Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Life of a punker is a simple one: be a singer for the
most influential punk band in America, make
some cheesy movies about youself, keep your
hair long 'n' dirty, and make the music fun and
In your Next Life you find Ronald Reagan in HIS
Next Life and kick him with your Chuck Taylors.
Which Dead Rockstar Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Monday, September 26, 2005
The weekend consisted of experiments with apple pancakes and honey, red monggo with bacon, and banana turon with cinnamon. All were a rousing success. Well, not so much the red monggo. My kids sometimes have a traditionalist streak in them and were concerned that the monggo beans weren’t the usual green ones.
My girls ate the apple pancakes with lots of grated cheese on top. I didn't think of that, but yeah, somehow the saltiness of the cheese balanced out the tart-sweetness of the apple. The cinnamon on the turon also was met with skepticism at first but when Cael dipped her fingers in the sugar-and-cinnamon mixture I was going to use, then tasted it, she expressed approval. She has always been skeptical about my use of cinnamon on french toast before (I didn't let her see I put some in the pancakes), so I was pleasantly surprised with the thumbs up. (Cinnamon doesn’t really have any taste. It’s mostly smell. Try this: pinch your nose then place some cinnamon on your tongue. )
Mostly, the weekend was spent just vegetating, except for the time it rained really hard and we couldn’t resist going out and playing kick-the-ball until the street started getting a bit flooded and we had to move back into the yard. We had a good time and made up for the resentment the girls felt Saturday morning when I hogged the remote. I promised them they had the run of the TV on weekends but The Last Waltz was showing, Martin Scorsese’s movie on The Band’s farewell concert. I had to see it. Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and The Band? I mean, come on. I could be forgiven, right? Anyway, after letting them play outside in the rain, all was forgiven.
Friday, September 23, 2005
School of Rock (Jack Black and the School of Rock) – This one’s easy. At least 4 movie channels were playing this all week. My girls loved it and they don't mind watching it again and again and singing along with it. I sometimes find them doing Dewey Finn impressions. They use ‘Math is a Wonderful Thing’ to give each other pop quizzes.
Steppin’ Out – Joe Jackson. There was a rivalry in my head in the old days between Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, and it was neck and neck for a while until the album Night and Day came out and clinched it for Joe. “We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives, with no more angry words to say, can come alive. Get into a car and drive to the other side.” For me it’s a wish.
You Can’t Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want) – Joe Jackson. This one’s from the Body & Soul album. Thanks for stating the obvious, Joe. But really, what do I want? Two words: ‘It’ and ‘All.’ The whole nine yards and then some. But not for me. Im not that important, but I do get in the way. I have to learn to dissolve into insignificance so I can get what I want, so help me God. I mean it, God. Help me.
Deacon Blues – Steely Dan. One last shot at a dream, giving it all, going out with a bang. This one resonates. There’s something romantic about this loser’s song that appeals to me: “Learn to work the saxophone, I’ll play just what I feel. Drink scotch whiskey all night long and die behind the wheel.” I like to find reasons why I didn't pursue this dream or that dream. I like to justify and rationalize. I had to put my own dreams on hold because I had to take care of the family, yada-yada-yada, but as the years go by, all those rationalizations, all those justifications seem so hollow. Now, as then, my life isn’t mine own. They belong to the girls now. That makes it much more difficult to bet the farm. But dreams die hard. I could take the easy way out and kill it, or I can wait for that one last bus and catch it.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
It’s a sign of the times. I was listening to the radio this morning on the way to work and there were a lot of phoned-in comments from listeners. Most of them were nostalgic for the Marcos days. And he was supposed to be this brutal dictator who trampled on basic human rights and robbed the people blind and yadda-yadda-yadda. To think that most of the callers would rather live in that Philippines than in this one, this so-called democracy.
