The anatomy of a playah

You know him. Oh, yes you do. He’s your ex, your best friend, your bloc’s blochead, your officemate, your sister’s husband, your boss’ cousin of a friend who used to date the fiancee of a teammate’s college fraternity brod.

He’s that enthralling guy who would buy you a drink at the bar, captivate you with his funny, witty conversation, and when he asks for your digits, it would be absolutely stupid of you to say no.

He’s got killer a smile, a mesmerizing gaze and a face that may or may not be drop-dead gorgeous, but nobody cannot deny he has sex appeal. Even without any effort, he’s oozing with pure, unadulterated male magnetism.

He comes in many forms: the boy next-door who couldn’t hurt a fly, the athlete or jock with the washboard abs and that irresistible tight ass, the brooding musician type, or that oh-so-sexy bad boy type with the obligatory wheels and goatee.

He will do things for you to prove he’s the real deal: give you rides home, take you out to dinner, help you with your errands, party with your friends, introduce you to his colleagues and posse. Your wireless providers’ unlimited texting promo will be maiximized with all your endless, sweet nothings texts, and your phone bill will rack up and call cards get emptied fast with those frequent calls.

He’s probably somewhere in the mid-twenties to the early thirties age bracket, middle- to upperclass, has a job or in between, or a casual bum living off his family or friends’ wealth. He’s tried them all: fiancees, girlfriends, MUs, fubus, open relationships, mistresses, and in cases of the really thick-faced, probably a wife or two. He takes pride and pleasure in having any two or three of these ladies panting over him all at the same time.

He has that undeniable, unexplainable charisma that has the women scrambling and the others guys either scratching their heads in wonder, or seething with envy.

He probably has his name scrawled on bathroom tiles and armchairs all over the campus. Remarks would range from high praises of his sexual prowess to crude comments over the impressive length and girth of his most precious, brag-worthy asset: his dick. Vandalized for prosperity would be a long list of his conquests, and endless bitter rants and litanies of all the girls’ he has discarded.

He’s one suave, charming son of a bitch. He’s so great at making excuses, inventing stories, and spinning webs of lies he should probably get multiple degrees in Philosophy, Creative Writing, and let’s not forget he probably put Sex Education 101 in the educational system’s curriculum.

He’s got all the old school pick up lines down pat. You’ll probably laugh at his corny passes, but deep inside, you’re turning into mush. He says all the right things at exactly the right time, and before you know it, you’re right where he wants you to be: front and center at his crib. He’s got that amazing ability to keep them girls and ladies coming back to him, even the ones he’s hurt or lied to, even the ones who already know he’s real self.

He will pursue you, make you feel like you’re God’s gift to men. Truthfully, he’s the one who has that mentality: he believes God created him to provide pleasure to all them guillible women. And who is he to fail His will?

He is that famous guy who got the entire town’s tongues wagging and the girls’ panties dropping. You’ve probably never taken him home to meet Mom, your friends have warned you to stay the hell away from him, and even his best buds would tell yuo you’re asking for trouble and headache if you carry on with him.

He will, once things start to get “serious,” tell you that he’s suddenly not ready for commitment. And like a true commitment-phobe, he will utter the classic line: “It’s not you, babe, it’s me.” And he will make you fret, was it something that you’ve said? Were you too clingy, too fast, too nagging?

He will keep you dangling, make you desire him until you’re one big blob of malleable, quivering hopeless romantic flesh. You fell, you poor deluded you, and all I can say is, in this real-life version of MTV Punk’d, there would be no Ashton to tell you it was all a harmless prank. You’d have to find out the harsh truth all by your lonesome self.

So go get that marker, girl, there’s still space on that dirty, grafitti -filled bathrom tile.

Vice vice baby

I was thirteen when I had my first cigarette. My mostly male barkada offered me a stick of Marlboro Reds one day after a cheering practice. It was a cold October day, semestral break, and there were no teachers or adults around anymore as they have already gone home.

I coughed out my first puff, braving a lungful of poisonous gas (of course back then I didn’t know I was inhaling something akin to those smoke coming out of cars’ tambutchos) for the sake of belonging and coolness. After that we’d cut boring Social Studies and hide out at the hanging bridge near St. Therese going to Pili Drive, lighting up stick after stick of forbidden ciggies.

Then I graduated to liqour, my first being a bottle of Red Horse at Issa’s (which later became Gallery and is now Mer-Nel’s Resto). I survived it by sleeping off the urge to puke my lunch out. After that, everything goes. There’s the obligatory gin-pomelo popular to high school kids on a tight budget and the occasional rhum punch at Issa’s when a generous classmate would treat us. Through the years I would rendezvous with Grandma, Generous, Empraning, and on celebration mode, Mr. Cuervo, Chivas and all those fancy, pretentious, overpriced drinks at fancy, pretentious overhyped bars.

But one thing I swore off for life would be the detestable, unforgettable green-apple-flavored lambanog. Those who attended our high school grad party can attest to the evil, evil effects of this foul-tasting concoction!

In college, classmates who would shuffle into class 15 minutes into the lecture – with swollen, red-rimmed eyes and a goofy smile – intrigued me. They always seemed so giddy, laughing at the slightest flutter of a leaf or something. That’s when I learned about “burning” – dubi, jutes, hash, maryjane, the other nicknames ecape me now – as the most common choice of recreational drug foir a college kid on an erratic allowance. Apparently, most believe since it’s organic (hey cancer patients use them too!), it’s not addictive, ergo they’re not addicts. To each his own, I say, or something to that effect.

