Monday, February 23

7 days

I'm off topic already.

7 days
It's been 7 days already and as much as I hate to be all Dawson's Creek about this topic, I'm still going to say this,  I miss the Coconut Republic.  Sure, poverty and squalor live alongside couture malls and shopping centres like the other didn't exist; but it has its charms.   The minute my plane landed on the tarmac in Beijing Capital Airport (an awesome airport I tell ya), I already wanted to go back. Beijing greeted me with its first ever snow. The lady cabbie was ecstatic that it finally snowed in Beijing.   It was sorta romantic and I wanted to talk to the cabbie but I slept during the ride.  I was exhausted.

I so wanted to blog while I was on the road but it was difficult to get Internet access in the Coconut Republic.  Not that there aren't any, there are actually many Internet cafe's in the Philippines.  I wanted to blog with Consuelo (my laptop) but there weren't any free wireless in the places I went to, even friggen Starbucks (tell you more about that later).

My trip to the Coconut Republic would be described as overwhelmingly sublime that borders on the surreal at times. I had a great time, yep and  I actually think I grew up a little.  I stayed more with my family this time (about 10 days to be exact).  I met up with really good friends.  And I traveled with B.

Manila International Airport
If Beijing Airport is awesome that it makes me want to lick the bathroom tiles, the airport in Manila is not that awesome.  It's clean but not well maintained.  I thought that the plane would be landing at the new airport but we landed in the old one.  I had fun at the baggage claim area though.  I was expecting a guy to pop out of the baggage claim carousel (like it did the last time I arrived in Manila International Airport).  After I got Tallulah, I headed out to the arrivals section and was looking for my mother.  It was my niece that found me, Ynah (pronounced as EEEH-nah not WHY-nah). I almost screamed. She's all grown up.  Still small, but she's all ladylike now sorta.  Damn it I'm old! My mother, father and my niece and her partner found us.  I embraced them, and father dear started to tear up for no reason.  I was like "dude, chill". I was secretly happy because my father was never the mushy kind.  Age really does mellow hard men like my dad.  I looked at Dana, my niece and her partner and their three-month old baby Samantha.  Dana's different. She looked more mature, probably because of the baby.  Her partner, Rudy, is a bit quiet and timid and kept mostly to himself and gave me monosyllabic answers to the questions that I asked him.  Samantha, on the other hand, is curious about the stranger in front of him.  She kept on eyeing me with her big round eyes.  She seems at home with the airport environment. Samantha is my second grand niece. JEEEEZUS I feel so old.

I arrived on the 20th of January, Obama's inauguration.  I knew that Obamarama was a world phenomenon but I never expected the massive reception it got in the Philippines.  When I arrived at my sister's house that night I realized how serious the reception for the new American President was.  My sister was watching the inauguration and it turned out that all major networks were covering it. She owns a sari-sari store (Think of a mom and pop store with a 7-11 twist to it) and the neighbors were drinkin beer and watching history unfold.  My sister who's crazy about noontime shows and prime time soaps is watching Obama being sworn in, and so was my whole family.   I even heard my mother telling the whole family that we were lucky enough to witness history as the West inaugurates it's first African American president. The rest of my family nodded agreement.  That time I thought somebody kidnapped my family and replaced them with politically correct clones. My family was never NEVER politically correct. Even the TV reporters were politically correct.  Like whoa.  I was like, whoa.  She never uses the word African American before. She usually uses the N word in Spanish (its common for Filipinos to use that), but how times have changed. You gotta thank the Internet for this Obama win and for making my parents PC.  My parents. PC. Whodathunk. Next thing you know they would be demanding the IMF and World Bank to free the Third World of debt.  But that's too much to ask, I guess.

I never realized that it was that bad in Metro Manila.  And I thought Beijing was bad.  You have to go to work at 5 am and go home at 11 pm to avoid the traffic jams. 