In 2001, when the presidency was handed to GMA without her having to do anything, there was a feeling of hope that maybe this time we’ll get things right. Not much, since she was, after all, GMA, the astute politician who would do anything, compromise anything, to get what she wants. But the feeling of hope was there, since it was so-called civil society, this network of NGOs and People’s Organizations who have been working at the grassroots trying to make life better for those without a voice, that spearheaded the revolt against Erap. Maybe GMA would listen to them out of gratitude. Plans were drawn up, an agenda for her new government. Through emails and internet fora, the call came forth from these civil society groups for suggestions. I had a few suggestions on electoral reform, but they were too radical and kept them to myself. I suggested instead an obvious program of action that should be part of the new administration’s policy: lessen our dependence on foreign oil. This wasn't a new idea. Just before EDSA 2, I read a Marcos pamphlet on his vision for the Philippines and this is what he said about it (paraphrased): “Reducing dependence on imported oil is a matter of national survival.” Wow. National survival. It can’t get any more important than that. So in my reply to the civil society member who asked for points they could put in the national agenda, I quoted Marcos, the very fella that EDSA 1 got rid of. I said the new Arroyo government should reduce our dependence on foreign oil by instituting a comprehensive energy conservation program plus a program for looking for alternative sources of energy. This was so obvious I’m sure this was suggested by various sectors. The new administration didn't even need to start from scratch. They could just adopt the old Marcos programs: banning vehicles above a certain engine displacement, developing alternative sources of fuel (I remember the old Marcos government was promoting the use of ethanol, bio-diesel, etc), developing geothermal power plants, etc. The Bataan nuclear power plant was even part of this whole lessen-dependence-on-foreign-oil thing. Marcos also had a massive educational campaign on energy conservation to go with everything else.
Whether or not the energy conservation program made it to the final draft presented to GMA, I don't know. What I do know is that there was no energy conservation program instituted after GMA came to power, no calls for alternative fuel sources. It was business as usual, everyone going on their merry way. Government officials rode around in convoys of huge SUVs as if the supply of petroleum would never run out. There was an air of optimism after the ouster of Erap, but this was just too darn optimistic. We had no control of foreign oil and from all indications, the price of petroleum products was going to rise. But there was no sense of urgency. I knew that this would bite us all on the ass one day and that day has arrived.
Now calls are coming from Malakanyang for energy conservation; for the reduction in the consumption of petroleum products, for alternative sources of energy. They’re even quoting Marcos: This is a matter of national survival. Better late than never? Of course, but this should have been first on the agenda from Day One. National survival, remember? The Cory government and the Ramos government botched this as well. Ramos’s enduring legacy is the PPA which guarantees that independent power producers make money no matter what. You and I can cut our electricity consumption by one half and still it won’t affect our utility bills because the IPPs get paid whether or not the energy they can supply actually gets used.
Say what you want about Marcos but he had vision. Compared to the short-sighted leaders we seem to be getting, he was an absolute genius. The present leaders’ idea of government I think is: Let the next president take care of it, I’m going to have a good time. No wonder those radio listeners were nostalgic for the good old days of the dictatorship.
Monday, September 19, 2005
“What do you call your p?”
“Your p. What do you call it? Does it have a name?”
“What? No! Why should it have a name? That’s just weird.”
“Im a weird girl.”
“Sometimes weird is good, but this is just…” I was going to stay ‘stupid.’
“Come on. Give me a name.”
She wasn't going to let up. I wanted to get this over with so I sighed a sigh of resignation and gave her a name off the top of my head. “Call it [some stupid name].”
“Haha. That’s so funny. If yours is [some stupid name], mine is…”
“Stop. Just stop. Girls don't give names to their genitalia. You don't mess with tradition,” was all I managed to get out. Tradition my foot. I wanted to tell her how personification of female genitalia made my stomach churn, but she was obviously enjoying herself and I didn't want to put a damper on her idea of fun.
“Hahaha. Ok. Youre funny.”
