Tuesday, March 29, 2005

voilà la réalité.

Je ne sais pas ce qu’il se passe. Pour quelques minutes, je lisais une document sans la comprendre. Je dois écrire un article pour notre journal mais je ne peux pas concentrer; je suis flou. Comme un oiseau qui vole sans but, mon cerveau nage dans une mer des idées déconnectées. Pour un moment, je pense à mes finances, un autre moment, je rêve que je suis sous le soleil diamant, me reposant avec mes amis dans la plage. Peut-être l’esprit de l’été a déjà entré mon cerveau et a détruit mon intelligence? Peut-être mon âme veut être n’importe où sauf mon corps?

Parfois, je me demande si mon âme peut laisser mon corps. Mais, où va-t-il ? Je ne sais pas, moi. Parfois je crois que mon esprit a sa vie séparée car je ne suis pas sûr ce qu’il désire. Éclatant de la puissance, il veut casser les chaînes qui l’attache et voler où le vent veut. Si mon âme avait été comme ça, ma vie aurait respiré une autre histoire, celui-ci qui raconte de la liberté.

Malheureusement, ce n’est pas la réalité. La réalité est dans la vie avec du tas de problèmes. La réalité est allant au bureau tous les jours pour être devenir un esclave des travaux. La réalité te dit que ton âme est un captif dans ton corps. La réalité te donne des documents que tu ne comprends pas après les avoir lu cinq fois. Voilà la réalité.


Monday, March 21, 2005

there is no heaven or hell

“We’re just organic matters that would rot after death. Nothing follows after. ‘Might as well make the most out of our one lifetime,” Mhel said while we were in an FX last Thursday. (I was on my way to German class; she just came from the Bureau of Immigration to process some documents so she could return to New York for a two-month vacation.)

Nothing indeed, follows. You die, you rot, and become fertilizer to flowers and shrubs. And then the world keeps on turning.

All we could do at the moment is speculate about what lies ahead after death. Or, if you’re the religious type, you could lap up whatever the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, or any sacred book says about the afterlife.

“Do you think we would have any recollection of our past lives when we get reincarnated into something or someone else?” she asked, becoming suddenly interested in the Hindu concept of death and rebirth.

If we were to believe in reincarnation, I said, I think we’d start fresh again, like a tabula rasa. But somehow, we would probably have faint recollections of our past lives, like snatches of hazy dreams that we suddenly remember in our waking hours.

So that explains our déja-vus? she inquired.

Not exactly, I replied. It’s more like, it explains the stuff we seem to be unexplainably passionate about.

Like me, I’m crazy over religious iconography (I’ve visited the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros more than six times and I even bought a coffeetable book on its extensive collection), cathedrals (holy week or not, I do my visita iglesia in any city I end up in—I gawked at the interiors of Baclayon Church in Bohol, walked the sprawling stretch of the basilica in Lipa, lost myself with the devotees of the Sto. Niño inside the cathedral in Cebu, marveled at San Agustin in Intramuros, meditated inside the cathedral in Lourdes, France, wondered at the Notre Dame de Paris, and drooled over St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), and religious rituals (I once squeezed my way inside the Manila cathedral at 6 a. m. one Holy Thursday just to witness the elaborate renewing of vows of all priests in the archdiocese).

I do all these despite my lack of belief in institutionalized faith. What explains all that, then?

I must’ve been a monk in my past life. Hell, I even listen to Gregorian chant, both the real thing and the contemporary group that sings pop songs chant-like. I know Panis Angelicus and Salve Regina by heart. For a time, I even taught myself Latin not so much because of Cicero as because of my fascination with ecclesiastical pomp and ceremony.

But then, I’m not entirely sold out to the idea of reincarnation.

It sure is a more creative take on the cycle of life than Christianity’s boring images of fire-and-brimstone-lair-with-naked-horny-demons-cavorting-all-around or homosexual-archangels-with-Gaelic-harps-floating-on-fleecy-clouds.

I find something remiss about the whole concept of karma. I find the whole reward and punishment thing childish. Do good things and you’d get better karma and be part of the royal caste (or you’ll go to heaven with naked, gorgeous angels); be a complete ass and you’d get bad karma and get reborn as a flea (or you’ll go to hell with demons who are more frightening than Michael Jackson).

