Saturday, March 29, 2008

A series of Firsts

In my first three years in Hong Kong, my previous work included loads of traveling overseas that I often thought that Hong Kong was actually a layover and not my base.

Many of the details of these sorties abroad are now forgotten. Blame it on my passive nature then that didn’t even give me the urge to jot down a travelogue, collect postcards and, by god, even just take photos!

However, there are some memories that I believe I’ll never forget. These are the “firsts” of experiences that made those three years treasured ones.

So since my emotional upheaval is done and there’s no point seething about GMA’s visit tomorrow – I’ll just pour it all out in the rally – I’ll just do this montage of selected firsts of my overseas escapades.

New York, USA: First homeless wandering

At exactly 12:00 MN, our plane arrived at the JFK International Airport. With all the usual immigration and customs brouhahas, I managed to get out at almost 1:00 am.

As instructed, I looked for a bus to take me to the hotel where I was billeted. Sadly, there were no buses so I took a cab that cost me US$32. With what was left of my hundred bucks, I figured that I’d get by fine enough for my hosts will put me up.

At the front desk though, I found out my name was not on their list. The cost of one night: US$70. Damn! And of course, I was not allowed to spend the night in the lobby.

So with my backpack and two other luggages, I walked the streets of Manhattan while it was cold and damp. I finally chanced upon a 24-hour coffee shop where I splurged my remaining dollars on coffee after coffee, fries after fries, and a burger that could last me a week.

Being forced to stay awake until 8:00 in the morning, I did finish a project proposal for the office.

Lesson learned: make the most of a shitty situation. (On second thought, I should just have asked that friendly policeman to lend me US$2)

Panama City, Panama: First shouting match with a government official

The issue then was the refusal of the government to reimburse travel expenses of Asian delegates to that event that I think is better left unnamed.

Previous meetings were sober enough. My colleagues and I thought that since we were foreigners in that land, it was more prudent to rein in our temper. But as with negotiations with government officials go, the empty promises just made our blood boil.

It was an A-grade shouting match with everyone on their feet and vying to get the top spot in the loudest voice category. Until finally, the government personnel said “I am a lawyer and I know the law!” to which my officemate angrily retorted, “I am a lawyer too!”

A couple of hours later, I asked my colleague, “Hey, I never knew you’re a lawyer as well aside from being a chemist.” He just smiled and said, “I’ve got about nine law units in Nepal.”

I was dumbstruck.

Bangkok, Thailand: First heavy flirtation

I have always been well-behaved abroad. But when I met this guy in Bangkok, he kinda blew my mind away. Prim and proper be damned.

With friends in tow, we hopped from bar to bar. I was pushed – with least resistance – to sit beside him, talk to him and, geez, dance with him. Mushy, mushy.

After sweating and drinking the night away, we all headed back to our friend’s place to continue with our hedonistic ways. As if I didn’t notice, all my other buddies started to drift away from the two of us.

So there were just the two us, sitting on the floor, with a candle lighted. We swapped stories and drank Thai whiskey. I didn’t mind his broken english for I was busy fluttering my eyelashes while he talked. Much later, we finally hit the bed ….

I woke up only to realize I only had about 90 minutes left to catch my flight. With a hangover, I let my colleague drag me through the whole check-in procedures.

Once seated on the plane, she turned to me and asked, “so what happened?”

I turned my back to her, closed my eyes and before I drifted off to dreamland I answered, “if you wanna do something nasty, stay sober.”

Dakar, Senegal: First imprisonment

It was not due to anything political but a blunder that was monumental.

We had a break from the meeting we were having and most of the participants decided to partake of the offer to become tourists for the day. Since I’ve already availed of that in a previous trip, I chose to stay put and wander around the hotel.

A full bladder later on found me frantically searching for a comfort room. When I found one, I rushed to a cubicle, locked the door and breezed through the relief process. As I was about to leave, lo and behold, the door wouldn’t budge.

For about 45 minutes, I was trapped in a 3 x 5 cubicle, with a floor-to-ceiling door and with the toilet bowl as my company. I kicked and screamed for help but nobody came. I wrote down “I’m trapped inside” and pushed it outside through the door’s crack in case I lose consciousness.

My last-ditch attempt to shout out for help was finally heard by a janitor passing by the CR. When I was free, I rushed to the main door and as I was about to open it, I found the sign “Do not use the toilet, broken door.”

