Evil Tooth Fairy

   It’s no secret that I have no love lost for the medical profession in general: I don’t like psychiatrists, pediatricians, gastroenterologists, opthalmologists.  Or that orthopedic doctor who thought that the best cure for my scoliosis outside of strapping me to a back brace was to lock me up in a painful submission hold that was supposed to be “physical therapy.”  But if there’s any kind of doctor that wouldn’t receive Christmas cards from me this Holiday season, it’s a dentist.

   I suppose my dad wouldn’t give Christmas cards to his proctologist, either, but I spent more than my own fair share of time on a dentist’s chair.  Having had braces for the better part of six years meant that my dentist knew more about the sorry state of my teeth better than anyone else in the world, including me.

   Because I had braces, my teeth required cleaning every appointment for the stuff a toothbrush wouldn’t clean.  “Oral prophylaxis” is a fancy term for the dentist hovering above you picking away at your teeth with something off the toolbox of a serial killer.  The saliva-sucking tube dries up your mouth and leaves you with the sour aftertaste of days-old sinigang.  As you rinse and spit, you literally brace for the Hell that comes with adjusting the wires in your braces, and applying elastic bands that feel like your face is being ripped sideways by Hulk Hogan.  Or that a new asshole is being torn right smack at your nose.

   As much as I express my dislike for my dentist, he doesn’t fall short on expressing his dislike for me either.  I come in late for appointments, and I don’t heed his advice on drinking Coke.  So you can figure out what I felt when they finally took the heathen metal off my teeth: freedom, sweet freedom.

Oh Christmas Tree

   I don’t know what’s up with my mom and my sister when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree: with cockroaches and mice running wild inside the insides of walls, I find the whole plan of an “edible tree” dubious.  Before I left, my sister was taping up yarn and chocolate coins to add to the already gaudy display of a Christmas tree with candy canes and small oranges.  I expect to come home today to the tune of a brightly-lit Christmas tree that has chicken drumsticks hanging on it, covered with the tinsel of oily adobo flakes.

   My idea of the perfect Christmas tree is a sexy prostitute dressed in a risqué Santa Claus outfit decked in frosty beer cans and Christmas lights, but that’s for a floor show in a nightclub.  There are other perversities like Santa-fetish bukkake, but that’s for another time.  I don’t know about this year’s Christmas tree at home, though: maybe there’s room in it for glittery scales of tuyo.  It is, after all, a time for economic crisis.

Thoughtless Counts

   Like many people, I have a small collection of mugs and picture frames from Christmas parties where the rule for kris kringle is “unisex.”  I know that it’s the thought that counts when it comes to giving gifts: it’s hard enough to think of a good gift to give to some name you picked off the hat a week in advance.  But when you do the bunutan right then-and-there during the Christmas party… it’s a whole different story.

   I suppose that I have every right to be a Grinch or Scrooge: it’s not like the mugs were made in amateur Pottery class.  Or that the picture frames were made out of used popsicle sticks from pinipig icedrop.  My small collection of “unisex” photo albums weren’t even made from paiper-mâché.

   Disguising said gift in a smart-looking gift bag doesn’t help, either.  Even adding candies or chocolate bars inside the mug only adds to the thoughtlessness of things.

   Look at it this way: Santa Claus gives a lot of thought to “naughty or nice,” and takes a full year to have his elves mine coal somewhere for brats.  Santa Claus doesn’t harness his reindeer and fly to chimneys all over the world to put mugs on Christmas stockings.  It’s not like I’m a 22-year-old man who still believes in Santa Claus, but you get the picture.

   But it’s not like I’m a very thoughtful gift-giver myself: because I always seem to pick girls’ names from the kris kringle hat, I head off to the mall to look for stuffed toys.  The reason being is that they’re so easy to buy: what girl doesn’t like teddy bears that come inside cans, or teddy bears that come with perfume?  They go ga-ga over the seemingly cute bear and how much thought I apparently put in it.  Maybe a couple of hundred bucks, and the humiliation of being at Blue Magic for fifteen minutes.

