Thursday, September 07, 2006


While walking with my friends on a frosted street in Malakoff, Plateau-de-Vanves, on our way to the Metro station, I said something to the effect that, in a few weeks, we would all fly back to Manila and all this would be over like it never happened. Lu, who was walking nearest me, smiled and said something like “we will surely be back, right? This won't be our last time here.” I don't remember having said anything. I just buried my freezing hands, leather gloves and all, deeper into my pockets. Damn, it was cold and my breath was starting to smell like stale croissant.

That was two years ago.

Now, Lu is (as of this writing) on her way back to France to take her master's degree at Science Politique, an elite school (les Parisiens call it grande école) in the heart of Paris. That day in Malakoff is a hazy illusion now, more like a scene from some sleazy movie on pirated DVD. And her comment then was something one would promptly forget about, like a passing fart. I never thought she was serious when she said she'd go back. This woman is really determined. She knows how to dream and she will try to reach it, no matter what.

Don't get me wrong. You might get the idea that she's some sort of wily woman who's into wheeling and dealing just to get what she wants. Far from it. She's just determined and hard-working. Period. Just don't make her heat up something in the microwave oven or you'll risk burning your whole house. Now don't get me into talking about how she watched her lasagna burn in the microwave in her hotel room and how she patiently looked at the thing as wisps of smoke shot out of the machine, all the while thinking that it was part of the cooking process. She spent weeks trying to scrub the black stains off the plate, fearing that she might be charged extra by the hotel if they found out. And, weeks after the incident, I could still smell burnt lasagna in her room when I went there to use her bathroom (there was no freaking hot water in our damn room).

Somehow, I always ended up sitting beside her on the plane and even on the train on our way back to Paris from Lourdes (where we spent the whole afternoon drinking wine just right across the world-famous grotto of the Virgin Mary). Mind you, she said she didn't hear me snore at all! Either she thought my snoring was the drone of the plane's engine or she snored louder than I did. During these long flights, we got to talk about a lot of things—philosophy, Philippine politics, the arts, life, our dreams (or on my part, lack thereof), plans, common friends (it turns out she knows one of the most infamous people in my office before), practically all sorts of stuff. She always had something smart to say about anything, and if she didn't, she'd invent something, like “that must've been the street where the barricade in Les Misérables was set up” or “this must've been the exact spot where Marie Antoinette stayed to have her fake mole attached,” or some stuff like that.

One time, while waiting for the mass to start inside the gothic Notre Dame, we got to talk about agnosticism, atheism, and the highly political nature of the Church hierarchy. While the ancient pipe organ blared lugubriously impassioned baroque music up on the choir loft, we sat at the back, a few pews away from the rest of the gang, who were psyching themselves up for a French mass. “It's quite ironic that we are talking about these stuff inside a cathedral,” I said. I won't reveal the nitty-gritty of what we actually discussed. Suffice it to say that her take on the issue was something I found very interesting.

While walking on the cobbled streets of Île de la Cité or traversing the deadened floor of the expansive Conciergerie, we wondered why we, as a people, were not able to produce such grand monuments that are celebrated all over the world. Such huge, adobe structures are ill-suited for our climate and culture, I said. We did build some amazing things, like the Rice Terraces, for example. But that's not as celebrated as these stone temples, she reasoned out. She was right. Maybe being a colonial lapdog for so long has something to do with it? Even the valorization of such monuments can be politicized like presidential appointments.

After ogling over Napoléon Bonaparte's well-preserved horse at Les Invalides, the gang already seemed too ill-disposed to continue sightseeing. One even suggested that we just go back to our hotel because we needed to rest. It was drizzling and the rain felt like cold syringe needles cross-stitching through our clothes. Despite that, I felt like I still had the energy to walk around and explore. I didn't really care if I had to do it alone (on several occasions, I had wandered the streets of Paris alone, and in the dead of night, at that). I'd rather get lost in the labyrinthine Metro tunnels than spend my time counting my calluses inside a hotel room. Lu, fortunately, was also thinking of the same thing. So she told the group that she'd rather walk around with me and make the most of her stay in the City of Lights. Upon hearing this, the group decided to stay with us, much to the chagrin of those whose feet were already aching. And so we walked toward the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, which were, unfortunately, both closed for restoration. There, between the dark façades of these two massive palaces, we hung around and thus was born our own bastardized language: Frangalogish. It's a combination of French, English, and Tagalog.