I was not sure whom to get mad at.

(Photo 1: YMCA Vanderbilt where I eventually stayed; Photo 2: Just a picture of Panama City. I couldn't get a photo of that government official; Photo 3: Thai Whiskey. Sigh!; Photo 4: Goree Island. One of the most popular attractions in Dakar. The island played an important part in the trade of African slaves before.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dark, Darker, Darkest

The first describes Hong Kong weather for the past days. I’d like to think that it commiserates with my nearly-done emo, but I bet whoever is up there is not bent to do that because I was not that holy last week.

But I’m not going to bore everyone with rants on Hong Kong’s boring weather. The topic never interested me as well.

Darker, however, are the treatment of Afghan and Iraqi prisoners depicted in Taxi to the Dark Side and the story of Indians narrated in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Throw in this article on the Philippine-American War and it’s a recipe for a different lenten reflection.

I’m not going to do any review on these. Enough to say that all of them can make one’s heart bleed out for they showed the history of brutality perpetuated by US policies to different peoples – Afghans, Iraqis, Filipinos and Indians.

An interesting note is that the water cure being done to rounded up Afghans and Iraqi prisoners – who, by the way, were not put on trial – was also done to Filipinos more than a century ago. Torture cuts across time.

US soldiers though did not torture the Indians. They just massacred them, castrated their warriors, fooled their chiefs and “scalped” them.

But the darkest of my days comes with the news of someone coming to town who is definitely not Santa, by name or by deeds.

No other than GMA is coming here.

It’s like a tired old script when her position is seriously threatened – she’ll fly abroad with her full entourage in tow, talk to foreign governments to beg for more “aids” and investments, then come back and brag about economic packages secured. At the end of it, we have the likes of the NBN-ZTE deal.

Of course the drama will not be complete without an appearance before the Filipino community to have a showcase of OFW support. At this moment, a grand gathering of OFWs is being organized by the Philippine Consulate General – Hong Kong at the even grander Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Then there are the rumors. Showbiz will not be fun without them. Rumors are flying of buyouts to secure attendance, of gimiks (raffle for a house and lot maybe?) to entice more groups to come, and the ever present T-Shirts as giveaways.

Our office or any organization I’m active with does not have invitation to any of GMA’s affairs.

As if I care. I’d rather talk about Hong Kong’s weather than listen to more lies and gibberish nonsense.

Then again, I’ll still be there. Out on the streets where the light of hope of GMA’s ouster will be shining bright.


On another note, I read this post on one of the favorite pulutans nowadays – Janina San Miguel and the hoopla of the last Bb. Pilipinas. It made me feel guilty. I thank the author for this different and educational discourse on the fracas.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Last night, I sat alone in a bar for about an hour. I didn’t mind.

I had an almost full pack of yosi and free drinks so I figured that it was the best time to sort out some of the riotous thoughts and emotions I had for the past days.

It was the night after I chatted with a friend that started out simply enough with “bz ka friend?” and turned into a great two-hour chat. Somewhere between talking about blogging to possible future projects, I told him that I’m moving on.

Too many times we’ve said it. Maybe the same many times we’ve been told. “Move on.”

We know what we mean by moving on – moving on. We also know where we want to be – anywhere but here. We also usually know the when – once it starts hurting like hell and there’s really no way to turn it around. As for the why, it is oftentimes because you’ll be a complete idiot if you don’t.

Somehow though, we usually miss out on the “how”.

There should be a roadmap to moving on. I’ve been in this situation before so I should know how. I’ve done it and I should be able to do it again.

But it’s actually the tricky part. Each situation is different from the other. It’s not like the path from home to work that I can take even with my eyes closed.

I don’t have anything profound to say about how this one will be done.

All I know is that it is the reality. And there’s nothing profound about reality. It just has to be studied, confronted and changed if possible.

So I thought about it, drafted some kind of a mental plan to face it and decided that if the change in reality that I want is not possible, I’ll be fairly satisfied with how things will turn out once I get there.

While puffing like a chimney and drinking like there’s no tomorrow by my own merry self, I realized that it is not aloneness that sucks. It is getting stuck. Like everybody is moving, things are happening and you are left out. I guess, it is where the feeling of aloneness comes from.

Brandi Carlile was wrong she when said that “alone is the last place I wanted to be”. Immobility is. And I definitely don’t want to be there.

