Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cable Paralysis

After Sky Cable (or whatever cable company) did an audit of the entire condo block and found out "glitches" in subscription (read: a helluva lot of illegal connections in our building), they decided to cut everyone's lines...and reconnect each and every one after "investigations" and "confirmations". As our subscription's just about done, with another month's worth forthcoming, me being broke, and my roommates on some extended hiatus from the house, I realized I wouldn't need another renewed cable TV subscription--considering I myself don't watch much TV; and I found it distasteful that I'm paying so much on cable subscriptions while the others aren't, yet still enjoys the same (or hell, more of!) channels that I paid for. So, I just ignored the notice for reconnection/renewal, spliced an old antenna wire, plugged one end of it into the back of the TV, thrusted an old fork at the other end of the wire, and hung the dratted thing on top of the blinds' tension rod. Voila, a makeshift TV antenna that receives local channels...and clear, too!

With this cable paralysis, it dawned on me: what about the Special Features, Movies of the Night, Feature Presentations, etc. etc. etc. of HBO, Cinemax, Starworld and AXN? Well, we have a trusty DVD player (THREE players, to be exact...including my notebook). That should quench our thirst for a motion picture. And with Makati Cinema Square being barely 20 minutes away, and 8-in-1 DVDs costing under a hundred, I'd say fuck the HBO specials and pop in a new, DVD- (or cinema-, whatever) copy disc, and we're in business.

Bless these movie pirates for coming up with these 8-in-1's (which come in boxes and boxes of 'em!), I wouldn't have to shell out lotsa bucks just to watch a new movie, nor would I need to pay lotsa moolah via Pay-Per-View for some classics of other box office hits that I missed in the big screen. (Oh, c'mon. Stop giving me that self-righteous, judgmental stare as if you yourself haven't purchased a contraband DVD!)

Got the Charlie's Angels collection. Loved the remake of the classic, but found the Matrix-y treatment rather over the top. Also bought the Miss Congeniality anthology. Snorted like Sandra in both parts. Played the Mission Impossible series. Tell me again, why I fell asleep watching the movie? Ooohhh...Tom Cruise. And, there was the Harry Potter collection: from the Sorcerer's Stone down to the Goblet of Fire. JK Rowling had me hooked and in anticipation of the next installment. Also watched the non-anthologies, i.e. the "solo" movies, mostly new, others ancient. And here's a "mini-review":

The Sound of Music. Oh yeah. THAT The Sound of Music (wait...I don't think there was ever a remake). I just figured, I've watched it one million years ago, it's time to kill some more hours doing nothing in the condo, with cable paralysis. Funny, Floyd and Jun-jun (er, Ronald) have NEVER EVER watched the film, and thus made me and Arvin feel ancient. Whatever. So-do-la-fa-mi-do-reeeee.....

The Lake House. WTF? Inconsistencies, sappiness, loopholes, predictability. And did I mention implausible? Geesh. Talk about The Twilight Zone (which I'm still searching to date).

Closer. WTF x2. I felt like I watched Pride and Prejudice AGAIN...which is SO unlikely. Sorry, Maits, but I just don't dig stories about women preparing themselves to be wives. I guess I've broken bread with way too many feminists.

Mga Pusang Gala. More than anything, it's the quotable quotes: "Even a goldfish has a heart...blahblahblah...because a body without a heart is just a carcasssssss". Yeah. Bring it on. So reminiscent of Temptation Island, with killer quotes like: "Rub-a-dub-dub, two bitches in a tub" or "That's a lot of shit (pronounced SHEEEET)". Note to self: gotta stock up on more of those kitschy movies...

Yours, Mine, Ours. Cheaper By the Dozen 1 and 2. Oh god. I failed to check who the script writer was for each movie. Wait a minute. Maybe it's one and the same. Go figure.

And as the single title CDs came pouring in, I found myself lurking by my suki DVD stall and looking at boxed sets of seasons-by-seasons of TV series. Could I handle the marathon? Would I have the will power to cut a season/series four-, five episodes short of the ending when sheer exhaustion would creep in? Should I choose X over Y or over Z? Decisions, decisions...

I ended up with my pioneer TV series: WB's Smallville. For 500 bucks, I got all five seasons...in five DVD-9 discs. I remember watching the first episode of Smallville on a legit dvd of Season 1 while I was staying with my friend Willard in Vegas, by Sahara and Nellis. I started watching, and before I knew it, I was already on episode five. I was hooked. But sadly, 'twas time for me to get going back home, so I never got to watching it. So, with this boxed set, I was able to catch up and make up. And boy, did it get me, Floyd, Ron, and Daniel hooked. Thanks to Smallville, we all got insomniac and would blabber about characters and storylines for hours. Superpowers? Damn. I'd patiently lay on cornfields waiting for falling asteroids if I could get just one of 'em powers. But seriously, Lana Lang's just overstaying. I think the network should just axe her. Now that hottie Lois is in the picture, I say get her and Clark doing some REAL HOT action (OK, OK, sorry, I got carried away). With Zod finally getting released and Clark being banished into the Phantom Zone as the season finale of Season 5, I find myself these last couple of days downloading episodes one to five of Season 6. Thank God for DivX, a nifty filesharing forum, and high-speed cable.

After getting Kryptonized with Smallville, we called for a two-, three-day marathon hiatus. And then me and the girls from the office footloosed to my suki DVD stall again. Maits got Supernatural, Sex and the City (ALL SIX seasons) and Bones, Ella got Friends (ALL TEN seasons) and I think The OC, Grace got some Koreanovela boxed set, and I ended up with Dora the Explorer pack (well, that one's for Jasmine!) and 24.

The same night, Jack Bauer was introduced to us in my condo and the first 4 of the 24 hours unfolded so fast our dirty dishes already crusted in the sink as we sat watching. 24's all four seasons (that's 96 hours or episodes!) came in five discs and cost me 450 bucks. Night after night, Jack Bauer and the whole of CTU would be with us in our living room. I realized at some point that it was bad for my health--not just because I couldn't seem to press Stop/Eject on the remote because I'd get too giddy to get on to the next episode despite the ungodly hour of 2 or 3 in the morning, but because I find myself vicariously watching how the story unfolds. And I'd feel very much involved in the story--the deceptions, the treachery, the greed, the pure evil. I'd catch myself cussing and yelling at a character, or worse, hyperventilating and getting REALLY angry at a character. How's that for empathetic?! We followed Jack from an abduction, to a virus, to an assassination plot, to a sacrificial plane crash, to a terrorist bombing, to a nuclear bomb, and to a consequential arrest-and-shipment to China. And now, yes, I am awaiting its season premiere on January. In the mean time, I'm contenting myself with watching the previews for Season 5. So now, I'm holding my breath...as I use the CTU telephone ring as my mobile phone's message alert tone.

In an interim from one boxed set series to another, I came across the trailer of a now defunct, "one-hit wonder" pilot episode of
Aquaman from the WB/CW network merger. I struggled to download the DivX rip of the one and only episode via my trusty Limewire Pro, and managed to complete the whole AVI file after nights on end of downloading and/or staying on queue to get the download ticket running. I wondered...why did the network axe the life and the subsequent episodes of Aquaman (who, incidentally, plays The Green Arrow on Season 6 of Smallville, and is a love interest of Lois Lane. Two hot people on to each other. Yum) to make way for Veronica Mars? Like, duh?

While going through the DVD marathon break, Alet swapped dvds with me--my Smallville for her 2 seasons of Desperate Housewives. Maits, likewise, loaned me her Supernatural DVD. So I guess that should break the hiatus.

Floyd and Arvin started with their Desperate Housewives marathon. But since DH is actually considered a rerun to me (I've watched some episodes back in the US already, then watched both seasons on my computer via DivX downloads courtesy of Yayie-gurl), I started watching Charmed. I got all eight seasons for just about 600 bucks. And while I'm at it, I'm also downloading seasons 3 episodes of DH, which have already started showing in the US. So far, I've downloaded and watched episodes 1 to 4. I've also finished downloading all episodes of season 3 of the 4400, which we've already started watching, too. And as soon as I'm done with Charmed and 4400, I'm heading back to Makati Cinema Square to get The Dead Zone, CSI: NY/Miami, House, and Grey's Anatomy. Unless someone's already got 'em and would loan 'em to me for a couple of days.

God. What the hell am I going to do with all these boxed sets that I've watched already? Hmmm....ebay USA? Yeah, right...and see me go to prison for infringement of the copyright laws. Yaiks. So I guess it'll be my own personal mini-library then. Reruns ain't too bad, are they?

Now if you'd excuse me, I'm queueing downloads of The Last Temptation of Christ, and Como Agua Para Chocolate...and Phoebe's starting to show skin in Charmed. So, THE END.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kneel Before Me

I thought getting incapacitated, movement-wise at least, would yield me more time to blog. I guess I was wrong. But I'm back, I've got a couple of drafts in my Blog Dashboard, and I'm planning to finish and post at least one or two. So stop whining already.

