Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sorry Jesus...

I was watching something online (not porn) when a pop-up window suddenly, well, popped-up. Now, usually I'd be irritated and say a cuss word or two (or three) and close that nasty pop-up. But this time, as the last syllable of the first (of three) cuss words was leaving the tip of my tongue, the ad suddenly registered in my head... it was a pop-up window telling me that I needed to seek Jesus right then. Oh crap, did I just commit blasphemy? How could I be rude to Jesus?

How does the first line of the prayer for contrition go?


Now, I'm not really a religious person, but I do keep in mind some things that may be construed as sort of superstitious. I know these may be illogical and sometimes silly, but I've been brainwashed by a lot of people (starting with my mother, of course) to at least take precautions due to these. Just last weekend, I cautioned a friend about buying rice in the evening because I remembered this odd superstition that you were not supposed to do that. That also goes for buying nails, knives, wooden stakes and other pointy objects.

One of my favorites, which I still practice to this day, is to warn the imaginary elves, gnomes and other earth spirits to step aside because I'm gonna pee. Folklore tells us that if you do not give fair warning and accidentally pee on these guys, they're not going to take it lightly and will curse you ill. One variation goes on to say that they're gonna make your little one-eyed buddy fall off. This is primarily why I've always remembered it, I guess.

There are a lot of others, half of which I've already forgotten or dismissed as just plain stupid. One of them is that you can't clip your nails at night. This I don't get, but I assume that this was formulated during the time before electricity and Thomas Edison. Back then, of course, it was pretty idiotic to do that anyway because you were likely to cut off more than your nails in pitch dark.


One thing I'm worried about is my bed. When I was a kid, I used to watch the Twilight Zone and there was this episode about having monsters under the bed. I was scared shitless after that and couldn't help looking under the bed every so often to check if there were any under mine.

My dad kinda figured this little fear of mine and had a remedy, he put a machete under my bed, which was supposedly an old trick to fend off the spirits from visiting you in your sleep. This disturbed me a whole lot, though. It seemed to my mind that my dad was coaxing the monsters to kill me, even providing the weapon. Thanks, dad.

Present day, though, I do put a machete under the bed whenever I can as I've come to undo my fear of monsters and developed a greater fear of being broken into and killed in my bed. However, I've recently discarded my creaky cheap bed frame and decided to plop the mattress directly on the floor instead, leaving me no place to hide the knife under. So now I've decided that I've got to get myself a new bed frame, though whether I'm gonna build one myself or buy one off the store is still up in the air.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kid's stuff

I was taking in breakfast at the gas station this morning, wait, not really breakfast. It was just the coffee and cigarettes, no food. Yeah, pretty healthy start to the morning, I know. Okay, let's start over a bit more accurately:

I was having coffee and cigarettes at the gas station this morning, passing the time before I hit the office and start another dreary day. Like many other days, I was not looking forward to what lay in the hours ahead, this was just another dot in the path from one point to the next in my so-called life. So I just sit there looking bad-ass, or at least trying to be as bad-ass as I could possibly look like. You know the drill, try to look cool and aloof yet secretly ogle at every chick that walks past you. Of course we want them to notice us, were doing all this sitting around being bad-ass bit for the sake of them noticing us, but we don't want them to know that we notice them, because, well, that seems desperate. (Which in reality, we are) Obviously, this never really leads anywhere, but we do it just because it's inherently programmed into our hard drives, like those male lions who never really do any hunting but just sit there looking really rad and regal and important.

Yes, I'll admit it, men are idiots. But somehow I have this sneaking suspicion that I didn't need to tell you that...


Now, moving on to a smaller version of men, today was a Friday, which means whole legions of third graders are out on field trips. Why they do this, I've no idea. No one ever learns from these things anyway. All I remember from past field trips is that time when I threw out perfectly good Kool Aid from my jug to fill it up with free Coke.

Anyway, back to these little gremlins, a bunch of them (approximately 500 of the pip squeaks) were laying siege to the gas station convenience store. They were from my alma mater, a catholic boy's school who try to pack in as many students as they can into tiny classrooms with tiny chairs and tiny tables. They were friggin' everywhere, sorta like the cockroach infestation that I have at my apartment. I probably stomped on a dozen of the little buggers while walking to the counter to pay for my coffee. They were running, walking, hopping, slithering and turning somersaults all around without a care in the world that you couldn't turn a corner without bumping into one of them.