I’m beginning to rethink my friendship with this chick. I can handle gross-out humor as well as the next person. I can dish it out as well as the next person, but this… Brrr-r-r-rrr. This was just creepy. It felt wrong in some fundamental way that I can’t explain. I know some guys give names to their dicks in the spirit of fun. It’s allowed. I mean just look at it. The penis is just asking to be made fun of. It looks like an eyeless little alien with one tiny mouth. It looks like a garden slug. It’s a party-going garden slug and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything, but female genitalia are something else entirely. They are the very cradle of life. At one time in human history, they were considered sacred, so much so that medieval architects modeled entrances to cathedrals after vaginas. Maybe that’s why there’s something so fundamentally wrong about something sacred being allowed to be defiled by multiple party-going garden slugs. We have a name for women who do that. Maybe I descended from one of the stone masons who worked on a Spanish cathedral and by the prodding of some genetic memory, am aware of the intrinsic sacredness of this tunnel of love. You just don't make light of it.
“Did I creep you out?,” she said.
“Sorry. I thought it was cute.”
Thursday, September 15, 2005
This is my first work-related blog entry. I don't know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. What we do for a living is part of what defines us, and the fact that I haven’t had any work-related entries may be seen as a denial of that part of myself. That’s bad. This job keeps food on the table and it deserves a bigger part of this blog. On the other hand, I’d like to think Im much more than the thing I do for a living, and seen in that light, not blogging about what happens at work is a good thing. Besides, nothing really bloggable happens at work. Im not hip to the latest office chismis (read: I dont give a hoot).
This isn’t the same place it was when Grif, Delphi, and the Niggook were here. And the Big Shot and his twin. (B is still with us, but he’s in Indonesia.) Those were the days when we terrorized Blarney’s. I think we were the only All-Pinoy team that ever won their Thursday Quiz Nights. We’d come in during happy hour, order happy-hour priced beer, and nurse them til the quiz begins at 9 when happy hour ended. We never ordered anything after nine. Too expensive. The owners must’ve dreaded us coming in because we never ordered anything full price and yet were always contenders for their prizes, which sometimes included free booze anyway so we never had to order more. Blarney’s had what we called a ‘house team’ composed of expat Brits. These were the Blarney’s regulars who, unlike us, ordered a lot of stuff and kept the place in business. Naturally, the owners wanted these limeys to win. The house team even supplied some of the questions to the quiz, we found out. But still we kicked their alien royal arses a lot of times. It was always down the wire between us cheapskates and Her Majesty’s big spenders.
Anyway, where were we? Head admin chick called my attention this morning to a member of my team’s attendance record and it was appalling. He’s been skipping work a lot. He was tasked to take care of the family business and that’s what’s taking up a lot of his time. I was supposed to talk to him and give him a warning and all that. I’ve never had to do that. He’s an asset to the team and everyone who’s ever worked with him on projects talk about how helpful he is, how he’d drop what he’s doing if there’s anything he could do to help you out when you ask. I spent the whole morning wondering how I’d word the warning ek-ek just right. Warning? What I was going to do was ask him to quit. More accurately, I would reason with him in such a way that the only logical conclusion he’d come up with was to quit. With his record, I can’t find anything for him to do since I wasn’t sure when he’d show up. I asked him once to go fix his schedule and at least give me a regular schedule so we can plan stuff around it. He was willing to work at home if there was anything. But he couldn’t come up with a regular schedule so he ended up doing odd jobs for the team which wasn't making full use of his talents.
So he shows up at 2 and I said to myself, Let’s give him a few minutes to settle down first. So I chilled. After a couple of minutes, email comes in. It was from him and he was quitting. I said, I’d do the same thing if I were in his shoes and thanked him for all the work his done for the team and the company and all that. He saved me the trouble.