As part of my company's work-life balance program (which, to this date still has to be formally launched), me and my cohorts from the Training Department banded together to make a fitness program take off. After all, the Bonds and Legal Department have already joined forces and came up with their own Tae-bo class every Thursdays. Taking that as our cue, we reserved the executive lounge on a Monday after work (and all subsequent Mondays, until the Christmas give-aways arrive for stacking, that is) and organized a yoga class with none other than me, myself and I as the appointed yogi. Well, I was qualified: although I lack formal yoga lessons, I've had substantial involvement and attendance to yoga classes back in Marianas, the US, and Guam, and not to mention a stack of books on yoga and pilates, and videos of the same type. So, with our CD player and makeshift yoga mats/towels in tow, we marched off to the lounge and perspired the hour away, capping the session with a five-minute advanced abdominal exercises.

A couple of days after session one, the sides of my left quadriceps (I believe that's thighs to non-anatomy lingo folks like us) started hurting, some sort of a burning pain as if I was stretching it overextensively. I dismissed it as a natural reaction to the stretching, and I went on with my daily routine--including regular every-other-day workouts at the gym. Little did I know that that almost-negligible pain was going to do a maximum overdrive weeks later.

I was sleeping on my bed, and the kinetic, rootless me unconsciously moved into a fetal position and thus bent my knee. It snapped. Or at least that's what I thought I heard that snapped, which woke me up in the first place, next to the excruciating pain on my left leg, that is. It took a while to get my knee straightened up, and as soon as I did, it wouldn't bend back. I came to work the next day limping, with every step seemingly causing more pain than the first. I decided all the Ben-Gay (yeah, yeah, laugh at that, you ass) and Alaxan Gel and Salonpas and Advils/Ponstan ain't gonna cut it for me anymore, so I headed to Makati Med.

Doctor Number 1 told me that I should have an MRI done because she couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with my knee. And since an MRI test wasn't covered under my company's health care package, I decided to ask for a second opinion. I went to Doctor Number 2, an orthopedic surgeon, in St. Camilus Polyclinic in San Antonio Vill, Makati. After a one thousand bucks X-ray and a quick peek at the plates, I was told by Doctor Number 2 that I had a case called Patellar Subluxation. Patel... Subluxwhat? Patellar Sublaxation. That's the technomedical way of saying my kneecap (patella) is fucked up and is a crazy fidgety bone that wouldn't stay in its axis. Apparently, this was either due to trauma (for a while there, I thought it was emotional trauma...but then after all the operations and trips to the hospitals I've had in just less than a year, trauma doesn't seem to be such an alien word) or is a congenital condition. Nothing major or serious...it's just that any maladies with the word "genital" scares the bejeezus out of me, that's all.

Doctor Number 2, after saying that I need to immobilize my knee for three months, gave me two options: buy a knee immobilizer and use it as long as I can, or have my left knee cemented with plaster of paris. I closed my eyes and tried to remember the hassle I went through the last time I had a finger on my right hand cemented, and I decided to choose the former option. The next day, I was headed to Bambang, Sta. Cruz to purchase the damned knee immobilizer, as medical supplies are generally cheaper in that area. About an hour later, I was onboard the LRT wearing the knee immobilizer and having such a miserable time descending the flight of stairs (tell me again, why doesn't LRT1 have any fucking elevators???!). Even hopping in and out of a cab was such a tormenting experience. My only consolation was that I get to remove this contraption everytime I had to take a dump and take a shower.

After some time of wearing it almost 24 hours a day (and going to work while in the process...what a fucking loser), I had this strange feeling of calcification in that area directly behind my knee. I could just imagine how painful my subsequent therapy was going to be if it hardened any further. So I decided to visit Doctor Number 3, a sports therapist recommended by Chrissie, who happened to be her therapist for her acute scoliosis.

After showing and orienting Doctor Number 3 on my condition, he casually but seriously told me that the immobilizer must go, and that I should go forward with my therapy. Fuck the almost two grand I spent for the immobilizer, but it had to go. So I went to my scheduled therapy, thrice a week and shelling out 1200+ per set (three sessions, that is); underwent mild electrocution of the knee, hot compress, and a series of painful exercises. Even bought ankle weights from Toby's so I could do the exercises myself at home. After two weeks of no improvement, I was advised to have a steroidal shot directly on my knee. I said I'd give it some thought...and I ran to Doctor Number 4 at Makati Med.

Doctor Number 4, after being briefed of my now pretty much memorized spiel on my condition, advised me to go directly to an orthopedic surgeon at Makati Med and talk about the possibility of going under the knife. Yaiiiks. So went to friends, contacts, nurses, relatives and other concerned people, looking for advice. I was finally referred to Doctor Number 5 at St. Luke's.

Doctor Number 5, apparently, is a renowned sports therapist and is the surgeon/therapist of the Professional Basketball Association players. More than the fear of a painful operation and therapy, it was the possibly exorbitant professional fees I was terrified of. Double yaiiiks. After having given him an abridged version of my patellar spiel and having shown him my X-ray plates, I was told to not worry about surgery...just yet. He gave me some sets of exercises (which are EXTREMELY and EXCRUCIATINGLY painful, mind you) which I can do at home for the next three weeks. I have to do it religiously lest I might really go under the knife.

It's been two weeks, give or take, and so far I've seen some improvements. It still hurts like hell when the temperature/weather gets cold (yeah, yeah, arthritis/rheumatism my ass), and it refuses to unlock at times, but at best, I'd say I'm better. At least now, I don't have to lug with me my four-footed steel cane or wear the fashion faux pas of a knee immobilizer. I can walk better, but still can't run or kneel or sit well. In time...in time. But for now, I'd have to settle with the improvements, no matter how minute or negligible. One thing I know for sure: I am doing this self-therapy religiously rather than do surgery. In a couple of days, I'm scheduled to go back to the gym after two months of rest. I bet Gold's Gym hasn't changed a bit...

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

A Mélange of Q&As

More of the slightly more mature version of the grade school and high school autograph book questions... Feel free to cut and paste, change the answers, and email/YM 'em to me.

* Your guilty pleasure.
Eating sinfully sweet ice-cream and/or (how about AND, not or?!) cake while being a couch potato.

* Cat or dog?
Neither. I can't have 'em in my condo anyway. Bummer. But if I really had to choose, I'd say dog. Specifically? Siberian Husky.

* One gadget you cannot live without.
Make that three: My Palm LifeDrive, my Creative Zen mp3 player, and my Sony Ericsson W810i phone.

* One person you can't stand.
Kris Aquino...and occasionally, Regine Velasquez.

* Most risqué thing you've ever done.
Have sex in a public beach, and also sex at the UP Lagoon. Hehehehe

* Most important person in your life.
I'd have to say personS: my family.

* One place you'd rather live other than where you are right now.
Italy or Greece.

* CD playing in your CD changer.
You mean in my mp3 player? I'm on random mode, but right now, it's Kenny Lattimore's For You.

* You cook?
You bet your brown arse, I do. My specialty? Grilled Black Tiger Prawn Vietnamese Wraps.

* A movie/song that would immortalize your life.
Movie: Mr. Holland's Opus
Song: Bagay Ba Sa Kin Ang Kulot (NYAHAHAHAHA); I'd say Stronger

* Biggest fear.
Terrified of spiders and cemeteries. Fear of getting caught doing something bad.

* Sexual fantasy.
Threesome, in a public place. Yeeeeaaaaah.

* Biggest frustration that you'd want to do something about. Soon.
Not being a pilot. I'm seriously considering doing laser surgery of the eyes to achieve 20/20 vision, and then enrolling in a flying school.

* One decision/act you wish you could undo.
Having stayed in the US longer than I should have.

* One thing you don't have anymore that you wish you could have again.
My ME time, where I didn't have to worry about anything or anyone...where I can just read a book or surf for hours or sleep till 3pm cuz of a hangover.

* Your fashion sense.
I'd say I have a pretty good fashion sense. I'm more a street to casual to formal getup.

* Most fun thing you've ever done so far.
Whitewater raft in Cagayan de Oro.

* One thing that grosses you out the most.
Sight of exposed feet and open toilet doors while eating.

* Your biggest talent.
I'm a performer--I dance, I sing, I entertain.

* Biggest turnoff.
Physical: Bad breath and body odor.
Attitude: Incorrigible liar.

* Worst habit.
Depression shopping.

* Part of your body you wish looked better.
My flabs, my skin, and my teeth.

* Career/business you want with all your heart.
Career: I am doing it already--Training...just hoping for a bigger pay and greater employment package (sigh)
Business: I have a foodcart right now. I'm planning to become a supplier of gourmet food to a restaurant, or join ownership of an espresso bar.

