It's (insert adjective here) to be back in your hometown

What's quite cool about working as a teacher online is having holidays when your students want to stay stupid. It gets better when you teach students abroad, because you celebrate holidays of their countries and you get double pay to work during Philippine holidays. I mean, who cares about that EDSA thing when you get to go to the office hassle and traffic free and you get to have an ultra-long weekend from the 6th to the 10th for Seollal, or Lunar New Year? Happiness!

So, I decided to surprise my family, whom I haven't seen as a whole for two years , by going home. Pro: lots and lots of R&R. Con: loads of food, as there is absolutely nothing to do in Bacolod other than stuffing oneself with calories way over RDA limits. With hunger killing countless victims in destitute places, I know it may be audacious to put food as a con. But try visiting Bacolod and you'll get my drift. The only other activity is trying to burn excess calories by walking the long stretches of Gaisano, Robinsons, or the relatively new SM mall, the latter my mother chose as the site for my one-and-only consented TSABS appearance.

TSABS - (pronounced as tee-sabz) to see and be seen appearance. A term coined by my first officements and I to call that almost-perfunctionary public appearance a probinsyana/o who has been away when s/he comes back to her/his province, to function as a walking trophy by his/her parents and be a walking billboard to remind everyone that they are being graced by the presence of someone fresh from wherever. It is always assumed that the TSABS-er has made it big wherever s/he has been, or else s/he wouldn't have the face/nerve/guts to display her/himself in public. Also, it is assumed that the TSABS-er will greet, kiss, smile, or acknowledge the presence of everyone, from long-lost relatives to unrecognizable kindergarten classmates, or stand the chance of getting branded as thinking too highly of her/himself to socialize with small-town nobodies. Thus, the TSABS-er must strike a prefect balance between looking spiffed and chic (or else be plagued with "Yun ba ang galing Manila, ba't parang namulubi?" looks) and being Ms./Mr. Congeniality (or else beauty parlors the next day will abound with stories along the line of "Abaw, ang bata ni ***** nag-abot, daw si sin-o na guid. Nakatapak lang sa Manila wala na guid gapamugno, daw namenusan na guid di sa aton.")

My sister survived her TSABS ordeal years ago when she came back from Manila and decided to work in Bacolod. She's not all ma-chicka and the works, she breezed through her homecoming after the first week by smiling and teenybopper-ing her then 25-year old self around town. I, on the other hand, am awkwardness personfied. I so happen to be every family's TSABS nightmare. People who know me should know that I'm NOT the best in quick friendship-building and superficial relationships unless my dear life depended on them. Heck, I'm awkward with anyone I haven't seen in 3 days, how much more with people I haven't seen since I was in my Trinity Christian School uniform? I spent every college Christmas vacation hibernating in my home; unavoidable family get-togethers are dealt with an hour's guest appearance. High school reunions? I honestly don't have time for them, especially when a rare Maggie Cheung movie is shown on Star Mandarin and I'm thinking I'd be stuck with Studio 23 in Rosby's/Dave's TV when I get back to Cervini. Yes, I have been called anti-social. You, dearest reader, are most probably not. We live in a diverse society. That's what makes the world such an interesting place, cue swelling orchestra music. To make it crystal clear, unless you are Daniel Brühl inviting me on a date, DO NOT bother trying to get me out of my house during my oh-so-rare visits.

Also, unless you're my mom telling me to get my lazy ass out of my bed and get fresh air.

I don't think my mom is aware of the TSABS phenomenon. If she is, I'm sure she is fully well-aware of her son's allergy with it. Thus, when she tells me to see the outdoors, she comes especially equipped with subtle hints of me getting new stuff. I may have adapted to life here in Manila, true, but it actually is all the more reason for me to fully appreciate the language of FREE. As far as I am concerned, the only appropriate responses to free would be "yes," "of course," and "why not". Responses to the opposite would be downright rude. Otherwise, invitations to go to malls in my dear city "just for the heck of it" have been answered by yours truly with reactions ranging from looks of autistic ignorance (Mall? *me stares into space*) to blatant statements of "In Manila, I eat, watch movies, shop, and undergo most of my existence in malls , and you want me to go to a mall here, too?"

Thus, on the 4th day of my surprise visit, with my mom equipped with the language of free, I succumbed. Not proud of it, but alas, my defenses crumbled. It was a Saturday afternoon, so the mall was filled with people. I saw some old classmates, who I thought were looking at the opposite direction. I didn't bother. I broke ruler no. 2 of TSABS. I don't care. As for rule no. 1, I did try to look presentable though. I psyched myself for a possible paparazzi attack; I wouldn't want pictures of me looking ratty splashed across the tabloids. Humor me.

I did see a lot of familiar faces, I didn't put on the Ms. Sunny Sunshine visage. I don't want to come across as too assuming. What if they aren't who I thought they were? Spare me the embarrassment! On with the TSABS! Enter Prodigal Son sans drama! Enter Serena van der Woodsen! Enter the Count of Monte Cristo! Enter me!

I saw somebody though. My first school crush. Oh dear, I actually held my breath! Oh, the tingling sensation. Aforementioned crush was in a different year, so we were never classmates. But it sure made my day to see the person. The sight of crush was a calm oasis amidst the bullying, irritating teachers, more irritating classmates, and most irritating lessons. The Chinese-ness of our school showed every time we had to enter class by forming effing lines, whether it be after morning assembly, after recess, after lunch, after every frigging time. But I didn't mind that much, as it was a chance to see crush. Enter Twilight zone/Mao Zedong propaganda music for some readers who might be creeped out at this point, but for me it was always birds chirping, squirrels coming out of their burrows, and Snow White in coloratura soprano singing "I'm Wishing."


Tugging along crush was with two chubby toddlers. Twins. So cute and cuddly. Looks exactly like crush. Two steps behind was another familiar face. My mom followed where I was looking and told me about crush having a family and being an architect and all.

TAKE ME BACK TO MANILA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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