Thanks, [blank]. You were a great help. Good luck. And when youre rolling in the moolah, don't forget your old team.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
To my kids: Tatay yells at you but that’s only because he doesn’t want to hit you. It bugs your mom when I do that because, “Nakakahiya sa kapitbahay.” But I’d rather disturb the kapitbahay’s soap-opera watching than hit you. I remember I hit Cael once and I still can’t get over that. You were 2, Cael, and you were a lot smarter and gabbier than your playmates who were much older and I forgot that you were 2. I’m sorry. I learned that lesson..
I’m also sorry for when I’m grouchy when I help you with your homework. You see, when I was growing up, lola was too tired to help with homework because she had to go to work so we could eat and go to school. We never had help with our homework from anybody and we—your uncs and aunt—turned out all right, yes? I figure you’d turn out all right too if you were left on your own to do your own studying. I’ll try to be less grouchy next time.
To my wife: I’m sorry for being Homer. I’m sorry me and the kids make a mess and leave the cleaning up to you. It’s just so much fun to make a mess and you should try it sometime but I know you won’t because youre not the type. We’ll try not to make too much of a mess next time.
I’m also sorry for second-guessing your choices on how to prepare the ulam. I have to remember that it’s “Cook’s Choice.” Anyway you also are critical when it’s my turn to cook but I don’t mind because I’m fully convinced that my way is better. Maybe you don’t have that confidence and it bothers you when I say ‘Yaa-a-aak’. But I eat everything naman, right? You once told me that I never complimented your cooking. Remember what I said? “Look, I ate 3 platefuls, isn’t that compliment enough?” Maybe it wasn't and I’ll remember to tell you when you did a great job.
To my friends: I’m sorry when sometimes I’m hyper. I’m that way when I’m depressed I guess. I get on your case and tell you all sorts of rot and keep bugging you with my nonsense. I may have once targeted the boss with such bugging and she was gracious enough to endure it even though she prolly felt like kicking me in the nuts already so I’d leave her alone. It just takes over when I feel weighed down by things beyond my control. I’m not one to ask for help. It’s my training as a panganay, I guess. Especially with the situation we had growing up, I had to project a sense of stability to my younger brothers and my sister. I was the unflappable one. To them I still am, even though deep inside, I’m flapping so hard I could fly to the moon. Blogging helps dissipate some of the vibe. Thank God for it. Im a much calmer individual now.
Finally, to all my ex’s: Sorry it didn't work out. If you remember, I took all responsibility for why that happened. But as I think about it, I probably did it for selfish reasons. It was just so much easier to cope with a failed relationship if you get over the blame game; get it over with and blame yourself. “I’m sorry. It was all my fault.” Boom! Instant relief. I also probably did it out of a misplaced sense of noblesse oblige, or a superiority complex. In accepting all blame, I was actually telling you that it would be stupid of me to expect you to know any better, much less do anything about it. I was subconsciously telling you that you were incapable of doing anything to save the relationship and that I—the "smart" one—shouldve done something. I’m sorry. I’m not better than you. If I implied that by accepting all blame for what happened, then I’m an ass. The failure of our relationship was actually all your fault. All of it. That goes for every single one of you.
Please accept my apologies.
Monday, September 12, 2005
With today’s horticulture, I know it would be easy to develop a less-acidic strain of kamias. All it would take is a mutant tree scientists could use as a starting point to breed the sweeter strain. Mutants are hard to find, though. Theyre one-in-a-million, random freaks of nature.
We used to have one such mutant tree. Or rather, the neighbor did. There used to be a kamias tree in the lot in front of our house whose fruit—I swear—was so sweet it tasted like balimbing. (Kamias and balimbing are cousins. Kamias is Averrhoa bilimbi while balimbing is Averrhoa carambola.) Whenever that tree fruited, it was a major event in our house. We’d go over there with plastic grocery bags and fill ‘em up with the juicy mutant fruits. Only one other neighbor knew about it and we kept the tree’s presence a secret. We didn't want word to get out that there was this tree that bore so much kamias you can’t see the trunk from the green clusters growing on it, and the fruit was sweet that you won’t believe youre eating kamias. If word got out, people from far and wide would come with their own plastic grocery bags. There won’t be enough for our insatiable greed. This tree was ours and no one else was going to touch it.
