Café au Insomnia

   It’s been a while since my last cup of coffee, so I broke out the instant coffee and mixed it with French vanilla-flavored creamer as a treat.  It tasted pretty good: way better than the flavored coffees they serve at Gloria Jean’s Coffees, or back when Seattle’s Best Coffee was still open at SM Baguio.  I don’t know if I have problems holding down my caffeine or anything, but I fell asleep at 4:00 AM.

   Save for the annoying episode of insomnia, it’s high time I started drinking coffee again.  The air is getting cold here in Baguio: brewing the morning coffee takes earlier than usual here nowadays.  Heck, any time is a good time to have coffee for a coffee-drinker.  I’m more of a tea person myself, but nothing warms your blood – save for a steaming pot of bulalo or a hefty serving of pinapaitan – than good old coffee.

   The coffee scene here in Baguio City can get a bit expensive: thankfully (or rather mercifully), Café Véniz serves bottomless brewed coffee for P37.00.  There’s also Ionic Café and, of course, Pizza Volante (I don’t know what’s the relationship between that place and the singer-musician Nyoy Volante).  Because I’m a rather casual coffee drinker, I don’t have a very discriminating or sophisticated palate for coffee.  Coffee is coffee: I don’t care if it comes from instant coffee grounds or more expensive tins of brewing coffee.

   I did have a phase when I completely got into the oils of Benguet brewed coffee, but that’s for another time.

Step One

   Keeping abreast of the latest celebrity news is one of those things that keep The Marocharim Experiment going.  Last night at “Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2,” Baron Geisler got drunk: apparently, the presence of alcohol at the Big Brother House was too much for Baron – a recovering alcoholic – to bear.

   I don’t know why the producers of PBBCE2 set up a place to drink.  Maybe the creative team had this brain-dead idea: “Hey, why don’t we put up a bar, and let’s see how the Housemates get drunk and get wasted.”  It’s funny at first, but eventually you have to take a long, hard look at Baron and admit to yourself: “Hey, this guy needs help.  What’s he doing in a reality show?”

   Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous sounds simple, but it’s far more complicated: admit you have a problem, that alcohol is ruling your life.  Understand that, and you’ll understand a bit more about the whole philosophy of AA, which is “One day at a time.”  It doesn’t matter if Baron was sober for two months or two centuries: once alcohol got a grip of you, it won’t let go.  There’s no such thing as a “cure” for alcoholism.

   I can’t help but have my heart go out to Baron: here’s a guy who is consumed by his excesses and addictions.  Here’s a guy who almost gave up a phone call to his mom for a measly pack of cigarettes.  But the alcoholism is something that hits hard: I had my own problems holding down my liquor before.  You can’t help but think why a reality show masquerading as a halfway house would have a 24-hour camera showing you how low people go whenever they get drunk.  I can understand an athlete like Gaby de la Merced, but Baron is (and I can’t emphasize this enough) a recovering alcoholic.  There’s just no way you can pass this off as a mere “challenge.”

   But that’s just it: another ploy at ratings.  I don’t know what’s going on in Donnie Geisler’s mind right now, much less their mother.  It’s hard to look at that drunken episode without understanding the effects of alcohol.

   I say it’s high time Baron was evicted from the Big Brother house.

Nein

   It’s easy to get around a problem surrounding the lack of your favorite cigarette: you look for a substitute.  In the absence of Marlboro Lights, there’s always Winston Lights or Marlboro Reds.  The same is true when it comes to drinking… or is it?

   Two summers ago, when I spent the summer term at UP Diliman, me and a few friends from the boarding house decided to drink a round of beers to celebrate the end of my exam.  I didn’t know much about Manila, so I expected that they drank the same kind of San Miguel Beer I was used to guzzling here in Baguio.  It was a relatively rural area (the irony of it), but the nearby stores didn’t carry SMB.  After a few stores – and a trip to MiniStop – we finally got San Miguel.

   For the non-alcoholics, it’s a different sort: back in those days, I literally had to train myself to drink RC Cola.  Here in Baguio, there’s no such thing as “not Coke:” you’d have to be a lowlander to appreciate Pepsi.  Coke Sakto was just about as far as the Coca-Cola continuum will go in that neighborhood, where the nearest Coke-selling place was the soda fountain at CASAA.  The soonest I got to the bus terminal on my way out of Manila, I drank Coke to my heart’s content.

   Nein.  So the Germans say.

