Friday, September 30, 2005
PRESENCEIt has been a daily ritual inside the family compound in Sampaloc -- Conchita asking the rambunctious children to stop playing out in the yard, and for the household help to refrain from any more sweeping of it until the next morning. This would be followed by a reminder for everyone to restrict all other activities inside the house.
It was once again twilight time -- the period when the "other friends," as Conchita fondly referred to them, would claim the ground for their own use and enjoyment.
The help, as usual, would reticently comply with her wishes, while the young kids would ignore her and continue their play until berated for it. The male adults, if they were around, would remain comfortably slouched on the plastic lounge chairs as if stricken with temporary deafness.
And so it went within the family compound until one time, during the wee hours of the morning, when the entire household was aroused from sleep by Sebastian’s horrific screaming.
Startled and drowsy from having been rudely awakened, Ignacio, stumbled out of his bedroom, trying to figure out exactly where it came from. His wife Conchita trailed right behind him. Out in the hallway, they noticed a light coming from the bathroom through its slightly opened door. They hesitantly walked towards it, and once near the door, Ignacio lightly pushed it wide open.
He scratched his head upon seeing Sebastian, his balikbayan nephew from Toronto, sprawled on his back on the bathroom floor uncontrollably sobbing like a child. His denim shorts and underwear were pulled down to his ankles.
Ignacio was suddenly paralyzed with fear upon noticing that his nephew’s exposed testicles were swollen beyond humanly-possible proportions. They were humongous! They were larger than the giant watermelon that won the top prize at last summer’s harvest festival in his hometown in Bicol.
Conchita had to slap him hard on the back of his head to revive him out of his freaked-out state. It was a sure-fire hit worthy of a home run had she been a major league batter. Ignacio fell over forward on top of the young man; his nose landed directly right on the young man’s gaped mouth, while his right knee accidentally shoved into Sebastian’s swollen appendage. The young man let out a cry of sheer torment.
Ignacio groggily recovered his senses, but was severely distressed by Sebastian’s skanky foul breath. He signaled a peace sign to his wife to indicate a follow-up slap would be unnecessary. Adversities seem to reveal this woman’s manly strength, he thought.
Both husband and wife soon became aware of the utterly revolting putrid odor engulfing the bathroom. Conchita regurgitated as if about to throw up, but immediately regained her composure; remaining focused on the task at hand.
When Ignacio knelt down beside his nephew to figure out how he could lift and take him back to his bedroom, it dawned on him that the putrid smell, evocative of an open grave, was actually emanating from the young man’s mouth!
The stench soon permeated the hallway. Inday, unable to control herself, started vomiting violently. The kids, who were also awakened by Sebastian's screaming, ran back to their respective room, disgusted by the odor and the sight of vomit. The remaining unfazed adults chose to stand by the door -- intent on knowing what the commotion inside the bathroom was all about. They were in for a shock when they finally saw Sebastian’s monstrous transformation.
Moving Sebastian from the bathroom back into his bedroom became an engineering feat requiring finely choreographed complex maneuvers; any abrupt movement would induce excruciating pricking pains in the young man's voluminous testicles. All the men in the household pitched in and approached their respective task with supreme diligence. It took a good hour to accomplish the job. At the end, Sebastian lay torpid on his bed while sweating profusely.
Literally crippled by the torturous pains inside his monstrosity and continually induced into a semi-comatose state by his own putrid breath, Sebastian would remain in bed for the next four weeks. Ignacio and Conchita, immediately sensed that his supernatural illness was beyond the scope and skills of an ordinary physician. They decided instead to summon the help of a local medicine man, Ka Entong, from Conchita’s province of Ilocos Sur.
Upon his arrival, the medicine man hastily set off to perform a cleansing ceremony inside Sebastian’s bedroom. Brandishing burning incense and shaking a rattle of what appeared to be made of bamboo with beads inside, he began chanting and prancing about like a madman; sporadically spitting chewed tobacco on Sebastian who could only growl his protest. Ignacio, disturbed by all that spitting, decided against intervening. Conchita, on the other hand, was visibly upset by the litter created by the ashes of the burning incense.
