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Puckering Time

It's now or never.
 

Akimbo

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Barely a few weeks ago while my dad and I were driving our way home, and tuned in to DZMM’s broadcast of TV Patrol World, I heard this news about him. When his name was mentioned it reverberated inside my head and my brain immediately scanned through the pages of my memory bank, leafing every single folio of the names of casual acquaintances I’ve met in three years of my stay in UP. Unfortunately his name wasn’t scribbled in it. Then I found out after two, three days that the guy I overheard from a news flash report was my friend’s classmate.


He was, my friend said, a very nice guy – by nice I presume it meant something else, but I didn’t bother interrupt my friend when she was in reminiscing mode. “Medyo close lang naman kami,” my friend recalled while gazing upwards on our tambayan’s tent’s ceiling. Although I’m from CAL – the College of Arts and Letters, the acronym being the most commonly used jargon in UP – I rarely go to the College’s building unless I have official business to do there, i.e. class, and I am always present at the AS building – the Palma Hall, non-UPians. Being a devout loiterer of the AS building I am pretty sure I have seen Cris before, when and where and how it happened I already forgot. In case you didn’t know Cris Anthony Mendez died from serious internal hemorrhage incurred from fraternity hazing. My thesaurus didn’t find the word “hazing” itself, but it suggested a related term, “haze,” meaning state of obscurity, dazed, tranced. If these were the implied definitions in fraternity hazing, it could be that neophytes, just inches away from being true-blooded members of their respective frats, are supposed to be in a considerable level of being out of kilter. This is only a theory for I am no frat man myself, but if you analyze the term and it’s contextual projected use, there should be no mention of the word that starts with a letter D and rhymes with Death (you get my point, I presume), right? But it happened, had recently happened, and it will continually happen IF authorities concerned would just shrug their calloused shoulders in the faces of the victims’ bereft. Of course, we see some valuable effort in trying to figure the whereabouts of the perpetrators, but it just isn’t enough. You can have all alumni drop off their membership, and the stench remains. We don’t have to wait until every aspiring brod turns into an amorphous mass of tissues and muscles, unless of course they advocate the idea in which case we have to assault them with battering rams. I couldn’t be so pessimistic and apathetic – he’s from my school, I should give a fart. Let’s hope the investigations carry on and all efforts will not be futile. Don’t raise that white flag yet or I’ll have to stuff your throat with a flagpole. We can’t bring Cris to life, but we can do something to revive the hopefulness of the distressed.

My friend fondly remembers Cris having danced the song “Bebot” in their class. He cavorted with glee, and I guess a little feeling of embarrassment, but they had fun. Now, Cris will be fondly remembered.

***



Horrifying news in UP. Smoking is now banned – can you believe that, in UP? Last Thursday my friend Anne and I were having snacks at one certain canteen at the Faculty Center, smoking in the process, when this security guard shoveled on me pieces of junk paper of what may have been a memorandum from wherever-it-came-from-the-hell-I-care. The guard was mumbling gibberish to me, which I totally ignored but I assume he was explaining something in Swahili. Having quickly perused the memo I didn’t quite read everything in it, but it sure contained the words “BAN,” “STUDENTS,” and “FROM SMOKING.” What the.

You have to be a smoker to say that there really is no point in doing all these. But of course nothing can dissuade us. We still smoke even in the designated NO SMOKING areas. I just feel bad that our suki had all their stocks of cigarette withdrawn from their shelves. Now we have to buy yosi outside the campus. How sadistic can it get? Even my professors who are smokers totally disagree with such a stupid move for the simple reason that it is stupid and not well thought of. For one, the campus is so huge the authorities concerned wouldn’t be able to monitor every single person inside the campus’ premises – how would you keep a c. 500-ha university free from cigarette smokers? And can’t they pass a very useful law for the benefit of every one else? Besides, I have this weird feeling that one or two of the proponents of this law are smokers. Don’t try bludgeoning me with facts about the risks of smoking – I’ve heard all of them.

The more stupid thing is, they’re trying to ban students from smoking but they can’t even do something about frat-related issues. Says much about the officials, don’t you think?

Beauty from a Greek POV

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A few hours ago at Starbucks Mall of Asia I had a philosophical chitchat with a Greek. Despite the presence of the creepy word philosophical, it wasn’t what most people would describe as hemorrhagic with gushing torrents of blood pouring out of every possible opening in their bodies. Greek guy was tall roughly around six feet, has light green pupils, pointy nose, and a receding hair line. He wore a lavender long sleeved polo scarcely hiding his inner greenish blue shirt, a pair of black pants and leather shoes. He spoke very fluent English – he told me he studied in the US – but still had this unique accent every time he speaks. I didn’t get his name, but it was a fun conversation anyway. He, according to him, is 47 years old and he will be leaving for Athens 20 minutes after midnight on September 12 (which is just a few hours from now). He was on a 36-day vacation, shuffling from different places here in the Philippines, which he liberally described as “beautiful.” He kept reiterating the word, emphasizing it by prolonging the first syllable. “You know what, young boy,” he said, “your country is one of the most beauuuuutiful places I’ve visited, one of the most beautiful but more beauuuuutiful than Thailand.”

