March 28, 2006

Only In Bacolod 1

In one of the netforums, my debate on the my beloved hometown Bacolod went like this:

Isn't it awkward when you enter a restaurant all heads turn to you because everyone's brains are scanning their who's who registry as to who this person is? And when someone recognizes you, you go to their table and do the aristorcratic routine of exchanging pleasantries. "Uuuyy.. amiga, maniaga ka di? Sino upod mo??" Beso. Beso. or "Migs! Kaon ka upod sa amon!" That's why it's acutely embarrassing to eat alone in Bacolod cuz people around you are speculating what's wrong with you.

Isn't it funny that even with the nice sidewalks and near accessibility of everything in Bacolod, people still prefer to ride their cars or the jeepneys? It's as if people are embarrassed to be seen walking down North Drive or Lacson. Perhaps we're afraid that a car will stop by, its windows drawn down wherby your classmate will say, "Nagalakat ka haw? Waay salakyan? Upod ka na lang!" Sige nga, tell me if you have strolled the sidewalks of uptown Bacolod! (nevermind downtown)

There's no argument about the cleanliness and the infrastructures of Bacolod. These are static features, unlike Bacolenos who can either be a blessing or a curse. We're like a two-sided coin that if you attend our aristocratic soirees and inumans, then you'll be on our good graces, but if you've made a huge scandal or social faux pas, you'll have to expect the full brunt of humiliation. Not true? Well, tell that to the rich girl who was in Bacolod scandal where everywhere she went, she can hear people murmuring "Namit gid!" (her line in the sex scandal) Do I need to say more?

Then, some of the comments that followed were: (names altered)

C: hahaha...i find it very true...especially that beso-beso thing in a restaurant...

D: I eat out at least once a day and most times I eat alone either at Bob's, Pendy's, or some other restaurant. I don't mind eating out and I don't mind if they look at me for a minute. It all depends on you, whether you will allow other people to get to you. I also walked a lot to and from school. In fact, I'd rather walk if my car is being fixed than take a jeepney. I don't mind walking. It doesn't mean I'm any less than anyone else. And I'm not aware of people stopping to say condescending things. In fact I don't find anything wrong with "Nagalakat ka haw? Waay salakyan? Upod ka na lang!". In fact I do stop in the proper manner if I find a classmate on the street - except for smokers that is - because I would rather share my ride with them. I think it is indeed a good thing for people to be mindful of how everybody else is behaving just so that everybody would behave well. In fact I find Bacolenos to be better behaved than the rest of the country. The only Bacolenos that complain of Bacolod's "small town mentality" are those who have committed a "social faux pas". Bacolod is indeed a competitive society - which is good for keeping everybody in their proper and best behaviour. As for that lady, it was her fault in the first place.

The reason why I have a hard time finding Filipino friends where I'm at because most of the Tagalogs here are so ill-mannered. Last Christmas, I invited some of my colleagues to a Christmas presentation at church and I found their behaviour very, very, very, embarrassing. One grabbed a British kid just so he could have a picture taken with Westerners... he could have simply asked in a nice way and I'm sure the kid would have agreed. The other started asking a South African how much his salary was...another sign of ill-breeding. Still another brought home some church property as a souvenir.

C: I think (the author) only wants to point out how the "lower-class" would think about the "snobbish", the "elegance", the "fine" manners and attitude of bacolod's high society...

D: I don't think it is the lower class that would be complaining of the "small town mentality" of Bacolod. I think, that those who had been behaving badly are the ones who are complaining about the "gossipy titas" and hypocrisy that they think pervades Bacolod's society. I only know of two people who are complaining about this - also because of their own fault. One grew up in Manila and behaved differently - earning the ire of close relatives. The other, dated too many women that people started talking about him. My lower midddle class friends have no complaints as they have a different set of friends. But even then, because they do have a few upper class friends, they have learned to behave properly.