Thankfully, for this one curious cat, curiosity didn’t kill me, just made me puke my lunch all over my sisses’ apartment (Hapi House where are you now?), laugh hysterically for about ten minutes straight, then pass out for one of the drug’s famous “trips.” In my case, tulog trip lang.

Then I started working, and after being “randomly chosen” for those mandatory drug tests, I guess curiosity is not a good enough reason to get fired. (Random? Hah! Naisip lang siguro nila, uy tignan nyo yung payatot na yun, laging hyper sa floor, bka nag-a-adik yun, i-test natin!)

Some time later, I realized that risking more wrinkles and fine lines around my lips, blotchy dried skin, ashtray breath and coughing like a dying dog all the time is not worth the price for looking “cool” while puffing on one of them cancer sticks. I guess the cool factor comes from all those commercials where smoking makes you look like you could lasso horses effortlessly or that you could have a convertible and a gorgeous guy with just a snap of your fingers.

Then it dawned on me that everyone smokes, even those kanto boys and jeepney barkers and aleng tinderas at the wet market. So while I’m not passing judgement on smokers and I would still occasionally light up (I think I would rather die of cancer from my own cig that from your second-hand smoke, thank you very much), I guess smoking isn’t really for me. Just don’t smoke near me when I had just taken a bath or inside a cramped public utility vehicle because I would shove that stick down your throat… may sindi pa.

I still enjoy a drink every now and then, but the prospect of going to the washroom after every couple gulps of beer, or nursing a pounding headache from that wengweng the previous night wisely makes me think twice about going on another alcohol binge. Plus, I get really tactless and madaldal when I’m drunk so I would rather not add another embarrassing spectacle to the Stupid Incidents files.I swore off drugs, almost quit smoking and considerably cut down on alcohol.

The only vice I have left is one I really, truly can’t live without. I have had this addiction for about six, seven years now, ever since I started having less and less of it. When I don’t get enough of it, I get cranky, short-tempered and oh-so-bitchy. When I just had it, don’t even think about talking to me. I become so moody my teammates have learned to keep a wide berth from me for the first two hours of taking calls. When I miss getting this, I have withdrawal symptoms, hallucinating, stamping my feet in frustration or just plain crying. It doesn’t matter where I am or what time of the day it is. When I want it I gotta have it! I’ve taken it almost everywhere: in buses, jeepneys, on my seat in the middle of a call, on the lounge’s floor, in the toilet cubicle, at a crowded noisy bar, once or twice even at church and while driving.

I’m a sleep addict.

26 things I learned last year

1. Stretch marks can show up even on stick people like me. My thighs look like one of those maps with longitude and latitudelines, done in delightful shades of white, cream, light brown, beige and even silver!

2. I need a cup of hot coffee to function. Be it the 3-in-1 in the pantry’s vendo machine or a simple cafe latte at JJ or a Dark Cherry Mocha at Starbucks, I’m not a fully awake human being until I have caffeine in my system.

3. Wikipedia can make you forget about the remaining three or four hours of your boring shift. Just type any word and almost always, Wiki has an answer! Try your birthday too see if you share the same natal day (or even obituary) as a famous celeb royalty. The only famous one I found sharing my birthday was Diane Keaton, born January 5, 1946. Some great searches I discovered: Ferdinand Marcos, Holocaust, Autofellatio (the pics werre, uhm, surprising, hehehe!) and Abortion. Related: lyricwiki for that pesky LSS (last song syndrome).

4. Keep your enemies close, and your friends closer.

5. The fear of being inadequate. I gave my daughter a piece of stationery and after writing the customary “I love you Mommy” notes she has scattered all over our room, she showed me another note that read (sic): “Dad, I am weyting for you. Synd, your dutur…” Melodramatic as it may seem, I felt a stab at realizing my daughter, no matter how hard I try to give her everything and raise her independently, will naturally look for her father, or even a father figure.

6. Crow’s feet. Those pesky premature signs of ageing. Those wonderful little reminders of how I abused my young body with too much sun, less sunblock, nicotine, booze and all-nighters studying or partying. Eeek! It’s too damn early!!! Enter paranoid me and bought the whole line of Olay Total Effects products!

7. My days of being effortlessly skinny are numbered. It was a little-known but proven fact that the ladies in my family (at least my mom and two sisters) spend their early years wearing miniscule clothing, thanks to our fast metabolism. But once we hit the late-twenties and early thrities, it slows down considerably and more so as we age. So I guess I have to enjoy all those pizza, cakes, junkfood and frappes with extra cream while the weighing scale is still kind to me!

8. Bob Ong has a quote for everything, as evidenced by those forwarded text messages and quotes to me everyday. Sinabi ba talaga ni Bob Ong lahat yan? My favorite is: “Bakit ka magtitiis sa taong alam mong sakit lang ng ulo mo? Wag mong ikulong ang sarili mo sa hawlang ginto pero sira ang kandado. Sino bang may sabing hindi madaling makahanap ng kapalit? Kahit ibon marunong maghanap ng bagong pugad, tao pa kaya?”

9. Money doesn’t grow on trees. The only things that grow on money are interest, finance charges, late fees, overlimit fees, transaction charges and other wonderful hidden penalties!

10. I value my family more now that we rarely get to spend time with or see each other. As we grew older and have our own families, I miss the days of all of us living under one roof, fighting over the last hotdog at breakfast or being chaufferred to school all together by our father in our beat-up old Corolla. But I also cherish the kind of mature camarderie we have now than the endless bickering and fist-fights we used to have (especially me and my Kuya!).