* One thing that ticks you off.
I have really low tolerance for incompetent and dull people.

* Type with the right fingers on the keyboard?
Oh yeah. FINGERING's my thing. LOL

* Idea of a perfect date.
A walk by the beach, barefoot, either sunset/sundown or nighttime under the stars. Champagne or martini would be nice. And maybe cap it off with making love right there.

* Current hair color.
Dyed it Thai Tamarind.

* Pairs of shoes that you own.
Including the ones that I left in the US, I'd say 40-50 pairs. The Kenneth Cole's my favorite.

* Do your own laundry or bring it to the cleaners?
Cleaners. Don't have time to do it myself.

* Signature clothes or generic brands?
Signature and a handful of generic. Hell. As long as they're comfy.

* On a scale of 1-10, how evil are you? (1-Satan's distant cousin ten-times removed; and 10-devil incarnate/anti-Christ)
I'd have to say 6. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

* Vanity or necessity?
Vanity. Ehehehehehe

* Ever taken drugs? What kind?
I've tried doobies and E. Only once, though. And I'm not an addict! Hah.

* How much you love your job.
Scale of one to ten, nine and three quarters. But I'm not talking about the company.

* Single store you've ever maxed out your credit card(s).
That would be Banana Rep, or the Gap... but then again, eBay always maxes me out. LOL

* Obsessive-compulsive?
Hell yeah.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Idol Country

It was back in Marianas when I first had a taste of American Idol. No, not the first season but the second one: the one where Reuben Studdard took the title. It was the season where "non-Idol materials" (e.g. fat, nerdy, unpopular, and bordering on ugly) such as him and Clay Aiken first appeared...and actually won. It was also the season where almost everyone had talent. Well, almost; close, but not quite.

Year after year, season after season, American Idol has got us all glued in front of our cable TVs and downloading and listening to scores of mp3s from all seasons. I even remember voting via phone and SMS for both Camille Velasco and Jasmine Trias, just to show my support for the Filipino talent...though Jasmine didn't exactly own up her obviously Filipino lineage. I was in San Antonio TX that times when I actually TiVo'd the first two episodes of AI3 so I'd be able to replay it again and again 'til my ears bled. And then there was season 4, and it was almost the same thing for a whole lot of us. And don't forget the "localized" Idol competitions like--in my company's case--Pioneer Idol (where there were "two seasons"...the second being Pioneer Idol DUETS), or the PhilAmLife Idol, or Earth&Style Idol, blahblahblahIdol. Give me a company with a singing competition, and you've got yourself a "mini" Idol franchise. Ah. Freemantle Production's really got us big time.

And then, with all the Idol franchises sprouting in practically every corner of the globe (Freemantle's really "we're in the money" [remember that John and Marsha quip???]), a new franchise emerged. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for ABC5's official franchise of Freemantle Production's Philippine Idol. And we're not talking a "cloned" Idol production here, or anything on the league of Pinoy Pop Superstar (with a Regine-ish ear-shattering accent on POP) or Star in a Million. This is THE American (er, Philippine) Idol at its most original...or so we anticipated--replete with the "'official' stage", the requisite state- (er, nation-) wide search, the three judges, the supposedly-snazzy host, and of course, the long--no, LOOOOOOONG--queues to get an audition.

The talks about the auditions finally surfaced after about one gazillion "Philippine Idol: Malapit na!" teasers were flashed on TV and even print. Apparently, there will be an audition in Luzon (which is THE main audition), Vizayas and Mindanao...and you can actually have a "Fast Track" pass to these auditions: that is, by pre-auditioning at any SM malls. Supposedly, if you passed these "Fast Tracks", you're entitled to a priority number which would make you a demi-god, and not have to queue up for the main auditions to be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Made me reminiscent of the miseries of enlisting to a single friggin' subject--usually elective and communications classes--back in college at UP: the queues (or the REALLY early morning [try 4 fucking AM] queues/camping that would rival the pre-1800 number scheduling with the US Visa interviews), the bullheaded enlisters/registration committee members, and of course, the "enlistment priority number". You'd come in REALLY early, literally camped in AS building, #4 in the queue, only to be told five hours of waiting later that the EPN to be used were "last three digits"; and since your student number's XX-08379, you're fucked up big time because the asses that arrived ten minutes before that EPN announcement was made were lucky bastards because their studenent numbers--all six of them--end with a 012, 009, and 035. Fuck Fast Track.

As if the "palengke" approach to the auditions (if you don't get that, picture this: SM mall, you onstage, 500 other wannabees listening in, together with about a few thousand passersby who are either shopping or just killing time, your voice blaring in the mobile system, and a couple of non-professional judges) wasn't enough, the auditions' requirements themselves were hysterical. Among many other over-the-top specifications such as copies of birth certificates, police clearance, and the works, the age requirement was what killed my hey-I'm-almost-REALLY-feeling-this-fever excitement: they had an incredible age limit of 28...as if talent ends on that age. Dammit. I'm two years overaged.

My officemate friend Chrissie, amidst all this Idol Fever, came up to me and told me that I should join the Philippine Idol...not just because of my talent, but also because she's dead sure that I'll be getting lots of votes from: (a) friends, (b) officemates, (c) then-dates, (d) students, and (e) "fans". I just laughed and told her that I knew I may have the chance of getting into the finals, but that my age was going to be a major hindrance. My voice lessons teacher Agnes likewise told me that I was "seasoned" enough to join this supposedly-prestigious talent and popularity contest. When I told her about the darned age requirement, she just snorted, told me to fake my birth certificate, and proceeded with choosing my audition song as if I was actually going to push on with falsifying my official documents just to wedge my way in this contest. Wow. I bet other people wouldn't think twice.

As I sulked in the office corner of my bedroom, connected to the net, I visited a forum related to the Philippine Idol competition (how desperate was that?!). Apparently, there were other "oldies" like me that share the same sentiments about the restrictive age limit. Upon reading further in the forum, someone--bless her naiveté--tried to console us oldies by saying, and i quote, "It's OK, [username], American Idol naman started with the same age limit with the batch of Justin and Kelly. Every year naman, tinataasan nila ang age limit by one year. Tingnan mo this year, the AI winner Taylor Hicks is already 30 years old! So, just hang on...darating din ang time mo." I almost had a coronary. I couldn't help it; I dropped her a note. I said, "[username], sweetie, I'm 30 years old now. Two years from now, when the age limit has been raised to 30, I will be 32...which makes me STILL overaged."

Sigh. OK, fine. You children enjoy the limelight. You'll turn 30 soon. And when you do, I'll be doing my Celia Rodriguez laughter. But until then, I'll be holding my breath...and rolling on the floor laughing my ass off with the William Hung equivalents.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Tagaytay Chronicles

Take a group of college friends and their boy/girlfriends, husbands, kids, yayas, relatives and mix 'em up with 4AM pickup points, sunrise hunting, boat riding, volcano hiking, burnt clutch and brakes, a jamming session, pigging out, pictorial sessions, and hot coffee all in one day, and what have you got? A riot.

First things first. A background on the group "Astrokids".

Astrokids is a misnomer for a non-astrological group of friends from UP Diliman's College of Public Administration batch 1997. Or, OK, maybe just a *teenie bit* astrological. It all started with PA 132 under Haidee Arandia, where me and my friends would sprint out of that 530-7pm class just to catch the last few segments of the then-familiar telenovelas of Thalia. Right after we catch it on RPN9 in a half-colored, half-black and white TV in my boarding house in Pook Dagohoy, we would all convoy to one of the fishball vendors over at Vinzon's Hall (or around the area) where we would devour scores of fishballs, kikiam and squidballs, and gulp bottles of Mountain Dew and Pepsi. 'Twas in one of these street foodfests where Nolet blurted out her now immortal quip, "Sarap 'to ah!", which now pretty much describes how "delicious" and enjoyable our youths were...college days to be exact. Right after these foodtrips, we'd most often head up to the UP Observatory right by the outskirts of the Narra Dormitory. In here, where we'd most likely be the lone group, we'd just hang out, look at the stars, pretend to "own" or "represent" one (mine's actually the brightest one, "Sirius"!!!), and whine and talk, and just be ourselves...a couple of college kids trying to make a difference in our--and other people's--lives...all but tiny specks of dusts under the vast universe of that evening sky above us. So, why Astrokids? Oh, c'mon. If you still haven't figured that out by now, I don't even know why I'd bother explaining.

It's been so long--way too long--since the Kids were complete in any get-together. If my memory serves me correctly, it had been during the Yuletide season when we were all together as one big riotous family. And in-between, there had been sporadic dinners or meetings or impromptu gatherings...but never the whole group in one crazy bunch.

