Monday, December 24, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

The lessons unfurled were quite loud and clear:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it all boils down to that.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

So here goes.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, this leads me to the second point.

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

Everybody knows this.  Everybody has received this.

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

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

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

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

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

So this leads me to the third issue.

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

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

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

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

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

But then again, consider ...

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

I understand this in the context of the corporate world.

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

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

That, my friends, is a bitch.

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

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

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

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

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

Argumentation Point for Point:

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

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

But this is also why ...

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

It can be interpreted as part of the karmic cycle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Others had witty responses:


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


So there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally....

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

I committed one of the greatest mistakes of my life.

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

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

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

Until last 18 December.  

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And, most, importantly:

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

The process of gift-giving into three stages:

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

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

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

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

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

It is all about the Christmas tree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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