mane thing

Style it while you have it. That should be the motto of males who have uncles and dads inflicted with HIV–that is, “Hair Is Vanishing”–or the more advanced stage of the “disease”: HHV (Hair Has Vanished), also known as HWH (Hair? What Hair?).

Fortunately, looking at family pictures, there is a very good chance that I won’t go down that path of less hair existence. In fact, my father, who celebrated his 64th birthday last week, still asks me about hair styling products. Once, he impulsively bought an expensive hair cream. When he let me read the label, the cream turned out to be for achieving the electrocuted look or the just-out-of-bed tousle. Definitely not for my father’s age group.

“Not a very good buy, Pops,” I said. “Oo nga,” he admitted without even trying to justify (which was very uncharacteristic of my argumentative father). For that fleeting moment, I was the parent and he was the remorseful child who made a poor purchase decision. I secretly relished the victory. (“Son three points!”). Pops has mostly white hair now, but he gets it dyed jet black every so often. Sometimes I think he’s vainer than my mother–in the hair department, at least. Hehe.

I look at my uncles and see that they have hair intact. Yes, it appears that their foreheads have become more prominent with age. But not too prominent that they would have significantly more face to wash and much lesser hair to shampoo. I look at my elder brothers, one in his mid-thirties and the other pushing thirty: still full manes. The latter even gets highlights once in a while. Once he tried the Dennis Rodman look–coolness! As for the former, well, he’s a minister, so nothing too outlandish for him. Occupational hazard, if you ask me. Hehe.

Then there’s my mane and me. I don’t remember a more hated activity as a young boy than the monthly visit to Mang Cadiz, the family barber. I clearly remember his barbershop: a row of barber chairs on one side–seats of horror for boys like me–and a row of chess boards on the other–haven for bored, jobless men. I just couldn’t see the need for these visits to the Mang Cadiz. Getting my hair cut was itchy, hot, and boring. But I learned to cope. I closed my eyes when Mang Cadiz started snipping my bangs. I bowed my head when it was time for him to landscape my nape. I tried to be braver than the wailing kid next to me by amusing myself with the random design created by my hair falling on the white cloth draped around me. And I thought of the promised ice cream or durian shake after I had lived through this ordeal.

Suddenly adolescence hit and my attitude towards getting a haircut took a 180-degree turn. This also meant changing barbers because all Mang Cadiz knew to do was give me a skinhead per my mother’s prescription. We found Mang Domeng’s Barbershop just a stone’s throw away from Mang Cadiz’s. Around this time, my mother had wisely made allowances for my developing aesthetic sense. She no longer imposed the skinhead, but strongly suggested against bangs that covered the eyes. I regularly went to Mang Domeng with my brother for the next several years until I left Davao.

These days, I get a haircut every three months. That’s usually when the back ends have started to fly away. Last year, a long-time mane dream finally happened. I grew my hair long enough for a pony tail. Cool, I thought. It even earned me a monicker, “Steven Sugal.” Some friends said I looked like a Chinese warrior. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. So unless swords and robes become trendy, I don’t think I’ll try the pony tail look again anytime soon. But no promises here; I like to keep a que sera, sera policy when it comes to my hair.

Boink. I don’t know how to end this entry neatly. I talk about hair because it’s the least of my worries these days. Instead of this mane thing, I should be pouring my energies over the main thing for me these days: my overseas trip this coming Friday. Aaaagh! There’s still so much to prepare. This procrastinator needs to stop rambling about hair and start packing! Hmmm… Should i bring shampoo to the US?

this is about you

How do you write honestly and fondly about someone you’re sure is regularly reading your blog? Well, you don’t. Especially if what you want to write is the kind that would certainly elicit a blush from the subject or betray a delicate emotion you suspect you are harboring.

On second thought, maybe you could try. Go ahead, employ some creativity! What if you veiled her identity in cloaks of vague descriptions and general situations? Nah, that would be boring in its non-specificity. Or maybe you could create a fictitious character; dab it with some attributes similar to your target subject’s, just enough to give the character authenticity, but not too much to be telltale; and then construct make-believe situations where you both interact—of course, such situations should have close real-life parallels.