11. ebay.ph.com! Lots of cheap stuff, although one has to be careful of scammers and online assholes.12. The pleasure and importance of earning (and spending) my own money.

13. The world won’t end if you don’t find Mr. Right. Have fun with the Mr. Right-Nows in the meantime. Life’s too short to stress out way too much about the future. Not all of us are meant to have fluffy white weddings and cozy baby showers.

14. Bagong jeepney scam (as related by Maru on the Alabagn-San Pedro route): Habang nagpupuno ang jeep sa pila o terminal, may mamang uupo sa likod ng driver at mangongolekta ng bayad. Fly si jeep, pagdating sa may Starmall (formerly Metropolis Star, chever lang) may-i-jump si Manong with all the pasahero’s money, yung iba isandaan, wala pa sukli. Mega-demand na ngayon ang mga passsengers nasaan na ang sukli. Ang driver? Wala daw syang narinig at natanggap na nagbayad. Nung may nagsabi na inabot dun sa mamang nangolekta, nagalit si diver! Tatanga-tanga daw ang mga pasahero bakit inaabot sa iba ang bayad! Ang taray! Obviously magkasabwat sila. Moral of the story: iabot ang bayad pag bababa na or sakto lang ang iabot. Better yet, picture-an mo si manong or ang driver getting the money from you at papirmahin mo sya ng kasulatang bayad ka na!

15. Always ask for an official receipt. Every payday, I would get pissed at the tax deduction I see in my payslip (tanginang BIR lahat taxable!). It would be less disconcerting if knew my hard-earned money is going to the improvementof my country instead of into the pockets of another corrupt politician. It’s annoying that even some business here in LB skip on issuing receipts so as not to remit taxes. My mom once berated a salesgirl at this infamous bakery when she ordered a chocolate cake and the girl said they only issue receipts upon customers’ requests. That should not be the case, which is why stores have those BIR/TIN decals mandating them to give official receipts. My mom half-jokingly told her:” Pag tinoyo ako isumbong ko kayo sa BIR.”

16. Procrastination is one nasty habit I ought to kick for good.

17. Cleanse, tone, moisturize and protect. Now if only my visible pores would disappear like, now na!

18. Kani salad. Love that mix of lettuce, cucumber, ripe mango, apples and crab sticks dressed in creamy mayo.

19. Its OK to be happy and contented where you are right now, no matter how mediocre or puzzling some people might think your actions or decisions are. No one can make you ahppy but yourself.

20. KUMON. Well worth the extra bit of expense. My kid reached her grade’s reading level quickly, and is now happier and more confident reading her books and magazines. Now, she’s the one who reads me stories before I go to sleep.

21. There’s a mecca of cheap shoes in the basement of Metropolis Starmall. From Chucks to Vans knock-offs, authentic-looking Crocs and Havies, to colorful patent flats and shiny peep-toes, there are evn 100-peso “step-ins” for all your shoe fetishes.

22. What I learned in college (writing skills, grammar and vocabulary, etc.) do disintegrate with misuse and infrequent practice. What’s future perfect tense again? People and Reader’s Digest are not enough to sustain me. Someone plese lend me their extensive reading list for this year. I want books! I need books!

23. The beach is really my happy place. Laiya, Munting Buhangin, La Union, Galera, Guimaras… sigh. As long as the sand, surf and toilets are reasonably clean, I’m in. Next up: Bora and Bohol, and Anawangin Cove in Zambales!

24. I might not need religion, but darnit, I gotta have faith. I hope to have better and more personal conversations with God.

25. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted. We all know (but often wish otherwise) that we can’t bring back time, no matter what. You don’t always need extravagant planned vacations or gimmicks. I try to make the most of early-morning muni-muni time, walks around Elbi at dusk, kilitian or random Q&A’s with my kid about the facts of life, tambay time with friends and P… it’s the little things that make the bigger things more memorable.

26. Maturity doesn’t always go with ageing, it comes from experience. Therefore when a bad experinec keeps on repeating itslef due to your own stubborness and stupidity, have the maturity to walk the hell away. YOU DESERVE BETTER.

I know I do.

And the Okray goes to…

I don’t mean to be mean. Really. It’s in my genes. Hahaha. Seriously. When you spend 4-5 hours everyday for five days a week staring out the window of a commuter bus, you notice things. (Plus I’ve been on an “Ugly Betty” DVD marathon and Amanda’s brand of skanky bitchiness must be rubbing off on me.)

You know, things just kind of pop up to you unexpectedly and if I don’t get it out of my system now, who knows, I might just slit somebody’s throat or jump off Mulawin creek.

Wearing regular spaghetti-strapped bra with a halter or racer-back style top. Honey, that’s why strapless bras were invented. If it keeps sliding down your (our) nonexistent boobs, try getting the next smaller size or stuffing it with pandesal – that’s what I do, nyaha! Nothing says sloppy better than a pair of skin-toned, ratty bra straps, and black or red lace just screams hooker.

A close second is wearing high-waisted Granny panties with low-slung or hipster pants. Not only does several inches of underwear not meant to be shown rise above the waistband, but the VPL are so dang visible you might as well wear a placard that says, “I know what a t-back is but I don’t floss my butt!” Of course, this outfit goes so well with hanging tops or baby tees that when you go up a jeepney, you get all bent and shy about pulling your shirt’s back to cover that… that… next item please.

But is the above-mentioned better than my next pick? Butt-cracks smiling smugly over dangerously low pants, so low Flo Rida would have to cover his eyes. I know Ara Mina looked good strutting her cleavage down there in Mano Po, but even if I don’t have a cleavage up in here, I think I’ll save half of the Alabang population from fighting the urge to drop a 5-peso coin down my, uh, slot.