Painting By Numbers

   A recent Pulse Asia survey shows that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the most corrupt President in the Philippines, followed by Ferdinand Marcos in the #2 slot and Joseph Estrada in the #3 position.  This is no survey that you would like to jockey a top spot for.

   But wait: should we make a big deal about statistics in the first place?  After all, Benjamin Disraeli wrote that infamous quote: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

   Whenever I do social science, I wouldn’t rely on statistics for two reasons.  One, I’m not a good statistician (I took my Statistics course twice).  Second – and perhaps the most important – is that statistical data is all-too-often misread and misinterpreted.  Numbers show something, all right, but the numbers rarely ever tell the story.  To me, the story behind the numbers is perhaps more important than the story the numbers tell by themselves: numbers beg the question of sampling method, statistical tests, and so on and so forth.  As such, any statistical presentation of anything is itself a source of doubt.  Which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.

   I’m not an Arroyo supporter – for heaven’s sake I’m an Arroyo critic – and I must say that while I agree that Arroyo is corrupt beyond reasonable doubt, there’s just no way in hell an unbiased and objective survey would point to her being second only to Marcos, or even Estrada.  Had Marcos been a non-factor, she would definitely top the list of the most corrupt Presidents post-Marcos.

   Here’s why: every corrupt excess Marcos had in two decades of iron-handed rule is the absolute benchmark of corruption (I hope) in the Philippines.  You can throw every shred of evidence of corruption against Macoy and you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to back them up: from the billions plundered and coursed through Swiss bank accounts to Imelda’s shoe collection when Malacañang was raided post-EDSA I.  Surely, Arroyo wouldn’t make the same mistake in being far more corrupt than Marcos to incite the anger and revulsion of the Filipino people in being “more corrupt than Marcos.”

   As far as Erap is concerned, say what you will about the Sandiganbayan verdict, but the verdict just goes to show that if we cannot indict the former President fairly and justly for plunder, we might as well indict him for a thinly-disguised charge of incompetence.  The evidence against Erap, as the prosecution panel said, can fill up a room.  If it did, then what more for Gloria?

   Here’s the thing: I’m not downplaying the negative effects of surveys against the President, but once the survey’s findings becomes questionable, then it is possible to downplay the whole idea of the survey.  Especially when the survey is supposed to corroborate something obvious.

   Not too long ago, I was talking to an instructor-friend of mine: like me, he has no love lost for Arroyo.  But he brings up a rather interesting point: aren’t the allegations against GMA completely circumstancial, like connect-the-dots painting-by-numbers things?  If anything, my general impression of the Arroyo Presidency is that it has proven to be a scapegoat for everything wrong with this country: if you can’t blame anyone else, blame Arroyo.  This goes for everything from the ULTRA Stampede to the death of Marrianet Amper.  Giving her the title of “Most Corrupt” only serves to add to the long list of “circumstancial crimes” we can pinpoint to GMA.

   Anyway, here’s what I think: statistics only tell half the story.  The other half still remains as speculation.

Out of Place

   I live in – and for all intents and purposes, I love – Baguio City.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if anything, I would prefer to die here.  I wouldn’t have problems in the afterlife if I am to be interred in the crowded necropolis that is the Baguio City Cemetery.  My love for Baguio has been a 22-year love affair: ever since I was born, I knew of no other place where I should live.

   I live near Brentwood Village, a place I sometimes refer to as “Little Seoul.”  Pardon the pun, but it is one Seoul-ful place, where Koreans have settled with their questionable residency certificates and business permits to operate English language centers.  Anyone fresh off college and looks for work would be hard-pressed not to find an ESL center at Brentwood, teaching a foreign language to foreigners.  It is the irony of it all.

   I’m not a “nationalist:” if anything, I share the same conundrum the Mahatma himself, Mohandas Gandhi, faced when he returned to India: he had to speak English instead of Hindustani.  At least I don’t have to suffer the nationalistic indemnity and damnation of having to speak a few words of Korean in order to “properly” communicate myself.  But I’ve learned a few bits and pieces of Hanggul: to know that a given place is either a church, an Internet café, or a bar and restaurant.

   There’s a bulletin board at Porta Vaga that’s the exclusive domain of Koreans: signs written in Hanggul advertising heaven-knows-what: prayer meetings, boarding houses, business opportunities.  I don’t know, and I wouldn’t know until someone is patient enough to teach me the language.  Not to be ethnocentric (the anthropologist’s mortal sin), but somehow I find myself irritated at the Korean invasion.  I feel an invasion of my space.