“Thank you sir, that was very generous,” I said in a cheery tone, without undue sarcasm, of course. He enumerated the places he had been to.

“Cebu is beautiful, Bohol is beautiful, Boracay is beautiful. All of the Philippines is beautiful and you are very lucky. I was at Boracay yesterday, and I just arrived from there.” He offered me his doughnut. “Would you like some? Just a piece? Don’t be shy.” I fondly declined his offer not out of sheer inhibition but I fear that I might consume his doughnut whole, leaving him with nothing to eat which might spoil his last few hours of stay in the Philippines.

I tried to be friendly by asking a few questions. “So, are you with someone else here or are you alone?”

“I never travel with someone else, but I’m not alone. I’m now here surrounded by 80, 90 million Filipinos, how can I be alone? Are you getting it?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“I travel by myself all the time and I feel great. You see, traveling will help you broaden your horizon by meeting new people, new acquaintances, new friends. You learn new things like that (points at my neck), what is it?” He riveted his hued pupils on my rice god necklace which I got from my trip to Sagada.

“It’s a rice god.”

“God of rice? See, I didn’t know there is a god of rice. Now you know what I’m talking about.”

While he was munching on his chocolate doughnut, I was finishing off my cigarette. My Java Chip Frappuccino was close to nonexistence so there’s nothing to wash down the tar and nicotine from my mouth, even if I was using a cigarette filter.

“They have nice coffee here, don’t you think?” he inquired.

“Yes, they do, but some people don’t like the coffee here. They say it has a burnt taste or something.”

“I take coffee with cigarette. Do you smoke a lot?”

“Not at all. I only smoke when I feel like it.” He peeks at my ashtray and pointedly shook his head. “Tsk, tsk, that’s bad. You know Marlboro Lights and Menthol Lights cigarettes are more harmful than the Reds. They have additional chemicals and Menthol is I think worse than Lights. But it has a cool effect.”

“That’s the reason why I smoke Menthol. Aside from you, somebody else had pointed out that both [Lights and Menthol Lights] are actually worse than Reds, but the mere act of smoking is bad in itself.”

“Egg-xactly.”

We talked about a few other stuff like casinos, Filipino women in general, his being a civil engineer and my being a broadcasting major, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos in Dubai and Athens, mathematics – just about a hodgepodge of anything and everything under the sun. Then I brought out the most inevitable and most controversial topic of all.

“What do you think of the Philippines as, well as surveys proclaim, a corrupt country? Any views about it?

“You know, the Philippines has nothing to do with corruption. Nigeria is not corrupt. Your country is innocent of it. Look at the people. Do you see corruption in their faces? The most corrupt are not in this mall, they’re in Makati.”

“And in Manila,” I retorted. He laughed so profoundly while biting off a doughnut, and I worried about him getting choked.

“Also in Athens, there is corruption. Corruption is all over the world. You just can’t see them because they stay in a special place. They’re not here in malls. God knows what shit they do.” I was about to ask if he thinks this is a product of globalization, but my tact proved unnecessary.

“Globalization has promoted corruption and we can’t do anything about it. It will be an on-going process. It’s fucking to think of it, but that’s that.” A few seconds’ silence then he segued to throw questions at me.

“I see a lot of Filipinos wearing clothes with fake brand names like Ralph Lauren.”

“And Louis Vuitton and Lacoste. They wear those because they can’t afford to buy the original ones. Those brands are expensive here.”

“Well, yes they really are, but in Athens you can see people wearing originals. Which would you prefer, something that is not really popular but authentic or something that has a label but fake? Do you think luxury is quality or quality is luxury?”

“To answer your first question, I’d rather have the authentic. The hell with popularity – what if it’s fake? You’d become instant celebrity because you’re wearing imitation brands. [He laughs again] And as for the second question, I think a thing that is of quality is luxurious in itself, and if you’re capable of buying it, it is luxury at its most.”

“[Nods] That’s great. You know, we from Athens philosophize everything. If you don’t philosophize you won’t get an answer. Try it, it’s helpful.”

“But I think the answer depends on your perspective on specific situations.”

“And your experiences with it. People nowadays, in general, just absorb what they think is real. They don’t analyze, and I believe you know that. You’re in broadcasting.”

