One night, in a quiet neighborhood....

Pasado alas-once at pauwi ako nang mapansin ko na lahat ng tao sa neighborhood ay nasa labas ng kani-kanilang bahay. Bigla akong kinabahan. May sunog? May pinatay? Sinaniban ako ni Gus Abelgas at nakiishmukuy.

Biglang may sumigaw galing sa pinakadulong bahay.

Still unidentified voice: Hoy, Gerry!!!! Lumabas ka dito!!!! Sisirain ko ang pinto!!! Mayaman ako ngayon at puede kong sirain ang pintong to. Tang&(%^$ mo!!! Lumabas ka.

Upon closer inspection, nakilala ko ang sumisigaw as Gerald, kapatid ni Gerry. Kilala ko sila dahil may sari-sari store sila, kung saan ako bumibili ng RC (so probinsya!) Si Gerry ay isang karpentero. Si Gerald ay isang extra. YES, AS IN EXTRA SA MGA TV SHOW. Masyado ata niyang dinidibdib ang mga Star Magic acting workshops. Anyway, I asked neighborhood chikadora (who happens to live next door, that's why I'm ultra behaved; mahirap nang maging pulutan) who has an uncanny resemblance to THE Christy Fermin)

Me: Te, anong nangyayari jan?

Ate Chikadora: Hay nag-aaway yung magkapatid.

Me (thinking to myself, "Duh, obvious ba????"): Bakit ba?

AC: Ah kase, si Gerald, hiniram ang sapatos ni Gerry, binalik, putikan. Eh alam mo naman si Gerry, maingat sa gamit.

Me: Ohhhhhhhhhhh.

Me to myself: Oo nga, halata naman mas malinis itong si Gerry, si Gerald the actor, mas may itsura nga, pero mukhang parating gusgusin naman. But no, does this merit a public scandal? FRIGGING MUDDED SHOES??? But no, eto na ngang si Gerald ang sumira ng sapatos, siya pa ang galit! Meanwhile, AC was reading my expression and offered an explanation.

AC: Kase pinagkalat daw ata ni Gerry na sinira ni Gerald ang sapatos niya kaya di siya makapagbasketball. Hayon di sila lahat nakapagbasketball. Nainis yung mga katropa ni Gerry, di kinausap si Gerald. Kaya si Gerald ngayon tong galit.

My brief interview with AC was interrupted as apparently, Gerry had come out of their residence to confront his drunk brother. RAMBOL NA E2!!!!

Asawa ni AC: Hala, awatin natin!

Dahil maingat din ako at ayokong mabasag bungo ko, sumama lang ako para magka-closeup view ng mga pangyayari. Sumama si AC at si Donna, anak ni AC at ang iba pang mga kapit-bahay mula sa masmalalayong bahay. Tumigil kami mga 50 m. Ang mga cargyng barako + Kuya asawa ni AC, dumiretso para awatin ang magkapatid.

Me: Teka, nasaan na ba si Tita Elsie?

Tita Elsie is the matriarch of the clan.

AC: Ay, kanina pa nag-collapse.

Background: Tita Elsie is a legend when it comes to collapsing and the art of it. Mapa bisita ng Meralco para putulan sila ng kuryente (di nagbayad), ang kehaba-habang pila sa COMELEC registration (hinimatay daw dahil sa init), at ang pag-amin ni Kris Aquino na kinaliwa siya ni James, lahat cause for a fainting spell.

Tita Lucy (one of 'em neighbors, tindera sa palnegke): Hay naku, makatawag na nga ng tanod.

Tita Susan (one of the more promiment neighbors): Tatawag ako ng police.

Pagbaling ko ng atensiyon sa rambol na nagaganap, tagumpay na naawat ng mga lalake ang magkapatid. With matching declare na ang Gerald na "OK na ako, OK na ako." Medyo humupa na ang crowd nang konti nang bigalang umingay. Tumuakbo pala itong si Gerald sa bahay at dinampot si Emily, ang asawa ni Gerry. HOSTAGE E2.

Gerald: Tang*(^% mo Gerry. Sasakalin ko tong asawa mo kung di kita mabugbog!!!!

Balik takbo ang mga lalake para awatin si Gerald, ngunit nakaposisyon na ang mga kamay nito sa leeg ni Emily.

Gerry: Tang*^% mo Gerald. Pakawalan mo si Emily. Mag-usap tayo.