Walking to my table, I couldn't help but be irritated by the squeaks their huge, oversized basketball shoes made on the ceramic tiled floor. You see, it is a fact of life that parents will always buy their kid a shoe at least 2 sizes bigger than their actual foot size. This gives these parents the false hope that the shoe they purchased will last at least a year or two before their kid outgrows them. This also gives fair warning with each noisy footfall that the little runt is in the area and is undoubtedly up to no good. Unfortunately for parents though, it is a fact of life that little boys love having shiny new basketball shoes, preferably a knock-off from the latest season of the NBA. So their one goal upon getting their gigantic new pair of shoes is to wear them out and wreck them as soon as they possibly could, so their parents would be forced to buy a new pair for the next NBA season. You could just imagine the amount of whining, groveling, begging, tantrums, shouting and bargaining that happens whenever Kobe Bryant decides on a whim that he likes another style of basketball shoes better.

Then a hot teacher walks by. Young, vibrant, eager and full of life. You know, the kind that just started her career in educating these kids. She was surrounded by a phalanx of pre-pubescent boys, every one of them trying to get her attention by giving her candy or asking the dumbest questions (Teacher, why is that perv who's smoking and drinking coffee over there staring at your ass?) Wait, my mistake, not really everyone. The whole lot of them were merely distractions, while one of them was designated to try a grope on some ass or boob then tell everyone in class what it felt like. Lucky bastard.

Sitting there, watching the dynamics of the swarm, I couldn't help but look back at that time of my life. It was an odd time, the concept of the "future" wasn't there yet. All I could think of was that all this school crap was interfering with my career at playing marbles, or reading comics, or preparing for my impending smackdown with the Ultimate Warrior.

The good thing about being in a class of 500 is that you seldom get noticed unless you're either at the top of the class or dead last (or get caught trying to look down your teacher's cleavage). The relative anonimity that one gets is just perfect so that you could get a feel of what is to be the future, when a heck of a lot of us become drones and lose whatever feeling of being special our parents have imposed on us. Unlike the schools which offer extra attention to the kids by maintaining small classes and more supervision, my old school doesn't hand out awards and consolation prizes to everyone. That's the crap kids already get at home, at school you find your real place in society, which is something right out of a "Where's Wally" comic. Let's face is, high self-esteem is overrated anyway. No one ever gets what they think they deserve, only what they do.


Some of the kids gathered round a table, and took out their tops. Wait, I don't think they call it a 'top' anymore... Bey blades, I think is the in-thing. They've got this fancy plastic launcher and plastic spinning tops with blunted metal edges. Basically it's the same game only with different equipment.

I miss the old tops, those made out of hardwood spheres with a rusty nail sticking out the bottom. They didn't have any fancy spring-type launchers, though, only a meter-long piece of string with a bottlecap on one end. You wrung the string throughout the circumference of the top and use this whipping motion to let her loose. It wasn't easy, it took lots of practice and skill to pull off the perfect 1-minute spin. With more practice, you could launch the top in mid-air and catch it on the palm of your hand. It was a neat trick, though like all cool things, the 'chicks' never did appreciate it.

I owned only one top in my day, a rather heavy one made out of a dark mahogany. I used it for years and won a lot of 'money' (we used discarded cigarette packs as currency) with it. One time, though, one of the bigger kids joined our play and challenged us for our tops. This was a common wager then, he won't really take your top, but he'd be allowed to disfigure it with his own by taking a whack at it. There were 4 of us and 1 of him, we figured this was a fair opportunity to earn some street cred, so we obliged. One by one, the older kid beat us at every game, no thanks to his superior throwing technique which thrust his top at a spin that our puny little 10-year old arms couldn't match. After the humiliation, the punishment came. He lined up our tops, burying each into the ground so that only the tops stuck out. Then he tied his top securely to the string, and whacked away. Our tops were so disfigured that they never spun right after that.

So there we were, 4 kids desperately trying to fix our tops. When we realized that they were now worthless, we took them back home and cried over them.