So I said:

I'm not arguing about the social ignorance of other Filipinos. I can't comment on the upbringing of Tagalogs or Cebuanos, but I'm sure they're raised in the best and decent way possible. Most Bacolenos are indeed well versed in the "oro plata mata" style of delikadesa and propriety. Kiss your tita-tits, I tell you! The lower middle class cannot break into the social glass ceiling imposed by the rich, that's why they don't have hang-ups with the everyones who's who registry, family trees, and social faux pas. For instance:

Rich boy: (Castilian accent) Mama! I'm going out with some friends to a party tonight at Bar21.
Rich mother: (Bastardized Basque accent) Really hijo? Who are you going with?
Rich boy: Ah, with my classmates Carlo and Paolo.
Rich mother: Do I know them hijo?
Rich boy: Umm... I think so. Carlo is the only son of Agustino Valdezayco and his mom is Felicita, you know the consultant at PNB.
Rich mother: Ah yes hijo! Now I know. She's the cousin of my good amiga, Meredith Gastolacson. I should invite her to play mahjong soon. How about Paolo? Who's child is he?
Rich boy: He's the son of Mr. and Mrs. Taculing.
Rich mother: (blank stare for 10 seconds) ahhh... really now. His dad works where?
Rich boy: His dad is a college professor at LCC, architecture I think. His mom works in city hall.
Rich mother: (another 10 seconds of stupefid look) ahhhh.... I see. Well then, don't be late, hijo. Oh, don't forget you have an afternoon flight tomorrow to Brussels for your CISV trip!

"The other, dated too many women that people started talking about him." I'm sure the whole city too.

As to your wonderful hypothesis that only those who have incurred social debts and faux pas are the ones who complain, don't you also mean that those bacolodnons who are regulars in Bar21, North and other watering holes of the la buena familias who always burn their elbows from partying don't have any problems at all? I'm sure the comments they hear are: "How's your papa, hijo? Has your tita soledad arrived from Europe?" or "Pre, kadto ta sa punong ni tito Z, may clan reunion!" ( Pare, let's go to the prawnfarm of uncle Z cuz we have a clan reunion!") and never "Ay! Ara ang bata ni X. Amo na sya ang nagso-and-so kay Y. Merece!!" (Oh! There's the child of X. He's the one who did kwan to Y. He deserves it!)

For instance:
Two amigas eating in Bob's Restaurant...
Amiga 1: (whispering) Huy Soling! Look who just came in! (Lips pursed while pointing to the direction of the door)
Amiga 2: (whispering) OMG. It's Diego! He must have snucked in from LA. No one told me that he'll be arriving today.
Amiga 1: Me neither. ... (Blanching!) Look! He saw us! He's coming this way!
Amiga 2: Ok. Let me handle this.
Diego: Oh, hello tita Carmen. Tita Soling. It has been a while since I've seen you two. I just arrived in Bacolod. (Beso-beso)
Amiga 2: (fanning herself) Oh! ha-ha-ha Diego. Nice to see you again. How's things in LA?
Diego: Oh it was fine. My skin treatment in LA went well. Dad knew of a specialist who deals with this, and he's great. Anyway, twas nice to see you both in good health. I'll leave you two, I'll just say hi to my cousins at the other booth.
Amiga 2: Ok hijo. Oh, do come and visit us this Friday. Bring your cousin Pilar too. I have something to give her then. (Diego sauntered off to the other booth)
Amiga 1: (whispering harshly) OMG! His skin, his albino skin hasn't improved a bit. It's a pity that with all his pork-gotten money Cong. Monivilla wasn't able to cure it here and had to send him to LA.
Amiga 2: Hmmph! (fan closed abruptly.) Let me tell you something. Ruel (Monivilla) sent that boy to LA not to have a skin treatment, but because he discovered the boy had an affair with their driver! (triumphant look)
Amiga 1: (shocked look) Dios de mi alma! Are the rumors true that Diego prefers the other side then?
Amiga 2: My lips are sealed amiga. You think what you want to think. If my husband was in politics though, I'll make sure to keep any dirt as far away as possible. C'mon, let's get the chit and go to Melinda's house. She'll get a kick when she finds out who we saw at Bob's!
Amiga 1: Oh yes! I'll call call Lourdes too. At least there's something fun going on in Bacolod other than to hear about utangs ni X or querida ni Y.