Keeping your nail polish on loooong after it has disintegrated into tiny, dull-colored chips, with half of your yellowing nails peeking through the mess. Last I checked, a bottle of acetone costs less than ten bucks.

Wearing huuuge pambahay shirts AND denim shorts to the beach. Swimming. Frolicking in the waves. Driiping buckets of saltwater upon getting out. Yes, as swimsuit cover-ups or as the actual bathing attire. Now all we need is the broom and dust pan and you can sweep the ocean floor. Or how about those who wear their PE uniform of sando and jogging pants ensemble? Is there a volleyball court in King Triton’s palace under the sea? Nobody says everyone has to don skimpy bikinis but with the millions of surf shorts, tankinis and gorgeous one piece suits available anywhere from Rustan’s to Divisoria, there’s something for everybody. Oh, and FYI, you don’t wear briefs under board shorts. Dude, that’s like tucking your undershirt into your tighty whities.

I forgot what you call that green and black checked scarf those guys playing Airsoft use. My brother, when he started playing, had one. He suddenly stopped wearing it one day in disgust, then I saw pink, purple and bright yellow variations styled ever so carefully around the neck of people I ride the bus with or see hanging around Maahas streetcorners, wearing it with agua oxinada-bleached, emo locks cement-stiff with gel, practising dance moves and back flips.

Cell phone numbers scrawled on buses’ or jeeps’ seats, begging for a textmate. Yes, we’re just as desperate as you are. Or a “Bhoyet Luvs Girlie 4ever” or “Gangstahs Rulz” crap vandals on bathroom stalls and mirrors. Like I care. Go setup a website or online account for your narcist tendencies (thats’ what I do!) and stop trashing public properties!

Those feeling-smart con artists wannabe who sends me text messages like, “You won 1 million pesos from Globe, send us P150 load to validate and claim your prize.” I usually tell the texter to shove that million up his ass or buy himself a brain.

Inappropriate clothes at church. I’m not fanatically religious or am being oh-so righteous (I’m not?), but something about excessive sequins, tube tops or pekpek shorts in a place of worship just seems a little… off, don’t you think?

Stockings or panty hose with open- or peep-toe shoes or sandals. Yes, with the footsie and seams for all the world to see. I thought the whole idea of donning hosiery is to give others the illusion of flawless legs without them knowing you had a little help.

Riding in a jampacked jeepney and sitting sideways, thereby occupying enough space for two. Do you really need to look out into the window during the ride? Do I really have to eat your long hair as it slaps me in the face? I don’t remeber you giving the driver fare for two.

Additonal items from friends:

Inches of black roots showing through a bad, orangey months-old hair color. Either dye it back to black or have the heart to touch up those roots.

Boyfriends who carry their girls’ teeny tiney handbag, as if telling the world, yep, kami nga! Or the girl is much too frail to do the task herself, thus enter macho boyfriend to the rescue. Urk.

People who hang talk so damn loud in malls and public places like they own the whole goddamn place. Ever heard of noise pollution?

There’s something about Elbi

Los Baños is classified as a first-class urban municipality in Laguna, but for me, it still has that probinsya vibe that makes it seem so relaxing and calm as compared to the nearest metropolis. I myself live in a lush, tree-filled village, where encounters with squawking chicken and grazing cows are common.

I was conceived, born and raised in LB. The teachers who taught me in nursery school were the same were the same set who greeted my daughter on her first day of day care 20+ years later. In high school, I could pluck a mango from a tree or pat a passing goat while my Geometry teacher droned on in class.

Here in UPLB, everyone knows everyone, the students, and especially the natives and old-timers. It’s not uncommon for the butcher or grocer to say, “Ah kaw yung anak/apo/pamangkin ni So-and-So…” I went to UP Rural High School, where probably the closest we came to urbanization was the field trips to Manila and standing in awe as Vega Centre and McDo were erected in what used to be a weeded, run-down lot sometime in ’97. I remember my best friend Chrys bringing me a white ballon from McDo’s opening.

Of course, this was way before all these bars and restos and boutiques sprouted in Grove and Umali Subdivision. For the longest time we just had Jollibee, Big Mak and the smattering of home-owned clothing stores. Olivarez and Robinson’s were still years away. We would go to Calamba or San Pablo to watch movies, and take the two-hour commute to Manila to visit a mall or bar.

I’m a pure-blood LB kid, yet in the past couple of years, since I began working in Alabang and going home only to snatch a few hours of sleep, I had watched and heard about LB undergoing some changes. I rarely went out here, and when I do, I’m overwhelmed now with the variety of choices I have with regards to food and entertainment.

Before it was Burger King, and now KFC, that space was Leo’s Photo and Kristille’s boutique, where we had our ID pics taken, and people bought genuine Levi’s and Hongkong goods on consigenment from Titab Dulce, respectively.

Paponei’s was a pizza place called Little Tramp, and before, it was Magnolia Ice Cream House where my mom used to take us for banana split and choo-choo trains for special occasion desserts.

Before Isis’s Cafe, Bean Hub and other frappe-mixing joints, the fave haunt was Kofiholics Anonymous, few spaces from 101 Boutique. We couldn’t get enough of their chicken roulade and For the Love of Oreos concoction. Also, we could smoke and chat while eating and we don’t have to worry about being shooed out for taking up space. This was memorable beacuse lots of my heart to heart talks happened within the four walls of KA (sex atlks with Carol, chika with Joffin, and telling Chrys I was preggy…). Soc’s Acoustic Nights were also frequenty held here.

