Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Me and My Construction Worker Fantasy

delayed posting from November 27, 2006, 7:25PM

Some time in July or August 2005, I clocked out early (read: "early" would mean exactly 530pm, as I would normally kill time at the office and leave at 6 or 7pm) to go to the gym. After all, the early bird does get to use the locker of his choice and hog all the hangers he could get his claws on. And although summer was over—ergo, the "seasonal" gym rats would have already laid low on the supersets-to-get-buffed-for-the-beach and thus were elsewhere—I still thought arriving early at Gold's would give me a head start on all the other "regulars" like me (I use "regular" loosely, not to mean as if I was regularly [or daily] working out, but to mean I was one of those "regular" and not Lou Ferrignoish gym freaks [oh, shut your twat. YOU know who Lou Ferrigno is!]). So after shutting down and double-checking that I had all my requisite gym stuff—padlock, heavy-duty Old Navy backpack, freshly-uploaded House mp3s in my Creative (I don't dig iPod as much as you do), and all my gym clothes inside the damned bag (trust me, you wouldn't wanna have gone through the hassle of walking all the way to Ayala Center, surviving all three bag-checks at every mall entranceway, finding just the right locker, unpacking everything and cramming them into the really tight locker space...only to realize you forgot your gym shorts or a pair of white socks)—I headed out the door.

The night was breezy, lots of people were partying that early at the promenade area of Greenbelt 2 (that's where I normally pass through to get to the gym)...and all of a sudden I had an urge to just call my friends from the Makati area and ask 'em out to drink. I let the momentary feeling sit for a while, and then I continued walking. When I got to the walkway escalator, I had a feeling of being followed. When I looked back, a man in his 30's seemed to be rushing and making his way through the crowd to get to me. I *knew* he was targetting me because we locked gazes and he did that wait-up -for-me gesture, and I was the only person within his eyesight's range. I made a really quick mental calculation, an "experiential scan" if I may, to be absolutely sure who this fast-approaching man was in my life. A former officemate? A classmate? A student from one of the hundreds of seminars I've conducted? Or was he one of those goons with a modus operandi of faking their identities and either robbing or murdering people? I opted for the last profile. It was, after all, better to keep my guard up rather than let myself be an easy prey. So, I casually continued my stride, pretending I didn't really see or recognize him and then slowly made my way to the general direction of the entrance, where there were two guards. The man, however, was fast and caught up with me. He was almost catching his breath when he got to be face to face with me. He seemed to look me from head to foot and back again. I was a tad insulted, so I gave him my classic nonchalant, "yes?"

What Mark (that was his name, by the way) said totally made me crack up. "Hi. I was wondering, do you already have an agent?" I replied, "Agent?" And he said, "Yeah, an a commercial model." I replied in my half-funny, half-sarcastic tone, "You're kidding, aren't you??" And he goes, "No, I'm inviting you to come to our office, take a VTR, do a file, and sign as our talent. My boss and I spotted you from Havana, and we thought you’d make a good model." I was one-third stunned, one-third struck with hilarity, and one-third Twilight Zone-meets-Punk'd. Still a little bit dazed and cracked up, I went ahead (after he had convinced me to give him my phone number) and went to the gym. I was half-smiling and shaking my head as I walked through to Landmark. And the day has ended there for me.

A few days later, an unknown number was flashing in my mobile phone. It could be one of the many dates my friends have been setting up with me. I picked up using my oh-so-sexy modulated voice. It was another guy's voice on the other end. Hmmmm. It was Mark, following up when I was going to their office to do my VTR file. I decided to go that same afternoon, considering I had nothing pending in the office...and to get this over and done with. Was I ready to go back to the showbizzy lifestyle that I turned my back on after the dreaded pox hit me in college? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. Or just maybe.

It was one VTR after another after that. Project toothpaste, project fast food, project seasoning, project beer, project paint, project realty, project canned good, project bank, project shampoo, project etc etc etc...but never have I gotten any. Yes. Almost two years of going to countless VTRs, sometimes making “footloose” (that’s an old term I picked up in the Mariana Islands to mean “takas”) from the office for a couple of minutes to an hour. From being the no-frills, no-arte person that I was (with my face that is, considering ‘twas already “damaged”, and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the “beautification”), I got into the “requisite model regimen”—facials (which I totally dreaded, especially the pricking and shit part), moisturizers and sun blocks in the morning, cold creams at night, and of course, the magic “bulag” tool: the 3-in-1 concealer stick, or the mousse-type foundation cake...all for the darned VTR, with the hopes that one of us hundreds of hundreds of men in the cattle would land the coveted lead or supporting role in one of those commercials.