Jeez, give me a break. I do good deeds because I know it’s my obligation to my society. It’s what I should do as a human being. I don’t care about rewards after death, or heaven or hell or about becoming a cherub with a sissy outfit and large hairdo when I die. I do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.

This is a screwed-up world and the only contribution I can do is to make the world better by living my life well. To hell with hell and reincarnating into an amoeba inside someone else’s ass!

But I digress. Let me go back to my conversation with Mhel. I told her, the least we could do is to live life to the fullest. “Drink life to the lees,” as one romantic poet said (was it Cooleridge? Alfred Lord Tennyson? Hell I don’t remember). Do whatever you think would make you a better person and would help others bring out the best in them. Swim in the sea. Dance in wild abandon. Talk to the flowers. In the end, we would be nothing but fertilizers to these flowers anyway. I’m sure you’re familiar with all those sickening forwarded emails instructing you to pause and stop and smell the flowers and admire the sunset and all those crap. I don’t need to repeat them.

There might not be another life after we die. So, go ahead and take charge of your life now.

Gloomy and hopeless perspective? I don’t think so. On the contrary, believing that there is no heaven or hell makes me more alive, it gives me more reason to reach out to my fellow human beings (you have no idea how much I could sacrifice for another human person, friend or stranger), to make myself better (even if I don’t have much direction), and to live like there’s no tomorrow (I hate that cliché).

And speaking of doing what you want, I’d probably be flinging my ass off again to Marikina to join their Good Friday procession. Their religious icons there are fucking great, man. Almost every event in Christ’s last few days is represented by larger-than-life images borne by exquisitely ornate floats. It’s a fashion show of saints, if there ever is one. You should go see it.

Enjoy your holy week! Oh, and please, go easy on the flagellation thing, it’s so counterproductive.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

feed the gossipmongers

They’re easy to spot, these rumormongers.

They cling to rumors more readily than cigarette smoke clings to your clothes. They suck in juicy gossips more efficiently than leeches. And sometimes, they wear high heels too.

You don’t have to look hard, they’re everywhere—in your office, in your neighborhood, in church, but mostly, they thrive in offices. Chances are, that goody-two-shoes that sits in the next cubicle is a rumormonger.

How can you tell? Look at their ears. Ears are their most prized body parts. These twitch and turn and get naturally magnetized to conversations. They’re like radars that pan the heavens to get even the faintest signals from other life forms in space.

(Panning. Panning. Panning. Stop. The computer guy’s meeting up with his kept woman again, to the chagrin of his wife who calls the office 40 times a day. Panning. Panning. Panning. Stop. That old Xerox guy spent all his money on a woman who’s young enough to be his granddaughter. Pannning. Panning. Panning. Stop. Look at that pregnant clerk, she seems to be giving birth twice a year, how many uteruses does she have?)

Go try it one time. Start talking to someone about something—say, the cup size of your bra or how your dog sniffs its pecker before peeing—and the rumormonger comes drifting, ears first, toward you like a Dementor, ready to suck out gossips through their ears.

Once you let them in the conversation, they would go “ohhh” or “Is that so?” or “I didn’t know that” or any of those standard one-liners that can come out only from brains that have not been exercised since fourth grade.

Oh, and notice their eyes, too.

When they walk down the hall, their eyes are oh-so-sharp. They can capture anything (yes, even when you secretly pick your nose or scratch your crotch). And even when you shift your eyes to avoid their penetrating stare, they’d still keep on staring—from head to foot, foot to head, head to crotch, crotch to butt, etc.

Photographic memory? Naaah. They’re better than that. They can store controversial images in their brains (which is quite easy because they have so much space in between their ears; don’t you just envy them?) and when it’s time to retrieve these images, they’d just click on some Embellishment Software up in their brains and the image comes out twisted, distorted, exaggerated, mutilated, and ten-times more controversial. And you thought Adobe Photoshop was powerful? Think again.

With how wonderfully they manufacture calumnies, you would think these people have more power than peristalsis—you know, that involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles that push your gooey, digested food so it could come out of your ass as...well, you get the picture.

Go bring your girlfriend into the office, talk to her in hushed tones, look her straight in the eyes, and, as sure as mucus hardens into booger, one of them rumormongers would go and proclaim to the whole office that you suddenly turned your cubicle into an extension of Luneta Park. And you haven’t even touched her hand, for crying out loud!

