Thursday, November 17, 2005

20 random facts about me

Everything’s a blur right now. I started working part-time for the new company three weeks ago. My resignation takes effect next week, 21 November. That means I’m juggling two jobs at the moment, and it’s kinda dizzying. My former boss is sending hints that she might extend my stay here so I could finish my commitments before I finally leave them. Dionne is suggesting that I just file a terminal leave for at least a month before I actually leave. I might do just that. I made it clear, though, that I will do my work only during the weekend, at home. My boss seems to be open to the idea. I don’t want to leave any backlog on my trail.

This is the reason why I haven’t been doing my usual round of blog-hopping these days. That’s also why I didn't notice that Tasha tagged me. So here I am, making up for it.

20 random facts about me:

1. Sometimes, I don’t use a nail cutter to trim my toenails; I tear them off with my bare hands. Bliss. Try it.
2. Give me tofu any time of the day and I’d gobble it up like a hungry crocodile.
3. For our Halloween seventies costume party at my new office, I bought a dirty shirt in an ukay-ukay shop (store that sells used clothes) and wore it that same night, without having it washed.
4. My most embarrassing moment was done on national TV. And it was not a moment at all. The damn TV plug was aired everyday for six months straight. I never told a living soul about it. But, much to my irritation, all my friends knew about it in no time. Those who don’t watch TV at all learned of this stupid plug through word of mouth. It was my fault, really. I thought, since it was a fairly unpopular television station, none of my friends would be able to see me goofing around.
5. I don’t gain weight even if I eat tons of food everyday. Yes, hate me.
6. My ultimate dream is to become a porn star. Oh, but you already know that. Proceed to Number 7.
7. The more you persuade me to do something; the more I will not do it. If you’re stubborn, I can be ten times more stubborn than you are.
8. Pop culture gives me hernia.
9. I take pride in being different (read: weird) from everyone else. My worst nightmare is to become just a face in the crowd.
10. Simple is not a word that describes me.
11. I’m allergic to drastic temperature changes. I develop red spots that last for at least five minutes whenever I feel cold or hot.
12. I used to be part of a communist group.
13. I was into marksmanship in college. For one semester, I trained with a rifle and pistol org but when they started power tripping, I left. I won’t let anyone trample on my dignity.
14. Swimming gives me a natural high.
15. When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a world-renowned concert pianist, an Olympic swimmer, and a famous writer. Obviously, I never got to become any of these.
16. I can’t swim without my trusty goggles.
17. I still dream of playing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto.
18. I’ve kept a journal since I was ten.
19. I can down four litters of water in one sitting. And I’m not kidding.
20. I don’t have stage fright.

If you have ten fingers, you’re tagged.

Friday, November 11, 2005

digging another hole

Like a wide-eyed virgin, I started working for this institute three years ago. From television scripts measured in minutes, grouchy TV directors who throw tantrums, and location shoots in the best and worst sites of the country, I shifted gears to accommodate tripartism, globalization, international labor conventions, and economic issues into my staple diet. I knew I sashayed into something totally alien when I found myself draining the blood out of my writing to make it look like a corpse that has just been embalmed, like what nice technical writing should be.

The work was not as bland as I had imagined, though. If my stint as a media practitioner involved risking life and limb, this job had its fair share of attractions too. I learned to enjoy working while incensed chants of an irate mob outside the office calmed my nerves every afternoon. Last song syndrome, for me, included catchy leftist songs and tacky slogans sweetly borne by the air from the mob that jammed the street down below. During lucky days, I got to see abstract works of art on our office walls, left by rallyists who had hurled cans of red paint at us.

The office bustles with life at lunchtime, when manangs with plastic-wrapped food go up and shout “Lunch” like true-blooded Divisoria divas. That’s the clarion call for my colleagues to stop anything they’re doing and congregate on the corridor like convicts claiming their rationed grub. It’s sheer joy to watch various characters streaming out of their cubicles to check out the food with the same curiosity hagglers rummage through used underwear in a flea market. These were the same characters that I worked with during research projects that required us to comb the whole country and jump from one island to another. I got to interview a lot of people—from rosy-cheeked child laborers up in the chilly Cordilliera Mountains to dignified ministers in the posh presidential palace of Indonesia. Honestly, I prefer the candor of the former.

