Faded Pictures

Alice knew she had to find work. The kind that pays a steady salary. The one that can translate to a career.

Surfing the net and going to government agencies and writing letters and emails to people asking for information regarding a certain missing person is not a job. Okay, she had been doing ODesk and Freelancer projects (the wonders of the Internet!) but it is not enough. She had always perceived work to happen in a “real” world; not in a virtual one (whatever that means).

But first: she had to realize that her return — this return — is (probably) not a short-term (not even a temporary?)  hiatus. She may have to stay in this godforsaken country of her birth for a loong time.

Her aunt was beginning to ask her the question that Alice had been dreading to hear: “What are your plans dear?”

Her preferred answer was: “I initially planned to come here; look around, perform a quick, painless extraction mission (and maybe get laid); then leave again, back to my cushy New York job that offered an H1B visa.”

Of course she did not say that. But if she were a bitchier person, she probably would — but, she was only beginning to realize, frankness is never the best policy when dealing with her people.

In her country, progress is perceived as more skyscrapers and more salaried jobs and more cars in the streets and more people who can afford to shop in malls. Alice defines progress as: a country where there are no missing persons.  Image from www.rechargenews.com

In her country, progress is perceived as:  more skyscrapers and more salaried jobs and more cars in the streets and more people who can afford to shop in malls. Alice defines progress as: a country where there are no missing persons. Image from http://www.rechargenews.com

She reads the news everyday. And everything can be summarized into a Charles Dickens cliche: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

The Philippine Stock Exchange is moving up; constructions are beginning to sprout; the Philippines is second to China as far as economic growth is concerned; her Aunt Juliet, after 54 years of being a bachelorette,  married a 60-year old widower who adored her.

Jonas is still missing.

So things are looking up — except for Alice’s depression.

She tells herself: he is probably dead. It has been months and there’s … nothing. Just clues that lead to a series of disappointments. You have practically traveled the whole archipelago that you can write a Lonely Planet guide about it (she has actually done something like that in one of the freelance internet ghostwriting jobs that came her way).

In sequence, these are what happened: 1. Alice would not answer Jonas's question so he informed her that she is a coward who is afraid commitments (in so many words). 2. Alice shots back, if she was a coward, what does that make him? 3. Jonas does not say anything for a long time. 4. They see this apple tree and in an attempt to make up and be friendly, Alice persuades Jonas that they have a selfie taken with this tree. 5. Then Jonas agrees when Alice wheedled him to let her take his picture. 6. Jonas did not look very happy in the picture Alice had taken. Image from http://wallpapertags.com

In sequence, these are what happened: 1.) Alice would not answer Jonas’s question so he informed her (in a manner littered with exclamation points)  that she is a coward who is afraid commitments. 2.) Alice shots back: if she was a coward, what does that make him? 3.) Jonas does not say anything for a long time. 4.) They see this apple tree and in an attempt to make up and be friendly, Alice persuades Jonas that they have a selfie taken with this tree. 5.) Then Jonas agrees when Alice wheedled him to let her take his picture. 6.) Jonas did not look very happy in the picture Alice had taken. Image from http://wallpapertags.com

She still looks at his picture. Every night … well almost. The last one she took of him when he visited her in Connecticut. It was spring and she hustled him to pose beside an apple tree. Jonas was usually averse to having his picture taken, which is weird because he does photography as a hobby. He could do selfies with Alice and he has taken thousands of pictures of her. But he would usually refuse when she offered to take photographs of him solo.

That day was an exception. Maybe it’s because they almost fought that day. Because Jonas asked her a question she did not want to hear from him: “What are your plans Alice?”

 

***

Readings Lists and References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/opinion/sunday/from-sports-illustrated-the-latest-body-part-for-women-to-fix.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

http://www.rappler.com/entertainment/news/85003-kris-aquino-herbert-bautista-proposal-relationship-breakup-blog?utm_content=buffer68834&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/gender-issues/84768-menstruation-poverty-health-girls?utm_content=bufferc98bd&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/675290/biff-on-afp-all-out-war-we-will-die-fighting

http://www.rappler.com/nation/84925-sc-religious-schools-cannot-fire-workers-pre-marital-pregnancy?utm_content=buffer64ed5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/84916-netizens-react-alan-cayetano-exchange-iqbal-senate?utm_content=buffer9dc5a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/84900-oxford-university-wharton-school?

utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=referral

http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/investigative/84397-bongbong-marcos-degrees-oxford-wharton

What Happened on February 25

people power 1

Image from http://www.revolutionrevisited.com. It is a very Pinoy thing to do revolutions prayer-rally style. See the image of the Virgin Mary in this picture? While I do not discount the power of prayer, I think it is high time that my people stop relying on a higher deity in doing the dirty work of building and maintaining a nation.

