Sunday, October 20, 2013


Today I turned 59 years old.

If I were a regular worker  on the pay list of a company, I have one more year of employment before being ushered into the limbo of retirement.  I found out that in certain educational institutions, a professor can only retain his full-time status until the age of 60.  Not unless you are an educator earning the much revered status of a fellow can you be allowed to stay in the classroom to mentor students until you hit 65. 

Otherwise you can only work on a part time basis.  You can no longer ba regular employee with the privileges of a Full Time teacher.  Just when you reach that age when you need all the semblance of financial security for the inevitability of autumn leading to winter, you realize that you are sent out to the pasture to go fend for yourself and practice the Law of Survival.

Not unless you have a sense of foresight and accessed the experience and expertise of people handling your money, hitting the later part of your professional career may not only be described as difficult.  It is the hardest point of your professional life because people will make you feel that seniority is not marked with much deserved respect for years given to work. 

Instead, it is to confront the fact that no one is indispensable ... and your number of years of service really do not matter outside the computation of the retirement and separation pay. It is confronting the fact that this is the cycle of life --- and that all things must come to an end regardless of how good you are in your work or how much of your life you have invested in your profession.  It is the admission that your time is up and that you have to give way for the new generation to come in and take your place.

That is the biological cycle, right? We grow old, we physically deteriorate and die because we are no longer of any use in reproducing our species. The moment you stop being productive --- you are discarded, dispensed with ... and relegated to obliteration.

And it is not your fault because that is the way it is.  That is the way it has always been. That is life.

I am glad I am not caught in that rigid template where your usability is measured by your years of earthly existence.  

Yes, at 59 --- there are things I can no longer do as the time when I was 29.  But I do not think I would want to do the things I was doing at 29 even if had the power and energy to do that.  Years may diminish physical strength and stamina but this is replaced with something more important --- wisdom.

Yes, it is also true that in our teen all the way up to our 20s, we can sustain ourselves to as much as 48 hours without sleep, relying on the powers of adrenaline and Lepovitan.  But now that's over.  We work hard to keep ourselves healthy but do we really want to allow ourselves to be enslaved for 24 straight hours of work just to be able to afford Birkins and Jimmy Choos? Huwag na lang po.  

(I have long ago decided that a lot of hard work is meant to give you a good life and not to prepare for suites at Saint Luke's with the best view of The Fort.)

You cannot change the natural course of aging ... and, God knows, how many people try to reverse the process by injecting gallons of Botox on their faces ... only to look not young but embalmed. 

What is perhaps most unacceptable is the presumption that after a certain age, you are already no longer good for doing some things or anything.

Admittedly I can no longer regain the waistline I had when I was 19 or 29 (and, boy, my gym buddies can attest how hard I try with my leg raises, crunches and overdose of cardiovascular exercises), this does not mean that my brain cells have turned into a mucky substance with the consistency of baby food.  

Although repeated to the point of irritating redundancy, age is indeed nothing but a number ... but in life we are always judged by numbers. A man's worth or worthiness is calibrated by how much he has, how much he earns, how much more he can make ... and how old he is.  In a world unfortunately obsessed with youth, age is somewhat equated with a curse.  Growing "old" is like "living death" because your options become smaller and shorter and narrower and fewer as you add more candles to your cake.

Unfair it is indeed, but that is the way of a world that changes faster than it can be understood or perceived.  Therefore no one is surprised that the advancement of years is simplistically equated with deterioration ... and not with fermentation or even maturation.  To be young and new mean everything --- but the greater misfortune is that youth and newness carry a very, very short lifespan.

I have often heard or read comments hurled against me and people  my age of being "OLD" --- as if it were an insult to reach nearly six decades of life. 

The adjective "old" is spat out with contempt as if the only value we have on this plane of existence is to turn into a pot of organic fertilizer.  There seems to be such a contempt, a hatred ... a phobia for old people as if these creatures were abusing their earthy stay.  A peer once commented, "Respect for elders has long been diminished into a ritual of being polite but certainly not a practice that is felt."

After all, how many times have we heard the terms "old school" to describe the way things were done before --- and still being done today.

But there are two sides to all this. Indeed, you cannot be doing the same thing you have used to define your comfort zone for the past too many decades.  We must all evolve.  We cannot stagnate just because we assumed we have reached a certain level of competence or goodness ... if not complacency.  

The moment you stop growing and evolving, then you turn into a dinosaur and subject to the possibilities of extinction.

That is why I believe age is only a number.  Even if the years have affected by dexterity and that almost everyone around you complains about their BPs or their latest attack of the gout or that every gathering of old friends becomes a brainstorming of medical assistance where people catalog their latest ailments, the true essence of staying young is all in the mind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: there is this thing about age appropriateness.

There must be that cut-off age when you can wear skinny or carrot jeans without looking stupid.  Or dyeing your hair apple green. Or wearing Doc Martens half-boots.  Or going around Bonifacio High Street with a hashtag of YOLO emblazoned on your forehead.  That all depends on how you want to define your world --- with or without the changes happening within it.

And when you really come to think of it --- if it involves your follicles being colored as if it had chlorophyll ... or wearing jeans to delude yourself that you can still move like Jagger ... why the hell not? It is, after all, your life ... your choice ... your groove. Right?  To hell what other people think. 

Yes, today I am 59 years old --- and, believe it or not, I have never felt better.  Because in more ways than one, I care for the things that require caring about and couldn't give a flying f--k about things that ... well, don't matter to me in the long run.

Last Friday I had a beautiful dinner with classmates from my college days --- and they are all. No, I stand corrected --- they are all very successful not because of the positions they have achieved in life but because they are happy with who they are and even happier with the families they have created. I look at them and see how far the journey has taken them ... how far the roads we have traveled have taken us.

I am 59 years old --- and I work out four to five times a week as I have reached that point in my life that I know how to differentiate what I want from what I need

I no longer want to kill myself just to be able to flaunt to the world that I was able to buy something in six or seven digits without selling my soul to the devil.  I have stopped killing myself at work because you reach that point when you realize that, honey, you can't take that with you.  I've stopped trying to kill myself to make other people rich ... and, worse, to show the world what a good life I have.  Isn't that not only ironic ... but downright stupid to sacrifice your life to prove that you have a fabulous existence?  I almost died doing that years ago ... and I said, nevermore.

