Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A post while I wait for the ghost of Christmas present...

Lately I’ve been having dreamless sleeps. I lay back on the bed, blink and suddenly the room is filled with the morning’s sunshine. I groggily pick myself up from the mattress, take a huge drag on a cigarette and wonder why the hell I don’t feel like I’ve slept at all? It takes a rather hefty infusion of brewed coffee to finally wake me up, at which point my heart is now palpitating wildly and I ditch the cigarette so as not to induce the morning’s heart attack.

One day, I finally got myself to google the situation, turns out I may be “stressed out”. Crap, exactly what I needed to hear. Just when I’ve been slacking off at work in preparation for the holidays, I find myself a step closer to being totally dysfunctional.

There are ways to avoid the impending breakdown, vitamins, regular exercise and the proper diet usually work, I’m told. Thought about it and found myself coming up with all sorts of excuses, good luck to myself, I guess. The best (read: most realistic and feasible) solution to the problem is to slack off a bit more, heck, a LOT more. A whole afternoon of mindless television and/or computer games should do the trick. So this weekend I plan to rerun the entire two seasons of “Rome”, with a beer in my hand and a slice of pizza in the other. Yes, in my book, this is how the day after Christmas should be spent.


I fired a third of the people I manage this week. A case of not living up to expectations. Before you report me to the authorities for unfair labor practices, let me clarify that “a third” represents just one of the three person team that I manage. Yeah, I know it’s quite pathetic to be called a “manager” when you’ve got only three people under you, but hey, it is what it is.

At first, I thought I’d never be able to bring up the topic. After all, this is my first time to assume the role of hatchet-man. We took our seats in the conference room and I brought up her stats… well, it’s definitely easier when you’ve got an unsatisfactory evaluation report to back you up. No there was no crying, no pictures of a worthless husband and young children to feed, no promises of doing better given another chance, not even an attempt to seduce me to save her job. She just nodded and waited for the words to formalize the deed. It wasn’t as tragic as I expected it to be, boring. Frankly, I wanted to fire the other two, just to see if the result would be just as painless as the first one. No, I didn’t, just a passing thought.

It is probably noteworthy that all this happens the week of Christmas. Well, I guess there really is no good time to fire someone, but wouldn't it be better if it wasn't Christmas? The office grapevine is all of a sudden murmuring something very much sounding like "Cold heartless Jackass", and so far I've been topping the survey on who best fits the title of "Scrooge of the Year". Shame on me!


So the holiday break begins, and I’m really tired from all the rush. I spent the last two days buying gifts for the staff and bosses, then ended up spending the whole night and the early morning packing and wrapping all those gifts. After I finished the pack and wrap, I was mortified to find out I didn’t have enough for everyone and there was no more time to get additional gifts. I started prioritizing and eliminating names off my Christmas list. Just barely made it work.

Lo and behold, by the time I got to the office I soon discovered there were a couple of people I forgot, I mean, I forgot that they even existed. Unfortunate that these were bosses not to be passed over come gift-giving. I had to choose whose gifts I was to give away to them. Luckily, two people took their leaves early, hence missed out on getting gifts from me. Woohoo!


And as you giveth, so shall you receiveth… well, that wasn’t to be. Out of the 32 gifts that I painstakingly bought, lugged, packed and wrapped over those two days, I got three in return. I know I’m not supposed to expect anything whenever I gave a gift, but 3 out of 32? Man that’s pretty pathetic. I’m kinda glad I didn’t run out of the house to get last minute gifts for the 46 other people who didn’t get a gift from me, that would have been somewhat of an all-time low. Wonder if firing someone the week of Christmas had something to do with it?

Note to self: Don't sleep commando, I doubt the ghost of Christmas present would let me suit up before dragging me to Tiny Tim's.

Monday, December 14, 2009


It’s another December Friday, and as usual, traffic has made it highly unlikely that I’ll make it home in time for dinner. So here I am again, at a gas station, not my usual one, but this will have to do.


Kermit, has been bitten by some sort of electrical bug early this week. Fluctuations in electrical charges has gotten me worried so much so that I’ve brought it to the shop for repairs last Tuesday. It went well, or so I thought. Last night it recurred, and I suspect that maybe something came loose again the past couple of days. This has made me wary of impending troubles that I may encounter should I try to brave 2-3 hour traffic along the SLEX so I made this particular pit stop just when traffic began to rear its ugly head.

Tomorrow, I’ve promised to wake up pretty early to bring Kermit back to the same shop and try to see if indeed whatever they did to fix the problem earlier had come loose. That’s the easy bit, because if nothing did, then they probably had a wrong diagnosis and the necessary repairs might be a tad more expensive. Considering the complex electronics that Kermit is equipped with, I hope that this is not the case.


Have you ever seen an owl flying free in the fields, hunting for mice? Well, I have. A couple of years ago, when I was still living in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, a grey owl flew overhead and landed in a field behind my house. Watched as it then flew once again with a rodent of some sort in its talons. Wow, a discovery channel moment right there.

A few days after that incident, I watched the news and on the lighter side, they featured a grey owl caught by a farmer in a field not so far away from where I sighted the bird. Given the rarity of these large bird of preys in the vicinity, I concluded that this owl was the same one that I saw. Too bad, it would have been nice to see such birds flying free.


Then my thoughts went back to a Myna bird that we once kept as a pet at my parent’s house. My dad bought it for me when I was in grade school, I think, after long hours of begging and crying. It was cool at first, then reality set in, and I soon enough realized that feeding, cleaning and caring for the bird was more of a chore that I’d rather not do. So I neglected it and left it up to my dad to take care of the black fowl. We kept it for close to a decade before it finally died.

One time, when I was tasked to clean its cage, the bird managed to struggle free and hopped out of the opened cage. I was in a panic as the bird hopped all over the place. My first thoughts were that it might fly away, meriting a big helping of pain from my dad, I’m sure. But no, it didn’t fly despite all that violent flapping. Turns out, all those years in captivity somehow negated its instinct as well as its flying muscles. Too bad little bird! But then, a more sinister plot was brewing, as our cat and about 5 dogs circled the hapless bird. Were it to become a light afternoon snack for any one of them, the pain would be much more than I could bear, I could imagine.

Fortunately, the dumb bird was caught by my awkwardly flailing arms and caged once again. I can’t recall another time that I cleaned that cage again.


Did I tell you about our other feathered pets at home? Let’s see, there were about 500 quails, 2 turkeys, that Myna, a couple of lovebirds, a couple of chickens and another couple of bantam chickens. Of course, we didn’t keep them all at the same time, mind you. They came and went either as food or dead pets.

There was also the time when my dad maintained a birdhouse in the yard for the mayas to perch in. He figured that would stop these critters from building nests underneath the roof. Well, it didn’t stop them, and all it did was increase the population of mayas that called our house its private toilet.

One day, I “accidentally” destroyed the birdhouse. For months, I got irritated at the constant chirping that these wild birds made. The birdhouse was placed right outside my window, so imagine how irritating it was trying to sleep off the morning’s hangover with a dozen birds seemingly chirping into your ear. One day, I got so irritated that somehow, the pick-axe suddenly developed a mind of its own and poked a rather large gaping hole underneath the birdhouse. The nest inside fell (no eggs, no guilt) to the ground and that was the last I heard of the awful chirping. Bye bye, birdie!

Well, it would seem that those birds still got the last laugh. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it’s certain that a flock of birds will use my car as target practice each and every time that I got it cleaned. Makes me a bit thankful that ostriches and turkeys can’t fly.

Friday, December 11, 2009

As I was doing my laundry...

As I was doing my laundry, the urge to gently tap the keypad in the process of creating a new post for my blog suddenly came upon me. I obliged but could not think of any topic in particular to write about. I thought about writing a sort of review of the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” starring Audrey Hepburn and the guy from the A-team, which I watched last night on my laptop (the DVD player went kaput). I started to organize my thoughts but suddenly realized I didn’t have any, only the memory of how hot Ms. Hepburn was in that film. So no, that’s not happening, folks.


Finally, I said goodbye to the recliner. I called in a favor with Joenard to help me lug the darn thing to my parent’s house. You should have seen the look on my dad’s face, it was as if Christmas came early and he believed in Santa all over again (come to think of it, I really have no idea if he had ever believed in a Santa growing up), he couldn’t wait to rearrange the living room to accommodate his new toy. Knock yourself out, John.

It was kinda sad to see it go. Though it did occupy quite a large space in my pad, it was the perfect throne for weekends watching television while gulping down a cold one. But a promise is a promise, and I’ve long ago promised my dad that I was going to give it to him as a gift… truth be told, he did kind of force it. But that’s alright, he needs it more than I do anyway. Every time I go visit their house, he would always be watching television while napping… and the old chair that he has isn’t even half as comfortable as the recliner. Other people get rocking chairs, my dad dreams of a recliner.


Christmas is just around the corner, and the traffic jams have started piling up on each and every street corner that I drive myself into. People seem to scurry around to this and that Christmas party or sale or whatever it is they go to this time of the year. Then this weekend comes when most companies will be handing out the bonuses, so I expect the traffic situation to only worsen as the days leading to the holidays draw near.

So what do I have planned for the holidays? Well, that’s still a work in progress. I could join my friends for the new year in Palawan, but no, I don’t think I will. There’s Corregidor Island, that tadpole shaped hunk of rock right smack at the entrance of Manila Bay, but I’m still too lazy to do research on it. More than likely, I’ll be at home, doing nothing, except maybe catch up on reading and watching television. I don’t even think I’d be doing much writing during that time. Jogging, yeah, that would be possible too, I guess. And there’s always beer…


This and last week, I’ve found myself in malls, scouring the appliance section always on the lookout for that micro-component that I’ve been pining for in the last 2 years. So far, my cheapness has managed to keep the plastic in my wallet, also contributing to my continuing misery at not having one at home. Besides this, there are a ton of items on my wishlist that I’ve been eyeing, shot down by my miserly ways.

Well, I can’t complain that much. I am still neck deep in credit so I may need to hold back on making future purchases, anyway. So far, I’m surviving with the stuff that I have now, plus I’ve got myself a new toy in my new coffee-maker that should provide me with enough interest to last me another 6 months. After that, I believe I’m qualified to get a new phone from Globe, so the cycle should continue until exactly next year.

Thus, with all that being said (well, written), my Christmas gift for myself will be a cheap brown pair of shoes! Yes, the omission of the words “brand new” is intended, I will have my old pair sent to the shoe repair guys and have them replace the soles. The thought of replacing them when they could still be salvaged is sacrilegious for me, years of training from my parents. Yes, they’re cheap, too.

