Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dinner Near Tiffany's

That’s how I imagined life should be- being engaged to somebody wearing a Tiffany ring, and you can afford it because you’re a young urban professional, living in style in one of those artsy lofts or apartments in the heart of the city. I was drifting again into one of my hazy imaginations while standing in front of Tiffany’s. Just like in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s when Holly was having breakfast while looking at the window shop of Tiffany’s, except that I was about to have a (very) late dinner.

That evening I was also quite anxious. It’s like having the mean reds- that sentiment of inexplicable anxiety. I heard it also from the movie, but I usually call it ‘mental regla’.

We were going to have dinner in an Apulian restaurant near Tiffany’s, as a despedida party for one of my dear friends, Ms. Clairvoyant and her husband.

It’s very rare for a Filipino to eat in one of those fancy restaurants in that area. Dining there is absurdly expensive. Nevertheless, the experience never fails to give you that elated sensation of being in a posh environment, the ultimate rush a social-climber could ever have. But I would be a hypocrite if I deny my true sentiment of being part of the Florentine night life scene and share in the glittery glory of being fashionably and glamorously superficial. But I’m just one of those awkward social climbers. It wasn’t really the right place for me- too expensive and fashionable for my poor and corny taste in life and style.

But I had to be there because the dinner was for my friends.

Ms. Clairvoyant is tall, pretty and youthful, and her husband is like the twin brother of a very handsome Filipino action star. Strange enough, my compadre didn’t show up that night, only Ms. Clairvoyant.

After the gruelling hours of waiting, the others have finally showed up beyond the appointed time, and way too early for Filipino time.

They were all there-stylish and smiling. I felt out of place, but the need to be nourished overcame embarrassment and stupid insecurities. Being there while having mental regal was like being in a haze so thick and suffocating. I swear it wasn’t the prosecco or the wine.

The scene was almost surreal- secret friends and hidden foes all in this convivial banquet. The true and the treacherous laughing in one vivacious chorus. Malicious talks and factions were set aside. That night was an exception. Everyone united in Ms. Clairvoyant’s honour.

All this glitter and glamour make me feel pathetic. But the feeling subsides when I look at her. It’s not like I’m in love with her. Looking at Ms. Clairvoyant, there’s this tenderness and warmth one feels in the heart that makes you forget everything and the muffled noise around you. She’s just so dear to me.

The Big Boss stood up after the dinner and drag everyone to this over-rated club near the Arno River. The girls there were like supermodels- tall and beautiful, smooth skin, slender bodies, classy dresses and flirtatious air. The guys were cocky metrosexuals- boisterous and playful, with their bulging fronts and lascivious looks and smiles.

After a round of martinis and a cuba libre, tongues were loosened up. Earlier at the restaurant, there were already some whisperings among the girls. Hints were being exchanged. Girl talk, I said to myself. I decided not to exert any effort to decipher their cryptic messages.

As we were about to leave to hit the road back home the Big Boss said that if she ever though of returning to Italy she will find her a suitable Latin Lover. And then it hit me. After putting all the pieces of puzzle together, I finally saw the big picture.

Comadre and compadre have come to the end of their trip.

I thought it was too early to be in such a crisis. It wasn’t the time for them to come to such dilemma, especially when they have a son. They never told me anything. And all this time I believed in love, true and eternal. They were good at hiding the huge gap between them.

We said our last goodbyes. The mean reds/mental regal getting nastier in me. I can now see clearer beyond this haze, but it’s still thick and suffocating.

I chauffeured one of my masters back to her home and we talked about life in the Philippines, both concealing the desire to exchange facts about Ms. Clairvoyant. It was better that way. We only keep the good things of her last moments here in Italy.

On my way home, I thought that dinner near Tiffany’s would be one of my saddest and most awkward of all memories. And life can never be like Tiffany diamonds- long lasting or forever. People are not Tiffany diamonds- we’re not genuine.