Ka Entong finally collapsed on the floor. Everyone stared at him transfixed. No one dared touch him as he struggled to get up. Ka Entong silently admitted getting too old for this line of work; even entertaining thoughts of early retirement. When he finally managed to get up, he begged Ignacio for a glass of water and invited everyone to join him in the living room.
After quenching his thirst, the medicine man claimed Sebastian’s illness was attributed to the young man’s disrespect for a sort of sacred piece of ground in which Sebastian once spat and urinated on. It was the mango tree out in the yard. Everyone was dumbfounded. Ka Entong looked at Ignacio and Conchita, and then recited an overview of treatments he deemed appropriate to combat Sebastian’s unearthly illness.
Daily rituals of bizarre incantations, as well as heroic doses of obscure cocktails of indigenous herbs, barks and leaves ensued. In addition, there were daily offerings of fruits, native delicacies and colorful candies under the mango tree. It took almost a month before Sebastian fully recovered from the crippling spell. He soon confirmed the medicine man’s findings by admitting that he had, in fact, spat and urinated on the mango tree around twilight time; nine hours later, he manifested the ill effects of the illness. That was when he was found in the bathroom by his uncle and aunt.
Word went around the entire neighborhood about Sebastian’s brush with the other friends. Cruel jokes were spawned during the many drinking sessions among the locals; some glorified while others vilified his ghastly transformation.
Sebastian flew back to Toronto; vowing never to return. Currently married with two kids, he submitted his dissertation on Shamanism last spring. However, he ended up breaking his vow. Last month, he mailed in his application for a teaching post at one of the Philippines’ prestigious universities.
Supernatural Creatures and Tales
Thursday, September 29, 2005
PERCHANCE TO DREAMStarstruck, a popular reality-based, search for a teen idol TV show, awards its winner a house and lot worth at least two million pesos, a brand new car, and a five-year contract with GMA, the television network that produces and broadcasts this hit show. And that’s just for starters. Movie projects, product endorsements, a recording contract and concert performances both here and abroad follow suit. A newly-hailed teen idol can generate a multi-million peso income from talent and appearance fees.
For most Filipinos, however, the idea of being chosen as the country’s newest heart-throb is so far outside the realm of the possible that it isn't so much an aspiration as a delusion. Yet, there are those who hold steadfast to dreams of stardom. They come in droves heeding the call of open auditions. Braving the searing sun and the sometimes punishing rains, they stand in line outside the audition studio with the patience of a saint. They mentally rehearse their audition performances so as to make themselves stand out from this throng of wannabes.
There were about 30 teenage girls and boys already waiting in line when Jon Ty, a 15-year old hopeful, alighted from a taxicab at 3:00 o’ clock in the morning to participate in Starstruck’s recent open audition. It was almost 3:00 o’ clock in the afternoon when his turn came up. He nervously entered the studio, walked past by the crew of video and sound technicians, and headed to meet the panel, presided by a man and a woman. Their goal was to pick out the batch with the potential to advance to the next round.
Immediately after exchanging brief greetings, he was asked to fill in his name as he recited out loud what was written on a huge cue card pasted in front of the panel’s table, “I am _________. Watch out, I’m going to be a star!” He was then asked for any performance skills that he might have in which he swiftly replied singing and dancing.
They asked him to sing first. With the video camera turned on, he sang in a cappella, A1’s Like A Rose. Much to his delight, they let him sing it in its entirety; a good sign he thought. They then asked him to demonstrate his skills in dance. He handed over to the sound technician a CD he brought along with him. Once the music was on, he showed off a well-choreographed display of some crypt walk and techno dance maneuvers. He was in total sync with Fat Joe’s and Nelly Ville’s Get it Popping. This time though, barely midway through the song, he was asked to stop. Jon Ty was unsettled. The panel then asked a technician to play back the videotape of his dance performance. As they beamed with approval while reviewing it, he regained confidence. Sure enough, they advised him to wait for their phone call in which the date and location of the next phase of the audition will be announced.