Soon we found out that the house and lot where the tree was has been bought. It was bought by an American family: a pastor and his wife and 2 kids. For some reason, no one told him about the tree; how rare and precious it was. I guess everyone thought that being American, he’d have no interest in the tree and all we had to do was ask and he’d let us in with our plastic bags to take as much as we pleased. We’ll tell him how rare it was eventually.
Oh, how right we were. He didn't have any interest in the tree at all. In fact he was so totally uninterested in the tree that he asked the carpenters who were renovating his house to chop it down. Horrors! Our tree!! I was walking home one day and saw our tree’s mutilated trunk, de-leaved, de-branched, and de-rooted, lying on the gutter near the trash cans in front of our new neighbor’s house, waiting to be hauled by the sanitation department to some dumpsite or incinerator somewhere. I had to act fast. I had to save our tree. I carried it home, dug a deep enough hole in our backyard, and stuck the trunk in. I watered like crazy. Maybe there still was time to save it.
Alas, I was hoping against hope. What I propped up in that hole was a corpse. It wasn't going to grow. Kamias is notoriously difficult to propagate from cuttings. I had a whole trunk, but that wasn't going to help. It died eventually; a testament to our unwillingness to share God’s bounty.
Before moving into our new house, I went over to have a look. The avocado and santol trees were in full fruit. So were the kamias trees. I looked hopefully at the green fruits, chock-a-block on the trunk and on the branches.
Our would be neighbors came and asked about when we’d be moving and all that, and asked if they could get some avocado and santol, a lot of which were just falling to the ground anyway. They never mentioned anything about the kamias. Could it be? I said, sure they could get some avocado and santol but be sure to leave some for us, and then walked over to the kamias tree, picked up a fruit, the largest I could find, took a tentative bite out of it…
… and it was so acidic, it can melt the sides of a battleship. Oh well. We missed our chance. I couldn’t look at the kamias trees in the backyard without thinking of what might have been. In the meantime, maybe I’d experiment on the kamias-ade thing.
“No,” I said. “It’s too dangerous. You might burn the house down.”
After a few minutes, I thought, Hmmm.. burning stuff. Could be fun. There wasn't anything on TV anyway. (Cable company just got another fashion station. How many fashion TV stations do we need anyway? One is more than enough.) So I turned the TV off, called the kids, and said, “Let’s go burn stuff.” Yaaa-a-aaaay!!
But first, we have to do things right, I said. I asked them to get a bucket and we filled that up with water. “If youre going to burn stuff, always have an adult with you, and always make sure you have a bucket of water ready just in case. And use the water to put out the fire when youre done. Make sure it’s out completely.” As we got the things we’ll need together—bucket, matches, old newspaper—I tried to think of what important life lesson the kids could learn from this exercise. There’s always chemistry: oxidation, combustion, and all that. But I settled on survival skills. I figure if ever we get stranded on an island, the kids could learn to tend the fire while Tatay goes off into the jungle to hunt wild boar for dinner using only sharpened sticks, bravery, and cunning. Ok. Life lesson settled, off we went.
We got a decent flame with the old newspapers then I asked them to gather dry leaves and sticks to keep the fire going. This they dutifully did. They also learned to blow on the embers if the flames die down from lack of air. But blowing on the embers was pretty dangerous so I told them to fan the embers instead using a magazine. Soon they were tending the flames themselves, giving me the confidence that if ever we get stranded on some island, my girls would keep the fire going and we could cook the wild boar I caught after a terrific chase through the jungle. “Dry leaves! Dry leaves!,” my kids would yell when the flames start going down. “Sticks!” The smoke had me worried a bit. The neighbors might complain. But then I thought I never complained when they played their stereo too loud even though their choice of music isn’t exactly uplifting to the soul.
