Monday, June 27, 2005


Wakes are gloomier, drawn-out and butong pakwan and mani infested versions of the family reunions I hate attending. Aside from the usual reunion "You're so fat!" comment, and the lame "You still work...there?" (though nobody remembers where there really is) querry, wakes aren't excempt from the "Are you married?" line of questioning. And with wakes, the question spews out not only from the mouths of kin, but from acquaintances, strangers even, as well.

With every no I reply to questions on my being hitched, the reactions get worse.

"Why don't you get married?" is the most common. Of course, I don't really bother to expound on how I'd need to find a partner first. Unless they expect me to marry myself and reproduce through cellular division.

Tried to give the I'm still saving up reply, but I got "Nonsense! I didn't have enough money, yet I found a way. My kids are doing okay."

But I don't want a life that's just okay. I want a good life for my future family. I'd want my kids to have the things I didn't have. Particularly the things I still don't have to this day.

"You should get married," says a guy about five years older than I am. "Look at me. I have a kid in high school. We're like buddies."

Then again, if I needed buddies to hang with, I do believe that's what my friends are for.

"Get married so you'd get one of these," says a proud mother as she holds up her infant like a trophy.

I never bothered to remind her that reproduction can take place without a marriage license. In fact, if I really wanted to, I can name a few girls from her very own circle who found that out the hard way.

"My son already has four kids!" says the mother of a guy I went to high school with.

Well. I never realized it was a contest. And if the prize for not planning a family well is looking ten years older than his actual age, then I guess my former schoolmate won (I'd see him on the way to work from time to time, looking harassed and tired at 8:30 in the morning).

The last night of the wake, I approached my Mom just as one of my father's friends was interviewing her.

"And your son? Is he married?"

"No, not yet," says Mom.

"Well, I think he's still young enough. Thirty onwards is a good age to be married," says the lady as she turns towards me. "How old are you?"

Without blinking an eye, I reply with a smile.
"I'm twenty-five, Ma'am."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


As early as a couple of hours after my grandmother's death last Wednesday evening, I found myself volunteered to go through her things. First it was to search for documents the system demanded from bereaved relations. Immediately. Her Social Security ID, her Senior Citizen's ID, her memorial plan certificates, and so forth.

The next day, I hunted for photographs that would be displayed at the wake.

Just this morning, I went through some more albums and boxes of pictures for a missing photo of her with a schoolmate who eventually became Senate President (um...long story, and I couldn't find the said photo).

For decades, my grandmother had been called Manang Nena by relatives, Sister Nena by her church cronies, and Lola Nena by just about everyone else.

But in those moments I spent among dusty boxes, photo albums, strips of negatives, and dozens of Kodacolor and Florofoto envelopes, I caught glimpses of her as Virginia.


The young girl who was the apple of her Papa's eye. The lass living in the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The secretary working for the US Armed Forces. The new bride in post-war Baguio with the tall young architect who also worked for the USAFFE.

Among the lifetime's worth of photographs, I also saw how radiant Virginia with her flowing locks faded into somber Nena, who kept her hair tied in a tight bun.

Long before I began popping up among the pictures, she had already changed completely into Nena.

Still, Virginia used to sparkle through. From time to time.

When my grandmother would tell stories. Or when she'd sing grandnephews and nieces to sleep. Or when she'd remind me she made a fresh batch of jello (not to be called gulaman - the neighbors might hear).

I glimpsed Virginia again this morning when I found the Commencement Exercise program for Rizal High School, batch 1939. Along with the names and addresses of the graduates, the program listed Life's Plans. The boys mostly wanted to be soldiers or engineers. The girls mostly wanted to be teachers or nurses.

Virginia wanted to be a journalist.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


The rain fell as I walked along Makati Avenue last night.
And just as suddenly as it began, the downpour trickled away by the time I reached the bridge connecting Makati to Mandaluyong. Somewhat drenched (though my head, thanks to a generous helping of styling wax in my hair yesterday morning, remained relatively dry), I made my way across the concrete span.

As I reached the middle of the bridge, I heard the burst of fireworks from the riverbank behind me.
I turned.
To the left, blooms of light kaleidoscoped among Rockwell's steel and glass towers. On the right side, the horizon dominated by the hulk of Makati Cityhall was lit up with flashes and color.

For a moment, I stood still on the deserted, rain-drenched bridge to watch the display before continuing my journey home.