Agrix was a thriving grocery outlet before, as well as the only theater this side of Laguna who offered free surot bites with every movie pass. Even while it was already declared a condemned building, small business still ran beneath it -parlors, Vietnamese and other Asian eateries and the usual ihawan stands.

Maces was, and still is the place to scour hard to find stationery and school supplies, and where I religiously bought my monthly vice of Sweet Valley High books. Before, 101 Boutique was Maces 2, where you could get novelty items like paper boxes, tissue holders and other gift items. Beside it was Bookshelves, another bookstore.

Metrohair, was a day care/play area (which, I believe was owned by a former school mate, Ray’s family) and then was also a bargain bookstore, Regina’s Bookstore. I can’t remember which one came first.

Before the advent of VCDs and DVDs, one woud go to Dis En Dat for their Betamax and VHS fix. I also know which shelf they keep their Triple X selection because that’s where I ususally found my dad browsing, nyaha.

7-11 and Mini-stop’s selection was peanuts compared to Pogi & Sexy’s store. Real 24 hour service and cheap goods at that. I think they had a stall at the corner most part of the Arcade before they transferred to the current location.

LB Square is a fairly recent addition to LbBs hot spots, and it did a lot to attract more people (and jologs), sometimes causing petty fights and drunken rumbles that are part and parcel of our nightlife. Leandro’s was hopping at the same time that IC’s bar was (the latter used to be in front of BPI, in the space above Galleria Ethnika). But the advent of numerous gaming and internet cafes caused a lot of business to close, relocate or completely revamp their services and image. What used to be Tambayan Online is now a small-scale call center. The space below used to be The Practical Shop where I would spend hours scrounging around for Grisham bestsellers and Sweet Valley High books. They are now located in front of Community Cable. CCVC was right beside Mother’s Best and their cross-stitch supply store (across Demarces) where their display of 6 TV sets along the sidewalk provided hours of entertainment for the regular tambay with no access to cable TV.

Before we were exiled to far away Paciano, Bay, UP Rural students reigned supreme among the other schools in the area. Mayabang, ika nga, como “UP.” We would cut classes to play billiards at 4th floor Vega, smoke out at the hanging bridge (which Milenyo mercilessly destroyed) and eat pancit canton at Mang Domeng’s domain.

LB has undergone a face-lift, but not all are physical. The people and events have also caused a shift in what makes LB, well, LB. New jeep fares, routes, there’s the “Kaliwa” and “Kana” signboards, when before it was just UP College or UP Gate, Korean exchanges studes taking their pictures everywhere (and I do mean they are everywhere!) with the signature “peace” sign. I wonder wht it emans for them and why they alway do that when getting their mugs shot?

The continued growth of UP has acused more dorms and apartments to be put up, photocopying centers, salons, clothes store, specialty boutiques and various canteens and eateries trying to outdo each other with the cheapest “student-meal” they can come up with.

Glad to see though that some things have only slightly, if never, changed at all. There’s stil Anker’s and Cel’s and Sizzler’s. Our high school fave, Salad Country still has those rice-viand-salad meals. Papu’s and their siomai, and Bulacan for kikiam and squid balls. Tony’s has withstood the competition of Acer, Rob and South. There’s the Little Store near Chime, where studes from MSI and the old Rural bought snacks and smokes.

People still do funky things under the Fertility tree, and run circles around the Oval. The urban legends of Mariang Banga, the Senior Social Garden graduate statue and the numerous sightings and accidents in the infamous Pili Drive, never fail to scare the shit out of people.

Shapers is still the place to lose weight (haha!) and learn dance, as well as shout out your love for Elbi with their UP shirts. Glad to see it has expanded into another store offering trendy pieces and anik-anik accessories.

Mer-nel’s still sell their famous yema-filled chocolate cakes (when it opened, their smallest heart was P60, now I believe it’s 115), although during peak season like Christmas and Valentine’s, the quality of their cakes would suffer due to the sheer volume of orders.

Thread’s and De Jesus tailoring is the place to bring your clothes for repairs, and Dolly’s to rent barongs and screaming yellow or fucshia gowns and terno come prom or Linggo ng Wika time. Buko pie is still the pasalubong of choice! Letty’s and Original rules.

You, what has changed since the last time you went to LB?

Maybe it’s just me or the fresh air, basta, there’s something about Elbi that keeps me rooted to this pace. Which is why I have never relocated yet, I got homesick when I lived in Makati for 6 weeks a couple of years ago, and why I’m hesitant to try foreign soil for better job opportunities.

I love my Elbi life.

How to lose weight my way

Yes it is an inescapable fact that I am skinny. Comments about my weight and frame range from the ego-boosting “God you should be a model!” to the derogatory “Tangina, mukha kang adik!” Time and again I’ve spoken and written about my thinness. People think that when I eat salads I’m on an obssessive diet, and when I do pig out, they give me dirty looks because I don’t seem to gain a pound.

Therefore, lest I be accused of being selfish in my “quest” for a skeletal frame others would die for (and I really wonder why, for I would kill for all your hips and thighs and boobs that jiggle and wiggle when you move around!), I will share tried-and-tested weight loss tips I have learned – whether inadvertedly or not – through the years tipping the scales between 84 to 105 pounds (my all-time high was 138 lbs during my 9th month of pregnancy).

WARNING: Please consult your doctor/ mentor/counselor/best friend/ toma mates or shrink as some of these methods pose a great risk to your health and sanity. I will not be held responsible for your hospitalization or death. Please use your goddamn common sense, for crying out loud.