“Yes sir, I do. That’s media in its awful sense because it’s profit-driven. It’s all about business.”

“And even if people are bombarded with a lot of things, they’ll just keep on absorbing them. Even if it’s all shit.”

“They pay for shit.”

“Egg-xactly. Which would you prefer, to believe in something that can only be heard or to believe in what you can only see?”

“Sir, for me they go hand-in-hand. It would be difficult for me to function without the other. And I think it would be more believable if you have technically utilized all your senses with it.”


I never imagined myself meeting people like him. He is so witty he has actually given me inferiority complex. Based on my personal experiences he can make people feel extremely stupid and at the same time extremely intellectual for his no-nonsense questions are relatively answerable depending on which school of thought you advocate. I suppose the Greeks are naturally contemplative given the number of Greek philosophers glorified in world history, and they don’t box their ideas to themselves; rather, they share their thoughts to others. This guy whom I accidentally met believes and is a staunch promoter of freedom. He was probably the most enlightening person I’ve had close encounters with, and the possibilities of rustling up nifty adages of practical use are astonishing. His last pieces of advice wedged in my head so deeply I couldn’t be so forgetful about it.

“You know metaphors? [I nodded] Okay, imagine a diamond that is dropped into a shit hole. You get it, you wash it, and what you have is still a diamond even if it smells like shit. Education and learning is different. Education is what you do in school, what I did in my school. Learning is outside school – this conversation is learning. You must not limit yourself to what you just know. Widen your horizon. Meet new people. In your group of friends there is someone who you don’t really like, and you mingle with him just because he belongs to your circle of friends, right? Don’t ignore him for it would be certain that one day he will tell you something that you could have use for. This would most likely change your perspectives. A lot of people claim they’re human beings, but they’re just beings not humans. Being human is doing something for humanity. Something inspirational, something that could help others. Always widen your horizon.”

It was getting late. I bade him farewell and a safe trip back to Greece. He wished me “great luck with my life,” and promised to return to the Philippines.

Moving on with more of...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Okay, just some clarifications. I went on a limbo not because I’m experiencing some kind of personal dilemma whateverthatmeans thing because if I really were maggots and all sorts of vile icky creatures would’ve been enjoying a smorgasbord by now, but you’re reading this so I would most certainly say that I can pass for normal. I just wanted a break. Specifically, a more peaceful hiatus (Blecch! Phooey! Why the hell am I using that term, anyway?) that required total chastisement, barricading my eyes from seeing my blog on a daily basis. It also entailed another deviant behavior: reading posts from my blog roll. It was a tough decision, and after much biting and chewing of cuticles and since there were exactly seven people pining for my return which I think is enough to prove that my blog is adequately intelligible, I’ve resolved to go back.

Warning: segue. My friend (the jeepney-riding companion I’ve been mentioning in my earlier posts) kept on reminding me about the state of my brain. Every time I kid around and utter statements that only a smartass can declare he promptly says without missing a beat, “Sira ulo ka talaga,” or “Loko-loko ka,” or “Adik ka.” Then again, I know myself much better than anyone else, and people don’t have to remind me about anything they’ve particularly witnessed.

There are a few contentious things, however, that hounds the hell out of me. Or was I just being too observant and critical?

Kokey

This is probably the most hideous TV show I’ve seen in my entire 19 years of existence. In case you’re one of the enlightened people who can survive without the picture tube, Kokey is all about this terribly abominable extraterrestrial of the gooley eyes that made an emergency landing on Earth because there was a trouble in its spaceship or something and the alien has to fix it and then he found a human friend who kept the alien secretly from the kibitzing neighbors – at least that’s how I understood the plot. Even in the midst of its fatal attempts at levity I don’t find this creature hilarious or anything synonymous to it. I assume that the program targets the children, and I hope the intention is not to wreak tension and emotional disturbance among the viewers although Kokey is not at all scary. The most exasperating part comes in when Kokey speaks gibberish. My jeepney-riding friend imitated the way it babbles – I found myself frothing at the mouth and I have to restrain myself from spearing him with a fork. I have actually seen the predecessor of this TV show, the original Kokey; it looked cuter and provokes less fist-clenching.

Thankfully, Eugene Domingo is there. The universe isn’t that indifferent at all.

Youngblood

I’ve always wanted to contribute a write-up for this column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The problem is that I have no idea what to write. Sure, you may suggest that I write about something people could actually relate themselves to, but for me it’s not easy as it seems. Each time I hear this calling to write for Youngblood I immediately heed unto this bit of voice inside my head. But not long after I’ve typed a few paragraphs it will always occur to me that this calling is nothing but ghastly hallucinations, and then I’d delete everything. I never went to finish anything for Youngblood even if I’m utterly convinced that I could finish off a write-up in just one sitting.