My baby sister was born!

Mommy delivered her at home; with the help of our neighborhood midwife, who happened to be the mom of my friend, Heidi. That time, home deliveries were still the norm and the Philippine Department of Health has not yet discouraged women against home delivery

Don't these sisters just rock!? It was 1986 and they were prating the rosary and were not afraid of being trampled amidst the millions that milled in EDSA.  Image from http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/2013/2/77-hours-the-behind-the-scenes-at-the-1986-edsa-people-power-revolution

Don’t these sisters just rock!? It was 1986 and they were praying the rosary and were not afraid of being trampled amidst the millions that milled in EDSA. A soldier was holding an armalite in front of them; and they were probably saying, “God bless you iho, now let’s do the Hail Mary.” And the soldier was reminded of his mom. Filipino males, soldier or not, are always afraid of their moms. Image from http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/2013/2/77-hours-the-behind-the-scenes-at-the-1986-edsa-people-power-revolution

My mom said that she considered my sister as the lucky charm of our family. Her pork business bloomed after Sister’s birth and she moved from  a D to a B minus (I am talking about social classes and not bra-cup sizes).

The Pinoy men at EDSA were not too shabby either. Here is a picture of several of them trying to do the impossible; which was to stop tanks using their bare hands. They succeeded. Image from http://desarapen.blogspot.com/2005/08/lasang-pinoy-1-yellow-confetti-pancit.html

The Pinoy men at EDSA were not too shabby either. Here is a picture of several of them trying to do the impossible; which was to stop tanks using their bare hands. They succeeded. Image from http://desarapen.blogspot.com/2005/08/lasang-pinoy-1-yellow-confetti-pancit.html

 

Were it not for February 25, 1986 ... Corry Aquino (the 1987 Time Magazine Person of the Year) would not have become president. Image from globalbalita.com

Were it not for February 25, 1986 … Cory Aquino (the 1987 Time Magazine Person of the Year) would not have become president. Image from globalbalita.com

***

“Girls are taught a lot of stuff growing up: if a boy punches you he likes you, never try to trim your own bangs, and someday you will meet a wonderful guy and get your very own happy ending. Every movie we see, every story we’re told implores us to wait for it: the third act twist, the unexpected declaration of love, the exception to the rule. But sometimes we’re so focused on finding our happy ending we don’t learn how to read the signs. how to tell the ones who want us from the ones who don’t, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. and maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a guy, maybe it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. maybe the happy ending is just moving on. or maybe the happy ending is this: knowing after all the unreturned phone calls and broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment… you never gave up hope.”

— Gigi, a character played by Ginnifer Goodwin (He’s Just Not That Into You)

 

In fairness to my countrymen (and women) and me … we have never given up hope :)

filipino spirit

***

Reading Lists and Reference:

http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/184772/why-filipinos-have-to-learn-mindful-parenting

http://opinion.inquirer.net/82708/democracy-the-great-experiment

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2015/02/proud-society-provide-care-everyone.html

http://time.com/3716823/mars-one-space-travel-finalist/

Girl-Power (or How To Double-Team a Boy and Win)

Jonas was in Mindanao during the 2001 all-out-war against Muslims (who prefer to be called Moros in this part of their world) instigated by an actor who was playing the role of “president”.

It was not an experience that he would care to repeat.  He and his friends were stranded; and his mother was calling everyday, embarrassing him. At that time, cellphones were rare; and his mom would call collect on the landline. His friend, Arnie, would be merciless whenever handing Jonas the phone.

Jonas loves his mother (he doesn’t have a choice about it). But she drives him crazy!

Today, his mother is in cahoots with Alice. Their project is to persuade him to accept an NGO project that is based in Luzon.

The Magat River. Picture from http://www.snaboitiz.com

The Magat River. Picture from http://www.snaboitiz.com

 

Mrs. Endriga: For a change, right Alice? What is in Mindanao that cannot be found in Luzon?

Alice: Right Tita! I mean, they have mountains and so do we!

They talk to each other as if he is the Invisible Man.

Mrs. Endriga: We even have rivers!

Alice: True. In fact, the Magat River is the longest in the country and it’s in Nueva Vizcaya!

Mrs. Endriga: That is near your town, right iha?

Alice: An hour or two ride away.