Sorry if I can’t tell the details of how I’ll move on. But after an hour and my friends came, it started.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kay Sherlyn

Nang mabasa ko ito, marami na akong gustong gawin.

Gusto kong sumigaw kahit pa magtaka ang mga kapitbahay at sugurin kami. Kahit paano, malaman ng iba ang nangyari. Basta kahit paano, ma-kondena ko kahit saglit ang ginawa sa kanya.

Gusto ko ring tawagan ang kanyang ina na nakilala ko sa ilang araw na pagtigil sa Pilipinas noong Oktubre. Narinig ko ang kanyang kwento. Nakita ko na sa likod ng kanyang tapang ay naroon pa rin ang takot sa maaaring kinahinatnan ng anak na noon ay halos dalawang taon nang nawawala.

Sa isang sandali, naisip ko rin na itatak na lamang sa utak ang nangyari. Katulad ng marami nang kwento at balita. Isa lang sya sa marami pa.

Gusto ko rin sanang umiyak. Tulad noong hindi ko mapigilan ang lumuha nang una kong mapanood ang bidyo ng “Sa Ngalan ng Tubo”. Tungkol sa mga manggagawang-bukid ng Hacienda Luisita na minasaker dahil sa pagtutol sa P9.50 na sahod sa kada araw ng pagta-trabaho.

Kaso, mukhang ayaw ng mata ko. Mas nangingibabaw ang ngitngit. Mas lumalalim ang galit.

Nang sundan ko ang kwento hanggang dito, nag-desisyon na lang akong isulat ito.

Hindi ko sya kilala.

Matagal na akong wala sa unibersidad nang tumuntong sya sa kolehiyo. Pareho man kami ng daang tinahak, hindi kailanman nagtagpo ang aming landas.

Hindi ko nga sya kilala. Katulad rin naman na hindi ko kilala si Karen. O si Cris, o si Ambo. Sa mahigit 900 pangalan at dagdag pang 200 pinaghahanap, isa o dalawa lamang yata ang aking nakita sa personal.

Pero hindi naman yun ang mahalaga.

Marami akong gustong gawin pagkatapos ko syang basahin. Sa huli, nagpasya na lang akong ituloy ang ginagawa ko.

Maiintindihan din nya ako.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Simple Pleasures

A friend asked me recently why do I seem always happy and I was kinda lost as to what to say.

It is true that my bouts of sadness and depression have been so far in between that I can only remember the major ones such as the death of my dad and uhm, the death of my dad.

Even my so-called heartaches did not really get me down except for a couple of hours of emotive talks with friends. Of course there were a few tears here and there, a moment of a faraway look and some heaviness in the chest not caused by growing boobs. But these were also still sprinkled with smiles and jokes.

Then there are matters like extrajudicial killings and abuses against migrant workers. While they make me sad, I feel more angry and indignant about these stuffs to the point of strangling General Palparan until he chokes out what he has done to victims of enforced disappearances; or force abusive employers, recruiters and government officials who treat migrant workers like dirt to be a domestic helper for a day and see how far they can go until they cry uncle.

Am I just too carefree? Or maybe, I’m just the kind of guy who finds it easy enough to get pleasure anywhere. And I don’t mean cruising spots.

When I was a kid, I used to get happiness just from watching tadpoles inside a bottle turn into frogs. Pleasure with an ewww. Or just lying down under the stars on these colorful folding beds with my cousins during power outages while playing “bugtungan”.

Also, I used to be satisfied with just sitting around with these other kids under a tree waiting for the scorching sun to lay off a bit while one of my friends sang this commercial combo: “Palmolive shampoo … Shower to Shower … Ovaltine!”.

As a grown up and all, I still take pleasure in anything at least once a day.

Like three nights ago with the beckies to celebrate the birthday of a friend over drinks and talks of the mundane and the profound.

Or the other night when me and my housemates sat til 2:30 am watching a Spanish movie with teenie weenie subs. But because it was a horror film, I did not really mind not getting the drift of each dialogue for as long as I jumped out of my seat at the right moment.

Or yesterday morning when I overslept and thus caught the showing of The Ultimate Avengers on TV. In the afternoon, I sat listening to a mixed playlist of favorite singers speckled with Regina Spektor songs that I found weirdly good but, since I was working, I couldn’t be bothered as to think about why so.

