Essays

Help! My mother’s on Facebook!

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in Rappler.com

My mother is what marketing people would call an ‘early adopter’. She practiced New Age philosophy back when it was, well, new — way before it went mainstream and got muddled in commercialism, when people thought that talking to plants (yes, she did this) was crazy and doing yoga headstands (she did this too) was crazier. She subscribed to fitness programs and regularly went to the gym at a time when there were hardly any gyms in Manila, when people thought that going to the gym only meant having to compete in a professional bodybuilding competition. She used a mobile phone before everyone else did, back when they were about as handy as a personal refrigerator.

I then knew it was only a matter of time before my mother eventually caught on to one of the most definitive inventions of this generation — Facebook.

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Excuse me miss, I think you left your tampon on my sink

Essays, Words

Have you ever encountered those people who just seem to effortlessly spill intimate details of their lives despite just having met you?

I’m talking about strangers who can casually talk about their bowel movements, for instance, as if it was as banal as talking about the weather.

I’ve had more than my fair share of these people, which is why I’m beginning to believe that I may have the words “I know we just met but please tell me the grossest details of your life because I’m just dying to know them” written on my forehead.

Some people just seem to be comfortable telling me such things.

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In the meantime

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Manila Philippines

The most carefree times of my life were the childhood summers I spent doing nothing. No school, no homework, no piano lessons, no out of town or overseas trips, no dead relative to bury, no house to burn—nothing.

“Only boring people get bored,” my mother would say at times like these, which I personally took as a challenge.

“Let’s see who’s boring,” I’d say under my breath and go off to find more creative ways to be amused, which typically took the form of torturing either my siblings or the househelp. Serial killer tendencies aside, little did my mother know that I would eventually make that statement a fundamental creed in life.

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How I got “fat” and loved my grandmother for it

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Manila Philippines

Fat! Fat! Fat! Easy fat!

These are not exactly words anyone would like to say, especially when referring to their physique. But it’s something I’ve been chanting for a while now. No, I don’t have a crazed ambition to become overweight. Fat in Chinese means “prosperity.” Loosely translated, the phrase I’ve been reciting since Chinese New Year simply means money comes easily.

And indeed, this has been true for me as far as I can remember.

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Unwrapped

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Manila Philippines

Santa gave me a typewriter when I was ten. It was a toy typewriter and was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received. That particular Christmas was an exceptionally memorable one, not just because I received a gift I actually liked (I was very hard to please), but also because it marked the end of years of fraud and deception my parents methodically inflicted upon my brother and me.

It was the Christmas we discovered that Santa Claus and my parents were one and the same.

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Between Poverty and Paradise

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Manila Philippines

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA- Last night, I had dinner with my German friend to talk about her planned trip to the Philippines. She had just completed an internship program in one of the law firms here in Malaysia and wanted to take a short holiday in a nearby country before heading off to Australia to finish her studies. She wanted to know more about the Philippines and asked me for tips on making the most of the two-and-a-half weeks that she had allotted for this vacation.

We planned her trip between bites, armed only with a faded map of the Philippines that we downloaded from the Internet. My goal was to identify all the “must-see” places (her criteria: beaches and volcanoes), plot them according to distance and flight routes then cram them all in 17 days.

A tall order indeed, especially for someone like me who’s never had a sense of direction even in my own neighborhood. For the life of me, I couldn’t spot where Boracay was on her map. So I took the easy way out and told her to go to Palawan instead.

I carried on with the task like a diligent student trying to remember my geography, starting from the rice terraces in Banaue up north, moving down south to the Mayon Volcano in Bicol and the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. It was an embarrassing ordeal nonetheless as she could see that I was struggling to find all the other attractive destinations on the map, which in turn made me realize how little I truly knew about my own country.

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Adobo, I’m home!

Essays, Words
Honorable Mention, Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Contest on Comfort Food

Being part of a food-oriented family such as mine involves associating certain occurrences in life with a specific dish. A social calendar if you will, perhaps with the same accuracy as astrology, these dishes customarily herald the coming of notable events in the year. Aluminum-wrapped morcon in the fridge officially declares the onset of Christmas season; thick-sauced callos gloriously proclaims the coming of New Year; pasta with vegetarian sauce, simply means there’s nothing left in the kitchen to cook (more like your ordinary Sunday in ordinary time in the Catholic calendar). And then there’s good old adobo, which proudly announces the arrival of a prominent figure in the house—my father.

No, he doesn’t usually come from some military exercise in the outskirts of Iraq but from a long-haul flight, as he and other crew members of Philippine Airlines would say, referring to commercial air travel across the Pacific.

Having a father who flies to different countries for a living has made me unmindful of his irregular presence at home. Depending on what flight he takes, he is normally gone for days or weeks—not too long for us to actually miss him, but apparently long enough for him to ridiculously crave adobo. 

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Volunteer Spirit

Essays, Words
A version of this was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

“You, of all people, are joining a forest cleanup somewhere in the middle of Manila? First of all, I never even knew there was a forest in Manila and second, you, of all people?”

This was said to me by a friend who learned about my recent attempts at altruism. Initially, her disbelief incited me to mull over the many misconceptions some people may have about me, but in the end, it made me reflect on the level of unawareness some people choose to live with.

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