That's right about the time we started playing with marbles.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reading up on the care bears

I find myself once again in Pagudpud, northermost point of Luzon island. In the same stretch of beach by the same resort where I spent a new year's celebration nearly two years ago. The weather has been intermittent from sunny to overcast, and I try to spend as much time as I can lounging around doing nothing.

The best thing about beach resorts would probably be how one can justifiably chug down beer in the mid-morning, while reading a book or writing this post. Life is good.


I'm finding myself in unfamiliar territory, reading not one but two romance novels. Yikes, I know. How could a man (a wimpy one, but a man nontheless) veer away from the biographies, historical epics and action novels, turning to the genre which he finds to be fantastic, pathetic and girly to say the least? Though a bit more "classier" than the Twilight series, these are still undeniably romance bits.

The first book, loaned to me by a friend, is a 4-inch western where cowboys roamed the plains and herded cattle, horses and jackasses. No, it's not Brokeback Mountain, just to set the record straight. It was a tough read at first, not being familiar with American history and having no idea what "mesquite" or "chapparal" are, but it kinda got interesting with the appearance of a lone whore in the only saloon in town. (I browsed through the book in search of racy scenes, so far found none) So now, I'm probably through a fourth of the book and have adopted it for bedside reading.

The second book came by accident, when I scoured through my humble library for a good read on a plane. Turns out the 4-inch monstrosity I've been reading won't fit in my backpack, so I needed a more travel-friendly alternative. My interest was piqued by a novel that I swiped off my sister a year ago but haven't gotten around to reading. It was a familiar title, having been critically acclaimed and all that, but I hadn't done any research on what it was all about. When I opened the cover 32,000 feet above the air, I was shocked to find that it was actually a romance novel. Crap. Good thing I wasn't in an exit row, otherwise the prospect of opening the emergency exit and chucking the book off the plane (along with myself and most of the passengers, though) might have been such a tempting course of action.

So now I'm reading two romance novels, one at home and the other for travel. So far, no signs of me transforming into a sappy, love-lorn little bitch has emerged yet, so that's a good sign. Maybe this care-bear fest isn't all too bad, and I might learn a bit or two about being "sensitive" to women and their "feelings" (yes, quote marks necessary).

Just to be on the safe side, though, I bought a hard-core Puzo-esque book recently, to shake off any residual "touchy-feely" emotions I might pick up. Heaven help me if those two books make me want to watch Twilight. (I swear, I haven't even as much as glanced at the trailer!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tell them I tried...

Awful day today... and I'm waiting till midnight to see if it can possibly get any worse.

First off, my phone's useless no thanks to a glitch in it's display. Everytime I slide the thing open, the display just conks out. So I'm either guessing who the heck is calling or have to plug it onto my computer to read the messages I've been getting. Sure, this has been going on and off for at least a week now, but today has been just impossible. I've switched to my sister's old phone temporarily, until I can gather enough beans to buy a replacement, that is. And from previous experience, the beans don't really come all that often.

Then my department has been downsized. No, not in terms of personnel (Whew! Odds are I would have been the first to go!) but in terms of the space we occupy at the office. To extract as much savings as we possibly could out of our electricity bill, we've been ordered to transfer from our 3rd floor offices to a tinier room on the first floor. The move starts by next week, 4 people and a ton of office furniture and equipment occupying a 3x4 meter space. By the way, the space we're moving into used to be the janitor's closet.

The highlight of the day, of course, was that fax I got informing me that we missed out on the career-saving project that I've been hoping and praying for all year. Perfect, now I'm an incommunicado sinking down to the lowest caste of the company structure. I wonder how much it would cost to rush that waiting period on a .45?


Of course I promptly informed my boss about the loss of the project. Had to put on a bit of an act to seem devastated at the turn of events, hopefully that would pare down the screaming that I was sure to get. The boss calmly looks me in the eye and tells me not to fret, "When God closes a door, He opens a window..." then looks out the window. Panicked for a moment when I saw him stare out in the open, I thought he actually meant I should take my sorry ass out the window and onto the hard pavement 3 storeys below. Wait, did he?