At last, dumating ang tanod with matching wang wang sound effects emanating from their jeep. Papunta na ang mga tanod para panghambalusin ng batuta si Gerald nang umentra amidst the crowd (na naka office attire pa) ang younger sister na si Rina, isang sekretarya sa isang recruitment agency sa Malate.

Rina: STOP IT!!!! Mga kuya (addressing the tanod), umuwi na kayo!!!! THIS IS A FAMILY AFFAIR!!!!


Rina again: This is a WAR... A WAR between brothers. We'll fix it inside. Sige na, magsiuwian na kayo!!!! WE DON'T NEED NOSY NEIGHBORS!!!!!!!

I SO WANTED TO DO CARTWHEELS. WAR!!! BETWEEN BROTHERS!!! INDAY, IS THAT YOU?????? I was half expecting her to start saying, "Alms, alms, spare me a piece of bread..."

Nadisperse ang crowd. Pumasok ang mga actors and actresses sa loob. Naiwan sa labas ang sabit na si Emily, still gasping for breath.

Another evening in the neighborhood.

Word for the day: PEAKS (interchangable with its homonym PEEKS)

Location: McDonald's (branch location withheld)

I was happily munching my quarter pounder with cheese and fries (for only PhP99, promo ends I dunno) with an officemate, discussing the greatness of Manong (the office's guard-lunch provider-sandal/flipflop/RTW/perfume magnate [Burberry Weekend 100 ml for only PhP500]) when I (and later aforementioned officemate) got distracted by the boisterous storytelling of a table neighbor. Yes, he was REALLY loud, considering that tables in McDonald's are arranged comfortably apart from each other (compared to Jollibee) and considering I, owner of the voice that crossed the Guimaras Strait effortlessly, found him loud. Anyway, he tells his companion (and the whole place):

LM (loudmouth): Ewan ko nga ba kung bakit ako umalis dun e.

Companion: (says something in normal volume)

LM: Tapos....ano pa ako dun... PEAKS!!!!! Peeeeeeaks. Tangina, pare, PEAAAAAAAKS. Di ko lang talaga kaya yung oras e.

Companion: (says something in normal volume) &%^%&$* yun????

LM: PEAKS!!!!!!!!! Yung bawat katapusan meron akong nakukuha..........PEEAAAAAAKS...... sayang talaga yun.


I thought the fries I just chewed then did cartwheels in my esophagus.

Another set of questions

Just because I want to answer the Proust Questionnaire, as popularized in the last page of Vanity Fair.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
extreme poverty

Where would you like to live?
somewhere free

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
any, as long as they're my own

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Moraes Zogoiby, Zorro, Donald Duck

Who are your favorite characters in history?
Mohandas Gandhi, Alfred Hitchcock, Che Guevarra

Who are your favorite heroines of history?
Melchora Aquino, Gabriella Silang, Florence Nightingale

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
my mother

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Hester Payne, Alice (as in the girl in Wonderland), Hua Mu Lan

Your favorite painter?
I'm not an art connoisseur. Van Gogh.

Your favorite musician?

The quality you most admire in a man?

The quality you most admire in a woman?

Your favorite virtue?

Your favorite occupation?
learning about other places and times

Who would you have liked to be?
no one in particular

Your most marked characteristic?

What do you most value in your friends?
their entertainment value (mwahahahahahaha). seriously, their generosity (of themselves)

What is your principle defect?
my allergic rhinitis

What is your dream of happiness?
absolute contentment

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
abject poverty

What would you like to be?
complete (centrum? mwahahahaha)

In what country would you like to live?
a country with overflowing sangria, flamenco, superficial and meaningful friendships, and silence

What is your favorite color?
I don't have a favorite color, I prefer seeing harmony and appropriateness among/in them.

What is your favorite flower?
I'm allergic to them. I like seeing them in cheerful colors, though.

What is your favorite bird?
I don't like birds, especially after watching Hitchcock's film.

Who are your favorite prose writers?
Rohinton Mistry, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Who are your favoite poets?
I'm not into English or Filipino poetry, and I don't believe in translated poetry. I have yet to read Spanish poets, so I don't have a favorite poet.

Who are your favorite composers?
Juanes, Mercedes Migel Carpio, Fher Olvera, The Beatles

What are your favorite names?
Alejandro, David, Guillermo
Chloe, Isabel, Claire

What is it you most dislike?
looking at suffering

What historical figures do you most despise?

What event in military history do you most admire?
I wouldn't exactly classify it as military, but Cinco de Noviembre in Negros was ingenious and amazing.

What reform do you most admire?
land reform

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
a good singing voice

How would you like to die?
in my sleep, without any fanfare

What is your present state of mind?
perplexed, thinking of what to answer to these questions

What is your motto?
Live each day as though it's your first.