Simbang Gabi

   I miss out on a lot of bibingka and puto bumbong because I don’t attend Simbang Gabi, or the nine days of early morning Mass to celebrate Christmas.  In hindsight, I never once attended Simbang Gabi: not that I have anything against the Catholic Church, but I’m not a morning person.  I’d rather catch up on much-needed sleep than to brave the cold and lethargy of the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ for nine days.

   Ooops, I hope that didn’t sound offensive.

   Simbang Gabi is a time ripe – and perhaps even rife – for chick-hunting under the guise of piety.  It’s also a time for dates on early mornings: perhaps there’s something remotely romantic about Mass being some form of romantic interaction, or sharing puto bumbong with your significant other while waiting for the sunrise.  And they accuse me of being a sinner.

   Among different forms of special masses, I would rather look forward to flaying and self-mutilation come Good Friday, when my sadistic tendencies get the better of me.  You won’t see men whip themselves with barbed and knotted leather straps on the time when Jesus is born in a cave (or stable) in Bethlehem.

   Whatever.

Dear Marocharim, What About "The One?"

   This “advice column” thing is very addictive.

   Anyway, some months back, a friend of mine sent me a rather interesting Friendster message that I’d like to pass off as a “Dear Marocharim” entry.  Here goes:

October 13, 2007 

Hi Marck,

Thank you for the comment you left on my blog.. Thank you for sharing with my your piece entitled “Kites.” It was definitely inspired!

I think I see what you mean.. I’m really glad to have read your piece.. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who believes in destiny.. =)

This whole thing now makes me wonder.. Do you believe that there is one person made for each of us? Do you believe in “the One?” I’d love to hear your thoughts on this..

Joanna

Joanna:

   Interesting problem.  There are over six billion people in the world: you can just imagine the ratio of finding “The One.”

   What is “The One?”  I’m tempted to think along the lines of Keanu Reeves or Jet Li, but I assume that “The One” is this one person that is meant for you.  “The One” makes up for all your inadequacies.  “The One” is the cream in your coffee, the tomato sauce in your spaghetti, the ice in your beer, the butter in your bread, the puto of your dinuguan… you get the picture.

   Finding “The One” is easier said than done.  You make your marriage vows, saying you found the one you love, and next thing you know your marriage is on the rocks.  I can’t help but think of this mathematically: there is a one-in-six-billion ratio of finding the perfect guy, even considering that all men have the potential to be drunken assholic wife-beaters in the long run.

   Love, like many things about life itself, is supposed to be less-than-perfect for it to be enjoyed.  You can find butt-ugly couples everywhere that enjoy their lives.  Somehow, life becomes a miserable wreck if you only look forward to the cream in your coffee, the tomato sauce in your spaghetti, the ice in your beer, and the butter in your bread.  There’s something repulsive about dinuguan, but it tastes a heck of a lot better than plain old puto.  Lots of people are happy and content without “The One,” and I guess life is lived much better without having a “The One” to mess it up.

   In the end, what matters most is that you’re perfectly happy and perfectly content with someone who’s imperfect: someone who’s not “The One.”  Who knows, “The One” you’re looking for is just something – or someone – you have ignored for quite a while now.  Or maybe, you yourself are “The One” you’re looking for.  😉

Dear Marocharim, We Fell In Love Over the Internet

   Welcome to “Dear Marocharim,” and today we tackle a love problem.

December 15, 2007 

Dear Marocharim, 

   It is about a long distance relationship.  We are miles away from each other and and we have not even met yet (we met through the Internet).  She told me that she’ll be home by May, and for that, I am waiting for her.  I promised her that i will not find someone else while waiting, she promised me the same.  She says that I should trust her because she told me that she loves me, vice versa.  But I keep on asking myself, what if she falls in love with another guy?  What I fall for another girl?  How about the promises that we made, that we should hold on?