Mrs. Endriga: There are so many beautiful places one can explore in Luzon …

Alice: Right! Like there’s Mount Banahaw …

Mrs. Endriga: And let’s not forget the Cordilleras …

The last time Alice checked, headhunters are already history in Sagada. Maybe. Picture from www.wayph.com

The last time Alice checked, headhunters are already history in Sagada. Maybe. Picture from http://www.wayph.com

 

Alice: Tita, they have headhunters there.

Mrs. Endriga: Is that so. Well, Sagada is civilized, I heard.

Alice: The Southern Tagalog region has Laguna lake, we don’t have to go very far …

Mrs. Endriga: But Laguna Lake is already polluted.

Alice: That is a challenge to any environmental geologist worth his salt.

The Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in Luzon. Too bad it's very polluted. Picture from deviantart.com

The Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in Luzon. Too bad it’s very polluted. Picture from deviantart.com

 

Mrs. Endriga: That’s true, that’s true … I must say that I have raised my children not to run from any challenge.

Alice: Well, your girls are wonderful mam. I love them!

Mrs. Endriga: I love them too, iha. Now the boy …

Alice: Is a dork … sorry I know he’s your son. But we have to be honest here.

Mrs. Endriga: Well, he’s not that bad. When he was one-year old he used to eat my lipstick.

Jonas has to draw the line when he heard the the word “lipstick.”

“Mother, you have to shut up. And you too Alice. I am going to take that job, if that will keep you two from yapping like harpies and driving me into a mental institution.”

 

***

Reading Lists or References:

http://jonas.ph/blog/2014/06/06/places-in-the-philippines-na-parang-pag-ibig/

http://manila.coconuts.co/2015/02/06/6-cool-coffee-shops-found-quezon-city

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/02/20/pnoy-scolds-saf-widows/

http://raissarobles.com/2011/10/24/what-would-an-all-out-war-in-mindanao-cost-us/comment-page-1/#comment-244765

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/father-murdered-jordan-pilot-demands-harsh-revenge-150204100838183.html

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/middle-east/83188-jordan-queen-rania-isis?utm_content=buffere5407&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/83196-presidential-resignation-matter?utm_content=buffer5f258&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Rural Myths and Legends (or A Roadmap to Second Base)

black sands beach

The beach has black sands, most of it is composed of a metal called magnetite. Chinese merchants have been mining the black sands for close to 15 years now. As a result, there are areas in the water that would immediately dip and deepen which is very dangerous for an unsuspecting swimmer.

“Every year, the sea would claim a life. The townspeople believe that, like it’s an obligatory sacrifice. Last year, a group of students from the provincial capitol went on a picnic on this beach. Two of them drowned.”

“You don’t really believe in that baloney, do you?” Alice asked him.

“I’m a scientist, Alice. But there are many stories and I think we should listen to them so that we can understand the people who have to make them up.”

black sands little boy

She nodded. “Where I grew up, our neighbors believe that the forest beside our town was haunted. With black or red dwarves, or something.” Jonas started touching her neck and she was momentarily distracted. She gave him a warning look. He grinned at her, but stopped anyway. Alice continued, “So they believe that when you step into the forest for the first time, you should give the dwarf, the nuno, a sign of your respect. Like you can bow and ask for it to let you pass. You can also wear your shirt inside out, otherwise it may make fun of you and make you get lost in its forest.”

It’s forest? So you really believe in this folktale, huh?” Jonas teased.

“My grandfather used to tell it to me all the time. I think he was just trying to scare me, to keep me from wandering off and getting lost. What’s so funny?”

“I am just thinking that your grandfather was telling you myths and folktales, while my father used to read me A History of the Manhattan Project as bedtime story.”

“So that is the reason why you are such a nerd!” Alice exclaims, shamelessly lying with a straight face.

Jonas is the farthest thing from a nerd one can imagine. As far as physical attributes go, Alice may appear nerdier than he is: with her glasses (gone now; since she started going out with him she had preferred contacts) and her books and her perpetual ponytails (which have disappeared with her glasses; he always managed to unbind her hair whenever he’s around). Jonas looks like a basketball player, though he’s not that tall. A lot of great players in the PBA are not very tall.

Jonas kissed her nose and stretched out on the blanket, his head on her lap.

Now what? Alice thought. They were alone on the beach, save for a few sand crabs scurrying around them. The nearest fisherman was a kilometer away.

Jonas closed his eyes. “There is another story about this sea. Once upon a time, a mermaid used to live here. Every year, at Lent or Christmas, she would take on the body of a beautiful woman and mingle with the local people. She would encourage the males to drink the local wine which she had spiked with her magic potion, and eat some enchanted food from the ocean. She would do this so that they will forget who they are and follow her.”

“And where are the women in this story, I wonder?”