Do note, however, that I still do appreciate expensive gifts from friends. So if you wish to buy me, say, a micro-component, go right ahead, master!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm still alive!

Well, obviously I haven’t been posting much on this blog recently. Also obvious, I’m still alive as evidenced by this spanking new post, just in case you were wondering. The reason for my absence? How I would love to declare “Because I’m not bored!”, but that would be a lie. Truth of the matter is, I don’t get to hang out at my usual gas station with the Wifi access. Work has me running around so much that it’s pretty inconvenient for me to do so. And though I have been writing stuff which I had planned to post at a later time, I keep forgetting to do so and eventually don’t post it at all. That’s that…. Just in case you were also wondering.


So now I live with my little sister who has decided to take up my other room. Suddenly my room is cluttered with stuff that used to be in the other room. I don’t mind though, she does share the rent, and does the dishes and takes out the garbage. There’s also a strange comfort in knowing there’s someone around to feed my pet hamster, if and when I finally get around to buying it, that is.

I dared open up to her my plan of getting this hamster, soon-to-be-named Bob. She objects to the name, and proposes Hammy. Not bad, but it doesn’t sound too good in a conversation, does it? We agree to name it when I finally bring it home, depending on what it looks like. Expect a name like “Ballscratcher” or “Uglylittlehairball” to be considered pretty soon.


The universe has conspired to get my ass to finally watch a movie in an actual theater. Courtesy of my beloved and much used Citibank credit card, I’m actually good for 4 movie tickets. Now a dilemma ensues, do I use them or sell them? My idea is to tag along with people who want to watch a movie then offer to buy them their tickets, taking their cash and using the credits I have instead. I’ve offered this scheme to some officemates who seemed aghast at the whole scheme. They feel that I’m some evil creature who has nothing in mind but to take someone else’s hard-earned money and benefit from it. What the heck?!

Fine then, I can use them, there’s no cost on my part anyway. But what to watch? Do I even remember how to watch a movie? Maybe it’s like riding a bike, and I’d get the hang of it pretty fast. As far as I could recall, there’s “2012”, “Paranormal Activity” and “New Moon”. That last one I know I won’t watch, seems like a chick-flick with vampires and werewolves, not really my type. I wonder if “G-Force” is still playing? Nothing like watching rats saving the world for a story.

Of course, the question of what to eat while watching a film is something not easily answered. My fantasy of a whole bucket of buffalo wings seems a bit messy and awkward in a darkened movie theater, pizza is a bit hard to manage as well, burger? Soft tacos? Arrgh! This is why I’d rather watch a DVD at home!


Despite my disdain of the movie theater, I am a movie buff. I grew up watching tons of films, a lot of which are B-movies and pretty forgettable to say the least. When I used to have movie channels on cable, I could spend a whole weekend just tuned in to HBO or Star Movies. Evidence of this would be my habit of recalling select scenes from movies whenever a peculiar situation arises, a particular specie of deja-vu. For example, when someone asks me what I think of someone else whom I’m not fond of, I think of the Rocky series to a scene with Clubber Lang and utter the infamous “I pity the fool!”. Or let’s say someone is giving me a lecture on how to pronounce a certain word or phrase correctly, then “Mickey Blue Eyes” comes to mind and I say “Fawgedaboudit”.

Somehow, its fun to try and see one’s life as a series of scenes from different movies. Always, I picture myself as the Freddie Prinze Jr. type, smart, athletic, good-looking and witty. Unfortunately, I’m not as athletic… “nobody’s perfect” (Independence Day, retort by the rabbi to the phrase “but I’m not Jewish”), I guess.


Two of my dear friends were hospitalized for kidney problems. I was able to visit one in the hospital, the other now lives in the US but I got word of her ills from facebook. As a result of this coincidence, I guess, I started to feel some lower back pain while driving the 5 hours from Baguio to Manila yesterday. I know that in all probability it was due to the long drive to just hours earlier, but I just can’t shake off the possibility that maybe I too was having kidney problems as well.

So I stop at a gas station, get a liter of water and chug down half of it in one giant gulp. Instantly, I feel my bladder fill up and drain it, right before I force feed myself the other half of the water. Then tonight, I stop myself at two bottles of beer instead of the usual barrel. Wow.

Then I get home and realize that beer kills livers, not kidneys. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What will be...

Vague items, I’ll admit. Just some coincidences happening these past days. I thought it best to thread lightly, carefully, just in case.


Found myself in some building’s parking lot in Alabang just a few hours back, chatting with an old friend from college. It was an hour’s worth of catching up, apparently a lot has gone on in the past 9 months since we last met, and a lot more in the last 5 years or so since we were neighbors. How time flies, indeed, yet everything seemed as if it were yesterday. As we said our goodbyes, there was this nagging feeling that it might be for the last time but there was nothing to be done. A pat on the shoulder, that last awkward look and finally the words ‘take care’. Que sera, sera.


I accompanied another college friend yesterday to one of those iconic symbols of UP Diliman, the “isaw” stand. Despite having moved to the vacant space in front of the old arcade, it was still the same stand that fumigated the Ilang-ilang dorm each afternoon years back. The trademark orange coloring, packing the skewered intestines into small plastic cups to be drowned in spiced vinegar and of course, the smoke. Memories of extravagance in a time of meager allowances.

Trudging through memory lane a bit further, we dropped by her old college boarding house and soon found ourselves willing captives to a nostalgic drinking spree with the former landlady. As can be expected from such reunions, flashbacks were being served as fast as the empty beer bottles multiplied all around. Despite not being privy to most of these stories, still there was my fascination about how much things have changed over the course of a decade.

I tried figuring out how much I have changed since those times, from being a reckless and carefree student of the university to a cautious and independent salary man struggling to secure each step up the corporate ladder. Regrets, of course, are plentiful, and yet it now ever hardly matters. What is important is the present, and what we make of it. The future? Well, I’ll take my chances. Que sera, sera.


A friend recently went back home to the south, right after a visit from a ghost of sorts. I could only imagine the odds of that happening, a foreboding, perhaps? Of course, I can only guess as to the significance of that appointment at a time when idleness is imminent in the coming days.

Making matters even more serendipitous are recent discussions and realizations on the current going-ons (or the lack of it, I must say) between said friend and her ghost which seem to point in the direction of a hypothetical collision course. Hypothetical depending on which branch of physics you subscribe to (Newtonian or Quantum) relating to parallel lines. To which ever eventual end, all I can say is, que sera, sera.


It’s been a while since I’ve seen a small pair of flip-flops (not mine) at my apartment. Those long strands of hair clogging up the bathroom drain as well. Two empty coffee mugs waiting to be washed in the sink when I get back home, and the inevitable hint of perfume in the morning. I guess I better learn to live with the fact that my sister now resides here.

A bit less than an act of charity, her presence gives my personal finances a significant boost in the direction of empowerment. Quite a welcome change from times past, I must say. It’s just strange, to be reminded. Que sera, sera.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blanket and Pillow Talk

Once upon a time, I had a favorite blanket. My little sister has her favorite pillow. So yesterday, during the long stretch of road from Baguio to Manila, I imagined up this debate between us about the merits of having such favorites.

First, we have to discuss the differences between a blanket and a pillow. A pillow, well a favorite pillow at least, is more a stuffed toy than anything. It serves little purpose except to provide you with something soft to cuddle with. A blanket, on the other hand, provides you with security and warmth but isn’t really of much substance to cuddle. So now we leave the floor open to the debate on which is the better buddy. Take your side now.

So have you taken sides yet? Here’s my fearless non-professional psychoanalysis: If you chose the pillow, you’re a girl. And if you chose the blanket, you’re a boy. Any violent reactions, so far? Let me expound…

Pillows are cuddle things. Thus, they’re selfish little objects which want nothing less than all your attention, and yet you give it to them. I bet you prop them up on the bed after you wake up and fluff them to look all cute and cuddly for the next time that you go to sleep. And you keep it warm by hugging it tight, not wanting it to feel cold. I bet you even sprinkle perfumed talcum powder on it so it smells oh so nice, and clothe it with the cutest pillowcases. Sounds pretty much like something a girl would do, doesn’t it?

And then there’s the blanket, something you put over yourself to keep you warm and cozy. It’s dense thread count keeping off most insects and even protecting you against the dank and humid morning dew. And yet despite everything that it gave you the whole time you were sleeping, you’d discard it as soon as you open your eyes and leave it be. Instead of pampering it with attention and care, you expect it to always be there to keep you feeling good. Now there’s something that boys would love.

Whichever item you choose, it doesn’t really matter much to me, by the way. I just had nothing better to think and write about. Though I am sticking to this theory simply because I chose a blanket as my “favorite thing”. And by the way, I still have that blanket, already retired, though. And my little sister still has her pillow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tales from the Beer Bust

Last night was beer-bust night at the Mine Safety Club. Your's truly and the big boss come up here to Baguio each year to partake of this event, an excuse for the mining community to play golf, tennis, bowling and of course, eat and drink for free. The whole ampitheater was packed full of the usual people, and the beer was flowing... rumor has it a hundred kegs were delivered for that night alone. So naturally, a few stories came out...


Spoken like a true alcoholic, I daresay that drinking has a lot of benefits. It is a great way to loosen up tongues which in turn, granted that your brain cells haven't already died, makes for a valuable education. Take last night for example, I was drinking with my boss and a couple of geezers when the topic shifted to a Japanese friend of theirs.

"Did you hear the Mr. X started smoking again?" The boss says.

"No, I haven't. Didn't he quit last year?" Geezer number one, replies.

"Yeah, but he smokes when someone offers him cigarettes now."

"Maybe he's just cheap, all of a sudden?" Geezer number two chuckles while I go get some more draft beer.

"No, you see, he says that he read about this Japanese study about cigarettes somewhat being a blocker of Alzheimer's. So now, he finds it more convenient to die of cancer rather than having to suffer late in life. Funny, no?" They all cheer for their Japanese friend while I silently ponder on the veracity of supposed study.


Now there's this big bozo of a potential client of mine who despite having met me a lot of times in our monthly association meeting, hasn't really acknowledged my presence. We met in the hallway of the hotel and I called out "Sir" but he never even saw me, not even a smile. Maybe he thought I was the bellhop or something?

So anyhows, my boss got him all lathered up with draft beer, and all of a sudden I'm his best bud, even fetching beers for me when I need a refill. Whaddyouknow? He keeps on giving me these pats on the back whenever I say anything and in a number of times cornered me for a full-on one on one chat.

We met this morning in the hallway once again, I was getting something from the car while he was fetching the morning paper. I once again called him sir, he took one look at me and closed the door shut in my face. Talk about a one-night-stand. Prick!