With this in perspective, and what with the impending arrival of her cock-a-doodle-doo boyfriend Ed--who we all love to tears, mind you!--Carissa (aka Ogis/Manuk) organized a "drop everything, we're going to Tagaytay this Saturday" get-together some time Monday or Tuesday of the very same week we were going. And knowing how most--if not all--of our long-planned and carefully-organized get-togethers were botched at almost the last minute, I had an almost certain feeling that this one *was* going to push through. And, of course, my blog entry titled Baguio or Bust is but a testimony to the Astrokids' knack for spontaneity (or notoriety for planning way ahead of time and cancelling a day or two before the planned event ever materializes). So, a long and seemingly-unending email and SMS exchange later, we have finalized our itinerary: meet up at 5am with our respective rides (in three convenient-for-all locations, mind you), catch a glimpse of the Tagaytay sunrise at 545am, have *really* early breakfast at Breakfast@Antonio's, go swimming/boating/hiking to Taal Volcano via the Tagaytay Yacht Club, have late lunch (must I say *feast*) at the Olaes residence, do a tour of Tagaytay Highlands, go to Bag of Beans, buy pasalubong, and then head for home by 8pm.

At 9pm Friday, while watching Smallville DVDs in the condo, Floyd and I were busy stuffing 30 one-peso pandesals with corned beef hash for my family recipe, paradadas (aka corned beef hash french toast). After coating all 30 with egg and dry-frying 'em all, I carefully laid every single piece in a large Tupperware container lined with 2-ply papertowels, and got ready for bed. At 420am, I was up preparing breakfast and getting ready to leave. By 445, I panicked about being late, so I called Carissa. I was relieved...turned out, Alet was late, so they can't leave her house yet to pick us up at Starbucks-Waltermart. So we took our sweet time. When we got to the pickup point, we still stayed for a good 10-15minutes before the caravan arrived. A few pleasantries and kantiyawans later, we were rolling off to South Super Highway...with the sun already rising on the horizon. Now that's two X-marks on our To-do checklist.

By 630am, we were rummaging through shelves of the Treats convenience store by SLEX. We all sat outside to have a quick caffeine-rush, do some readjustments in our itinerary, freshen up, and smoke. I brought out my paradadas Tupperware and offered it to the seven others to munch on. Now, you better believe me when I say that all 28 corned beef hash-filled pandesals were gone faster than I can finish reciting the ingredients to it...and 'twas only onions, tomatoes, corned beef and potatoes that I had to say, and not my secret seasonings. What's funnier was that we found out that Alet and the people in the other car brought corned beef for food as well. No wonder Libby's, Palm, Argentina, and Purefoods are getting wealthier.

We arrived at Antonio's around 8am. Guess what one of their specialties is. Yep. Corned beef hash. It was hilarious I had laughing fits for ten full minutes...which was even aggravated by an incident with the head waiter regarding the playing of an audio CD (read: I was asking him if I could play my Bossanova CD [that time Sitti Navarro] on their CD player, considering it was just our group and another small yuppie-looking group. He responded by saying that they don't have fresh ones at the moment, and that only the dried variety was available. Turns out, he thought I was asking for SILI. Anggandaaaaah [borrowing Ricky Reyes' "twang" to say that]). 'Twas my very first time to eat at Antonio's. I've tried the other restaurants that belong to their chain, but in my honest opinion, Breakfast@Antonio's doesn't really measure up to all the hype. I mean, the waiters don't exactly make you feel comfortable and important, the food isn't exactly tasty (I'd trade Jolly Jeep any day for a warmer smile from Manang), and the price is just ridiculous. Well, yeah, there's the ambience: the breath-taking view of Taal. OK. Fine. I wouldn't mind shelling out some extra moolah for the fresh and inviting breeze of Nature's breath, which one never gets in the Makati CBD.

Dozens of photos later, we headed to Tagaytay Yacht Club. En route to it, Loony blurted out the quotable quote of the millennium, "Coco Lumber...Hhhmmmmm (as if it were the most juicy delicacy)". She's famous for that: unexpected quips and hirits (like, "Yuck, Ben, wala kang puwet!!!" [and now that my ass is nicer, thanks to the Jessica Simpson lunges, who's laughing now, Loony?? Hahaha]). And with Brownman Revival on the CD changer, we traversed the zigzaggy road down to Taal. Merely 10 minutes of driving to go, we got a frantic SMS (wait a minute...how can an SMS be frantic???!) from Twix saying that the brakes of their then-downhill van don't seem to be working...and their van's the one with all the kids as passengers! We had to come back for them, helped them park at the far corner of the curb and set up a pseudo-camp in the very same location. Seeing that the only answer to the brakes problem was to wait for the mechanic that they called in, we stepped out of the van/car, found our corners and shades, and started doing our thing--reading, texting, direthe works. But after a while, Floyd pulled out his guitar and the trusty 1001 song/chord book...and then we all started singing--from Carpenters to Lilet to Mike Hanopol to Kenny Loggins to Cyndi Lauper to Sampaguita to APO Hiking, we sang it....for the next one and a half hour that is. By the time the mobile mechanic arrived and finished the repair job, it was already past 10. Crab, a couple of days later, was apologetic that she caused this unplanned delay/detour and prevented us from going to Taal earlier. Big baloney. I think, in retrospect, the highlight of the "fun" part was concentrated on that almost two hour detour. We bonded, kid around, laughed a lot, sang like crazy. Wasn't that what we wanted to achieve anyway? So, Crab, no apologies.

We wasted no time when we got to the Yacht Club. In less than 30 minutes, we managed to park, change clothing, grab our gears, rent a boat and head off to the foot of the famous Taal Volcano. The ride along was awesome, what with the unsalty water (it's a lake, remember?) splashing violently on our faces--and the heavy splashes menacingly following Alet whichever side of the boat she sat (and needless to say, wetting her immaculately clean denims)--and the postcard-worthy scenery (oh, wait a minute, those ARE in postcards!). When we got to the bay of the foot of the volcano, we were literally swarmed by the locals, i.e. to peddle their services with horseback riding up to the top of the mountain. But at 600 bucks just for a lousy 40-minute ride, we all decided to trek the dirt road going up the mountain...but that didn't stop the peddlers to walk ahead, around and behind us to keep offerring their horsies, and in the process demoralizing us that the road ahead, no matter how long we've taken, was so long and winding we weren't even an *eighth* of the way! Bastards. Just when I thought all the sales-/psycho-talk weren't going to cut it, I--being the tail scout of the group, making sure everyone's well accounted for in the trek--noticed Alet huffing and puffing and not looking at all good; and then I remembered: she has a heart condition! Without even waiting for her to think about it, I bargained with the nicer manongs for a one-way horse ride for her up the mountain; and up she went, leaving me nothing but a great view of the horse's ass. On the way up, the Yacht Club caretaker caught up with me, and we talked a bit. Apparently, it had been more than 40 years since Taal last erupted. "Great," I thought, "now would be a perfect time for it to resume its active status, with me and all my friends and the rest of the perhaps-50 other visitors at the summit". I shuddered a bit, inspite of the scorching sun. After a while, I realized that I was on Tretinoin treatment...which means absofuckinglutely NO sun for me. So I took off my shirt--exposing my glorious body of flabs and pox marks--and made a ninja-like mask of it for my face. We reached the top barely 30 minutes since we started walking, beating the "normal" trek time of 40-45. We were delighted, if not relieved, to just see the cottage at the top...especially the bottles of mineral water that were sweating of its own dew. After fifteen minutes of resting, bitching, drinking, laughing, storytelling, and of course picture-taking, we started with our descent. In less than 45 minutes, we were back at the beach front, and later on at the other side of the lake where the Yacht Club was.

We headed to the Olaes place immediately, most of us itching to just shower and change into fresh clothes. Few minutes later, we were eating like pigs unleashed in a muddy pen filled with corn husk...only in this case, there was no mud, and instead of corn husks, there were loads of great home-cooked meals. To this day, I still wonder how and why my gastrointestinal tract survived my "kasibaan" with nilaga, corn on the cob, fried fish, ripe mangoes, nuts, more corned beef, and fresh buko juice. But, hey, even if my stomach did haul up (or down, whichever is less graphic) my many orifices, I'd still eat those foodies anyday. Burp.

Not wasting any more of the remaining daylight, we ran off to our respective cars for our convoy up to Tagaytay Highlands...but not without grabbing some more of those yummilicious corn on the cob that were freshly boiled as our baon. Our first stop was the chapel ('twas Sunday and we all realized that we weren't able to hear mass), and then walked to the clubhouse. And of course, with every single step and with every little movement, one of us would grab his/her digital camera and/or camera phone (as was in my case) and take snapshots of us to keep those beautiful memories remembered.