Perhaps, I have said my name, age and height, my last commercial done (duh, none), my hobbies, sports, thing I do for a living, and all those other stuff, endless times. Add to that, my acting—ahem—prowess had been put to the test for countless audition dramatics and workshops. I have likewise been paired with a great number of women (as their “husband”), men (as their “kuya”, “son”, or buddy), and children (as their “dad”). I’ve been on “stand-by” and “final casting” and “for fitting” and “for consideration” and “for presentation” forever…yet I got nothing. The worst was always the “stand by for final selection by client” which would get your hopes high, make you hold your breath, hang on a string and freeze-frame your entire life…only to be told last minute that you did not quite make the cut. Bummer.

It was nowhere but downhill for me. No commercials, no print ads (with the exception of that almost hardly non-gratis photo shoot for Earth + Style's real estate magazine ad, which was to appear in the June 2005 edition of MyHome magazine, it was really NADA for my so-called print ad career), no voice overs (except for that one "barya-barya" VO job I did for a pharmaceutical distribution firm, which consisted of almost nothing but "Win Your Battle, Win Your War"...and thus using my sexy, bedroom voice to be a commanding general to the "army" of the sales force), and no other even remotely showbizzy rakets in sight.

Somewhere in the middle of all the VTRs and auditions, my agent Mark met Floyd through me. I gave his number to Mark so that he (Mark) wouldn’t have to bother me when he needed Floyd for a VTR of sorts (which the latter hardly attends). I told him, “Hey, I’m not his manager. Go contact the goddamned guy, and talk to him yourself.” After some prodding (Mark is REALLY good with being pesky, lemme tell you that), he then asked him to file a tape for presentation to their clients, which he did. You must know at this point that Floyd has never done these things, and so is really new to the craft. But let me tell you this…not even six months later, he landed a big-ass budget print ad for Coca Cola Bottlers. And he hardly went to VTRs! I was like, “what the fuck?” Where the hell is my luck? How come everyone else gets something and I get nothing??!

I was in this state of thinking when I got another “stand by for final selection" from a VTR of some food seasoning. I made a little agreement with myself. I said, if this oh-I-can-feel-it-in-my-bones-it’s-my-upcoming-TVC-now goes out the door, I’m definitely gonna park it. And when I received a “Sorry, Ben, someone else got it” SMS from Mark—yet again—I decided showbiz was not for me (or must I say, not AGAIN). And so I quit…not that it had been my career anyway.

Some weeks later, Floyd’s very first newspaper (and later on magazine) ad came out. More than him, our friends and me, it was Nanay Yolanda (his mother who’s based in Bicol) who was overjoyed…replete with a framed version of the newspaper clipping hung on their living room. I, however, was in a reflective mood. I got to thinking: I’ve been doing this VTR and auditioning for almost two freaking years while Floyd’s done it not even half a year, and yet he seemed to have all the luck. Yes, at the time, I was a little jealous. But more than just that feeling, I was consumed by a strong feeling of dejection. I was mad at someonesomething that caused all this. Why was Fate being so generous with him (and other people, for that matter) but with me, was being so parsimonious?! I retreated to my shell—the true blue Cancerian that I was—and refused to talk about anything related to my now defunct (AGAIN) career: I stopped replying to text messages from all my five agents from different casting agencies, and stopped going to VTRs altogether. Talk about absolute denial. I was Freud’s and Jung’s biggest nightmare in sheep’s clothing.

That episode lasted for quite some time and I was doing “well”…or at least a rejection-free existence. What was better than that? Absofuckinglutely nothing.

Some time in October, our agent Cheng SMS’d both Floyd and I for “Project Telecoms”. It was a weekend, the DVD marathons were on a hiatus at the moment, and I was bent on going out to get some fresh air…and some sanity from claustrophobia. Floyd soft-soaped me into going with him, and after some convincing and pleading and reassuring that we were just gonna do it to kill time and do fashion policing with the auditioners, I yielded. Thirty minutes later, we were queued up in one of the casting agencies at Citiland Towers—together with about 50 or so other men…all to just fill a lousy 3-male roles requirement of the client. I rolled my eyes as I sat to wait for my turn to VTR yet again.

An hour and a half later, I heaved a really bitter sigh and headed for the door. I’ve REALLY had it with these pointless VTRs. That was when the caster called out our names. WTF? It was almost literally in the nick of time. So we stayed on for a few more minutes. Ten minutes later, our VTR was finished. I knew I sucked big time, but then again, who the hell cares? I wasn’t interested anymore, and I couldn’t care less if some other model wannabe got the role.