During peak seasons, work came in truckloads. Articles for publication, speeches for some idiotic hotshot, PowerPoint presentations that needed some tweaking, books that required meticulous lay-out in Pagemaker, Senate bills that had to be commented on, and all the usual shit. One time—that was when my fever chased the mercury out of the thermometer—I was asked to co-write a speech for the highest official of the Republic. It was nothing much, really. I was just assigned to write a portion of it; the rest would be written by two other people. I was told to complete it in an hour. So, with my neurons broiling and my hands shaking, I feverishly pounded on my keyboard to produce whatever shit my wrung-up mind was still capable of producing. My boss was checking on me every five minutes, and that’s not an exaggeration. The Palace was already badgering us to submit it immediately. I think I came up with just two pages of crap that my boss edited in a jiffy and hurriedly emailed to the Palace to be further butchered and mangled and twisted according to Her Excellency’s whims. I spent the whole day in bed the following day, languishing in bad-tempered reveries. I was never asked to write a speech for her again.

Lean seasons gave us more leeway to enjoy the finer things in life. An elderly masseuse, who was as regular as our old, horny Xerox guy, would come strolling about, peddling her services. Shiatsu or Thai? Efficascent oil or Ilog Maria essences? One by one, my co-workers would book her. And then the whole office would swell with the fragrance of an old, dying matriarch in comatose.

Management favored harmony of work and family responsibilities, a concept that made the whole office a veritable nursery with whining babies and running kids. It’s not unusual to hear a scandalous wail or a shriek of delight while you’re writing something about the impact of trade liberalization on Philippine economy. Times like that, you wish you were writing something on overpopulation and the best way to control couples’ horniness so they would stop making damn babies that would wail like lunatic assholes at the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong. I love kids, especially those that can already talk. I just can’t stand infants and toddlers. There was this boy at the office, the son of a co-worker, who constantly visited my cubicle to chat about his latest videogame. He would hang around my workstation and sometimes play with my plastic action figures of Shrek and the Dragon. I didn’t mind it, really. Because, as I said, I enjoy being with kids. But one time, when I had to finish editing some articles, he decided to hang out longer and watch my picture-album screen saver. He saw a picture of me standing in front of the Notre Dame de Paris.

“What church is that?” he asked.

“That’s Quiapo Church,” I replied, without looking up from the article I was working on.

“Oh, I see. How about that? What place is this?” he was referring to some park in Europe.

“That’s the Quiapo Park.”

“Oh, and this one looks really nice. Where is this?”

“That’s the other side of the Quiapo church.”

“How about this tall tower? Where is this?”

“That’s the Quiapo Tower.”

“You’re pulling my leg. How come you are wearing a thick jacket and mufflers here? I don’t think Quiapo is this cold!”

“Well, it must’ve been cold as hell when I went there.”

Exasperated by my standard Quiapo answers, he left me alone, probably thinking that Quiapo was a wintry place with grand palaces and courtyards filled with friendly pigeons.

But these kids are minor distractions compared to the accounting and administrative guys. They have the exceptional talent of chatting among themselves and making it appear like they’re haranguing ten thousand people in an open-air stadium. They upgrade a couple of decibels higher during birthday parties, when the standard pancit (sautéed Chinese noodles with vegetables and bits of chicken), pan de sal (little pieces of breakfast buns), and Coke litter the conference room table.

Which brings me to our crazy Christmas parties that required everyone to come in costume. We’ve dressed up as ethnic tribespeople and Animé characters. One Christmas, we even had a bedroom party in which one co-worker showed up with rollers on her hair, night cream plastered on her face, and a big teddy bear in her arms. These parties, with their wanton craziness and brazen crassness, did provide me with respite from the drab looks of my little blue cubicle beside the ancient air-conditioning unit that freezes my balls into some spermatic black hole. I have worked zealously, lazily, and haphazardly. At times I felt that I was already a captive of this cubicle. Other times, it seemed like I was the master of it. Even as I hear unabashed gossiping floating around like smog, I still felt that I belonged here. That I dug a hole here, safe and secure. This was my office. And for three years, this has been my life.

A contract with another company now bears my signature. Another blue cubicle is waiting to ensnare me like a wide-eyed virgin. With shovel in hand, I’m all set to dig yet another hole.


Monday, November 07, 2005

you can’t eat here but you may litter

With my hotdog waffle and cup of iced tea, I sleepily trudged up the MRT Taft train station one beautiful Saturday morning. “What A Wonderful World” was on repeat mode in my head. Everything was abloom with early morning crispness. With a nice day like that and a nice badminton game ahead, nothing could probably ruin my mood. Or so I thought.

At the train station’s entrance, the guard barred me. The song in my head screeched to a halt like some bootleg CD. Louis Armstrong swallowed a gramophone and choked to death. The guard said food was not allowed inside. He instructed me to stand in a corner and finish my breakfast first. Like a domesticated iguana, I politely complied even though I was already running late for my badminton game. When I saw that the queue in front of the ticket booth was getting kilometric, I asked the guard if I could just finish my food while lining up for my ticket so as not to waste time. He emphatically said no with a thick northern accent. So I shut up even if I knew that the order was illogical. The queue was just four feet away from where I was eating my lousy breakfast, and technically, I was already within train station’s premises. It wouldn’t have made a difference if I finished my food in that corner or in line. Besides, I know how to take care of my trash after eating.