“Mon Dieu, how cute naman your parapluie, Puis-je borrow naman ça, kasi il pleut na eh.”

“Yeah, bien sûr, bakit naman non? Pero demain, il faut return it to moi na parce que je le need eh, ok lang ba, hein?”

“You're so gentil, mon friend! Je te dois big time, grabe!”

“So, are nous going to go aller à l'hôtel na maintenant? My balls are like freezing already comme un ice candy in the sari-sari magasin eh.”

“Good idée! Alors, allons-y na, baka mag-close pa the sortie sa Malakoff eh, super loin pa naman the other station in Porte-de-Vanves, merde. I don't want to marcher sa street na super froid to the bone, baka may crotte pa ng mga freaking chiens. Merde talaga!”

On that note, language purists held up elegant urns to puke their guts into.

Lu had already seen the movie Before Sunset, which had been shot on location in Paris. Naturally, she was excited to visit the places where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy had their insightful verbal exchanges.
So one night, we, Lu, Dax, and I, went to Île-de-Saint-Louis, hoping to chance upon a familiar landmark from the movie. I had so much fun scouring the place that I forgot I was supposed to go to the Brogniart Palace to meet Elsa, the French girl I had met on my second day there. I don't remember what lame excuse I told her that night, but boy, she was really pissed! Good thing I had some presents for her. [Elsa, tu te souviens bien ce nuit? Je suis désolé j'ai manqué à te voir, c'était trop impolit et stupide. Merci pour m'avoir rencontré à Porte-de-Vanves malgré le temps. Ce qui m'a fait peur le plus c'était ton fureur! Héhé. Ne mets pas en colère à moi, s'il te plaît.]

I find Lu a great companion when we combed the galleries of the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée de l'Armée and all the other museums we visited there. She seemed to understand my tendency to drool over Gaugin, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rodin, et al. Perhaps because she, herself, drooled over them more than I did. It was such fun having her around because she shared my excitement over art and history.

Even in food, we seem to have the same line of thought. One time, the whole gang went to this crass French fastfood restaurant called Quick. Lu and I decided not to buy food there. We didn't go to Paris to sample stupid hamburgers and fries, for crying out loud! So the two of us went out and searched for a local boulangerie to buy freshly baked baguette to eat as the Parisians do. We both agreed we wouldn't spend our precious euros just for some American-inspired junk food. In Lourdes, only the two of us deliberately didn't bring any food. I only brought a bottle of wine. We told ourselves that we would just buy baguette there. Unfortunately, the place was like a ghost town every Sunday. Lu and I went around the whole town and found all the boulageries closed. Good thing the rest of them brought sandwiches and chocolates.

Two weeks ago, we had a send-off party for Lu at Red Box, Greenbelt. It was also for Tet, who is set to study in Perpignan, France this September. (This one's another remarkable woman. She was our very first French teacher who never made us feel that we were in the classroom. She made learning a foreign language fun and, believe it or not, exciting. Being younger than most of us, she was more like a friend during class.)

Last Saturday, we met again for dinner at Chili's, Greenbelt. We enjoy prolonged goodbyes like that. Afterwhich, we headed straight to Starbucks where we surreptitiously drank Jera's sake and a bottle Japanese peach wine, the latter was good; the former tasted like mouthwash. I told Lu she deserves whatever she has right now. She has dreamed fiercely and worked tirelessly for it. I'm sure she's destined for great things. You can see it in her eyes. She can be an ambassador or probably this country's representative to the UN. If not she can always take a job as a model in those idiotic videoke footages.

She's probably in Paris now, waiting for her class to start, perhaps still clutching a half-eaten French bread. As she used to say whenever we were looking at our Paris maps, “nous sommes ititch” [a bastardization of “nous sommes ici” which means “we are here”]. She's no longer 'ititch' (whatever the hell that word means). But who knows, we might actually find ourselves together again, talking about existentialism while munching baguette and drooling over some impressionist painting being sold on Parisian gutter.

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At 8:17 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Let's hope so.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger dionne said...

tara! *sigh*

i miss lu already. =(

At 10:08 AM, Blogger jet descallar said...

hmmm... do i smell something else? other than how you normally smell of course...