10 Questions

In the tradition of James Lipton asking his guests these questions for his TV show "Inside the Actor's Studio," I'll answer them too, just because.

(01) What is your favorite word?

(02) What is your least favorite word?

(03) What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

(04) What turns you off?
half-hearted efforts

(05) What is your favorite curse word?
Copulation and excrement

(06) What sound or noise do you love?
rain starting

(07) What sound or noise do you hate?
that initial sound of a faucet being turned on with no water coming out

(08) What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
a Cold War double agent (which is quite impossible to be nowadays, unless Mr. Putin starts turning mega-paranoid)

(09) What profession would you not like to do?

(10) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
You got lost, didn't you? (with God smiling)


Today, June 12, 2007, on the occasion of the Philippines' 109th Independence Day, I realized something weird. Sad. Every time Filipinos get a taste of "freedom", of "independence", we go stagnant. By some unfortunate turn of events, whether our doing or not, we seem to go wayward, like a ship lost at sea.

I say so because the country has been through a gazillion changes and we've only gone so far as the rest of the world has pulled us along with. Through the years, it seems that we've only been free riders, sharing the benefits that the others have gained. We've adopted so much for so long without really moving ahead, with innovating, without going full speed, arancada. True, we've gone global with texting, the internet, gigantic malls, pirated DVDs and the lot, but what can we show for the 109 years that we've been free?

How ironic that last June 11, the non-working day in commemoration for the 12th, which was the real holiday, I watched a Pedro Almodovar film. Ironic? Well, I was celebrating my country's 109th year independence from the Spaniards, and I was watching a film by a descendant of the purest breed. Mr. Almodovar is pure Kastila, born and raised in Calzada de Calatrava, in the heart of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Direct descendant of the mananakop, of the malulupit na Kastila who treated my ancestors as second-class citizens. Not only is he Spanish, but he's through and through Castillan, descendants of Felipe I to whom we owe our country's name. He's not Catalan, or Valencian, or Basque, or Andalucian. Castillan. Kastila, as our grade school Sibika at Kultura books would term our country's colonizers. Therefore, I felt like I betrayed my Katipunero ancestors by watching an obra of an nth generation Kastila, whose ancestors have caused mine great pain and suffering.

But so much for that. Actually, what struck me was that Almodovar was an integral part of La Movida Madrileña, La Movida for short. La Movida was Spain's sociocultural movement which happened during the first ten years after the death of Generalisimo Franco in 1975. During that time, Spain reopened itself to the world, a new emerging Spanish cultural identity was born, and Spanish economics blossomed. Almodovar spearheaded this movement by making such films as Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (1980), documenting the Spaniards' newfound freedom after years of repression under the General. To see such advance by Spanish society in such a short time was what struck me. Like us, Spaniards also suffered for quite some time (WWII to 1975 - that's long). But since then they've moved on beautifully. 

On the other hand, we Filipinos seem to always be in a rut. After WWII, Marcos. After Marcos, People Power. We should have gone full speed ahead too. But then, countless coup attempts. After coup attempts, EDSA II. After EDSA II, EDSA III. After EDSA III, a stubborn president who's doing everything she can, but has lost to apathy and opponents who are just waiting for her to screw up big time. Granting that these are only political concerns, what else have we got to show since EDSA I with the other areas of our existence as a nation? Poor economy, lackluster arts and culture? No movement, no advancement. Did we ever had a chance to do our version of La Movida? Grand chances we had, but I guess no one took 'em chances.

What's most ironic is that the "golden" years of Philippine arts and culture, when the likes of Brocka, Bernal, Cervantes, Aguilar, Juan dela Cruz Band, Florante, Asin, APO, and Gary Granada churned out amazing works, were done at the height of the Marcos dictatorship. With the regime gone in 1986, what happened? The only image I had growing up during the post-Marcos years that was truly Filipino was The Dawn. Nothing else. Movies? Nada. It seemed that Filipinos just suddenly started sleeping for a while, allowing Debbie Gibson, Michael Jackson, Bananarama, New Wave Music, Joan Collins, and Chuck Norris to dominate their culture while preparing for a resurgence of communist rebels and Gringo Honasan and Co. to awaken us. 