Feeling triumphant, he stepped out of the studio convinced that he was indeed right on path to realize his dream. He took one final glimpse at the remaining lines of teenagers awaiting their turn. He noticed more had arrived to try their luck; they must be students from the neighboring schools who rushed right over as soon as schools began to let out. He smiled and silently thanked God for this auspicious day.
Jon Ty began to feel hunger pangs and fatique as he boarded a jeepney to take him home. The sun had already set in the horizon when he was greeted at the door by his anxious mother and sisters. They were euphoric upon hearing his wonderful news. Noticeably exhausted by then, he begged his jubilant sisters to stop pressing him for details, but to no avail. The mother came to his rescue by grabbing his arm to lead him to the kitchen. She suggested a light snack to tide him over, because dinner wouldn’t be ready for yet another hour or so.
After relishing a cup of instant noodle soup, he stretched out on the sofa for a quick nap; oblivious to the sisters' boisterous chatter. Eventually, his musing of someday becoming a dashing young star lulled him to sleep.
Starstruck and Stardom
Influence Of Celebrity Idols
Labels: Local culture
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
ZEN IN THE ART OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVESoiled by aberrated politics, the country’s bleak economic landscape propagates a foreboding sense of gloom among its populace; creating a hotbed for irresponsible behavior such as sexual promiscuity and drug addiction.
For the most part, the city's impoverished young and old alike wantonly capitulate to such indulgence.
However, still a great majority strives to lead principled ways of life; coping with sacrifices such as leaving behind their loved ones in order to work for a higher salary at a foreign country. For some of Metro Manila's inhabitants, this becomes the only choice.
Overseas job opportunities abound. Besides the lucrative nursing and engineering professions, there are openings available for domestic workers, automotive technicians, heavy equipment operators, caregivers, cooks and bakers. Those with good looks and talent in stage performances may consider a good paying job in Japan as entertainers; a female practitioner of which is often locally referred to as a japayoki. At 18, Juanita B. departed for Tokyo as one.
Growing up in a seedy, shanty neighborhood behind the facade of Claro M. Recto Avenue’s commercial buildings near the university belt area, Juanita was brought up by a father addicted to alcohol, and by a mother who sometimes used drugs and regularly sold them to supplement the family's meager income. Juanita is the oldest of five children. Financially-strapped due to alcohol and drug addictions, as well as unable to sustain decent livelihoods, her parents eventually asked the children to drop out of school. No longer could they afford the daily school allowances.
Years of alcohol abuse soon took its toll on the father’s health; he began weakening at an alarming rate. Wanting to help and perhaps, even save his father from untimely death, Juanita, decided to seek a job as an entertainer in Japan. She pursued several months of rigorous training in voice and dance. Unfortunately, just as she was about to be certified as an entertainer, her father succumbed to his illness and died.
Although failing to realize her original intention to be of help to her father, Juanita was determined to gain something positive from the extensive training she endured. After receiving the necessary credentials, she left for Japan motivated by a deep sense of purpose; to support her family and pay for the continuation of her sibling’s education.
At present, Juanita is back in Manila after half a year’s stint in Tokyo. She now lives somewhere in Quezon City with her brothers and sisters who are in school and are all doing well at it. Next month, she heads back to Japan to fulfill another phase of contract work. Her mother now lives with another man, but her drug use has taken a turn for the worse. What used to be an occasional folly is now a frequent indulgence in increased amounts. Nonetheless, Juanita remains non-judgmental of her mother’s disposition; thus, continues to provide support unconditionally.