At first, the rumors that tuna sashimi would be served got me all excited! As they laid the trays of food one by one, my eyes scanned all around for the tuna, to no avail. Ahh, perhaps they didn't want it to be mixed in with all the other food, opting to serve it when everyone has had their fill, making for special beer-chow. So ok, I patiently waited and gorged myself of spare ribs, pork-tofu and whatever was on the table.

An hour or so into the program, just as everyone was grouped in small intimate circles with beers and food in hand, I spied another tray being set on the table. It was the sashimi! I made my way towards it, glinting red amid the fluorescent lights and presented in neat layers. Then someone got there first and got their fill, then another, then another. By the time I got to the table, the once neatly layered sashimi was now a pathetic pile of fish tissue in pools of reddish blood. Eww.

So I slunk back to my spot along with the geezers and wannabes (such as myself) and drowned myself in beer. So the food channel was right, it's a lot about the presentation, isn't it?


The drive back to the hotel was surreal, the d-bag who decided to darken the tint on my windshield probably didn't put much thought into these kinds of situations. Zig-zagging along the mountain passes in complete darkness, with only the cliff edges as any real guide.

I took a drag from my cigarette and though I'm sure I looked cool and macho and all that crap, it vanished as soon as the cigarette fell from my hands onto the floor. How panicked can you get? Couldn't stop for fear of getting run over by traffic coming from the blind curves, and couldn't sacrifice control of the steering wheel to pick the damn stick up. Crap! So I divide precious seconds looking and trying to stomp on the thing while driving, braking and steering at the same time. Finally got the embers out... Whew! Close one!

Two minutes after that incident, I'm lighting up again. Tsk tsk...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brain Freeze

Wifi back on at the gas station. woohoo! Now what? The prolonged hiatus from this blog has resulted in a certain specie of writer's block. Not only can't I think of nothing, but my typing skills have gone haywire.


How's this for a topic, a truck-load of pigs just went by, one of those double-decker mini-trucks. The pigs are screaming, thrasing about as the truck negotiates the hump at the gas station. Suddenly one of the beasts start staring at me, motionless, not even blinking its beady eyes. Is it accusing me? I can't imaging this little porker knowing what I ate for breakfast for it to assume that one of its kin died to provided sustenance for myself.

Fortunately, the truck rolled on and the staring stopped. Too bad the stink lingered on for another minute, though. How the heck did our ancestors ever thought these pigs were good enough to eat if they smelled this badly!? "Hey guys, these filthy animals have awful hygiene and stink to the high heavens... it must taste delicious!"


I'm still postponing getting a hamster. Mostly because of laziness, apparently. For one, I'd have to find and clean up the old aquarium. Then there's the matter of having to feed it. I have trouble feeding myself, and I should make an effort for this rodent? Also, I'd have to figure out a better ventilation system for my apartment lest it smell like, well, a hamster. I know it doesn't sound like too much work, but given my lack of interest in doing anything, if it takes more muscles than looking for the remote control, I'm not interested.


As I read back on that last paragraph, I suddenly realized that I shouldn't get that hamster. Not that I'm concerned I'd just as soon subject it to animal cruelty or abuse, rather because I'm treating getting a pet as a chore, something not worthy of getting all excited about. Instead of putting all that effort into getting and keeping a pet alive, I should probably put that to better use cleaning and tending to my car. Yes, it's been in a state of neglect ever since I got it... poor thing.


Oh well, I give up. There's no point in forcing the mind to produce something the least bit read-worthy if it doesn't want to. Hopefully I can coax it into submission the next few days while I'm in the summer capital. With that much time on my hands, the boredom is sure to kick in and I'd be at my usual pace once again. Until then, I'll leave you with this totally worthless piece of crap which you have just read. My sincerest apologies...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writing Trip

Wifi connection at the gas station is kaput… been like that the last week and on this windy Monday night, still is. Oh well, guess there will be times such as this…


Tick tock tick tock… long weekend’s almost here! And what do I have planned for such an occasion? Well, there’s the laundry… and maybe a little overdue home repairs. Yes, without the benefit of cash, I am doomed to spend the long weekend at home. No worries, wouldn’t want to join the mob lined up at the toll gates and side streets anyway.

And speaking of out of town trips, Nolan and I were talking over the weekend and he suggested I try our writing some sort of travelogue… the kind that makes it on travel magazines and in-flight reading materials. Hmm, seems simple enough, I thought, maybe I should? Topic, we agreed, would be our Calaguas Island adventure not so long ago. Trouble was that I did try to write about it but found myself coughing up bits and pieces of information that certainly did not paint a clear picture of the trip nor much of how fun and relaxing it was. So here I am, doing it over… ahem ahem…


A few kilometers off the coast of Camarines Norte, the Calagua Islands has been whispered among the community of weekend adventurers as one of the archipelago’s best kept secrets. Tales of powdery white sands, pristine waters and rolling hills isolated from the general populace only adds to its allure, and being smack in the middle of the typhoon belt, only the brave dare to go forth with this adventure. Surprisingly, I found myself headed south from Manila to try my luck.

The drive starts from the urban jungle of Metropolitan Manila at midnight, a convoy of 2 cars with 4 passengers each. The 6 hour journey that will take us to the sleepy town of Vinzons, Camarines Sur speeds us through highways, winding roads and mountain passes, including a notable stint across Quezon’s well preserved primary rain forests that make up the Quezon National Park. Daybreak finds us crossing the regional boundary between Quezon and Camarines Norte, at the foot of Mt. Elena and soon we found ourselves having breakfast in the rustic ancestral home of Vinzons’ native, Arch. Obey Ferrer, who also made arrangements for the boat which would taxi us to the Calaguas and back.

We hurriedly got our things together for the morning’s boat ride to the Calaguas, loading our gear aboard a fishing boat docked at the riverside. The tide was about to shift making the river journey quite treacherous, the boat could easily bottom out under unskilled hands, but we were nonetheless treated to a magnificent view of nipa plants lining the river as well as a preview of the famed Bagasbas beach from the river delta. Upon reaching the open sea, our boat was rocked by the Pacific swells, making known the great ocean that lay at our foremast, and on the horizon we could make out the tiny blips of land that was to be our destination.

The boat ride took 2 hours, and by then we were cruising past dark cliffs, green hills and of course, white sand beaches in their protective coves. Small fishing boats were afloat, cast off from these islands with a population of more or less a hundred people. If you wanted isolation, these islands offered a lot of it. At last, the boat beached itself in a large cove, lined with probably a third of a kilometer of the finest white sand that you could plant your feet on. Save for 3 nipa huts that the locals had erected as shelter for the occasional visitors, there was nothing by way of a resort on the island. Just the clear calm waters, the green hills and the splendid white sand beach in between.

As luck would have it, we chanced upon a sunny day filled with blue skies and white clouds. The sun burned our skins but the sand was never too hot for our bare feet as the lot of us frolicked in it and swam in the water the whole day. Some locals who whiled time away in the cove offered to get us water for drinking and bathing at very reasonable prices, and one could also ask them to cook some of the freshest catch from the sea bought from the fishing villages on the other side of the island.

Under the right conditions, the beach proves to be a great spot for die-hard landscape photographers with a multitude of natural subjects and the clearest blues and whites as a backdrop. And as the afternoon sun sets on the horizon, the sand plays host to our little tent city lit with a bonfire, roasting our dinners and warming our spirits underneath a bejeweled sky.

The journey back was filled with fond memories of this isolated landscape, and all the effort and time invested in this little pilgrimage was well worth it. As the early morning found us back in the congested metropolis, that small speck of land will always occupy a large chunk of our minds of what a weekend getaway is supposed to be like.


For those of you who made the journey with me, I obviously left out some “minor” details that could be correctly construed as one of those unfortunate freak accidents. But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that though bothersome, it hadn’t drenched out good memories of the place at all, further fortifying our collective resolve to Never Stop Exploring (to borrow a phrase from Jundel’s TNF, hehehe).

Monday, October 19, 2009

More rodent fantasies (I've really got to stop with this rodent thing)

Huge mistake today... I took out the rent money from my ATM account, was going to make the deposit in the bank, but I got too lazy and decided that tomorrow was probably a better day to do that chore. Now, I'm sitting here with the money in my pocket, burning a rather large hole. My fear is that somehow, I would "lose" the money on a number of things, foremost of which would probably be the groceries and/or an ipod.


So I've read that local basketball has turned horribly wrong, with a player mauling a fan. We all know what's going to happen, player gets fined, suspended and maybe even banned from basketball. The fan, well, he got beaten up already, too bad.

This might be a good time to think up new ways to keep fans from being pummeled by athletes. For one, maybe basketball should be a caged match, or at least played within the confines of a glass/plastic panel similar to that being employed in pro-hockey. It would probably cost a bit more, but that is cheap compared to outfitting everyone in the audience with helmets and padded suits.

But then again, sometimes fans do want to get into the thick of the action. Consider the running of the bulls, now I can't for the life of me figure out why people would knowingly put themselves in harms way to enjoy this. Sure, taunting the beast is fun, but then it's another matter when they get the better of the situation and gorge your ass with their horns. Unlike basketball players, I doubt if a fine or suspension would teach the bulls a lesson.


Speaking of beasts, I am inspired to start a new contest involving some of our more furrier friends. As a kid, I've been witness to quite a number of spider, fish and even "salagubang" fights. Then there's the popular cockfights, dogfights and even carabao and horse fights. But I've never heard of hamster fights. That's right, time to get these furballs into shape in a life or death duel. My plan is to breed these little rodents into lean, mean, fighting machines out to dominate the rest of their specie. No more of that cute and cuddly image, it's time these bozos learn to earn their keep.

So how does one go about training these guys? Well, I'm not exactly sure. They do seem like sloths, don't they? And checking out their kind in the pet stores, they seem more intent on licking their privates and humping each other than knocking the living daylights out of the other guy. Maybe if I start inbreeding them I'd be able to produce a mutation. Shock therapy wouldn't be the worst idea either. A few doses a day of 12V through them should incite them to get angry, shouldn't it?

To make it even more interesting, maybe a cross-specie rumble would be entertaining? 3 Hamsters up against a lone guinea pig? Reminds me of Roman gladiators thrashing up the arena. Hamsters versus guinea pigs, claw against claw, incisors against incisors, then add a mouse and a bunny in the fray and you'd have all the makings of a true cross-specie royal rumble! Find out the true champion of the rodent world!

