Boracay, Night 1

My sister Marielle, my cousin David, and I decided to walk down the beach to take in the sights. We left the rest of the family — Uncle Rene and his wife and three kids, Aunt Gel and her daughter (David is her son), and our parents — at the cottage.

According to Aunt Gel, who honeymooned on Boracay in the 1980’s, two decades ago there were no commercial establishments on the beachfront itself. There used to be about fifty meters between the shoreline and the first of the rows of private houses and mom-and-pop resorts. Of course, two decades ago there was also no electricity on the island and only gas lamps provided illumination at night.

Twenty years make a big difference. As the night darkened around us, neon and fluorescent lights flicked on. We were walking on the footpath in front of the beachfront buildings, about a car’s width plus two feet on either side. On the beachward side of the footpath some restaurants had marked out their al fresco dining areas under the coconut trees, where strategically-positioned speakers blared out reggae, chillout, and rock music.

Hair braiding for both English and Korean speakersClothing was also for sale, including the obligatory touristy souvenir shirts and caps with “Boracay” printed on them. Small stalls at irregular intervals along the path sold jewelry or hair braiding and henna tattoo services, and one of them sported a sign with a Korean greeting written out in the Latin alphabet. I said it out loud jokingly (I’d heard a Korean friend say it before, so I knew how it should sound) and all of a sudden the girls who were tending the stall got all excited, yelling the greeting at me. “I’m not Korean!” I exclaimed, and scurried away with Marielle and David. Apparently, Koreans make up a big portion of tourists to the island; some of the bigger establishments along the beachfront have signs with Hangeul characters on them.

I was surprised to see three Internet cafes along our route, but I shouldn’t have been because there was cable television back at the cottage. The island has two or three tall spires with satellite dishes providing telecommunications support: cable television, internet access, and cellphone signals.

With a jolt, I remembered that I had registered for the second Philippine blogging summit, to be held on April 18 — the next day — back in Manila. I had forgotten that our Boracay trip was scheduled on the same week. I shook my head and tried to shed a sudden impulse to enter one of the cafes and digitally splash a huge notice on my websites proclaiming “I’M IN BORA! W00T!”

We three seemed to have been walking in a straight line for hours, but when we met with the rest of the family for dinner at Sealovers Restaurant, it was only about 7pm. Time seemed to pass slowly on the island, in stark contrast to Manila’s frenetic pace. As a result, people took their time; unfortunately, the restaurant staff also took their time with our dinner orders. It took them an hour to get everything together, so David, Marielle, and I got bored and hungry and decided to look for someplace that served barbecued street food, like isaw. By the time we got back with twenty sticks of pork barbecue, the orders were on the table and we all proceeded to stuff our faces.

Tired from our long land trip, our evening ended early at 9:30pm when we all returned to the cottage. I barely heard the sound of live music from the bars up the beach as I drifted into sleep.

To be continued…

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Boracay, Day 1

taking a flight out of ManilaI have this calendar with the special days of the year marked as red-letter days. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, however, were marked off as April 20 and 21 (they’re really supposed to be on the 13th and 14th of April). I think my Uncle Rene had the same misprinted calendar because he was the instigator of the whole Boracay trip. “We’ll arrive there on Monday, April 17, and leave by Thursday when the Holy Week crowd starts coming in,” he told my Aunt Gel after he’d shelled out for expensive PAL tickets. “Holy Week? But Holy Week falls on the previous week!” my Aunt Gel informed him. Too late: earlier flights had been booked up, so we had to stick to the strange schedule.

To save money, my mom and Aunt Gel plotted a way around the inflated PAL ticket prices. We’d take a morning flight out of Manila to Iloilo, where we would rent a private shuttle that would drive us to Caticlan. From there, we’d take a jetty to Boracay Island.

sunset at Boracay, Day 1I didn’t think the five-and-a-half hour drive would have us going out of our minds and trying to scratch our way out through the windows of the Nissan Urvan, but we started out late at 12 noon from Iloilo. I pronounced a gloomy outcome by the third hour: “We’ll get to Boracay with the sun setting.” We wanted to catch a few rays and start on our tans, but the sea had already swallowed up the sun by the time we got into our swimsuits and out of our cottage on Station 1.

Then again, they say the fun starts when the sun goes down.

To be continued…

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Looking Back

My maternal grandmother has lived all the way down South in Bacolod City since 1997, so I don’t get to see her often. I’ve probably said more to her over SMS than in person since then. Isn’t technology grand?

Anyway, we were texting the other day and she mentioned that there’s a certain old film playing this Holy Week. “Kasama ako dun, extra, madre kami at tumutugtog ako sa organ. Pwede mo ba i-tape? (I’m in it, an extra, we were nuns and I was playing the organ. Can you tape it?)”