1. Drink hot black tea first thing in the morning… and nothing else. Do this for at least a week and watch them pounds go! Of course, you’ll probably be too sick and fainting all over the place to wear that size zero dress you’ve been dying to wear. (Dying being the operative word.)

2. Eat a big breakfast with lots of fruits and fiber (think rice, ulam or oatmeal with fruits) as this will speed up your metabolism. It’s a common misnomer that skipping breakfast will help keep that stomach pooch flat. And we all know how we’re sneaking off three fat bavarian doughnuts in our workstations by the time the first break rolls in, no?

3. Eat spoiled food. As in panis na may bula-bula na at makati na sa dila pag nalasahan. Surefire way to clear your stomach of ALL contents. Let’s see you work up an appetite after puking your guts out. I recommend: rice cooked yesterday and left all moldy and watery, panis na niyog and unrefrigerated kare-kare or kaldereta from two dinners ago.

4. Get crazy, stone drunk. Much like eating spoiled food, you are guaranteed to throw up everything the morning after guzzling everything from Jose Cuervo, Red Whore or Grandma. At least with this method you enjoyed your inebriated escapades, exept that you might have made a fool of yourself, got date raped or said some things you will regret for the rest of your life. Plus hangover’s a bitch. But for me, I don’t have any appetite the whole day after getting drunk, so there.

5. Jog, jog, jog. Not only will you sweat like a pig but it’s relaxing to just listen to your tunes and soak in the Elbi scenery.

6. Commute to the city for a total of 4-5 hours everyday, riding a hot, cramped ordinary bus, sometimes standing or just barely hanging onto your seat. Pass by the SLEX construction and breathe in all the dust and dirt so you’ll feel full. Then ride a jeep or two, couple of tricycle and pedicabs and then walk at least half a kilometer to and from the kanto to teh office, and the subdivision street corner to you house. Repeat 5 times a week.

7. Get 3-4 hours of sleep a day, preferrably during the day so your body doesn’t feel recharged and doesn’t have time to repair itself, which is what happens during the normal 8-hour nocturnal snooze of normal people with normal day jobs.

8. Have a kid through C-section and ask the doctor to tighten the stitches on your stomach when closing you up. Instant tummy tuck! Yun nga lang may alupihan ako sa tiyan.

9. Put the S in skinny jeans. Not only will it make you look way slimmer, but once you start feeling like you can’t fit into them you’ll do something. Fast.

10. Cut down on softdrinks. It’s actually not true that they contain too much sugar that it’ll make you fat, but it just sounds sensible, I guess.

11. Cut down on fast food. Now this is true. Just look at the average American whose diet consists of too much processed foods; they practically live on McDonalds, microwave dinners and ready-to-eat meals loaded with calories. Even uhm, ou heavier Pinays look tiny compared to their US counterparts.

12. Have good genes. Thanks Mama. But did you know that in our family, we’re all slim when we’re younger but once we hit the 30s, we start piling on the pounds and have a really ahrd time getting them off. Just look at my sisters’ hips. (Peace mga ateh, I love ya!)

13. Go malling for a whole day in heels or stilettos. The workout will kill you calves and tilting on pencil-thin heels will make your ass work extra hard. All those paltos and kalyos would be a small price to pay.14. Have a grrrreat, thumpin’ time in the bedroom. It’s a proven fact that vigorous sex burns enough calories to rival a full-blown work out. (Nabasa ko lang to sa Cosmo. Promise.)Now if only one of you sexy, voluptuous women out there will return the favor and tell me how to score a babelicious bod. That way, the next time I go lingerie shopping and I ask for anything smaller than a 32-A cup, the ever tactful saleslady will not tell me, “Ma’am try nyo po sa pre-teens section.”Ouch.

Kwentong ‘syana

Let me tell you about my short stint pagtira dito sa Makati nung 2004, at naalala ko ang unang araw ko sa Makati Business District. First job ko sa Convergys, November 2004, at 6 weeks ang training sa Insular. Di ko keri magcommute LB-Makati everyday so nag-drom, for the firt time ever, ang ‘syana.

Umalis ako sa dorm ng mga 12.40 pm, ala-una ang klase ko. Kakalipat ko lng the night before sa masikip at madilim na dormitoyo ni Aling Helen Chua. Killer corporate bitch ang porma: pinstripe pants, starched white blouse at mega-high heels, may shades pa para kumpleto ang drama. Sakay ako ng jeep from Kamagagong St at baba ako sa may Makati Fire Station. Tawid ako sa dating ginagawa pang People Support para sumakay ng jeep pa-Ayala.

Everything was going well. Nag-blend in ang ‘syana at parang taga-Makati talaga ako. Maya-maya, tumigil ang jeep sa isang intersection (Makati Ave ata). Ang tagal nakatigil. Tinignan ko ang relo ko. Ten minutes to 1. Potah male-late pa ata ako sa 1st day ko sa work. Naisipan kong lakarin na lang. Dinungaw ko ang labas at tanaw na ang Insular. Feeling nasa LB ako, kung san pwede bumaba anywhere at walang traffic ruels whatsoever, bumaba ako sa jeep. Weird nga e, parang tumingin sa akin lahat ng pasahero.

Go ako sa sidewalk para magsimulang lumakad. But no… may rehas ang sidewalk. As in buong kahabaan ay may bakod, at wala akong masusuutan para makaali sa kalsada. TRAPPED ang lola nyo. Natanaw ko na may papalapit na traffic aide. Dyahe akong bumalik ulit sa jeep, at nagsimula nang kumilos ang mga sasakyan.