I love coffee, but I am not a fan of Starbucks.  I still prefer Dunkin Donuts over Starbucks.  I mean, if I'm gonna pay for a 4 dollar coffee, I would at least expect a free wi-fi and a blowjob (ok, at least a backrub).  But nooooooooooooooo. There ain't no free wi-fi in Starbucks.  I checked.  My sister and one of my nephews and I were waiting for the rest of my family to arrive for some dinner thing and my sister wanted to wait in Starbucks.  Reluctant as I was, I acquiesced since they already found a seat.  I queued up and waited for my turn to be served. I was carrying Tallulah with me and I was a bit groggy since I barely slept the other night and I seriously needed the caffeine jolt, so I decided to order an espresso machiatto.  When it was my turn to be served I ordered a  machiatto for me and two frappucino for the rest.  I said the whole thing to the waiter (barrista my ass), who happened to go to the same church as I do, in Filipino.  Now, I didn't get the memo that when you go to a Starbucks in Manila, you should order in English.  The waiter smiled at me and told me in a sort of patronizing Filipino tone that a machiatto was a small coffee. The lady beside me who heard the waiter's comment sorta smiled (no, she fuckin smirked). Oh, did I say, that she was asking her{grand}kids what their orders were in English 
I wanted to shove Tallulah's ends up the waiter's and the lady's asses and  tell them that I knew what a freaking espresso macchiatto was. Just because I ordered the whole goddamn thing in Filipino and I was wearing non-designer flip flops and anon descript tank top and shorts doesn't mean that they could patronize me.  I have rights yo! I summoned up my inner Oprah Winfrey and told him in English that I have been drinking it even before he had pubes {which he probably now shaves considering his eyebrows were a bit sculptured}.  Then I told him in plain Filipino to make my fucking macchiatto a double. To his credit, he got embarrassed and then noticed Tallulah on my back with an airport baggage claim stub sticker thing still attached to her, to which he asked where I was from (duh my coffeee!!!!!! he was kinda cute tho).  I told him I was from Caloocan {think Brooklyn with extra frills}. I got my orders but I didn't get a double.  I prolly should've told it to him in English.  Fuckin Starbucks.

There are shitloads. And when I say shitloads, I meant shitloads.  It seems that one distinct aspect of Filipino culture in many cities (but most especially in the Metro) is that daily life seem to revolve around malls.  You can find Bayad Centers (where people can pay any kind of utility bill), chapels, fitness centers, medical facilities and the like.  In the Philippines, the malls have replaced the parks as the universal public space.   IT scares me a little truth be told.  I mean, they're nice and all but it's like giving the friggen government a whole shitload of slack which they really don't need.  I look at the state of the public spaces in the metro and to be honest there aren't enough. Granted that its really good but these tycoons who own them malls shouldn't be doing this. I love malls, don't get me wrong; but aren't we a bit mall crazy here?  Back when I was a kid, I looked forward in going to parks because there's grass.  Now, even malls have grass and waterfalls and friggen rice paddies.  And yes, you can solicit for sex in malls too! Senator Craig would have a field day in SM.

Tuyo, Tocino, Sinangag, Bibingka, Julebe
I gained 5 kilos because of these bastards. I ate at Julebe (Hoo leh beh) so many times that I felt for certain that them burgers were not 100% pure beef patties.  Whenever I would take out my nieces and nephews they would always ask me to take them to Jollibee or Chowking (a Chinese fast food joint owned by Jollibee).  They never get tired of it.

Tuyo rocks. I could never get enough of tuyo. Tuyo with  sinangag  and fried eggs is da bomb. Maaaaaaaaaaaan I once was served pasta with tuyo, olives and capers by a friend and it blew me away.  Ohhhh and the bibingka.  When Boo and I  were on our roadtrip, we ate bibingka whenever we can. The best bibingka that we had was in Liliw Laguna  and it was just 30 cents a piece.  30 cents for a piece of bibingka! You don't even get things as good as that in The Noodle Kingdom. 

Thank You
I have to thank some people I met during this trip.
Allan and Auch. No words could describe them.
Oskie and Venus.  I'm hoping I'll be in the Coconut Republic when you two exchange wedding vows.  
Andrew. Quiapo and Binondo would never be the same again. And cheesy 80's songs for that matter.
Cindy and Bingo. You two are amazing and wonderful people.  All the best with the work that you do. 
Iza and Celle. My only link to my dreadful highschool past.  :)
Bogs and Demo.  It was great meeting you two.
Drei. You are so fresh.
Boiet. It was surprising to say the least.
Chris. I still can't believe that you and I have the same camera.  I hope next time its a DSLR.
Ate Aida. Thank you for our talk and for helping orgnize my shit.

The welcoming committee

This was the first time that B and I went to the Philippines together.  In fact, this we were in the Philippines together.  I was excited for all sorts of reasons. As much as I hate admitting this on my blog,  I love the fucker and I wanted him to meet the people that mattered to me.  I mean not all of them because I honestly think he would be overwhelmed with the demographic.  I realized I have to wean him when it comes to my friends. Besides, there wasn't enough time.  We decided to go slow. We decided that he should meet my family and some of my friends. 

