Monday, September 28

Muelmar, a hero



I  did not know Muelmar Magallanes until today when I read the countless news about his heroism online.  What this 18 year old construction worker from Bagong Silang did yesterday was to save more than 30 souls which included his family and his neighbors from Bagong Silang, a place that is considered as one of the depressed areas in Quezon City.  Two of the people that Mulemar saved was Menchie Penalosa and her six-month old baby daughter. The two were the last to be saved by Muelmar Magallanes as he got carried away by the flood currents. His body was found the next day, miles away from Bagong Silang.  Eighteen is a very young age to die.  Muelmar Magallaness may have died poor and young but what he had accomplished has been far greater than any person could have accomplished at that age or at any age.   More than thirty people can attest to that.  


In a society where people and events can be easily forgotten by media hype and the government spins, it is my hope that people would not forget those like Muelmar Magallanes.  This young man has done more for the country than any politician or famous personality can do for us.  I would like the people who have read this blog entry to please remember this young man who had saved thirty lives and offered his own in the process.  He was not rich nor was he famous. But he had one thing that many people today seem to be lacking of - a good heart.  Muelmar Magallanes had a good heart.  Remember his name.  


Hero teenager saves more than 30 lives before he is swept away by Philippine floods
Daily Mail

Sunday, September 27

After the Flood (Updated)



www.goes.noaa.gov




Rain and floods are not an uncommon phenomena in the Philippines. Just today it rained and God how it poured for six hours. The weather bureau said it was the longest ever recorded surpassing the one in 1967. 

Today's flood was my first in a very long time. The last flood experience that I had was back in 2002. I was just days away from leaving the country for China and I was also sick with pneumonia at that time. Our house in Caloocan was flooded waist deep and I couldn't do anything but watch my brother and my father rummage through the water trying to salvage everything they could from our house. The flood waters receded later that day and I was rushed by a friend to the hospital. That was seven years ago.

With an average of six to seven typhoons hitting the Philippines each year, floods have become an anticipated yet an unwanted guest in Filipino households all over the country come the wet seasons. Blame it on climate change, poor urban planning and sanitation or just plain bad management from the people in power, the floods grow worse each year. It amazes me how the Filipino survives these catastrophes even if the floodwaters seem to rise higher every time a typhoon comes visiting. As a Filipino, I can find fault on a lot of things about my people but never on their tenacity for self preservation. The flood, along with a multitude of problems that this nation faces, has become part of the Filipino human condition. The task that ordinary people face is definitely gargantuan yet the people face it squarely. The tragedies that they undergo are epic yet the people survive it. I've noticed this as I was wading through the floodwaters in Tandang Sora. My friend and neighbor, Oscar, invited me out for a walk and see what was happening outside. Our apartment was not flooded but the streets was already overflowing with rain mixed with river and sewage water. Part of me was excited because I haven't walked in the the rain in the Philippines for a very long time. Yet another part of me was worried about my family in Caloocan which was just a 45 minute jeepney ride away from my apartment in Quezon City. I knew that rains like these would bring floodwaters in our part of the neighborhood as we were near a polluted creek. They told me not to worry and they would keep me updated on the situation.  I try to block the thought out because there was no use for me to worry about my family. I called them and they said they were already bringing the household things to the second floor of our house. They have survived far worse floods before, they can survive this one, I keep telling myself.


I walked along the streets of Tandang Sora with my friend and what we saw was quite unfamiliar yet familiar at the same time. The street was already flooded, some even knee-deep, vehicles were trying to find their way out of the traffic and the floodwaters yet in vain, people were walking outside – people coming from schools and universities, from their work places and probably even from their very homes. Just looking at the rising water I picture submerged houses and shanties in the low lying places in Metro Manila. Homes submerged in a soup of rain, sewage and garbage. Quite a fitting poster for my country. My cynicism tells me that this could have been avoided. That if people, me included, would have had the discipline to manage what they consume and had the local and the national government possessed the right amount of management wisdom instead of traditional politicking and lip service campaigning, laid out a concrete plan of action on disaster control combined with a realistic urban planning, then this could have been a different picture altogether.

There is one good thing about the flood. It never discriminates. Outside the streets I saw jeepneys and buses alongside with fancy cars submerged in floodwater. I saw people in plain clothes walking alongside people with fancy clothes looking for a dry place to tide them through the heavy rain. Young, old, rich, poor, straight or otherwise were all walking in knee (some even chest) deep pool of watery shit.

In a way, it is very biblical. This is probably our punishment for being too human. I don't think it's nature that is our nemesis but ourselves for we have been way too proud of our humanity that we forget that even the minutest of our actions reverberates through the cosmos. Drenched with rain and floodwater in the middle of Tandang Sora, I asked myself if we deserved this – this punishment. Perhaps, but my humanity got the best of me. I knew at the back of my mind that it's not man against nature but man against himself yet I am comforted at the former and I pretend not to know the latter. Part of being human (which means it's not just a Filipino trait) means that we have the capacity to disguise thoughts that do not appeal to our emotions – we put layers upon layers of thoughts until they are covered and hopefully never to be recovered. But once the rains come pouring and the water rises, truth reveals itself plain as day. The plastic bags, the soda bottles, the shit, the vermin come all gushing out the streets like it was being played by the Pied Piper in our heads. We are too human sometimes, I reckon. Perhaps an ark is sufficient with us not in it. I imagine the world would be a far better place without humanity in the picture. Call me an anarchist but it's probably true. But then again, my spirit of self-preservation kicks in. And like the rest of the humanity that is drenched in this rain, I battle the flood and walk against the rising tides trying to find something, someplace warm and dry.

Hours passed and the waters receded all over Metro Manila. Tandang Sora's electricity was restored just a few hours ago, the reason I am writing this in Consuelo (my laptop). Our house in Caloocan was obviously flooded almost reaching the second floor. I was rather disappointed that they failed to bring my grandmother's antique narra table upstairs because it was one of the only heirlooms she bequeathed to my mother before she died. It was heavy after all and I couldn't expect them to bring it up. Somehow I know that the narra table will survive this flood like it has survived the previous ones. And like our narra table, the Filipinos will survive this flood. I watched and listened intently to the news on television for a few minutes, a first ever since I arrived here two months ago. Even Cory Aquino's death and funeral didn't make me watch the news as intently as I was watching the news for a few, brief minutes. Perhaps it's because this flood was personal and it hit closer to home. The networks didn't have to hype the news today. Drama was everywhere. A lot of homes were havocked by the typhoon and the flood - from shanties made of a mosaic of plywood and carton boxes to houses built of stone and expensive wood.  Many families were even stuck in the rooftops waiting for rescue. I am thankful for two things – one was that my family didn't have to go to the rooftops and the other was that there were a few casualties, 46 in the last count. Still, the look on the face of woman going home from work and realizing that the home that she help build with her family is now submerged in floodwater with her mother carrying her two-year old son and holding her five year old daughter waiting to be rescued is still not a cause for relief. The sad fact is that my country has been experiencing Katrina for decades and people both in the government and the private sector are not doing enough to prevent a solvable problem.

The Filipino rises from the tides. We are no stranger to typhoons and earthquakes and landslides. The country has survived centuries of colonization and has survived wars and countless of political upheavals. We have survived far worse and we can survive this one. After all, it's just but another flood... another Katrina and Milenyo among countless others. The question is, until when can we keep rebuilding our homes and our lives after every natural disaster or political upheaval comes in our midsts? Can our spirit of self-preservation still keep us afloat if the next flood comes? I do not know the answer but one thing is for sure, after the floodwaters recede, that mother of two who just got back from work along with the thousands of mothers affected by this flood, will collect the remains of what was once her home and she will put dinner on the table and her children will eat. My mother along with my nieces are probably doing the same thing right now – rebuilding a home trying to collect the things that held memories left by this flood. Hopefully, they will eat dinner at my lola's narra table.


This flood was my baptism. When I left the country seven years ago I realize that I have shed a lot of skin that was Filipino and that was of my former self. I have decided to come back for many reasons – some I know and many that I do not have any knowledge of. This was probably one of those mysteries. I do not know if I came back to shed the skin that was China or to reinvent myself yet again for the nth time. I do know this – that I am here, experiencing this flood and what came after it and I am taking it all in. I came back two months ago and felt very alien to what I once called my home. But now after the flood, somehow, I feel quite familiar.




*************
for those who are interested in helping the victims of typhoon 'Ondoy', please follow tthe links provided below.  