Or now that I’ve finally finished writing something for this blog instead of just thoughts driving around my head without any direction at all.

Some may call it shallow. But with all the bull and a-holes in the world, simple pleasures from what I do and how I live are just the things I need to go on.

I’m happy just sitting here drinking my coffee and smoking my yosi. Heck, if GMA is ousted, I’ll be too freakin’ happy it’ll make everyone’s teeth hurt. Simple enough eh?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Desperate Housemaids

Ninety-five per cent of 120,000. You can do the math and that is approximately the number of Filipino women domestic workers in Hong Kong with desperate stories to tell.

Choose a handful of that 95% and I’ll bet all my virtual boyfriends in the world that none of them will say that they’ve dreamed of becoming domestic helpers when they were young and in pigtails.

I will never demean domestic work because it is an honest and decent job. Even more honest and decent than the Presidency of RP as it is fast turning out to be.

But if really given a choice, none of these women will opt to be domestic workers. However, when one is desperate to survive, dreams fly out of the window, college degrees remain diplomas on the wall, and licenses as teachers, nurses, midwives and what-have-yous are just mementos in wallets of a profession that can not feed a family.

Desperation can make one leave their own children or old folks to take care of someone else’s brood and parents. Try showing films like “Anak” or “Inang Yaya” to a roomful of our kababayans and you can get the best casts for “Crying Ladies” including hundreds more extras.

The same desperation also makes these women bear abuses to unimaginable point. Like eating noodles and biscuits for two months because her salary has not yet been given and she is forbidden to eat the family’s food. Or being given food but ordered to eat together with the dogs and clean their shit even if she’s not yet done eating.

Or how about being forced to cover her feet and hands with plastic bag all the time because she looks “dirty”? Or being tied up and a panty shoved into the mouth while her employer beats her up? Or being spitted at? Or sexually-harassed? Or raped?

The thought of how to pay the debts incurred in the Philippines to come to Hong Kong, of debts earned while in Hong Kong, of the mouths to feed, of children in school, of needed medicines, of the future – these can drive anyone to desperation.

Desperation comes when a society provides no decent and viable employment. When social services are golds. When golds are the monopoly of the rich. When the rich has the monopoly of the government. And the government is that of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In our rally for a pay hike for foreign maids last Sunday, a colleague of mine heard this conversation when they reached the front of the building that houses the Philippine Consulate General.

Woman 1: Ibuka mo na yang placard mo.
Woman 2: (While lo
oking at the building) Wala namang makakabasa mula sa kanila eh.
Woman 1: Mababasa pa r
in yan ni Lord.

Maybe it is faith. Or maybe it is a last desperate attempt to get the Big Boss’ attention for obviously, the powers that be on earth are not listening.

Ninety-five percent of 120,000. Beyond the math are the desperate stories. Beyond the desperate stories are the reasons why there is a desperate need for change.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What ails me?

Activists have oftentimes been seen as these tough men and women who will not back out from a fight nor be afraid of getting hurt. In my case, the first one may be true most of the time. The second one is something I’m still trying to work out.

I am deathly scared of pain.

When I was a kid, I ran from a tooth extraction operation even after the dentist has put loads of anaesthesia on my gums. Despite the number of times I was pricked by that syringe, I still cringed when that cold implement touched my aching tooth.

Eventually, the dentist caught up with me, strapped me on her dental chair and pulled hard.

That same fear of pain made me believe then that I should just call for St. Roque to avoid getting bitten by dogs. Of course, that time I didn’t mind having a patron saint for canines and none for the gaydom-kind as long as he saved me from his creatures.

Later on, I still found myself getting gnashed in the butt by our own dog. Traitor!

I was also a very well-behaved child for my father did not suffer hardheadedness and disobedience lightly. Whose dad does, anyway?

When I was about 10 though, I experienced getting switched by him for trying to outrun a bus all the way to the Batangas port on my bike.

I was also taught not to have anything red on me when I see a cow. Now I can see red just by looking at the cow of a president we have.

Looking back, though I’ve never been attacked by a cow, I was almost trampled by a carabao.

These stories are more on the physical pains. There are still the emotional pains that are even harder to face and feel. How many among us have experienced that excruciating pain that, much as we try to, we cannot easily pinpoint where it hurts the most?

Through all these pains, I realized that try as I might to avoid them, they still come and pull my insides, bite me in the ass, or impale and bleed me dry.