Taena, traffic light pala kaya nakatigil. Panic mode ako!!! Iniisip ko nang mag-ober da bakod in all my business casual attire glory (potah ayoko ma-jay walking) nang mapansin ko ang isang mamang naka-motor, paamba nang umandar. Nakatingin sya sa akin, with a look somewhere between pity and amusement. Kinapalan ko na nag fez ko, wa ako pang-fine sa jaywalking at ayoko masisante sa unang trabaho ko.

“Manong,” sabay lapit ko sa kanya, ” pwede ba makiangkas, hanggang Paseo de Roxas lang po, plis?”

Naawa si Manong at tumango, oo, at since hindi naman sya mukhang rapist or mandurugas (pero di rin sya hunk, sigh), may-I-sama ako sa likod nya at go kami sa net traffic stop. Paglingon ko ay malayo na ang traffic aide na napakamot na lang ng ulo.

Classic lines

Ever been the victims of these classic lines?”Pautang naman, kinain ng ATM yung card ko e.” For some time this phenomenon has both fascinated and intrigued me. I have had several people approach me with the intent of borrowing money with this reason. How do ATM cards get eaten by the machine? Really.

I have had a card since I was 14, and at some point I had 3 ATM cards all at ones, all of which I use frequently and I have never had any of them captured. I honestly don’t know how this happens. Is it when you input the wrong PIN codes several times or when you try to withdraw ten grand from an account that only has 200 bucks in it? It’ s just that I’ve heard this all too well that I am wary if this is real or just plain reason. The idea is to make the potential lender (me) think that, hey this person has money, it’s just gonna take a few days for them to get it. I’m sure they’ll pay me back.

But experience has taught me otherwise. Please, I spend 8 hours on the phones everyday, 5 days a week, COLLECTING MONEY from people. The last thing I want to do is to chase and collect money during my free time from errant people who suddenly develop amnesia when payback time comes. Hence: “Sorry, di pa dumadating allowance/padala ni Mom/Ate/So-and-So relative.” “Nasa banko na hindi lang ma-withdraw kasi chuva chu chu…” “Hindi pa kasi ako binabayaran ng tropa ko e pambayad ko sana yun sayo chenelyn chenelyn kimberly.” And if all else fails, when your constant text messages and calls become all too often: “Sorry wala ako load hindi ako maka-reply, saka low bat di ko masagot tawag mo.”I’m not above borrowing money from other people. Sometimes we really need help. Financial help. I just think it should just be between close friends or family, or why not take out a loan, that way you don’t hassle other people if you become delinquent.

I guess I’m really tight-fisted when it comes to utangs na, after experiencing a yaya running away with almost 13k worth of utangs in phone bills, an ex-boyfriend accumulating thousands in debt by guilt-tripping me each time he would borrow money for his drug habits (which I would find out much much later, stupid me) or several friends borrowing money and taking forever paying back, soemtimes not in full, soemtimes not at all, the debt buried in oblivion because frankly, you get tired of chasing after 500 bucks or so with all the hassle.

Ever had someone tell you these lines: “Buti ka nga may trabaho/ bonus/ malaki sweldo mo…” like you should feel obligated to fork over your hard-earned moolah because you’re earning and they’re not and now their starving/can’t buy beer on gimiks/ can’t go to Galera or Bora/ can’t buy that nice PSP. Ay, sorry naman, nakakahiya naman sa akin. A friend once berated, “Live the lifestyle you can afford.” When pangungutang becomes a habit because you can’t keep up with your bills, then honey it’s time to cut back. It’s OK to max your cards or get severals loans as long as it’s just yourself you’re getting into trouble. Let’s move on from money (I was ranting weren’t I? SORRY hehehe…).

“It’s not you, it’s me.” Classic break-up line! And you know what? Damn it’s right! If that asshole is dumping you because it’s about him, not you, celebrate the fact! It probably is his pea brain or oversized ego that can’t live with the fact that you’re smarter, more attractive, richer or more caring about the relationship than he was and will ever be! Don’t feel guilty. I think it was my first pseudo-boyfriend back in high school (we were 13) that fed me these line. He was going through a rebellious I’m-too-cool-for-school, shaved-head, ratty-jeans-untucked-polo-socks-with-sandals phase. His parents were on his back to shape up, and I ate up his lame “I don’t want to drag you down with me” crap. How gallant! Aayusin daw muna nya ang buhay nya bago nya ako maaasikaso. It would’ve been believable if weeks after he broke with me, we don’t see him getting drunk, partying and smoking his ass off with the “misunderstood” kids at school. P.S. He broke up with me over the phone five days after being uhm, “on” (hahaha how cheesy!) while I was at home with chicken pox.

And what about for those “emergency sick leaves?” (Eek! Biglaang gimik! Beach outing! Concert! Now na!) Suki sa medical certifcates ang UTI and dysmenorrhea for the ladies, fever, flu and LBM for boys and girls alike. Guaranteed a day or two off from work or school. The symptoms are very easy to fake, and harder for nurses and doctors to really verify, especially if people seek treatment a day or two aftr the alleged sickness. “Kukuha lang po ng med certificate para sa absence ko…” “Meron akong (fill in desired sickness.)”

Another effective and over-worn excuse for many is that pesky sore throat/ laryngitis/ pharyngitis. I’m sure 99.9% of all call center workers (and we are thousands here in the PI!) have used this, whether it was true or not. Since it requires extensive voice and sometimes bed rest, patok sa takilya ito pag nangangati kang mag-LOA or mag-absent ng matagal-tagal.”We’re just friends.”