Besides ... no one remembers you for how rich you are ... but rather what kind of a person you have become in trying to be the person you want others to see.  The most important person you must confront is the reflection you see in the mirror when you are alone at night and you ask yourself, "What am I doing here? What have I done? What is there left to do?"

I am 59 years old and I do not feel it because I can still wear skinny jeans and people don't see me as a fool. 

I can do three straight spinning classes which people half my age can't seem to endure (and I love watching those thirty year olds fall off the bikes with tongues dangling matched with lungs heaving).  I can still argue as to why I believe Katy Perry is a far superior artist than Miley Cyrus by comparing the songs "Road" and "Wrecking Ball" with academic gusto.

And, yes, I can do Robin Thicke's dance steps in the video of "Blurred Lines."

Over and above all that, I have the wisdom and information of 59 years to tell anyone younger than me that I only wish he can reach my age --- and feel this happy. Because, Sir, that is the biggest blessing you can get from the good Lord. To have lived this long ... and to still have very good reasons for living. And I am thankful.

I have also come to realize why the youth have such an aversion for old age. It is because they are scared. It is because a great number of them cannot imagine themselves any farther than who they are in the here and now.  And a great number of them indeed will not reach old age because they will kill themselves in the process of defining themselves for what they can accumulate in a life purely dedicated to the truth of the moment.

That is sad ... because they can never experience the pleasure of growing old and being old.

I am so thankful to be in the here and now inasmuch as I can never regret growing "old" because not too many have gone this far in the journey that I have taken.

P.S.: The greater the number of candles on the cake, the brighter glows the room.  And that's the truth.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I can only thank the heavens above that I already reached the suburbs before the rains came a-pouring. But even if there was not yet a drop of rain from where I stood, the tsunami of Facebook shoutouts, Twitter yelps and text messages expressed the same degree of overwhelming alarm. "Oh, my God! Not again! Visibility zero with this rain ... and the waters are rising fast."

Welcome to Manila.

That overflow of complaints expressed not only frustration but downright outrage.  I was all too grateful to be spared of that kind of experience again.  The longest haul I had to endure was when I was stuck in traffic close to three hours from Tomas Morato in Quezon City to reach an event Makati. And that was because we indulged in the greatest act of self-flagellation by using EDSA as our route right after a rainfall.

Well,it's not only the traffic that gets your blood and bowels boiling: it's the threat --- the constant threat that any moment your vehicle will be submerged in waist deep water because there is no more telling what are the flood prone areas in our dear "It's More Fun Out Here"-metropolis.  

Streets that were once exempted from rising mucky waters transform into virtual canals in less than thirty minutes. Somewhere in Timog, some unlucky chap happened to park his car in the most flash flood-prone area of the stretch so that after the rain, he saw his vehicle literally floating. A case of bad luck, that's all.   As somebody in showbiz once said in a quote gone immortal, nowadays "you can never can tell."

We can't leave it at that. The better question to ask is: "Are we still supposed to be surprised that any moment Manila will turn into one giant estero at the slightest suggestion of rainfall?"  Oh, come on, let's face facts, OK?  Let's not even dare complain ... again. Why? Because we have to admit the truth: It is not going to get any better.

I have the compulsion to repeat that: It is not going to get any better. As a matter of fact, I have a very strange feeling (and to think I make no claims of being the next Madame Auring) that: It is going to get worse ... then worst.

So at what point did I let go of my usual sunshiny disposition and irrepressible optimism?  Because I am dealing with the obvious. I can always imagine some divine intervention to change the course of inevitable events but it isn't going to happen.

Folks: we will be submerged in deeper and deeper floods because we have reached that point that we cannot do anything about it ... not unless some process of geographical bewilderment and wonderment will raise all of Luzon to the altitude of Baguio City.

Let me count the ways that can justify this fear in me:we keep screaming our heads off trying to pinpoint somebody ... no, any body to be responsible for correcting this disaster.  I mean, who's in charge here? Who's responsibility is this?  The MetroManila Development Authority? The Department of Public Works and Highways?  Da who?:!

And we simply have to stop this finger pointing blame game (a favorite Philippine sport) that has become a battle of the rich versus the poor. Don't we all love that sort of conflict of a story line?  Don't we all want to hurl rocks across that cultural divide between those who go through their days with bare feet versus those who can afford custom-stylized Havaianas? 

The government points to all those clogged waterways that has been transformed into garbage disposal chutes by the informal settlers (called squatters by the politically insensitive). These are residents who have turned the borders of esteros into their own cute little baranggays, defying warnings that rising waters resulting from torrential rains can prove a threat not only to their possessions but their lives.  But even if we are no longer considered Third World (o di ba?), we have not yet outgrown our developing worldly ways.

Then again, the much maligned poor point the fingers to the greedy rich. Indeed, they ask, what's screwing up the sewerage system that has greatly aggravated the flooding in the Metro is the mushrooming of high rise buildings in every imaginable nook and cranny of the city.  If it's not billboards, then it must be condominium buildings ... rising like cultured species on petri dishes without control and seemingly without planning.  

A very irate taxi driver once bewailed, "Bakit ba kami na lang ang laging sinisisi?" (Why do they always blame us, the poor?) Then he pointed to all the high rise buildings around the area of De la Salle University in Taft Avenue and said, "Noong araw naman, nawala na ang bahala dito sa area na ito. Pero bakit bumalik? Kasi di kinakaya ng drainage ng mga buildings na yan, Sir." (The flooding problem in this area has been solved until they built these buildings which the street drainage can no longer handle.) 

Well, yes: Manong Taxi Driver has a point there.

It is not a matter of dredging the bays and the waterways or literally scooping out all the non-biodegradable waste ... it also has got to do with urban planning and foresight.  Finger pointing is not going to solve anything ... added to the fact that knowing the problem is the first step to finding a solution and NOT the solution at all.

Yes, with global warming making its omnipresence felt, the rising water levels all over the world will definitely sink certain cities now infamous for being flood prone. And sad to say --- what was really bad before, like Ondoy, will happen again and again.  And whether we like it or not, it is going to get far much worse ... and there is seemingly nothing we can do about it.