The film was Milagro ng Birhen ng mga Rosas (Miracle of the Virgin of the Roses), produced in 1949 by Sampaguita Pictures. According to my family history, my grandma was set to star in future films, but her boyfriend (and my future grandfather) didn’t want to lose her to the local version of Hollywood. The two were married shortly in their hometown of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, and instead of becoming an actress she became a mother to seven children.

I checked the TV listings, but the film isn’t showing on TV here in Manila. (50+ cable channels and nothing on!) The film must mean something to Grandma, who also asked my aunt if she could tape it. I think to her it represents what could have been. She jokingly texted me, “Ayaw kasi ni Grandpa. Grrr! (Grandpa didn’t want me to.)” But they say jokes are half-meant.

Life’s a series of choices. While picking one option among others doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility that you can avail of the other options later, there are some opportunities that are so life-changing that you can’t go back. It’s like that Back to the Future thing where Doc Emmett graphs the main timeline and the alternate timeline that splits off from it. Maybe Sliding Doors is a more apt comparison, but I haven’t watched it. BTTF was on my TV last week. Ü But in both these films the protagonists are given the choice to change it all back. In real life, you have to live with your choices.

I hope Grandma was well-compensated for her choice, even if it meant not getting her own time in the sun. I might not exist if she had gone a different way. Ü

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Bikini Bodies

not me in a bikini (credit: Alejandro Mejia Greene)Like I told Ade, I’m not emo. I do have my fair share of angst, but I’m sure it’s partly caused by not being able to fit into a bikini. I’ve gotten grief for it for every summer I go to the malls and discover that nobody makes affordable two-piece swimsuits for girls with buxom dimensions. Tankinis (two-piece swimsuits with longer tops) are even more unflattering for my body type as they draw attention to the salbabida (lovehandles) area peeking out from between the top and bottom parts of the suit.

This summer, as I set my sights on Boracay, I resolved to find a bikini that would defy all my previous experience: it would actually fit and flatter my body. Hey, I have seen a pregnant lady (four or five months along) at Subic wearing a bikini and looking quite attractive in it, so no one can say it can’t be done.

The first thing I learned on my quest is never to go to the department stores. The lighting is harsh, the mirrors tell lies, and the bikinis–though cheap–do not fit too well. At least, they don’t fit the vital stats 35-29-36, causing all sorts of parts to move around and spill out. Also, they chafe and I don’t need to tell you how uncomfortable that is. Dare I even mention having to dig wedgies out? It’s enough to make you start bawling inside the changing room.

The second thing I learned is never to try bikinis on right before that time of the month. Pre-menstrual syndrome is a pain, and for some it causes water retention and bloating. Since I’m not going swimming when “surfing the crimson tide,” I don’t think it’s necessary to find out if I can shoehorn myself into a suit while feeling like a beached whale.

The last and most important thing I learned is never to settle. “Okay na yan” should not be in one’s vocabulary when bikini shopping. A woman should know her own body; if she feels something doesn’t fit right, she shouldn’t waste her money on something about which she second-guessed herself. This is particularly important when buying clothing that shows large patches of skin: she must be confident that she looks good wearing it, or else it’s Manang time and she’ll have bought the bikini for nothing. (They don’t even make for good underwear, you know.)

My quest ended happily early this evening when I stopped by the Tomato exhibit at Cybermall in Eastwood City, Libis. The store’s offering various gorgeous bikinis within the P300 to P400 price range: cheap, and they fit, too, if one finds the right style. Tomato’s only going to be there until April 30, so I’m planning to scoop up another bikini before then. This time around, I’ll have my vast (ahem, ahem) field of experience about buying bikinis to guide me.

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The Right to Write

Big Brother is watching youEven though I don’t think an ouster of President Macapagal-Arroyo will benefit the country, I find the machinations taken by her administration against these rights abominable and troubling (i.e., the implementation of Proclamation 1017, Calibrated Preemptive Response, and the use of the Marcos-era “No Rally No Permit” law). There is an incongruence between these acts and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s claim that

“President Arroyo has worked steadfastly to preserve democracy in the Philippines… The only threat to democracy comes from those who don’t respect the Constitution… I think all members of our media community can attest to the fact that press freedom is alive and well in the Philippines. We have a press that is far too active and aggressive to allow any institution or individual to stifle their reporting. The President is committed to maintaining that press freedom.”

Bunye released that statement in response to a New York Times editorial criticizing the president for her “increasingly authoritarian tendencies,” and all I could think about was how much his spin-doctoring reminded me of Newspeak in George Orwell’s novel 1984. I even went to the trouble of seeking out a Newspeak dictionary to help me express myself. (It didn’t help that the country has only recently recovered from Pinoy Big Brother-itis.)