As they would say, "Familiarity breeds contempt" and with Bacolenos penchant to be familiar with everybody's affairs, we are indeed a contemptible lot. My point is this: Bacolod is such a small town that everyone's family tree (bastard or not) is known, every utang is exposed, every ugliness is noticed and every mistake is amplified through the social grape vine. It's insidious and embarrassing. What your tita-tits tell in front of you may not be the one she tells to her amigas. It may not apply to you but I have seen during my stay some people being talked about because of their mistakes right in the middle of Bob's or Calea. Then, how can one redeem his-/herself in this society? As for the girl in the sex scandal, she did what she thought was best for her: to ditch Bacolod for Manila. Good for her!

Sometimes, I feel it's better to go and live in Manila just to appreciate the fact that you can go to Glorietta without bumping anyone, or go to Rob with your special someone without a relative accosting you to divulge your friend's biodata, even going to malls na nakatsinelas. In bacolod, everyone dresses up to sevens just to watch a movie!!! Jus go to Rob and see people in their sunday's best bedecked with brillantes that can blind you. "La mona en seda, mona secada." But I have to admit, people in Negros have style and knows how to carry themselves.

But ultimately, it's always nice to go back to Bacolod and spend vacation there. Only vacation. and maybe retirement. Life is so good in Negros and much better than Manila. Even I have some bad quips about my hometown, I'll still go back and live there.

March 23, 2006

Cornball Review

A good friend brought some caramel corn last week. It looked like one of those US made gourment popcorns heaped into a tub. Well, the label says "Chef Tony's Popcorn", a product that is not available in any supermarket from my experience, so it seemed that my friend sourced this somewhere else.

I opened the tub and corn greeted me with its golden sheen of fine uncoagulated caramel. It has to be gourmet. Each kernel was distinct and entirely coated with a thin layer of goodness. Far from the commericalized cousins like Fiddle Faddle, Peacock, Goldilocks and Nuts'n'Pops, Chef Tony's is in a class by itself. I did not see clumps of corn sticking to each other.

I took half a handful and popped several into my mouth. The taste was sweet as one would expect with caramel, but not so sweet that it would make your head spin. Since there was no globs of hardened caramel jutting from the corn, I did not have the usual experience on crunching on sugar, which was a relief I tell you. As my tastebuds got acquainted with the flavors, a blast of saltiness shot from the corn and melded into the caramel producing a very unique experience. The taste was like that of kettle corn but with more body and character. After the coating has disappeared, the kernel practically melted in my tongue leaving a soft buttery taste. My glands went overdrive as the salivary floodgates were opened and gushed into my palate. Pure bliss.

I wasn't able to resist popping another batch into my already anticipating maw. The weird thing was, I was fast becoming addicted to it with my mind saying, "just one more bite won't hurt." After watching my daily dose of MadTV, the bucket was nearly halfway through. I didn't know I had been eating the damn thing non-stop for 30 minutes. Oh, well.

The label did not indicate that this popcorn can be highly addictive! As I looked more closely, there was a phone number for customers who would like bulk orders. It had to be toll free in the US. I thought,"Hey, wait a minute. The number starts with 0917?? Isn't this a Globe number?" It was. And "Chef Tony's" is a local product! Yahoo! After a while, I called the source and they happily provided me with the info on where to buy the stuff, and that means more happy days to come.

You can contact Chef Tony's at 0917-500-CORN.

March 21, 2006

The Smile

The smile that escaped her withered lips
forced up by miseries untold
quivered slightly as my eyes unveiled
her wrinkled lips cracked from the cold.

March 19, 2006

God Of Small Things

'No one can deny the fact of Evil,' said the philosopher, sententiously. 'Now, if God cannot prevent Evil he is not all-powerful, and if he can prevent it and will not, he is not all-good.'
-W. Somerset Maugham, The Judgement Seat
Right in the heart of Makati's Ayala avenue, an accountant crossed the road and met his maker. His brains splattered like pink tofu on the asphalt road while his cranium became flat from impact. A bus near him did the job. Near the corpse were people gawking at the spectacle thinking that they could be in his place right now.

