul's Drag Race? WTF are they wearing???" I said that such outfits are de rigeur in contests where the sashaying of the hips is tantamount to the movement of chiffon or the glitter of bead work. The same friend punctuated the argument saying, "Eh, kaya naman pala karamihan nagmukha nang mga bading sa Santacruzan sa Tondo."

But, if you ask me, the real highlight of any Philippine beauty pageant is not the swimsuit competition (Note: just how many variations of Shamcey's tsunami walk can there be?) or even the evening gown contest (Note again: nobody does it better than Ms. Raj!).  It is the Q&A portion where the real taste of the pudding is in the tasting of the answer.

Let it be said: the Q&A portion of any major beauty contest is the frontrunner contender for the Best Comedy Performance of any Living Creature, Animal or Vegetable, in any TV season for the year.  

To hear these coiffured, perfumed, sequin-encrusted young ladies attempt to answer questions ingeniously planted and distributed to the distinguished members of the Board of Judges ... is the biggest laugh-a-second you can have for more than fifteen minutes.  This segment of the contest has become the highlight ... especially if one has such strong sadistic tendencies or is fixated on the public humiliation of women over-indulging on lip gloss and hairspray.

To hear these young ladies answer mind-boggling, earth-shaking, life-changing questions like: "If you can be president for a day, what will you do?" or "Why is it more fun in the Philippines?" is definitely far better than watching any tired slapstick comedy on tv.  Unwittingly, these ladies end up being funnier than either Ai-ai de las Alas or Pokwang while looking like Vice Ganda. The Q&A portion is far much more surprising than any reality show ... especially when the girls answer in English.

When one of the girls was assigned Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel to provide the question, the honorable representative was so benevolent enough to say that she would deliver the question in both English and Filipino.  Moreover, she gave her contestant the chance to answer in any language that she felt more comfortable. Bravo, Risa! 

But guess what?  The girl still chose to answer in English and attempted to break the world record in grammar gymnastics ... where the single and plural no longer exist as far as verb agreement is concerned.  In the vernacular, tumumbling ang sagot ni Ineng as if to prove once and for all that you cannot teach a parrot the art of conversation despite the fact that it sounds like it can talk.

Of course, I get it.  

I get the fact that these young ladies must be short of peeing in their undies from sheer nerves having to face hundreds and even thousands of people filling the venue and just waiting for them to commit a blunder so that they can jeer.  Of course I understand that these girls are young and are not used to facing such crowds, added to pressure of competing for a contest that will hopefully change their lives.  Of course I know that for some ... this is the final step for their dreams to come true even at the end turns out to be a nightmare.

But what I do not understand are two things:

(a) Why is GOD always involved in the answers?  

This is a beauty contest, Ladies ... and not a challenge as to who gets to join the first batch to be beamed up by the Rapture.  And aspiring to work for an international beauty organization has got nothing to do with spirituality ... but everything that matters to Donald Trump.


(b)Why can't you just speak in Filipino? Better yet ... why not Cebuano, Ilonggo, Waray, Ilocano, Pangalatok?  In which Holy Book is it said that you can only speak English in order to prove to the world that you have credibility and respectability?  

Is it not said over and over again (to the point of tediousness) that there are such people as translators who are professionally hired to interpret what is being said in one's native language to that being used as the medium for the event?

Invoking God is that extra embellishment to add the dimension of the spiritual while wearing a swimsuit and earrings the size of the chandeliers at the Heroes Hall in Malacanang.  That is a matter of taste and prerogative and even drama. Add pretentiousness and false piety to the list.

But then mangling English for the sake of impersonating the use of the language is ...scary.  No, it is dangerous.  It is dangerous in the sense that wrong signals are being sent about being true to one's self and forcing the use of a language for the sake of sounding sophisticated and knowledgeable.  Yet the moment chaos enters the construction of sentences, a fate worse than death awaits.  

Viral videos posted all over the net capturing that awkward moment turning into a celebration of stupidity can be damaging ... and will never go away. For some poor innocent girl who did know any better, to have a moment of blunder looped and archived in the annals of the internet is a curse that will last nearly forever.

This is all because we are conditioned to believe that you are only as good as you can spokening English. We are made to believe that this is the most basic measure of the intellectual capacity and credibility of anyone seeking a position of acceptability.  We think anyone who can sputter English with such elan and eloquence automatically demands respect. That works as long as you understand what you are saying ... and not merely babbling to prove to the world something or someone you are definitely NOT.

In the process we forget that it is our language that defines us. It is our language that defines our mindset, our way of conceiving as well as perceiving the world.  