And you thought you could blog anonymously! Hehe… Oh well, there’s always the trusty hush-hush journal in your cabinet. Then again, maybe for now you don’t really want to write about her yet. What you really want to do is simply think about her: hear her laughter reverberate, stare unabashed into her clear eyes, replay her flailing gestures in slow motion—all this in your head, while you wear a silly smile. Yes, it’s too soon to write about her—as if this isn’t about her!

It’s not. This is about you.

a coffee weekend

My preferred caffeine fix has always been Coke. Back in college, I could down 2 liters of Coke on the eve of Chemistry finals. Iced tea is a close second. When eating out, I usually order bottomless iced tea and pester the waiter for refill upon refill until my bladder sends me scurrying to the the men’s room. Coffee is relegated to third place. I resort to it when i need to immediately jolt myself to wakefulness or when I’m feeling especially melancholic.

But I am sensing a disruption in that order of late. I find that I am gradually succumbing to the allure of coffee-drinking. Thanks to the Starbucks phenomenon, coffee–especially the frap variety– is slowly climbing up my caffeine-source priority list, if only for the pensive and reflective mood it sets. And the great conversation and connection that it helps birth.

* * *

Here’s my “recipe” for a great coffee weekend.

Friday Night. Seattle’s Best. On a Friday night, join a group of six overworked (but happy) twentysomething singles, four gals and two guys. Have them huddle in a corner of a coffee shop, each one sipping his or her choice of coffee concoction. Everyone tries out everyone else’s drink. Then field a question like, “What for you is a non-negotiable trait, not necessarily the only one trait, that a prospective significant other should have?”

Remember their answers and transcribe them in your blog. (Now, i hear caffeine overload dulls memory, so my apologies if i misquote some.)

Gal1: “Dapat kaya ko s’yang i-respect.” (Ano yun, magmamano at mag-popo ka sa boypren mo?)
Gal2: “Wala akong ma-isip, pramis.” (May naisip din s’ya di kalaunan, pero di ko na maalala. Kape kasi.)
Gal3: “Dapat nagbabasa s’ya.” (ABNKKBSNPLPPNiya. Ba-wal Tu-ma-wid Di-to Na-ka-ka-ma-tay.)
Gal4: “He should have a passion for God.” (Amen! No further comments, your honor 🙂
Guy1:Yung na-chachallenge ako…. Dapat di ko alam kung may gusto s’ya o hindi.” (Tama ba ‘to? Bumubulong ka kasi, bro, ‘di ko na-gets masyado. Tigil mo na kasi yang drugs, masama yan.)
Guy2: “I want to see how she treats others. She should be kind.” (Kind as in, “I’m really really really really really sorry… I don’t like you.”)

Resist the tempation to include their real names for the world to read. Remember, God is teaching you these days to be a better friend, and that involves keeping confidences. Besides, it’s not as fun to be having coffee by your lonesome next time.

Saturday Night. Starbucks. Attend a friend’s book launching. While exiting, run into a good friend who shares a good news you can definitely relate to. Invite her to dinner and coffee afterwards, so you can catch up on each other’s lives. Try to be adventurous this time with your choice of coffee. Order anything but mocca frap. How about mango blended? Sure, why not. Sip, sip. Eeeew. WHY THIS?? You regret your adventurous streak. Be brave. Finish your mango-flavored coffee like a man. Good news: you’re up for really good conversation with this friend. Her company will be like “a spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine (i.e. your yucky drink) go down… the medicine go down… the medicine go down….” (It’s a silly Disney song. Or was it Julie Andrews?) Before you know it, you’re hearing the last slurps of your drink–bravo!– and a good two hours has ticked by. Time to head home. You don’t recall most details of the conversation, but you most certainly remember the warmth of friendly interaction. Make a mental note: Pray for your friend’s US Visa interview.

