Saturday, June 27, 2015


Indeed the day was exceptional, even historical, as the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed that it is legal and lawful for two people of the same sex to bind themselves in marriage.

There was great celebration as rainbow-tinted profile photos in Facebook as well as other expressions of support exploded in social media. The Supreme Court action was groundbreaking as this sent signal to the rest of the world that a world power has confirmed the validity of such unions of individuals still considered aberrant and perverse by various institutions and societies.

Together with such announcements come vehement reactions.  Threats of pastors dousing gasoline on their persons and burning themselves alive as signs of protest were --- well, declared --- then eventually retracted.  Reactions from the ultra-conservatives were equally vehement, branding the move as an obvious sign of moral deterioration and even the death of society as known.

There were those who considered the acknowledgment of the union of two men and two women together as a perversion and a mockery of the sacraments, again citing that all-too-tired reference to Sodom and Gomorrah and ushering in all the signs cited in the Revelations.

In all honesty, the only surprising turn of events is that people are still surprised that people are reacting.

There will always be a reaction to change. It is not a matter of the kind of indoctrination that segments of population have grown accustomed --- but it is the disturbance, the isostasy of what is deemed as moral order that generates such violent responses.

And the point is that we must now all just calm down--- and accept.

We must accept the fact that some people are ecstatic --- and others are rabid.

We must accept the inevitability of two opposing forces that will never agree on an issue which is not only based on legality but morality and spirituality as well.

Screaming at each other because of differences in beliefs is the stuff that eventually start petty and end up as wars.

The LGBT Community has every right to be jubilant--- because this is not about the state recognizing that two people regardless of gender can be acknowledged and accredited as a legal personality.  This means that years of being together and acquiring joint properties can now be recognized as conjugal ownership.  This, on all accounts, is very important to protect the rights of individuals as citizens.

Over and above this, the state recognizes that two people have the right to be together --- because they choose to do so because they love each other.

But the conservatives do not see it this way because of the way they perceive the concept of unions.  For them, marriage is matrimony. And, as cited by a Church official ... matrimony is founded on motherhood as two individuals are bound together by a sacrament in order to pro-create.  Oo nga naman. It will take more than a blessing of SCOTUS to enable two people of the same gender to continue our species. Or as a tired joke goes, maybe this is indeed the solution to overpopulation.

Yet before the gay militants go completely ballistic, we must also take time to understand where the conservatives are coming from --- and why they argue this way.  Yes, we do not agree with them when they accuse same-sex unions as a desecration of matrimony --- or the corruption of the nuclear family.  That is because they are talking in behalf of institutions --- and arguing in terms of dogmas that validate the identities of their affiliations whereas gays are simply requesting that they be acknowledged in the legality of their chosen lifestyle.

There is no easy conclusion to this as arguments, condemnations and even juvenile heckling will continue.  There will always be pastors threatening the world with self-immolation ... and there is, of course, Sarah Palin.  And there will be to the other side insisting, "Let us be! Respect us for our choices!"

Both can validate their arguments --- as well as negate the other. Both sides may choose to listen ... but what is sad is when they only hear what they choose to accept.

So what can we learn from all this?

Maybe just that. A little bit more understanding. A little bit more compassion.  A little bit more acceptance ... and not merely tolerance.  And, despite all twists and turns involving the repercussions to societies ... and the world in general --- a little bit more respect for each other.

After all, the arguments that arose from both sides are founded on a single notion: love between people.

And sometimes ... no, often ... argumentation and disagreements are also founded on loving each other.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Hora de peligro.  The critical hour.

I used to remember my Mother talk about hora de peligro as that precise moment when it is OK to panic. Or to resort to doing something desperate because ... well, all the alarms are ringing.

Hora de peligro can refer to almost any thing or any situation. The gist of the matter is that time is running out and you better grab the nearest floater or run to the nearest lifeboat.

At a luncheon with definitely much younger friends, all in their late twenties and early thirties, hora de peligro has never been more fully realized or expressed. It was mainly the dismay of the womenfolk who are alarmingly focused on their biological time clock.


It is almost like the sound of a time bomb in the last few seconds before the big WHAPPAK! 

These ladies, all successful in their various fields of endeavor, were talking about the apparent shortage of eligible young men who could possibly complete their lives if not make their mothers shut up as to when they will deliver the grandchildren to enhanced their senior lives.

Two of my friends hated the pressure.  One said, "It is the year 2015 ... and my parents still think that the only way I can be happy in life is if I get married."

Another one offered, "My father keeps telling me that he and Mama will not be around all the time and I need somebody to take care of me." What is so particularly funny (if not ironic) about that is that this specific friend has gained the awesome reputation of being so bossy that she can literally pluck the testicles out of a man with her bare hands.  Blessed with a very successful career, she really did not need a man to provide her with security. But still her parents believed that she needed a man to take care of her.

"Pagpasensiyahan mo na," I said, "Some parents still have that notion they inherited from their generation that there is no such thing as single bliss."

"Yes," she retorted, "It's a choice between marriage or myoma in my uterus."

That's another issue: all the ladies received that ominous warning that it is also a choice of being a mother ... or suffering from cancer of the ovaries or uterus.

"I am not meant to have children," said one. "It is not that I hate kids ... oh, I love them ... but as long as I am not going to be responsible for them 24/7." I told her she did not need a child --- she should opt for a chihuahua.  And that was when she confirmed why motherhood is not on top of her list --- and she cannot be forgiven by her parents for that.

"They are demanding for more grandchildren as if the eight they already have are not enough," she sighed.

"Give them a Pomeranian pup," I told her. "Better yet, gift them with gerbils."

There is also that threat that the fertility expiration date is nearing maturity.