Such is the beauty of having rumormongers around you.

These creatures breed faster than mice. They feed on stories, never mind if they’re true or not, as long as they are stories. You can spread some half-truth and they can instantly transform it into an epic, craftily woven and dramatically recounted.

They can add some zest into your boring life by spreading that you have sex with a chimpanzee every time the moon is full, or that you are an immoral, moon-worshipping, blood-drinking Satanist just because you told them you’re not religious.

Isn’t that exciting? They spruce up your office with wonderful tales and color your world with psychedelic hues. And you haven’t even started talking about their private lives yet!

Oh, yes, they do have lives. That old, cellulite-ridden, idiotic loudmouth, for instance, cohabits with a man twenty years her junior. It’s scandalously yucky to even imagine how they do it in bed, sagging and flabby body parts jiggling in rhythm to their pumping.

Oh, but she won’t talk about it. No siree. She’d rather talk about how she came across some explosive scandal about you, say, your homemade sex videos or your naked pictures on the net. Name it, she can spread it, and spread it well.

But I am already gossiping. Let’s leave the gossiping business to them, that’s what they do best, er, that’s the only thing they can do. It would be very impolite to rob them of their only joy in life. I guess i'll just be kind to these cretins and offer myself up as fodder to their flimsy minds. It’s a worthy sacrifice to humanity.

The next time I bring my girl friend here, we’d French kiss right in the middle of the hall, just to give these gossipmongers something juicy to talk about. Life would be too gray if they all die because of lack of gossips.


Monday, March 14, 2005

wife's checklist

A Wife’s Checklist

If you find the door ajar when you come home tonight,
Don’t kick the dog,
Check the fridge, your dinner’s waiting for you;
Heat it up, and please, wash the dishes after eating
I won’t be there to clean after you.

I left your fresh socks up in our bedroom,
The rest of your clothes are still in the laundry;
Pick them up after dinner
Oh, and please empty the trash can as you go,
It’s been breeding roaches and mice the last time I checked.

Rent is due next week,
You’ll find the money on your desk
Use the change to buy a carton of milk for Tom-tom
He’s been feasting on coke and rootbeer lately,
You know that’s not good for his health.

The plumber’s coming over tomorrow morning
To fix the leaking faucet in the kitchen sink.
Keep on eye on him,
Never fully trust a stranger even if he looks harmless
Scoundrels come in many shapes and sizes.

You don’t need to talk to Tom-tom
To explain everything
I already did it for you.
Besides, you wouldn’t know what to say
He understands me more than your leather belt.

You need not trouble yourself with the legalities
I hired two topnotch lawyers to take care of that
The annulment papers would be delivered to you next week
You don’t have to read them
I just need your signature.


Friday, March 11, 2005

feminist without a vagina

“Babae, tangan mo ang kalahti ng kalangitan (Woman, you control half of the heavens).”

That was the only line I sang and it spoke volumes about my views on women’s rights and gender equality. I couldn’t put it more succinctly. I performed that with a leftist cultural group during the International Women’s Day Celebration years ago.

Accompanied by a violinist, two guitarists, and a congo player, I sang back-up vocals (we just repeated that line over and over again, in varying degrees of loudness) while a man with a booming voice recited a poem about women’s rights (or more specifically, on how we trample on them). Also on the stage were a handful of dancers (we called them ‘movers’) who physicalized our music and poetry.

We performed on a makeshift stage erected right in front of the Welcome Rotunda monument. Up there, I could see a small crowd of about two hundred women’s rights advocates in the audience (mostly from Gabriela and other progressive organizations), squinting in the harshness of the midday sun, but still enjoying our performance. That inspired me to do my best onstage.

This also brings to mind the two Vagina Monologue performances I was lucky to be part of. Nope, I didn’t do the “Reclaiming Cunt” monologue because, obviously, I don’t have a cunt to speak of. I’ll leave that to Harlene Bautista whose Tagalog version really brought the house down.

I was merely one of the back-up singers.

Once a year, New Voice Company celebrates V-Day, a special event that centers on women empowerment. The central piece of this celebration, of course, is the performance of Eve Ensler’s smash hit, The Vagina Monologues. Instead of just the usual three actors, New Voice invites around sixty women from different fields to perform the monologues and/or sing, dance, or deliver a speech onstage.