The only things missing were beautifully written narration, some subtitles to go along with the V.O., and poignant musical scoring.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Since a number of friends recently turned twenty-five (relax, girls - I won't name names), I decided to dig up this article from my archives as a belated birthday present. It's something I wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Youngblood when I hit that particular years ago.

It started again.

That clock which counts down to a day I dread almost as much as Valentine's or Christmas began ticking once more. Though, come to think of it, it never really stops, does it? The ordinarily unobtrusive ticks and tocks just get a little louder a month before the yearly observance of my birth.

February usually finds me slithering away from my birthday. Being reminded of the fact that I'm getting older no longer thrilled me since the time I could legally watch R -18 flicks.

But this year, the ticking sounds a little more foreboding than usual.

This is no ordinary birthday.

No. I'm not turning 18 again (how I wish!). I'll be hitting the big two-five. And somehow, being a quarter of a century old is enough to make me take a long, hard look at life. Ask questions that wouldn't even be crossing my thoughts any other time of the year. Or any other time of the decade for that matter.

Back in high school, usually during algebra class, I fantasized happy fantasies on what my life would be like by the time I'm twenty-five.

Great job.

Fat salary.

Gorgeous wife.

Lovely kids.

Nice car.

The works.

Now, a decade later (Man! Has it really been that long?), I got to compare fantasy versus fact while I stared out a bus window on the way to Makati.

Job's okay. I found employment in an industry I've always wanted to be a part of. Though when the pals get together for coffee and talk about salaries and savings, I simply blend into the furniture. Hey! Nice chair! A friend who works in advertising production for roughly a week in a month gets more than I do from thirty days hard, office labor. Ghastly. Most new grads earn twice as much - that's a message of hope for you youngsters out there - as me.

Every last one of the girls I went out with in high school is a mommy now. Yes. Every. Last. One. A number of classmates from college are married, or are getting there. One way or another. On the other hand, I'm about as married as a shriveled mountaintop hermit with a mean old vow of celibacy.

And speaking of celibacy, my sex life last saw the light of day around the time when Twelve Monkeys still played in movie theaters instead of on cable.

Don't bother asking about kids. There are none.

And the car?

Ah, yes. The car.

As I mentioned earlier, I was contemplating my turning twenty-five while on a bus. Don't even have enough dough to buy a bicycle, let alone a cool, jet-black Galant. Or that classic, red-hot Mustang I've always wanted to have. I do get to take a cab once every two months, though. The heights of luxury, indeed!

Before I go on, I ought to set something straight.

This is not the whining of an alleged young adult. Nor is it downright overcast-skies-end-of-the-world- I-want-to-fucking-die-now gen-x pessimism.

It's simply an honest look at life through the eyes of someone older, or younger depending on which side of twenty-five you are right now.

Or if you're also turning twenty-five, it's an invitation to consider this event in your life. After all, misery just loooves company!

As I reach (hit? crash into?) this milestone, I used it to gauge how far I've come. How much farther I'd have to go. Twenty-five became a measuring stick where I compared what contemporaries have done against my own efforts involving the myriad aspects of life. Rest assured my reflections went beyond the paycheck and the car.

So. What answers did I get?

Life is okay, for starters. Not amazing or fabulous.


And I'd definitely settle for okay than miserable or terrible.

Okay is not so bad. It leaves a lot of room for improvement.

As depressing as it turned out, this look at my life gave me the realization that I needed to push things further. It irritated me so much it shook me awake from complacency. Exorcised demons of mediocrity. Impelled me to strive for a better future.

Now, the clock whose alarm will be my birthday ticks.

Unfalteringly. Becoming louder as the days go by.

To tell you the truth, I am still apprehensive about turning twenty-five and not having much to show for it. But at least my goals are clearer now. I have realized that all is not lost. As long as all the junk food, alcohol, coffee and parties that lasted 'till sunrise don't take their toll, there is still enough time to make the old dreams come true.

Make something out of my life.

Be somebody.

When my birthday does come, and in the days, weeks, months and years that follow, I'll still be young enough to reach my goals. My whole life lies ahead of me. Well, most of it, at least. Incidentally, I've always suspected that for some folks, going for goals aren't really limited by physical age.

And, if I fail miserably this year?

You'll hear from me when I turn twenty-six.

Meanwhile, I'll be listening to the ticking of that clock.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?