The truth is we would be always looking at the glass windows of that glamorous shop- always looking, always dreaming, always pretending, always drifting in that world of make-belief. Always yearning for that life, for that existence of undying love.

Meanwhile, the mean reds are still tormenting me.   

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sa Ala-ala ni Doña Victorina at Doña Consolacion

Mahirap yatang iwasan ang mainit na issue between Senyor Iskwater at ni Bianca Gonzalez and Co. dahil sa tweet na ito na isinulat ng latter-

Ang dami nating nagtatrabaho para makaipon para sa prime lot at bahay plus buwis pa. Bakit nga ba bine-baby ang mga informal settlers?”

Matapos ang palitan ng mga kuru-kuro nauwi sa palitan ng pang-iinsulto. Nagdatingan ang mga tagapagtanggol ni Bianca, at heto pa ako ngayon, nakikisawsaw bilang isang echoserong froglet.

Gusto ko sana mag comment sa blog ni Senyor Iskwater pero hindi yata kakayanin sa dalawang comment boxes. And besides, sa nakita kong mga nag comment, siguro mas mainam na ditto na lang ako sa aking corner, kung saan I’m safe. Hehehe! Sorry senyor, naduwag ako sa kanila.

Ang pangyayaring ito ay sobrang compelling. Nung nabanggit ito sa akin ng kapwa ko blogero at nasilip ko ang mga nakasulat, nahirapan akong matulog kagabi. I did some soul searching.

Dapat siguro natin himayin ang mga pangyayari at bigyan ng tamang sagot ang mga dapat na i-consider na tanong.

It’s hard to address the issue of poverty. I can’t make assumptions on how to alleviate it because I have no competence over it. But the dilemma is so apparent that it’s impossible for an average citizen not to have an opinion about it.

Unahin natin ang tweet ni Bianca.

Bianca argued that it’s not fair that THEY pay taxes and work hard while the poor are being pampered by allowing them to informally settle on areas they don’t own or are not supposed to be inhabited.

Let’s see how it’s unfair.

Bianca is working hard as a celebrity/journalist/some-perky-girl-in-showbiz-or-media-who-is-usually-worshipped-and-venerated-because-of-their-squeaky-clean-character-impressive-educational-background-and-being-a-probable-senatorial-candidate-in-the-future. With her looks and brain, she finds it hard to please people. That’s why she needs to work hard. Hindi siguro madali at masaya ang buhay celebrity. And take note- MAHIRAP PASAYAHIN ANG MGA PILIPINO.

And the government has the nerve to impose taxes on her because of her beauty, intelligence and sexiness, and her hard work?

In fairness, may utak si Bianca at kaya niyang makarating kahit saan.

At hindi siya nag-iisa. Sa bansang ito MARAMI ang MAY TRABAHO na KATULAD NIYA.

Sa kabilang banda, ano ba ang ginagawa ng mga informal settlers?

We have always associated poverty with lack of initiative and laziness. Kaya nasa isip natin na ang mga ito ay walang ginagawa. Walang kabuhayan. Mga walang pinag-aralan. Walang pangarap sa buhay. Maraming nagiisip na sila’y mga hampas lupang nagkumpol-kumpol, barumbado at mga walang modo, kaya sila mahihirap.

Believe it or not, many of those pampered informal settlers have humble work and odd but decent jobs. May mga labandera, katulong, houseboy, janitor, at kung anu-anong MADADALING trabaho na hindi gagawin ng mga hard-working tulad ni Bianca Gonzales and Co.

Wala ba silang vision or pangarap sa kanilang buhay? Kung tutuusin, pinilit naman nila sa magkaroon ng katuparan ang kanilang mga munting pangarap, kaya marami sa kanila ay nangahas pumunta sa Maynila. Many of them are trying their best to buy a handful of rice and some noodles to feed their family, and still dream of having their own home. But for now, they can settle with those rusty and rotting sheds. Marami talaga sa kanila ang nagsusumikap.