Filipino Bloggers Vigilant with Typhoon Ondoy Floods

Where to send donations for victims of Typhoon Ondoy

or you can donate directly through the following


TXTpower.org (via PayPal)
Philippine National Red Cross 

Friday, September 25

They say patience is a virtue...

apparently not to some of the kids who were subjected to the Marshmallow Test.




I think I'd wait and sniff it the whole time. :)

Thursday, September 24

On the Internet, Human Rights and Open Source

I just found out today from Wired.com that 30 years ago on this day, a company called CompuServe launched its first online service for consumers.   Some of you young'uns  prolly don't know what CompuServe is.   It's actually the first major commercial online service in the United States. It was the YAHOO & GOOGLE of the 1980s and it was sidelined by information services like AOL (which later absorbed CompuServe's Information Services Division) in the mid-1990's. CompuServe's services was later rebranded by AOL as CompuServe Classic but it finally closed it doors last July 1,2009, marking the end of an Information Technology era.  formation Service, later rebranded as CompuServe Classic, was shut down July 1, 2009. The newer version of the service, CompuServe 2000, continues to operate, and AOL has said that it will continue.



The Internet has come a long way since its inception to society.  For a very young technology, it has become a very important facet in our way of living. Some legislators in the EU are even thinking of making the Internet a basic human right.  I hope this comes into fruition because I believe it is.  People should have equal access to the Internet without any constriction whatsoever.  In a society that has not only become more global but also more connected,  people in the fringes should be able to access even at least the basics of technology.   It is quite sad to think that there are still many people in the world who haven't touched or seen a computer (this is also true in countries where you think this would not be possible).  Governments spend too much on making weapons and asserting their sovereignty and threatening each other's asses with sanctions and more weapons and more bush-the-button bluffs.  Wars do make money that's true, but they leave a lot of unaccounted faces behind.  Wars leave a lot of people dead, hungry, ignorant and full of hate.    If the world would only spend more on education, environment and useful technology that is open for everybody and not a select few, then the our wetdream for world peace is not really that far-fetched.  


There is a popular saying in the Open Source Community that THE FUTURE IS OPEN and I believe it should be. Technology is not only about the advancement of the human endeavour, be it for the sake of technology itself or for economy.  It is about human beings and how we can be human in a society that is at peace, safe and open.





Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 22

I'm snotting all over my keyboard right now.

Because of this Thai TV Commercial...



Why can't all soap operas be like this - under five minutes and with good music.  Fuck, my keyboard is filled with snot and I hate it when this happens. The last time that I snotted on my keyboard was when I watched the Kite Runner on DVD. Ang haba ng hair mo girl!

I think I need to go wash my hair now.

Monday, September 21

My Weekend... Bow

As promised, I'll be telling you guys what happened with my weekend.  See here, my two friends from high school, Betty and Wilma (their real names), kinda coaxed me to watch the new Vilma Santos flick, "In My Life" because they thought that I could prolly relate to the movie. The story is about a Filipina mother who decides to go to New York to live with her Filipino gay son who is currently dating a Filipino gay illegal immigrant and how the three yadi yadi and life yadi yada and the tribulations of illegal immigrants in the US yadi yada yadi plus the issues of parenting and gayness yadi yada yadi yada true love in time of prostate cancer yadi yada. The movie sucked ass (and not in a good way mind you). It wasn't that I was hoping for a full frontal nudity from both of the actors or even from Vilma Santos (although a full frontal from Vilma woulda been nice), but the movie was just too commercial that it didn't even pretend to be a proper film.  Don't get me wrong,  I'm okay with gay themed films, I'm gay after all.  I'm just way too tired of films purporting to be gay because of the following reasons:
  1. that there are gay characters in the movie.
  2. that these gay characters would either be a gogo boy, a hustler, a drug addict, a psycho or a priest.
  3. that these gay characters would have a full frontal in the movie or...
  4. that these gay characters would suck faces in the movie like "normal" people would suck faces
  5. that these one or two or all the gay characters would die at the end of the film
  6. that these gay characters are not really gay but they're doing it because a gay role does boost ones market value in the business
OK. Just to get things straight (nyahahaha), I don't mind the nudity.  I'm comfortable with nudity.  But it seems that there is a current trend in Philippine Independent Cinema that an indie gay film would always involve nudity in all scenes.  I've seen some films wherein I was absolutely sure that the frontal nudity, oral and anal sex was used because they didn't have any idea what to do with the scene.  Like, OK, there's still more film before that gogo dancer character OD's and dies, so why don't we have a blowjob scene between the breakfast table scene and the dinner table scene and an anal sex scene between the morning that he wakes up scene and the night that he realizes that he was the son of his regular John scene? There we have it! Voila! Gay film 101.  I'm not being a hypocrite.  I like those scenes alright, but they have just become waaaaay too trite for my taste.  ITS ALL OVER GAY INDEPENDENT CINEMA?!?!?! CAN'T WE THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE? I'm sure you guys can Google something up.  The funny thing is, we {me included} know that this movie is gonna suck but we still wanna watch it because this up and coming model something something is showing his dick or getting blown by someone. Let's lay low on the dick show a little and focus more on developing the plot.  Some of these films that I've seen are even story worthy but the problem is its way too underdeveloped. I mean dudes, if yer just gonna fill up a scene with dicks and asses then I've already got  BADPUPPY and SEANCODY and BILATINMEN and BROKESTRAIGHTBOYS and BAITBUS {OK I'M WRITING WAAAAY TOO MANY PORN SITES NOW} for that.


"In My Life" sucked ass for two reasons:
  
One, the title sucked.  I think the executives just thought of a title that their singer baby could sing in the whooooooole goddamned movie.  The soundtrack sucked.  It was all midi.  An independent film could've done better in the soundtrack department.  Two, the plot was trite and waaaay too predictable.  It's like, haven't I've watched this before in the Hallmark Channel?  I paid 160 pesos for this? To see John Lloyd and Lucky Me brush lips for .5 nanoseconds?  OK I didn't pay, Wilma did. I did like the way Vilma Santos acted.  I love it when she acts her age for a change.  Although there was a lotta shouting which gave me a headache.  


Here's a thought.  Why can't we make Filipino gay films...
  • wherein there are no gay characters in the movie?  {is it even possible.  YES, I think it is. Eversince Moulin Rouge, I think anything is possible}
  • wherein nobody would die of AIDS, cancer, accident, natural calamity or sheer boredom
  • wherein the characters are actual people NOT commercial model beef cakes
  • wherein the characters are actually gay? 
  • wherein the plot is not copied from another gay film?
  • wherein the title didn't come from a song?
Honestly my gay brothers and sisters in the film industry, we could really do much better.  Say that Maximo Oliveros movie about the blossoming of a 12 year old gay kid growing up in the slums of Manila, I liked it.  Sure somebody died in the end but it had all the right elements.  It had the right mix of comedy and drama and struggle.  AND THERE WASN'T ANY SHOUTING OR NUDITY INVOLVED.  


Nuff of that already.


The highlight of the night was not the movie.  Actually there was two.  


First was the chicken that I ate in Don Henrico's. It was AWE-SUUUUUUUM. If you ever eat at Don Henrico's in Manila look for the Captain Crunch Something something Chicken. I think I ate about 10 or something.  Yum.


Second was because of what happened after the movie.  See, my friend Betty loves and jizzes over John Lloyd Cruz although I don't know why but she just adores him.  He's not a bad actor by the way.  Anyways, I was telling her throughout the entire film that John Lloyd looked like one of our classmates back in high school, Paul {not his real name}.  You see, Paul here, is supposedly a closet case.  Now I don't care if somebody's a closet case because I was once in there myself.  Whatever floats yer boat, I always say. It's your business to be in the closet because maybe you have an ample amount of closet space or maybe you're closet value has gone up two points and it's worth a timeshare.  Good for you!  But it infuriates me when some people in the closet mind OTHER PEOPLE'S CLOSETS {straight or gay}. You see, Paul has an attitude.  He likes to OUT people who are not in the room. Like one of my good friends in high school who got pregnant early. She's an intelligent and independent woman who just happened to get pregnant before she got hitched.  We had sort of a highschool reunion in one of our classmate's house 5 years after our graduation.  During that get together, he started talking about her being pregnant and all like it was something vile and to be despised at. He was talking as if he was standing on top of Mt. Fuji or something. Then there was another recent incident wherein he said to a group of our former classmates that another former classmate in high school is gay. The person in question was not in the room {of course}. He delivered the "news" in such a way to illicit a booming reaction from our male highschool friends who reacted like this:


"LIKE WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA MC SCRUNGY IS GAY?!?!?! WOHOHOHOHO. WHODATHUNK DUDE?!?!"


then they went on drinking their beers and pissing in the wind and shit.  