Sunday Afternoon. The Coffee Beanery. The meeting with this friend is long overdue. When you’re out with this guy, you have to be prepared to try something new, even if it’s just for coffee. Trust him when he recommends the tall glass of frosted java with a stick of Kitkat half-buried in whipped cream. Ahh, this one looks good. And tastes even better. Try not to scratch your head as friend begins to discuss the benefits of using natural shampoo. Be honest. Don’t promise you’ll try olive oil, coconut oil, and egg white on your head. Silently resolve to stick to your detergent-based commercial anti-dandruff shampoo because you know you are too lazy for anything organic. To each his own mane maintenance. Sip your heavenly coffee–the bottom part is sweeter. Alternate coffee with iced water. Now the best part. Listen to your friend’s stories of grace and silently praise God for how He is working in this person’s life. Nod when he asks if you notice a difference in his demeanor and outlook. Nod–and smile–because you do notice it. Realize that you do enjoy the company as much as you enjoy the coffee.

* * *

I’m making it official. I love coffee! My caffeine source priority chart is now messed up. Coke is still up there. But it’s now a toss up between iced tea and coffee for second place. If only they can do something about the price of gourmet coffee. Three-in-one just doesn’t have the same effects.

addiction check

You know you’re a blog addict when:

1. Your home page is your blog site.
2. You’ve dropped crossword puzzle in favor of a new mind game: Guessing the identities of your blog visitors based on the limited info from your stats provider.
3. You automatically screen every event of your day based on its potential as blog material.
4. You start wanting to learn HTML so you can tweak your blogsite or, better yet, design your own site so you can finally break free from the bland template of your blog service provider.
5. You take digital pictures and hope to post them on your blog.
6. You keep on refreshing your blogsite to increase the hits (cheat!).
7. While queuing, you decide to kill time by making mental notes of what you can blog about the people around you (okay, this is just me.)
8. You blog-hop and check out the features and content of other blogsites.
9. Your heart skips a beat when you see that someone has left a comment or a tag even if it’s just “Hi, just dropping by.”
10. You advertise your blogsite on your Friendster account. (This is tamer than mass-mailing all your contacts to tell them about your blog.)
11. You feel you have done disservice to your regular blog visitors if you fail to post new material for two days straight.
12. You try to make a list of the symptoms of blog addiction for lack of material to blog or for the absence (hopefully temporary) of inspiration to blog about your very interesting weekend.

a prayer of need

I need to learn to take deeper breaths, and more often—to constantly remind myself that this very life is borrowed. I need to befriend solitude and learn to coexist with, even relish, its brutal honesty. I need to let this distracted and wayward heart settle and find rest in the peaceful presence of its Redeemer. I need You, Father.

seeing red

Valentine’s Day began for me with an early-morning text from my boss: “DARE. Mag red tshirt tayo 2day.” Half-awake and squinting at my cellphone screen, I smiled, amused at yet another crazy idea from my cool boss (who regularly checks the hilarious “horoscope” section of Libre, which contains nothing remotely astrological except the birth signs). I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed the towel hanging on my closet door, and sleep-walked to the bathroom. Just an ordinary day.

Even before cold bathwater could exorcise sleepiness out of my system, I had already decided that there’s no way I would wear red today—not even if it meant getting a raise. (Well, on second thought…. Hehe.) I would instead put on my orange polo, which is so bright you’d think it glows in the dark. (Interestingly, friends think it’s too orange they’re dying to paint a big “P” on its back. Tsk, no wonder the shirt was on sale.)

As I was ironing my orange polo, I thought of a friend who, for the first time in five years, would be spending Valentine’s without a significant other. The last time we chatted, he seemed uncomfortable with the idea. Although I tried, I could not comprehend his discomfort. Nevetheless, I still offered to give him V-Day survival tips. Sample tip: Keep all sharp objects far from arm’s reach along with photos of ex-girlfriends. And, yes: Don’t wear red. Then I thought of me: twenty-six and still no significant other on Valentine’s—since birth. Ouch! Flat iron too hot.