Which led me to think, are Filipinos capable of doing great things only when they are oppressed? Rizal, Luna, Bonifacio, et al. emerged when the Spaniards were still here. Gallaga, Brocka, and Bernal blossomed under Marcos' dictatorship. Only Premiere, LVN, Lebra, and Sampaguita were producing movies in the '50s to the 60s, the so-called Golden Age of RP cinema. Can't Filipinos do great things without a monopoly or without being oppressed  I'm hoping that the current stream of rock bands can replicate what the Eraserheads did in the '90s or that our promising indie filmmakers could be as great as Raymond Red. I'm afraid that we only saw spurts of brilliance in the '90s. I hope a good, huge movement can happen these next few years.

Until then, happy Independence Day.

English, et tu?

Last night, there was a debate on ANC about repealing Gloria Arroyo's presidential decree ordering the return of English as the medium of instruction in the academe. This topic has been subject to countless discussions since time immemorial. Personally, I don't see any contest. A waste of time and energy, if you ask me. Not to mention a waste of saliva, airtime, and newspaper space, too.

I say so because for one, I don't see any alternative to English. If not English, what then? Filipino/Tagalog? Can anyone explain to me the difference between a suspension and a colloid in Filipino? What is the Filipino term for currency depreciation? Having to translate all terms from various academic disciplines to Filipino is a colossal task, involving lots of time and effort amongst the country's linguists. In the very unlikely case that this could be done, DepEd would have to print and distribute gazillions of new books, creating a new bane in the already hole-filled pockets of the government. In any case, will the country's established institutions in, e.g. medicine or physics be receptive with a new Filipinized standard? It would take the Pollyanna in every Filipino to believe that any of these could be done.

Anyhow, we've already milked enough from our self-promoted English "proficiency". Aren't our undergraduates and new graduates reaping the benefits of the proliferation of call centers in the country? Ten years ago, the only options for people fresh out of college would be (1) to work overseas as factory workers and domestic helpers, (2) work overseas as nurses or teachers, or (3) work locally and scramble with the rest of the population for a few measly job openings and get paid lousy minimum wage. 

Nowadays, anyone with two years of tertiary education and good English skills can go to any building in Makati, pass resumes to the 20 call centers on that building, and get a job offer by the end of the day. No need to go abroad and get abused or raped to earn big bucks! An average call center agent earns around 16,000 pesos, more than twice the salary of an average office worker. These call centers have given rise to a breed of yuppies who can afford their Starbucks coffee and pay rent without having to go through nursing school. And to think that the American bosses of these firms are predicting unprecedented growth! Too bad they're also getting weary of the decreasing quality of English among Filipino graduates. 

And people are talking about re-replacing English as medium of instruction again. The pros and cons of the call center industry are different topics altogether, but the good some of its employees have gained, thanks to their proficiency in English, cannot be denied. Another generation of poor English speakers may end this industry and obviously, one less career option for the country's graduates, who are already grappling for jobs, even with call centers around.

The country has had a long history of English usage. By 1901, public education was institutionalized, with English serving as the medium of instruction. The 1935 Constitution added English as an official language alongside Spanish. Even as Tagalog was chosen as the national language by the National Language Institute in 1937. The present constitution, ratified in 1987, stated that Filipino and English are both the official languages of the country. 

Filipino is an official language of education, but less important than English. It is the major language of the broadcast media and cinema, but less important than English as a language of publication (except in some domains, like comic books, which are meant to speak directly to the Filipino psyche) and less important for academic-scientific-technology discourse. English and Filipino compete in the domains of business and government. Filipino is used as a lingua franca in all regions of the Philippines as well as overseas Filipino communities, and is the dominant language of the armed forces (except perhaps for the small part of the commissioned officer corps from wealthy or upper middle class families) and of a large part of the civil service, most of whom are non-Tagalogs.

I am not on English's side because I'm elitist or pro-American. English is a practical language that has been used in the country for quite some time now, and we have had a lot to gain because of this. English "proficiency" has been an advantage for us Filipinos and it would be a huge loss if we do not protect this advantage. I'm not even going into the regionalism argument, wherein most people from the provinces would rather speak in English than Filipino. As it is, Filipino is being spoken everywhere in the country, so why lessen the avenues where English is being practiced? If students don't hone their English skills in school, I'm afraid there wouldn't be anywhere else they could master the skill, as most of them prefer using their regional dialects at home or with their friends.

Could we move on to other (more significant) matters?

Soap Rules

(Disclaimer: This post is not in any way about The Fight Club)

Koreans are quick to realize their faults. Filipinos are quick to turn a blind eye. What to say? Carry on, I guess, no matter which star they're effing from.