He opened one eye. “They are tending to their kids.”

“What happens when the guys follow the mermaid?”

“They fall on the ocean and they drown.”

Alice laughed. Guffawed and chuckled like a madwoman. She laid down on the blanket beside Jonas, took his hand and started playing with it. “I like your story.”

Jonas turned and embraced her; her legs, arms and torso in a tangle with his. He was smiling, looking into her eyes.

“I knew you would. I like it too. It got you lying down here with me while my other attempts have failed.”

So then … one of them proceeded to go where (as the Star Trek saying goes) no man has gone before. It was not an entirely boring morning.

 

***

Reading Lists and Interesting Pictures:

http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/83901-pinoys-less-happy-love-survey?utm_content=bufferb106e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://escapology.eu/

http://theadipositivityproject.zenfolio.com/valentine/h35C037#h2faede0b

http://www.lifenews.com/2014/02/12/unborn-babies-feel-anger-and-joy-psychotherapists-study-says/

http://www.bustle.com/articles/60252-18-books-every-woman-should-read-when-shes-18-because-i-sure-wish-i-had

http://www.wheninmanila.com/dont-get-shocked-alibata-is-incorrect-govph/

http://fb-22.sfglobe.com/2015/01/30/husband-and-wife-hear-each-others-thoughts-on-marriage-after-56-years/?src=share_fb_new_33732http://fb-22.sfglobe.com/2015/01/30/husband-and-wife-hear-each-others-thoughts-on-marriage-after-56-years/?src=share_fb_new_33732

Swear Words and Kisses (or The Effect of Ethanol on the Hippocampus and Amygdala of Mimosa Pudica)

 

 

8 years (or so) ago …

Jonas never swears.

Between him and Alice, she is the one more prone to spewing out gutter words and expletives when she is angry or frustrated. That day, though, his sentences are liberally peppered with the p-word and other creative adjectives that leaves Alice in open-mouthed amazement.

“Who are you? And what have you done to my boyfriend?”

The word “boyfriend” still makes Alice queasy; but not as much as before. There are times when she is comfortable and even pleased when hearing it coming from her voice.

Jonas regards Alice; and when he answered, he sounds calmer and leveled.

“Those ass-kissing, donkey-headed, fruitcake retards in congress have shot it down!”

“That bill you were lobbying to make that forest a protected area?”

Jonas nods. “Congressman Bautista is a pretentious, slime-y, small-balled, prick-brained ….”

He seems at a loss for the best insult to use, so Alice chimes in, “poop-eating goatfucker?”

Jonas smiles at Alice. “That’s just right on, honey. Thank you.”

“We aim to please,” Alice replies, glad to be of help in another human being’s hour of need.

However, she is not sure if this giddiness she feels is due to the gin cocktail she just consumed.

Or because Jonas just called her “honey.”

“If I kiss you, would it make it all feel better?”

Did she just say that?

Yes, she most definitely did. That wide, self-satisfied grin on his face is evidence that she did.

“Kiss me where?”

“On the lip, you dolt! Why? What did you think?”

Dramatic sigh. “I thought that tonight I am going get lucky. Remind me to ply you with alcohol more often.”

Then he kissed her. It lasted for 60 seconds (more or less); and involved lips, tongue, teeth, hands, and bodily fluids.

It left Alice dazed and disoriented.

Her opportunistic rascal of a “boyfriend” has the gall to tease her afterwards: “You are getting better at this, Alice. Have you been practicing?”

Now she can’t very well let that pass without a scathing reply, can she?

“No practice. Just a natural inborn talent. Unlike some people who just had to make so much effort.” She managed (and succeeded) to raise one eyebrow at him, not an easy feat. “Are you impressed?”

Jonas laughs. “Very much so.” And they continued where they left off.

Necessary Fictions

Ana met up with Carrie after the conference. This was one of those seminars that people in Ana’s profession go to out of obligation. In her case, Ana felt obligated to attend because Carrie, who is a dear friend, already paid for her registration.

 

Ana started reading Mills and Boon before puberty. So maybe that's why she is R-rated and Carrie is PG. Mills and Boon are the precursors of Fifty Shades of Grey, with better editing.