But wait, there's more! The rodents finally realize that they are fighting their own kind, kinda like Care Bears versus Care Bear Cousins, they make a pact to unite and take on their natural enemies, the Cat! Though it would seem like a lopsided contest in feline-dom's favor, remember that rodents do one thing very efficiently, breed. Easily, a single household could find itself overrun by rats given a few months. And that extends to their cousins as well. Imagine an army of a hundred hamsters and rabbits, out for cat tail. My my, that would be a sight indeed. Even the Pied Piper must've had goose bumps being followed by hundreds of rats, these cats wouldn't stand a chance. All the rodents need to do is act all cute and cuddly and stuff themselves into the feline's mouth, until kitty kat explodes with vermin. Eep!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stop talking to that sweaty sock!

I made my way home past 5am this morning, the 10-hour non-airconditioned bus ride from nowhere had made me 5 kilograms heavier with soot and dust. I lay my bag on the sofa, and took a large gulp of Pepsi Max from the refrigerator, followed by a generous burp. Home was definitely a great place to be after an adventure.

I walked towards the CR and heard a peep from my old buddies, the laundry. “Psst, hey boss, how was the trip?”
“Pretty good, actually. Thanks for asking.”
“Got us anything?”
“No, didn’t even get anything for myself.”
“Selfish prick.”
“Hey! Watch your mouth or I scrub them with soap!” Thinking back, that couldn’t have been the best retort to their stinky lot.
“(Snickers) Do you think you’d be able to do a batch of us before you go to sleep?”
“I doubt it, pretty tired. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Hmm, hey fellas, anyone know how many underpants this loser still has?” Their leader, the stinky sock, asks the mob underneath.
“Yeah, he’s down to his last one!”
“Looks like a busy day for you tomorrow, bub! Hahahaha!” I hate that sock.
“Shut up, asswipes. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I close the door and insulate myself from the laughing mob.

I take a shower, instantly feeling better and lighter. The drain gobbles up most of the soot and dust and the chlorinated water feels good against my skin after a day’s worth of hard deepwell water. I dry my hair with the towel and open the door once again to the laundry, ready to toss the towel in to cover that stinky sock.

“Hey boss, we were thinking…”
“That’s a stretch.”
“We don’t like that clunky old washing machine that you’ve got.”
“How so?”
“It’s tearing us up to pieces. Have you seen your old dress sock recently? The elastic band has been stretched to its limits. Not to mention your tidy whities over there. They look like they’ve seen better years, if you catch my drift.” I look at the old washing machine and wonder what the fuss was all about.
“I set it on delicate, guys, you can’t be serious about getting pummeled as much as on the perma press setting.”
“The wash is okay, but the spin cycle…” Yes, I do realize I’ve been setting the spin dryer to the maximum 5 minute mark.
“So you’re suggesting I not use the spin dryer?”
“Well, I can’t not use it. Do you know how hard it is to wring each one of you? Specially those blue denims?”
“I was talking to your Barong Tagalog back in the closet, seems like he’s been to the cleaners recently. Did you know that they don’t spin dry over there?” Number one: I can’t figure out how this sweat sock got into a conversation with the barong, he is usually in the sock drawer while the barong is hung in the main cabinet. Number two, I actually have no idea what the guys at the cleaner do with my stuff.
“So what do they do over there, anyway?”
“They tumble dry.”
“And you’re point, being?”
“Maybe you should get one of those electric tumble dryers.”
“Or maybe I should get more sensible socks?”
“Hey, it’s not just me, bub. Ask the other guys.” They were all nodding in agreement. Effin’ ingrates!
“Do you even know how much one of those things cost? Not to mention how much electricity they consume?”
“Well, of course, you’re the boss of us. But do you remember that nasty rash that you got when you wrung that blue shirt of your’s a bit too much?” Hmm, I do recall the rash, but didn’t think it was because of me wringing my shirt.
“So you’re actually blackmailing me? And at this early hour?” The stinky sock grins a reply.

I close the door and mumble curses at the laundry. I will not be blackmailed by such a stinky bunch! I go into my room and fell asleep almost instantly. Curiously enough, I woke up to this nightmare involving my clothes instantly shredding themselves off me while I’m doing the groceries. Great.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoked Out

Every so often, usually after a long absence, the gas station rejects me. It's either my seat stays occupied by someone else way beyond my saturation point, or the free Wi-Fi gives and I am forced to play minesweeper or *gasp* work. This time, it chose a more sinister and life threatening tact to get rid of me... it's smoking me out.

Being situated right smack in between the highway and a few hectares of rice paddies, the gas station is subject to smoke from the farmers burning off their waste. It's a usual practice intended to give the soil back some of the nutrition that it lost during the season. But of course, it's bothersome nonetheless. There's really no point in quitting smoking when you subject yourself to this phenomenon. I stand my ground though, hopeful that the wind would shift and save me from choking to death.

After a few minutes, the wind changes direction and I am able to breathe normal air again. I light a stick of cigarette during this pleasant break, quite ironic, isn't it?


A new found friend of mine sent me a link to "Rainbow Connection" as sung by Kermit the Frog. I couldn't believe that I forgot this version of the song... I generally remember most of the skits on Sesame Streets growing up, but until I saw this one, it was lost to me. The video suddenly brought back memories of early morning cartoons, as well as the cartoon parade every Saturday morning. I owe these muppets and cartoons a lot, after all they were my first teachers in the English language.

My family wasn't really big on speaking English at home. Amongst us, communication was a mix of Ilonggo and Tagalog and very rarely did my parents switch to English unless... well, never actually. But even then, they had the wisdom to keep the television on for us kids to absorb. They didn't bother to translate Bugs Bunny's dry humor into the dialect, they trusted those animated friends of ours to impart an understanding that would serve us well in school. (In retrospect, Coyote and Roadrunner were too stingy and never taught us anything in the field of linguistics save for the occasional beep-beep and an introduction to the Acme Manufacturing Company) I suspect though that our parents appreciated the calming effects of television on sugar-high powered toddlers more than any educational benefit.

When we got a bit older, we graduated from cartoons to watching canned programming and movies on Betamax. English was now more complicated than "beep-beep" and "Hi, I'm Kermit the Frog here for Sesame Street News!". There was more to this language than what was actually uttered! We were introduced to the "non-literal" side of the language. Vocabulary was also improving, and now we had an awareness of proper grammar. This served me well in grade school and even in high school. I could never identify what a past-participle was nor tell if it was tensed past-perfect. But I knew what "sounded" right and what was horribly out of syntax, this saved me from flunking a lot of English classes.


Do I have a point? Well, not really. Was just babbling as usual. You see, over the years I've received some compliments with regards to my use of English. They usually ask where I went to school and immediately assume that's where I learned it. So I smile and don't bother telling the truth. It's kinda weird answering "I learned it all from Saturday morning cartoons."

The Ate Shawie Effect

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I finally treated myself to watching one of those classic Sharon Cuneta movies, particularly "Bukas Luluhod And Mga Tala". Must say, I can't seem to find any of the newer local flicks today which can compare with such a masterpiece. Of course, I'm not the best resource person for this opinion as I have steered clear of most of the local productions since the late 90's. I did watch "Mano Po", "Muro Ami" and even that Rizal flick, I'd take Ate Shawie anyday.


Talking of movies, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I haven't patronized the silver screen since "Happy Feet". I've contented myself to watching films on the smaller screen, both on DVD and features on the limited number of movie channels that I have access to. I just can't get over the exorbitant prices that come with the big screen experience, specially not when the prices of DVD's have become dirt cheap thanks to video pirates, as well as online streaming and downloading divX files off the internet. Cinemas, I feel, are now reserved for those cheesy boyfriend/girlfriend dates that give both parties the opportunity to hold hands in almost complete darkness, with the option of loading up the bases of course.

Maybe it's because I belong to a generation of kids who remember fifteen peso movies, a time when even the market vendors would take time off and close early to catch their favorite actor or actress in their latest flicks. That was a time when Hollywood didn't necessarily dominate the theaters, and certainly weren't able to compete with FPJ, Ate Shawie, Nora Aunor nor Vilma. Heck, even Weng-weng raked in a respectable following. Video piracy then was limited to a few copies on Betamax, usually a full month or two after the movie had concluded its run in the theaters.

Hmm, but then there's the indie wave that's been popular as of late. Yes, it's still something that only the intellectual elite are able to appreciate, but at least it's a start. This being a departure from the tall tales that are popular at the box office, maybe the masses will soon learn to find themselves in these low-budget features? I don't think so. For starters, it's this realistic element of the indie genre that may prove to be it's greatest flaw. People go to movies to watch something out of the ordinary, either a reflection of their hopes and ideals or a reminder of the worst that is to come. If average Joe wanted a reality check, why go to a movie theater when he can just stay back home and humor himself with real life?


Wow, I seem to be in a preachy mood, aren't I? Maybe I should stick with my original topic, which is my current disdain of movie theaters. Or maybe I should just stop altogether, save myself from the embarrassment of exposing myself as a fraud when it comes to movies and films. After all, how can you talk about something which you admit to have not patronized for the longest time?

Ah yes, better check myself, something I should have done several paragraphs ago...

Turning to Salt

Missed my gas station. Though I have contentedly been somewhat up to date on my posts, there had been topics and ideas that warranted a post but there simply wasn't time. Oh well...


Once upon a time, I lived for a while in a small town called San Manuel, Pangasinan, right underneath the shadow of the daunting yet then still to be finished San Roque Dam. What was I doing there? Fieldwork in completion of my studies in college. The organization that I worked for was adamantly against the behemoth, and I together with a small group of students, were doing advocacy and organizing work to make the people in the area aware of this impending disaster.

Well, I have to confess that my presence there was rather forced in the beginning. I would have preferred staying with my previous group advocating women's rights and furthering the development and installation of a Barangay Women's Desk at Bagong Silang, Caloocan. That went pfft with this new assignment. The first month was a harsh reality check on what Community Development work was all about. No longer would I have the option of going home to my cozy bed, spending time with friends and running around an area in close proximity to malls and other urban fare. Instead, I would live in various small houses, without the benefit of running water nor electricity, sleeping on the floor or on the bamboo "papag". The dirt road leading to the town proper was dusty when the sun shone, and muddy when the afternoon rains hit. Transportation was considerably more expensive, meaning a lot of walking through rice paddies and all weather roads was called for.

Living like turtles, we carried all our possessions on our backs while we traversed different barangays depending on what our scheduled tasks called for. This was also my introduction to the now familiar chore called the laundry... huddling around a running stream or the singular deepwell together with most of the village folk. After a month of washing in hard water, my tidy whities were transformed to an off-white color and I've developed calluses on my knuckles and palms.