Mayroon naman na mga sugarol, tambay, puta, at walang pangarap sa buhay- mga nilalang na mayroon din naman counterpart sa aking social order, at sa social order din ni Bianca.

So in Bianca’s point of view, compared to us, these people had it easy. To Bianca’s opinion, they’re not working hard. The labandera is not doing the laundry hard enough. The houseboy is not breaking his back enough. The tindera is not living an honest existence. Or those scavengers swarming on heaps of trashes are not doing anything to uplift their status in life.

To Bianca’s opinion, it is unfair that we who have the capacity to produce wealth and have the chances to reach higher places in the social hierarchy, are being obliged TO FULFIL OUR DUTY TO THE COUNTRY BY PAYING TAXES, while our fellow citizens in the slums are exempted and tolerated to do anything illegal, such as being a helpless poor parasites. Bine-baby pa ng government.

Hmmm…. It’s not fair.

Somebody commented that there should be the rule of the law. There’s a law that tells us all that informal settlements are illegal and those who practice this should be punished by the law. The provision is clear and has already been established. Even my faith compels me to adhere to what the law said. It is unfair that one citizen is burdened by his duties while others are living in a quasi-anarchic lifestyle.

Is it fair? The answer has been provided by the law, and no one and no opinion can overrule that.

I’d like to quote what Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said in an interview- “Sometimes extra legal factors come in. It is inhuman of you not to consider the extra legal factors. But in weighing these extra legal factors, it should be the legal factors which should dominate. Because if you take into consideration the extra legal factors in arriving on your decision you would not be true to yourself.”

Bine-baby nga ba ang mga iskwaters na ito ng gobyerno?

Our government was born out of the union of democracy and the will of the people. Its purpose is to let the voice of the people be heard, embody the ideals and aspirations of the people, promote common good, and secure the regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace.  

The government has the duty to castigate social errors regardless of their status in life. However, it should not penalize the poorest because of their poverty. In fact, it must be there to help them and to uplift them from their poor state.

To say that the poor is being pampered is quite outrageous given that they are driven out of their shacks, transferred to another location with no guarantees of being employed, no insufficient institutions to educate their children or even guide the helpless settlers. They will be given Conditional Cash Transfers, though they haven’t got the capacity to pay back.

If for an average college graduate in our country finds it difficult to get a job, then difficult is not even the word to say for those who are poor.

One should not expect so much from them, since they have none. Yes, houses are given to them like they were for free, pero matapos ang ilang buwan, magugutom ang mga iyan o mangangailangan ng perang pang gastos sa iba pang pangangailangan. Ano ba ang immediate solution nila sa mga ganyang problema? Ibenta ang bahay na ipinagkaloob sa kanila at bumalik sa iskwater na libre, at least may pera na para mabuhay sila sa mga susunod na buwan. Oo mayroon mga gagamitin para sa bisyo at mga walang kwentang bagay, pero hindi ibig sabihin niyan na ang bawat iskwater ay ganan, the way hindi ko sinasabing ang lahat ng may pera, may kaya at may pinag-aralan ay katulad ng magiting na si Bianca.

Keep in mind also that this administration and even its predecessors committed themselves to solve the issue of poverty and to give them attention. Yes, they need more attention than you Bianca. You are from a prestigious school. You know better that these people are helpless, and for them to reach your level somebody must give them a push, a way to start again in life, something that would give them an advantageous situation for them to pursue a better life and a home they can buy from hard-earned cash. Your university was supposed to make your mind broader and more understanding and compassionate.

Now let’s see how the Defender of the Poor, Senyor Iskwater, reacted. Was it legit?

The law, human ethics, and Filipino delicadeza provided that no person of whatever socio-economic status, gender or sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion, or of any opinion deserve disrespectful remarks.