All I can do is to just bear them, heal the wounds and let the scar be a badge to the world that I’ve gone through hell and back. After everything and like everything, pain passes. Fast or slow, complete or not, they do.

Eventually, life always takes over and forces me to look at pain as something that it gives out to humor and teach me lessons. Cruelly most of the time.

Why am I talking about these?

Because I am in pain. I’m aching all over. I’m hurting in places I find hard to reach.

I just came back from the gym after a two-month absence. Aarghhh!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Which side up?

There are times when our world is turned upside down.

Like when a guy you really like tells you “I like you too” or even better and more kilig, “I love you”.

Will these words not rock you and make your head spin? There is this gush of feelings that sometimes make you forget which way is up, down, left, right and even wrong.

The other day, I was talking to this nice guy while browsing online through past news and recent ones. We were having a really fun time making jokes, fishing for information and the irresistable lure of online flirting.

Then I felt my world stand on its head. Nope, I did not read “I like you, too” on my screen much less “I love you”.

These were the words I read:

“(We) Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found”
– CBCP on the ZTE-NBN scandal

“… the world embraced EDSA I in 1986; the world tolerated EDSA II in 2001; but the world will not forgive an EDSA III …” – GMA on the EDSA anniversary

"irresponsible and tantamount to economic sabotage"
– Deputy presidential spokesman Lorelei Fajardo on “No Remittance Day” campaign of OFWs

Mind-boggling statements. The first is ironic, the second is hypocritic and the third is just downright insulting for an overseas Filipino.

I can understand a moderate position but the statement of the country’s bishops is not even moderate but weird and gives me pause as to the meaning of enlightenment. Better if they have said nothing at all instead of giving ammunition to GMA’s claim of a moral and political ascendancy to rule.

GMA’s take on EDSA III is understandable. She’s got this double standard that seems to say that if it’s not from, by and for GMA, then it must be intolerable.

The third one, meanwhile is quite new. What galls me is that it is directed towards us OFWs. Only this government will dare say Filipinos abroad are irresponsible and economic saboteurs. What’s next on the table? Economic terrorists?

These statements swirl around my head together with this classic line:

“I am sorry” – GMA on Hello Garci

I know you are. And I am straight and just really “tripping” with another straight dude.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fuschiang Ambisyon ‘To

What is your dream: To be a millionaire
What is your ambition: To be a lawyer

When I was young, I used to answer this in slumbooks of my friends and classmates. If I remember right, these were just before the “favorite expression” question that I used to answer with “Ay puke!”.

Yeah, I wanted to become a millionaire and a lawyer – whatever comes first didn’t matter.

I had this dream that I would be a courtroom brawler working up a brand of magic hitherto unknown to the legal profession and scoring victories after victories. As my dream drama unfolded, I would have this jampacked crowd holding on to my words as I won the case.

Then I would go home to my bachelor’s pad, grab a shot of whiskey, head for the shower and prepare for a nightout alone or with friends.

Though almost wasted on Saturday morning, I would still manage to pick up my parents from Batangas and take them for a ride anywhere they wanted. Afterwards, my father would cook his caldereta in my flat while my mother would be watching her favorite soap.

Sunday would be church day and fun with nephews and nieces. Ominously enough, there was no wife, girlfriend or child of my own in my dream scenario.

Picture pretty dream. Then life and my decisions set in.

I am no millionaire and no lawyer. I’ve just got enough in my pocket to last me a month.

I do brawl but in the streets with the police and not in courtrooms. Sometimes, people hold on to my words but that is if I keep it short, simple and to the point.

I go home to my bachelor’s bed, grab a chit-chat with housemates, head for the bathroom to smoke and fiddle with the broken shower, and prepare to sleep.

Saturday morning will be work. I can not pick up my parents because one is up there (I assume) and one is two hours away by plane. My dad cooked his last caldereta three years ago and my mom … still watches her favorite soap.

Sunday is the best day. No fun with nephews and nieces but a great time with fellow Pinoys. And yes, still no wife, girlfriend or child of my own. Never will happen.

Maybe my young dreams didn’t come true. I now dream awake. If I had known how things will turn out, I would have answered this way in those frilly slumbooks:

What is your dream: To be free
What is your ambition: To be happy

By the way, my favorite expression has also changed. Devah, I’m gay. Go figure.