The novel’s protagonist Winston wrote (in his diary, which was illegal): “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. If that is granted, all else follows.” The PCIJ blog has celebrated its first anniversary, and among its milestones are a TRO, libel suits, and being monitored for posting allegedly seditious material. I think these are attempts at chilling media criticism of the administration (they smack of Crimethink! Implement crimestop speedwise!) and thus shortcircuit why we guarantee speech and press freedom at all.

I think my four years’ education at the College of Mass Communication has, at the very least, instilled in me a deep respect for the freedoms guaranteed the people by the current Constitutional Bill of Rights. I re-read it recently for my thesis and it surprised me to find that the freedoms of speech and press are guaranteed in the same article (3 Sec. 4) as the “right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” It strikes me that these inalienable rights were given as a means of combating the authoritarian tendencies inherent in governments.

If you’ve been following this online journal of mine for the past five years, you may have noticed that politics-related posts make up an extremely small percentage of what I write here. As a former Political Science student, I avoided making such posts because I didn’t want to come home from studying politics in school only to keep writing about it in my personal space on the Internet. I suppose that it might have been better for my graduate course work in Journalism if I had done more than a few posts about isolated newsworthy incidents (like EDSA Dos, EDSA Tres, and the Oakwood mutiny, as well as my own rally fatigue), but I never really considered political commentary my forte. Thus this site has largely been an exercise in navel-gazing. Please forgive me for not exercising my right to write about Philippine society more often.

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TV, Music, and Me

Jem and the Holograms (source: in the early 1980’s my family lived in Angeles City, Pampanga. The US Air Force bases in the area aired American series on a local channel, and the cartoon series Jem was part of my staple diet of pop culture. The title character led a dual life. As Jerrica Benton, she was the CEO of Starlight Music, a record company; as Jem, she was the pink-haired lead singer of Jem and the Holograms, a pop band. The rival band, called the Misfits, played a combination of punk and glam rock. Since 80’s music was not my parents’ style and they didn’t like Madonna, my first exposure to pop music came from this cartoon.

That early pattern of exposure to music through television continued and even accelerated when we moved to Metro Manila and I started watching That’s Entertainment, a locally-produced variety show where groups of young people were groomed for eventual starring roles by weekly acting and song-and-dance numbers. When my family subscribed to cable TV some years later, MTV started dictating the rhythm of my week: weekday mornings were Most Wanted request mornings, and Saturdays heralded the week’s Top 20 countdown.

Jennifer Garner in AliasI tired of MTV when I went to college, but learned to download music off peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa whenever I heard a song I liked on TV shows. Currently, I’ve downloaded a lot of songs featured on Smallville, Alias, One Tree Hill, and The O.C.. I’ve even added songs from commercials to my growing mp3 collection; Lacoste and iPod commercials are both great contributors.

TV has definitely influenced my exposure to and experience in music. There have been songs I didn’t like when I first heard them on the radio, but upon seeing them in the visual context provided by TV I appreciated them more. I’m more of a visual rather than an aural person, but then I suppose that’s just a symptom of my time.

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The End is the Beginning is the End

“Your real life is only just beginning”: that’s what they say to everyone at the graduation ceremonies, honor society induction ceremonies, batch parties, what-have-you. I’ve been through the whole shebang once and am probably a bit jaded about this sort of rhetoric, which I heard again yesterday when my sister was inducted into the local chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. This morning, the high school graduates (in their white togas and mortarboards) holding their commencement exercises at the University Theater were probably about to hear the same thing, too.

It’s taken me a year to complete my thesis, but I’m handing in the final hardbound copies to my college on Friday, God willing. Now’s the hard part: what’s next? I am officially, and most definitely, a bum.

Before you say “You can go back to school and get a Ph.D.!” I will have to say that there is no way in hell that I will put myself through, uh, thesis hell again to earn a Ph.D. Strike it out. It’s not an option.

I could probably luxuriate in my newfound idleness until my parents kick me out onto the street — AKA never — but that wouldn’t be fair to them. Why in the world did they put me through so much school if I won’t try to make something of myself using what I’ve learned?

So, all the successful people I know have jobs. (Gee, I wonder why? Hehehe.) It’s time for me to find myself one soon. Maybe after my Boracay trip in two weeks. Or maybe in June? I’ve never held down a job before and I haven’t lived my life by a strict schedule since my last class in graduate school. (My poor longsuffering thesis adviser can attest to the “lack of a strict schedule” part). It’s going to be an adjustment. This is the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one in my life. And the worst part will be… NO MORE SUMMER BREAK. FOREVER.

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