If the college wanted me to experience new things and adapt to a rural environment, they couldn't have picked a better assignment. Being the only other non-Ilocano speakers in the group of 7, I had to learn the dialect in a hurry or risk being forever the subject of practical jokes. There was also the matter of learning what the "movement" was all about, as well as throwing away the existing paradigms I had and embrace this strange new one.

Four months after first stepping off the bus, I graduated, and was soon relearning my old life. My promise of going back to the rice paddies to check up on the work was long forgotten, and the whole experience seemed like another rite of passage that was to be experienced no longer. Eventually the dam was finished, and I sure enough went back to the area as a sell-out. I wanted to do business with the dam-folks, part of the challenges of my new life. Maybe we were wrong that time, maybe progress was being made and that we were so naive, brainwashed to think of it as a ticking time-bomb.

A few days ago, I opened the newspaper to learn that the places that I traversed so many years ago was now underwater. The dam, in an act of self-preservation, had opened its floodgates, flooding the region. I guess back then, we were doing the right thing, sadly though, not doing it well enough. I could only shudder when I try to think of the people who we left behind when we graduated. The families who sheltered, fed and tolerated our presence. Where were they now? Huddled in some evacuation shelter, thoughts on their lost harvest and homes? Hopefully some of them have gone on to better lives, migrated to the city, afforded themselves a better quality of existence. I try not to think of the other alternative, but not thinking about it does not necessarily guarantee that it didn't happen.

It would be convenient to say "I told you so.". Or that we tried our best but we were powerless to stop it. At one point or another, each one of us in the group had lapses, doubting the work, wondering if we were doing the right thing or merely being puppets to a conflict that started a generation before us. Maybe if we hadn't the outcome would be different? Had we been too concerned about our own inconveniences to have been more effective doing the work we were supposed to do? No one can tell, not now anyway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Breakfast Puffs

Southbound on the SLEX, I usually make a breakfast stop at this gas station. They've got dirt cheap brewed coffee and mustard smeared hotdog sandwiches. Pretty convenient, yes, until this morning, that is.

I checked out the steamer first, no regular hotdogs in sight, only the slightly more expensive german franks, which I was actually visualizing during the drive to, anyway. Two pots full of brewed coffee, no problem there. Then I noticed it, and alarm bells rang in my head, it was the second consecutive day that the delivery van failed to unload any Philip Morris products on the shelves, yes that meant my precious Marloboros! To make matters worse, they didn't get a delivery of my previous brand of Winstons as well. There were only 3 options left for us chain-smoking idiots, Mild Seven, Hope and Fortune. God help me in this dark hour...

I weigh my options, Mild Seven, a Japanese favorite, was an imported brand and thus priced appropriately, a cool ninety bucks. Fortune was on the other end of the price spectrum and Hope is priced almost similarly as the Winstons and Marlboros. On the taste... more of the same spectral positions, really. Mild Seven was the more palatable of the trio... Hope reminds me of streetwalkers while Fortune meant I'd have to spit out a generous amount of tar-tainted saliva with each puff. Another option that was NOT on the table was to postpone my after breakfast treat a mere 10 minutes until I got to the sari-sari store that is near the office. Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

Being a smoker over the better part of the decade (okay, a bit more, actually), I've come across these brands at some time in my life and learned to appreciate them one way or the other. Let's talk about Mild Seven (MS) first. MS came to our house along with YSL and Davidoff brands once every 3 months early in my college 'career'. My dad has a friend who bought these from Zamboanga's markets and gave a ream each as a present. I saw it fit to smuggle some for my own consumption and preferred the rather bland tasting MS to both other brands. I guess my patronage of MS was due to its availability, being free definitely earns some bias. Of course, whenever I'd consumed the last of the freebies, I'd switch back to better tasting Mediums, Silvers and Super Selects, or even the local Reds as more and more of my allowance began to patronize 'Saint Micheal'.

Hope is where it all began, my dad smoked this or Philip Morris when I was in high school, depending on what raffle gimmick was ongoing at the time. Thus, I learned this filthy habit courtesy of this brand, historically favored by construction workers, streetwalkers, carpenters and street urchins because of their cheapness and that strong menthol kick. Sucking on these babies was like chomping on 2 Storck candies while inhaling incense.

Finally, Fortune. It tastes much like burnt rubber, and has a really earthy after-taste. Nevertheless, back when I was stuck in the rice paddies of Pangasinan, poverty and desperation made me love these cancer-inducing little suckers. Well, actually, I still preferred the even cheaper Memphis brand to Fortune, but that particular brand was only available in 2 of the 4 barangays I lived in, and the only other affordable alternative was the reverse-action-filter-less La Campana. The name Fortune was well thought of in those parts...

So after reviewing my choices, I finally forced myself to decide and bought myself a pack. I'm not revealing which brand I chose, in case you were wondering, I might forfeit my chance to get to that Marlboroland in the sky and get shot down to La Campana hell. Puff, breathe in, exhale... life is good.

It's a friggin' no-brainer... but still, someone's got to do it.

Ironically, one of the reasons that I got hired was because I didn't talk much. My would-be boss perceived this as an eagerness to listen, a quality that he thought was missing in most salespeople. There were two of us being interviewed that day, we knew each other well from our days in our college fraternity. He went first, and upon coming back, I asked him what happened. He says it was hard to tell, he answered all the questions and then expounded on each topic. He babbled like he never babbled before, this was a sales position, after all. His interview took three quarters of an hour. I was next, and the moment I sat there, I thought of every little anecdote that I could lay on the guy. Something witty, smart, something to impress upon him that I was someone of substance. Unfortunately, my mind drew a blank and I sat there nodding my head off, saying things like "uh-huh", "not really", "yes, sir", "how so?" and "a little bit" while still thinking of any silly anecdote or story I could trade.

Boy could my would-be boss talk! He looked at my resume, talked to himself about some matter before asking me if that was right, and then went into a full blown monologue about his exploits playing golf at UP, or racing cars with the rival Greeks along Quezon Ave. He asked bits and pieces about my qualifications and my background, almost always recalling some story that he was reminded of looking at my resume. It wasn't much of an interview, I just sat there and did nothing, basically. Easiest interview ever.

The short of it all, I got the job after my 2 hour interview. My friend didn't.

On my first day on the job, he called me to the conference room to sort of orient me about what my job was all about. He realized that he never got to talking about it during my initial interview. This was where he spilled the beans on how I got the job. Those times I sat there with a stupid smile on my face, with a slightly skewed posture because I was trying to get blood back into my butt, he thought I was eagerly listening. When I scratched that imaginary itch, he thought I was deep in thought analyzing some inconsistencies in his story. And my favorite would have to be the times when he thought I was taking notes during the interview (I had a notebook and pen with me), he should have seen my doodle of an M1A1 Abrams battle tank and one-liners written in characters me and my high school buddies invented back in high school. He probably thought, "Boy, this conyo really listens! And he's different from other salespeople who think they can talk and babble their way into a sale. This is what my sales guy should be: observant, analytical, a good listener, and drop-dead handsome, to boot!" So okay, I inserted that last thought myself. Hey, this is my post, I can do whatever I want with it.

Indeed, my ignorance and ability to mentally zone out of potentially important discussions has saved the day yet again! All those semesters spent as a zombie in my Physics 72 and Math 55 classes proved useful after all. Who would've thought I'd get the job by not doing anything? Must be the reason why after 6 years I still do nothing on the job as well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Locks and hairs

This feels strange... I had the whole evening planned out. I'd leave the office at around 4:30, go to the gas station to find someone sitting in my seat, so I'd grab some noodle soup at Chowking as well as a small halo-halo. Then I'd check out some shirts at the Nike Outlet store but not buy any, all before I read an issue of Newsweek to catch up on my backlog while having my usual cup of black coffee. By 7:30 my seat would be vacant, hopefully, and then I'd crack some words up to post on my blog. Lo and behold when I got here, all the tables were full, except mine.

This may sound strange to most, but my seat is never vacant at 4:45 in the afternoon.

So what do I do? I get my coffee and set up my laptop. Good bye noodle soup, halo-halo, window-shopping and Newsweek... the time space warp has once again foiled the best laid plans.


Yesterday, I finally convinced myself to get a haircut. Hair was suddenly getting into my eyes, ears and gobbling up massive amounts of shampoo. Too bad really, I was getting used to having all that hair. Gave me something to mess up when I was bored and justified my use of a baseball cap for more casual occasions.

Back in high school, when glam rock was making way for grunge, having long hair was all the rage much to the chagrin of stuffy teachers and pesky parents. I once let my hair grow long enough to cover my face, though not yet long enough to tie it into a ponytail. That would've been so cool, I thought. But my mom had other ideas, and forced me to get a proper haircut by taking her scissors and chopping off a generous portion of my bangs. I looked in the mirror and there was nothing else to be done but go to the barber to try to remedy the situation.

Now in the adult world, no longer under the parental dictatorship that I've had to endure for years, I sometimes entertain the thought of growing my hair long once again. But I guess that won't happen yet, unless I find myself stranded on a deserted island for a year, perhaps. There's that awkward stage where your hair gets really scruffy looking but not long enough to tie up. It's irritating, and unless you wear a baseball cap all the time, just doesn't look good.


At my boss' request, I broke into an office-mate's drawer this afternoon. Thanks to my amazing ability to open some of the toughest locks around the office (in the continuing quest for candies and foodstuff), I am the designated safe-breaker. This, however, was no ordinary lock that she had installed.

The locks on the drawers in the office are usually the inferior kind, easy prey for my small pocketknife. But because of a prior incident which in no way involved me nor my talents, she had the locks changed to a pricier and less vulnerable set. I spent around 20minutes trying to pick the lock but to no avail. This tact was going nowhere, I said to myself. But still undaunted, I tried another approach. The drawers were made of wood, and wood being easy to bend and manipulate, I made the gap between the lock bigger and soon the drawer slid open, revealing what my boss wanted to get.

Now another problem ensued, I couldn't put the drawer back into place. Somehow, the wood sprang back to its original dimensions, and despite my coaxing, the lock jutted and wouldn't fit. I pondered on getting a crowbar and using brute force, but my boss was against it, saying that more damage might be done to the wood. I left the drawer as it was, vulnerable to attacks from petty thieves and food-mongers. For sure, there would be no one else to blame but me, and my boss boarding a flight to Tokyo the next morning, there was to be no witness to the non-crime. crap.