Again, if we take Dormicum to ease all that aggravation and calm our nerves because of the epic traffic jams we confront almost every rainy day ... it is still not going to solve the problem. There will still be floods.  There will still be Ondoys and Pablos and name-your-favorite-weather disturbance.  Nothing will change.

Ventilating our frustrations is therapeutic.  We can curse anyone from the MMDA to the Secretary General of the United Nations and even include the Emperor Penguins who populate the remaining glaciers.  But it will still not solve anything.  

I have come to a resigned conclusion that we can only TRY to make our lives better --- and learning to live with this outrageous condition that has been prophesied years before by both harbingers and scientists. Let's all buy amphibian tanks ... or if that is too expensive, nicely decorated bancas to the tradition of our cute and quaint jeepneys, complete with chrome horses and burloloys.

What we must accept is that floods and traffic have become a fact of life --- but that does not exempt the powers that be to ease the pain, use the available resources and this time to gain foresight to insure that the damage is minimized.  Yes, there can be no miracles but there could perhaps be more ... efficiency?

Hey listen: if we have to live with this predicament, then this does not spare the government of an even greater responsibility of taking care of its tax-paying citizenry. Not only that, isn't it about time that we really did something to deal with such problems with accountability and ... yes, credibility. 

We cannot simply sit back and shrug and mutter, That's life because work does not stop with resignation. Or wait for the next Ondoy to mutter, "Ang buhay ay parang life."

There may be no miracles in sight but at least we know where our taxes go... even it is spent for siphoning muck, mud and floating garbage. That's better than what we hear about nowadays, right? 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

WATERWORLD: Or How to Survive in a City Below Sea Level

As I write this, I am trapped.

Out here in the southern suburb, the rains have not ceased since last night.  It is good to be in bed with the sound of downpour providing a calming and cooling feeling as you cuddle up with your pillows and enjoy the company of the Sandman.  But the sound of rain is only calming if you are in that place where you want to be ... and you don't have to be anywhere else at any given time within the day.

After all, coming home from a Sunday night event in Pasay City was already an ordeal.  As early as 3 PM the rains have started to pour --- and even if I was insulated from what turned out to be another fluvial experience in the safety of the Cuneta Astrodome, the rest of the city was already sinking in rising flood waters.  

By 10:45 PM, when it was time to go home --- the maneuvering necessary just to avoid sinking in knee high flood waters was a test of cunning, driving expertise and --- yes, a mastery of all the possible routes in the streets of Manila.

And even as the rains keep coming as I pound on my keyboard, memories of that now legendary Onday creeps into my consciousness. 

Again insulated in the southern 'burbs, I was completely unaware that the Marikina River was overflowing, that cities and villages were literally sinking under the rising waters and the death toll was rising. But it was enough of a trauma.  It was enough to see photographs of how high the waters rose ... and how much damage to human lives and properties were done.

What is even more frightful is the inevitable fact.  Despite, in spite and over above all the efforts done by government, this will happen again and again.  The flood waters will rise in Marikina, Bulacan, certain parts of Laguna, Malabon, etcetera.  The seeming irreversible effect of man's violation and abuse of nature have taken toll --- and remedies done at this point is merely palliative and not conclusive.

Now that is frightening.

It is frightening to admit that the clogged esteros and waterways where garbage is irresponsibly dumped has become so lethal that the determination of government agencies to correct this grievous sin has fallen short of the degree of consequence now suffered.  The work must be ongoing but the disaster has also become overwhelming.

Easier it is to dismiss all this as a result of global warming saying that, "Kahit nga sa Amerika nangyayari yan, sa Pinas pa kaya?"  But still.  Are we therefore here to accept the fact that flood waters will continue to rise as the sea level also reaches unfathomable heights because of the melting of the Polar Caps?

Are we to tell the rich and can-afford that it is time to acquire not Hummers or pampapogi Jeeps but to purchase amphibian tanks instead?  Are we to accept that it has become part of twenty first century existence to deal with floods, live in areas that will be submerged in murky waters and take the punishment for generations of insensitivity to natural balance or even respect for the planet?

As somebody told me with such cynical and vicious conviction,"Face it. It ain't going to get any better. It's just going to be far much worse."

So as I am trapped in my house as the rains keep pouring, I can only be thankful that I took swimming lessons in college.  And that wading in dirty flood waters can just turn out to be yet another national sport.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Lately each morning when I get to the breakfast table and open the papers, my day is ruined.

For the past weeks, there has been this continuing telenovela of yet another tale of shameless graft and corruption in a country promising its resurrection by tireless and revolutionary reforms.

The sudden disappearance of the Queen of the Pork People after a warrant of arrest has been issued by the Department of Justice was only the start of my chronic dyspepsia.  

The week before that, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) has come out with a series of shocking revelations about just how much was carted away from the national coffers to land straight into the gaping purses of certain resourceful individuals that include legislators and scam bunnies like this Invisible Woman.

Then came that "invitational round table interview" of our heroine with the Inquirer editors which shall hold a record of being one of the most incoherent, absurd bordering on the surreal encounters of humans among each other.  An effort to complete a sentence has become a feat.  An even greater effort is to make sense out of statements --- as the woman in questions mumbled, grumbled and eventually stumbled her way in various fabrications hoping to approximate truth.

But wait ... there's more.

Worse than those mind-boggling experiences with media, revelations about the ostentatious lifestyle of the unexplained rich and cheesy infamous rattled all Filipino netizens or anyone who has access to YouTube. 

Images of a lavish birthday party in L.A. hosted by the youngest offspring of said Magic Lady were meant to be awesome, showing how the spoiled rich and privileged spend their money to mark monumental moments of their perfumed lives. The video only complemented Instagram images posted by the same West Coast junior socialite showing her rubbing elbows with high profile Hollywood personalities and exhibiting her collection of designer handbags and shoes.

The video and the web photos all seem to point to some Paris Hilton Wannabe --- complete with that breathless sort of excitement one usually associates with early stages of asphyxia or just typical behavior of airheads.  Whatever.  But regardless of one thinks or feels, the more fashionable among us will admit that the clothes fit good --- and the food looks great.