The first one was held at the Music Museum and the second, at the Folk Arts Theater. Although most of what I did was just sing back-up vocals, perform with the choir, do a group movement piece, and stage-manage in between, I felt so proud to be sharing the same stage with such powerful women as Cheche Lazaro (she even took a picture of Elnard, Oliver, and me while we were back-up singing for Monique Wilson and Celeste Legaspi’s “The Prayer”), Alya Honasan, the late Zenaida Amador (founder and erstwhile artistic director of Repertory Philippines), Baby Barredo, Tammy Monsod (a superb thespian; daughter of Winnie Monsod), Winnie Monsod, Cherry Gil (who was so engrossed with our warm-up exercise before the show that she stayed flat on the floor long after all of us had gone up), Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Mitch Valdez, Celeste Legaspi, Nannette Inventor, Monique Wilson, Cynthia Alexander, Grace Nono (I told her to use the microphone onstage but, in a moment of panic, she used my mic backstage which was off!), Rep. Lisa Masa, Roselle Nava, Regine Velasquez (who, having flown from the States, was catatonic when she arrived; when I told her to get ready, she sprang up and walked toward the edge of the wing, thinking that it was already her cue to sing), Rina Jimenez-David, Angel Aquino, Angelu de Leon, Sampaguita, Harlene Bautista, Belinda Panelo, and a host of theater actors, singers, writers, directors, and advocates of women’s rights.

What was I doing there even if I didn’t have, er, a vagina? I’m proud to say that I do not conform to your usual mold of a guy. I hate chauvinism and I despise machismo. I believe everyone, regardless of sex, is equal, therefore, in the eyes of the law, everyone should have equal rights.

For ages, this phallus-obsessed world had suppressed women, relegating them to the outskirts of mainstream society, regarding them as delicate, fragile, good-only-for-sex creatures who must not open their own doors but should open up their legs for men anytime. I say, it’s about time that we, men, realized that having a dick does not guarantee us special privileges, that women are also capable of doing anything men can do, sometimes, they can even do it better.

Having said this, I don’t blame other men for harboring Jurassic perspectives on gender and the role of women. We have been conditioned by eons of crooked thoughts and philosophies regarding male superiority, religion being the chief proponent of gender inequality. The feminine has been so demonized that we almost equate women with the “darker side” of humanity.

They are the Magdelenes, the Eves, and the Bathshebas whose only goal is to seduce men and sidetrack them from their noble, testosterone-heavy missions in life. Man, you’d have to be dumb not to notice the glaring patronization of women in the Bible. You can only name a few who admirably stood out—Mary the mother of Christ, Deborah the prophetess, Queen Esther, and Miriam the sister of Moses.

And that is just Christianity. We haven’t even talked about Islam and other world religions that ignore the power of women! Talk about obliteration of the sacred feminine.

But what I cannot stomach most of all is the resignation of most women about this issue. Some of them would rather choose to conform and admit that they are indeed inferior, that this is still “a man’s world.” Their only idea of womanhood is to play second fiddle to a man—any man. That is how much some women have ingrained this culture of inequality.

My ideal woman, therefore, is not your usual timidly demure, delicately virginal girl. My ideal woman is strong and bold. She knows what she wants and knows how to get there. She has her own mind and she does not wait for men to open doors for her, or to offer her their seats. She is willing to be on equal footing with a man in a relationship and not be subjugated by him. She understands her sexuality and is not afraid of it. Best of all, she does not conform to any of those societal shit that dictates what a woman should be.

Now that we’re celebrating International Women’s Day, I salute those brave women who have defiantly broken the mold and are struggling for a better, more egalitarian world. You do have the right to control half of the heavens.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005


My brain is shutting down again. I don’t know what’s with late afternoons that always deadens my brain cells and pulls my eyelids shut. Or maybe it’s those boring articles that I have to edit and rewrite. Just read one of them and you’ll surely be on your way to dreamland—if you’re lucky, that is. There are days when reading them makes my dendrites throb wildly. And then I end up with a headache.

So before I develop migraine or before I fall asleep and gross my officemates out with a pool of drool on my desk, I’d try to take a breather, and just ramble on in here.