With dark glasses snuggly perched and my MP3 player (which is also my trusty handheld) dutifully numbing me from the harrassment of morning rush hour, I was ready to face the day. I half-expected to be drowned in a sea of red as I stepped out of the house and joined the crowd of commuters, but i was disappointed. Except for a handful of pa-cute teenagers and some adventurous middle-agers, everyone else had decided against wearing red, like I had. Rose vendors lined the sidewalk. I was definitely not their target market. Although, for a fleeting moment there, it did pass my mind to buy someone a rose. Who? Ahem. ‘Nuff said.

The day was a typical Monday for me. Crazy. My desk was littered with paper, each sheet representing a decision nagging to be made. My inbox tray was swollen and my To-Do list long. New email messages heralded new tasks. Team meeting after lunch. Travel arrangements to be made. Too much to do, so little time. No time for love. Ooops.

Finally, the clock struck six; that meant the official end of another work day for me. A co-worker wearing a red shirt (a brave soul, indeed) slid to my side and animatedly recounted an amusing personal anecdote. The tale seemed to me the awkward beginnings of a love story. (She won’t admit it, of course.) I thought to myself, maybe it’s the air. Or maybe it’s the color of her shirt. And then I realized it had been ages since I last felt the flutters of infatuation. I made a mental note: One should never outgrow romance.

I had dinner at the nearby (boring) mall with red girl and another officemate who was wearing a blue blouse. (If you saw them walking side by side—red girl and blue girl—you’d think it was Independence Day, not Valentine’s!) Most other guys around me at the mall had only one date. Me, I had two lovely ladies eating and laughing with me—and, yes, pestering me with love-life questions! Not a bad way to spend Valentine’s, I thought to myself. Not bad, indeed.

Honestly, in my sane moments, I don’t mind being single. At least for now. I feel there’s still a lot more I need to work on—character-wise—before I can confidently and wisely plunge into a romantic relationship. I sure hope that when God, in His infinitely-wise timing, finally prompts this heart to gallantly pursue another, I will be ready.

And maybe one Valentine’s Day, with or without a dare, I won’t mind wearing red. I have a feeling she won’t mind either. Ya-hoo!


“I don’t want to be in a battle.
But waiting on the edge of one I can’t escape is even worse.”
(-Peregrin Took, LOTR: The Return of the King)

Every day, hundreds of decisions await your judgement—some you make unconsciously or by force of habit or circumstance, while some demand more serious pondering, owing to the gravity of their consequences or the magnitude of the stakes. You don’t always realize the significance of your choices the moment you are making them, but the grand sum of these acts of the will— great and small—inevitably shapes your life. The collective qualities of your choices interactively reflect and define your character.

It is interesting and insightful to survey your life in terms of the decisions you have made, both great and small. More interesting still is a survey of your life based on the decisions you had refused to make, and you realize that even that refusal—the dillydallying—is essentially a choice. And all choices have consequences.


a quote on blue paper

“Every writer, by the way he uses the language, reveals something of his spirit, his habits, his capacities, his bias. This is inevitable, as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.” (-E.B. White)

“Gulp.” (-sillyserious)

unhappy blogging, happy blogger

Prologue: This is strange. I find it difficult to blog happiness. Humor, maybe. But happiness—the kind that isn’t necessarily funny—now, that’s a different story. For the past two nights, I’ve been trying to write about my happy visa experience last Tuesday, but the words have been hard to come. There’s a smile on my face and song in my heart, but the fingers just won’t tap dance the way I want them to. Could it be that this tap dancer has grown too acquainted with melancholic music and the occassional silly rhythm that he loses his footing when the steady, graceful strains of joy suddenly play? (Naks!) Hmmm… Anyway, here’s my last attempt at blogging my happy visa experience. However this piece turns out, it will get published.


By some miracle (no hyperbole here), I was granted a US visa last Tuesday. This, despite my “interesting” answer to the last question fired by Mr. I-don’t-smile-when-I-work (a.k.a the visa officer at Window 4).