My family took him in like he was a long lost son (then that would mean incest, eeww?). It was not difficult to introduce him since they all have been asking when they were going to meet him and all.    Even my father was cool with it (well he is 70 so might as well go with the flow).  One of my nieces, Nee Ann, asked him about our relationship when we stopped by at one of my sister's house in Laguna before going to Manila.  Nee Ann is a 7-year old who loves writing ghost stories while putting on kid's make up (I can't believe that they already produce make up for kids).  She tells me that two of her good friends are gay (at 7) and I asked her how she knew and she said she just knows.    A fruitfly at 7. When she saw B and I coming outta B's car, she hugged and kissed me then looked at B and asked.

Nee Ann: Sino siya? (Who the hell is he?)
Uncle Omar: Siya si B (This is B)

While the two of us were eating baked macaroni that my sister prepared, Nee Ann was seated with us and kept on looking at me and B.  She prolly couldn't help it so she asked:

Nee Ann: Ankol, siya ba yung ex mo?  (Uncle, is he your ex?)
**I mentally choked on my baked mac and mentally gave myself the Heimlick manouver and told her after drinking a glass of coke:

Uncle Omar: Sino nagsabi sayo na ex ko siya (Who the hell told ya that he is my ex?)

Nee Ann: Si Mommy. (Mommy told me)
** my sister was manning her 7-11 while watching primetime soap.  B didn't know whether to keep on chewing or run to the car.  I'm glad he decided to stick to the former.  So I told Nee Ann

Uncle Omar: Hindi ko siya ex.  Boyfriend ko siya (He's not my ex. He's my boyfriend).
** she keeps quiet for a second or two and looks up the ceiling while trying to process the relevant piece of information that I just told her. Then when her 7 year old brain seemed to have processed the whole thing, she looks at me and then at B who looked kinda pale at that point but he's still chewing on the baked macaroni then tells us.

Nee Ann: Boypren? Ano yun?  Boy na pren? O BOYPREN? (Boyfriend? What do you mean by that?  Is he your friend who is a boy or is he your boyfriend)
** I was wondering at that point if B was also mentally administering the Heimlick manouver to his psychic self. I told my neice

Uncle Omar: Boyfriend ko siya.  So tawag mo sa kanya Uncle B, ok? (He's my boyfriend.  So you can also call him Uncle B, ok?)
** B nods at Nee Ann and tells her that she could call him Uncle B. She looks up the ceiling again and then looks back at the two of us and tells us.

Nee Ann: Boypren!? Double boy?! Pwede ba yun?  (Boyfriends?! Double boy? Is that even possible?)

Uncle Omar: Oo naman.  Uso yan ngayon.  (Yep, its possible.  It's a fad thats been around since the mid 90's)

Nee Ann: OK.
* * then she proceeds to eating her chicken while B gets a second helping of my sister's baked mac.

That was my boyfriend's baptism of fire. B got along with my family famously.  I mean, if he could survive Nee Ann, he could survive my other nephews and nieces and my siblings and my parents and my neighbors and the baranggay tanods.

B, Allan & Auch
B had to meet the two people that mattered to me most, my best friends - Allan and Auch. Truth be told, I was more nervous of the whole thing than B.  I think he was not fazed at all.  He was all B the whole time we were with Allan and Auch.  Allan and Auch decided to cook Sinampalukang Manok (Chicken Tamarind Soup) for us when we decided to visit them at Auch's apartment.  I was expecting it to be bloody and all as it has been known to the three of us that Allan and Auch never liked ANY of my boyfriends. I was nervous as hell to say the least.  Miracle of miracles, the two were ok with B, there wasn't any cursing.  No blood was shed.  B didn't die of food poisoning.  My water didn't break. That didn't mean that the three of them were chummy chummy and all.  The whole experience was a bit formal, but not tensed. It was a bit surreal because Allan was all fatherly and Auch was all butch all of a sudden that it would've given him a stroke had he continued to be butch for the whole day. As far as I know, this was Auch's longest.  I mean his previous record was 45 minutes.  He did it for two hours.  I wanted to tell them just to be themselves because B was oblivious to the whole thing.  I guess they wanted to make a good impression which touched me.  Inside, I was elated, but I still felt weird. 