We had a pretty good fire going. The kids were having so much fun, they burst into song. They had a perfect song for the fire. It was the Spongebob Squarepants Campfire Song. It was a fun song. Youre supposed to sing it faster and faster. They took turns singing Spongebob’s and Patrick’s lines. It’s times like these, when the kids are happy and we’re having fun together that I think of the time, some future time, when we won’t be doing stuff like this anymore. When they’re all grown up and have their own gang to run with. An uncle told me once, before I even dreamt of having kids of my own, “[Cousin] wants to go everywhere with me. She’ll ask if she could come with me to the bakery or to the drugstore or to the office or wherever. I let her, whenever I can. Because one day, there’ll come a time when she wouldn’t want to anymore. I don't want to miss the chance of spending time with her while she still wants to.”
I think we’ll burn stuff again this weekend. I have to remember to get marshmallows.
Spongebob Squarepants’s Campfire Song
I call this one the Campfire Song song
Let’s gather round the campfire and sing our campfire song
Our C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song
And if you dont think that we can sing it faster then youre wrong
But itll help if you just sing aloooooong
C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song
C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song
And if you dont think that we can sing it faster then youre wrong
But itll help if you just sing along
C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G song. Patrick!
Song!!! C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G
If you just sing along!
Friday, September 09, 2005
I remember the first time I heard it on the radio many, many moons ago. I was just a kid then. I grew up with the radio always on. Local stations were steeped in schmaltzy pop or standard 3-minute rock or R&B, or songs from local artists. It was the golden age of original Pinoy music, with song writers like Ryan Cayabyab, Willy Cruz, Rey Valera, Cecille Azarcon-Picazo, etc, churning out hit after hit for Rico J. and Basil and Kuh and Ate Shawie.
Then out of the radio came this intro, bass and keyboards, then the sneering vocals. In the corner of my eye, I saw you in Rudy’s. You were very high. It played in a rock-and-R&B station but it didn't sound like anything Ive ever heard before. I lapped it up and told my nerdy pals about it. Everyone else in school, the cool ones especially, were into rock--Ozzy and Kiss and Alice Cooper—stickin’ it to The Man with screeching guitars and heavy metal vocals. My pals and I decided to stick it to The Man with jazz riffs and tenor saxophone. Steely Dan was now mothership to the cause.
Back to my inner iPod. There has to be a reason my shuffle software decided to play Black Cow. And maybe I know what it is. It’s because Im tired. Tired of bailing some friend out. I use the term ‘friend’ rather loosely because lying, conniving, hypocritical, frassum-wassums generally don't fit the category. But we had something going once and I thought I owed it to that memory. No, that’s not it.
“Just leave me alone,” she said once, in one of her usual fits of misplaced arrogance. I was used to it. I knew she’d be back when she got into a bind again. Believe me, I wanted to leave her alone. I just about had it. But…
“I can’t. Youre a wreck and I can’t walk away from a wreck,” I said. It’s tragic really. Here was this immensely beautiful, immensely talented girl and she was making one wrong decision after another. She left her husband, left her child, for reasons she doesn’t want to talk about and just keeps blundering through life, hooking up with whomever. I can’t say that she’s hanging out with the wrong people because I don't know the people she hangs out with, and that’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to her because it implies a diminished capacity on her part to be responsible for her mistakes. She’s not stupid.
I lend her money. My hard-earned money. Money I toiled for. Money I could’ve used for my kids. I figured she needed it more than they did since we’re not lacking in any of the essentials, thank God, and she needs something to live on—to survive on. So I fork it over. I believed in her talent and that one day she’ll make it and she’ll be able to pay me back. I still do, in fact. If only she’ll take care of herself, which, judging by the way she looks, she’s not doing a very good job at. But it’s just these displays of bad behavior I can’t take. It’s like you owe her; that it’s your duty, nay, your privilege to help her.