   There is, was, and forever will be an aversion to the invasion of space: whether it is personal space, interpersonal space, or social space.  Lately, America has been debating over the issue of outer space, even.  Wearing my hat as a passing “social scientist,” I think that everything from global policies to personal identities are built on space: without spaces situating these concepts, we effectively become voided and empty.

   And so perhaps I couldn’t be blamed for having a negative impression against Korean migrants in general.  Surely, there are a lot of kind-hearted and considerate Koreans out there, but the thing is, I’d rather have my space – and my identity – back where it belongs.

Adverse Reactions

   I’m not a doctor or a nurse: I don’t know what “adverse reactions” are.  Little did I know that the pill I was taking to “counter the side-effects” of another medication I’m taking was a drug usually prescribed to counter Parkinson’s Disease.  I’m OK now, but for the better part of six hours last night, I was literally caught with my mouth open.

    Surely there’s nothing to be worried about with adverse reactions… if you’re not in the receiving end of them.  Not only did my jaw tense up, but also my tongue, and I was producing rather copious amounts of saliva.  I had to cut the visit to my uncle short because of it.  This is not the first time I have proven to have a mild aversion towards a drug: I sometimes itch from a particular brand of cough syrup, and I don’t take too kindly to antidepressants.  But ever since I’ve been taking CNS-affecting drugs – with a prescription – I have always been privy to their side-effects.  Well, you know what they say about the free lunch.

   Of course, there’s a certain humor in having a mild lockjaw: I was trying to trace the exact source of that episode: I got a bit paranoid with yesterday’s dinner of shrimp, that I may have caught the red tide or something.  Maybe I got tetanus from that rusty nail I accidentally brushed my left hand into the other day.  Or maybe it’s just a psychosomatic thing.

   Yea, verily: ignorance of the MIMS manual is no excuse.

The WoofyDog Men

   This is an old trick that you can do with Winamp or CoolEdit: look for a plugin that can lower the song’s pitch, and any “girly” song would sound like it was sang by Boyz II Men.  This works especially on Monica’s “Angel of Mine,” Tamia’s “Officially Missing You,” and Selena’s “Dreaming of You.”  Lowering pitch has been a rather lingering obsession with me: I get a ton of laughs whenever I lower the pitch of Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection.”

   Which brings me to ask: why isn’t there a group of male singers/dancers who dress in revealing outfits and sing songs that are thinly-disguised sexual innuendos?  Like, lowering the pitch of songs sang by The Pussycat Dolls?

   I’m not gay: it’s just the subject of intrigue for me.  The Viva Hot Men once exemplified this, and ended up singing “Pandesal.”  We almost had it done with Jordan Herrera, if not that he’s now doing that rather epileptic-looking warm-up in “Pinoy Mano-Mano: The Celebrity Boxing Challenge.”  I’m talking about men demanding you to loosen up their buttons… baby.

   My idea for “The WoofyDog Men” is technically the male version of The Pussycat Dolls: a male burlesque group, a band of macho-dancer type singers who do The Backstreet Boys’ folding-chair routines half-nude.  Dances where pelvic thrusts are the norm.  Such an idea will go over the gay community.

Fire Papaya, Chicken Papaya, Sex Papaya

   I was thinking about many ways to earn P20,000 courtesy of the “Extreme Papaya” contest in “Pilipinas: Game KNB?”  I’ve narrowed my long list to three options.  I could do any one of the following for P20,000:

  • Fire Papaya: Set myself on fire dancing “Papaya;”
  • Chicken Papaya: Have a chicken dance the “Papaya;”
  • Sex Papaya: Do the “Papaya” while having sex.

   They’ve done everything with Urszula Dudziak’s “Papaya:” the Silent Drill team of the Philippine Military Academy just did the “Papaya” for their routine, inmates in a Visayas prison just won P20,000 for doing the “Papaya.”  It begs the question: how extreme can “Papaya” get?  Boy, Edu Manzano didn’t know what he unleashed upon the world.

   “Fire Papaya” is, for all intents and purposes, extreme.  I’m not talking about Rachel Lobangco’s Micronesian fire-dances: I’m talking about dousing yourself in gasoline, setting yourself ablaze, and do the requisite dance steps of the “Papaya.”  Now that’s work P20,000.

   As far as “Chicken Papaya” goes, I had some problems trying to narrow down my list of animals that could dance the “Papaya.”  I thought about dogs, but that’s too obvious.  Cats, too, are obvious choices.  My list included horses, worms, snakes, butterflies, cows.  Pigs are cute, but they can’t dance.  Sheep, maybe, but that’s even cuter.  Now chickens dancing the “Papaya…” now that’s an idea.  After all, both fowl and fruit have to establish a good rapport by the time they get dunked into the pot for a tinola dinner.  Besides, “Fish Papaya” is a bit, well, gross.  Especially when you actually have to eat it.