Unlike men who can still have their jollies even in their seventies, this whole childbearing thing changes the entire equation for women. Despite the years of patience and agony having to deal with the monthly curse, menstruation is still very much a threat.  It is a chord meant to strike fear especially for women who believe that their principal function in the world is to pro-create ... and not make elaborate cross stitch tapestries or concocting the best recipe of adobo for their kitchens.

Another one of the girls said, "My brother is a doctor: he keeps telling me that the moment crosses the age of 30, the difficulties in childbearing increase."

"Yes," agreed Miss Successful Businesswoman, "I hear that from my mother too.  When a woman gives birth late in life, she stands a very strong chance that her genes or her chromosomes are already all screwed up and she might end up having a defective baby."

I was curious as to what was meant by a defective baby. 

"There are chances that you will have a mentally challenged infant if you give birth at a late age ..." somebody explained. No way! I am a menopause baby because my Mom was about 42 years old when she gave birth to me and I do not consider myself mentally handicapped. 

"But there is that possibility," another one in the Forever Bridesmaids Group contributed. "It is best to have your babies when you are still young ... The kids come out stronger."

"Like what age is that? Sixteen?" I said in shock.

Then somebody mentioned about how an actress went through a very trying pregnancy and resulted to tremendous weight gain which she could not seem to shed off. I know the said actress and explained that it was more complicated than just a case of age. After all, the said media personality was not that old to really have issues about giving birth.  

"Ah, but still ..." said one of the ladies, "When you hit past thirty, starting a family becomes all the more difficult ..."

But then what can one do?  The charm of having a career fresh out of college constitutes a greater part of the journey for women in their twenties ... "not unless you have a college sweetheart and you vow to tie the knot right after you are handed your diplomas."

"Hindi na nangyayari yon. Mahirap ang buhay," contradicted Ms. Success. "Besides, hindi na puwedeng iasa mo ang iyong buong buhay sa lalake."

"Oo nga, said another, " Look at what happened to _____. Hindi ba after three years, nabiyuda?"

That set off the alarm.

"Yes. Widowed with two kids ... How old is her eldest?"

And the conversation took a turn about how difficult it is to be married, blah, blah, blah ... to depend on a man, blah, blah, blah ... with each of the girls trying to justify why in their late twenties and early to mid-thirties that they are still single.

"It is best to be practical," volunteered Ms. Success. "You must make it clear to a man that you can go on with your life without him ... and his money."

Valid enough.  And that was probably why most of the girls in this group do not have partners. Not that they never had the chance to be married ... but something went wrong somewhere along the way.

They all agreed that that the even bigger problem than bearing children is that --- they cannot find the right men to fit into their lives.

"Fit into your lives?" I exclaimed. Is this the new Cinderella complex?  Are they sure they wanted real honest to goodness male homo sapiens or comfortable Jimmy Choo shoes?

"No, it is not that.  Men get intimidated by women with ... uh, relative success ..."

"Or even strong opinions ..."

"You mean women who tweet political statements challenging Church and State?" I asked.

Of course, it was Ms. Success who barked: "Oh, come on. Admit it. Men can't stand women with balls."

I replied, "I guess that's because they also have balls ... not unless what they are looking for are ... balls?"

The girls all started to laugh.

Then somebody decided to pick it up to bring the discussion to another level.

"Then again it is also true. As there is truth in that saying ..."

Which is?

"All the good men are either married or gay."

That line has been beaten to a pulp: this generalization that all the men worth keeping for the rest of your remaining days of earthly existence have already been claimed by others or are not interested --- well, not in women anyway.

You see, there is this thing about very successful women. Or maybe even the ones who speak their minds or come out an erg too strong for comfort.  Aside from being branded as saber-wielding testicle cutters, they seem to be in endless argument with the opposite sex to prove that they are equals.  That is the usual male paranoia --- or insecurity: great is the confidence of a man who is not intimidated by a more successful or intelligent woman.  This whole thing of "man on top" sounds so ... uh, eighteenth century ... and even in the eighteenth century they have already unraveled the joys of other positions aside from that.

I explained that married men are not intimidated because they couldn't care less who's playing alpha in the pack.  Besides, married men have already acquired a certain degree of sensitivity to the needs and quirks of women.  Try starting your day with a woman beside you in bed ... and ending it with the same company on the same given space. Married men (or those who are successful at such unions) know the finer art of giving and taking especially in playing the game of sexual politics with very dominant and domineering women.

The weak of heart among the singles give up too easily --- or do not want to waste time trying to figure out that secret equation that one must discover in order to start the symphony of romantic violins.  What the heck, they would say. Move on.  There are more women than men on this side of the planet. You can do without the female geniuses if they still want to play mind games.

But then again, I said: "These men are usually not worth the time and effort either.  They really do not want a relationship.  They just want a quickie. Or the only people they can be involved with are themselves."

Then of course there are the gay men.

"Nowadays," one of the women sighed, "when I got to the gym and see all these guys ... some lean, some buffed ... a number so gorgeous ... obsessed with their biceps and triceps ... I keep asking myself ... how many of them are still interested in women?"

We all laughed. Being a gym bunny myself --- I knew exactly what she meant ... and not that I cared.  I told her that there are all sorts of gays inasmuch as there is an entire spectrum of straight men and women. 

"But why are gays so charming?" another of the ladies asked.

Maybe it is that masochistic side of women craving for someone who they know will not be interested in them despite daring or deed. Maybe it is the fact that gay men do not have to prove anything to straight women that brings about someone more natural, uninhibited and spontaneous. 

"He is not out to impress," I said. "He is just there to be himself. And that really sends you ladies crazy."

I also told them that there is nothing worse than a woman who (out of despair or a calling from the heavens) decides to pursue a gay man in order to change him.  Enough of that illusion that if you love somebody enough then he will eventually love you back.

"May pagka-pathetic naman yon. That is tantamount to begging."

I said it was more of wishful thinking that would lead to real-time frustration.