Four days later, I got an SMS from Cheng. It was the “Stand by” text I was getting oh-so-weary of already. I didn’t even bother replying. By the end of the day, I received a “final selection” text from her, saying that there were just two of us being pitted against each other. My sister, who happened to be staying in my condo at the time was excited, and told me that that was a good thing. I just gave her a grunt, and texted Cheng a curt “OK”. An hour later, my heart froze at Cheng’s message, “Congrats. You got the role. You’re gonna love me for the TF, kuya. Let’s just say it’s A LOT. Fitting and workshop three days from now. Regalo ko ha!” My whole world spun for at least 30 seconds, and it took the doorbell (Floyd just arrived home) to snap me out of my disorientation. I told them about the good—no, GREAT—news and we were all excited all of a sudden. I was finally getting my big break.

I still couldn’t believe my new fate…until I was already signing the contract with my name, and—YES—the several-digit figure for the talent fee. I was still in disbelief while the PA’s were fitting me with my jailhouse orange construction worker overalls and Doc Martens safety boots. I kept half-expecting the director to shout “Cut!” and then I’d wake up on the same seat Floyd and I were seated while miserably waiting for our name to be called for that Godforsaken Project Telecoms at Citiland Towers. But it was all real. My time has, indeed, come.

After almost 11 hours of taping and makeup and costume changes and re-fitting and dubbing and eating (you would not believe the catered food!) and chitchatting with the co-models (did I just say “model”??? Yeah…I did!), I packed up, left the rest of the co-models (there I go again!) who were yet to finish their TVC shoot, and headed for home. Two weeks later, the photo shoot session was scheduled. The pictorial for the print ad took shorter than the TV commercial shoot. Way shorter.

December 9 was when the print ad and the TV commercial were supposed to simultaneously launch. Because of that, I mass-texted everybody and their mothers in my phonebook on December 8, and told them to grab the Sunday edition of the Philippine Star and wait for the primetime screening of the TVC. December 9 came and no TVC came out. I was advised the morning of the 9th that, apparently, editing took much longer than they anticipated, and their reels are still in Bangkok, where the editing was being done. The print ad was, however, where they were supposed to be. The funny part was, my shot was so tiny (read: barely 2.5 inches, in relation to the whole spread of the paper), one can hardly recognize me as me. Even my sister couldn’t make out my face. But I didn’t care. After all, I knew that that guy in the orange overalls superimposed on the majestic Burj Al Arab background was, indeed, me. A week later, the TVC finally did its debut. My sister and practically the whole world have seen it, but I have yet to see it…after two days still. Like the print ad, I was hard to make out. But again, at that point, I couldn’t care less. What matters was that I finally made it. And, yeah, yeah, the moolah was more than what I bargained for. So, no complaining there.

Two weeks later, the people of Globe and their agency re-edited the layout of the ad, conspicuously removed me from the whole collage of OFWs calling their loved ones in the Philippines. But before I could raise a WTF?? to my agent, a full spread of me, myself and I—ALONE—was in the Sunday paper, now plucked out of the Dubai role and placed as the requisite construction worker cum engineer of Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. With this new layout, where I was about almost one foot, in relation to the spread of the paper, you have got to be fucking blind to not recognize my face.

Two new, additional contracts were drawn by the agencies to have me sign again. More moolah, on top of the first contract, was consequently on the way. Luck (or blessing or good fortune or God knows what it’s called), after all, was just taking its sweet, sweet time. All I needed to do was wait…and it would be given to me…in my own time.

Yes, Lord. I know I failed You in the Patience test. And I apologize for that. But I am deeply beholden by your graciousness…of still giving me my reward despite how restless I have become. And for that, I promise to be more patient. I may still fail, but I will do my best not to fail you again. Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


delayed posting from November 21, 2006, 7:37 PM

I hate surprises. Yeah, I do. It’s just one of those things that make it high on my pet peeve list. If you don’t believe me, read my old blog entry “Bushwhackers”. Yeah, call me a retard, but I just really don’t see the point of almost literally pulling the rug under my feet, and while at it, marvel at the sight of my bewilderment and/or frenzy. And for what??? I scoff at the idea.

Having said that, I’d like to point out, however, that I hate being on the receiving side of the surprises. But if I am the one doing it, it’s perfectly OK. Hehehehehehe. In my defense, I hardly do surprise “attacks”. I just happen to have very sporadic attacks of pulling tricks—or in this case, surprises—off my sleeves. And when I do try and pull one off, boy, I tell you…it’s one hell of a production number.