To be the next great Filipino designer ... or to be the woman who will embody the Filipina in an international arena, English has got nothing to do with first finding who you are ... and being proud of it.  It is good to know and master English ... but it is far more important to be a Pinoy first.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I decided to amuse my Twitter followers by posing all these inane questions I keep getting time and again.  Part occupational hazard, mostly out of predictable curiosity --- one's work in media can be downright stupefying and, after a while, boring.  But then again people always perceive people who work for films and television as larger than life.

The common man actually believes that all of us who work in media wake up in the morning and literally swim in glam and glitz.  Wrong!

Now if they only knew how life really is behind the cameras ... or how it is working on location inside crowded air-conditioned tents as the sweltering heat broils everything else outside --- or the inhuman hours spent on the set taping telenovelas (sometimes lasting a record of 36 hours straight), then maybe not that many young people would be obsessed with the thought that joining showbiz is such a joy ride if not the only solution to a life of fame, glory and money.

Oh, well: let us not even go there. 

The point of this blog is to create an ultimate collection of all the stupid questions asked from me time and again.  

These are the sort of queries I get everyday --- whether I am walking down a street determined to be invisible or seated quietly enjoying a cup of coffee only to find myself scrutinized by eyes that recognize me.  These are questions I am compelled (nay, obligated) to answer with a smile --- while I grit my teeth.

(You see, that's the other problem.  Decades have passed when people knew my name but did not know my face. If you knew how I looked like, it wouldn't really matter if you just knew my name. As I always said, my looks were never, can never and will never be a threat to Piolo Pascual's claim to fame.

But ever since I decided to be visible by accepting oncamera work as a commentator and now the Philippines' ultimate professional judge, people do actually recognize me.  Whereas before I was merely a name --- ergo a concept who was occasionally captured in publicity photos whenever a movie is about to be released --- now I am this huffing and puffing and breathing behemoth who has made a sideline out of being a bitch.

And that, believe me, carries both advantages and disadvantages.)

The fact that I am recognized, I get asked an assortment of questions after some giggly admirer has our photos taken on her cellphone camera.  I have a feeling that we deliberately interrupt the natural flow of universal energy by blocking corridors and hallways catching me striking a pose and throwing a smile while having my arms around Miss Enthusiastic.  

But don't get me wrong --- for there is really nothing wrong with that. Except that you get really, really conscious because you know other people are looking ... and, at my age, I still get embarrassed when people I do not know point at me, laugh and say, "Ay! Si ... si Direk!" I try to assess how I feel when that happens --- and it is indeed a mixture of flattery and embarrassment.

Which leads me to the first question that people ask when they see me.

(Sincerely baffled)
Direk, ang laki mo palang tao.  Bakit parang 
ang liit mo sa tv?

I wish I knew how to answer that. 

Yes, people mistake me to be around 5'5 or 5'6 when they see me onscreen ... but they are not quite prepared with the fact that I am actually almost 5'10. So how do I answer that question? 

Here are a list of possible stock answers.

Bakit ako mukhang maliit? Baka may
diperensiya yung vertical control ng tv mo.


Ay, hindi! Ang lalaki lang talaga ng
lahat ng tao sa paligid ko sa tv kaya ako
nagmumukhang punggok.

Which, of course, is not true. But then here is another: how do you actually reckon with such a comment or observation?

Ay, Direk, ang taba mo pala in person.
Bakit sa tv parang payat ka?

Of course, I try to regain my composure (which actually means controlling myself from rendering a nakakabasag-pangang WAPPAK right on the pagmumukha of the babbling creature or say something really vicious and bitchy perhaps in French para kahit muramurahin mo siya, you can still retain that smile on your face that has merely become a set of frozen muscles.

But the best answer I could think of:

Uy, hindi, ah. Mataba rin ako sa tv.
Panata ko kay Lord na hinding-hindi ako
magpapapayat para di sabihin ng tao na
wala akong makain.

Or maybe go, a little bit more visceral.

Hindi naman ako mataba, eh.
Ikaw lang itong mukhang malnourished 
kaya tingin mo mataba ako. Kumain ka na ba?

Which of course I cannot say lest I be the subject of a blind item from Juicy or end up being the subject of an in-depth analysis of professional suicide in Da Buzz.

But then let us go to the real nitty gritty.  

What sort of questions do they really ask people like me having been identified in this high profile possession?  Here are some samples that sent my Twitter followers laughing their heads off last weekend.

The most famous (or infamous) of them all is:

Direk, puwede ba akong mag-artista?

As I look at this person --- considering all variables concerned, I have this very strange compulsion to give the following reply:

Ano naman ang karapatan kong pigilan
kang maging artista? Ngayon ...ang magandang
tanong ... gusto ba ng Sambayanang Pilipino na mag-artista ka?