Then silence prevailed on the table. The ladies were aware that the biological time clock is ticking faster and faster.  Soon the collagen will lose its potency and the law of gravity will prevail. Not all the gallons of Botox or Aptos threads or radio wave non-intrusive treatments can turn time around to make a thirty year old plus-plus woman look like Julia Barretto or Liza Soberanno. That is the way of the world. That is called the life cycle.

So when you miss out the chance to be a mother ... there is no turning back. Not unless you have the openness of mind and heart to adopt a child ... or be a surrogate nanay to all your nephews, nieces and godchildren.

Worse, not unless you opt to have teacup chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers as your children.

Then somebody said out of the blue: "Hay naku. Who says I need a husband to be a mother? Magpapabuntis na lang ako." This was followed by another five minutes discussing who are potential male friends and acquaintances who could be top of the line sperm donors.
That sent everyone giggling.

Yet despite the peals of laughter, the unspoken question that everyone of these ladies had was: Do they really want children?  Are they willing to give up the successes that they have accrued through years of hard work and determination to change diapers, run after screaming toddlers in a mall ... or endure the years of raising,understanding and being strong for husband and offspring?

Is that their real definition of happiness?

Women are conditioned to think that they are brought to this world to be fruitful and multiply.  For some, this is their ultimate cause ... but there are others who feel that motherhood is an option and not an obligation.  And there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Five minutes later we all moved on. The ladies were busy discussing the possibility that Kris Aquino will migrate to the U.S. to raise her sons. The conversation became more animated ... and significant.

Friday, June 19, 2015


You really have to be very, very careful nowadays.

The internet has provided the arena for anyone if not everyone to:

(a) say what he wants to say when he feels like saying it

(b) announce to the world what he is doing, wearing, eating, going or even thinking

(c) share with the universe everything that can possibly shared --- even those that should not be talked about much less discussed outside the privacy of bedrooms and court rooms.

Ah, but that is the new freedom, isn't it? This is the age of oversharing when you can expose anything you like about your private life to the hungry public all in the name of being ... uh, truthful or true to yourself.

You are not only entitled to say what you think is worth saying at that precise moment when it should be said. It also allows you to become the easy target for people who have interest in you --- whether positively or negatively. 

In the worldwide web, making your presence felt also makes you an immobile target because every day is open season. You are subject to dissection and analysis --- more so misinterpretation --- most especially by people who have as strong opinions but not necessarily as intelligent (or verbose) as you.

A friend of mine who prefers to brand himself "techno-naive" says she prefers to keep away from social media because she refuses to develop any form of addiction for "announcing to the world minute details of my life." 

She assured me that hers was not a life interesting enough to be chronicled in Instagram or given 140-character updates on Twitter. She said she dreaded the little seconds dedicated to self-made videos of Snapchat.

She even stood up and turned around to show me that her derriere was not a threat to the legendary posterior of that Kim Kardashian.

She said that she would be useless in a reality show because there is nothing interesting ... much less, perverse about her.

"I do not have the reality star complex," she insisted, "I am one of the few remaining people who would rather keep my opinion to myself and not throw myself to the wolves by just expressing what I believe in. And I do not have the slightest urge to be a fame whore."  

I told her that in a world overflowing with photos, videos and opinions, one must make his or her presence felt. This was the necessity that brought about social media. You do not only seek attention but also elicit interaction. 

Upon hearing this, my friend wrinkled her nose and said, "Well, whoever said that I needed the validation of some anonymous dickhead out there in cyberspace to assure me that I am good enough for them?"

Of course I knew my friend was always an exception to the rule.  

In the year 2015 she still does not have a Facebook account.  She said that she had no compulsion to post photos of what she is eating for breakfast ... or share with the rest of humanity what is happening in every millisecond of her here and now.  She said that there must be something demented to be over-exposing yourself to the public.

"It must be the result of some really bad childhood traumas."

I laughed and said that Facebook is basically for networking. It is also a way of assuring yourself that you are still a part of the plugged-in human race.

"Honestly," she told me, "I think it is so extremely redundant that you keep posting all those bowls of ramen that you eat about twice a week.  Have you ever thought that people who supposedly follow you couldn't care? And does that qualify you to be a part of the human race?  That you eat ramen once or twice a week?"

I just couldn't help but laugh although she did make a lot of sense.

There was a life before the internet.  We had our own spheres of existence and defined privacy before the dawning of the age of the worldwide web. We also had our issues, we had our opinions... but we had a different kind of interaction.

The internet redefined all that, didn't it? 

Nowadays, you cannot allow yourself to be swept away by a moment of passion or temporary insanity.  The moment you let your emotions get the most of you and you start expressing your thoughts right at that critical moment --- chances are, you are going to ask for trouble.

Why?  Simple.  This is because:

(a) there will always be someone out there who does not and will never like you.  Even if you reworded the Ten Commandments and tweeted them in quick succession, chances are you will be bashed, castigated, insulted, mocked and deliberately masticated because ... that is his mission in life.

(b) since you are trying to sound important and intelligent, then expect someone who will try to prove to you (and the rest of the cyber universe) that he or she or they are more important and more intelligent than you can ever possibly imagine yourself to be. Ganoon lang yon. Kung feeling maangas ka, Dude ... merong mas astig sa yo. That's all.

(c) there are people who love to take the opposite side of the argument because ... they are made that way.  They feel that it is their mission in life to be the spirit of contradiction.  And sometimes even if they are not sure of what they are saying, they can delude themselves into believing that what they are saying is true. In the process, they can also convince others that they actually make sense.

(d) there are people dedicated to the Church of Causes --- whether political, religious, philosophical or even nonsensical. They are the die hard rah-rah armies, usually tied together by good financing or a sense of despair to make them cling onto delusions of hope and tunnel visions.  These are the contemporary zealots that you do not mess around with because they have all the logic and diplomacy of a mob.