While I was concentrating on my bicep curls at the gym last week, a friend called my cell. I need you to cover up for me, she frantically said. I knew what she wanted at once. Her boyfriend’s wife was calling her cell. She needed to divert the call to my phone to mislead the wife.

“Just intimidate the bitch. Tell her it’s your number. Talk to her in English or something. She’s dumb; she’d easily get turned off. Do it for me, please?” she said. So she’s at it again—dating that married guy who is held by the balls by his psychotic wife.

Soap opera material. If I were writing for any of those stupid telenovelas, I’d have a wealth of real-life stories to draw inspiration from.


Real life is much more interesting than fiction. If you’re in for some surreal, fantastic, macabre, or simply amusing stories, then go check out your neighborhood and you’ll easily find a story or two to your liking. Chances are, you’d find plots flightier than Kafka’s or more magically realistic than Garcia-Marquez’s.

Whenever I’m into my dreamy mode, I imagine that I could fly all over town. I’d choose a particular house, pry open its rooftop, and then observe what goes on inside. There goes the wife, talking on the phone to her boss who happens to fancy her. The husband tinkers with his toolbox, fixing stuff in the garage, secretly wishing that he could screw his friend’s young wife. There goes Junior, carefully arranging thumbtacks on his little sister’s bed because she refused to give him some caramel candy this morning. Oh, and the little sister, she’s down by the laundry room, peeping through a hole in the wall, curiously watching her yaya making out with the driver. And the driver, while in the peak of wild sex, is plotting to rob the husband’s cash, kill the whole family including the maid, and run off with the car.

Morbid thoughts. Morbid days. Life is morbid.


If we could read minds, would we still trust each other? If we knew about those withheld thoughts, can we still smile and say hello to each other every morning? I don’t believe so.

That’s why I don’t trust people that easily. I know something else goes on in their minds. I know people won’t tell me exactly what they think about me.

I only trust people who are strong enough to tell me what they think even if it means trampling on my ego. I trust only those who can boldly tell me that I suck. I trust friends who don’t beat around the bush. I trust only those who are not afraid to hurt me if I needed to be hurt.

That leaves me with only a handful of people to trust. I don’t care. I’d rather have one sincere and honest friend than a million liars.


There’s this little group exercise on trust that I saw on TV. The participants, who don’t know each other, would have to walk up to a fellow participant, look at him or her straight in the eyes and say “I trust you,” or “I don’t trust you,” depending on what his or her heart dictates. Such a hard thing to do. Even Oprah, a host who just won’t let up, refused to go through it, even if the exercise was facilitated by her fave bald shrink with a funny accent, Dr. Phil.

If I would go through the same exercise, I’d probably say “Fuck off, man, I don’t trust you!” to more than half of the group. To hell with those who would say they trust me. They’re just probably lying. I’d take an interest in the people who would tell me that they don’t trust me. I’ll try to befriend them and EARN their trust. And I will treasure them forever.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

lowering our intellectual brows

There is no original thought or ideology in this world. Everything has been thought up before. We just repeat it over and over again, in a new form, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. It’s just a matter of packaging. A fresh perspective is nothing but a rehashed ideology of another that has been given a new twist, or a certain modification here and there. Those grand “–isms” that we love to discuss lengthily have their inspiration in nature or in the thinker’s environment; a reconstitution of thoughts from Plato’s world of ideas.

This universe is interconnected. We are all made up of the same matter. What we conjure inside our brain has probably been dancing inside the mind of another in the foggy marshes of Scotland. What right have we to shout “Eureka!” and claim that some brilliantly original thought just popped into our heads, when, hundreds of thousands of miles away from us, in the confines of a stony, deadened cloisters of a Benedictine monastery, a monk has been philosophizing about the same idea for months?

In a world where rapidity is almost synonymous to brilliance and intelligence, whoever gets to patent his or her idea first wins. Never mind if that idea has been cooking in the minds of worthier people halfway across the globe. Whoever writes it down first gets to claim that idea as her own. With what hubris could we display our laurels and bask under the artificial glory of klieg lights?

Thinking about this humbles me down. There is absolutely nothing I (or anyone, for that matter) could be proud of. Everything I have ever thought of, every artwork I have created, every good thing I have done to my fellow human beings has been thought up, created, and done countless times before. Right at this very moment, somewhere in the vast expanse of our uncharted universe, some creature with three eyes and antennaes as ears is probably having his three eyes scanned by a supercomputer to store the very same thoughts that I am typing away on my keyboard.