Cut to next scene…some months ago at an Astrokids gimmick (not sure if it was the Tagaytay adventure, the Batangas getaway [wait a minute…why the hell haven’t I blogged about that???? Hmmm…I guess I’m making one shortly] or one of the Starbucks sessions). We were planning where we were going next—yes, that’s how and what we are: we live for the “lakwatsa”—when the idea of going to Enchanted Kingdom (EK) popped up. If I remember correctly, it was Carissa who blurted that out…because she hasn’t gone there. Ever. So while we “frequent visitors” raised our judgmental-but-not-necessarily-shaved-or-plucked eyebrows, Carissa insisted. What boggled us even more was that she wasn’t alone in wanting the next destination to be EK. Turned out, the other peeps who haven’t been—ever—to EK were Indy, Bong, and Floyd! These people have literally been around either the country or the world…and yet haven’t—ever (I dare say it again)—been seduced by the Sta. Rosa Exit attraction that is EK.

For some reason, the plan to head for EK had been botched not once, but twice (waiiiit a minute…that eerily made me feel like Susan Roces). Either someone’s child was sick (Indy and Bong are both fathers), or one had to go out of town—up North instead of in the South where they could just hook up with us at EK after their gig, or one couldn’t go because of budgetary constraints, or simply because the weather was really bad. Not that we were planning to have the entire Astrokids completed…but we all thought: if these four can’t join us at EK, then, why even bother? That was months ago.

Last Saturday, after carefully planning with Sheila, Neil, Jon and the kids a surprise Wala-Lang-Let’s-Head-For-EK-Day, one of the four Astrokids finally graduated from the EK Virgin category: Floyd. For like three weeks, I have secretly teamed up with wives or boyfriends of the four of them EK Virgins so that we could "distract" them into thinking that we were planning to go some place else. But what with the busy and conflicting schedules of almost all of them, I ended up concocting our "evil plan" only for Floyd. After all, he's the one who's so ultra-super-dying to get to EK like 'twas THE place to be. Poor baby. So we decided, he's the chosen one.

It was Sheila, her kids, her boyfriend, her brother Jonathan and I who masterfully crafted the whole thing: she texted Floyd and deluded him into thinking that they were passing by the condo with the kids on their way to the mall, and that we should feel free to join them malling. I also faked a "mild" migraine to cancel our earlier plan of going on an out of town trip. So a couple of hours beforer they arrived (we were already exchanging SMS and telling her to forbid her kids to even mention the words Enchanted, Kingdom, and Surprise to their Tito Floyd). I have prepared a seemingly light messenger bag for "malling"—but what was inside were a change of clothes (for possibly getting wet in one of the rides), water, and my ever-dependable (and strong!) Hawaiian Tropics SPF 75 sunblock lotion.

When Sheila and the rest of the gang arrived downstairs, we boarded her brand-spanking new car (Jonathan was driving), we did our customary kids-screaming-TitoBenTitoFloyd-at-the-top-of-their-lungs-as-they-are-hugging-us routine, and got introduced for the first time to her boyfriend. After that, we almost in unison declared "Let's hit the mall!" Everything was going according to plan!

Upon reaching Pasong Tamo, Sheila asked where we could find a BPI ATM facility, and Jonathan casually replied, "E di sa Enchanted na lang". Doggammit. We have successfully brainwashed the kids to block the existence of EK in that day's event, but conveniently forgot to tell Jonathan that it was a surprise thingee. Great.

Having blurted that, the surprise was already botched. And after having heard the word Enchanted, Floyd all of a sudden stopped talking (he was animatedly telling some story about his work), kept quiet for about five seconds, and upon apparently getting hit by the realization that we weren't really going to the mall and instead going to his ultraspecialsuperdooperovermegablockbustertothemaximum special place-to-be, and blurted out in his sheepish boylike demeanor, "Pupunta tayo sa Enchanted???"...and started crying. Lemme tell you...Sheila, the kids and I started cracking up. Although prematurely revealed, I'd say, the plan was a success. ;-)

About an hour later, after deciding--rather gripingly--not to pass by the Nike Outlets, we found ourselves traversing the Sta. Rosa Exit pathway to EK. A couple more minutes later, we were looking—a tad desperately—for parking. After settling for an undesirably remote spot, we began slathering ourselves with SPF70 sun block lotion, armed ourselves with a digital camera, hand towel, water bottle and trusty shades, and started our journey inside the enchanted kingdom.