Of Sam, Beers, Underarms and Tapsi

Went to the east side of town last Saturday and in the afternoon found myself in familiar company, holding an ice cold beer in one hand and a cigarette in another. Subas and Noel were there, along with Mr. Golti. We had just gotten ourselves seated when a screech and thud caught our attention. A traffic accident had just happened along C5 road, and being truly Filipino, made it our patriotic duty to investigate the situation. There was a big blue dump truck, a Honda, and further along the road a Toyota van on its side. Traffic crawled to a snail's pace, everyone wanted a peek at the incident.

As usual, everyone instantly became an analyst and commentator to the event. Men casually walked to and from the wreck, trying to look as casual and uninterested as possible and failing miserable on both counts. Then a familiar name resonated from the crowd, Sam Milby was in the van, allegedly.

It took a while before the man in the van finally crawled out of the vehicle, someone remarked that he looked unscathed despite what happened to his tin can on wheels. Yep, it was the actor himself. Hmm, maybe it was staged, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he had make-up on and someone would suddenly shout "Cut!" from out of nowhere. We were all humored, this was the man whose pansy smile beamed ten foot high on billboards and somehow made teenage girls giggle by simply talking nonsense in his much-maligned Filipino. A far cry from our mutual man-crush, Brad Pitt, no doubt.

We went back to our beers and made more wisecracks at Sam's expense. We had just come from Subas' house in Marikina which was engulfed in knee deep flood waters just the weekend prior. We initially came to help out in cleaning, but then ended up helping ourselves to cracked-pepper crusted liempo. Made a mental note to myself to try it out at home while I took the last bite-sized portion. (How un-Filipino, I know!)

Over the course of the evening at the bar, we were watching the VMA's on television, anticipating Kanye West's rude intrusion into Ms. Taylor Swift's acceptance speech. The incident occurred, and we all echoed Barack Obama's sentiments. What a jackass, indeed.

Now, the lovely Ms. Swift wasn't done for the evening yet, and somehow managed to muster enough courage to perform a single of her's. She was cute... and we all sat there staring at her smooth and silky underarm as she waved to everyone on the subway. Yum!

And speaking of underarms, I can't help but flashback on an incident at Handlebars... Noel and I were watching this little known band perform, we can't remember any of the songs on their set, but damn, the petite lady on vocals was just mesmerizing. And yes, her underarm was just so... damn! We cheered her on each time she hit a high note, her hand clenched into a fist in the air, revealing her snow white underarm for all of us to gaze into. Whew!

Yes, ladies, there is little a man can do to resist the allure of great underarms on a woman. I can't put a finger on why this is so, but trust me, all that shaving, moisturizing, waxing (and of course, deodorizing) is well worth it. If one were to place two equally stunning Brazilian models side by side, one wearing a short skirt and a t-shirt and the other unflattering pants but a tank top, waving her hands in the air revealing flawless underarms, my bet is that men would notice the underarms first.

Back to Saturday on the east side, we had the whole bar to ourselves. There was no one else around, people had sensibly taken shelter in their own homes amid the brewing storm approaching. But we, well, we thought we were invincible and continued our little drinking spree. Hmm, it wasn't exactly a drinking spree, I guess. We were pretty mindful not to get drunk. We weren't kids anymore, and I recall the most any of us drank was maybe 6 beers.

We called it a night and adjourned early that evening, we were tired and wanted a good night's rest. I decided to go south this time to bring Mr. Golti home to Paranaque. As fate would have it, we found ourselves in Dongalo, home of the infamous DB Tapsi. Noel and I were curious to finally have an authentic Dongalo tapsi, and we stopped at Marty's, supposedly the original and the best that the neighborhood had to offer. Yep, the reputation was well earned.

I'm curious though, how this stretch of road in particular could be the home of so many tapsilog joints. How the heck did they manage to make a profit when there was a tapsilog joint everywhere? Never mind... I would gladly come back to sample more of their tapa upon the slightest urging.

Back to basics on my notebook

So I made it early here at Market Market!, I planned on getting some thinking done before my Korean client arrives for our meeting here at Starbucks. I came upon some extra time as my lunch meeting with another client got postponed to next week. I purposely left my afternoon meeting as is, seeing the opportunity to get some groceries for the weekend.

Turns out, all the supermarkets were packed full of people panic-buying for this weekend's highly anticipated storm. I've read conflicting reports about the storm online, one that it was headed straight for the Visayas, and another that it swerved northwards towards the isolated Batanes group of islands. Either way am pretty sure that it's going to be a wet weekend ahead.

Just in case you were wondering, I do not bring my laptop to these meetings. Hence if you're reading this, then you'd know that this was encoded online by myself after tediously writing it all down by hand on my notebook. Judging from my handwriting, the transfer of this post is quite an effort in itself. I've never been known for my penmanship, and though I do scribble notes and memos at work, I hardly get to read them again once I set them on my out-tray. No wonder my assistant isn't fond of my hand-written notes.


To anyone who needs to write long letters by hand, then you must probably know what a joy it is writing with a signpen or fountain pen rather than the common ballpoint. For one, it's a relaxing experience, just having to let the tip glide on the paper's surface rather than applying pressure and keeping it fairly uniform throughout. It's got more character as well, the ink reflecting every quirky movement of your hand and letting it blot and thin out at all the appropriate strokes. I'm particularly fond of the squiggly tails that you get from the letters G, J, D and Y. Mine's a bit awkwardly curved, making it look discernably mine.

The use of a sign pen also makes me very thankful for going through all that hassle of learning cursive. I imagind that writing in print letters is more tiresome, the lifting and going down on paper. Cursive certainly is proving useful, moreso if you're stuck at a coffee shop without a laptop for company.


I'm experiencing a backlog in my reading list. So far, I've 3 issues of Newsweek still unopened as well as 4 books unfinished. I always forget to bring them with me for times I don't feel like posting stuff on my blog. That's also part of the reason I've unplugged my television, which is starting to become yet another random useless act.

This morning, I sat on the crapper and continued with "The Lavas", a history of the Lava family by one of my favorite authors, Jose Dalisay, Jr. Curiously, I didn't realize that a friend of a friend is actually a Lava, and that her lolo and lolas are the subject of this book. So now, I'm quite curious about her lineage but am stopping short of getting in contact with her for verification of some items that I've read. We're not really close, after all, plus there's some history I think between her and our common friend, so that's that.


There's this man seated beside me sucking on a big fat cigar. The smoke wafts in my direction, and it smells really... "relaxing". Unlike cigarette smoke which is irritating even to us chain-smokers, cigar smoke is a real treat. Think of a chocolate bar burning, that's probably the best description I can give for it. No it's not one of those pretentious flavored cigars that seem popular with the younger generation of cigar-chompers. The one he's smoking is the real deal, hard-core hand rolled/folded stuff. Despite not being a connoisseur of cigars, I can tell it's worth a lot judging from the smile on his face. When I do quit smoking these cheap cigarettes, I'll probably indulge my senses with an after dinner dose of Tabacalera on a daily basis.


Hmm, seem to be running out of space on my notebook. Another reason why I should write on paper with pen more, it'll train me to write not less, but more concisely. Unless of course, I get myself a bigger notebook. Oh well...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bus ride to wherever

I've been avoiding the television lately. I find it too hypnotic that I can't get anything done anymore. The whole house is a mess, I've been neglecting laundry duty and my refrigerator is about to freeze over into the next ice age. Unfortunately, this strategy of mine doesn't seem to be as effective as I've hoped. I come home late at night from my gas station hang-out and am greeted by a mountain of chores. What do I do? Nothing. I just stare back at the filth and mumble a promise to get it done this weekend.

Ah, but this weekend I'm off to a wedding. So on Sunday, perhaps? Most likely I'm to be too lazy to do it. Oh well, better take things one day at a time...


I'm currently thinking of Sagada. I guess I'm stressed out. Sagada is my "safe" place... it's where I feel like going to when I want to forget or be away. I don't have to do anything, just sit back, relax, have a cigarette and a steaming hot cup of coffee. However, getting there is quite stressful in itself. So my mind then settles for Baguio. The next best thing, I guess.

Hmm, how about a new adventure? Somewhere I've never been to? Or somewhere that I haven't considered before? Some people I know check in to a hotel when they want to get away from it all. I would like to do the same sometimes, but the steep cost of booking a suite or a room just isn't helping me out. So yeah, hotels are very unlikely in my book.

When I was living in Pangasinan for my OJT, I used to ride the bus to Baguio or Manila just to be somewhere else. I specially enjoyed the non-airconditioned buses as they had more "character" and stopped more often. This means I get to spend more time on the road, which is okay with me as I really had nothing much to do when I got to where I was going, anyway. Also, I could smoke inside the bus, something which the new laws of smoking in public areas now forbid. I took the last row of seats, the ones that no one wanted to sit in, and then look out the window the whole time. I'd watch the fields, trees, carabaos, stores, houses, practically anything in my line of sight. Night journeys are the best, it isn't hot inside the bus and the glow of streetlamps or the moonlight gave a lot of surrealism to the whole experience.

Once while walking on the roadside in Urdaneta City after helping myself to an extravagance known as the Jollibee palabok fiesta, a bus stopped and the conductor called out that it was going to Pasay. I was walking toward the line of tricycles heading to the interior, but in a millisecond found myself hopping onboard the bus. I remember having to call ahead to a friend of mine, I needed to borrow some money as I realized that I had only P200 on me and the fare, including the return trip costs P202. I had to walk for an hour before I got to his house and claimed the loan, then spent half of it on beer.

Hopefully, a magical bus won't be stopping at my feet this time, lest I shrug my shoulders and hop on to a trip to anywhere. Not that I don't want to, but I might forget that it's a Thursday and that I've to be somewhere more definite tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mortal Kombat: Dodo versus Chicken

Late last night, while driving through muck and debris, Nolan and I hit a dead end. We were looking for a house but didn't know how to get there. The dark night and scattered debris didn't help either, and hitting this wall, thought better give up the search. I attempt to back up, and turn on the beams to get a better view. Lo and behold, what seemed like a wall or a house was actually a river barge, straddled on the road with one end on a house's roof and the other seemingly intent on ramming the house across the street.

To imagine a 100 ton barge "parked" across the street is way beyond even my bored mind. A small plane or a helicopter I could dream up, but this sight was simply precious.

Naturally, we made up all sorts of explanations for this phenomenon. Didn't the barge's captain see the 'Boat No Entry' sign? This was something that you could tell someone else who wasn't there and they wouldn't be able to process a mental image. To see is to believe.


An insight gained from my trip to CDO: Filipinos love chicken. On every street corner there seems to be a joint selling fried, roasted or barbecued chicken and almost all of them are doing good business. My theory is that chicken being cheaper than pork or beef, businesses have intentionally force fed the nation with our feathered friends to make bigger profits. Fast food joints all have fried chicken on their regular menus and the ever present deep-fried chicken ass or skin is a staple in every neighborhood drinking spree.