“Do you have financial documents, sir?” Yikes, the dreaded question for which i was ill-prepared. I cleared my throat and answered, “As a matter of fact, I do, but…uhm…honestly, the figures are not very significant.” Uh-oh. Sheepish smile, the kind that says “Should I have said that?”(Now, this next bit of detail did not make it to my oral stories to friends.) I actually stammered after i just heard myself declare that i was poor. The implication of my declararion: no wealth to pull me back to the Philippines, ergo no visa! Did i just stamp “Disapproved” on my visa application?!

Mr. I-dont-smile-when-I-work suddenly became Mr. I’m-busy-typing-something-on-my-computer-while-your-heart-pounds-in-anticipation. (Hmm… I got the idea for these long names from Faith’s funny email! Hehe.) I regained my composure after stopping in mid-sentence and quitting my attempt at explaining my previous statement. And then I awaited the verdict.

After some brisk scribbles on my application form, the visa officer slipped a yellow sheet of paper under the glass window. “Please proceed to the pavillion to arrange for the delivery of your visa.”

Oh. Okay. Thank you.

That’s it. The three months of fretting, praying, and battling the resident pessimist within finally came to its three-minute end. Hey, I’m not complaining. I’m actually happy, believe me. But, I told you, I don’t know how to blog happiness. Boink. Sorry.

in or out?

It’s a few minutes shy of midnight as i type this. Tomorrow afternoon, i will be queuing at the US Embassy along with a throng of Filipinos who have one goal in mind: a US Visa. There will be a thousand-and-one reasons and circumstances surrounding our application for the elusive American Visa. Mine have been collated and filed in a clear folder.

A good number of the people I will brush elbows with tomorrow would have pulled countless strings—resulting in instantly infused bank accounts, hastily transferred land titles, even canned (read: untrue) answers to possible interview questions—just to make sure they find favor in the eyes of the all-powerful visa officer. I hear that in less than five minutes of chit-chat with one of four (five or six) straight-faced visa officers, our US visitation fates will be determined.

I’m going—or more appropriately, attempting to go—to the US, to attend a work-related training conference. I admit, I am excited about the prospect of traveling and learning abroad. (Okay, I’m also keen on enjoying snow for the first time, at least as much as my arthritic limbs would allow.) But my little research over the past few months have fed the pessimist in me. Stories abound of whimsical consular decisions: A family comes and says they want to go to Disneyland—Approved! A corporate executive seeking to travel for business efficiently parades his documents—Disapproved! Of course, tips come with the stories: Never appear too eager; Be pleasant; Do not present a document unless specifically asked; Hand the complete document folder to visa officer; Dress down; Dress up…

In the past weeks, I have succeeded in not thinking too much about what will happen tomorrow. Yes, I have asked friends to pray for an affirmative result. They eagerly committed to intercession on my behalf, but not without a friendly aside about that pasalubong if and when the trip materializes (hotel slippers, anyone?). Yes, I have prepared the necessary documents; nothing fake, except maybe for my Photoshop-enhanced picture. Hehe.

But, no, I haven’t really allowed my heart to so badly want this trip to happen. A part of me naturally insulates itself from the frustration of a disapproval by keeping expectations and the excitement at a manageable level. No browsing the brochures too much. No emails to friends in the States just yet. No shopping for extra-thick clothing. And no cancellation and postponement of March commitements yet…

Hmm.. is this position healthy? It’s safe, I know. But a little voice inside me seems to be coaxing me out of safety into the adventure of desiring…. Ahh, abstractions. It is too deep into the night for such.

Well, tomorrow’s result is not in my hands anymore—just as long as I manage to drag myself out of bed, dress fairly decently, and not forget any important documents; nor is it in the visa officer’s—no matter how unpredictable and powerful he/she seems to be. Tomorrow’s result, as with everything else, is in God’s hands. And that thought is comforting. But, in case you’re wondering about my sentiments right now: Yes, I’m excited and anxious at the same time. And, yes, I really, really want to go. And, oh yes, dear visa officer, if you are reading this (which is highly improbable), I will most definitely come back to my beloved Philippines.

So, in Sandara’s hate-it-or-love-it manner of speaking, “am I ‘in’ or ‘out’?” Will keep you posted. For now, the lure of sleep brings this tap dancer to a halt.