Before you go ahead feeling sorry for me and all that, don't. I'm a big boy now, I don't need your pity or that consolation ribbon that they give to everyone who did not win the science contest in the second grade so they feel like they actually accomplished something. In life, there are winners and there are losers, and right at this moment, I'm the latter. No big deal, someone has to lose. I don't consider myself a whiner, because it never helps any situation. Sure I've moped around and had fits and stuff, but only to blow off steam. Life is unfair in that you won't always get something for trying, the more you get used to this idea, the better off you'd be in the long run.

My dad and my boss belong to a generation of people who never believed in "trying". It's was either you did or didn't. If my dad asked if I'd cleaned my room, it was a strictly yes or no question. Whenever I tried to explain that I had finished with the drawers but left the sweeping til tomorrow, that was a clear No. If my boss asks if I got the sale, I'd better come up with a signed contract or a check before I can say yes. Just saying that we start the work tomorrow and they'd send me the check in a week would never fly by him. Sure, this seems a bit harsh, but guess what, the world is a tough place to live in.

So I didn't get the project, that means I'm responsible for the ripple effect that that particular non-event has set into motion. The sales quota would not be met, meaning there would be a deficit in the annual budget. To make ends meet, the company has a lot of belt tightening to do, which might cause some employees to be let go. This puts an end to their regular wages, and their families starve. Eventually the men are forced to a life of crime, their mothers endure slavery while their daughters become prostitutes.

The next time some of you go whoring, do tell them that I tried my best.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The man who saved Mondays

I succumbed to ice cream tonight. Yes, a moment of weakness that'll take months to correct. I came to the crossroad, one path leading to a healthy tofu dinner, the other straight to rocky road hell. I tell you, the road to obesity is lined with soft gooey marshmallows.

And the thing about temptation is that you can never stop at the first step. First, you look. Then you smell sugary, chocolatey creaminess. Then you touch it, and let the sinfully sweet syrup drip town your fingertips, until it threatens to drip to the ground. You save it with your tongue, and you taste it. Pandora's box ensues, and you're left with that lost expression on your face, unbelieving that you ate the whole damn tub. And you just know that was good, but it could be better.

You're in for it now, as you declare whatever day it is to be your official "sin-day".

So now I'm gorging on potato chips and a non-diet soda, having been released from guilt on this unofficial holiday.


The office was a dangerous place today. Snipers were eying my every move, not even bothering to camouflage themselves. To everyone, I was the evil tyrant out to undermine everyone's happiness. My calls never got to me, my emails ignored, and I've had to repeat myself every time I opened my mouth as no one cared to listen.

All because I was the guy who brought back Mondays.

You see, during the start of the year there was this big town-hall type meeting. Costs were skyrocketing, specifically electricity and fuel. Everyone was invited to share their ideas on managing the impending crisis. Proposals from decreasing the number of fluorescent bulbs in use to switching to daylight saving time were thrown around, the pros and cons discussed and weighed. Then one person called for canceling Mondays. He/she got the proverbial pat on the back from everyone, a hero was found!

What was my suggestion? None. At the time, I wasn't in the office. I wasn't even on the same altitude. I was 32,000 kilometers high up in the air en route to a business meeting 500 miles away.

Back at the office, everyone was high-fiving everyone else. Mondays were non-existent at the office starting the next week. Rather, office hours were scheduled from Tuesdays to Fridays, with 10 hour days. Everyone would come in half an hour earlier and leave an hour and a half later. The plan was that they would save a full hour of electricity (applying the DST rationale) as well as transportation expenses via the company shuttle service. Not only that, each person would also save on laundry, fare, lunch and get an automatic 3-day weekend. Classic win-win situation, it would seem.

But I disagreed. Yeah, such an ass, huh?

Because I was on the selling side of the business, naturally one less day kinda seemed ridiculous. I tried to have the scheme derailed, but the euphoria was at a high that it drowned out any protest that I made. So I made up for it with the only thing that was in my control, and had myself and one of my staff come in on Mondays. She hated me for it, of course, so we reached a compromise that she could take Fridays off instead.