I wouldn’t say that he bullied Bianca. How can you bully somebody who seems to have the upper-hand (hard-working tax-payer, venerated super sexy celebrity, intellectual, lady with a large number of followers, and philanthropist)? From what I’ve seen, many readers, friends and anonymous, all ganged up against Senyor.

He posted a clamorous entry to rebuke Bianca. And many in the blogosphere expressed their fury and hatred for daring to insult Her Venerable Lady Untouchable Who Holds the Ultimate Truth and Opinion on Squatters.
It was quite under the belt. I would be a hypocrite if I say I didn’t like what he did. Ganyan din kasi minsan ang ginagawa ko dito sa blog.

Again, as provided by human and divine laws, writing something like that is not acceptable and we are guilty of such questionable behaviour in the blogosphere. And it shouldn’t be endorsed.


Knowing Senyor’s background, it’s quite hard not to reply in such manner.

It is true what Senyor’s haters say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. EVERYONE. And if Bianca thinks that the informal settlers are a sting to the progress of the capital or to her eyes, she has the freedom to say so, but she’s not the average jerk who can get away with foul opinions.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions but it doesn’t mean that he has the license to belittle the helpless and the paupers.

She’s Bianca Gonzalez. The squatters look up to her thinking that she’s advocating their cause and that she’s compassionate enough to know how they will feel.

Naturingan pa man din UNICEF goodwill ambassador. As an ambassador, one must be very careful what word to use and be very considerate of the people he represents. Well, there you go.

Her tweet was a curse of treacherous words, revealing the hypocrisy of all that has been documented and photographed and televised. And everyone knows the sentiment of someone who was betrayed, someone like Senyor.

She maybe entitled to her opinion but no law has sanctioned her to belittle or categorize squatters as social parasites that are dragging down our society. What she’s saying is that such people of her own blood and flesh do not deserve any kind of help because it’s useless.

If that is the case, then why not create labour camps like that in Auschwitz during the Second World War and systematically eliminate the burden of HER society group?

Pero hindi natin gagawin iyon dahil alam natin that we have the moral and social responsibility to help these people.

Bianca, of all people, should know better that they who are in that immaculate caste of hers have this moral and social responsibility, and should be considerate and compassionate. Philanthropy, charity work, coddling the poor- call it whatever you want, but the ethics of man and of heaven compel us to reach out to the helpless.

 You what, the thing with the poor is you can deprive them of food and water, shelter and employment, but never dare deprive them of their integrity and don’t even think of humiliating them by making them appear as the ultimate cancer. It crushes their soul. It will eventually prompt them to disregard any law from the king and from heaven, and that’s when you Bianca should fear for your life.

Haven’t we learned from the past? Have you seen whey there were rebellions? Why did the Filipino people fought against colonizers? Have you even considered why many historians, artists and patriotic writers despise your likes Bianca?
I’m not saying that Senyor’s action was right. It is wrong. But you really can’t expect us to react otherwise. I know how it feels to be treated like a social cancer. I am a foreigner in a different land at lahat ng kamalasan ng bansang ito ay ibinubuhos sa amin. We are constantly harassed and ridiculed.

Dito masasabi ko talaga that we were pampered. Maraming lahi ang bine-baby talaga dito. Maraming nagrereklamo. Pero whether it is the communist or fascist, both now that they need to help us, and even the poor. In fact, hindi nila pinapayagan ang mga katagang binitawan ni Bianca. Kung malalaman pa nga ng mga Italian authorities kung paano tulungan ng government natin ang mahihirap eh siguro they will be appalled, and yet kay Bianca eh bine-baby na agad yun.

It’s quite a shame that there are still many who are willing to defend Bianca’s side.

Maraming nakakaunawa kay Bianca. Maraming tatayo sa katuwiran ni Bianca.

Kami? Si Senyor? Para marinig niyo pa ang daing nila at ma-realize na nakakainsulto ang sinasabi niyo, he needed strike her very person.