I'm glad I wasn't there at that time or I could've said an expletive or two {maybe three}.


OK.  So it appears that I don't like Paul.  OK I don't like him.  Well so does Betty and Wilma.  So while we were watching the suckfest movie that was IN MY FRIGGEN LIFE, I kept commenting to Betty how John Lloyd looked like Paul and like a true John Lloyd fan, she kept defending his honor.  So yeah, the banter went on the entire movie until the movie finally FINALLY ENDED WITH SARAH GERONIMO SINGING IN MY FRIGGEN LIFE! Credits.  Lights on.  AND LO AND FUCKING BEHOLD WHO DO I SEE ON OUR SAME ROW ACROSS THE OTHER AISLE!?!?!??!?!?!?


ASHTON FUCKING KUTCHER!
ANDERSON FUCKING COOPER!
WALTER FUCKING CRONKITE OH HE'S DEAD
KANYE FUCKING WEST WHO CARES!
BARBARA FUCKING WALTERS YESSS BUT NOT REALLY!


Paul! 
Fucking Paul. 
And not only fucking Paul! 
Fucking Paul with a fucking guy!
THE UNIVERSE RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Little old humble me was not only flabbergasted but in times like these when the Universe decides to reveal one of her little secrets to lowly persons like me, what does one do?


I PANICKED GODDAMNIT!


Here's what I said on verbatim


"Paul?
..... Paul?????.....
PAUUL!!!!!!"


Mind you, I did all this with my right pointy finger pointed at him.  I think I pointed at him three times like with every name there was a point. 


 "Paul? (point).... 
Paul???? (point) 
PAUUL!!!!!! (point point) 


OK. It was four.


I should've called him Blanche at that time because he was as pale as a mayonnaise when he saw not one, not two, but three of his former high school classmates watching the same  gay film that sucked ass, in the same movie theater, and seated in the same row with him and his "companion". Now Betty and Wilma were a bit slow on the uptake and thought I was still joking. But when they looked at the direction where I was looking they were both......


gleeful.  


If you would've seen the look on their faces it was like they were in  a MasterCard commercial. 


Whereas I, was in total panic.  You see, I was still so overwhelmed that the Universe had decided to bless me with glad tidings on that night that I didn't know what to do!  I hate this about myself.  Fuck I screwed it up. Well, said Wilma and Betty.  I think I did really.  Wilma was about to throw Paul the bone laced with cyanide while Betty was about to cheer her on {they were both friends of the preggy girl that Paul decided to broadcast to our friends years back} when I kept talking and talking and talking.  Honestly I wanted to laugh like laugh that sinister laugh that would ring throughout the walls of that cinema so I could vindicate all of Paul's victims of his Kanyeistic acts back in high school and after but I couldn't because I might die of so much rapture and bliss and as much as I would have wanted to, I couldn't because I still had to write my Great American Novel which is about a Gogo Boy from the Bronx who decides to leave his night job to help poor people in some Third World Country so he could find meaning in his life and thus end up finding the love of his life who happened to be his father in two previous lives. (How do you like them apples?!?!? Huh huh!)  So I kept talking and babbling just so I wouldn't laugh.   


Fuck me hard till Tuesday.   
I screwed it.  
I still hate myself for screwing it. 


Wilma and Betty made that known to me a number of times during the night and they decided to play a practical joke on me by changing one of my contact names on my cell {I think it was Wima's} to Paul's name.  I still hate them for doing that.  


Still, I had fun that night.  See, the funnest part was after Wilma and I got out of the cinema.  We were waiting for Betty who was in the ladies room because of the impending flood that was about to come gushing out between her legs.  As we were waiting outside, Paul and his companion were coming out {no pun intended}.  See, Paul took his sweet time to leave the cinema thinking that the three of us have already left.  What he didn't know was that Betty drank a whole gallon of iced tea at Don Henrico's and she just held the floodgates during the movie because of John Lloyd fucking Cruz.  So Paul and his companion were there.  He definitely saw Wilma and me. Well I waved to make sure that he saw us.  In a panic, Paul and his companion didn't know whether to turn left or right thus they ended up bumping each other then turning right before giving the two of us a quick wave goodbye. 


So that was my night with my two highschool friends, and with the highschool classmate that we didn't like and with the Universe telling us that life is really worth living sometimes.   And by the way, Paul doesn't in any way look like John Lloyd Cruz.




Sunday, September 20

From Twatter to YouTube. Kanye Unites America.

You've prolly seen the reports on YouTube and have replayed it so many times while eating your Dorritos and drinking yer margaritas and you've prolly even seen the remixes and video commentaries already.

Kanye West is so fun!

And wait there's more.  The Obama was caught in an off-the-record conversation answering a question about what he thought of the whole thing.  This is what he said



What does Kanye have to say to this?




Now for once, the American people actually agree on one thing.  Ain't that grand?

jackass.

The weirdest Saturday night in months....

 Just got back from a night out with two of my good friends from high school. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.  Too tired to write, but lemme just say this - the Universe has one fucked up way of telling me that she rules.  I'm off to bed. 


Yeah, I'm missing B.

Wednesday, September 16

Me and Iago and Manila After Daylight (Part Two)


 
photo courtesy of Badudoy



PART II


My cellphone rings and vibrates in my right pocket. Talk about relief.

I was in the middle of an overpass in Recto, smoking yet another cigarette while chewing yet another menthol candy. Just a few seconds ago a balding middle-aged man approached me and asked for the time. He looked like a forty something high-school teacher or an accountant. Perhaps he worked in a bank or in an office somewhere in the city. Hell, he could be anyone. He could be a physicist or a chemist. He could be a veterinarian or a heart surgeon. He could be a father and husband of five kids and a worried wife. Or he could be a cold-blooded psychopath who preys on the people who tell him the time, cutting his victims with surgical precision while he drinks their blood in a 7-Eleven soda cup. I shivered at the thought. I hesitate. He does have that Hannibal Lectern look in him. He looks too sanitized, too prim with his crisp blue shirt. He exhibits a kind and trusting face. A face you could trust to tell your deepest and darkest secrets. A Hannibal Lectern face. My insides shiver.

I tell him my watch is broken. He stares at me and then at my watch. Three seconds. He could probably taste my hesitation, my slight fear. He probably knows that I know that he wants to cut me and drink my blood and throw my body parts in the Pasig River. Then my phone rings and vibrates in my right pocket. I fish it out and start focusing on the phone. He backs off and moves away. I am relieved. I use my peripheral vision to see if he is still there. He has vanished, engulfed by the buses and jeepneys and people traversing this busy thoroughfare. Talk about relief. Paranoia gets to you sometimes when you walk these streets during this time of night. One has to be sober and alert. It's self-preservation mostly.

It was a text message. From Iago. He's asking where I was. He wants to meet me. I smile. I check my broken watch and it says ten o' clock. I told him of my whereabouts. He replies back a few seconds later – “Be there in a few”. With a smiley face.

Barely audible for people passing by to hear, I say his name under my breath. “Iago.” If I could taste his name under my tongue it would probably be buttery and warm. I am smiling now, forgetting about my encounter with Hannibal Lectern and thinking about Iago. I am smiling for many reasons. One of them is that we met at this very place years ago.

How long has it been since I have known him? Three? Four? Five years? I do not know. All I know is that I know Iago. I know him too well. How I met Iago is irrelevant. Although it is very ironic to think that him met him online, through somewhat unusual circumstances {come to think of it, most of my long-lasting relationships sprang out from somewhat unusual circumstances}. I was going through a twenty-something phase that twenty-somethings tend to experience when they realize they are a few years short of becoming a thirty-something. In one of my sad and futile attempts to assert my humanity and individuality on the Internet, I joined a network of twenty-somethings that long for {re}connection and assurance that life is more than the office space that one occupies, the cubicles that one gets lost to, the board meetings that one loathes attending yet attends to, and the daily grind that one considers the human condition. It's no wonder why people retreat to the virtual because it's plain sugar. It made life livable for some and tolerable for others. Me? I'm just a tourist. I like watching. I like taking snapshots. Then I move on. In a virtual world where every person has a 15 second attention span, Iago was one of the few people that piqued my interest.