"Well, if you have it ... then flaunt it."  

That must have been the justification for all that.  After all, it IS the age of the selfie in which you take pictures, spread the image through the net to announce to the world what kind of sushi or dessert you are having right that very moment. If you've got what it takes, then show it ... At mamatay kayong lahat sa inggit kung hindi nyo ito ma-take.

But then again such exhibitions of orchestrated vanity are not justified at all when the money allegedly used for buying the bubblies, the hors d'ouvres, the entire runway set-up for the party and even that tacky photo booth where all her blonde and blue-eyed American friends can go glamorously goofy were paid for by the taxes of the natives back home.

Let's get real here and put penis-envy aside.  There is nothing wrong wearing your Leboutins, Jimmy Choos or sporting all your Stella McCartneys, Herve Legers or Narciso Rodriguezes if what pays for your credit card bills was not extracted from the withholding tax of some humble employee who has to brave the long lines to get into the MRT and invest even greater courage cramped into the tiny space of a train coach overflowing with daily commuters just to get a salary of less than P9000 a month.  

It is OK to stuff your mouth with delicious sushi filled with luscious salmon roe if what pays for your food was not filched from the VAT incorporated in the purchase of goods from a grocery that a minimum wage earner must pay for to feed his family on a daily budget basis.

This is the cause of the present indignation.

People pay taxes to finance government projects so that we have better roads, build a better educational system, develop a credible and effective health care program.  Thirty-three per cent (that is clearly one third) of an employee's salary is not deducted from his take home pay in order to finance a birthday party in some fancy hotel on the other side of the Pacific.  It is not only very wrong --- it is repulsive.

More than the lavish acquisitions of both real estate properties as well as all forms of assets by the family of the alleged mastermind, it is the sudden realization that nothing has changed. It is this frustration mixed with disillusionment --- because each and every time there is new leadership, you keep hoping that the country's history will be shaped by far more than rah-rah-rah speeches or great rhetoric.

You wish there would indeed be leadership that is selfless because it ruled by dedication, principle and conviction --- and not shaped by media frenzy or a marvel of personality marketing. After a while you get an overload of promises that end up as nothing but nicely constructed syllables meant to make sense and boost the morale.

At the end of the day, you find out that the country hasn't budged an inch. That is because for every step forward, you take three backwards. It is like dancing very bad cha-cha.

Yes, there are sincere efforts to clean the system: that much we appreciate.  There are those who cast doubts stating that everything is tinted by politics, politicking and partisanship but it has reached that point that anything that can lead to positive change (both in the short and long terms) is good as good can get.  

So we are in this phase of purging, of national cleansing --- sorting out the weeds from the blooms and making sure there is enough room in the ground for good things to flourish.  There are all the reports about crime busting, castigating the corrupt --- and exposing those who undermine the stability of the republic.

Despite doubts of some, you cling onto to hope, assuring yourself that things will be better because those in charge are capable of greater moral fortitude.  

And then we get this.

And then we are told that both senators and congressmen have actually usurped the money (knowingly ... or worse, unwittingly)  allocated for their PDAF (Priority Development Aid Fund) to non-existent NGOs. We are told that there is a modus operandi that exists between the offices of the lawmakers and the minions of the Pork Lady.  We are also informed that this has been going on for years. Systematically operational ... for years, my God!

Millions of pesos have been siphoned from the national piggy bank so that some girl can drive her Porsche and keep her lifestyle in an apartment at the Ritz-Carlton.  Millions may or may not have been pocketed by the very people who we elected to guide us through the most turbulent and trying times and to focus on what are the prospects available to glorious nationhood.

This infuriates a whole lot of us ... no, it is tantamount to rage because we feel so cheated that what we yield as our taxes was used to sustain lavish lifestyles that even we cannot dream of remotely achieving.

Actually, it is disgusting. And heartbreaking.

More than the P10B stolen from what should have been invested in nation building, giving aid to those devastated by national calamities or improve the quality and scope of our infrastructure, the greater pain comes from the realization that you do not know who to trust any more. 

Worse than that, you fear that you have lost your trust on the lawmakers whose names have been dragged into this scam.  Whether they are victims themselves of some grand design meant to discredit individuals or nip political ambitions, we cannot tell ... and for some, we couldn't care less.  What is so painful to realize at this moment is that you no longer know who to believe ... and if we so choose to invest our faith even in some, we no longer know how. Or even ask ourselves if we still should or could.

After the latest expose of the head of the Commission on Audit, more names of senators and congressmen from both sides of the color camps were dragged into this quagmire of shame and brazen theft.  If this were a ploy to castrate the Opposition in building their war chest for the Battle of 2016, then this is one of the most gross miscalculations in Philippine Political Strategies.  The revelations blew right on the faces of everybody ... and by that, we mean ... everybody.

A security guard (in all his simple wisdom) encapsulated the feeling most want to pinpoint but never had the guts to say: "Sir, umasa ka pa? Pare-pareho lang po sila."

Then one also begins to wonder: if the pork barrel were removed or abolished, how many would still aspire to be senators or congressmen? Every senator gets P200M a year allocation --- while every congressman gets P70M.  Take away that --- and would we have as many patriots yearning to serve the mamamayang Pilipino because they woke up one morning and realized that this was their real mission in life?

We cannot be all that cynical.  There are people out there who deserve the position of great responsibility to assume national leadership. But at the moment they do not stand the chance because they don't have the backing, the support, the manpower ... and more important, the money to do so. 

Just now I received a text message from my accountant quoting the exact amount I have to pay for my monthly VAT.  I looked at the text message and the price I have to pay next week ...and realized that something already died in me.  It is not only about the amount I have to pay ... it is the feeling of helplessness that goes with the payment.

And I do not want to be helpless any more.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Actually I am so surprised.  And very disappointed.

When I hear all these horror stories about how this performer has changed so completely by exhibiting megalomaniac behavior on the movie set, I ask myself if this were possible at all.  

You only hear stories like these about actors who you know from the very start are half-wits.  And that is only because there is not much brain inside their skulls that air can easily seep in ... either through the nostrils or even the ears. Plagued by apparent lack of intelligence, it somewhat follows that actors or actresses of the sort tend to see themselves as semi-deities sent here on earth to bless mere mortals with their awesome beauty and even their not-so-apparent talent.