A month ago, I had a chance to run over a still clucking chicken on a national highway. Though not my intent, there was no way I was going to risk control over the car by swerving uncontrollably to avoid it. I waited for the agonizing crunch underneath, but then I was surprised that right at the moment I anticipated the fowl to be murdered, it flew above the hood, and bounced off the windshield. Horny flying chicken, Batman! The big surprise for me wasn't that it avoided certain death, but that I momentarily forgot that chickens do fly for limited durations.

Of course, with limited flying range, the chicken's survival as a specie is largely dependent on human's appetite for its meat. I doubt any wild chickens still run around in the wilderness. I conclude, therefore that an addendum to Darwin's theory of natural selection should be made. For instance, instead of simply limiting a specie's survival on their ability to adapt to changes to their environment, it should also be dependent on how good they taste with catsup. I've been trying to google literature to support my thesis that if a dodo's meat tasted better than chicken's, Colonel Sander's recipe should read Kentucky Fried Dodo. As expected, evil chicken farmers must have permanently suppressed all evidence.


Speaking of extinction agendas, my dad has clearly exhibited his disdain of those cute, cuddly baby seals you find on the Discovery Channel. Remember those emails about hunters killing off that cute, furry, snow white baby seal? Consider my dad a supporter of the hunter's cause.

First, he can't find any evidence of their contribution to the global ecosystem. In a classic argument at home to determine who makes better sense, I got stumped when my dad asked what seals contribute to the ecosystem. I thought 'sea-lice' but was careful to restrain myself. John 1-Hap 0.

Second, they eat fish. Humans eat fish. My dad eats fish. Other more useful animals eat fish (such as our dog, Bob) and for the longest time those environmental activists have been warning us that fish are getting scarcer. My dad's solution was to kill off seals, blend their guts into fishmeal and scatter them all throughout the ocean for fishes to enjoy. My defense consisted of seals providing snacks to killer whales... shot down the moment it left my lips. Humans eat fish, Killer whales eat fish, Killer whales eat humans. For vengeance's sake, die Orca, die! John 2-Hap 0.

Third, the global oil crisis means we need to look for alternative sources of oil. Have you seen a seal? They're pretty much shaped like condoms loaded with blubber. A single adult seal could provide enough oil to light hundreds of superficial decorative oil-lamps, overly extravagant buffet food warmers and cigarette or crack cocaine lighters. I see the obvious flaw in the argument and lambaste his fascist intentions, claiming he's justified the world's need for seals! He ponders this thought, and conceded. All seals should be captured, caged, fattened up to the point of bursting and then processed for our global energy requirements. John 2-Hap 1,000,000,000 x 10exp6.

I win, of course, and have ensured the safety and survival of an entire species. In a few short years, my vision of a world feeding off chickens barbecued over the flames of a seal-oil burning grill shall be every man's utopian reality. No need to thank me, just pass the chicken ass, please?

Pressing Reset

I'm back in Manila, back at my gas station. It's a weird sort of homecoming, so much has happened in the last 36 hours that those 4 days in the southern island seems to have happened ages ago. Time-space warp?


Had an after-dinner conversation with Paul in Davao at one of those sub-zero beer joints. He seemed alright despite missing his dad terribly, must be the joy of having his own little family to come home to. As always, we talked about what was going on at work both ways, something that we usually discuss for hours each time we meet either in Manila or down south. Seems work is going fine so far at his end, so far...

As with most legacies passed down to the next generation, Paul is currently at that state of both excitement and fear. He's got big shoes to fill, and despite his dad's giving him an almost free rein on the business these past years, it's understandable that he's feeling a bit inept at this stage. First, there's his dad's responsibilities to the family that he has decided to carry on his shoulders. Then there's his own family to look after, and that of their employees. Needless to say, there's a lot of pressure to perform... and I don't envy him in the least.

On the other hand, there's me. Okay, so I've got my own problems, no doubt, but nothing on a scale that's comparable to his.

Suppose I were to be in his shoes, and he were in mine, I wonder if my presumption that I'd soon be at the helm of a faltering business to be bought out by Paul stands? Are the bigger responsibilities reserved for better people? Or is it a matter of environment, that given the same tools and challenges we'd end up pretty much in the same opposite situations? There's this story I've read long ago, a boy grows to be a man when a man is needed, I wonder...


I found myself in yet another sleazy bar not long ago. The kind of joints that Philip Salvador or Rudy Fernandez usually trashes in the requisite bar brawl scenes of Philippine action flicks. True to the genre... Lady In Red was being played by a lonely man on an electronic keyboard amid colored flashing lights in a darkened room. The floor manager holds my hand, asking me if I wanted some company. I wave her off, uninterested (well, destitute is actually more apt, but let's pretend...) as I take a gulp of cold beer.

Why do I end up in these types of places, you might ask? Do I like the proximity of warm bodies? Or perhaps an unintelligent conversation rife with the usual flattery and empty promises? Has the search for a cold one become so desperate? Nah... it's more of a need to zone out, I guess. To just unwind without having to think about much of anything.

I signal for the bill after downing my first beer, and make my way to the exit. Clarity ensues and again my mind is filled with fresh thoughts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weather Patterns

It was pretty much 2 years ago when Milenyo swept over the office, drowning my car and seeing me crawl up the office's trusses like a rat. Wading through floodwaters gushing through makeshift rivers and evading the occasional tree branch and squealing pig, I could definitely feel for those in Manila right now more or less in the same predicament. Of course as fate would have it, this wasn't going to happen to me again this time... karma doing me a favor?

This year, during the storm that drowned a great portion of the metropolis, I found myself in the hinterlands of Bukidnon, then to the southern city of Davao. I could watch the familiar brown murky floodwaters on the television literally a hundred miles away from where I lay comfortably in an airconditioned hotel room, fed, resting and best of all dry.


How's this for irony, just an hour ago while meeting with a client at the mall, the familiar drone of a heavy downpour filled the air. As I walked out, I found the street under a couple of inches of floodwater. I glanced at my hotel's entrance across said street and decided it wasn't worth getting my shoes wet and I'd best wait till the "puddle" subsided. Wow, after watching people drenched in the rain atop their roofs fearing for their lives, I was careful to mind my leather shoes getting wet.

I lit my cigarette, smiling at the irony that I've created and wondered if it would be awfully insensitive to write about this disturbing scene. Obviously I thought not... after all, I've (and my car) paid our dues to the storm gods.

It took maybe a couple more cigarettes before I finally braved the now half-inch film of water. Taking careful steps so as not to spray some drops on the cuff (is that the right term?) of my pants, I crossed the street as the hotel guard who was apparently watching me the whole time chuckled as he readied his now open umbrella, lest I get slightly rained on. I got to my hotel room just in time to watch the news again, still about the great flood.

Sincerely, I would rather this tragedy not happen to anyone else. But this is the weather, and there's just no way to predict nor foresee the happenings of both yesterday and two years ago. Guess I just can't help feeling lucky and happy that I didn't get hit twice by flood.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flying with Malcolm

Apart from the hassles of having to wake up ridiculously early, another downside of taking the first flight of the day to anywhere is that everyone seems to arrive pretty early at the airport, and thus a mob usually waits for you once you enter the gates. To solve this, I've resorted to certain means to avoid all these.

First thing I do is... well, I don't sleep. Not to say that I forego sleep, I just sleep as much as I can in the afternoon so that I don't have to sleep at all during the night. This allows me to get to the airport even earlier than most of the usual early birds and avoid the mob. So now, I'm at the airport when my flight is more than a couple of hours away and whiling my time engrossed in writing this post until my laptop's batteries go out. Then I take out the book I am currently reading and wait for boarding time.

I know, there are laptop stations scattered throughout the airport (at least in the Centennial terminal anyway), but I prefer to smoke while writing and thus confine myself to the smoking area with a hot cup of joe to keep me company.


Speaking of books, I have a book that I've specially designated for flights... the autobiography of Malcolm X. I started the book maybe two years ago and read it almost exclusively at airports and during the flight itself. Now, two years after, I'm only halfway through the darn book and have had to go back some chapters because I keep forgetting what the heck happened.

The frequency of my flights have been quite regular... I'm supposed to be at our Cebu office once a month (though depending on the circumstances, I stretch that to once every two months out of laziness) and thus get to read the book only during these times. At the rate I'm going, I should finish the book by late next year... hopefully Malcolm X doesn't get resurrected anytime soon so that I'm more or less up to date on what's he been up to.


I've been reading up on my blog... seems that so far, I've been kinda faithful to my promise of writing mostly about nothing. Well, at least no thread of topics in particular. I'm beginning to wonder if I should at least create a blog with a theme... maybe a travel blog... or one full of my stupid short stories. Contrary to what others may think, writing about nothing is quite a challenge. One has to at least spend hours each day daydreaming up new topics to write about. This practice of mine of daydreaming during office hours has been somewhat taxing on some paperwork. Then again, I doubt if not having this blog would affect my scheduled daydreaming at the office.

Maybe it would help if I had a hobby... like collecting stamps, coins or fountain pens. Then at least I could write all about some major stash I've found and post pictures of each of them. Up to this point, I don't recall having posted any pictures here in this blog. One reason is that I don't know how to... another is the snail's pace that uploading pictures online, and being such an impatient boob when it comes to this, I end up canceling my uploads about 30 seconds into the task.


Well, it's 5 minutes to boarding time... guess I better pack up and get ready to move... now for Malcolm X...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pre-flight instructions

Promised myself a lovely snooze at the gas station to make up for the all-nighter I pulled last night making my report. Was pleased to have slept a good 3 hours in the car while parked underneath the lovely shade of an acacia. I now feel a bit refreshed and ready for the drive home... but not just yet...


In a few hours, I will be boarding my flight to the City of Golden Friendship. Don't ask me why Cagayan De Oro is called as such, I have yet to gather enough interest to google it. Apparently this city and its periphery has a lot to offer: ziplines, white water rafting, major waterfalls and other eco-tourism destinations. In my 5 or so visits this region, all I have to show is a t-shirt bought from SM, a meal of ostrich eggs, a visit to Limketkai mall and pictures of me donning a hardhat and stuffing gigantic ferro-nickel ingots into 20-ton container vans. Truly exciting.


Despite the countless number of times I've boarded airplanes, there always is the inevitable thought that this might be the flight that crashes and burns... or drowns in shark infested waters. As the flight attendant demonstrates the safety features of their plane and how to use them correctly, my mind wanders in search of instances where the plane plummets to a crash landing but leaves the passengers and crew unscathed. There's the movie "Alive" of course where a good number of its passengers survive to find themselves stranded on the Andes... and subsequently survive by eating those that didn't make it. Not really that much of a relief.