Fanzine Reveals Inner Workings of Korean Soaps

(taken from The Chosun Ilbo)

The Korean Wave is ebbing, and the backlash is under way. Viewers in the Asian countries that could not get enough of Korean soaps at one stage are now complaining about their monotonous plots and off-the-rack characterization. Critics say the formula is becoming an obstacle to the further development of the Korean pop culture wave. Now, even a Japanese magazine for fans of the Korean Wave has laid out elements of the formula for its readers. "We can predict what will happen in any scene of Korean drama, like fortunetellers,” it said. “Perhaps Korean drama has a mysterious power that enables us to make predictions.” Here are its seven iron rules of Korean soaps.

1. Ordinary girl falls in love with business big shot

This is the standard storyline in Korean dramas. Hero owns conglomerate, heroine is a common office worker or an ordinary woman. How about this: Heroine is trying on clothes in a luxury boutique. Hero watches her, sitting on a chair with his hand on his chin. He smiles at her and slightly shakes his index finger, to indicate “no” for an item she’s trying on

2. Angry guy

When a male character is angry, his face is always seen in a mirror or window. Without exception, he then proceeds to break the mirror or window.

3. Very young executive

In both Korea and Japan, most executives are over 50. But in Korean soaps, many business executives are young and hunky. Even staffers' girlfriends fall in love with them.

4. All doctors are surgeons

In Korean medical dramas, there are no doctors except surgeons. Internists and ear, nose and throat specialists may not like it, but it is so. If the lead is a doctor, he or she always becomes terminally ill but keeps quiet about it. And you thought early diagnosis and treatment were basic principles of medical service.

5. Fortuitous cabs

The heroes in Korean soaps have an uncanny ability to catch a cab in a timely manner. In any emergency, a cab just happens to pass. Or maybe it’s the cab drivers who have the power of foresight?

6. Weather forecasts are always wrong

Heroine is soaked in unexpected shower due to wrong weather forecasts. Hero appears in front of her carrying -- an umbrella!

7. Mobile phones

No matter how poor they are, the protagonists have an expensive mobile phone. Most cost some W700,000 (US$1=W923).

The list could go on, but the point is made. One pleasure Korean soaps provide is predictability, invariably.

* * * * *

Well, here are seven iron rules of Filipino soaps:

1. Happy ending

There must be one. There is no other option.

2. The two protagonists must come from different worlds.

One must be rich, the other, poor. One must be a human, the other, a superhero. One must be a frigging bird, the other, a normal human being (who, of course later discovers that she is also a.... TADA!!!!!!! Bird, etc. etc. Now, they can be wolves/foxes as well).

3. Climatic, earth-shattering, cathartic event

Bus explosion, someone dying, someone resurrecting, someone surviving a gazillion gunshots, a battle royale between good birds and bad birds, a singing showdown with some other character tied to a chain of explosives, someone telling someone that she is a bastard and the oppressed party is the legitimate heir/ess, after all. Anything.

4. A "theme" song

A tad forgivable when the soap is named after a song. But then when Sheryn Regis sings the theme song to normally-unattainable octaves, what could go wrong?

5. Mean antagonists

When Pinoys want mean, they really get mean. Super mean. Uber mean. Evil. Evil evil in levels that put Cruella deVille or 'em bitches in Dynasty to shame. With matching laughter and designer fashions.

6. Themed names

Good thing this has gone out of fashion. Early this century, I remembered a soap whose leads were Yuri, Katrina, Helaena, Nikos, Henri, Ingrid, Ivan, Dmitri, and Anilov. For a while I thought Leo Tolstoy wrote the teleplay. Then came Diana, Beatrice, and Sophia from the rural barrios where they were supposed to be farmers who later went to Hong Kong to become domestic helpers. Credible, but I was just expecting more combo type names (first syllable of mom's name + first syllable of dad's name) or something with Ann or Mary or Lyn - Lovelyn, Ginalyn, Remalyn. But alas, none of that. Oh, before I forget, I remembered Carmi Martin playing a soap opera character named Dolce Vita. And she was one nasty biatch.

7. Everybody's related to everybody, if not now, sooner or later

Filipino soap opera writers, writing about "realities" in the Philippines, with its 87 million people (and counting), feel that it is their responsibility to let everybody know everybody and for everybody to be related to all the characters in the soap before it ends. Eat your heart out, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Why settle for characters with interconnecting lives when you have characters related by some amazing stroke of fate, by some cosmic alignment. Take your pick: soli or sanguinis. If someone is not related to any of the characters, chances are, the guy's gonna die before the season ends. But then again, the death might be cathartic (see rule #3.)