But not this performer. Not someone who you know is smart enough to discern what is right from what is wrong.

Not the intelligent and educated. Not those who you have appreciated not only because of their talent but also their professionalism. And what you thought was passion. More so, the ability to be reasonable and to reason out things in a crazy world like entertainment.

You are somewhat rattled, baffled and even floored when you hear stories about how egomaniac actors treat people on the set. 

You shudder when you find out what they demand from the production --- or even the shabby way they treat the minions who scamper around the air-conditioned tents where they stand by during shootings or tapings making sure all their needs are identified and addressed immediately.

You freak out when someone gives you an account of how they demand their own tents, not wanting to share this with other performers.  Your eyes pop out when you hear how they want people cordoned off their periphery because they suddenly "want to be left alone", demand their own portable toilets which they refuse to share with others --- including fellow actors.  

Or the way they move around the set with their noses pointed to the constellations Castor and Pollux ---either because they are suffering from stiff neck or due to an usual pull of gravity on the back of their heads.

You would think that they would have at least the heart and the conscience to realize that a production assistant doesn't even earn as much as the withholding tax taken out from a leading performer's talent fee. You would think that since they also came from the ranks that they would understand and care, that they know how it feels to work one's way to the top.    

Apparently not.  Success can be intoxicating.  And who was that who said that success does not change an individual: it shows the real person.

Perhaps even more disheartening is the realization that you never knew these people at all.  The years you have supposedly known each other suddenly seem so meaningless because what you hear from others. they seem to be talking about a total and complete stranger. 

How could this be the same person you have sat across tables discussing, laughing or even sharing insights into life that go beyond discussions of issues of the business or even the twists and turns of careers? 

You mean all this time, this artist was capable of such exhibitions of not only vanity but of downright inhumanity tempered only the fact that the performer was not yet empowered with what turned out to be a sense of entitlement to make these impossible demands from others?

Oh, come on. Give me a break.

Well, people change.  

That is inevitable. People change because they must change.  Those who refuse to change become extinct.  Change is for survival ... inasmuch as change becomes inevitable. But what pathway of change one takes is a matter of one's choice.  

That also involves far more than intelligence or talent: change requires a lot of maturity. This is most especially true if and when fame and fortune are concerned for these are such dangerous monsters. 

Success in the form of fame and fortune can be dangerous to a person with inferior intelligence.  It is worse when accompanied by determined immaturity. But it is worst when the megalomaniac is really smart --- and is aware of that he or she can get away with being an asshole because the others around him or her have no choice but to comply.

Success is the best weapon for the vengeful.  This is the stuff telenovelas are often made of --- and this is the life script of some movie and television actors and actresses who overestimate their value in their present human existence.  They turn into shit bags.

Weather-weather lang, they say.

Yes, fame and fortune are not only sought after but there are many who would sell their bodies and soul to have a taste of fame and to be known for their fortune.  In the local entertainment industry, stories about wannabes trying all too desperately to be "some bodies" yield heartbreaking stories.  

That is only because success in the entertainment industry is so overrated and that media perpetuates itself through delusional myths and legends.  Media has brainwashed young people that the only way to salvation, the quickest route to Nirvana is to make it big as a star. And you thrive to be a star at all costs. And when you get to the top, you can be anyone you want to be ... and people have no choice but to take you for who you are. 

Star ka, di ba?

The climb is easy for some ... but a tedious process for others.

There are those who achieve their much-desired fame and fortune because they are made to believe that the angels in the heavens above have connived with God to bless them with sheer luck.  But easy come, easy go. The millions that flow into the wallets, pouches and bank accounts also flow out as fast especially if the performers are not wise enough to realize something that their producers will never tell them to their faces: It isn't going to last forever.  

No producer will ever tell their stars that one day they will all wake up and all this will be gone. All this will be over.

There is always someone newer, fresher and cheaper waiting in line for a star's expiration date to finally come.

And considering that we are now living in a world where stars are not naturally discovered, developed and adored, the age of pre-fabricated stardom yields such short-term success --- lasting about three years. If someone is lucky, they can hit five. Maybe ten.  Anything beyond that, prepare yourself for father/mother roles.  Brace yourself for the even longer and more painful trip downhill.

So in the meantime, while basking on the pinnacle of success, the divas make you feel every millisecond, every available erg of what constitutes as their clout. Maybe it is payback time: maybe it is all about the years of struggling to get to the top that pushes these actors to finally flex their muscles, pose impossible demands and act like they own the world --- just to show everyone that they now occupy center stage, own the spotlight and couldn't give a hoot about anybody else sharing their oxygen.

The irony is that the real big stars never behaved that way. Certainly not the Vilma Santoses or the Sharon Cunetas or the Maricel Sorianos.  If ever they want something, they make sure they bring it with them together with their entourage who answers their needs.  They pose no unnecessary or unreasonable demands to the production. And, yes, these ladies treat their co-workers well which is why regardless of the the passage of years, they are respected and loved.

There are real stars --- and there are passing trends.

Not these flash-in-the pan divas. The peak of their popularity usually have the life span of a mayfly. And they don't even know it because they are so preoccupied counting their blessings thinking that the Universe owes it to them.

Enjoy the moment. It won't last long. That much we are assured.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Nobody is really exempted from this.

Each and every one of us has at least one horror story about salesladies in department stores, boutiques, supermarkets --- or even your neighborhood convenience store.  There must be something demonizing about standing behind the counter --- or simply standing for most of the day earning your living assisting people or peddling goods.

Yes, there are bad customers. But there are also terrible salespeople who are not only bad for the business ... but bad. Period.

It is just that somewhere in Zurich there is this Italian-speaking lady who has never heard of Oprah Winfrey.  

How somebody from the Planet Pluto managed to land behind a counter of a high-end store selling upscale Tom Ford bags is something I cannot imagine to this very split second. This totally disconnected lady's refusal to even show one of the world's richest women a bag approximately worth US$38,000.00 because she presumed that the potential buyer "could not afford it" was not merely racist but downright stupid.