After some deep thought, I realized that what my friend said made a lot of sense.

"Face it.  There are people out there foisting what they think because they want to show the world that they can think ... that they are astig.  But what for? To show everyone that they're better?"

She laughed and said: "That's just a mental jack-off that can turn you into a jackass in the eyes of people who can see through all your big words and grand gestures.  You are just attention-seeking under the guise of being an intellectual or someone eloquent with opinions."

Maybe this whole involvement in social media is actually a masochistic exercise of sorts.

Inasmuch as each time somebody posts anything --- whether a photograph of a half-eaten pizza, a quotable quote to end all quotes or even a holy reading from the Dead Sea Scrolls ... one thing is for sure, somebody is bound to react.  And reactions are exactly why you post anything, right?

Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are anticipating the number of people to press the LIKE button or to line your posting with affirming and assuring comments.

We post photos of the dishes we are cooking in the kitchen or the food we are about to ram down our esophagus because we want to prove to the world that we are capable of creating or gaining access to such dishes.  You do not photograph food for the sake of posterity or to tell your grandchildren than on the 15th of June in 2015 that you had the most delicious chunk of medium rare Kobe steak, right?
You only want to announce to everybody that you are happy because you are about to masticate prime quality beef --- and they're not.

We post photos of our OTD (Outfit of the Day) looking somewhat inane/stupid/zombie-like/pretentious in front of a full length mirror while holding our smart phones --- so that the world can see how beautiful you are in your brand new H and M outfit which is your pang-araw-araw.

Not unless you are an artista who is so KSP (Kulang sa Promotions), then there is really no line of acceptable logic why you are posing like an atat na atat editorial model in dire need of a photographer wearing outfits to post on Instagram.  You are actually expecting a head count of people saying how gorgeous you are in your look.

Or when you do selfies with your tropa as you all look drunk/happy/smashed out of your brains/chilling either in the exciting, electrifying dance floor of Valkyrie or looking so cool/young/fun-loving on the white sands of Laboracay --- you are actually announcing to the world your social status. And how happy you are to be young, can-afford and ... about to have the best lay this side of the lunar cycle.

You are telling the world, "I'm here. I belong. You don't."

And that is so cool.

Or when you start putting up shoutouts or tweeting statements that deal with political commentary --- whether pro or against the present dispensation --- then brace yourself.

Bashing the government and personalities who populate the Olympus of Power is almost as dangerous as openly criticizing or maligning a movie star with a following that is close to the devotion of a cult. Diss someone, then expect a reaction.  There will be those who will applaud and agree --- in the same manner that there are also a whole lot of others who will go out of their way to prove:

(A) Their superior intelligence in analyzing political issues as well as the state of nation which makes you wonder why they are not working for the government if they are such great assets to the history of the Republic;

(B) Their partisan leanings, whether validated or justified by some form of patronage --- or nepotistic connection.

(C) Their foregone conclusion that you are nothing more than a tireless banshee, a pain in the rectum who must be going chemical imbalance because of menopause or andropause --- and should be put to sleep just in order to shut the f--k up.

So each time you announce your thoughts or post an image --- just think.  The worldwide web has been so democratized that even if you don't owe anyone any explanation about what you do on your wall ... they also have the same freedom to have an opinion and bash you to the point of being pulverized.  And you can't do a thing about it.

My techno-naive friend had this smirk on her face when she said: "Remember the saying: you must be able to handle the feedback if you are going out of your way to make some noise. No one asked you to do that. That was your choice. If you have an opinion, well .... so do they ... and you have to learn to deal with it."

She further added: "Let's face it. Some people have the right ideas ... but they're just so full of themselves that people just want them to shut up."

I guess what she really wanted to tell me was that --- if you do not want to be cyberbullied, then learn the art of shutting up.

Or go write a journal that nobody else can read.  If that is your sort of thing.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


I was on the floor laughing when I heard the tag line of one of the TV commercials being aired endorsed no less than by the newly-minted Mrs. Soriano.  She says,"May igaganda pa pala ako." 

I thought that this was really ... well, hilarious because of the gamut of implications that the statement carried.

But let us not even go there.

My point is that every woman --- no, that is being sexist --- include everyone (male of the species included, in all possible permutations) want to be mas maganda  or mas guapo.  I have yet to hear anyone say: "Ayoko na. Sobra na ang ganda ko. It's already unfair." 

Or even, "Lord, why did you do this to me? My beauty is my curse."


Human nature dictates that nobody is thin enough, beautiful enough ... or especially rich enough. 

Usually those who have the right to say that they have acquired enough wealth for the next three reincarnations are the ones most prone to be endlessly nitpicking about their weight or beauty.  That is maybe because the spectrum of their possible problems no longer involve everyday human survival.  That is also because they have enough assets to get them by until the day they croak and set aside in their airtight caskets.

Or such problems come from those who make a living looking beautiful in front of people.  They belong to that special sector of the population who are preoccupied with being more gorgeous or worse, remaining attractive to the eyes of their consumers.  That makes a lot of sense really if your face and body are your office ... or if you have nothing better to do than be preoccupied by your shape and looks.

If you make money out of looking fresh, beautiful and young despite how you feel, what you are going through and how old you are, it is no mystery as to why looking at the mirror each morning can be a cautionary ordeal. 

But there is one thing that really gets me into a hyper mode. It is when you discuss about things you think you can change from those that you simply must accept.  

OK, if you are not blessed with that kind of Spanish nose (which chances are you are not ... unless you are a hybrid or having roots in the Iberian Peninsula) or you are mistaken for a boy because your mammary glands are molehills when you wish they were mountains ... or even if you just want to trim down that middle where your love handles have already grown into the size of a waist pouch ...then there is indeed an easy solution.