Bakit ba kailangan magalit si Bianca?

Oh I get it. Naiinggit pala siya sa mga tulad ni Senyor.

Huwag kayong mag-alala. Paninindigan nila ang kanilang mga binitiwang salita. Nangyari na yon sa ating nakaraan. Nangyari na din yan sa ibang bansa.

Sinisigurado ko sa inyo na mangyayari yan, hindi man ngayon, hindi man bukas, ngunit sinisigurado ko sa iyo Bianca, kakayanin nilang panindigan yan sa hinaharap.

Ngayon balikan niyo ang title. Maala-ala niyo pa kaya?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Summer Blues

Summer na dito sa Italy at kung anu-anong trip na naman ang gagawin ng mga kaibigan ko at ng sambayanang Pilipino at Italyano. Nagbabakasyon lahat ng tao dito, and they’re so fervent about it na parang sacred practice ng isang religion lang nila ang magbakasyon.

Maraming bagay ang nangyayari kapag summer, but this year, it’s gonna be a lot less for me.

photo from weheartit.com

This summer it’ll be a lot less for me.

I’ll be loveless.

Alam kong ito ang tagsibol ng pag-ibig kung kailan magsusulputan ang mga new lovers. Kapag bakasyon kasi wala nang magawa o maisip, lalu na ang mga kabataan.

This is not my case. By the way, itong post na ito ay hindi isang random rambling ng isang single guy na defensive sa kanyang single status. I’ve always been happy of my singlehood. I love my independence. I love how easy I can organize my time, go to places with anybody I want to be with, at gawin lahat ng trip na gusto kong gawin. Matagal tagal na rin akong walang love life. I really don’t care. I’m not desperate. Hindi naman siguro ako panget, at hindi ako ganon ka torpe. I just don’t feel like being committed to anybody at this particular moment in my life.

One time naman nakadama din ako ng kalungkutan at yung emotional hunger- that sensation of being attached heart and mind, philosophically and physically, to somebody.

Kaya din naman ako loveless ay dahil na rin siguro sa tinatago kong pag-ibig. I may be happy, pero bumababa na ang level.

My summer will be sexless (but then, I’m actually virgin).

I’m so fond of being single that I’m almost forgetting how divine it would be to have someone to warm my days and nights. Before, I used to think that I could have sex more than I can eat. I feared that I might become a whore-monger. Now, it’s the other way around. Bumaba ang libido levels ko.

One time I asked a friend kung may kilala siyang psychiatrist. I didn’t tell her why, pero gusto ko sanang alamin kung bakit hindi na ako sobrang ma-L tulad ng dati. Akala ko may problema ako sa utak. Pero na realized ko din na kapag may trabaho ka na at dumating ka na talaga up to a certain age eh medyo kumakalma na si patotoy.

Anyway, mainit naman ang panahon ngayon. Nakakawalang gana lang.

Magiging eventless ang summer ko.

One week lang ang bakasyon ko at gagamitin ko pa yun para sa isang conference. So it’s not considered fun. Unlike last year na madalas ako mag road trip, sa beach, kain sa labas, concerts at kung anu-ano pa. This year siguro ang travelling routes ko lagi ay bahay-trabaho-blog ko-blog mo.

Isa lang ang masisigurado talaga- I WON’T BE JOBLESS. Madaming trabaho na naman since training na ako. Isipin mo yun, isinusumpa ko ang trabaho ko pero eto ako ngayon at candidate for promotion as master sadista? Eh pano kung gusto ko pa talaga ang trabaho ko?

Buti naman at pinaunlakan ako ng boss ko na mag day off sa kaarawan ko. At least sa araw na yon mag road trip ako.

Pero ok na rin. Sana nga eh nakuha ko ang attitude ng ultra-optimistic best friend ko na ang battle cry every morning- WORK TIME FUN!

Sh*t. Hit me baby one more time!