If you’re a fan of Pinoy showbiz, you’ve heard this over and over again from virginal teenybopper loveteams who end up pregnant after several months of denying any relationship, or from married actors/actresses and their young co-stars spotted exiting a hotel/motel/condo unit.

“We’re better off as friends.” Euphemism for, “You’re nice and all but it’s really your best friend I’m lusting for.”

Optional follow-up: “It’s not you, it’s (ALL TOGETHER NOW!) ME!”

Respect is not spelled as F-E-A-R

I was a freshman in high school when, along with probably half the lowerclassmen, had a huuuge crush on the then Battalion Commander, Pinoy-Norweigan Moses Ipsen. In his tight green CAT uniform and authoritative look, he made rifle-toting and shouting “Siryesir” look hot. We thought the CAT officers looked cool, and the authority that comes along with their rank was an enticing prize for a teenager like me.

When my friends decided to undergo COCC (Cadet Officer Candidacy Course), which is the training to be CAT officers, when were in junior year, I said yes right away. It was only a few months, and the thought of wearing those Cadette Captain pins and making male classmates do dozens of push-ups with just a flick of my eyebrow tided me over those long months of training. We started ut as more than a dozen of lemmings, which eventually whittled down to a handful. I’m sure my former batchmates would say they did it to learn discipline, to earn respect, as if other people’s awe of you can be measured by the number of pumpings and squats you did. That was my party line too. We were virtual robots, at the beck and call of the officers, speaking only when spoken to, eating only when ordered to, and even our bowel movements were decided by our superiors. It was a frenetic lifestyle, and I lost all contact with my civilian friends and classmates. We were to stand up rod-straight against the wall at all times, looking blankly straight ahead. Smiling was out of the question and mingling was to be avoided like the plague.

I now realized I did not really respect the people above me, nor my batchmates when they became my officers the following school year. I mean really respect, in the truest sense of the word. I followed them, yes, blindly because well, that was what I was supposed to do. It dawned n me what I felt then was fear. I feared them because they had the capacity then to inflict physical pain to me, but I did not follow them because they inspired me. I felt no burning desire to die for them, and the training left me not with a giddy feeling of patriotism, but with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I quit. And I’m sure after I did, they all went around chanting those rhymes and mantras about quitters never winning. In way, maybe I did. I did win. I won back my freedom, my ability to think and speak for myself. I made choices that weren’t limited to how many spoonfuls of rice I can eat during the square meals or how neatly tucked my shoelaces were into my black, uber shiny leather shoes.

One of my bathcmates then, who, due to typical teenage close-mindedness, was ridiculed because he was a closet gay. I saw how even when he was commanding the troops, he was joked at and criticized behind his back, and I couldn’t stomach that for myself.

This is not to say I am maligning the people who underwent the training and successfully completed the course. I did feel a pang when they donned the same officers’ uniforms and black felt cap I longed for for years. Some of them did deserve the hnr and privilege, and some of them, well, “abused” them later on.

I did miss the bond we developed during those three months I spent with them. We were each others’ family, whether we like the other person’s morning breath or not. I had killer abs when I was in training!

But I guess when you joined something you’re heart is really not a hundred percent into, when the novelty wears off, you’re left with an empty feeling and an insatiable dissatisfaction. I guess part of it is I joined it for less than noble reasons, and I wasn’t dedicated enough to finish it just for the sake of coolness or belonging.

Plastic

I have no qualms about being called plastic, as long as it’s not the only one thing defining my whole being. Everyone, and I do believe, every single one of us, has a bit of plastic in us, and anyone who denies it is a bleeding hypocrite. Nothing makes me laugh more than righteous beings, them “simple and sweet” girls who abhorr plastic people, crucify us, as if the mere act of labelling us as such (behind our backs even!) does not show even a tinge of fakeness.

Plasticity is such a useful tool, wether it be exchanging phony smiles with your ex’s current flame, or throwing sugary praises over your boss’ hideous electric blue pleather pants at the office party.As I’ve written before, I’m not really the confrontational type, so if an issue does not warrant a full scale cat fight, I would rather shot my enemies a venomous smile, and let them stew in their own juices. Kill them with loads of niceness screaming of a Divisoria Louis Vuitton bag. Having that plastic in you allows you to stomach making beso and suffering inane small talk with people you’d rather get sucked by a tsunami.

It takes talent, a certain amount of patience, and just the right blase expression with a dash of Equal-like friendliness. Years of practice, a sharp lait vocabulary and a tight posse of equally plastic yet loyal chums makes for a great plastikadora.

But being plastic must also be in place, one need not be such a sly queen at all times. Plasticity chooses certain occasions to show itself, and one must choose well, otherwise you’d just be labelled a two-faced bitch. It’s more like adapting to the situatin, being a chameleon with the garceful ability to change colors to suit your surroundings in order to survive. Yes, survival. In this highly cmpetitive society where the meek are eaten alive for breakfast, we plastics saw the advantages of giving the imprssion that yes, we are going with the flow…but with a scheme or two up our sleeves.

Ironically, to be someone well-versed in the art of plasticity, you must know, and be true to thyself. All those faking and feigning might take toll on your mind, and you would lose sight of who you really are, what is it taht you really want.. Lines of loyalty might blur, and suddenly you don’t know whose team you’re pitching for anymore. It happens that life seems so much easier wearing that mask, it becomes so hard to take it off anymore.

At the end of the day, after all those projecting and masquerading with the common folks, you should be able to come home look at yourself in the mirror, and know the person staring right back at you.

And sometimes, that is the hardest part of being one.