I would be lying if I said that I was not physically attracted to him. He was young at the time that I met him. Twenty one? Twenty two? Who knows? He could have been sixteen, but with his devilish and rugged handsome looks that would make grown heterosexual man reevaluate their heterosexuality and their Judaeo-Christian values, I could care less. He had a cult following and I wasn't in any way surprised that he had because he was easy on the eyes. One thing surprised me though, that the fascination went both ways. I figured that he was probably bored.

Did we ever do it? The thought of me and Iago having sex did cross my mind a number of times but I never acted upon it nor have I fantasized about it. I am more prudent, shall we say, in these matters. His boundaries are quite loose when it comes to these matters. He is a pansexual which makes him all the more attractive and even exotic to all the people he has slept with, men and women and the ones in between. It occurred to me from early on that many become infatuated with Iago because of this very fact. I can't say I blame them. He was attractive and sexual in so many levels that that one becomes infatuated with the Iago that was all sex. I was more fascinated at the Iago that wore flip flops and dirty laundry on a work day. Cliché but true. We almost did at some point but we both held back. I decided long ago that I would have Iago for keeps and sex would just mar the whole deal. He and I both knew that.

I could have fallen for Iago. I could have fallen for his youth and his beauty and his sensuality. I could've fallen for his dick alone. But I chose not to. Besides, we were both Scorpios and we were so much alike in many facets that a relationship was out of the question.

Another irony is that I've only met him a number of times. Three in fact. I remember the first time I met him at this very junction. I was nervous at that he would stood me up as he often does in meet ups when he finds that his prospective conquest is not to his liking. I must've smoked a pack that night. He did appear though. Five minutes late. There was no mystery, no second guesses. We drank cheap beer in a cheap watering hole and we talked like we've known each other for decades. We stayed up all night in his flat smoking pot, watching cartoons and eating his week old pasta.

We stayed in touch. He would send me an odd greeting card on my birthdays. I would do the same. We'd talk online when we happen to chance upon each other's online presence which would be a rarity for both of us. I always make it a point to see him whenever I am in the Philippines. I sent him an email about a month ago telling him that I was coming to the Manila for a visit. I never got a reply. The last time I talked with him was over six months ago and he wasn't doing well. He was dating a thirty-something prostitute who was mother of two and who had a nasty crack habit and it wasn't what he thought it would be. Iago is a sucker for relationships. He admits it as he sometimes lets his youth get the best of him. His values may be as fucked up as mine but one thing different between me and Iago is that he still processes a naiveté when it comes to relationships. I can't blame the kid and in some ways, I envy him.

I worry about the kid {he is younger than me}. Thoughts of Iago getting raped in prison ran through my head. His girlfriend probably double crossed and black mailed him to feed her crack habit. Then thoughts of some psychopath bank manager bleeding Iago to death in some crummy motel room replaced the previous one {it could have been the Hannibal Lectern accountant that was asking for the time}. Iago has had one too many shady deals. He tells me about it from time to time and as much as I find his stories exhilarating, I worry about him. If Urbania is my past, this is Iago's present.

This is one of the reasons why I am smiling at a silly text message in the middle of an overpass along Recto Avenue. Talk about relief. I will be meeting Iago tonight. Perhaps that's the reason why I am here. Perhaps. And as I listen to everything around me – to the noise of the jeepneys, cars buses running below, the the chatter of street vendors and the howling of bus barkers and the inaudible conversations of prostitutes and their Johns, I smile. I smile because I could hear the city humming and I am reminded of a Coltrane song that I haven't heard for the longest time. 

To be continued ...

Thursday, September 10

Me and Iago and Manila after daylight

 
PHOTO COURTESY OF ORLEE NINON

PART I
I am standing under a street post that says Recto and Rizal Avenue. A few minutes ago I was in a jeepney bound to nowhere. I paid my fare for which I really don't know the exact price. I just gave the driver a ten peso coin and he gave me a couple of coins for change. I really didn't know where I was going. It was a Friday night and I was bored out of my wits. I have been in the Philippines for a couple of weeks now and I am already thinking of going back. Back to where? Somewhere. I'm not really sure. 
 
I light up my cigarette and chewed on the menthol candy that just I bought from the guy selling smokes and candies under the street sign. I started walking. It was 9 pm. The place was just waking up. I could feel it under my skin. My senses were on an overload. I could smell the odor of days old urine fermenting on walls with chapped paint and old campaign posters and signages. I am semi blinded by the neon lights from the hotels, strip joints, beer gardens and old movie houses that are mushroomed all over the place. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. More red. They dance like they were supposed to dance, like in a trance. The noise. The hustle and bustle of jeepneys, buses, taxis, cars, people and tacky electronic music are all rolled into one cacophony of blissful sound that is Avenida and Recto. A blind man would have an orgasm in minutes just listening to this. The whole place is in a coordinated chaos. Everywhere you look there is trash. They are all quietly placed where they're supposed to be, which is everywhere. Plastic bags are floating all over the place, dancing in mid air as the wind, gravity and the passing jeepneys keep them in a rapture like suspension while they try to outdo each other as the most beautiful thing in the world. The scum placidly gathering themselves in the gutters that they look like kryptonite or some sort of vitriol that denounces everything that this place hold dear. Sin City. Manila. Urbania. If Manila was Sodom and Gomorrah, Avenida and Recto would have been her major life veins.

Yes, the place is slowly rising from its slumber. Quietly, I might add. There is a sense of quietude in all this chaos that only a child of the night, a sinner like me could understand. Peacefully, Manila is waking up and I'm here to witness it in its very heart. All the filth, the vileness and all the damnation of the capital coalesce and beats at this very junction.
I am not supposed to be here. Yet I am. 
 
How long has it been? I was in college. That was more than a decade ago. I frequented this place to look for answers. Back then, there were no chat rooms or online forums or online social networking. If you're gay and you're nineteen in the late nineties you look for it yourself. You scour for answers in parks, in the dark corners of the moldy cinemas and in the men's room of shady establishments. It's a jungle of parks, cinemas and men's rooms and you adapt to the environment. Strangers become your confidantes, your best friends, your confessors, your therapist, your thirty-minute lovers. You develop an excellent memory. You memorize faces and telephone numbers. Your peripheral vision heightens. You can distinguish that odd, lingering stare from a few meters in the darkness. Ah, the darkness. It becomes your ally, your brother, your friend, your lover, your father, your mother. You become its child. Back then, even if it wasn't that long ago, it was not easy to get answers when one is asking. You only find the answers in the dark. I did. But even in darkness, where I have become accustomed to move and breathe, it's still not easy to get the answers. 
 
The young ones today are lucky. These days, you just Google the shit. That or you just join a social network. You click, you browse, you copy-paste, you bookmark, you add them, you text them, you meet up, you sleep together, you fall in love, you break up, you move on and you do it all over again with the same fervor and purpose like it was your first online encounter. Some do it in a span of one week. Encounters have become so easy, so instant that having an online persona is second skin. The tenacity of the online soul, its resoluteness and its desire for an encounter, a moment with another person online can probably be likened to the tenacity and resoluteness of the human soul. Being gay in the late nineties I barely knew how to email or IM. Today, most encounters, if not all are all online. Parks, old and dingy cinemas, the men's room are multiplied to the thousands and easily accessible with one's cursor and browser. When one asks a question and is given plethora of answers in an instant, one loses consciousness of the question. Technology has made the questioning so easy that it has lost its sacredness for me. It is the question that really matters in the end, not the answers. I have done my share online. I liked it but it got old too quickly. It no longer holds any mystery for me. 

 
Perhaps that is the reason why I am walking along these streets. Perhaps there was a purpose in being here after all. Perhaps it wasn't by accident. As I walk along Recto Avenue, I try to ask myself the reasons why I am here. To get laid? Perhaps. To be a voyeur as I often ended up being years before? Perhaps. To pass time? Perhaps. I was bored. Or perhaps I was here because I just needed to be here. Perhaps I just miss the place, the walking, the strangers and the shadows. Perhaps I needed to revisit, to be nostalgic. Perhaps I needed to get reacquainted with Manila after dark. Perhaps. Questions. Tonight is not about answers. Tonight is about me, my mind in total conjunction with my limbs and my senses and the pavement and the shadows and the darkness. Tonight is about me and Urbania. And in the middle of this chaos, I hear her calling my name. I look around and see a familiar face. She beckons by the corner under a flickering lamppost. She is happy to see me again. 

TO BE CONTINUED... 