At one point during the meal, Allan even said the following in a fatherly tone. 

Allan: Alam mo B na kaming dalawa ni Auch ay natutuwa sa inyong relasyon ni Omar.  Maligaya kami para sa inyong dalawa (I have to tell you B that Auch and I are happy about the two of you. We are really happy for you)
** Master Sergeant Auch, who was seated opposite to me couldn't help but raise an eyebrow (for two seconds). I couldn't help but smile, because I knew for a fact that it was genuine. But I also couldn't help but feel like some farm girl being offered by her parents to the sugar baron in order to pay off my family's debt.  All the scene needed  was a cow which Allan and Auch would give to B as my dowry.

B & my parents
B and I decided to take my parents with us on our 3 day trip to the countryside.  They were happy enough to oblige.  I found out later from my mother that they were both excited about the trip because they haven't had a proper vacation in years. 

B drove the whole time.  I couldn't drive.  He has a car in the Philippines and I couldn't, for the life of me, understand why he has a car in the Philippines when he's based outside the country.  He wants me to take up driving lessons.  My parents agreed. I told them that I wouldn't be able to handle my road rage.   B is such a proper driver.  He stops on a red light (I mean who does that these days); even makes way for stray dogs and cats and rats whatever living thing that crosses his path.

We went to visit a monastery that is frequented by a lot of tourists and devotees.  It was a real quiet and expansive place with a small chapel in the middle.  The four of us got out of the car and my father was complaining to my mother about his bladder  and was looking for the men's room so she asked B where the men's room was. I was 20 meters behind them and I could hear my parents talking about bladders and toilets and we were in a friggen monastery!  Good thing there were a few visitors that afternoon but I bet my ass that the nuns prolly heard the whole thing.  Meh, they prolly prayed for us too.  I love my parents.

On the road
The highlight of my vacation was the roadtrip with B.  The best times that we had was on the road and in his car. If it were a motorcycle it would've been more romantic and a bit French, but I guess the car was way better than a bike.  And besides, the hell would I pedal both of us. The car did have its uses.

It was the little things that appealed to me the most.

Like being able to smell him in close proximity with me for 8 hours straight...

or being able to listen and sing the same song over and over and over again until his ears and tonsils bled...

and playing with his hair and his nape in some lazy rainy afternoon en route to some destination...

or sleeping on the side of the road at 3 am because he was too tired to drive...

and to able to hear him snore.

and stopping by some odd place here and there for some bibingka or some pandesal or for some coffee because we were hungry.

taking photos...

going to churches, old landmarks, lazy towns and actually stopping by the markers to read them then to leave them.

to listen to his stories and talk about the future ahead of us...

to not speak to each other because of an argument that we didn't know how it started...

then to make up in the car afterwards :)

holding his hand.

It was intense to be with him the whole time.  So intense that it scared me a little. I dare say it was romantic even. It felt like I was in some early 90's European movie directed by dead filmmaker. It was so good that at the back of my head I was telling myself that this was it. This was it. Nothing more.   This was the film's climax and we're not even half way through because of budget constraints.  My evil psychic twin was telling me to expect the dreadful peripety to come falling on my head like brimstone and he was also telling me that there would never be a denouement or some form of catharsis in this story.  The dread would come to me in moments. Just seconds really.  Moments that I found most memorable and endearing.  I had to mentally slap myself everytime that feeling crept out of my skin.

I realize that trusting him more was irrelevant now.  Nor him trusting me. 

I had to trust us. 

I realized that somehow, I had to learn how to write this story, our story, with him. 

Hong Kong
We parted in Hong Kong. We stayed there for a night in some decrepit building that hosted a lot of tourists and people who were just passing through.  It was cheap.  It was small space on the 15th floor and it looked like a holding cell.  I think his car was even bigger. It was nice. 

We walked the streets of Kowloon trying to find Mixian (rice noodles) and ended up with instant noodles served with Chinese Spam. It was expensive.  We walked and walked till our feet got tired.  He held my hand the whole time.  It surprised me.  In the Philippines I had to stop myself from holding his hand or putting my arm around his waist when we were in public. I slipped most of the times.  He would sorta flinch (he did it a coupla times).  In Hong Kong he was a bit different. He was more forward. 

We parted in the airport.  He was gate 64 and I was gate 28. 
My plane landed in Beijing. It was snowing that day.  I told you that already.

Its been almost a week and I could still smell him. I guess I have it bad then.