The overseas work chosen by Juanita carries a certain stigma which could be maligned as prelude to prostitution by some people. However, most Filipinas like Juanita, pursue this line of work without any need to engage in such illicit activities. They safeguard their dignity and decency; fully intent on providing a better life and a brighter future for their loved ones.
Juanita may not be an emergency room nurse or a DNA scientist, highly-paid professionals up there in the ladder of respectability, but her ability to embody unconditional love, which she bestows upon her family, ranks her impeccably supreme to the eyes of her maker.
Filipino Entertainers in Japan (Manila Times)
Costly Crackdown (Japan Times)
Filipino Entertainers Warned Against Black Market Diet Pill (Asian Economic News)
Labels: Local culture
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
ELEMENTS OF STYLE - Part 2Although offering an almost infinite number of things to do and see, New York, the veritable city that never sleeps, also breeds a certain loneliness felt most during its bleak bitter winters.
With a mug of hot chocolate, a book often provided solace for me during those times. From the controversial Jerzy Kozinski’s psychological novels to Carl Jung’s mystical theories, I’ve become an ardent fan of an eclectic bunch of thinkers and their published writings.
And so when I relocated to Metro Manila, I once again resorted to books as an introduction to the city's pervading culture. Browsing at a local bookstore, I was thrilled to have discovered Jose Rizal’s seminal works, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo as translated in English by Ma. Soledad Lacson-Locsin. I read them in earnest. There were other books by contemporary Filipino writers that I delved into. My favorite is Swatting The Spanish Flies by Margarita Ventenilla Hamada, a well-crafted scathing commentary on the Filipino zeitgeist. I even bought several copies of which to send as gifts to my New York bibliophile friends.
After gaining somewhat of a fairly good insight about the local terrain, so to speak, I began to take more notice of this brilliant writer whose column appears in the editorial section of The Philippine Daily Inquirer. His name is Conrado de Quintos. He usually writes about the political affairs of the state. However, the issues and personalities he featured were mostly unknown to me then so, I would involuntarily Zen-out, by the third or fourth paragraph.
Surprisingly, there was a couple of occasions in which he wrote about music. I was impressed by his deep insight and ethereal sensitivity to music in general, and to the featured artists in particular.
Eventually, as I became more cognizant of the nuances of our political arena, as well as the roles of its major players, I came to fully appreciate Mr. de Quintos. Indeed, I am humbled by his literary style, including his courage to confront certain powers that be. I often wonder though if his voice ever went unheeded by most regular folks -- the masses -- for he writes so eloquently in English.
Be that as it may, I oftentimes pray that we as a nation succeed in eradicating aberrations from our local politics and corruptions by our civil servants. This way, Mr. de Quintos, will write more about music.
To check out a sampling of Mr. de Quintos’ column, click on any of the following links:
I say you are just as confused about your metaphors as you are
about your mandate. The normal course is for the bully to chase the
smaller kids around the yard, not for the smaller kids bully around
the yard. The normal course, too, is for the other kids to want to stop
being bullied and fight back. Guess who's who in this equation.”
Conrado de Quintos
Labels: Featured Writer
Monday, September 26, 2005
ELEMENTS OF STYLE - Part 1As a typical adolescent in Manila during the sixties, I envisaged many dreams of grandeur. Among which was to become a NASA astrophysicist as inspired by President Kennedy’s intrepid space program. But that soon changed into aspiring to become a journalist, inspired by my fondness for reading back issues of Reader’s Digest.
So, as a high school freshman at Mapua Institute of Technology, I attended an open invitation by the school paper, The Beam, to join its staff comprised of students. I walked in there buoyed by confidence that I would be asked to join its rank as an apprentice scribe.
The wannabes that attended, only three of us – other freshmen were obsessed with trying out for the basketball team – were asked to write something about our summer vacation past. Since such topic was a common grade school start-of-school-year writing exercise, I assumed what was wanted from us was something more cerebral; soulful, in fact.