What cannot be readily addressed and relieved by Saint Jude, Patron Saint of the Impossible can be facilitated by Dr. Vicky Belo in any of her clinics.  I mean, if you have the means ... inclusive of the tolerance for the pain that goes with such intrusive operations, aba, di go na lang nang go, hindi ba? 

It is within your human rights to manipulate what nature fails to offer ... or has given up in terms of services.

It is your decision because it is your body ... and most of all, it is your money.

It is not as if you conned a senator to divert his discretionary fund just so that you can extract twelve kilos of fat from your midsection, right? If you can afford it, then employ any means ... including the legendary services of Malabanan to suck out everything that needs to be shed to achieve your svelte state of person.

Ibalik ang karapatan na magka-baywang. Bring back your right to have a waistline. Also include a neck.

But here's the thing. 

I have this aversion for people who, until this day and age still think with the mindset of the times when Luneta was still called Bagumbayan or when Makati literally meant The Marshlands.  I do not understand why (for the love of God and Mother Nature) why we are still pre-occupied in miming Caucasians or desiring to have fair complexion even at the risk of looking like albinos.

Fact to accept: we are of Malay blood ... therefore we are brown of skin.  If we truly want to foist our indigenous origins, then accept the truth that we have brown or even olive skin.  We are not maputi. 

There are some of us who are naturally maputi because of the mixture of races in the that enormous melting vat of nationalities that has become our family trees.

But the natural Filipino color is brown ... and there is nothing wrong with it. At all. As a matter of fact, our color is what naturally makes us unique and beautiful.

Blame it on media. Blame it on some demented sense of commercialism that Filipinos are conditioned to think that you have to be maputi in order to be maganda.  Ah, talaga? 

This whole iconography of the mestiza as the paragon of Filipina beauty is ...well, really quite outdated yet is still being insisted upon and perpetuated in the faces that we see in mainstream media.

Let's make a headcount.  

How many of the most popular movie and television actresses look like hybrid Caucasians?  Is there still anyone out there who has darker skin or is everybody hydrating on Glutatione to make sure that they are maputi enough to be maganda?

If they are not mestizas, they are Chinitas. And that is mainly because we have also acquired a love for Taiwanese and Korean telenovelas. Well, that is good.  At least, we are celebrating the Asian in us --- no longer feeling culturally inferior because we do not have doe eyes and instead loving the fact that singkit is beautiful.

But again Chinese, Korean and Japanese ancestry still has fair skin --- the most beautiful porcelain kind for that matter.  And we bemoan the fact that ours is the color of chocolate or even kamagong.

There is a convenient explanation for this pre-occupation to be maputi or even maputla.

Ladies of media must be aspirational. 

The fans adore them because they want to be like them.  Thus, they should not represent reality as we understand it ... but that near-perfect state which, despite how much they try, your regular Nene or Inday can never and will never achieve.

Thus they are beautiful in their whiteness, garbed in designer clothes with their houses and personal possessions (Count those Hermes bags! Gape at the jewelry! Look at all those imported gowns ... and those shoes!) featured in ten spreads in entertainment magazines.  

It has not nothing to do with talent but all of packaging. It has got nothing to do with the acting or singing but how the faces register in photographs or in the big or small screens. And all the while the emphasis has always been on being maputi because that is unreachable and therefore the ultimate gauge for being maganda.

Being fair of skin is a must if you want to be artistahin or to fall within the category of the maganda.  Achieving pagka-Tisay does not only entail avoiding direct sunlight like a vampire.  It also means bleaching, applying lotions with appropriate ultra-violet rays protection ...and of course, consuming what are deemed as healthy chemicals that have other functions aside from diminishing skin pigmentation.

Since we all want to be more maganda, we accept what media (and marketing) feeds us hook, line and bleaching agent. Yes, using sunblock lotions to protect the skin from UV Rays is acceptable ... especially for those who want to defy another law of nature called ageing. But then that has got nothing to do with one's eventual aspiration to be one of the world's most beautiful albinos.

( A sidebar:  I once worked with a young actress whose pagkaputi has reached the level of the disturbing. I tactfully asked her how come she almost had this ghostly and transparent skin.  She replied with such glee and authority and told me that she was taking Glutathione intravenously.  At that point, my jaw literally dropped.

She also barked out names of other actresses who actually mainline the chemical. I knew about this being injected ... but to have this going straight to your veins is something that was mind-boggling.

I asked her just how white did she want to become ...and she said that she still felt she was morena. I told her that there was nothing wrong with having a dusky skin. But I held back in telling her that she was already on her way to be The Invisible Woman. )

Furthermore, here's the catch.  

Even if we are still being bombarded by images and taglines in media that screams, "Bleach! Bleach! Bleach!" the world has already spun around so many times in the opposite direction.  Tastes have definitely changed around the world and we have been blindsided.

Whereas before you have to look as regal as Gloria Romero or Susan Roces or Amalia Fuentes ... and the top mannequins were the likes of Pearly Arcache, Joji Felix, Chona Kasten or Crispy Santamaria, the world has evolved a completely set of aesthetics. 

In the fashion world that has hailed the like of Iman, Alek Wek and, of course, Naomi Campbell and lately the actress named Lupita Nyongo, part of the global appeal is recognizing beauty over and beyond the color of the skin.  Beauty is found within the skin color for that is what makes the personification of a race unique.

We do not even have to go farther even in our islands.

The two most successful Filipina models who hit the international runways and magazine covers to be darlings of international designers are not mestizas. 

They are olive or brown-skinned beauties hailed for their difference rather than their compliance with Caucasian or Latin American benchmarks of beauty.  Anna Bayle and Melanie Marquez were two of the most successful international models because they were not whites.

There are other models who walked down the American and European runways --- like Tetta Agustin and especially Bessie Badilla --- who to this very day is still a stunner --- were not your stereotype Spanish or American mestizas hailed by earlier generations.