Had she known that US$38,000.00 can just be grocery money for somebody who supposedly earned $77M dollars last year, maybe Miss Retail Switzerland would have treated the Big Boss of Harpo Productions just a tad bit better.  

Well, it cannot be helped. Or maybe it can.  Stupidity and/or sheer lack of manners or even training in civilized behavior are really bad for the business ... or, in this case, the Swiss tourist industry.  

You don't mess around with the Queen of Talk because when Ms. Winfrey talks, the world will listen.  No, it goes far beyond that. Oprah's charm is her ability to get people to empathize with her --- to find a much larger lesson than what seems to be at hand.  After all, she will be given the highest honor that any civilian can be awarded by no less than the President of the U.S., right?  She must have done something right ... or good. 

But then again ...

There is really nothing earth shaking about Oprah's experience except for the fact that it happened to her of all people. Well, that and the fact that it is 2013 and you still find such feeble-minded thinking in --- wait a minute: Zurich?! To be prejudged for your buying power because of the color of your skin is the ultimate put-down, a ridiculous if not hideous kind of prejudice that connotes the worst form of racial discrimination or even xenophobia.

Yet for any one who is not born with white skin and has traveled to parts of this planet where blonde and blue eyes are brought about by genes and not L'Oreal or contact lenses, such experiences are common.  Sad, yes ... but common.  And, as Oprah herself said in her interview where she cited this celebrated incident in Switzerland, prejudice and discrimination can assume numerous forms --- whether racist or sexist in nature.

Despite our belief that the world has become so small and that various races have assimilated into one melting pot, there is still and perhaps will always be discrimination.  Despite all efforts to be civil or even at least remain civilized, there will always be distinctions brought about by the way people look. Or the way they speak, the accents that they carry.   There will always be pre-judgment based on the color of skin, our choice of clothes or even sheer demeanor.

People will always be judged based on perception or pre-conceived notions ... even social-conditioning and not for who they are and what they are really worth in the larger scale of humanity.  

There are those who believe that despite the number of years any Asian or African or even Latino spends in an adopted country --- especially in one predominantly populated by whites --- they shall always remain as second class citizens.  The undertow of the demeaning whisper, the condescending attitude flaunted by those who believe that skin color is the ultimate measure of racial superiority --- will always exist.

It is only a matter of living with it --- by accepting it or fighting against any such opportunities where prejudice becomes suggested or apparent that one learns to live day by day.

But then you need not cross shores to be treated badly.

What is sad is that even within your own country, you get all forms of discrimination and this does not only come from your fellow countrymen of allegedly better education or breeding or social station.  The experience Ms. Winfrey encountered is often found here --- and not because the buyer is African-American but due to the lack of training, etiquette or even dedication for work of the Filipino salesperson.

How many of us have encountered salesladies who refuse to show us merchandise while throwing a really deadpan bitchy line like, "Mahal yan!" (That's expensive!) which is tantamount to saying, "Kapal mo, ha? Di mo afford yan!" (Are you crazy? You can't afford that.) The demented logic here is not because said salesperson wants to spare you the embarrassment of salivating for something way beyond your wallet's reach. She just does not want to waste time showing you something that she thinks is beyond your means.  She feels it is a waste of time dealing with you because you can't afford to buy what you want anyway.

Or what about salesladies who couldn't care less about what they are selling?

Not only do they show absolute lack of interest (perhaps just token courtesy) to their customers --- but also completely devoid of knowledge of what they are selling, what are the available stock or any other piece of information that a potential buyer might find important.  That sometimes includes the price of the item --- especially if the tags have peeled off or some act of God has removed the cost of acquisition.

One time in one of the more popular local clothing chains, I had the infuriating encounter with a cashier who actually snarled at me because I was following-up a loyalty card that the store was supposed to provide me. OK, maybe it was that time of the month and she had menstrual cramps tantamount of labor pains --- or maybe her planets were not in their proper places somewhere up there in the skies --- but, frankly, I do not give a flying f--k.  The point is that I was asking politely and she snarled at me ... and the reply she got will be remembered not only by her (for the next three reincarnations) but also anyone else within the periphery of the store at that time.

A message in Twitter took approximately thirty minutes before a representative of the establishment connected with me, bearing apologies. 

When I tell this story to friends, they say,"Hey, didn't she know who you are?" and I feel more infuriated.  Man, it is not a question of who I am ... because I may be something fresh out of the boondocks and still this salesperson has no right to snarl at me even if she is having her bad hair day! It should not be done to anybody ... everybody ...

Yes, we all know that some salespeople are made to stand up the whole day with only fifteen minutes to half-an-hour respites to ease their tired feet.  We are also aware that some establishments do not provide permanent employment to their sales personnel, either obtaining them from outsourced manpower agencies --- or, in certain cases, given three to six months contracts.  

That means these front line sellers do not have the protection nor the incentive to give more than what is necessary to comply with their job requirements.  But still ... Yes, but still.

If one feels shortchanged by the job, then look for another option. If there are no other options, then accept the situation and be good at it. Passing on one's misery to other people by being unnecessary bitches or practicing idiots do not make much of a future prospect.

More so, being in the service industry and foisting prejudices or simply being judgmental is reason enough to scream, "Off with her head!"

Friday, June 28, 2013


It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Not that we are really surprised.  As a matter of fact, we were counting the seconds --- like the ticking of a time bomb. Or just like when you light a whistle bomb and you hang around nearby waiting for that familiar loud sound right before the big bang.  

But in this case, well, there was no big bang at all.

Just a lot of saber-rattling and moralizing from the same folks that gave you the anti-RH filibustering.  As a matter of fact, we realized that it had already reached the level of the highly predictable.  When something turns out to be guaranteed, then the whole protest against a television show about a married gay man, his wife and his lover just turned out just to be that ... predictable.

What did we expect?  This is after all the holy of everything holy. This is the cradle of conservative Catholicism. Of course they will get mad because they are expected to do and they do not disappoint.  Of course they will accuse the network and its creative people of polluting the minds of the television audiences.  A show like this shamelessly propagates immorality because the Catholics believe that it is a perversion, a manipulation of the demons ... to even think that a man can love another man ... or (Susmaryosnes garapones!) have sex with the same gender.