It was a riot--as always--in Tagaytay Highlands...especially the pictorial sessions with the whole group. At a certain point, I cringed at the idea that we were such photo hogs...and then dismissed the thought as silly, as we hardly do these bonding activities together anyway. With our camera's memory sticks almost full, we called it a day/night, and headed back to the Olaes residence to grab a quick dinner, reshuffle the car assignments, and then headed back to Manila. But before we did that, of course, I did another helping of the kasibaan foodies. Ehehehehe. And then we parted ways with some of the Kids who have kids as they still have work the following day. The rest of us still went to Bag of Beans to visit Ed's cousin who, apparently, owns or manages the place. It was getting cold, and we were mostly tired and sleepy, but we still enjoyed a cup or two of their famous coffee and hot chocolate (for me). And, of course, took pictures...again. ;)

When we headed home, I rested my head on the neck rest of the car and closed my eyes. When I opened them, thinking I just closed 'em to rest my tired eyes, we were already traversing Roxas Boulevard! Holy smokes, I slept the entire trip home. I was REALLY exhausted. But it was well worth it.

I was on half-day the next day due to a bitch of a migraine...and the dreaded diarrhea. Need you ask why?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Eat Me.

As far as I know, sex is the greatest "invention" ever known to man (or the helicopter position, to be exact!). In my book, nothing beats raw, animalistic, screamfest, nail-scratching, fluid spewing, sweat-drenched, and thrown-across-the-room orgasmic sex...except maybe the knife cuts, boiling oil splatters, and onion-induced tears when I am cooking. Ah, the orgasms--er, JOYS--of cooking. I'd trade it any day for sex.

I started coking when I was in the US Pacific back in 2003. Prior to that, the extent of my cooking skills was limited to reheating and seasoning pre-cooked foods. Back in '89 when my sister and I were plucked out of the comforts of our house in Bataan to go study in Manila and live in a hell-hole of a studio-type apartment in Sampaloc, my Mom would prepare Tupperwares and Tupperwares of home-cooked meals that would last us for weeks. And even though she made meals that would give Kamayan or Via Mare a run for their money, I had to season it and add extenders...in an effort to stretch any meal further by a couple of days, just so I'd enjoy Mom's home-cooked meals longer. That was how I perfected my "seasoning skills", thanks also to the countless years where I was the official "tagatikim" and food critic during town fiestas when my Mom and Aunt Solly would whip up a banquet of excellent food. On top of my "seasoning skills", there were really no other feathers on my cooking hat...save for some occasional messed up Sunny Side Ups, half-burnt corned beef, and a couple of disintegrated fried tilapias. That, until I stayed in Marianas and Guam.

At first, I foolhardily convinced myself that, like dem Americans (aka Haoles) I was then canoodling with, I could subsist on a diet courtesy of McDonald's, Long John Silver, Taco Bell and 3-Minute Microwave Meals. Boy, was I terribly wrong. Don't get me wrong; l do love these food chains...but not on a 7-day, 3 square meals rotation.

I believe it was the day after Thanksgiving when I realized I had enough burritos and McNuggets to eat. Snatching the keys of my Scion, I drove to the nearest Payless Supermarket and prayed to a Pinoy God that there was an Oriental Food section in one of the aisles. I was blessed. There were actually TWO freakin' aisles. With a vivid recollection of the tastes of my Mom and Aunt's feasts (and not to mention my Mom's incorrigible habit of recycling food), I mentally calculated how the food I was going to make would taste even half as good...and then started dunking ingredients into my cart.

With leftover turkey that could feed the Desert Storm US troops, and with really no on-hand recipe but simply a recollection of the sensations to the taste buds, I whipped up an impromptu version of Lechong Paksiw...with the help of the bottles of Sarsa ni Mang Tomas that I got from Payless. Lechong Paksiw ala Thanksgiving. How's that for East Meets West? The bunch that ate it (who, if I may add, has very discriminating taste...which makes you wonder where 'twas coming from, considering their staple food was bought over the counter!) gave it dozens of thumbs up, raving about how good my "teriyaki" was. Teriyaki my ass.

From "teriyaki" to sinigang to kare-kare to tempura to pancakes and omelette royales, I jumped from food taster to full-fledged unofficial chef. But no thanks to that, I am no longer the unexacting food critic. Ever since I've learned how to cook, eating out has become a taste and quality test of sorts: is it bland, too salty, overpowering cayenne or cilantro or turmeric, a bit soggy or crusty? Similarly, I would be on a constant "autopsy" of every new and interesting food that I'd be eating--discovering and experimenting how to replicate its taste, texture and presentation. So far, I've been successful.

So upon moving in a new condo, I made it a point that it had a kitchen, for obvious reasons. So when I found a nice condo with a spiffy kitchen but with no stove exhaust, I was devastated. I signed the contract and had the contractor drilling and piping for a brand-new, albeit makeshift, exhaust fan. And in no time, the exhaust was up and running. And although it took me five months to finally complete the kitchen/cooking ensemble, in retrospect, the wait was well worth it.

The very first meal cooked on the brand-spanking new single burner--whose LPG was courtesy of Maita and Chrissie--their belated birthday gift to me!--and everything else new (from the pans to the knives to the chopping board to the wooden ladle, name it, they're all newly-bought hours before the first dish was ever cooked) was my very own version of my mother's sopas. Having scoured the Fresh aisles of the supermarket earlier for hours, dunking ingredients into my shopping cart, I have cut and sliced every conceivable vegetable and spice to mix in my sopas. I even threw in a couple of broken spaghetti to add to the elbow macaroni to give it the Charry (my mom) touch. Yes, I guess I could get Oedipal when it comes to my mother's cooking.

The sopas was just the start of an almost daily ceremonial cook fest. The main room of the condo, despite the strong exhaust fan in the kitchen, would inevitably smell like either a Chinese takeout resto or a Mediterranean al fresco cafe. And that's not to say that it smells awfully good. ;)

To date, I've cooked paradadas (it's my family's specialty: imagine French Toast but without the milk and sugar, and corned beef hash stuffed in pandesal [which I cooked for a trip with the Astrokids to Tagaytay...and was gobbled up--all 30 pieces of it--by them in a record-breaking time of 10minutes!]), tempura, crispy kangkong, hoisin stir-fry, mixed veggies with oyster sauce, siomai/dumplings, quail eggs wraps, pancakes, spring rolls, chicken breast with olives, afritada, chicken with cream of mushroom, garlic mashed potatoes, spicy tomato sardine soup, garlic eggplant salsa vinaigrette, beef puttanesca spaghetti, and even chocolate coffee gelo. My friends are still waiting for my hoisin-marmalade Vietnamese prawn wraps. Stay tuned now, will ya.

So far, the only idiosyncrasy I've had was the automatic photo op of every meal cooked. And yes, in saying that, I have the pictures of my foods to prove that I ain't just blabbering.

I am aware that it is so much cheaper to just eat out (spending about 400 to 600 pesos PER meal/cooking doesn't exactly spell out c-h-e-a-p, ya know), but when I'm in the kitchen, I feel like a different person...and I am totally in control. I don't get that all the time. Especially with takeout. And not even with sex.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Boiling Point

It's lunchbreak. In between mouthfuls of Chicken Tepanyaki, ampalaya and rice (demmit, nag-kanin nanaman ako pakshyet), and reading my friends' blog entries, it hit me that it's been more than a month since my last entry...and to think there was a long weekend and hundreds of idle lunchbreaks that came and passed me by. I guess it's because of all the freakin' DNA (Developmental Needs Assessment) sessions, pending program designs and PowerPoint presentations, imminent subpoena for alleged pilferage of funds (don't ask), unwatched episodes of Seasons 4 and 5 of Smallville, and the chef-role-playing at home (stories later). So, I'm taking advantage of these next 30 minutes to write an entry before I head out to Italiannis to meet Maita and Chrissie. I had to pass the lunch because I'm ultimately broke and can't afford any meals beyond a hundred bucks. What a loser.

After two hours of doing lower body exercise at Gold's gym last night (note to self: it's upper body tonight), I came home to an empty condo. Apparently, everyone was either out or sleeping in their respective rooms. As I was getting out of my sweaty workout clothes (I had to wear the same clothes because my oh-so-dependable laundrywoman just miraculously made my long sleeved shirt smell like unwashed feet...which I was able to smell properly in the evening, when my sinuses decided it was done being too clogged for the whole day), I started hyperventilating: the whole room started spinning around me, all colors turning into some monochrome swirls, a faint buzzing in my ear, and a considerable--hell, TOTAL--shortness of breath. My whole body seemingly got the cue and then started acting up all at the same time. I felt a cold sweat trickling down my spine, gooseflesh appearing here and there, and episodes of close-but-not-quite seizure-like muscle spasm. Anxiety attack.

To risk sounding like a nutcase, I've been going through similar episodes in the last few months. And in saying anxiety attacks, I am not necessarily referring to big-time, full-blown outbursts of biological abnormalities...but even simple (?) beast fits. Not quiet like Tourette's syndrome but something that could just as well be a disease.