Going down the beauty queen roster also proves the point that iba ang kayumanggi kaysa sa maputla.

Except for Margie Moran-Floirendo, all of the Filipinas crowned by international beauty pageants as queens or runners-up are basically morenas.  Start with Gemma Cruz-Araneta, Aurora Pijuan, Melanie Marquez, Precious Lara Quigaman and Bea Rose Santiago all had their Miss International Crowns not because they looked completely Caucasian in features.  Runners-up in the Miss Universe that include Desiree Verdadero, Chat Silayan, Miriam Quiambao, Chiqui Brosas, Venus Raj, Shamsey Supsup, Janine Tuganon and Ara Arida are all brown-skinned stunners. 

Even Megan Young, the very first Filipina to bag the Miss World crown, has that beautiful brown skin despite the fact that she has a foreign sounding family name.  She still stood out not only because of her intelligence, spontaneity and personality but because she looked good ... with a tan complexion sparkling beside her Caucasian co-finalists onstage. 

Again, there lies the irony: in the eyes of the world, the gorgeous Filipina is one who radiates beauty with a color of an islander, proud of the fusion of both Hispanic and Malayan as well as other Western races in the totality of her being.  She is not someone whose skin has been so engineered or chemically conditioned to belong to a species that is not hers to begin with.

After all, the real measure of beauty is in its truth. Or authenticity.

In the age of enhancements, well ... we all dance to the music we sing.  Walang basagan ng trip.  Thanks to the developments in science and technology, you can be whoever you want to be or become as long as you have the resources to make yourself happy.  That includes completely reinventing yourself, rearranging your face like a jigsaw puzzle until you find the right package that suits your needs.

Don't get me wrong.  Our fair-skinned icons like Marian Rivera, Carla Abellana, Bea Alonso, Kim Chiu and Anne Curtis are all beautiful in their own unique ways, embodying what is maganda in the here and now.  But so are those who have accepted the colors of their skins --- to make them stand side by side with any mestiza and still stand proud: Isabelle Daza, Angel Aquino, Heart Evangelista ... just to name a few.

Again, for final emphasis: maganda ang kayumanggi. I do not need a clenched fist up in the air to prove that.

Perhaps beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. 

But what can be seen and adjudged can only last for so many seconds or scratch only the surface.  Anything that is skin-deep, of course, has nothing but fleeting value because this is bound of change and eventually wither away.  Real beauty is the genuineness in what beauty has to offer ... and that has got nothing to do with something that has been manipulated just to have that elusive and never-reachable thing called kagandahan.

Friday, June 12, 2015


It is common knowledge in our small group of friends that one of us has this aversion for children.

No, it is not that he hates children. He just could not stand them. We assume that this is because he can never be a progenitor nor could he be in any chance or circumstance to take care of toddlers. And he explains for his allergy for children inasmuch as he could not stand their parents as well.

For instance, for the love of the good Lord Almighty, I too do not understand why any sane and sensible parent would bring his or her child to a tiangge during the height of the Christmas rush.  OK, add any mammon of commerce during that crazy season when everybody but anybody can be found in a mall, elbowing his or her way on the escalators or plowing through the corridors of goods being sold in a department store.

Why would you bring your kid (ranging from a few months to about eight years old) to be part of this frenzy --- this commercial pandemonium? Why would you push around a stroller or drag along your cute bundle of joy dragging him through the sea of nerved-up shoppers? Has it not occurred to these parents that they are actually exposing their children to a variety of elements, some of which are dangerous especially to the fragile constitution of their kids?  Whatever.

Then there is always that announcement at the PA System about someone's child who was found in a state of near shock or even catatonia.  Why? Because the kid finally realized that his parents are nowhere to be found --- and it is either he wandered too far away while Nanay was busy haggling with a tindera to cut down the price by another thirty percent or his parents have just had too much that they decided to leave him to fend for himself and may the lucky creature to pick him up wins the prize of instant adoption.

If it is not the security announcing a child found somehow somewhere ... then it is a hysterical parent, usually a mother doing her own interpretation of the most famous Rizal character Sisa weaving her way through throngs of excited shoppers shouting ,"Basilio! Crispin ..." 

I remember somebody giving a rather loud and heartless comment, "Eh, gaga ka pala ... bakit mo dinala-dala dito yung anak mo ... kung hindi mo naman kayang bantayan?"  Precisely why, somebody said. She had to bring the kid along kasi nga there is nobody to take care of the child at home.  This further aggravated the argument, "Eh, di tanga pala siya. Bakit siya gagawa-gawa ng bata kung hindi naman pala niya kayang alagaan?" 

There is no real valid conclusion to such arguments.

After all, children are such bundles of supreme joy. Read: they are gifts from God. O siya. Gift na kung gift. But having said that, then maybe special care and responsibility should be taken into account before accepting such gifts, right?

Or what about my friend's pet peeve?

We were in a restaurant with a group of adult friends quietly having our ramen when this family came in with their four kids.  There were three older siblings from ages of about 11 to 6 years old ... and there was this baby with matching yaya in scrubs printed with flying teddy bears and lollipops.

All was going well without nearly sacramental engagement with bowls of ramen until the kids started acting like kids inside the restaurant. The eight year old daughter had --- uh, rollerblades --- which she was using to zig zag her way through the tables and aisles to make sure she covered every square inch of the restaurant.  The other two younger kids decided to play a catch-me-if-you-can game which involved a lot of running, a lot more screaming and a lot of tables and chairs being knocked over and even a whole lot more customers getting so freaked out with all that noise.

Well, let us not forget the baby ... who was about a year or two in age who was being handled by his nanny but was having a schizophrenic meltdown at this point.  The baby was literally screaming his lungs out --- that we somehow predicted he would go completely deaf/mute by the time the evening was over.  The shrillness of the child's screams reverberated in the Japanese ramen house and could even be heard over the collective, "Do Itasimashite" chorused by the waiters and other staff members whenever a customer wanders into their territory.