I am merely a tiny particle of rust in a huge machinery of heavy pistons and grinding wheels. I am insignificant.

Humans have built insanely enormous temples and churches to house their invented gods and deities. For me, these monuments are a homage to the Universe. It simply represents the vastness of space and the inconsequentiality of our existence.

The sooner we realize this, the better we could situate ourselves within our limited context, and perhaps lower our intellectual brows a bit.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

the morning i cursed myself

You curse your cell phone for having alarmed incessantly since 8:30 in the morning. Then you remember you have set the alarm yourself the night before. You curse yourself instead. You clamber out of bed; your body still aching for two more hours of sleep.

You undress, wrap a towel around your waist, and get your plastic basket of toiletries, which one of your roommates used again last night. That thick-hided asshole!

You lousily tread down the stairs toward one of the bathrooms, hoping that nobody left his shit unflushed again. You enter a bathroom, close the door, and survey the smudged tiles to see if any of those blasted earthworms have inched out of their hellhole down under.

You take a shower, shivering as the cold water trickles down your bare body. You grimace as the water whacks you awake. You curse your landlady for not having installed water heater. I’m late, you realize. But still, you take your sweet time scrubbing yourself with loofah soaked in cheap shower gel. You dream of what you will do with your time when your boss finally suspends you due to tardiness. Piñacolada on a white-sand beach? Mediterranean luxury cruise? Swedish massage in an expensive spa? Scuba-diving? Sky-diving?

How about this—editing badly-written articles in your comfy little blue cubicle? What a bummer. You suddenly sympathize with desk editors. You forgive their huge capacity for acerbity. They do have a reason to be nasty.

You remember the loads of work that await you at the office. You curse your workload. You think of calling in sick. Naah, that won’t work. You vainly wish for a typhoon in March so work will be suspended. Silly idea. You think of calling the office guard to tip him off of a bomb planted in your floor. Lacks originality.
Finding no excuse to be absent, you reluctantly dress up. The aircon drones in accompaniment to the soft snoring of your roommates who are still asleep. You curse the aircon. You curse your roommates.

You trudge clumsily on the road, imagining that you are walking again along Champs-Elysées, pretending that your sweaty skin is being kissed again by Paris’ frosty air. You turn around the corner and see the Notre Dame gleaming with its recently restored façade. You hear a violin wailing Schubert’s “Serenade” and you hum along with it. Another sharp turn and you are in front of the massive Madeleine. Just down the street would be the wine store whose Beaujolais you love so much. You turn right but, somehow, you end up promenading along the Seine, smelling the chilly fragrance of fall flowers. You turn around another corner and the majesty of St. Peter’s Square opens up before you, with hundreds of dumb-looking tourists and senile Italian priests milling about. The pope is somewhere in there, you assume, snoring in his sick bed. You walk a few steps and you are stunned by the enormity of the Colosseo. For a while, you gaze and wonder how those ancient guys built the whole structure. You turn another corner and you bump against a stranger.

“Tignan mo dinadaanan mo, gago!”

And good old Pedro Gil comes blooming in front of you. You sigh. Darn, it’s past ten already. You’re late. You curse Pedro Gil.

You continue walking toward Mabini, occasionally meeting Caucasian tourists with whores clinging on their large, hairy arms. You glance at slimy children sleeping on the gutter, their shirts pulled up to reveal bloated tummies and grimy navels. You smell the stench of brine and garbage borne by the sticky air. Why does Manila Bay always make its presence felt, you wonder. Why indeed?

You see a bent, wrinkled old woman sitting on the gutter with her bony arm outstretched toward you. Alms. You feel ashamed that you have no food to give her. Money won’t do, you think. It has to be food. It has to be food. You feel bad about her plight. You feel bad about yourself. You remember your own mother. What if it were her down there, begging for a few coins? What if every beggar along Pedro Gil were related to you? What would you have done? Would your spare change not suffice? It has to be food?

You reach Mabini. Jeeps zoom past you, leaving heavy fumes in their wake. You cover your nose with a hanky. Why does Manila make its presence felt all the time? Because you are in Manila, not in glittery Paris or historic Rome.

You hail a jeep and quietly board it.

You curse yourself.