   Which brings me to the best/worst idea for an “Extreme Papaya” video: why not do it while having sex?  All 45 positions of the Kamasutra are possible take-off points for dancing the “Papaya:” you can take any sexual position and dance the “Papaya.”  Why stop there: why not have a 30-person orgy and do the “Papaya” in the middle of mass orgasm?  Again, don’t get me started.

Youth Suicide

   In the interest of humor, “Youth Suicide” is the name of a Wrestling Society X wrestler famed for throwing himself off 25-foot ladders and into thumbtacks and explosive ring props.  However, for this entry, I’d like to talk about a different sort of youth suicide: young people killing themselves before they reach the prime of their lives.

   Awhile ago, I talked about a recent suicide by a 12-year-old girl at Cabinet Hill, Baguio City.  The latter half of this year has been rife with youth-related suicides: Mariannet Amper of Davao City, a boy who committed suicide in Iloilo under the influence of rugby, and various hangings.  Rather than of the kind of suicides consistent with the depressing lyrics of Fall Out Boy and Hoobastank, these are suicides that are of a different nature from teen “emo” phases: there seems to be a prevalence of depression among the youth today.

   This article, haphazard as it may be, attempts to ground youth suicide into a framework: a social-anthropological one.  Here, I attempt to make sense of suicide from a different perspective outside of blogging commentary.

*     *     *

Boring sociological brouhaha

   Emilé Durkheim, considered by many to be the father of sociology, was also one of the first to study suicide scientifically.  In his work Suicide, Durkheim distinguishes between four forms of suicide:

  • Egoistic suicide: results from too little social integration, where suicide is committed because of having little in the way of social support mechanisms;
  • Altruistic suicide: results from too much social integration, where suicide is committed because people are willing to sacrifice their own lives for others’;
  • Fatalistic suicide: results from overregulated, unrewarding lives (i.e., slavery;
  • Anomic suicide: results from problems in integration like the inability of societies to provide for needs (acute and chronic economic anomic suicide), or the inability of societies to provide for adaptation (acute and chronic domestic anomic suicide).  (http://durkheim.itgo.com/suicide.html)

    Suicide, at least given this framework, is not caused or done solely by the individual: the value of Durkheim’s sociology (perhaps even its limitation) is that it frames social events and phenomena from and into the social world.  For the lay person reading this entry, it is already possible to assume that youth suicide is by and large anomic: for example, Mariannet Amper’s suicide was an acute or chronic economic anomic suicide.

   But while we can chalk up a lot of youth-related suicides to the inability of social institutions to provide for needs, surely something else outside of institutions has to be a cause for suicide.  If you asked me, from the structural-functionalist framework of viewing things, the social structure is composed of social agents: think of Lego blocks creating a tower of Legos.

   My newfound knowledge and appreciation for psychoanalytic theory leads me to a probable cause for suicide: the human psyche itself.  I’m fairly new to psychoanalysis, so right now, my firmest grasp on the matter is more towards Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (BTW: they’re not “psychoanalytic” per se, they critiqued psychoanalysis) as opposed to Sigmund Freud or Jacques Lacan.

   The psyche being the Lego blocks in the tower of Legos, we need to consider the human individual: Deleuze and Guattari, in Anti-Oedipus, write that the individual, being a desiring-machine, works only by breaking down (this holds true for every machine).  This breakdown can cause many in the way of what Deleuze and Guattari call “neuroses:” while I’m not sure if suicide is in the text, I’m sure that it is a manifestation of it.

*     *     *

   It’s clichéd, but the reality of youth-related suicide (or suicide for that matter) is that it is not caused by a single factor: instead, it is caused by a multiplicity of factors.  There is no central cause to youth-related suicide: consider the MySpace suicide, among many other Internet-related suicides for that matter.

   I’m not saying that suicide is an event without a cause: all I’m saying is that because we cannot trace suicide to a single pool of causes that are easily addressed, there’s really no way to prevent suicide.  It is possible to alleviate the effects of suicide-causing factors so as its effects would not be so prevalent, like more jobs and a common social understanding for the lesser among us.  But as far as preventing something that has been with modern society since day one, it’s not possible.

   “Vicious cycles,” says my friend Rhon.  I just hope that’s not it for a problem I don’t really know how – or where – to start solving.