After years of being timid, equipped with protracted patience, having given in to just about any requests, and having been too hard on myself to fulfill my self-inflicted responsibilities, I think--somewhere in the middle of all the niceness and tranquility facade (?)--I snapped. And, boy, did I snap hard.

The littlest of things tend to make me mad lately. And sometimes, these episodes of anger escalate to rage. And, although I am yet to kill someone to actually fall under the category homicidal, I couldn't say that I am exactly the old Ben. I remember Nolet "briefing" Pink at some point that if Pink managed to get me mad, then there was probably one major transgression committed against me...as it really takes A LOT to make me mad. Apparently, those days were neatly nipped, tucked, and stashed away in one of my old shoe boxes under the dresser.

I was watching an episode of Smallville some days back. In it, Lex Luthor was joining an anger management class (kinda like those AA Meetings...which you'd wish was a trendy thing here in the Philippines) for hitting a parking official's car with a golf club. He was talking with a fellow attendee, a female doctor, who told him she was there because she once kicked an orderly. When asked why she did that, she said, "because I have a low tolerance for incompetence". A chord or two were struck inside of me. I was like, "Holy smokes, I *am* her!"

I hate it when people--especially loved ones--are either pesky (i.e. the ones who'd do something [to you] when they, in fact, already know [because you've told them time and again] that you hate that thing) or plain dumb (playing it or otherwise, nothing irks me more than incompetent and retarded people). Why can't people just be...normal?!

I do not know how this all started. The littlest of things piss me off. My heart rate isn't exactly slowing down to plateau level anymore. And I am almost always on anxiety attack mode. Right now, I am in desperate search of a good and effective anger management class...and I do have a strong desire to, to use my colleague Paula Popple's words, find pockets of kindness in everyone everyday of my life.

Somebody help me before it's too late.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sa Totoo Lang, Thirty Something Na Po.

I am coming out of my closet. The showbiz closet, that is. Yes. I have a showbiz-related confession to make. I am not exactly a fan of Kris Aquino…her in all her GameKNBaTheBuzz DealorNoDeal (where I think Toni Gonzaga’s Meal or No Meal is so much more believably exciting) etc etc etc etc glory. The last time I watched her, i.e. in Sukob, my deep-seated animus of her sheer existence was just set in stone one final time. For the love of God, where was the acting in all the screaming and unconvincing fear? Geesh.

But our love-hate relationship is not what this blog entry is about. I just thought of her—albeit fleetingly—because, as I was channel surfing, I happened to chance by a local channel showing her shampoo commercial where she was cheekily disproving the fallacious (ahem) observation that she looks “twentysomething” because of her hair. Right. My pupils are dilating on my irises at her every syllable. Somebody give me that arrhae from Sukob and give it to her, and let her abruptly jump from a church belfry.

Well, that seemed to be a rather fierce prelude to my real story.

With that out of the way, lemme say, yes. I am now, officially, thirtysomething na po. And I stiffly blink at the “-something” suffix, but—as my ex Joyce vehemently chided me—I am really, yeah really, thirty ONE…because my 30th birthday is, technically, the “celebration” (celebration my ass) of my thirty years of existence…ergo, I am NOW thirty ONE. So, fine. Thirty ONE it is.

To celebrate my thirtieth—ahem, thirtyFIRST—birthday, I went to Bohol to unwind and grumble and intellectualize my existence: where have I really been thus far? The unlucky soul to have gone with me through this trip of cogitation and whining was my partner in crime and roommate Floyd. And, boy, did I feel OLD being with someone who’s actually three years my junior…and that kept making me think about that every few seconds. Great. Floyd, when you’re already checking the 30 – 35 tick box in the “Age” section of your application forms, see me…and watch me do the Bwahahaha Dance.

It was a fight between Palawan and Tagbilaran. I realized, since we weren’t staying more than four days, Palawan would be a wasted trip…because we won’t enjoy it to the fullest. So, with both Cebupacific e-ticket printout, two overnighter duffel bags and my cowboy hat in stow, we boarded the nice planes in the old NAIA domestic terminal (which, incidentally, was a terminal I have never used before) to go to Bohol. A delay of almost two hours and a lunch-less (try Dewberry biscuits and C2 Green Tea for lunch and tell me if you’d be Mr. Congeniality) flight later, we finally arrived in Bohol, with Eva waiting for us and waving her Matig-a Seaside Pension Inn placard.

I called my relatives a few hours prior to boarding the plane and told them I was en route to Tagbilaran. And since the last time I visited the family (my father’s side, that is), I was—what, an embryo?!)—about 5 years old or so, lemme tell you…practically the whole clan was shaken, stirred, and turned inside out: planning impromptu dinners, meetings, and more get-togethers. What a perfect opportunity to reconnect with my roots.

So in between get-togethers and drinking sessions and whirlwind dinners and habal-habal rides, we actually found time to visit David’s Salon (where gossip and glamour magazines date back to 2003, mind you, and haircuts cost a hundred bucks), buy Nike Free for P2900 (down from P4600), and blimp out on native cuisine that would cost about one THIRD of Metro Manila resto prices! And, oh, we did manage to see the Loboc Children’s Choir’s rehearsal room (unfortunately, they were in school when we got there), take snapshots of our Mini-Me’s—the tarsiers, and take a cruise at the Loboc River.
We also managed to check out the Blood Compact site in Bohol, see ancient churches (like the Baclayon Church), and commute to Chocolate Hills (where Floyd met a rather nasty accident: as it was the feast of St. John the Baptist, people had this crazy leisure pursuit of throwing water at buses passing by…with the water still inside the Goddamned water bottle! I was giggly when the gushing rain and the first few water bombs simultaneously happened…until I realized that Floyd was already hurt and I was, together with a handful of the passengers, already drenched with God-knows-the-source-of water). Most exciting of all, we got to kayak in the open sea (well, OK, just within the corded perimeter of the “safe kayak zone”)…and all for free, thanks to our golden voice, which managed to impress the brother of the owner of the resort where we were doing karaoke. ;-)

The vacation leave was cut short because I had to fly back to Manila and participate in the new workshop-talk that the company was launching. Bummer. So, since I was needed to help roll out this program, I scratched my scheduled full week vacation (er, forced) leave…and yes, had to work on my birthday, the 28th.

Before leaving the office, my roommate SMS’d me to please buy lechong manok for dinner, as his cousin from the US was visiting and was conveniently invited to dinner at our place. Perfect. I wasn’t in a guest-entertaining mood at the time because my phone was not working for the nth time and I had to bring it to my technician Reynon for one more shot at fixing it. Add to that, the rain just all of a sudden poured and traffic was horrible, not to mention my being drenched both with rainwater and sweat. How’s that for a comfy, pampered birthday evening? Needless to say, I was dying to go home, change and rest…sleep the freaking birthday off.

When I came about six feet from the condo elevator, I realized that our unit’s lights were off, and that there was—unless I just imagined it—some faint flicker of candles or something like it in the darkness. I just knew that something was up.

When I opened the main door, my roommate told me to just put my bag down, covered my eyes with his hands, and walked me to our room. I definitely knew something was up. When I opened my eyes (and the overhead lamp was lit), shouts of “Surprise!” pierced the earlier silent room—all coming from the loves of my life: Daniel, Floyd, Sheila and Grace…and with them a box of homemade lemon cheesecake with two foreboding numerical candles in dead center…3 AND 0. Yep. You saw the damned photo in my other blog called Thirty Eeeeks.

Oh, yes. I did well up. Big time. Thank God there was no camera at the moment!

There was spaghetti—my favorite semi-sweet Pinoy style tomatoes with red hotdogs, and tuna in olive oil—in huge stainless steel containers; the lechong manok that I bought from Andok’s earlier; more lemon cheesecake (the ones with no wax drips, that is) and revel bars, courtesy of TQ; and sodas everywhere. Whew. Food was good for a platoon…and yet, there were only five of us.

As if the surprise wasn’t over, I was told that there was more. Floyd opened my laptop and showed me their top secret video surprise: a mini-MTV and video greeting from precious people (Paolo and Patrick, Sheila and Grace, Jav, and Chris and Maita). I was deeply touched by the efforts. I must admit, it was a great surprise birthday party.

It was actually a two-in-one, since aside from my party, it also served as an impromptu housewarming for my buddies (we’ve been planning a damned housewarming since March 2005—yessss…FIVE—ever since I moved in (and now moved out of) my Santillan condo. Finally, a soft-housewarming. Don’t worry you guys, now that I have a new stove and a fully functional kitchen exhaust, we can, once and for all, do a real housewarming with cookout sessions. I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you. Being thirty ain’t too bad after all. Not when I know that there’s you guys loving me no matter what and who I become.

And, oh. Thirty is the NEW twenty…have I told you that? ;)

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Ano raw??! (Fourplay)

One million years later, I still haven't found time to actually sit down and compose a coherent blog entry. So, for now, let my snapshots (not of myself, you dingbat) entertain y'all.