I proceeded to write about an event that began to occur as I turned thirteen. It was about certain physical manifestations and sensations I was too afraid and embarrassed to ask anyone about. Nonetheless, the experience astonished me. To demonstrate my writing skills, I tried to be as graphic as I could; utilizing acquired English words and phrases borne by the many editions of Reader’s Digest I had immersed myself into.
A couple of days afterward, during recess, a sophomore gofer fetched and escorted me to see a member of the school paper. I was met by an overweight senior who exuded an air of intellectual superiority; an Einstein in the making.
She seemed unsure how to begin to say what she had in mind, but the slight quivering of her reddening puffy cheeks forewarned that whatever it was wasn’t going to be auspicious. Finally, after a couple of deep breaths, she unleashed her tirade about my essay. She unmercifully denounced it as pornographic; filled with lurid details hell-bent on salaciousness. Apparently, she was deeply flustered by my journalistic style. Judgment was expeditiously rendered: I was unworthy and thereby rejected. Her brevity was impressive; the meeting lasted no more than three minutes.
Luckily, I suffered no evident adverse effects from that encounter. Her scathing remarks accentuated by a rejection did not warrant years of therapy. However, as an adult, I fulfilled my aspiration as a journalist through writing social correspondence, office memos, household to-do lists, and rare consumer complaints.
But seriously, immediately after that incident, I was onto something else -- inspired by Lennon, I craved to be a singer/songwriter.
Labels: Growing up memoirs
Sunday, September 25, 2005
ABSOLUTE MUST HAVETo have an active social life is to have a cell phone and a bit of knowledge about microphone technique. You see, in Metro Manila, life often revolves around these two gadgets. Friends usually hook up or plan on partying by way of exchanging text messages. And in any festive gathering at any public arena, a karaoke machine is almost always available.
Never mind that you’re tone deaf; the songs you want to sing are never on your key signature; or the sound of nails scratching against a blackboard sounds more appealing than your voice. What’s important is that you have the audacity to grab the microphone and belt out a tune in front of a boisterously drunken and unpredictable crowd.
A word of caution: never sing Frank Sinatra’s My Way in any public venue; do so only in the safety of your own home. It has been widely reported that crooners who publicly displayed fondness for this song often got shot; either someone did a horrific rendition of it, and for disrespecting The Chairman got punished; or some guy sang it magnificently well that his performance triggered a bullet into his heart from some bitterly jealous thug in the audience.
Either way, just the same, better pick out tunes from The Beatles’ or Bee Gees’ catalogues which are usually safer songs to sing.
As for the cell phone, amongst the locals, ownership often conveys one’s social status; the newer the model, the higher the strata one is perceived to belong to.
Who's to say then that the fish ball vendor in Divisoria also selling Smart E-load with her Nokia 6680, Aling Choleng, is indeed some grand dame with nothing else better to do with her time? Nevertheless, some models available here offer wondrous features that far surpass those used by gadget-conscious New Yorkers. I wouldn’t be surprised if new models for this upcoming holiday season include built-in iPod Nanos.
Lyrics: My Way, Frank Sinatra
Nokia 6680 Imaging Smartphone
Labels: Local culture
Saturday, September 24, 2005
During the past couple of weeks, Manila has seen more rainy days than sunny. Merchants in the neighborhood complain about diminished sales, but what is one to do? With the recent surge in gas prices, most people would rather stay home, watch TV and eat. I decided to set up a blog.
My mind groped for cool ideas until I thought of writing about people from various walks of life and share with you their stories of longings, inner desires, failures, and success. I'll also feature the finer nuances of certain places in and around the city, as well as current trends that color its vibrant local culture.
In a couple of days, I should have something posted to start this off. For now, if you reside somewhere in Metro Manila, with these incessant rains going on, hope you don’t succumb to cabin fever. If you’re from New York, however, you'll soon face a similar prospect; after all, winter is merely a few weeks away.
Hasta luego, amigos!
Click here to view some interesting pictures Manila during the 70s!
Labels: Local culture