Wednesday, September 9

Youth makes a poet in all of us

I was shuffling through my old files and I saw this poem I wrote years ago.  I think it's almost ten years old.  I remember why I wrote this piece.  God I was so young then and so unemployed. Wait. I'm unemployed right now.  Whatever.  You know what I mean (just say yes and we move on). Yes youth.  All that idealism and supple skin. I think youth makes a poet in all of us. And yeah, I was sorta angry at the time I wrote this poem.



Ire




I am standing on rooftops high

Sky scrapers magnificent of concrete and steel majestic




I gaze down below and I speak tongues

to cars and buses and subways and trains a running




I gaze yonder and I speak tongues

to ferries and ships and oil tankers a sailing




I gaze up above and I speak tongues

to jet liners and fighter jets and space shuttles and satellites soaring




My lips drooling

I shout at them from the pit of my stomach




My yelp resonates into airspace,

pulses through streets and alleys and highways and freeways




vibrates through the edifices

of concrete and steel majestic




I shout at you with spit flying,

drooling I shout in your face




I sing psalms barefooted

I recite my verses naked




I am becoming, transforming at this very moment

Into something never realized by your architects, designers and think tanks




I sing my psalms barefooted

I recite my verses naked




I curse you from my bowels

I curse the penis and the vagina that spawned you




I curse the breast that fed you

I curse the hand that rocked and cradled you




I curse them all yet bless them the same,

as I curse and bless you all the same




I shout at you spit flying, lips drooling

I shout in your face




You can smell my breath from where you stand

You can feel my anger from where you sleep




You can taste the hate from from your salad bowls

those garden salads, wilted and dead you eat




I am here

I persist




I persist as the sands of the deserts

and the sands of the oceans persist




I am here on your rooftops crying in tongues,

spit flying, lips drooling




I sing my psalms barefooted

I recite my verses naked




My yelp fades then resounds,resonates into airspace

pulsates into streets and highways adjoining




It vibrate through sky scrapers magnificent

of concrete and steel majestic




Fading then resounding

Dying then resurrecting




I sing my psalms and recite my verses

I shout at them all in your face




that you may at least even have the littlest comprehension

that I am talking to you.

Tuesday, September 8

I gotta tell you something...




A funny video by ILGA on gay adoption. Talk about coming in.

Monday, September 7

Back in the Tropics.

I keep forgetting that I am in the tropics. Just this morning, I woke up hoping that I could do my 40 minute run. I've been running almost everyday ever since I got back from China since I am close to the park and since the gym memberships here are atrociously priced. And besides running is the only activity that keeps me sane in the Coconut Republic. Well, that's not really true since I have another activity that also keeps me sane but you get my point. 
 
So I got out of my bed and did my usual waking up routine – which consisted of scratching my nuts a little, then bathroom, then scratching my nuts some more, then lighting a cigarette then I opening the door so I could do some stretching as I psych myself on how this day was going to be the day that would change my very existence. As I was doing this routine with my eyes half closed, I was thinking of breaking into song about how morning was going to be one of those a beautiful Coconut Republic mornings and how this day was going to be the bestest day of all because I was going to meet THE (SECOND) GUY OF MY DREAMS. I imagine it like this....
I would be meeting my second prince swarming charming today by a serendipitous event like he would accidentally hit me while I was running with the Italian car that he was driving then I would lay semi-unconscious on the pavement as he frantically gets out of his car and rushes to my side. He sees me. Well he sees my the blood gushing out of my nose first then he SEES me. Music plays in the background (Carpenters' “Solitaire”). My nosebleed stops. He wipes my nose with his designer tie. His cellphone rings to the tune of The Lion King's “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. He throws it away (but not too far because he'll be getting it later). He asks in a real low husky voice if I was alright. I couldn't speak. I nod then I pass out because I lost too much blood from my nosebleed. He carries me to his car and he brings me to the nearest hospital. He donates his blood (we have the same blood type). I am saved. The doctor tells me to go home. He offers me his place. I cannot speak. I nod. He carries me to his Italian car and drives us home. We live happily ever after for 6 months until he succumbs to some rare illness that affects hair follicles. I am inconsolable for a long time (like two weeks give or take) then my first Prince comes to rescue me from my grief and we leave my late husband's manor with and live happily ever after in our small house in the Maldives, living our lives in bliss as we help rid the world of hunger, disease and tacky shoes. 
 
Where was I? Sorry for the segue. Oh yeah. I was planning to break into song as I opened the door but I didn't. It was raining outside. Fatherf*ck (I'm trying to be non-sexist) it's been raining for 5 days!!!!!!!!! 5 days damnit! I'm asking the Universe if I should already start building an ark and start collecting stray dogs and cats and canned tuna. 
 
Then it hit me. I am in the Coconut Republic and not in the Noodle Kingdom anymore. Sigh. This is depressing me. Not because of the fact that I am in the Coconut Republic (I'll get to that later) but because I'm currently listening to Björk and it's really fucking up my mojo. 
 
(Change music to Jack Johnson's “Staple it Together”)
Ok. Where was I?
Yes. Coconut Republic. Noodle Kingdom. Missing it. 
 
Yeah, I really miss the Noodle Kingdom. It became intense the other week. My box arrived the other week from China. It mostly consisted of books and some of the many trinkets and whatnots that I have come to possess in the Noodle Kingdom. I sent the box to Caloocan over a month ago and addressed it to my mother. My mother called me the other week and told me that she was at the post office and they were trying to “tax” my box. TAX MY BOX?!?!?!?! The bastards at the post office tried to tax the junk that I sent from China? I would've gotten rid of them if I weren't one sentimental fuck. I went online and googled PHILIPPINE POST OFFICE CORRUPT AS FUCK. I got results. They were many. I went to the official website to download the international parcel tax rates in PDF form and lo and behold, it was a bad link. The bastards over at the PHIL POST wont let the people know the actual tax rates for local and international parcels. So,I texted my mother to tell her to let them “tax” it as long as they issue a receipt and she gets the name of the issuing officer. My mother, who comes from a generation of women that fought the invaders, showed the text message to the A-hole issuing officer and she ended up going home with my box “TAX” free. She was the only one among the claimants who was able to bring her box home. Assholes. WELCOME TO THE COCONUT REPUBLIC OMAR!
I realize that I am really back in Kansas now and I left Toto in the Noodle Kingdom. Part of me is sad because this means I have really left The Noodle Kingdom for The Coconut Republic. Mind you, it was by choice and it had been a long time coming. The Cliffnotes version – I've been in China waaaay too long that I need to get out before I wake up one morning regretting for not leaving.
To be fair, I knew what was coming. I am Filipino after all and I have lived here for 24 years. I love my country so don't get me wrong. It's all a nice heap of halo halo for me. I'm adjusting is all. But while we are on the subject of adjustment, lemme just give you a brief rundown of the things that I am adjusting from

  • Traffic. I knew traffic was bad in the Metro, but I never remembered traffic being SO BAD.
  • Taxi Drivers. Gaaaaah. I think I even have to bring my own meter every time I ride a taxi in Manila.
  • Weather. It rains and it shines. When it rains, it really rains. When it shines, I sweat like a pig in heat. I miss air conditioners.
  • TV and News. Nothing really interesting. I'm glad I don't have a television in my apartment.
  • Telecom companies. Calling anyone is expensive as shit.
 Although there are perks in being in the Coconut Republic. Here are some

  • Lugaw (Congee). Yum. I eat it almost everyday. It's one of my comfort foods.
  • Jollibee. I don't eat it everyday, but when I need my Amazing Aloha burger I just go out of my box apartment and go to the nearest Jollibee outlet which is like a two minute walk from my place.
  • Family and Friends. Good to have them. Can't live without them.
I live in the tiniest apartment ever. My land lady says it's 20 square meters, but I think it's more like 15. I'm not complaining though, because I fell in love with the place. It's an easy clean (II still wipe my floor 20 times a day) and I like the smallness of it. I feel like JK Rowling pre-Harry Potter. Who knows, I might be able to write my Great American novel one of these rainy Coconut Republic days.
I'm still currently unemployed. If you wanna know the truth, I like the idea of slacking for a bit, like waking up and doing nothing but get into my running gear and run for 40 minutes then go back and sleep eat and shit and eat some more then smoke some then think about life and all its vicissitudes and shit. Although I don't think slacking for one year becomes me. My limit is two months then I need to look for a job. I am looking, but commuting for two hours just to go to some fancy business district to push some pencils and play Farmville on Fakebook doesn't really appeal to me. I'm seriously thinking about working in the Jollibee near my apartment. That way, I don't need to commute plus I get free burgers. I'd be like, WELCOME TO JOLLIBEE BITCHES, WHUDDYA HAVIN? D'YA WANT FRIES WITH THAT? MY SHIFT FINISHES AT 5 AND YOU CAN WAIT FOR ME BY THE CORNER BESIDE THE CIGARETTE VENDOR.
meh.
I miss B. 