Floyd was ecstatic...but Sheila, Neil, the kids and I were mesmerized by the sight of a first-timer—a virtual virgin, that is—who's enthralled with the sight, sound, and the experience. But aside from that, I was likewise busy scouring the EK horizon for the official mascot, the wizard. Why? Let’s just say that a good friend—who we will call ”Erick”—once told me that he has had some wild sexual activity with the Enchanted Kingdom Wizard. Whether they canoodled while Mr. Wizard still had his mascot costume on or not was something I really wouldn’t care to know anymore. But for that moment, I just wished to see him (the mascot, not Erick) in his full mascot glory, look him straight in the eye, grin my evil grin, say ”Hi”...and then tell him Erick sends his regards. I swear I will never look at mascots the same way again.

The kids were having lots of fun, but not as much as Floyd was. I gave them all the ultimate challenge: ride the Space Shuttle, which is by far the only really thrilling ride in that park. I got a no from everyone except for Floyd. Aaah. Brave boy. I guess we’d see about that later. So upon realizing that the queue (which snaked about 50 feet from the starting line up to where we were standing) was going to take more than a hop, skip and a giggle, we bid goodbye to Sheila, Neil and the kids and told them that we’ll meet them in an hour at the Food Court/Stage area. How we killed the more than one hour wait at the queue is something I can’t seem to imagine down to this day...but miraculously, I kept my cool, held a ”nice” stance, and made it to the railing next to the roller coasters. I could already feel the rush of the centrifugal force—nyehehehe...I know that wasn’t the term to use. I just felt like using some old Physics term. LOL—er the wind literally slapping my face and throwing my hair back and away from my scalp (wait, did I have bangs then? Damn right I did!!!). Floyd was pale and smiley and God-knows-what-other-emotions-he-had. We made it to the coasters, sitting at the second car, missing the front row seats by three seconds to those jologs ripe-guava-smelling kids from some school having an ”educational field trip” at EK. Two minutes later, the thrill of the ride was over. And so was the light of day. The Goddamned ride ate about an hour and a half of our schedule. Bummer.

After a couple more rides, a fireworks display later, a boring Grand Carousel time-waster, and a wild spin at the Rio Grande Rapids, we headed for home. At the South Luzon Expressway, Paolo cried out that he was hungry and that he was craving for some Pancake House food. We ended up stopping at the nearest rest stop/gas station. After ordering takeout food at KFC, we decided to hop to Starbucks and bless my 2007 Starbucks planner sticker card with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Christmas-themed drink stickers. After all, I have once and for all succumbed to the gaga over Starbucks planner fever, which I have successfully shunned for the last two years of its promo. Hah. Nothing like a good smell of genuine leather and the feel of brown recycled paper in my planner. Once we’ve ordered our four steaming hot cups of Tall and Small and Venti and Grande caffeines, we settled in on one of the tables outside of Starbucks to have our coffees and eat our KFCs. We barely opened our KFC bags when the guard—in all his I’m-so-powerful-I’ll-whack-you-with-my-batuta glory and stance—reprimanded us and told us that we were prohibited to eat ”non-Starbucks food” on their tables. Putangina. That’s when I snapped. But being too exhausted to even bother giving in to the guard's delusions of grandeur, I let Floyd and Neil deal with the poor scum of the Earth. First things first: there was NO signage saying that bringing in of food—from a nearby resto, which by the way belonged in the same compound as where their establishment was—was prohibited. Secondly, I bought four freaking overpriced cups of coffee from them...and if my lack of Mathematical expertise wouldn’t influence my mental calculations, I’ve spent double what I spent for my fricking burger and soup from KFC...which means that my Starbucks purchase automatically trumps my KFC receipts. Thirdly, it wasn’t as if we were eating sinigang na bangus belly or inadobong pusit at halaan...ergo, we were not going to mess up their charming and prissy tables. Finally, they belonged to a fucking rest area/stop...and they were right beside at least four fast food chains. Why on Earth wouldn’t they anticipate that this was going to be a non-avoidable given? Mother of God. And to make matters worse, some other personnel from Starbucks—when asked why we were being shooed like basang sisiws—gave us a canned response, saying it was in compliance with Starbucks worldwide campaign of standardizing their look. Bullshit. I teach Customer Service, and I say standardizing never works...that you, as a foreign establishment in a [local] country need to adjust your ”standards” to the local branch’s quirks—in this case, the Filipinos’ love of food (mind you, we don’t just eat pastries and overpriced pastrami). The store supervisor came at the right time, i.e. barely two and a half seconds before I really gave those bullies an earful, which would definitely be heard by everyone else and their mothers having coffee outside, and told us that they will allow us to eat. My Lord. As if our basang sisiw at nauulul na sa gutom looks didn’t help us at all to effortlessly appeal for sympathy. I guess argumentum ad misericordiam never works anymore. Sad. Remind me to try bringing food at Starbucks Greenbelt next time...and see if this same routine holds.

EK down. Baguio to go. Ask Floyd why.