   She’s working in hotel-resort in Thailand, and after her OJT there, she’ll be here on May.  Her brother’s wedding will be here in Baguio City and we already planned that we’ll meet here before or after the wedding.  After the celebration, she’ll be back to Calgary where her family resides.  Maria plans to tour the world because after her OJT as a hotel personnel, she wants to become a flight receptionist or a stewardess or something like that.  I know she will not have enough time to spend with me.

   It will be difficult for us to be together for a long time because of her job. What do I do?

Sincerely yours,

Raven

Dear Raven,

   You’re not alone: I bet my bottom peso that there are thousands of people there who met the loves of their lives in the Internet.  I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, but there’s a difference between romance built in “the real world” and romance built in “the virtual world.”  You know how it goes: you have nothing to look forward to but text messages, conversations over Yahoo! Messenger, and if you’re really lucky, the phone call.  But really: how do you really get to know somebody from a webcam or something?

   Anyway, if you really love somebody, there are two things you have to know by now: you know when to hold on, and you know when to let go.  I know all there is to know about letting go, my friend: it sucks.  And holding on to a painful relationship also sucks just as bad as letting go.  You think you can be perfectly happy without the one you love knowing that she’s happy, but deep inside, you know you aren’t.  How many beers would it take to fill in the aching void in your heart?  Short answer: depends on the beer.  😉

   What’s keeping you from loving Maria with all your heart and soul and everything you have right now is distance.  Being far and away from the one you love is one thing, but being far and away from the one you love – and not ever meeting her – is another thing.  Reminds me of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in “The Lake House…” or Dingdong Dantes and Iza Calzado in “Moments of Love.”

   Yup, Raven, maybe it’s time you figured out this “holding on/letting go” thing.  Being together doesn’t mean just being together in spirit, but also being together physically.  When you’re not together, I can’t blame you for feeling a bit jittery and even paranoid about the “what if’s.”  But there’s another “what if” you should consider: what if you’re really meant for each other?

   The here-and-now matters more than anything: love isn’t the only risk worth taking.  There are other things like life, work, personal fulfillment.  And you’ll get to that as soon as you take this love thing one step at a time, not thinking about the past or the future, but the here-and-now.  Re-evaluate yourself: how much do you love this person?  Do you love her so much you’re willing to stand the pain of holding on to a relationship that couldn’t last?  Or do you love her so much that you’re willing to stand the pain of letting go of a relationship that hasn’t really bloomed yet?

   I’m more partial towards holding on myself (obviously because I’m a man), but weighing all the factors in, it would be much better for you to let go.  There are many other opportunities out there to love and to be loved.  But take your time: don’t rush things.  Live for the here-and-now.

   In the end, Raven, it doesn’t really matter if you hold on or if you let go.  As long as you love her today… and as much as I hate to quote the Backstreet Boys, she won’t care who you are, where you’re from, she won’t care what you did, as long as she loves you.  And vice-versa.

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.

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.

Pin Heads

   Ah… bowling.  It lends itself way to double-entendre: holding a ball, rolling it out of the palm of your hand, hitting pins at the end of the lane.  You grunt and groan when the ball hits either canal, and whoop when your ball hits the rack dead-on.

   Olympian Lanes have been around ever since I was a kid: back in the day, it was still pretty much a wholesome family-friendly bowling alley that had a candy store in the entrance.  Back then, we gorge ourselves on cotton candy and big swirly lollipops, and leave balls sticky with damp sugar when we loft the balls around in the lanes our parents play in.

   The candy store has given way to a stall that sells warm beer, but it’s still pretty much the same alley that me and the family went to when I was a kid: same balls, same pins, and it still employs pinboys.

   In all honesty, I can’t bowl good: today, I bowled two 75-point games in duckpin.  During Christmas, I tag along with my uncle and my cousins to play ten-pin at the AMF Puyat lanes at Baguio Center Mall.  While I would pose a legitimate challenge in ten-pin, I suck at duckpin.  Maybe it’s a psychosomatic Freudian impulse of having two big boulders than three small grapefruits.  Is hitting the heckling pinboys a strike, a spare, a break, or a bad sprain?