1. Tell me...is it really?

2. Quite what?????!

3. ...ang nota, pare. and pitutuy. ang ari. ang sandata. ang titi. demmit.

4. Don't you DARE throw a different brand of sanitary napkin...

5. Pucha. Blast from the Past ang title nito...!

6. I'd like to see you test this in Aisle #6, Ma'am... [thanks to Shy for this pic!]

7. Well, well, well...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Thirty Eeeeks

Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek. Eeeek.
(ok. at least not for another five hours...officially.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ano raw??! (Triple XXX)


1. "You complete me."

2. Ganda brip mo pare. Niiiiiiiiice.

3. Have you met Goliath and his bag?

4. Yessssssss. Alive! Alive! Alive forevermore...!

5. Know. I don't NO you!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Thank You. I Needed That

Hardly seven hours had passed since my last instance of broken heart and spirit today. From 11am until a few seconds ago, I have been masking the devastation over my recent failure with a fake smile plastered on my about-to-reveal-itself face. Now, alone in my cubicle, with just a handful of people remaining in the 7th floor, I quietly wept...not for anything, but just to get the pain off my chest, to get it over and done with.

About six years ago, Miss Saigon arrived in Manila. To my mind, the signs were all there--my company was insuring it, my voice was getting more mature and full, and the schedule of auditions were opportune for me--thus, I decided to hop to the Cultural Center of the Philippines basement in order to enlist for an audition slot. I remember having been very proud of our very own Lea Salonga when she played the lead role Kim at West End. Back in first year high school, using my well-saved allowance money, I bought a double cassette of the original soundtrack of Miss Saigon. I actually photocopied my friend's CD liner for the lyrics, so I could read-along, if not sing-along, to every song in the tape. I have virtually memorized each and every one by the third day of constant listening to it; Why God Why and Bui-doi, being my favorites. I dreamt of landing a role in the production. I didn't care whether it was being in the Chorus or one of the "extras"...I just wanted in.

When I turned 17, screening for Miss Saigon Germany came to the Philippines. I was too young, so they didn't bother hearing me sing. I was just simply told to come back again next year. The following year, I missed the next screening. Either I was too busy with school, or they didn't come at all. To this very day, I still do not know. At 24 years old, equipped with a more mature, more masculine, and stronger baritone voice courtesy of practice with the UP Singing Ambassadors in college, I finally convinced myself that if I don't make it to this Manila season of Saigon, I'm never going to make it anywhere.

I prepared for the audition, May 25th 1030am, by daily rehearsals, memorizing, singing in front of the mirror, refraining from cold drinks, and actually going up to the rooftop of my office every lunch and coffee breaks to rehearse at the top of my lungs. Come Thursday the 25th, I boarded the MRT to Taft silently humming my audition piece--Bui-doi.

The hall of the audition area was packed with performer wannabees. I was number 648. When my number was called, I nervously went inside the audition room, walked feverishly into the X-mark on the floor, and prayed the Our Father about one million times in my head. The two auditioners asked me what I was singing, and when I said Bui-doi, they asked the pianist to take it from the lasts chorus. I sweated like a pig. This song is best sang in a gradually raising pitch, not by hitting it on the highest note--that is, the THIRD fricking chorus. With yet another Our Father in my head, I sang the first note. I miraculously hit all the high notes and sang it completely albeit nervously. Upon finishing, I got about five seconds of silence...and then a "Thank you." I have been rejected. I grunted a disappointed sigh, and walked towards the door with my head down. And then one of the auditioners called out, "Wait. Can you stay while we discuss you?" For the love of God, the panel is discussing whether I should move on to phase two (the dancing) or not. It was the longest 30 seconds of my life...only to be told for the second time those two words that I normally like hearing under normal circumstances, but not at that particular moment: Thank you.

I texted all my well-wishers that I didn't make it to Saigon. I got a handful of sorry's and it's-OK's. But I wasn't calmed. I was welling up, and just about ready to breakdown...but I couldn't, because I couldn't afford having the just-cried eyebags when I was actually on my way to work. I kept the pain of rejection locked inside my chest and masked by a fake happy face. The day finished and so did my act. In the shower, as I was caressing my face under the running water for the hundredth time, I wept. And, boy, did I weep hard. I guess you could say that I did not take that rejection too well.

And now, like being thrown into a time machine, I am reliving the same experience all over again. Only this time, it wasn't Saigon but Hong Kong Disneyland...and I was so much older and so much more prepared and qualified.

In preparation for opportunities and events like these, I enrolled in voice lessons. Some time later, when my teacher was already telling me that I should audition for something professional in singing, I finally got convinced that I was, indeed, ready.

The audition process was almost identical, except this one was held not in CCP but in San Miguel in Ortigas. I was 30 minutes early for my 10am call time. I was number 39. My two music sheets were ready and taped and numbered and highlighted: Out There and To Where You Are. When it was my turn, all the nerves started calming down. I *knew* that I was qualified and ready for that singing part. And I have prepared well.

On my 16th measure in the music sheet, the male Caucasian auditioner held his hand up and said to me the same words that broke my heart six years ago: "Thank you" and then followed by "That's all we need for now". I was prolly transparent about my disappointment that the white female one told me, "You are perfectly good in your voice range, but we are looking for a powerful high classic-rock tenor." I just smiled. That smiled translated to, "Oh, what the fuck. Like THAT will change the fact that I am NOT going to HK Disney!"

I was "re-devastated", just like Saigon days. Only this time, I was truly surprised that I wasn't as pained/shattered as the first one...but nevertheless hurt and disappointed.
As I was walking semi-dazed from San Miguel to Shangri-La Hotel (where I had to stay a while, sit in the lobby, and just let the feeling of disappointment pass), I had a thought: "Why do I keep bothering to better myself in the vocal department when nobody from where I want to be doesn't want me anyway? Perhaps I should just quit." Every step I made, every cadence, just staccatoed the depression and the newfound feeling of being dispirited. I did decide to just throw in the towel and abandon my cause to make it in the performing arts...until five minutes later when all the support and comfort poured in.

Sheila and Grace were the first ones to cheer me up. I was just with them the night before my auditions, when I told them that I really have set my eyes and heart and mind on doing Disney. Sheila texted me and said that I shouldn't feel bad about it, because it was prolly not meant for me; at least not at the mo'. Grace actually called me after having belatedly received my notice that I flunked the auditions for Disney. She said that she just wanted to make sure I was OK and not so devastated, knowing how much I wanted this part; that she was almost certain that in her book, I really would've gotten the part. Maita texted also and said something really sweet: that it was actually Disney's loss that they did not hire me, and that I shouldn't really feel so bad because she's proud of me anyway for even just mustering my courage to audition. These words would have sounded baloney or hardcore bola under normal circumstances...but at the mo', they felt more like words of love, support, and encouragement. So, thanks girls.

Pink also talked to me on the phone to tell me it was OK, and to make sure that I was, indeed, feeling OK...despite the fact that I said in an earlier text that I was walking almost aimlessly and would have to sit somewhere to calm my nerves.

The most touching and encouraging words I got, however, were from my voice teacher Agnes, whose reputation is being one of the University of the Philippines' best altos. She immediately texted me when I told her I failed: "That's OK. Just keep auditioning. You have a great voice." I smiled a little getting that from her, so I texted back: "Thanks, Agnes. Your confidence in me means a lot." She replied by saying: "I know a great voice when I hear it. And plus, your musicality is also very good. Just keep trying. Your time will come."

Thank you, I needed that. In times like this, when people are at their lowest, it helps to provide comfort and support, and a whole lot of love and compassion. And it is in these times when one really gets a glimpse of how much blows he can take...and when he needs help.

Upon closing my phone inbox, I had a renewed attitude: why quit when I can just continue the development and preparation where I left off? Let this failure, this dent, be a reminder that I am a strong man who can move on by learning from this experience...that this failure, which did not fully break me anyway, will--as the cliché goes--only make me stronger.

I will move on. I will do better. I will continuously improve myself and stand firm and resolute amidst trials and future failures. And the next time I write a blog entry regarding an audition, it will also be with these words: Thank You...I finally made it.

Of course, this renewed positive attitude did not, at all, stop me from buying a brand spanking new enormous Diesel watch (aka Manila City Hall Wall Clock) to cheer me up. Nobody ever said I could not buy qick-fix happiness anyway.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Row Row Row Yar Boat

The flight to Cagayan de Oro was more than an hour long. I didn't, however, feel it because I was engrossed watching episode 21 of Desperate Housewives DivX rip in my LifeDrive. By the time the "next week on Desperate Housewives" teaser was on the screen, the pilot was just starting to flash the fasten-seatbelts sign, and the flight attendants were just doing their last round to ensure that all the seatbacks and tray tables were on their upright and stowed positions (ehehehe).