Not in their Universe. Not in their mindset. A show like My Husband's Lover is dangerous because it packages itself as something real by defying stereotypes, daring to explore a plot line that has been considered taboo for television ... and worse, depicting homosexuals as normal people.

Normal people?  Yes, in the sense that the gay men in this series do not sashay, do not speak bekimon and act/look/talk like everyday men. Correction: extraordinarily good looking well-dressed men (maybe the baby pink clothes are a bit of a giveaway but then go look at Style.Com and you realize that it isn't exactly a mortal sin) who do not have the slightest hint of being effeminate.

That's pretty dangerous, huh?  The fact that certified heterosexual actors like Dennis Trillo, Tom Rodriguez and Victor Basa are the points of a controversial triangle should indeed send shivers up the spines of the moral guardians who would exclaim: "That is not possible! Mga lalake sila! Hindi sila puwedeng maging mga bading!" 

What will the kids think? That these guys are role models for good looks and alternative lifestyles?

The images being sent by this telenovela has become a deliberate deviation from the stereotype badings who have spiced up the idiot box through generations of screaming, squeaking, prancing and even playing the role of the buffoon or the village idiot.  These are not the parloristas with agua oxigenada dyed hair, fake or manipulated mammary glands to impersonate women or who walk around any possible nook and cranny of the city sporting scandalously short shorts, tube tops and barrettes on their hair.

The gays in My Husband's Lover are not even comedians!  They are human, goddamn it! They have real honest-to-goodness feelings.  They cavort with one another ... not to indulge in that usual rowdy act of cheap flirtation but because they are ... in love?!  

So are we still surprised that the Bastion of the Morally Upright would not be offended, appalled not to mention shell-shocked and mollified by this? Prime time television! We are talking prime time television!

But wait: there is more to this than this boring predictability of it all.

The unquestioned Numero Uno entertainer in our country who holds the record for the biggest box office hit in the history of Philippine movies is an overt homosexual who makes no qualms --- and certainly does not hold back on the fact that he is active and practicing in his chosen alternative lifestyle.  As a matter of fact, his association with various men often make it to the newsworthy in the field of entertainment journalism.

Not only does he reign in the box office, he also filled Araneta Coliseum and has a high rating daily noontime and late Sunday evening shows.

It was only a couple of weeks ago when this entertainer found himself in the eye of a storm because of his alleged recklessness in exercising his brand of acerbic humor on a most respected broadcast journalist.  Indeed, if we are to believe the comments and observations of a great number, Numero Uno crossed the line of good taste --- while performing with a blonde wig, fake exaggerated boobs and a skimpy shiny outfit in front a throng of thousands for his audience ... and even more on his Pay-Per-View telecast.

There was an outcry about his sense of propriety --- but, hey, not a pip from the moral guardians, right?

That was because Numero Uno was not a threat while wearing his outlandish costumes.  He may have said a mouthful of hurtful things but he was being a clown.  And jesters are never taken seriously. They are not within the moral radar.

Even if the performer was a certified and self-confessed homosexual, he was seemingly exempted from holy castigation because he was "entertaining."  

So what has that go to do with this whole brouhaha about My Lovers Husband? 

A helluva lot. 

Because it only confirms that gay characters are tolerated (not necessarily accepted) as long as they do not exhibit the behavior of any other normal human being  --- which is caring and loving and having sincere relationships with one another.

The "moral standard" demands that gay characters are laughed at, make fools of themselves, present their personas as larger than life dedicated to the amusement of others --- but never introspective, then they are passable.  They are tolerable.

But make them hurt ... worse, make them love, then they become threatening. Then they are perceived as that lethal virus that transforms everyone queer upon contact like that kind shown in World War Z.  

Make them true ... then the moral guardians will feel threatened. And appalled. 

But what is even saddest about all this is not the ridiculousness of it all ... or the endless moralizing or grandstanding ... but the alienation from truth that emerges when institutions build walls to protect themselves from the rest of the world in order to create their own version of virtual reality.

That, unfortunately, is the much greater danger because it is intolerance and prejudice re-branded as the vessel of the greater good.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Once upon a time coming out meant a girl is celebrating her eighteenth birthday with an impressive party inviting all the significant people in her life so that she may be introduced to society as a young lady.

Or maybe a boy hits his twenty-first year and is now initiated into the rites of adulthood as he assumes his new responsibilities as a dutiful citizen destined to conquer the world with the uniqueness of his person and the armor in his dreams.

But the term coming out has completely changed.  

It no longer involves any physical or social metamorphosis.  Instead it refers to the act of telling the whole world the stuff that you are really made of.  It is, after a drum roll, literally a very public announcement of who you are because of what you have chosen to become.  More than that, it said to be about honesty, liberation and pride for accepting who you are and what you want everybody to know about what you will do with the rest of your life.

Coming out has become a turning point when one reveals if not confirms what everybody has been assuming or whispering regarding one's true sexuality.

In other words, coming out no longer connotes the emergence from some pretty chrysalis to become a fresh adult ready to learn and confront life's challenges. Instead, coming out is actually stepping out of the closet or some cloud of discreet animosity to announce to everyone that, yes, you are different. The term queer (despite its political correctness) seems to be updated --- because standing out of a crowd does not make you a freak. Better yet, you are an exception to the general rule --- and for the eyes of some, you are even breaking the rules, violating the norms and even deprived of the rights to enter the Pearly Gates without some form of exorcism.

You would think that in this day and age when not mere tolerance but acceptance has become the dictum to recognize and appreciate plurality that issues such as these are already considered so last century.  But in these islands, we are the seeming freaks.  We take pride in thinking differently. We celebrate how "uncool" we are in thought and norm even if it meant being left behind how the rest of the world feels.  But then that's just being us.

OK, I get the point. May tama ka rin diyan. 

It does not mean that just because everybody else does it or thinks in a certain way (on this planet anyway) that we have to follow suit as well.

Remember, we are the only nation in the world that does not recognize divorce and there are certain sectors of our society who are so proud about this.  We take great pains to prove that we are pleasantly conservative, practically unmoved by the changes in the world --- and living in our own alternative universe.