Some may ask "where is God in all this?"

I believe God is still there. He may not like what happened or how it happened but he knew that this had to happen. If he indeed had intervened, then, where is free will? We may as well become chess pieces being moved around the chessboard by a divine hand. It's the same free will God gave to Adam & Eve when they disobeyed and took a bite from the forbidden fruit. Same applies here. Because of man's free will that he chooses evil, he then must suffer its consequences. From his choices will spring forth sin- in this case, murder. The bus driver may have chosen to drive recklessly (for whatever reason I don't know) and because of that, he hit the guy. Or the guy may have chosen to make the run for it and because of that, he became a roadkilled flat "cat". This might explain why we have wars, genocide, rape, theft, and all the horrible things. It's because of man's doing that everything goes wrong. His choice to sin causes undue loss and suffering amongst its victims. That's what sucks the most. And that's why Christ encourages us to forgive and to repent.

Poverty, as an example, is suffering... and this is caused by the sins of those who have more. The unequal distribution of wealth and lack of welfare (government), greed and apathy (society), and sloth (self) are reasons why poverty continues to exist. People who, out of free will, chose not to give (sin of omission) a part of their wealth, talent or time to those who have less remains the main cause of poverty.

So, I blame the Holy Mother Church for being such a lameduck institution. If they force people to give more (not because of charity but because of necessity) and remind them that it is their duty to help carry the cross of their brethren, then poverty may be wiped out. But what the Church emphasizes more is for the poor to bear their sufferings like martyrs all for the promise of a Lazarus-like redemption. It's like saying that there's no hope for the poor to find heaven here on earth, and that they may as well prepare for the heaven that is to come. For me, that's a load of bull. Fortunately, there are lots of religious and lay workers who try to combat this suffering through livelihood projects and education. A couple of them are the Virlanie Foundation (by Dominique Lemay) , ERDA by (Fr. Pierre Tritz.) Another is the Gawad Kalinga by Couples for Christ, and the Bacolod Boys Home (by Bro. Gratian Murray.) Charity is always good, but education is best.

As for natural disasters to befall on man, he is just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Take for example Mt. St. Helens: people knew it was going to erupt sooner or later but they still chose to ignore the warning and continued to live there. When indeed the volcano erupted, they were all killed. Now, whose fault was that? God's? I don't think so! As for Guinsaugon, people returned to an already dangerous village.

What about miracles? It really depends on what angle you're looking at. A skeptic won't believe it but the faithful won't deny it. If it is indeed a miracle and say, God answered your prayers, then can you say that God indeed intervened? For me, He may have indeed intervened because He knows this will help you go closer to Him. His intervention may be interpreted as his love but it's more because of his generosity. Remember the parable of the workers of the vineyard where Christ gave the same wage to the workers who He hired at different times? It shows how generous He is. But if He didn't answer your prayers, that only means his answer is "No." (That's why people would say, 'it's not meant for me.') My religion teacher once said that God answers prayers in three ways: He either answers right away, or makes you wait for some time, or He gives you a better one. I'm sure God's answer to the man whose brains were splattered in the road is still a mystery to me. I can't honestly say that He gave a better answer either. Well, God moves in mysterious ways.

March 05, 2006

Rejected Titles of Brokeback Mountain

"Hey, just a week to go until Elton John's wedding. You know where Elton's
honeymooning? Brokeback Mountain." -Jay Leno

Garbageman Johnnie Smith found inside a trashcan of Annie Proulx's suburban home an alleged list of rejected titles of her seminal novella, Brokeback Mountain. Prior to its publication, Annie was rumored to have a very difficult time naming her story with the author engaging in back-breaking mental search. This was the partial list recovered:

Bore Ass Mountain?
Broke Ass Mountain
Broke His Back Mountin'
Bareback Mounting
Bareback Mountain
Brokeback Mountain...

Let me know if you've found the rest of the titles & I'll be glad to post it!