Then I noticed the booths selling food and beverages across the ticket booth. I asked him why they allow food stalls inside but prohibit people from eating there. He said those are take-out foods. You’re not supposed to eat them there. I can’t imagine hurrying passengers taking their sweet time to stop and buy take-out delicacies on their way out of or to the platform. Besides, if they buy food there, they won’t be allowed to enter the platform at all, unless they finish them in one corner, like what I was doing. Having food stalls inside the station encourages passengers to eat there especially during peak hours when lines run longer than an orangutan’s armpit hairs. Why not prohibit food stalls too if they’re really serious with their NO EATING regulation?

“I honestly think that your rule is senseless,” I told the guard. He just pretended he didn’t hear me. So I also pretended that I was enjoying my breakfast. After gobbling up my waffle, I lined up for my ticket. When I was about to go through the turnstiles, another guard, once again, stopped me.

“You can’t bring your trash inside,” he said, referring to my breakfast debris, which I was still holding because there was no trashcan in sight.

“I’m going to throw these into the trash bin inside the bathroom because there’s obviously none here,” I reasoned out, keeping my asshole-self in check.

“Yes there is,” and he motioned toward a corner near one of the food stalls. I knew there was no trashcan there but, to humor the idiot, I still went to check it out. A few seconds after, I returned to the idiot and told him there really was no trashcan there, not unless he meant the floor. To my great horror, he actually meant the freaking floor!

“Leave it there,” he instructed.


“There, on the floor.”

My jaw dropped half a mile down and my tongue rolled out like a red carpet. Did that creature just say what I thought he did? I don’t even throw candy wrappers on the street and then here’s this bozo telling me to leave my used cup, large plastic bag, and soiled paper napkin on the floor! I thought the whole point of forbidding me to eat within station premises was to prevent me from littering. I was visibly appalled but the moronic guard did not seem to notice. Since I didn’t have time to create a scene scandalous enough to attract the attention of train station managers who would ask me what was wrong and try to comfort me as I rant and lecture about pollution of the environment and disruption of train station ecosystem, I grudgingly complied and murmured ‘stupid’ while thinking about drafting a strongly worded letter to the management of the MRT.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

don't fuss about me when i'm dead

Two years ago, I was interviewed through email by Mr. & Ms. Magazine about my views on death and dying. The answers I wrote were published in a two-page article entitled Morbid Thoughts, or some other predictable title, in their Halloween issue. I essentially talked about how I wanted my wake to turn out. I wanted everything to be all black—black candles (no garish light bulbs please), black wooden coffin, black curtains with no frills, and black pedestal. I also wrote that I hated to have any religious iconography or symbols near my coffin. If they had to put something in the middle as decor, it should be my watercolor painting of a nude, crucified male figure with a looming hooded shadow of a demonic executioner at the back (this painting, by the way, now welcomes cobwebs and dust in a forgotten corner of an unused room in our old house). I clearly stated that it had nothing to do with religion or Christ. It was my critique on how society crucifies and humiliates people who do not conform to its shitty version of truth.

I wanted the wake’s piped-in music to be that of Secret Garden’s, the Norwegian New Age group who composed and popularized You Raise Me Up before Josh Groban mangled it. No eulogies. No sappy tributes. Anyone who would start eulogizing me should be stabbed and buried two days before my actual interment. I’d rather that they recount all my foibles, idiosyncrasies, stupidities, and silly anecdotes. I wanted laughter during my wake. Lots of it. I also wanted to lie in state without any clothes on, but thought it too gruesome because it would expose the undertakers’ stitches. But if it’s really laughter I wanted, then I guess lying there in the nude is really the way to go.

The tomb should look like a classical mausoleum complete with statues of Greek or Roman gods in wrathful or sensuous poses. I wanted my angels to be the bulols or the anitos or any of the tribal deities of the Philippines. If they couldn’t do enough research to recreate these tribal gods, I’d settle for the quirky creatures of mythology’s netherworld. I only wanted black or red marble to be used. And I wanted the masonry to look massive and intimidating.

These all seem too pretentious, pompous, and absurd now. I have already said that I want my corpse to be donated to a medical school to be put to good use. That’s better than rotting away in some dark grave, if you would ask me.

But really, I wouldn’t give a hoot about what they would do with my body after I die. As far as I’m concerned, that body, that thing that used to be me, will be nothing but parched flesh, dried up blood, and excess hair. There’s nothing to it, really. They could just wrap me up in some stinky bed sheet and throw me into the river for all I care. It doesn't make any difference, as long as the bed sheet is black, of course.