Sunday, September 6

Saturday, September 5

Angels in Tianjin

One of my last visions of China. This was located in a roundabout in Tianjin City's Italian section. Reminded me of the play and the film "Angels in America".
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Friday, September 4

September Rain Blues

This has been a long standing tradition of mine ever since I started this blog.  I dedicate this to the boy who smiled at me by the church yard.   It's September and it's raining today.  Where ever you are, I hope you are happy and I hope somebody is smiling with you. 


September Rain Blues

a story of the remnants of my youth
by Rufus Omar Bartleby

August 2006

I woke up with this morning with the smell of rain. I thought it was from my dream but when I looked outside the window I saw it was pouring. September beckons on my doorstep. I sit on my bed and tried to focus on the many images of Buddha hanging on my living room wall. They all look so peaceful, like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. In two days it’s going to be September. For us Filipinos, September signals the beginning of the “ber” months, the countdown before Christmas and New Years. In happier days of not so long ago, you could hear Christmas carols being played on the month of September in shops and malls as if trying to hypnotize the listeners to buy Christmas gifts as early as possible so they wont have to bother going through all the rush in purchasing a very late Christmas gift. You’d even see the ominous Santa Claus (I don’t know why but he always scares the hell out of me) holding the bell of doom and a whip heralding the coming apocalypse lest the kids do not repent and turn back from their evil ways. But those were the happier days, when people had the luxury to spend their hard earned cash on a September day. Now these lean days of economic and political crises, September for many Filipinos is just, well, September. But for me, it’s something else. September, ever since that day on the church grounds, held a special place, dare I say it, in my heart. It’s been what, 8 years (?) since I last saw his face. But I can still remember how he looked like, how everything took place, or how it shouldn’t have taken place. I could still remember what I was wearing that day. I could still make out his face and that smile. I could still smell the cold September rain.

September 1998

It was a rainy Tuesday September morning. Michael and I just got out of the church after attending the morning mass, exasperated by Father Constancio’s (Consti as Michael and I would like to call him) latest homily. This time it was about astral projection. Michael was also crazy about crystals and new age shit, but to hear that every friggen mass was a wee bit too much even for a Wiccan such as Michael. But we gave up on the priest a long time ago. He was one of them 60’s children, flower power chakra crystal shit, but a late bloomer. Meaning he discovered the wisdom of the 60’s during the late 80’s, when he was already in his mid 50’s. And by God, woe to the man who is a late bloomer, or rather have pity on the dude (I think it’s in the Bible somewhere). God help us all if he starts forgiving our sins with his crystals while scooping out the evil from our chakras. Well, another Tuesday morning unwisely and ridiculously spent. But hey, it was our ritual of sort, what we do, Michael and I. Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, before we start our day in school, we would attend the morning mass for kicks. We’d look at students reviewing for the exams; lovers trying to kiss and make-up (or break-up) at 7 in the morning; and the recognizable John Doe’s trying to ask God to give them a cosmic sign from heaven which winning number combination would be in the next lotto draw. And yeah, we also come there to nourish our spirits of course. For me, I’d like to observe people. It gives me peace to look at someone and not think about myself and all the shit that I had to deal with for a change.
 
Say that old lady in front who prays earnestly and holds on to every word that comes from the Great Reverend Consti’s mouth, which is mostly pure horse turd. She knows it, but still she nods and smiles whenever the great Reverend Consti would glance on her direction as if they both know that they’re playing the same game of pretend-that-you’re-listening-to-me-and-I’ll-look-in-your-direction-and-you-nod-in-total-agreement-of-any-cow-turd-that-comes-out-of-my-filthy-unbrushed-mouth. I’d count how many times she’d nod and smile. It passes the time.
And then there’s this old man who repairs watches outside the university gate. He never fails to come to the seven o’ clock mass. He’d always be standing at the back, in his Sunday best, which always consisted of this 70 ensemble of corduroys or bell bottoms and always a striped semi fitted shirt that hung comfortably on his torso like the shirt found its home. He wears those shiny shoes that never seem to have touched the earth like it just came out of the factory. And don’t forget the pomade. His hair shines during the ‘Our Father’, and I don’t have one iota of a clue as to why. I like to look at him. Once he caught me staring at him and he smiled. I was so embarrassed. The dude must have thought I was perving over him or something.
I don’t know why we do it, Michael and I. We attend the morning mass and listen to the same bald priest saying the same boring topic of politics, crystals, astral projection and salvation and eternal damnation (in that particular order) over and over again. It’s a vicious cycle really. I guess we were just Catholics, like the rest of the 20 or so people who attend Consti’s morning Eucharist. We sit and complain to God asking Him to make Consti shut up, yet the irony is that we still respond to this bald priest as he stands in front holding the crystal like he’s Lex Luthor when he cues us to stand up, sit down, hold hands or go in peace. And after hearing the Gospel according to Consti, which is about an hour or so (Consti likes overtime), we go to our normal saturated lives in a state of constipated bliss, while the Great Reverend goes out to the back door that leads to the priests’ quarters to catch his late breakfast of cold sunny side ups, Australian bacons, French toast and brewed java. I just hope that God Almighty really has a sense of justice and makes Conti choke on his French toast. Catholicism is such a bad habit I tell you. You can try to quit, but it’ll just leave you cold turkey.

August 2006

So that was my life every Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the university. Nothing much, nothing fancy. Boring as it may seem, I was quite happy. I had a boyfriend at that time. He was a junior majoring in Political Science with minors in Music Appreciation and I was a sophomore in Philosophy with a doctorate in Bullshitting. Michael doesn’t like him though. And so does my other best friend, William. They keep saying he’s like Elmer’s Glue, too possessive and clingy. What can I say; I guess that was young love for me. I kind of like being possessed from time to time. Although he may go a bit overboard sometimes especially when he gets jealous of Michael and William, or if I’m wearing tank tops (they’re too revealing, he says) or if I was 2 minutes late. There were even times that he called me “bakla” and “puta” and I got pissed at the “puta” remark. The former I can deal with. Hey, I was a true to the bone closeted gay guy (at that time, I was still in the closet dusting off the cobwebs and trying to see if my granny’s shoes would fit me… NOT); being called a whore however was another (well… I still had principles at that time… I was young damn it). I’d like to say that we didn’t talk for a week because of the remarks he made. We always kiss and make up after about a day or so, then we’d fucked like rabbits.
I was in love. He was the center of my known universe. He was my being. He knew it. But that didn’t stop him from calling me names when he had tantrums. Like me, he was also Catholic, and a very devout one for that matter. Like me, he was also in the closet but with a slight difference. He was in a safe box and in the closet. But he was the reason for my happiness. I was happy. The tantrums, the taunts, the fights plus lukewarm sex we shared from time to time kept us occupied. He loved me. And I loved him, in my own catholic schoolboy kind of way, I did. That was my life back in college - a routine of celebrating the Holy Eucharist with a demented priest, a boyfriend, my two best friends and philosophy. I was happy.
I thought I was, until I saw him.

September 1998

There was a slight drizzle when we went outside the church. It started raining during Consti’s homily but it stopped afterwards. I guess it’s God’s way of letting us know that he does know our plight when we listen to Consti’s dementia in full action. I could still smell the scent of the after shower. I love the rain more than I love anything. I believe that the rain was God’s miracle consummated. For me it was a sign from heaven. I have this theory about the rain. I think you can actually know what God is feeling after a downpour. I play this game after every rainfall. After every downpour, I’d go outside and try to smell the rainwater, and I try to ‘taste’ it in my thoughts. If the smell and the ‘taste’ was too salty then God was pissing down on us because He’s royally pissed. But if its kind of acidic then God is shedding unshed tears for the outcasts of this world, like them fags, dykes, trannies, Goths, geeks or the athletically challenged (you get the picture).
So I took in the humid air and tried to taste the smell of the rain in my thoughts. God was definitely pissing on us today, I thought to myself. Then a weird thing happened. It stopped drizzling. The sun shone so bright like nothing happened. Just that. It was like it never rained at all. God must have a urinary tract infection, I thought.
Then he passed by.
August 2006
The way he looked that day was embedded in my consciousness forever. And like anything that is embedded in your psyche, the thing that has been embedded can never be removed even if someone wishes to remove it. Back in my elementary days they taught us the number pi (π) in math class. Truth be told, I loathed math or anything that involved adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying. One time, the school decided that I should join a regional math quiz bee without prior consent. I had a real bad case of diarrhea that day. I realized that I hated math because I hated solving equations or rather trying to solve problems that required exact answers. For me that was absurd. At that young age I was already aware that I was never gonna be a CPA or some math whiz with a good paying job. However, there was only one thing that I liked about math - it was the number π
 