She told me, “Youre just nice to me when you want something from me.” I could’ve smacked her right there if I were the type to do things like that. So I took a deep breath and counted to ten and said, “When did I ever get anything from helping you? When? If you can name one thing I got out of being nice to you, I’ll leave you alone and you won’t hear from me again.” She couldn’t come up with anything.
So now I want out. Im tendering my resignation. From now on Im officially out of the wreck rehab business, unless I could really get something out of it.
Right. Who am I kidding? Here are the lyrics to Black Cow:
(Music and lyrics by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen)
In the corner of my eye
I saw you in Rudy's
You were very high
You were high
It was a cryin' disgrace
They saw your face
On the counter by your keys
Was your book of numbers
And your remedies
One of these
Surely will screen out the sorrow
But where are you tomorrow?
I can't cry anymore while you run around
Just when it seems so clear
That it's over now
Drink your big black cow
And get out of here
Down to Greene Street
There you go
Lookin' so outrageous
And they tell you so
You should know
How all the pros play the game
You change your name
Like a gangster on the run
You will stagger homeward
To your precious one
I'm the one
Who must make everything right
Talk it out till daylight
I don't care anymore
Why you run around
Just when it seems so clear
That it's over now
Drink your big black cow
And get out of here
Thursday, September 08, 2005
"Is this from Baguio?," I asked.
"Ahh.. that explains the pine tree taste." My officemate didnt know what I was talking about, but it was there. Just a hint of pine tree but quite distinct. The milk in the ube probably came from cows raised in Baguio. I remember the Bureau of Animal Industry keeps dairy cows there and they sell milk in plastic bags. We bought milk from them once and they had the distinct taste of pine needles. Not unpleasant but strange. The cows probably ate pine needles on the ground while grazing and flavored the milk.
This got me thinking. Are we what we eat? In the neighborhood I grew up in in Caloocan, we used to have an Indian who came to our street a few times a week. He was selling blankets, umbrellas, and other items and he sold them on installment of a few pesos a day (or was it a week?) He was a friendly fella who spoke good Tagalog and always had a ready smile for us kids. He rode on a scooter and he had a turban on and he had a very distinctive scent. It was the typical 'amoy bumbay' scent. No one else we knew smelled like that. Being kids, we ribbed him about his smell but he never got mad. He still kept his smile.
Fast forward to years later. I was in a supermarket looking for stuff to spice up the evening's dinner of galunggong that I going to cook. I went to town in the spices section, buying cayenne pepper, paprika, cardamon, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander... the works. I later used these spices on the galunggong, sauteeing some onions and tomatoes first, adding patis, then dumping in the cardamom and cumin and cloves and whatever else I could get my hands on, then cooking the galunggong in this melange of spices. The smell in the kitchen was exotic. My mother comes up and goes, "Ano yang niluluto mo? Amoy bumbay!" Eh? I took a whiff and yes it did smell like the friendly neighborhood bumbay. Red onions in the foreground, and the spice mixture in the background. That's exactly what he smelled like. And I remembered Indians use these spices extensively in their cooking. The bumbay smelled of what he ate.
Years later, a colleague told us a story of when he was in Indonesia and he was in an elevator with another Pinoy and in came an Indonesian and he smelled... different. My colleague commented on the fella's smell in Tagalog and wouldnt you know it? The fella understood. He took offense of course and angrily informed the Pinoys that they, too, had a smell of their own.
Do we? Im inclined to think that we do. We're just so used to it that we dont notice it anymore. The brain is a wonderful thing. The first time you visit a garbage dump, your brain will warn you that the environment is probably toxic. It does it by registering the scent molecules youre getting as putrid, triggering chemical reactions in your body, such as acid in your stomach that makes you puke-y, to make you stay away from that vile place. But if you stick around, the brain will acquiesce to your wishes. It will override these reactions and will shut down the nerves that register the scent and you won't notice it anymore. Maybe that's what happened to us. We can't ditch our own distinct Pinoy smell so our brains shuts down the nerves that recognize these scents as something to be aware of.