Of course, being blessed with superpowers I have yet to discover, I convince myself that I might likely survive the crash. Then faced with the odyssey of finding my way back to civilization, I will be forever thankful to lazy weekends spent watching Man Vs Wild. As long as I don't have to drink my own piss, scale sheer cliff walls or encounter carnivorous guinea pigs... I should be fine.

If, let's say the unthinkable (hmm... I've just thought of it, how can that be unthinkable?) happens and I find myself lost in the wild and survive, shall I treat this as a situation wherein I suddenly realize the value of existence and try to make the most of my second chance at life? Or do I wake up at 6 in the morning, take a shower and get ready for the usual daily grind? Movies have always demonstrated how such situations suddenly call for an epiphany and your paradigm suddenly changes, making life as you know it seem worthless. But of course, that's in the movies, and the sequel that is real life can be frighteningly intolerable of such departures from the script.


As usual, I'm daydreaming too much. Better make my way home and pack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warning: Next post may be hazardous to rodents

Reading up on my last post (Drowning Roger and Hammerstein), I realize that a warning should have been posted, just in case you, dear reader, are of a slightly sensitive constitution. Also, It's a friggin long story (yes, though some parts are fact, I will categorize this as fiction, just in case any animal rights activists are reading) and may bore the hell out of you.

Darn, I guess I'm THAT bored.

Oh well, you've been warned!


Drowning Roger and Hammerstein

Over the weekend, I seem to have slipped from my non-alcoholic state of being and once again wallowed in the muck... courtesy of 4 straight nights of drinking. The good news, though, is that I've seemed to have it well under control, not getting myself intoxicated beyond control and compromising my safety in the process (unlike in the past).

However, as such activity is almost always bound to do, seemed I've gained some weight, evidenced by an increasing pudginess on my face. I challenged myself on the scale and true enough I've gained a couple of pounds. The combination of a good time and zero exercise is definitely not helping my effort to lose more weight. So now what?


Yesterday I had enough. This past week, I've noticed 2 mice scurrying around my apartment. I didn't mind at first, seeing that there seems to be no damage caused. Then last Saturday, I discovered their source of sustenance: My stash of sinigang mix. Pretty clever, actually, since the sinigang mix was placed at the rear of the condiment rack, and thus I didn't discover the evil deed until I actually needed the mix. That was it, I snapped and looked for my mouse trap.

The first trap that I set was the small cage trap, perfect for mice their size. It was a humane way of capturing them without endangering their physical health (not yet, anyway). So I set it and let it be. I checked up on it again that night, and discovered a small mouse thrashing about the tiny cage. I smiled and lectured it on the consequence of its actions, declaring that justice had been done and that its intruded on my inalienable right to my hard earned sinigang mix meant it had to go.

I now was presented a dilemma of sorts, how do I dispose of the errant rodent?

My first thought involved drowning the little sucker in a pail of water, submerging the cage and watching as the last of the tiny bubbles escape from its desperately gasping mouth. Decided against it as I do not have a pail that I could dispose of after the deed was done (heaven forbid I use it again and get infected with mouse piss and feces), and yeah, I didn't have the stomach to watch the poor fella. So on to the next method, which involves inducing it to heat stroke by placing the cage in the open, under the harsh rays of the afternoon sun the next day. However, the weather being overcast and all these past days, it would die first of starvation before dehydration, and that could take days. Then there's death by electrocution, a childhood favorite of mine, but since I've matured over the years deemed it cruel and more so, a waste of electricity (damn electrical bill).

As I pondered on more creative and humane ways of bidding good riddance to the rodent, I figured that just like anyone on death row, it deserved a good meal. I cut a slice of cheese (cartoon-lore has convinced me it's a rodent's favorite), a cut of vienna sausage, a small bottle cap of Yakult. At first, the little bugger wouldn't touch it. Figured I was out to poison it, I guess, and at that moment I thought about that exact route but decided against it, superstitions against the desecration of food and all. It did decide to partake of the its last meal though after an hour of thrashing about.

While it was eating, I turned on the television and thought about the only other option I could think of... death by toilet.

In my youth, my dad had his own unique and relaxing way of ridding the household of mice. He'd take a baking sheet (to my mom's disgust), a spool of thread, a food cover and construct a crude trap for the pesky rodents. He'd tie one end of the thread to his large toe and consequently watch television while keeping one eye on the trap. I sat for hours watching him and the trap instead of the television and was amazed at how relaxed he seemed in his sport. This revealed to me the logic behind fishing the old fashioned way with a fishing rod. When a mouse took the bait underneath the giant food cover, he'd flick his toe and the spool holding up the cover would fly off, allowing the food cover to trap the mouse completely. Then, hed pick up the whole set-up and proceed to the toilet bowl where he'd quickly slide the food cover from the baking sheet and the mouse would slide off and dive into the toilet water. Its frenzied effort to swim toward the porcelain would fail as his paws only slid off and it'd slide back into the water. With a flick of the wrist, water would momentarily fill the bowl and the mouse would spiral off into wherever toilet water would magically disappear to. (Which I would later on learn to be the septic tank)

So the fate of Roger (Yes, I deemed it fit for the creature to have at least an identity before it died. A last token of its existence)was sealed. Goodbye Roger Rodent!

Now, if you'd recall, I mentioned the existence of 2 mice... thus only half the problem was solved. There was still another pest scurrying about in search of more sinigang mix. There was work to be done, still.

As a segue, this story proves what the lovely Christine Jacob-Sandejas declares as the safety of MSG as a food enhancer. I now question the myth of a thief's usual trick of tossing dogs MSG laced bread to neutralize the canine threat, allowing for an easy loot. With the amount of MSG in a packet of sinigang mix relative to the body mass of the mouse (only about an inch and a half in length minus the tail), there is no way it could continue running around if MSG did have unhealthy components in them. I now declare MSG as safe and will not hesitate in using a ton of the stuff in future culinary efforts. Anyway, going back...

So after some disinfecting of the small cage that proved effective in trapping Roger, I set it up again in hopes of finishing off the job. I set it beside the refrigerator (where Roger was silly enough to wander off to) and went off for some celebrating (not exactly at Roger's expense, mind you) with friends.

I came back and as I took out a jug of cold water from the refrigerator, noticed the still empty trap. I wouldn't have made much of a deal of it at first had I not spied the other little critter, still alive and seemed to be taunting me as it ran across the kitchen floor. Maybe it's small little brain was still sizing up the cage, and hadn't decided on trying it out yet. Fine, I'll go check my emails first.

A couple of hours later, I went back to check on it and found the trap still empty, and almost on cue, the critter was underneath the stove, staring right at me, making eye contact. Damn, it knew.

Memories of my freshman high school experimental research design project came back to haunt me. In said experiment, I set out to answer the question of whether mice "learned", learning limited to their ability to negotiate a maze over several attempts and achieve better times with each attempt. Well, the experiment was a complete failure in its effort to draw any conclusion, due to the lack of sound scientific principles and methods, such as providing a control and utilizing the same experiment on a larger sample size. However as the evil and dirty rodent seemed to be taunting me and giving me the finger, I knew mice not only learned from the mistakes of their fallen comrade, but were also capable of holding a grudge. Instantly I named the second mouse Hammerstein, a sort of promise that it would soon be joining Roger in rodent hell, to be raped and tortured repeatedly for an eternity by a horny squirrel or chipmunk.

The humane cage trap that I've set now proved useless in my hunt of Hammerstein, a different tact was to be employed. I fished out my secret weapon, one that had been so effective at administering punishment and a cruel fate on other mice foolish enough to earn my disdain. It was a simple rig, a wooden base, fitted with a spring mechanism that when tripped, would send a metal bar crashing violently on the unsuspecting mouse. I had chosen in the past to replace it with the cage because of its cruelty, but it was either me or Hammerstein, and it was definitely not going to be me spiraling down to the sewer.

I took out the trap and dusted it, the spring was still taut, and the mechanism worked perfectly, ready for another victim. As I baited it, I was careful to slowly lower it in a corner of the kitchen, and soon enough it claimed its first victim for the night, as the spring was tripped and the bar swung violently, striking my thumb as I screamed out a harsh obscenity. Hammerstein 1, Hap 0. This was harder than I thought.

Nursing my thumb as well as my pride, needless to say, I was more careful this time as I set the trap and baited it on a more stable surface. It was now only a matter of time, and in this battle between the species, my slightly superior intellect should serve me well.

I turned on the television once again, feigning indifference. But this time I watched the trap intently ready to jump in delight at my impending victory.

I could hardly contain my excitement as I saw Hammerstein emerge from underneath the refrigerator, making its way past the cage trap (which I still set up as a diversion), and in careful hops, inched closer to the bait. It took one look in my direction before retreating back to its initial position. Dammit, did it suspect anything? I didn't budge, the worst I could do was reveal my interest in the newly laid contraption and give away my intent. I looked in the direction of the television this time but kept a wary eye on the trap, same tact that I remember my dad use so effectively many years ago.

Hammerstein emerged once again, seemingly emboldened by my apparent indifference to it and made a lunge towards the bait. It stopped short of jumping on the food, and took a whiff of the ambient air, trying to smell out any malice, I suppose. Then finally, it carefully reached its grubby hands on the still moist and inviting chicken tendon. Then it happened suddenly as I almost jumped on the sofa, shocked at the split second explosion of kinetic energy.

I crept my way towards the now struggling Hammerstein and inspected the damage. It was a morbid sight. Hammerstein struggled wildly, thrashing its head and forelegs about, as its tail and hind legs laid limp and immobile. Hammerstein's spine was broken. I stood there in shock and recalled the reason I bought the little cage in the first place, this was no way to treat another specie, specially if you weren't killing it for sustenance. Frozen for about half a minute, I knew I had to act quickly to at least give little Hammerstein some dignity in death. I ran to the cupboard to get one of my disposable containers, filled it to the brim with water and dunked the contraption and the still struggling Hammerstein to its doom.

After his quick last struggle, I freed Hammerstein's lifeless corpse from the deathgrip of the cold metal jaws and carefully plunked it down the toilet, to share a grave with Roger. Hopefully by this time, Roger was already dead, and wouldn't witness the fate of Hammerstein. I threw the cruelly efficient mousetrap in the garbage bin and hatred for mice soon turned into a sorry state of conscience.

I took a shower, an effort to wash off the guilt and made my way to the bar, numbing sorrow with beer and drowning myself as Roger and Hammerstein did to their death.