Then it came to me that I’m incoherent, and judging from the previous Youngblood articles I’ve read I should better assess my writing skills first. Not that I’m being pessimistic, but I think I wouldn’t even pass for a good writer.

Kim Chiu

I used to salivate after this Filipino-Chinese girl when she joined that ridiculous TV program – and a certain Blogger may attest to this – but now when I saw her hawking shampoo, cavorting mercilessly in the TV ad, I found myself deeply in shame. Never in my life have I felt like wallowing in self-pity. How could I possibly continue to yearn and sneak around her if she looks like a piece of frayed cardboard dancing and shrieking what could have been lyrical poetry to some raving fanatic of bubblegum pop songs? And then she has this song Crazy Love having lyrics that go, “Crazy love/crazy love/crazy love/crazy love” – someone put this lady in a mental asylum. I know that love causes people to do crazy stuff – catatonic stares, going on stupid weight loss regimens, slashing wrists, guzzling insecticides, sniffing toilet bowls – but coming up with a song and broadcasting it on the airwaves? To quote Mohinder Suresh from Heroes, “It sounds mad!”

There must be a better way to live.

That laundry soap ad

Every time I see this commercial it makes me more of a cynical person. The glimmering endorser of this TV ad is Ms. Solita “Winnie” Collas-Monsod, a well-renowned professor of Economics in my school, TV show host of a news and public affairs program, and columnist of the PDI. She portrays a magician kind of character wherein, instead of wands and funky smelling rabbits emerging from top hats, she uses this certain brand of laundry soap that claims to be very effective in removing stubborn dirt from garments. I don’t wash my own clothes so I cannot actually put this claim into test, but for crying out loud they got the wrong endorser!

Think about it. Although one is free to make money out of his or her career reputation, a professor slash media personage slash columnist of a reputable daily is not the proper endorser of products that reportedly slough off grisly filth like magic. We are all aware that Ms Monsod is a credible person (not because her work requires her to be one, but I think she’s very reliable nonetheless), but how are we supposed to believe in everything she will tell us if we all know for the fact that she was paid to say that it’s a capable laundry soap – even if all claims of effectiveness were held truthful? We have artists – lots of them, I must say – who can do the work for Ms Monsod without their repute being questioned.

On Havaianas

I was wearing a pair when my friend and I went to Starbucks TriNoma a week ago. Beside our table was an undiplomatic corps of human beings who made pompous comments on my tsinelas. I thought they just wanted conversation; it turned out to be a lecture on poverty, hungry kids along sidewalks just outside the mall, commercialization, blah blah blah. A member added that he sees it pointless having to buy an expensive pair of rubber slippers when there are cheaper alternatives available whereupon his other companions gave an air of approval.

Hey. Mind your own problems, people. We don’t need constant bickering of how the majority of the population feeds on barely one meal a day, how their situation is often aggravated by lack of available jobs and proper education, how we are able to come up with every politically-correct term imaginable for these lowly people – if you are so much concerned about them, you go and help them figure out what to do. I got my pair of Havaianas through savings from my allowance, and I don’t give a rat’s ass whether you say that I’m wasting my money on such superficialities. Shut up.

By the way, you said that you are against commercialization. What business are you up to inside a commercial establishment? And why the hell are you drinking a Frappuccino? And for the love of God, it’s AH-va-ya-nas, not HA.

Zero to

About the winless situation of UP in the 70th season of the UAAP. Now it will seem too distressing to find out that the UP Men’s Basketball team hasn’t won any of its game in this season, and I don’t know what seems to be the problem. It is interesting to note that even though the men are flunking, the Women’s team is actually making its way to the top.

Some people that I’m acquainted with say that it’s a little ironic that UP – its students notorious for undisputed excellence in all possible fields – is becoming a sore loser, or make that indeed a sore loser in this certain field called sports. It doesn’t necessarily follow that if we are academically exceptional, we can also grab every trophy, medal, and all those glorious reputation in the world of basketball, particularly in the U double A P. Let me just clarify that our basketball players and the rest of the student population of UP are only humans, much to your relief, and we do have limitations. In this case, we’re simply not the best in basketball.

At least we’re not a bunch of cheats. Don’t say, “We’re Machiavellians! The end justifies the means!” Cheating is cheating, even if it has chocolate syrup in it. I would rather we lose through honest sweat and toil than to emerge victors with the aid of huge bank accounts, persuasive late night conspiratorial chit-chats with the authorities – or hypodermic syringes.

 
   







© 2007 Puckering Time | It's now or never by Mike.
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