Our smell probably consists of garlic, tomatoes, onions, and patis. Add to that the Metro Manila air composed of jeep and bus exhausts, mildews and molds endemic to our part of the world (it's humid here most of the time, if not downright wet), and other 'distinctives' like trace elements in our water supply, and vapors from our untreated sewers. All these add to our distinct Pinoy scent, with sources from within and without. We've been living in this vapor stew for so long that's it's already a part of us as a people. Proud to smell Pinoy. Mabuhay!
Thursday, September 01, 2005
"If you think about it, the foam in this beer is actually yeast fart," I told him.
"So it is," he said, "so it is. Let's order another pint. I'm shelling." He went off to the bar and ordered our pints. We never sat down in pubs. "You only sit down in a pub when youre pissed," he told me once. When he came back, he said, "Next week I'll take you to this pub I used to go to. They have Boddington's. It's the dog's bollocks." This was when Boddy's were still brewed in Manchester.
The expression puzzled me. From his tone, he indicated that he really liked this beer, but to compare it to canine testicles? That doesnt sound appetizing even if you havent actually tasted dog testicles before. But I let it go.
He next used the expression when he was doing some internet research on his laptop. Ok, he was surfing porn. Anyway, he'd bring a picture up and he'd show it to me and asked me what I thought. "What do you think of this bird?" he asked.
"She's seen better days," I said.
"Haha. But this one! This one's the dog's bollocks!"
It was then I asked what it meant. It means something is really good, he said. "Have you heard of the expression 'the bee's knees?," he said. "Same thing."
Actually I havent heard of the expression 'the bee's knees' then but I just said, Ah. Later I found out 'the bee's knees' actually came from America in the 20's when they used animal parts to express that something was excellent. Heard of the expression 'the cat's meow'? Same thing. Although for some reason, I have no doubt that the dog's bollocks could have come from nowhere else but England.
Back home, me and my buddies (blokes I grew up with in Caloocan) have our own expression we use to denote if something is of excellent quality. We say, "May ice cream sa ibabaw." Ice cream on top. When we say 'may ice cream sa ibabaw' we mean 'the dog's bollocks'. It comes from halo-halo. Special halo-halo usually has ice cream on top. But you already know that. It's sort of an in joke among the old gang and it hasnt caught on outside of our circle and that's the way we like it. It's like a secret handshake. "P're, maganda ba yung nabili mong component?" "May ice cream sa ibabaw."
Lately, I may have stumbled on a new expression to denote that something is excellent. It came from these conversations Ive been having with women friends. For some reason, the conversation takes a, shall we say, flirtier turn. More often than not, that's what happens without me meaning to. Maybe it's not my fault. Anyway...
One conversation started out with coffee and how I need some every afternoon because the post-prandial dip is aggravated by the air conditioning and I dont feel like doing anything unless I get some coffee. And I dont mean the instant coffee available in the office. Instant coffee = Oxymoron. And somehow--I dont remember exactly how--the topic turned to kissing. "I like passionate kissing," she said. I thought, Oo-oo-kay. Let's examine that. Now Im the type who can detach myself from the baser aspects of a topic and examine it in a more clinical manner. Honest! So I said, "Do you use your tongue a lot?" She said yes, and said some other stuff too and then asked me where I want to be kissed. I said, "If you're really lucky, maybe you'll find out." (This was all harmless banter and Im not being defensive because it was all just harmless banter and there's nothing to be defensive about.)
"Haha," she said, "If youre good, I'll get you coffee."
"Really? That's sweet of you."
"Yes. I'll get you coffee with tongue."
Light bulb flashes on. He-e-eeey. That could be a good one, I thought. With tongue. It means a thing has that something extra that makes it special. A kiss is just a kiss, but with tongue? It's a whole new kettle of sandtrout. It's the dog's bollocks, super-sized. I better write that down. "P're, maganda ba yung nabili mong component?"
"With tongue, p're. With tongue." Hmmm... Could work.