Truth be told the presence of these kids was ...unnerving.

How could we possibly eat when there was Rollergirl going all over the restaurant and soon to be practicing pirouettes and cartwheels over people slurping their noodles? How could we possibly eat in peace while two really obnoxious kids are screaming and running all over the resto treating it as if it were their village playground? Then there was Scream Babe ... whose vocal chords were of superhuman strength even at a very early age.

And what were the parents doing while pandemonium broke loose because of the Neanderthal behavior of their cubs?  They were quietly eating their ramen and behaving as if everything was normal. Well, maybe this was their normal ---- after all, these were their children. So we assumed that they live under these conditions 24/7. All this noise pollution, all the shoving and pushing ... they have become numb to that.  

Even the mother, impeccably dressed and not-giving-a-s--t to whatever is happening around her had this look of bliss, either through self-inflicted numbness or the effects of Xanax.  Maybe even Demerol.  Whatever.

My friend was already seething, "If that girl dares to zoom in front of me in her roller blades, I am going to stick my foot out to make sure she crashes."  We warned our friend that if he should get into any form of trouble because of any of the children that we would not (in any manner whatsoever) support him for his vigilante cause.  But of course our friend was just joking although he still had the compulsion to inflict physical harm on anyone, anybody just so that we can enjoy our ramen.

"Blame those idiots," he said, pointing to the parents who were now even talking while the missus was texting. "They should have the decency to realize that there are other people in this restaurant who do not find any of their children cute."

"If they were quiet and well-behaved, would you find them cute?" one of our friends asked.

He looked at the kids and then the parents ... then finally said, "No, it's genetic. If their kids turned out to be such undisciplined little monsters, it is their fault. They have been allowed to behave without giving consideration to others."

Our entire table looked at the parents who were smugly maneuvering their ramen into their hungry mouths with chopsticks.  Yup, they could not give a hoot about anybody else in the restaurant while they were enjoying their meal and their kids turned the Japanese restaurant into Samurailand.

In the meantime, the rather harassed yaya was calling the attention of the older kids, "Stef-fy, Lui-gi, Pau-lu ... ...yu kam hir olredi and eat your pud ..." 

Of course she got no response from the little monsters.  So Yaya went back to the baby who was still screaming his head off, vocalizing while busting his vocal chords. And the rest of the humans populating that sector of the planet were quietly cursing and wishing for the immediate implementation of any bill in congress encouraging birth control.

We decided to just finish our bowls of ramen and get the hell out.

I guess we will never understand the way parents think, feel and behave when they go to the real world and foist their children.
I guess we can never know how it is to have kids not unless you really are out there raising them ... with all their foibles and follies which you think are cute ...but deplorable in the eyes of those who do not share your gene pool.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


I never had the chance to write this ... or maybe I never had the courage to do so.

It has been more than a year since my mother left us.

She was 101 years old when she joined my father.  Yes, she was a year over a century.  And I am in awe of that.

My Mama had a most interesting life.  

She would tell me with such sadness about how she was the eldest of more than ten children.  All of the siblings that followed her died. Most of them would succumb to some illness by the time they were teething.  

This was the reason cited by Mama about the frailty of my maternal grandmother. 

My Lola Tating buried more than ten of her babies.  Only my Mama survived. And she lived through all of that in the final decades of the early 20th century.  She would get pregnant, bear a son or a daughter ... and bury the child even before the infant was a year old.

My mother inherited the strength of her mother. She never complained.  She kept quiet, dealt with fate and played the role she chose to perform.

My Mama was beautiful and that is no exaggeration.  

No, she was not just beautiful ... she was stunning.  Her photos when she was only 15 years old showed an exceptionally beautiful girl on the eve of being a woman. Her studio photograph when she was seventeen or eighteen years old already revealed why she was such a prized possession of the family.  My Mama should have had her face blown to a size that warranted the admiration of a greater number. She was just so ...beautiful.

Her father died when she was but a little girl and during those times in the first and second decades of the past century, widows with little daughters did not receive the best of opportunities. My Lola Tating and my Mama had to live with the Andrades comprised of old maids and bachelors residing in, of all places, Intramuros where my great grandfather worked in what I recall as some kind of Weather Bureau.

It was only later that the entire family moved to a street called Tengco, in Pasay City.

My mother had so many unrealized dreams.

My Mama wanted to go to college but she told me that her aunts and uncles did not allow her to do so.  There were not enough funds to send her to higher education.  Even in her later years, she recalled how she so wanted to take up nursing ... but there was no money for enrollment and no one in her family wanted to sponsor her education. Even in her middle age she lamented the fact that she never had the career she wanted to pursue.

She was expected to be only a housewife and mother. That was why she discovered reading.

Oh, how she loved to read.  

That was something I knew I got from her.  

And she loved music. 

Mama used to play the piano ... but she would attribute years of being a housewife and mother of young boys as the reason why the ability to make music with her hands left her.  She would tell me that her fingers have gone stiff, losing their dexterity in playing the keys to years of neglecting practice.  Yet never she never lost her love for music ... for she would lighten up when she heard Chopin, delightfully recounting that she and my father loved Jo Stafford's No Other Love because it was actually an etude from her favorite composer.

In her 101 years, my Mama went through a lot.

She was 42 years old when she found herself pregnant with who would turn out to be her youngest child --- that's me.

In the mid-1950's women in their forties took great risk to bear children.  My parents used to joke that Mama thought she was undergoing menopause only to be surprised to find out that she was actually pregnant.  

My eldest brother was 17 years old at that time ... and my second brother was 15.  In the entire brood of cousins, I was literally the baby.  I was the afterthought.

Her middle age pregnancy was threatening.

