Monday, February 27, 2006

Zaturnnaaaaaaaaaaah Ever

'Twas in May of 2005 when I first heard of the heroine named Zsazsa Zaturnnah. It was over orders of Asian Chicken Salad (with half-soggy iceberg and romaine lettuce), Gogo Taco wraps, ala-McDonald's Twister Fries KFC french fries, and watered down iced tea, that my friend aka "protege" Karl D. (otherwise known as Kaaaaaarl) started blabbing about this comic book by some cartoonist named Carlo Vergara--with matching almost-vivid description of the comic book's every single frame...yes, down to the KABOOM and TSAK! sound effects. I was laughing hysterically with him as he retold the Astonishing/Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa (or as it was originally called, in Tagalog, Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa), and made an instantaneous resolution to grab a copy of the comic book soon.

Thanks to my nifty mental retention, which is about the memory capacity of a 5-year old with ADD, I kept forgetting the title of the book...and moreso, kept forgetting to pass by PowerBooks (considering 'twas always on my route when I'd walk to and from the gym) or National Bookstore (considering 'twas only five freaking minutes away from my office). So one Thursday night, right after my two-hour cardio and weightlifting, I decided once and for all to get the damned comic book. I was at the second level of PowerBooks, engrossed with scrolling down my phone inbox for Karl's text message telling me of the title of the comic book, when I set eyes on an almost-flamboyant powder blue book with a drawing of an insanely voluptuous Darna-ish character in painfully-glaring mauve-pink-fuchsia, yellow, white and gold costume.

There was my comic book: Zsazsa Zaturnnah in full color--or at least its cover (the comic book strips were in black and white).

Excited with the new comic book, I bid my dinner date adieu after we paid the bill (I'd normally hang out at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for a glass of tea or coffee), and hopscotched to my condo to read it. After an almost indiscriminate showering (you know, those jump-in-jump-out of the shower type), I turned on the makeshift night light, set the A/C to full-blast, and then peeled off the shrink wrap. I quickly flipped through the pages and sniffed the inside--just to fancy its being brand-spanking new; 'twas crisp to a fault, too. And then I turned to page 1.

I finished almost an hour and a half later. Yes, it took that long for a moderately-thin book with few lines, but if you were belly laughing and wiping tears every few pages, you'd actually say that I fast-read it. I could swear, I almost heard one of the tenants of the same floor/corridor ssshh-ing me; or I could just be paranoid. But I didn't really give a rat's ass.

First, a primer on the comic book. And to lessen my task of trying to encapsulate the essence of the book into just a few words, I've decided to just shamelessly cut-and-paste entries from its publisher, VS Print, and Wikipedia (holy shit, it has actually made it to Wikipedia!!!). Here goes...

[VS Print writes:]

Carlo Vergara's Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah is considered by many readers and critics alike as a tour de force among the recent crop of Filipino comic books. Combining irreverent humor, pop culture sensibilities, and nuanced writing, Zsazsa Zaturnnah has been postively received by readers of various age groups and economic backgrounds.

Zsazsa Zaturnnah tells the story of Ada, a cynical resident of a small provincial town, who gains superhuman abilities through a stone that falls from the heavens. With the ability to transform into the voluptuous and powerful Zaturnnah, Ada defends his hometown from dangerous otherworldly threats.

Adding color to this simple tale is the fact that Ada is a homosexual, proprietor of his own quaint beauty salon. Joining him in his extraordinary adventure is his frilly-mouthed assistant Didi and his secret love Dodong. Because of strong language and suggestive imagery, the comic book is strictly for mature readers.

[end quote]

[Wikipedia writes:]

Zsazsa Zaturnnah is a comic book character created by Carlo Vergara, a graphic designer and illustrator based in the Philippines. Zsazsa Zaturnnah, or Zaturnnah, attracted considerable attention from Philippine media in the years following her first appearance and currently enjoys a cult fanbase.