We still make such a big deal about the morality in the use of condoms, right?!  And we aren't even discussing about the choice of colors and flavors in these controversial rubbers.

No wonder it's such a friggin' big deal to come out in this country.

After all, we energize ourselves with all sorts of speculations about people --- whether they are our next door neighbors or species of popular interest --- by focusing on ano ba talaga sila?  

No, it doesn't really matter if they are mabait, masama, kampon ni Satanas or even blessed with stigmata. We don't really care if they are matalino, bobo, mautak, mandurugas, magnanakaw or may sayad. We are more titillated speculating whether they are bading or tibo ... manyak or bano, kabit or legit. It is as if it is a matter of life or death or one's choice of sexuality will affect the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China ... or would be a strong factor in the economic growth of the nation until 2016.

As a friend of mine would put it, "May gan'on?"

The curiosity for somebody else's sexual orientation is equated with moral fiber.  Maybe that is why it has become a national preoccupation along the lines of the feverish interest as to who got boinked by who --- or who is now gestating yet another child without the blessings of a holy sacrament.

And not that someone's coming out is not newsworthy all over the world. We hear and read about these things happening in that sector of the news-hungry or scandal-savvy brand of journalism wherever whenever.

For instance, after harassing Ricky Martin for years speculating on his true sexuality, he finally came out into the open and confirmed all those hushed-up whispers or the stuff that fills up spaces in tabloids.  Then what? Well, so what? Ricky Martin can still sing Living La Vida Loca like no other ... and swing his hips to create tremors all the way from Puerto Rico.

When, for instance, years ago Ellen Degeneres came out and admitted that, yes, she was gay ... and had a string of partners until she finally married Portia DaRossi, the world did not exactly stop spinning to freeze in shock. After a while, everything proceeded as the universe planned it --- and people accepted the fact that Ellen was a brilliant host, married to another woman and the face of a most successful talk show that has made its mark in so many seasons.

This holds so true for so many high profile individuals who are eternally scrutinized by the microscopic eyes of the prying platforms of media all over the world. We never get enough of speculation --- and when we get the confirmation, we begin our ruthless exercise of hasty generalization, ruthless judgment or even downright bigotry.

But the point is that whether Anderson Cooper admitted that he is gay or not has got absolutely nothing to do with his brilliance as a broadcast journalist or his integrity as a human being.

The point is also that the talent of actors like Neil Patrick Harris or Cynthia Nixon did not diminish nor did the perception of the audience of their integrity as artists dim in any manner whatsoever when they admitted that --- yes, they were gay.  Why? Because it had nothing to do with what they did best --- which was to perform on screen, on stage and in various television shows.

Being gay is important to who they are all --- but that is not everything about them.  In the same vein, being a homosexual plays a great part in how one thinks, feels and is positioned in society --- but it is not everything about a person.  It just so happens ... in the same manner that it just so happens that one is straight, one is bisexual or one who decided to pursue asceticism. 

Again this is all a matter of the choices you make.  Acknowledging who you are and knowing the rewards and consequences of choosing to become what you are meant to be regardless of what institutions, man-made norms and social obligations dictate is part of everyone's journey for growth. Our pursuit for personal happiness is ours and ours alone.  Parents and other organized institutions dedicated to the distinction of right from wrong will always have something to say, hopefully with the best of intentions.  But the choice is still left with the individual because only you can define, describe and eventually discover what will make you happy.

It is also your choice whether you want to make a big deal about coming out or just go with the flow and let whatever may be ... may be.

For the media personality, coming out has become an event whether they maneuver it as such or drawn out of inevitability.

The moment you make a living in front or behind a camera, onstage, on location or in a studio, people are always bound to speculate.   Whether you will admit, confess or make this an event comparable to the red carpet premiere of a multi-million peso production is again one's personal choice.  

Whether one chooses to keep mum and not respond to any queries as to what one really prefers as company when the doors are locked or the lights are dimmed, again that is the choice of the individual. This holds true for the most brilliant of stars ... to the barely noticeable asteroids gravitating around Planet Fame. 

Is it a sin not to give any concrete reply or even address questions about one's sexual preference? Of course not!  There is not a single line in the constitution of any nation or any legal contract binding the services of an individual that demands that a person guarantees his heterosexuality much less the mastery of the missionary position in the realm of bedroom exercises.

Coming out only becomes overstated when the celebrity wants to push this aspect to the focus of everyone's attention.  The imaginary sense of obligation to the public  ("I owe it to my fans.") is usually proportionate to the degree of popularity --- or propensity for controversy of a media personality.  Realistically speaking, the public couldn't care less if an actor or actresses chooses to make out with goat or sheep if the said creature is of no media value, right?  The bigger the star, the more popular he or she is ... the more we become curious and the more premium we give to the question, "Who does he drop his pants for?"

But, really? Does a public personality owe the public the right to know how he or she gets his or her jollies?  

The answer is both Yes and No.  

Yes, if he or she feels that this would inspire and give a sense of dignity for accepting one's self. To use celebrity power to also empower people into recognizing the beauty in differences --- and how in a space honoring diversity can human dignity be truly recognized --- is one beautiful way to constructively use popularity.  To inspire, affect and help people by living through example is the best way to show the fans that "It is OK to be different.  It depends on how useful and helpful you serve your society."

However, when coming out is all about launching a career, grabbing public attention and literally kicking the hornet's nest just to have cameras aimed at your direction or have people talking about YOU and not what you are supposedly representing, then that's an entirely different agenda all together.  That is when one uses the vulnerability of the audience (and the gullibility of media) to suck up to very, very personal if not selfish needs.  

When one chooses to focus on the sexual in sexuality --- and to express defiance rather than self-expression, self-affirmation and validation, then coming out is nothing different from any other form of media whoring.

The sad part about coming out in this country is that despite the honorable purpose of a few to show how an alternative lifestyle is not the be all and end all of an individual's usefulness in society, there are those who have merely trivialized it.  Maybe it is media itself that is to blame for turning an event meant to awaken and inspire, open doors for intelligent discussion or even reconsider norms into sheer sensationalized melodrama.  That is when coming out is commercialized and trivialized.

Unfortunately, that does not empower or affirm dignity. It merely cheapens not only the event ... but everyone involved.