Ana started reading Mills and Boon before puberty. So maybe that’s why she is R-rated and Carrie is PG. Mills and Boon are the precursors of Fifty Shades of Grey, with better editing. They sold to women who wanted to have fun. People cannot seem to understand this. Sex+love=romance and romance sells because it’s fun. Atrocious editing, bad narrative structure and seemingly shallow characterizations are (sometimes, though not all the time) superfluous. A roller coaster does not need to be blue for one to feel adrenaline rush while riding it. An orgasm is an orgasm whether one has had  it with a dildo or with something else. Picture from bankstownnorthps.com.au

 

Once upon a time, Ana and Carrie worked in the trenches together. They were excellent soldiers — obedient with just the right amount of cynicism; they could look at blood and gore with clinical detachment; they could sublimate their fear, disgust and depression, until a more appropriate time (however long that takes). They could have been made into generals. Ana actually rose to captain but she found that she  hated soldiering and was in it only for the money. For these girls (or women), Carrie and Ana, their passive-aggressiveness is an effective antibiotic to future success.

Now Ana  is thinking: there is something about being in a war-zone (which is basically what their previous job was all about) that draw people closer. If I had been more determined, and gave in to my Inner Goddess and quit while I was still  relatively sane, Carrie would not have been my friend. I would not be sitting here now, drinking mojito and commiserating about our husband’s infrequent erections.

Carrie: I think something happened after I gave birth. That fourth degree laceration really took something out of my sex life. Maybe it’s the lubrication or something.

Ana: I miss it when we were in our twenties and would have sex every other day. Half the time I was asleep, which is a bummer now that I look back on it. Men’s interest really go down with age.

Carrie: I love our daughter and I think I don’t mind not having sex with Ian at all.

Ana: Really!? You mean that?

Carrie: Ana, of course I’m lying! But I can’t help thinking that he doesn’t really love me. That he just married me because I got pregnant?

Ana: Oh please! Are we going back to this storyline? Harlequin, Loveswept, Silhouette, even Mills and Boon novels are teeming with the accidental-pregnancy-plot-that-leads-to-marriage — haven’t you learned anything by now?

(Carrie’s face is blank so Ana would have to spell it out for her)

Ana: Ian loves you, get that through your thick head. It’s not as if you pointed a gun at him and made him marry you.

Carrie: For men, isn’t an accidental gestation just like pointing a gun to their  heads?

Ana: (Silent. How would she know? She had never been pregnant.) Tell me again how your daughter was an accident?

Carrie: I forgot to take my pill.

Ana: Wow, that’s stupid.

Carrie: Thank you, Ana. That is very insightful.

Ana: Well if you will do it all over again, I’m sure that that you will not prefer not having had your daughter. I mean, Arielle is cute and smart and she will probably be your last chance at genetic mortality because, and I quote, women’s chance at conception drastically go down at 39 even with IVF. Hey look, you should have another kid, otherwise, you will smother this one.

Carrie: I am on DMPA.

Ana: Wow, is that so. Well you’re 38, you should probably give yourself a deadline. Don’t be like me. I am still not passionate about progenies and I’m only 3 years younger than you.

Carrie: Having a child is difficult. A real drain on the finances, and on your energy. You want to give her the best. And it’s depressing when you realize you can’t.

Ana: I am so glad you said that. I am tired of these women, and even men, who keep yammering on like having a kid is the Holy Grail.

Carrie: Of course they will say that Ana. It’s a necessary fiction.

 

***

Review of the week: Fifty Shades of Grey

“we should not begrudge E. L. James her triumph, for she has, in her lumbering fashion, tapped into a truth that often eludes more elegant writers—that eternal disappointment, deep in the human heart, at the failure of our loved ones to acquire their own helipad.”

 

fifty-shades-grey-men

 

 

 

Show and Tell

from ddeubel.edublogs.org-

Image from ddeubel.edublogs.org-

 

I forgot.

That writing is about showing. And not telling.

Like peek-a-boo, maybe. The fun is in the searching

Finding is just icing

On a cake (chocolate flavored with a hint of strawberry).

 

Okay so I have been dissed again.

Boohoo

on me.

 

But this time I found it to be fun.

Robert, darling, I get it … but still,

You should have given me the right to reply.

I would have just smiled and said “thank you”

And would that be so threatening?

 

***

Will sex scenes in blockbuster movies start showing cunnilingus instead of the missionary position? That really would be radical.

— Germaine Greer,  The Whole Woman (Anchor, Great Britain, 1999), pp. 242.

 

***

I sure hope so Miz Greer, I sure hope so :) — silly old me

 

 

***

Reading Lists:

http://www.iag.org.ph/index.php/blog/506-f-sionil-jose-to-milf-leaders-be-excellent-muslims

http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/141573/2013-philippine-pen-congress-tackles-mindanao-conflict

http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=16540.0

http://pcij.org/stories/favored-as-boys-disadvantaged-as-men/

http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2015/01/the-whole-point-of-sex-is-reproduction-not-the-pleasure-that-comes-with-it/