Zaturnnah, a powerful and voluptuous female with large red hair and a muscular physique, is reminiscent of the DC Comics character Wonder Woman and the classic Filipino superhero Darna. The distinct difference is the sex and sexuality of her alter ego Ada, who is an effeminate homosexual male. The proprietor of a small-town beauty salon, Ada receives a stone that, when ingested, physically transforms him into Zaturnnah.

The character first appeared in the graphic novel "Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah" (The Spectacular Adventures of Zsazsa Zaturnnah), originally self-published in two parts in December 2002, with very limited distribution. When the graphic novel won a National Book Award in 2003, given out by the prestigious Manila Critics Circle, Vergara approached book publisher Visual Print Enterprises to compile the two parts into a single volume for distribution throughout the Philippines.

Recently, the graphic novel landed on the 12th spot of top selling Philippine fiction books for 2005, based on records of National Bookstore, the largest bookstore chain in the country. It is also being used as reference in gender studies courses in some universities, including the government-run University of the Philippines.

The graphic novel has been adapted into a stage musical by Tanghalang Pilipino, one of the country's top theater companies. Playing the role of Zsazsa Zaturnnah is former teen idol-turned-dramatic actress Eula Valdez.

[end quote]

A what??? A stage musical? YESSSSS. Ei Muzikallll..

Sometime in November 2005, my friend Rica Louisa Alejandrino-Lane (aka Louise Lane) sent me and a couple of supposed contemporary art aficionados (uhm, what??). She said something like (and again, I'm just plucking this from my nifty mental retention comparable to that of a 5-year old with ADD's memory capacity): "Guys, blahblahblah, maybe you know someone who'd be interested...or maybe you'd want to audition yourselves??? This is so hilarious, I wish I was on the audition panel!"

And this was the audition announcement:




When : November 29, 2005 2PM-8PM December 6, 2005 2PM-8PM

Where : Bulwagang Amado Hernandez (Conference Room) Ground Floor, CCP MAIN BLDG.


3. CAN SING VERY WELL (We mean it!)
4. RESUME WITH 2X2 HEADSHOT (or bigger)

Auditioning parties must BELT OUT A COMIC RENDITION OF A SERIOUS SONG (a capella or accompanied by minus-one/music piece), complete with DANCE STEPS OR MOVEMENT (Yes, solo production number ito.)

NOTE: Wearing of costume is strongly encouraged.

Please register by phone beginning November 22, 2005. For more details, call the TP office at 832-3661 or 832-1125 locals 1620/1621. (pero utang na loob, walang mga nakapagngingitngit na tanong para hindi ma-IM ang mga dakilang taga-TP at mabagsakan kayo ng phone, ok?)=)

Tanghalang Pilipino

Resident Theater Company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City

[end quote]

Yes, I ALMOST picked up the phone and blurted out a nakapagngingitngit na tanong just to im the TP ang get the phone slammed on me. But hell. Who was I going to play? I didn't want to be Ada or Didi. It's going to be too, uhm, controversial for me (it's enough that my colleague Ella [a fellow Zaturnnah junkie] calls me Ada while I call her Didi). Nor can I play Dodong, what with my belly--which I still blame on genetics (specifically from my Dad)--not in tip-top, let-there-be-abs shape. And NO to Amazonista roles, too, for obvious reasons that I do not possess a vagina. I didn't exactly want to be a "taong-bayan" aka chorus. I'm too self-centered and swellheaded to take a second fiddle role. ;)

Months later, the musical--excuse me, Ze Muzikal--was announced to be played at the CCP. Word had it that tickets were selling like kwek-kwek in the smoldering heat of the Cubao sun. I was disappointed to know that the playdates I intended to watch (i.e. in February) were all booked. I was in an almost-crushed and -dismayed mindset already when, as if the demi-gods of kitsch and bakya heard my silent prayers for a couple of tickets, my friend Lea aka Crab sent me an SMS asking if I'd be interested in using her two complimentary tickets to the February 18 matinee showing of Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Muzikal. I didn't bother texting back. I speed-dialled her number, and screamed five or six YESSSSes as she picked up the call; I also bargained for two more...and got 'em pronto. Apparently, she remembered me forwarding the email on the auditions, and so she decided to give it to me instead. Hallelujah.