The scheme ran for 4 months, in several variations depending on what work needed to be done. It dawned on them that Mondays were a busy day for most (if not all) the other firms we did business with. They tried working with a skeletal force on a rotating basis on Mondays, but this kinda defeated the savings that 4-day workweeks aimed to deliver. But by this time, they had grown accustomed to the schedule and were trying to get around the kinks to save it. There were vacations booked, dates planned and the thought of a 3-day weekend every week was just too fabulous to give up. It didn't help that the decision was made via consensus of everyone, because let's face it, people are idiots.

This marked my first serious attempt to have the scheme abolished, sensing a weakness. I pointed out the downsides of not having work on Mondays, the inconvenience we were causing clients, as well as to myself. Personally, I was irritated that things didn't get done on time. The half hour in the mornings seemed to be dedicated to eating their breakfasts (as the clients didn't come in before 8am anyway) and the hour and a half extension saw most people milling around the water cooler, doing nothing as work wasn't coming in after 5. I questioned how people were handling the workload, and how little work was getting done despite the extended hours. I got shot down of course, savings were still the priority, and whatever gripes I had could be worked out with a more effective system, they argued. The scheme lived on for another 3 months with more variations and fixes.

Today, I saved Mondays.

In the past 6 months, sales exhibited a downward trend. It had grown to an alarming rate that the big boss had me do a lot of explaining. A WHOLE LOT. I crunched the numbers, made forecasts, plotted charts, extracted whatever analysis I could out of what I had. Things weren't looking rosy however I looked at it. This didn't please my boss, I wasn't looking at the numbers hard enough, close enough. So I dug deeper, and meticulously combed each single account of the 600 regular clients we had. Each single one, dammit!

Then the answer jumped out from the numbers. We weren't losing clients, we were working slower. Thus, sales were turned around slower, creating an increasing rate of backlogs which are choking off sales. On the other end of the business spectrum, we were losing the opportunity to get to new clients "faster", too. So this clearly didn't help either.

Yesterday, I pitched this 'excuse' to the big boss. He sat back, thought for a moment and reached out for his phone. He called up our accountant to ask how much we were saving each month with the 4-hour workweek. The answer wasn't encouraging: P12,000. That was like half a drop in the ocean of our monthly expenses. Then came the dreaded words: "Are you sure about your analysis?". It was now my competence on the line.

The announcement was made this morning, to a groaning audience. People were in panic, offering other alternatives and fixes. When these were shot down, they pointed out the savings that we would be losing out on. Since this was now clearly negligible, pleas for a stay for at least a month were proposed. Sorry chumps, no cigar.

Of course, it was not lost on the other bosses to point out that it was due to poor sales that the scheme had been scrapped, and that I suggested it. Their tone reeked of a sabotage on my part. Crap. No one wanted to take the hit, so guess who the lucky goat is?

So if you're reading this, Monday, you better be friggin' grateful!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How I would never have become an orphan and grow up to be a superhero

Back when I was a kid, our family moved to my grandparents in Bacolod City because my dad lost his job. Me, my mom and my elder sister stayed there for close to a year, before my dad finally got his act together and we could afford to move back to Manila. It came down to a choice, return to the big city by plane or by boat? Mom had already bought us our tickets to a Manila-bound ferry when my dad decided to splurge some dough from his first paycheck and had us fly back.

We got to Manila via plane, the boat that we were supposed to ride back sank before it hit Bacolod port.

That tale, in itself, was already quite curious and I asked tons of questions about it and if we would also have died (hundreds perished in that tragedy) if we boarded. We would not have been able to board, of course, as the ship never made it to port in the first place. But then I insisted, what would they have done if we were aboard and the ship began to sink? I will never forget my mom's answer then, "I would have drowned you first.". Gee, thanks a lot, mom!


Okay, it might not be fair to have said that without the proper context. My mom had her reasons of course, which in her defense are perfectly rational.

Apparently, at the time both me and my sister were just a couple of toddlers who kept tugging at mom's apron just for the slightest second of attention that she could spare. It wasn't that she was too busy to spend time with us, but there was some sort of competition between sis and me on who was mom's favorite. Yes, selfish little brats, we were. Beyond this, there really wasn't much that we could do for ourselves. Thus, in case the boat sank, there wasn't much we could have done, so instead of us being eaten alive by sharks and suffer a childhood trauma for the next 10 seconds or so of our lives, they'd have to bite through our cold, dead bodies and leave all our happy childhood memories intact.