A reply like that can either lead to argument or philosophical discussions about angst ... or even the principles of Communism and the role of the individual for the common good of the State. So an answer like this could be equally effective:

Gusto mong mag-artista?  Maitanong ko
lang ... bawal ba ang salamin sa inyong

But then that does not exactly come across as completely political correct. As a matter of fact, that is downright unkind.  And prejudicial. And mean.  

Hindi naman lahat ng artista kailangang kamukha ni Ann Curtis, hindi ba? I mean there are some artistas who make their kazillions by being the exact opposite of Ms. Curtis-Smith and emphasizing how God played a joke with their genes. These are the artistas who point to the triumph of guts over nature.

So maybe a more polite reply would go something like:

Alam mo, hija ... Importante talaga 
ang studies. Kung ako ikaw ... magtapos
ka muna ng pag-aaral. Kung gusto mo pang
mag-artista pagka-graduate, I suggest that 
kumuha ka pa ng isa pang course.  Aral
ka lang nang aral habang kinakati kang 
mag-artista, ha?

I mean how do you go around convincing people that only one out of every umpteenth thousands craving for the limelight and to be interviewed by Kuya Boy A. actually get to enter the studio for a guesting in Da Buzz?  The remainder --- which constitute 98% of the population --- are left queuing outside a mall or a studio and braving changes in temperature for the next audition of Pinoy Big Brother.

Or here is another clincher that really gets me:

Gusto ko pong mag-artista para 
maiangat sa kabuhayan ang aking pamilya.
Gusto ko pong tumulong sa aking mga 
magulang ... po.

This really makes me shudder.

To begin with, let me explain that:

(a) Entering show business is not the same as placing a bet on the 6/55 Grand Lotto.  Besides, the chances of anyone to be a star of the magnitude of Piolo, Dingdong, Marian, Sara or Kim C. are as much as well ...winning a lotto. So I suggest na tumaya na lang kaya sa lotto kasi even if you lose in a lottery, there is no public kahihiyan, kapalpkan and kabalbalan involved.

Besides, imagine the amount of personal embarrassment you will have to face for the rest of your life if you keep on trying and you keep on failing and you keep on repeating that overused saying, "Ang nagwawagi ay hindi umaayaw, ang umaayaw ay hindi nagwawagi" --- not until you get rundown by a runaway train.

(b) Although there is good money in show business, only a certain percentage will be the object of ire and interest of Kim Henares and her platoon of calculator-armed accountants from the BIR. 

Let us shatter the myth at this point: not all artistas are rich.  They earn enough but only the chosen few can go out and buy LV bags, Porsches, house and lots in a southern Ayala Land Development or get a free ride in Willie Revillame's private plane.

The rest still have to wrestle getting cabs to get to and from their locations, pay debilitating amortizations for their abodes if not rents for their condos and apartments --- and still pay percentage commissions to their agents and managers.

(c) Not everyone who is Tisoy/Tisay, possessing dimples and can act as cute as a chihuahua in a clown's costume can pass for an actor.  Perhaps tween fans can scream their lungs out to show their adoration for you at a mall show, but that does not mean that they will watch your movie ... or endure your tv show.

And, another thing, not every creature of the Lord below 18 years of age with hair rinsed through with hydrogen peroxide and desperately trying to resemble a K Pop icon qualifies as star material.  Youth has its advantage ... but the problem is that there are so many young stars that they have ended up looking, talking, singing and acting like they were clones pre-fabricated in a doughnut assembly line.

(c) The bottomline is STILL talent which leads to ...

One of the silliest questions thrown out of an attempt to be cute but actually has been so beaten down to reach the level of stupidity:

Direk, puwede ba akong mag-artista?
Kahit yung ipapakain sa buwaya ... OK lang.

How many times have I heard this question hurled at me in the most ungodly moments?  Thus, after all these years, I have developed the following stock answers:

Pakakain ka sa buwaya? Papaano ka naman
nakakasiguro na papatusin ka ng buwaya?


Maawa ka naman sa buwaya. 
Baka masiraan yon ng tiyan pag kinain ka.


Para maiba, kung ikaw na lang kaya ang
kumain naman sa buwaya. For a change. 
Kakayanin mo, Dong?

But, of course, I never said any of that.  You don't try to out-cute somebody who regardless of age, faith and race is trying to charm you with what he thinks is wit and charm.

Oh, but the ... have you heard a question like this:

Direk, gustung-gusto ko talagang 
umarte. Ang bilis-bilis kong umiyak, eh.
Tingin mo, matutulungan mo akong mag-

I would have wanted to sputter the following answers like a knee jerk reaction:

Toto, kahit tupa at buwaya marunong umiyak.
Pero wala pang tupa o buwaya na naging 
successful na artista.