After calling Nolet and Carissa to see who'd want to take the fourth ticket (the other three were mine, Floyd's and Sheila's already), and being turned down due to previous commitments, I called Daniel to complete the magic four of Zaturnnah junkies. So on February 18, after depositing all our bags and bags of clothes, shoes, electronics, and whathaveyous in the condo, we hopped on a cab and headed for the show. We arrived almost an hour earlier, and were lined up in the VIP lane, and were mistaken--to our advantage--for Press people, thus being entitled to a press kit including brochures, pamphlets and CDs of the production. Whoohoo. When I bumped into Carlo Vergara aka Carver, I fished my now-covered-in-plastic-thanks-to-Ella copy of Zsazsa Zaturnnah and almost sheepishly asked for his autograph. A few minutes later, we were ushered into the teenie-weeny "experimental" theater otherwise known as the Tanghalang ...something. We decided to sit on the second row by the side of the stage...and realized later on that we should have sat fronting the stage instead.

It was barely on its first five minutes of showtime when the first few guffaws and hilarious giggles started. It would be like that until curtain call. Just like the book, I was excessively entertained. Truth to say, when I first heard that Eula Valdez was playing the role of the heroine, I was disappointed, thinking how could a non-gay former matinee idol play the role at all?! I was mistaken; they couldn't have gotten a better Zsazsa. But the one scene-stealer would have to be Ricci Chan, the one who played the character of Didi, Ada's sidekick. She was so spontaneously funny, you'd think she was doing improv and adlibs left and right...and doing it perfectly.

Sheila was preoccupied with the muscle ripples and cuts of the character of Dodong, while Floyd, Dan and I were just charmed by the luka-luka Amazonistas. By the time of curtain call, we were exhausted and our throats hoarse...and hungry. (But before leaving, of course, we didn't let the opportunity to have photo ops with the cast!!! Oh no!!!) We couldn't pick a place to eat, so we spontaneously decided to just buy lechong manok, etc. and then bring 'em to Dan's pad and eat there.

Half-way through the meal including lechong manok, inihaw na pusit and liempo, and slices of double chocolate cake, we were still mimicking and reciting lines from the musical. A few days later, I was uploading mp3's (or were they ogg's?) of the soundtrack/CD into my mp3 player, and sharing the same tracks to my kooky friends across the globe (last I checked, it reached Bangladesh, Singapore, UK, and Dubai). Apologies to the producer of the CD. I couldn't restrain myself from sharing. My bad *slaps left and right cheeks until they turn eggplant purple*

Ooohhh, Zsazsaaaaaaaah....

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A House is Not a Home

It's Valentine's Day. I still haven't recovered from the initial shock and thrill of receiving a bouquet of pink roses, and seeing the almost incredulous looks on my female colleagues' faces after discovering who the delivery man was looking for. It took me about thirty two minutes (yes, that long) to wipe the silly grin off my face and the--uh-uh, yeah--"almost incredulous look" on MY face. I never knew this day was going to be, uhm, special. To my mind, I was just going to work, download mp3s (mind you, as I *simultaneously* work..heh..heh..), do my PowerPoints, answer my LotusNotes mails, watch Desperate Housewives DivX in my PC as I take my lunch on my desk, and then run to Greenbelt 1 for my customary I'm-bored-to-tears-I-need-to-get-out-of-the-office-even-for-15-minutes stroll. No vision of roses or Iloveyou cards or colleagues gossiping about my flowers whatsoever there.