Everything was happening pronto--the descent, the landing, and our deplaning--except for one thing: Ella's luggage took forever to get spat from the plane and into the conveyor belt aka The Goody Carousel. Note to self: never check-in early, as cargoes, apparently, work on the last-in-first-out Accounting principle!

After setting up at the Cagayan office for the next day's seminar, Ella and I "footloosed" to--drumroll please--the mall (LimKetkai, to be exact). As we were really starved (for some reason, we lied to Noel, the branch manager, that we were full), we went on an almost wild-goose chase to find a good Cagayan-unique restaurant in that mall. We settled for dimsums, fresh lumpia and sarsaparilla from Goldilocks. Hehe. And then we went scratching around the mall for great bargains. I got me nothing. I was too busy looking for a frickin' Sun Cellular 24/7 Call and Text card (for my Yes Dir, reporting for duty poh! calls), but got nothing. Yes. Nothing of either the great bargains or the damned call card.

Noel arrived and fetched us to go have dinner. Since Ella and I have both eaten--on separate occasions, that is--at the Cagay-anon resto, which is where, supposedly, great food is served the Cagayan way, we decided to try something Manilaesque yet uniquely Cagayan. We went to B's-something Pizza...where we had, to my knowledge, the best pizza ever. I promised myself to bring home one or two pizzas to Manila...but of course, forgot to. Idiot.

The seminar was routine: 830am last-minute set-up, and greetings to the long-unseen colleagues from the branches, most of whose names I've already forgotten. The sessions were so engrossing that day that we finished Day 1's session at 330pm! By then, a proposal was brought up: what if we continued with the lessons/topics for day 2 and finish it on the very same day, instead of dispersing and then re-convening the next day; that way, they get to spend more time with their families on a Sunday. Upon getting a consensus (er, major agreement), we did finish days 1 and 2 in one day, finishing at a little after 7pm. By dinner time, there were already talks of plans for the next day, i.e. for us who had no families in the area (and Ella and I who are simply tourists for a full day and a half more!). We decided, right there and then, to try the whitewater rafting scene where Cagayan de Oro is famous for.

After a hurried shopping craze for slippers/sandals, t-shirt, and board shorts, and a quick call to the whitewater rafting operators in the area, we were all set. Were we excited? You bet your brown Pilipino arse we were.

At exactly 6am, I was already doing my morning crunches (thanks to my 8-Minute Abs video clip) and psyching myself up--like I needed any!--for our prolly-once-in-a-lifetime adventure that day. Having donned my bandana, slipped into my new slippers, and pulling out just enough cash (P1200 for the whitewater rafting fee, and about P500 extra money) from my wallet which I left in my overnight bag, we headed out the hotel to meet Noel in his car. We passed by McDonald's to grab some sausage and egg muffins and some coffee, and then headed for SM (yes, yet another ShoeMart mall in our weekly branch stints!) where the rafting organizers were going to pick us up. About fifteen minutes later, a jeepney loaded with people inside and about four red orange inflated rafts on top pulled over infront of us. Ted, the operator, greeted us, collected our money, and made us sign waiver forms (now THAT was one way to instill in us that, yes, there MAY be a possibility that we could die because of force majeure...and that that couldn't be their fault!). We left for the drop off point shortly.

A couple of veteran rafters greeted and interviewed us during the travel. One actually served as a tourist guide and was giving us a blow-by-blow of what landmarks (or even simple places) we were passing. One was also pre-orienting us and preconditioning us on what to expect. We were definitely excited we almost either shat or peed on our seats.

When we got to the drop off point, the organizers prepared the rafts as well as the rest of their paraphernalia. They gave us Dri-Bags to put our mobile phones, etc. that we were bringing onboard the rafts, so that they won't get wet or damaged. Noel supplied us with SPF 50 Nivea sunscreen, which we liberally applied all over our bodies. We geared up with the requisite vests, helmets, and our ownly weapon: our paddles. After a quick orientation while half-immersed in the water--Easy Paddle for a relaxed paddling, Hard Paddle for a more intense paddling, and Back Paddle for a reversed-direction paddling--we boarded our respective rafts; joining us were experienced paddlers Cernan, Poco and Stephen. At least we were certain that there were, at the very least, three people on the raft that DO know what they're doing! We held on to one of their most important orientation notes: if and when we fall in the water, we must not, under any circumstance, try to fight the current...or we could die hitting the rocks or drowning. Great. Our Father which art in heaven......

The first rapid, aptly called the Buena Mano, was a fun ride...and it gave us a feel of what to expect in the next 14 more. We gave each other "high fives" using the heads of our paddles each time we conquered one rapid. We likewise enjoyed the view, as we passed by enormous rock formations, caves, swamps, and snake-infested cliffs. We even alighted from our rafts twice or thrice to actually be inside the caves and take pictures.

At quarter of noon, we stopped over at one of the uninhabited field-like area with just a bamboo table and some chairs, so that we could have our lunch. The rest of our companions each have Tupperwares and stainless steel containers and Thermoses and water jugs, while the three of us only had our miserably flattened Sausage and Egg McMuffins and a liter of mineral water. The rest, being the hospitable, friendly and kind Cagayanons that they are, offered us a plate of rice and pork, which I did not decline. I was famished after all those paddling and being under the sweltering heat of the sun. We shared jokes and stories and expectations and Manileño-Cagayanon idiosyncrasies, and then headed back to our rafts to finish the rest of the five or six rapids.

After the second rapid of the afternoon, aptly called Kiss the Wall (which we later on called Kiss My Ass) because of the risk of hitting the wall if we did not synchronize our paddling efforts, we alighted and enjoyed a quick spelunking, trekking and swimming in a cave formation under a magnificent mountain of lush greens. The current was so strong it took no effort to get from where we jumped to about four feet downstream. We took some more pictures and then headed back to our rafts where we met other rafters from another rafting company. They looked bored to tears. Thankfully, our team was either laughing or singing or storytelling. It was loads of fun.

On our last rapids, Poco instructed us NOT to paddle too long. Instead, we were all told that after hitting the hardest rapids, we were to raise our paddles with our two hands--arms raised way above our heads--and smile at the camera right by the rocks...which we did. And after that, our P1200 adventure was mercifully concluded...or so we thought.

Approaching a tall rock formation jutting from out of nowhere in the waters, we were told that we had a "graduation ceremony"--that you couldn't really claim to have conquered the rapids if you haven't participated in this last activity. What was this activity, you ask? It's called the Leap of Faith.
One was to go up the top of the rock formation, say about five to six feet from the surface of the water (which was about, give or take, 40 to 50 feet deep, according to the locals) and then jump into the damned water with nothing but the vest which we have piously devoted our fragile lives to.

I was fearless...at first. I climbed so fast, like how I climbed a million and years in the pasts when I used to either rapell or free fall, and stayed at the top to relish my just concluded victory in conquering all 14 rapids. At the top, I felt powerful and strong and accomplished and dauntless...that was, until I looked down and saw the water menacingly calling me to my death. I decided to let the others jump ahead and psych myself up for the notorious leap of faith. I couldn't get my groove back. Ella decided it wasn't her time to die yet, so she climbed down faster than how she climbed to the top. After Noel jumped, it was my turn. I had a choice: to jump and get it over with (and conquer a major fear of drowning--which I acquired after having briefly drowned in 30 feet of open sea back in 1998), or turn back and get humiliated for being such a sissy.

I jumped. Both arms extended in an almost oblation-like fashion...which was apt because as I was about to jump, just when the tip of my toes were leaving the edge of the rocky hill, I offered a short prayer to Jesus Christ, asking him to comfort my soul if and when I die and to comfort even more those who I would leave behind. As I hit the water and descended two, three, four feet below in less than ten or so seconds (as my breathing started to turn into heaves, as my chest got "deflated" and started to get filled with water), I had a more terrifying fear: I wasn't ready to die, and I haven't fulfilled--hell, even discover!--my purpose in life. I needed to go back and finish my business.

I finally hit a point when my vest's buoyancy power clicked. Much slower than my rate of descent, I gradually ascended effortlessly. Slowly, slowly, until I saw a tiny speck of white light piercing its way through the murky waters that I was currently submerged in. And then, as my chest swelled into a mixture of emotions, I realized, just as the white light got bigger and bigger, more reckoning, that I was crying. I was back from the semi-dead...I had a second chance to fulfill my purpose.

I screamed and yelled and shouted and screamed some more when I reached the surface. I have now officially conquered not just the rapids--or my fear of drowning--but death itself.

After that long day, we headed to a spa and had a Swedish massage. And a full hour for just fricking 280 pesos. If we weren't on a schedule, I would've done a full-day massage and pedicure and facial and the works. But, ah, that's for another adventure.

Having done all that, now I'm ready for my next adventure: hot air balloon, and then bungee jumping. Stay tuned.

(O, Ella, link na! Hehehehehe..)