Didn't help, did it?

Perhaps you must also understand that our mom didn't know how to swim. In this case, with only the three of us to fend for ourselves, we would all have died anyway, so she reasons that it's better we go first and spare us further misery.

But what if someone took pity on two toddlers and saved us? Though this is not likely to happen, our mom also had a problem with this scenario. In her typical mommy paranoia, she would never entrust her kids to strangers. What if our would be rescuers were pedophiles? What if we would be sold off to slavery to cover some bet? What if we got adopted by really rich folks who would send us off to a stuffy boarding school, learn about the world at large, and we become powerful, filthy rich snobs? What if we were consumed whole by a whale, spat out in a weird and alien place and become spiritual leaders respected by all and feared by evil-doers? Or what if we survive and plot our vengeance against the evils of society, buy ourselves a cave, a really cool car and don bullet-proof superhero suits with long black capes and go after bad people? No mother would ever want this to happen to their kids, the possibility of enduring suffering without them to hold our hands through it.


Often I've heard stories about mothers giving up their lives so their children might survive despite being without them, and it does sound like such a noble act. But I can't really blame my mother for thinking the way she did. It does sound practical, and I've no question that she does have our best interest at heart because she always has. It's all just a matter of values, of culture, of perspective. At any rate, I sure am glad that the point of my mom having to decide our fate at sea never did come. I would never have understood the wisdom of her drowning us to death at that age.

Come a time when I need to make such a decision, I've no idea what the heck's the right thing to do.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bugs and bastards

There is a chance that as you are reading this, I'm laying on a hospital bed getting a massive blood transfusion. If ever I am, then I will most likely be in a flimsy gown, enjoying a sponge bath from a hot, sexy nurse who tells me that I've been a bad, bad boy in need of a spanking. Perhaps not, who knows?

The reason that a sponge bath might be forthcoming is that I got bitten. Last week, while I was chugging down a beer and enjoying one of many cigarettes that night, I felt a sharp prick on my leg. I looked down and almost fainted at the sight of the biggest friggin' mosquito I've ever seen. I swear, I thought it was a fly until I realized I was turning pale as an involuntary blood donor. I wanted to take a whack at it, but it was just so big that I was scared shitless at what it might do if I missed. Then there's the possibility that my blood would splatter everywhere, most likely on my beer, not gonna happen. After a minute or so, the thing flew off with a pint of my blood in its abdomen.

So here I am, 5 days after and there's still a big red welt where the bug stuck its proboscis (fancy word, ain't it? Thanks wikipedia!) into me. I'm almost certain that I've been infected with a myriad of diseases and my immune system is in a losing battle. I've been taking my own prescription of "antibiotics", specifically beer and rhum, but I skipped a day so I don't think it's gonna be as effective anymore. Must remember to double the dose for the next weeks to make up for it. Then again, there is just no substitute for the proven therapeutic effects of hot nurses, so I just might let modern medicine have its way with me, over and over and over again.


I was waiting for a text from a friend of mine this evening, hopefully some good news on a proposal I submitted for a big project. Not wanting to take any chances, I plugged in my phone to ensure that it didn't run out of juice for that important text or call.

Now it so happened that I had to go to the toilet, and of course I couldn't take my phone with me because there was no electrical outlet there. So I sat on the can and was starting to do my business when I heard my text message tone. Could it be that message? Ok, no need to panic, I'll get to it in a bit, I thought. Then I heard the tone again, then again, then another one, that's 4 messages in a row! This was definitely news, the urgency multiplied by the number of messages I got, I had to know RIGHT NOW!

I cut potty-time abruptly (insert really gross visual here) and ran out to my phone. There weren't any new messages, not a single one. Then I hear my text message alert tone again, waitaminute, that wasn't my phone... my neighbor had the same message alert tone as I did and had his phone's alert volume waaay up. I nearly shat my shorts in anguish. (quite literally, too)

I did the only thing I could to rectify the situation, I set my alarm to our message alert tone, cranked up the volume, and had the alarm go off every 30 seconds until I could conclude my unfinished crap. That'll teach the bastard some phone etiquette, I hope.