π = 3.141592654……………………………… 
 
They told us that pi was this number that expressed the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle and appears as a constant in many mathematical expressions. I didn’t get any of the shit of what the teacher told us but one thing stuck in my head – that pi continued on to infinity. It didn’t have an end, an exact number to put a stop to it. It was uncertain. That was the only thing certain about pi, that it was never certain. I never forgot about the pi lesson. And I’m sure all of us who listened to our math teachers never forgot about it either. I mean, look, if you do not know about pi, it’s either you didn’t go to school or you’re probably some retard who miraculously passed high school and got teleported to law school or business school or what shit have you right now. The point was, I didn’t forget about pi. At that very young age, it stuck itself to me like glue. Later on in life when I was in my freshman year I learned a word that I could associate with my favorite number – transcendent. I love saying that word. Transcendent. I realized that pi became transcendent to me. And like π, he became transcendent to me. A constant – something that can never be removed even if I wished to.

September 1998

His silver blue umbrella was still open and he was trying to close it. His faded blue jeans clung to his waist and to his lower extremities like there was no tomorrow. His shirt was inexplicably dry even after that glorious downpour. He was two or three inches taller than me. Probably five foot nine or ten. He had this Tommy Page haircut, which was so cool those days, and it suited him very well. And his face…
August 2006
Even after 8 years I still couldn’t forget his face. Sometimes I would forget what he’d look like and his face would be like a vague memory, like he was just some figment of my imagination. A phantasm. Then in my waking moments he would slowly reveal himself to me, and I would remember him again in such clarity. Sometimes his face would look different than before, more refined, and more beautiful. I would forget him for a moment, then he will come back again. He’s always there, inside my head, constantly swimming in my thoughts.
September 1998
He looked like Jay Manalo especially with his lips, but more pleasant (not that Jay Manalo was unpleasant to look at) and gentler. His eyebrows, come to think of it, reminded me of some Japanese actor I saw in some movie in some art house cinema. Takeshi Kaneshiro, yes, his eyebrows was almost an exact copy of the cop who kept eating expired pineapple chunks in Wong Kar Wai’s Chunking Express. His eyes were different though… incomparable to any movie star that I’ve seen in the movies. He looked at me with those eyes. They looked like raindrops. For about five seconds while he was passing by, he looked at me. Five seconds. I forgot about the Rizal exam that I was supposed to review that day. He was going inside the parish grounds. Where was he going? He wasn’t a student, but he was carrying a backpack on his left shoulder. He wasn’t an altar boy either. Having heard the mass every Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would’ve become familiar with his face already if he was. And he certainly wasn’t part of school security either. Why was he going inside the parish grounds… and inside the parish comfort room?(!) Then I had this sudden urge to take a leak.
  
Looking back, I realized that it was so low, I know. But hey, he was after all, my pi. 
 
He was already inside the parish comfort room and I was about to follow when Michael woke me up from my trance,

Where are you going? Have you been listening to ANY word that I just said!?” said Michael who was obviously annoyed at the fact that I wasn’t really listening to his rant about Consti’s latest homily. Then he added,

Is Ricky giving you a hard time again?”, he asked the last question placing emphasis on the ‘hard’ part with a wicked shit eating grin on his face. I swear, Michael could really be a witch sometimes. I dismissed is smart assed comment and I told him that I had to pee.

Okay, fine. Be that way. Don’t take long because you still have to tell me the pages to review in our Rizal exam.”
And as fast as my feet would carry me, I went into the proverbial comfort room to catch a glimpse of my mystery guy with the Tommy Page haircut, Jay Manalo lips, Takeshi Kaneshiro eyebrows and raindrop eyes.

I would be a hypocrite if I did not admit that there was nothing sexual about my actions. But I was more interested in seeing his lips, his face, his eyebrows and those raindrop eyes. I just felt this urgency to be close to him. Sexual or non-sexual, I just felt that I needed to be close to him.
I went inside. Nobody else was there except me, and him without a shirt and he was already in the process of pulling down his pants. He was changing! I tried to be casual (in a friggen comfort room!!!!). I tried to focus on pulling down my zipper to pee. I looked at him for a few seconds. All it took me was a few seconds to register everything about his body. He was slim, but not skinny. His skin reminded me of a cup of Nescafe coffee mixed with six tablespoons of Bear Brand Milk Powder. His back was smooth and was so inviting to touch. When he tried to bend over to slowly pull down his tight pants, his spine and his white Hanford clad buttocks were proudly protruding towards me as if he was trying to do it on purpose. I was thinking that if Boticelli and da Vinci and Michelangelo and all them great DEAD artisans could see me right now, they’d probably have a post humus ejaculation. Yes, he was marvelous. Perfect. Like a transcendental number trying to express itself to the depths of infinity. I wanted to look up to the heavens and tell all them dead artists watching us that I declared SHOTGUN first. 
 
I was still ogling over him and I could just imagine my psychic self wearing this shit eating psychic grin. I was declaring SHOTGUN to the whole cosmology of the men’s room and that he was mine and mine alone. And then I had this feeling. This fear and trembling kind of feeling that he knew that I was watching him with all the peripheral vision I could muster.
Silence. 
 
Small beads of perspiration rally on my forehead. 

My metaphysics professor, a 40-ish man who speaks 10 languages and has a voice like Barry White, used to say that if there was sudden silence in a room it meant that an angel (a seraphim) was passing by to take pictures. 
 
It was indeed a Kodak moment. With him already partially clothed, and me trying my very best to urinate. The whole time I was there I hadn’t even let out a single ounce of urine. I was so embarrassed, to say the least. He must think I’m some kind of perverted Catholic college kid who still confesses to some demented priest every single masturbatory practice he does in his bed. I had to focus. And with all my faculties, I willed myself to pee. I tried to do a little exercise:
Pee…
Pee…
The Peelippines vs. Benigno Aquino, Jr.
Nanny mc Pee…
Pee…
SnooPee and the Peenuts
Peeace on earth and goodwill to fucking mankind and to the flora and fauna of the universe…
Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…
Pleeeeeeease peeeeeeee.
PEE MOTHERFUCKER PEEE@!!!!!!!!!!!!!
God in heaven please let me fucking pee…
(Of course I was Ally Mc Bealing the whole time!)
And I let out a few drops. I quickly zipped up and scurried myself out of the comfort room without ever looking back. I left him in the comfort room. 

Yet he remained in my head.
I was out already when I saw Michael under the tree waiting for me with a more vicious shit-eating grin on his face. Oh my God! He fucking knew! For a split second, I felt that I was really Ricky’s proverbial “puta”, the whore of Babylon, Mr. President’s fluffer, the bitch of Nardong Tarugo in Cell Block B. But I cast them all aside trying to say to myself, “I didn’t do anything wrong! Everybody looks, so why can’t I? Can’t I have my fucking moment?” But who was I kidding? I didn’t just ‘look’, I studied and analyzed him like the way I study my philosophy books – with ardor and fervor. I was about to defend myself to Michael when he said,
I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself since we are going to be 5 minutes late for English Lit.”
I told him to lighten up since Boobs Mc Phee, as I like to call my English Lit lecturer was probably going to be late anyway for class since she takes her sweet time in brushing up and trying to look sophisticated and booby, in matte and all.
She was beautiful in fact, my English Lit Lecturer. And she did indeed have big boobs, which my best friend William keeps staring at during class. Come to think of it, all the guys, except for Michael and me, kept on staring at her boobs like it was some lab experiment gone mad. But hey, I wasn’t a breeder. I’m friggen bent. It’s like I can will myself to like her breasts and then get an erection, you know. Peeing is one thing, but women and breasts, they’re another are another.
Michael was in his element today (must be the effect of Consti’s crystals) when he said,
Since we are going to be absolutely late, I think I will brush up and go to the comfort room.”
The bitch!
Without thinking I told him that he couldn’t go there because ‘he’ was changing.
Oh, so we are using personal pronouns now? When did this happen? I didn’t get the memo.” Michael quipped and then added, “And what’s with the face?!”, he said in mock disgust, “Why in the world are you affected? Forget it, I need to go to the bathroom and you can’t stop me!”
I could not hold Michael with my powers. He was a witch after all, his clan tracing its roots in the mountains of Aklan, and quite a powerful one. And I couldn’t go with him. It’ll be too obvious. What will ‘he’ think of me? All I could do was wait and pray to the God that I have been devoutly praying for every Tuesdays and Thursdays for the past two years that His divine providence would somehow play on my favor. Was I being selfish? I mentally asked myself. I shook the thought away when I saw Michael enter the comfort room. And after four seconds he went out. Jesus! He could be so blunt sometimes! He did not even pretend to urinate! I was about to admonish Michael about his behavior when he said with a look of a disappointment on his face,
He was already fully dressed in school uniform.”
A surge of relief rushed through my veins, then the last two words of what Michael had just said registered themselves into my central nervous system. School uniform? He was a student!? But why was he changing in the parish comfort room? Where does he live? What’s his major? Why was he changing in the parish comfort room? Which building does he go to on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Why was he changing in the parish comfort room? At seven thirty in the morning?!?! As if reading my thoughts, Michael said,
He’s a callboy Phil.” 