It was a fragile and critical phase: Mama became sickly and it was advised that it would be best not to go on with the pregnancy.  My Mom persisted and insisted --- and she said I almost killed her.  She was bedridden for most of the nine months I was growing inside her.

A few days before I was due, it was revealed that I was in the wrong position inside her womb.  There was panic because Cesarean section would have been required. During those years, such operations were still very, very dangerous for the expectant mother.  Worse was the fact that Mama had a heart condition --- and the doctors were worried that she would be unable to withstand the procedure.

Mama said that she dedicated the next few nights in utmost prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 

She said she promised Our Lady that she would dedicate her child to Her if she was spared of the need to go under the knife to bring me to the world.  Even the doctors believed that it was some sort of miracle that I somewhat heard Mama's prayers and decided to go into the normal position.

Only my closest friends know that indeed I have been dedicated to the Virgin of Baclaran Church.  My second name is Maria Socorro.

What struck me most was what my parents would always tell me as a child.

There was fear that I was going to be mentally challenged because women of that age giving birth took the risk of having a defective child.  My father said that they were somewhat apprehensive that I would be what is now politically called a special child.  "The moment the nurse brought you into the hospital room, the first thing we did was to check if your eyes were too wide apart." I did not understand this when I was young ... but now the mere thought still sends me to peals of laughter,

My Mom took pride in calling me her menopause baby. And, well, I guess that is what I am.

All through my years, my Mama had always been that quiet yet strong force that glued together our family.  All through those years I knew that it was Mama who was so much stronger than my father in being able to endure almost anything that came along the path of life.

My Mama quietly cried when my second brother and his family left for Canada sometime in the mid-1970s.  My second brother looked so much like her father --- the original Jose Javier.  I knew she took that badly because she would always tell me that my kuya reminded her so much of the father that she only had for such a short time. Now my brother was living on the other side of the world --- and the only opportunity she had to spend time with him was when my father died and I sent her to be with him for more than six months.

I knew she was happiest when she was with the son who left for a better life elsewhere.  I knew that was the only way to appease the pain of losing her partner for more than sixty years of togetherness. I saw that immeasurable happiness in her eyes whenever she was with her favorite son who looked so much like her father.

My Mama was strong when we buried my eldest brother.  I remember that it was my father who was crying, telling us that there is no greater pain than for a parent to bury his child.  Mama was quiet ... as I held onto my Dad at that time.  But I knew the pain.  I knew so much the pain.

I guess she also lost me too in the latter years.

I remember her telling me that she did not touch my bedroom after I left to spend more than a year studying in the U.S.  She said it was too painful for her to see the unmade bed and the clothes I left behind as I left the house for the very first time to fend on my own.  

She was also in such great pain when I moved out of the old family house to live on my own, occupying one of the apartments at the legendary South Syquia.

Parents go through that heartbreaking process of letting their kids go. Any which way, it will never be easy ... inasmuch as it is a necessity.  Most especially for Filipinos who love to keep everyone within the periphery of the hearth, independence is often mistaken for rebellion not taking into consideration the importance of letting go.

This is something parents learn to accept but not with pain.

My mother lived to be more than a century in age.

In her latter years, it was such a trial to see how time literally ravages the body but never the spirit.  When one by one her friends and peers left --- my mother carried the brunt of being the one left behind.  She would say that to people: that everybody had gone and she was the only one left.  

A few years before she died, we did not inform her of friends or relatives who have gone ahead. We did not upset her more than necessary.  She was still lucid at times but there were moments when her thoughts would be in a loop.  She would be repeating the same thing over and over again.  But that is nothing extraordinary with old people.

On her centennial celebration, one of my nieces prepared a book of her old photographs, chronicling her life in pictures from the time the photos of her parents, Ignacia Andrade and Jose Javier ... to her most recent photographs.

There were pictures of my Mom and Dad as young parents, graduation pictures of my brothers, their wedding photos, my graduation pictures ... the parade of family reunions held annually ... until one by one the cast of characters became fewer and fewer.  And there was my mother. Still.

What struck us most was that at age 100, she looked at the photos and named each and every event.  She remembered, "Ah, this was taken during Joey's high school graduation. And this one was Mandy's wedding ... this is during one of the birthdays of your Lola Guelay where everybody gathered in her house ..."  She remembered all the events.  She named all the people in the photos.

In her mind was the memory of 100 years.

When she finally left us, Mama did it her way, in a manner that was so like her.

Although she has been going in and out of the hospital for about a month, there was a no major ailment that would be reason enough for her to go ... except for the fact that it was time to end the journey of a life.  

But one afternoon her caregiver said, she entered my Mom's bedroom and found her to be ... exceptionally happy.  She was smiling and even singing and did something not quite the usual: she thanked her caregiver. Then she went to take her nap.

My mother never woke up from that sleep again.

All we wanted was for her to have a peaceful exit and that much was given to us.  But even in her death, my Mama did it quietly and with her own brand of dignity.  She was happy that afternoon because she knew she was going to be with my Daddy as well as her eldest son.

Sometimes it is so hard for us to understand the strength and courage of the women in our family.  Sometimes we tend to underestimate what is required from mothers --- and how, through the years, they can be taken for granted or misunderstood.

Parents often say that you will never fully comprehend how it feels or why they think they way they think until you become a parent yourself.  But maybe you need not have children to grasp the difficulties that constitute that entire adventure of parenthood and dealing with life.

It is a little over a year since my mother died but there are things I find out about her ... and my father.  Before she died, my mother handed me a most precious possession ... perhaps the best legacy she and my Dad could ever leave me. It was an envelope of all the love letters my father gave my Mom when he was courting her.

In neat dark blue Parker pen handwriting are the lives of my parents when they were young.

In the words of my father, I saw the beautiful Belen Andrade Javier come back to life again.

My beautiful Mama.