Baka naman mas madaling umiyak yung audience
pag nakita kang nagpapaiyak.

or worse ...

Ako man naiyak nang sinabi mo yan.

But again, I will not say that.  Instead, I should choose more careful words that are not patronizing but sending a clear-cut message that said person should get a life ... hopefully on another planet farther than Uranus. 

Maybe a more appropriate answer should be:

According to Eric Morris, it has got
everything to do with being. Being is not
merely crying but getting into the moment by
discovering your inner truths using the machinery
of your personal experience to validate the
range and caliber of your emotions.

What should necessarily follow is a tunganga or tameme moment wherein self-confessed faster cry baby of the world would stare at me and actually believe I am an ancient alien who helped instruct the Egyptians how to build the pyramids of Ginza.  More so, he can also revert to another tactic which could leave me dumbfounded like:

Direk, magaling rin akong kumanta.
Kaboses ko si Martin Nievera ...
(Singing starts right here.)
"Be my lay-dee ...."

OK, I give up.  That is usually followed by:

Direk, tulungan mo naman akong makapasok
sa Talentadong Pinoy.

This kind of request is a permutation of another popular question:

Direk, papaano ba pumasok sa Bahay ni Kuya?

Can it be considered witty if I replied:

Eh, di pumasok ka sa pintuan.

Just because I happen to work in that network sometime like two years ago ... and was part of another reality show from the same group, that does not mean that I have carte blanche powers to drag anybody into the studio and be part of a reality show, right?  Sheeesh.

It really gets downright exasperating when people actually think that just because you know people in a network that:

(a) You can snap your fingers and get fifteen front-row tickets for A.S.A.P. so that a busload of Balikbayan relatives can spend a Sunday afternoon jumping up and down on their seats watching Rayver Cruz and John Prats shake their booties.

(b) You can just let anybody inside the studios and give them a guided tour which include the dressing room of Marian Rivera or the offices of Jessica Soho.

(c) You can actually introduce anybody to Bea Alonso or Toni Gonzaga --- or get the autograph of Papa Piolo or Enchong Dee.

(d) You can go up to Kim Chiu and ask her if she is having a relationship with Xian Lim so that you can vouchsafe to the world that indeed there is a good thing going between them. Ditto to Gerald Anderson and Sara G. just to assure everybody again that, "Oo ... naka-move on na sila."

But I guess nothing beats the question that I have been asked to the max --- to the point that the next time somebody asks me this question again, I swear that I am literally going to emit an ear-splitting scream that will cause the poles of the earth to swerve to the left.

The question goes:

Direk ... bakla ba talaga si _______?

UTANG NA LOOB! Why is it such a big deal to confirm or negate news about the gender of celebrities?  Why is it an earth-shattering piece of information treated with such sacred curiosity that it almost seems like it is the Search for the Holy Grail?  

You can go into a very personal level and think that, uh, it is really nobody's business if your favorite matinee idol has bedroom secrets. I mean, it is his bedroom and tell me if there is anyone with a semblance of an exciting life who does not have a secret.  

Somebody told me that it is all too important to know if her matinee idol is indeed a swashbuckler or a swishing bakla so that she can completely eradicate him from her personal sexual fantasies.  Now that somehow scared me. I felt that had a hint of oversharing.  Does that mean that my friend actually screams out her matinee idol's name when she reaches the throes of self-inflicted glory? I shudder at the thought.

But then I have some stock answers I am itching to reply to this question.  The most practical of these is:

Bakit? Sa tingin mo ikagaganda ng ekonomiya
ng bansang Pilipino kung makasiguro tayo
kung siya ay isang tunay na lalake o isang
authentic siyoke?

or maybe

Hindi siya bakla. Siya ay isang tibo.
Magaling lang siyang magpakalalake.

And if it really gets all too exasperating, I will one day reply.

Of course not! He is not a bakla.
He screws goats.

Let's see if they can actually have a follow-up question to that! Not unless they want to go down the entire gamut of farm animals.

Indeed, celebrity has a way of titillating public curiosity---but after a bit, especially when you are right smack in that world --- it can get tedious and even boring.

And for one final clincher --- somewhere amid the stalls of goods being sold in Greenhills, the following scenario transpired:

Ay, ay! Si Direk! Si Direk, o!

(Smiling, waving)

Direk...ang galing-galing nyo ...
Talagang number one fan ako ng lahat
ng inyong mga pelikula.

(Sincerely touched)
Wow, thank you naman ...

Ano po ang next project nyo,
Direk Joel Lamangan?

A beat. Then another beat of silence.

I smiled and controlled the compulsion to render an exquisite flying kick.