At the mall, I found myself stalling my post-lunch stroll at Ace Hardware. Come to think about it, the hardware is the only other place I could prolly achieve multiple orgasms just by looking at the merchandise (an electronics shop and a furnitures shop being the other two). On a normal day, I would just go past Ace on a whim, looking for any knicknack that I could (or would) purchase on a whim, and then run off to Fresh Bar for my daily Spirulina-infused vitamin fruit-and-yoghurt shake. But on this particular day, I stayed longer. Wait a minute, not just this day, but also the day before, and the day before that, and the day before the day before that... The reason being I am barely four days shy of moving into our new 3-bedroom condominium which we got from an old chatty real estate broker on Saint Paul Road in San Antonio Village. Finally, a house to actually call my own...or at least my "semi-own", considering the owner refuses to give me a lease-to-own deal unless I cough up one million freakin' pesosesoses. Yeah. Like I have a million bucks. Hell. I don't even have minus two zeroes of that! *#@@*#&@&$!!

Finally. No more waking up (rather startled) beside an almost naked, not-so-palatable émigré in the wee hours of the morning (just because I was conveniently uninformed of a sudden change in his supposedly interminable night shifts); no unsightly swimming trunks or underwear floating around; no more having to stay at the first floor or the roof deck to pass time because him and his lover are doing their birds-and-the-bees session upstairs...on my fucking bed; no more having to run to a 7-11 because he didn't have the water gallon refilled; no more having to wash soiled and icky plates and pans...that I didn't even eat or cooked on! No more waking up with no water...or showering with water that smells like the sewers. No more buying food for myself that I don't get to eat because they "mysteriously" disappear. No more schedulings of MY dates because he stays home for his day offs. No more missing boxers shorts only to be seen being worn by the roommate. Argh. No more miseries. Can I get a hallelujah?!

Oh. And no more appliances, too. Coming from a fully-furnished (down to the refrigerator, stove, table, bed, armoire, and TV) condo and moving into a studio condo, I had to start from scratch: no more gimmicks and fancy, expensive toys for me...or I won't be able to afford my furnitures. *Sigh*

Thanks to my "icons" HGTV (Home and Garden TV cable channel), Martha Stewart, DIY TV, and even Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, we were able to whip up a handful of handsome furnitures and fixtures for one half to 3/4 the price. The Japanese style queen-sized bed frame cost only about P5k pesos, compared to a similar item in home and furnishing shops that costs P9-12k. Add to that, got a deal with a burglar-proof side table, as well as two pieces of bar stools for barely one third the price of store counterparts. A unique Zen-inspired coffee/center table for the living area also didn't cost an arm and a leg, but a mere half of it (uhm, 1/2 arm and 1/2 leg?? *j/k*). The secret? A REALLY crafty and imaginative (and may I say "cheap" [in terms of professional fee, that is]) carpenter slash handyman slash deliveryman slash consultant as a partner in all the home improvements...and you're good to go. Oh, and let me not forget a lot of quick drying enamel and thinner, as well as loads and loads of creativity, patience...and of course, moolah.

The next hurdle was the screening of tenants. 'Cause when you think about it, three bedrooms is a REALLY big condo unit for two people. So the ads had been placed, emailed CV's and references were reviewed (yes, I needed to know if they're liquid enough to pay, you know...), and a multitude of phone calls and text messages answered. Finally, two nice tenants that would otherwise make living in the condo more bearable...or at least the burden of paying the entire rent and utilities, as well as the deranging silence of the 69.9 square meters unit.

Can't wait to enjoy the free aroma of freshly ground coffee beans (yes, we happen to be about two blocks away from the factory of Cafe Puro); wake up in the morning beside Pink on immaculate sheets on our new bed; make unique shakes in our blender; deodorize the kitchen through the makeshift exhaust fan whose pipes traverse through the guest lavatory; take a shower in the jet-strong water in the toilet; have a couple of wine and frozen mixed drinks at the bar; share a few laughs with the tenants slash friends; listen to the soothing sound of the water fountain; and watch the sunset as I sit wearing nothing but boxer shorts in the veranda of the fifth floor.

Now where the hell is that moss green toilet seat cover again...?