At 9:40 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

JAY -- yeah

dionne -- no more dinners after french class...

jet -- let me give you that standard showbiz answer: "we're just friends." that's true. and you have no choice but endure my smell.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous bingskee said...

how vivid the memories are.. it must be something :-)

At 9:45 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

bingskee -- because i treasure memories. it's all i have.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger cruise said...

naaliw naman ako sa Frangalogish, kahit di ko naintindihan, sosyal na soyal ang dating... namilipit ang dila ko sinubukan ko kasing masahin ng malakas, hehe

At 9:38 PM, Blogger bismuth said...

we lucky few who have friends who inspire us to no end. and who would probably run with the bull with us in spain for the heck of having an authentic european expereince.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Sidney said...

Sweet memories remind us of the roads we have traveled and the people we have loved.

But what happens today is also the material for tomorrow's memories...

At 6:48 AM, Blogger ie said...

i always fancy everything that's french: the pastry, the people, the films (ooh, the films), the landmarks, the language, and the poetry. i think there's this undying romanticism amidst all of them, something that's too evident to be ignored.

i wish i can go to france too. and soon.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger rebel_heart said...

this one was beautiful reminiscing (: oh, Paris.

At 3:10 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...


je ne pense pas que c'est le mieux façon d'apprendre une langue .. mais ce n'est pas extraordinaire.

At 3:22 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

Before Sunset

j'ai vu ce film. c'était triste au fin quand l'homme avait besoin de partir. la converstion était inestimable et mystique. ils sont les deux mignon ;p je souhaite que j'aurai une expérience similaire quelque jour.

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Lu said...

Mon ami, must you really tell the world about my ineptitude in the kitchen? Oh well.. it seems that that micro-onde episode is one of the most "inoubliable" highlights of our Parisian sejour. And I suppose that even if I win the Nobel Peace Prize or become the first female UN SecGen, I will always be remembered by you guys (frenchies) as the person who nearly got CITEA burned down by sheer ignorance (or is it stupidity?). There seems to be no way of redeeming myself.

I also enjoyed immensely our conversations and our wandering in the streets of Paris. Il faut y revenir bientôt pour que nous puissions les faire de nouveau. J’aimerais bien de te voir là (avec Michelle, Dionne, Dax, et les autres frenchies). Franchement, Paris semble un peu vide sans vous. Donc, je répéte: Il faut absolument que vous reveniez ITITCH!:)

At 5:01 PM, Blogger remingdoy rand said...

Omg!!! antagal na ng entry na ito ngayon lang uli ako nakakabasa! geegege!!! and un autre omg!!! Frangalongish ba?!? Like, "Let's go a-aller na tayo!" or "Na-reçu na ba ni director ang message (en français)?

Bwahahahaahah!!! I miss french. Wait for me! Isang sem na lang. :D

I'm temporarily writing back here, just in case:

missd bloggin!

At 4:45 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

cruise--papatayin ako ng mga french teachers ko kapag narinig yan

bismuth--exactly. or sing with the boatmen of fancy gondolas in Venice.

sidney--that's why i'm living my life well today. i know that in the future, i will look back to this very moment and reminisce it with fondness.

je--oh yes. the romanticism. just remember not to ask for directions in English or else all the romanticism that you have associated with the French will crumble

rebel heart--i wish i could go back.

rmacapobre--evidemment, ce n'est pas un moyenne pour apprendre une langue étrangere mais si on etudie bien l'histoire de la developpement des langues, on trouve que les langues sont developpé comme ça. Toutes les langues, sans exception.

j'espere avoir une experience comme Before Sunset aussi.

lu ---tu peux utiliser bien la machine a laver. c'est un grand succes! je veux y retourner aussi.

remingdoy rand---it's jolie to te voir ici ulit! kaya lang how triste naman ton nouveau entry dans ton blog, un peu nostalgique din. j'espere na ok ka toi maintenant na. tu dois s'inscrire sa alliance para camarade de classe tayo.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger {illyria} said...

it's been a long time, my friend. happy new year's. hope the hols were good to you.


~the girl FKA transience

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous elsa said...

Bonne année à toi! J'espère te lire bientôt :)

At 6:47 PM, Blogger sparks said...

What a small frickin' world the Pinoy blogosphere. I got here because Manolo linked you recently. You've got a 'nice' photo so I decided to scroll down. I see some French, intrigued I read this post. And you write about Lu and Tet, both of whom were college classmates. Where do I know you from???


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