Insight
August 2006
Looking back now, he was too good, too attractive, and too sleek with his movements when he passed by me after the mass. And that look in his eyes. They were beautiful, but it registered something different. They were tired, his eyes. They were kind of sad. 
 
September 1998
I suddenly felt bad all over. I wanted to throw up. Not because he was a rent boy but because of something else which I couldn’t pinpoint. Come to think of it, I never did get an erection while I was looking over him. I realized that it was not sexual, the incident at the comfort room. It was more of admiration, of praise to a perfect being that was slowly unfolding itself in front of me. I felt like some kid trying to catch the end of the pi number even knowing all along that it was infinite.
I felt bad. I felt bad for him because if what Michael said were true… well, what if it was true? Why was I feeling this way? Why was I feeling at all? 
 
I pretended to dismiss what he said and told Michael that we were late for English Lit already. We passed by the church gate until Michael told me he forgot something at the front desk of the parish office. I told Michael that I’d wait for him in front of the church. 
 
Thoughts of ‘him’ came back, like water from a spring trying to make new rivers and streams by carving itself to unknown territories. This in fact, was unknown territory for me. A terra incognita as one of my philosophy professors try to call it. Ricky was never a terra incognita to me. I knew him well. I knew his quirks and his tantrums well, his sensibilities on conservative fashion and classical music and on Mary, Jesus and the Catholic Church. My friends, like Ricky, were certain to me. I know them like I know my own shadow. My life before ‘him’ was quite predictable. But with ‘him’ it was totally different. He was totally unknown to me. Which made me even more uneasy. Not afraid, but uneasy. Like there was no certainty. 
 
I was lost, still drowning in my thoughts when a girl form my Rizal Class passed by me and greeted me with a smile. And on the same direction, ‘he’ passed by just behind my girl classmate, quietly gazing at me where my girl classmate was walking. Not knowing what to do, I smiled at my girl classmate. And he SMILED BACK. He thought I was smiling at him! His teeth were so baby powder white that it again accentuated his eyes, which again reminded me of raindrops. His face, was how could I describe it… transfigured would be the closest word to describe his face at that time when he thought I was smiling at him.
Then out of nowhere, I heard a song playing in my head. The voice, all too familiar, was Aretha’s:
The first time………… ever I saw your face………
I thought the sun ……… rose from your………………………………………”
Aretha never got to finish her song number because my moment OUR moment was trashed by the girl, who greeted me with,

Hi Phil!!!!! Hope you’re ready for our Rizal exam today!”

I wanted to rush to the hardware store (if there was any open at that time) and buy a friggen sledgehammer, to thank her for ruining my OUR moment.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw his smile fade. Then his eyes became tired again, perhaps even more tired than before. I couldn’t see his raindrop eyes no longer because he quickly shifted his gaze to the damp ground. He passed by me, casting those raindrop eyes into empty space leaving me sadder than I was a while ago. I wanted to call him, but I didn’t know his name (at least he knew mine now). And even if I called him, what would I say? That the smile was actually meant for him? How more lame a reason could it be?
He was already crossing the street, with the back of his white polo uniform and light gray slacks bidding me farewell. I have never felt guilty in my entire life, until now. I wanted to cry. Not really wail-cry, you know. I was far too butch for that. But I wanted to shed tears, even a single one. I wanted to. But somehow, at that moment, I couldn’t. It seemed like hours, what transpired between us (and that girl) and I was still dazed until Michael came up to me and said,
Phil, you lucky fag, he smiled at you! And don’t deny it, I saw everything! What the hell did you do? You gotta teach me that technique sometime…” he said excitedly. 
 
Then I told him about the incident between me, him and the girl from Rizal class. I could see the concern in Michael’s face as I told him the story. He knew. Michael always knew. He is after all, my best friend.
Don’t worry, I saw his uniform. He’s engineering and some of our college algebra subjects would probably be in his building. We could stalk him! It’ll be fun you’ll see,” he said trying to cheer me up. 
 
I tried to smile at his lighthearted comment. Then I finally told him that we were royally late for English Lit and Boobs Mc Phee was probably royally pissed by now. I instantly went back to my known universe, to my certainties, to my life, as I knew it before ‘him’. I was once again, this Catholic college kid who studies philosophy and goes to hear Mass every Tuesdays and Thursdays with his gay best friend for kicks. I was once again this college kid who has a straight best friend who likes to look at their English Lit lecturer’s breasts. I was once again this college kid who dates a conservative Republican boyfriend. I was once again this college kid who loves the rain more than anything else. Life was again certain for me. But who was I fooling? He was already there in my head. Like that number that I learned way back when I was in grade school. He became that number. And like a kid mystified, I was chasing the number just to see if it ever has an end.
It never happened I keep on telling myself. But he was the lone constant in all variables in my head.
Michael and I walked towards the north campus gate. Michael was talking about something, but I could not hear him. Al I could hear was Aretha Franklin singing in my head. 
 
I wanted to cry. I wanted to shed at least a single tear for ‘him’. But it was not my element, crying genuine tears. I can ‘fake’ crying but I can never shed genuine tears. I learned at an early age that I was not one to shed tears outside. I cry within. I wanted to will it but I couldn’t. Peeing was one thing. But shedding tears was another. But as we were walking toward the north campus, something happened. It started to drizzle again, yet the sun was still shining. I inhaled the scent of the light rain and I noticed that something was different. It was odd, the rain. It wasn’t salty or acidic. The rain that I smelled and tasted in my thoughts just now tasted bittersweet. Bittersweet. At that moment as we were crossing the street, I was feeling exactly the same way. 
 
August 2006
Eight years. Looking back at everything, how it happened, and how it didn’t happen, I realized that I was far too young to understand the whole scheme of things. Well, I guess I still haven’t understood most of it. My youth, as I would like to believe it, was my seedbed. I’d like to think that I grew up a little that Tuesday September morning. I’d like to think the ending turned out different. I remember playing all the possible endings in my head. I did for months. Then I got tired and went on living my life in concrete sureness that I was living it the way that I should. But life is not all about certainties, I learned. It’s also about the opposite of anything that is sure and concrete. Like those mornings when I wake up from a dream and then I have this vague memory of his face smiling at me. This phantasm. This dream. 
 
In the dream, I smiled to him, and said the word that I was never able to say eight years ago:
Hello.”

He’d then tell me his name and his major. We’d have coffee or lunch at the cafeteria. We’d smoke the same brand of cigarettes. We’d meet in the hallways both of us itching to tell our latest rant on life, politics and the boring professor. Then he’d smile and I’d smile back. Then when I am about to say his name…
I wake up from the dream with the song still lingering in my head.
And I could still taste the smell of the bittersweet rain.

I always look back on that Tuesday September morning eight years ago, especially when it is raining. And most especially when it’s raining on a September day. I have become less innocent of the world and more of a romantic cynic (if there is such). I would wear a face that says “who gives a fuck” but my psychic self will always smile at the rain. Sometimes I’d even play my game just for kicks. I’d smell the rain and taste it in my thoughts, hoping that the taste would be the same taste of rain eight years ago and then… well, it never tasted that way again. So I will never know. (One thing I do know is that God is definitely royally pissed at humanity for the past couple of years or so. Well good luck to mankind)
That Tuesday September morning, God wasn’t pissed at humanity…nor was he crying for fags, dykes, trannies and the outcasts of the world. That day was meant for two people, and two people alone. He was crying for these two people, for he knew that neither could cry to himself nor to each other.