August 13, 2016
I was once tricked into watching the first season of ‘Breaking Bad’. It’s a great show and I love that the driving force behind Bryan Cranston’s transformation from science teacher to science teacher/meth dealer is his need for cancer treatment money. I love it when money problems work their way into the plot or become key to a character’s motivations. I don’t mean I enjoy financial problems fiction like ‘Julia’ (starring Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton) or ‘We’re the Millers’, but I enjoy a story more if it doesn’t conveniently ignore the reality that about 80% of the time, people make life-altering decisions based on how much money they have or don’t have. Think gone girl Amy Dunne when she realized she has no more cash with which to torment her victim, Nick Dunne.
I couldn’t watch the entire first season of ‘Breaking Bad’ but, mightily, I tried and succeeded. I don’t remember much of the show except for how it made me feel. It took me back to a time when my mother was being destroyed by cancer, and it’s not because she resembled Academy Award nominee Bryan Cranston; she looked like Academy Award winner Julianne Moore when she was healthy, but because the reddish piss and the hair loss were painful to watch. Every time I write about my mother’s cancer and death, and speak seemingly so dryly of it, it’s as if I’m so detached from that scarring life event and as if I’m about to send it to an essay-writing contest which, I don’t know why, isn’t something I would want my mother-cancer essays to sound like. The truth is that I will never be un-detached from it and going off on tangents like this is why I would never ever win essay-writing contests that I would never ever join.
I found myself working for a cancer clinic company, which required me to read about cancer and immerse myself in that disease’s world. I’m not just being dramatic when I say ‘I found myself working for a cancer clinic company’ because truly, I did not know that when I hit ‘send’ on that application button, I would have to immerse myself in cancer reading material. In general, responsible people shouldn’t be finding themselves working for clinics that they didn’t know would necessitate cancer readings. It’s just insane.
There is but a tiny connection between my brief stint as cancer content manager and finding out that someone I love has cancer. I guess the connection I’m trying to make is that… cancer is forever? That it will haunt you (me) in ways that we can never anticipate. I thought I wouldn’t have to think about cancer again, but it apparently is not through with me. Here are some things that I’ve realized.
(They’re all for ‘you’ because that’s what I want.)
You make the cancer about you.
By thinking about what could happen to you when someone in your life is diagnosed with cancer. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with a type of laryngeal cancer and somehow, or not surprisingly, I found ways to direct discussion about what it could mean to me, who is, for 31 years now, has never wavered in making itself the unrivalled center of my attention in any event that has ever occurred.
‘How about me? Am I healthy?’ ‘Have I said enough affectionate things to her today?’ ‘How is she for money?’ ‘If it had been me, would I be able to handle it as bravely as she does?’ are some of the thoughts you may have. Someone in your life finds out he has cancer and you think about your own health is perhaps not the best way to be. I think it’s sick. I also think it’s the kind of impulse that is inescapable.
You develop a protective brotherly or maternal instinct previously absent.
There’s a reason why some people are single or childless. That reason often has to do with a person’s inability to care for anyone but themselves. What grows is not a parental instinct but more like a strange desire to punch the face of those who dare disrupt the ill person’s aura. You are not always capable of doing something about this but you develop the instinct anyway and you are helpless against this. Don’t fight it.
You see the rationale behind people’s habit of posting inspirational quotes superimposed on pictures of waterfalls.
Not until you are faced with the sickly face of the person whose problem you didn’t previously know existed will you realize how valuable, how encouraging to the spirit a life-affirming quote as plain as ‘Life is short’ is to the person who posts such things.
I’ve never read a waterfalls-backdropped quote and thought, ‘Hmm, what a wonderful thing to post on Facebook,’ or ‘Hmm, thank you Facebook friend, I really needed to know today that I’m blessed beyond my wild imaginings,’ until recently. I’m often the kind of social media participant who scrolls down fast to get to the Onion and Gawker posts, then scroll further down to find a Guardian or New Yorker literature essay that I would share a link of as part of an ongoing and hopefully not a lifetime effort of making myself seem smarter than I really am, as reinforced by the supposedly non-stupid things I occasionally share. The truth is I’m not above appreciating these quotes; I just don’t often acknowledge the little ways in which they help some people’s spirits.
You turn into a cancer expert.
Sometimes, you even become an alternative cancer treatment expert. Precious health tips such as ‘Don’t eat sugar’ or ‘Eat vegetables’ become staples in the list of things you occasionally tell that someone in your life who has cancer.
You give such pieces of advice like parents who scold their 9-year old children maybe in an attempt to be funny and frivolous. This is fine, well intentioned, and makes you feel good about yourself, but it fails to consider that the reason why sick people eat whatever they want is because they have lost the ability to taste food. ‘Eat kale chips and tofu salad’ isn’t something a person whose tongue is razed with chemo meds wants to hear.
You have to stop whining.
Specifically, you stop lamenting your lack of reading time or, say, the woeful state of your professional career. It’s tricky because you feel like your problems are valid and deserve great, undivided attention, but is not having a stable job really that life-threatening in the grander scheme of things? Yes, of course, especially if you’re feeding babies, parents, or anyone else that isn’t you.
When someone you care for has cancer, all of your serious problems suddenly seem so trivial, stupid and basic. Especially, iTunes kinds of problems. People who are way ahead of their peers in gauging the level of basicness of some problems don’t need for someone in their life to be struck with cancer to realize that some problems aren’t worth cultivating drama for. Then of course there are those who do. Uncertainty about your future shouldn’t be thrown away, but when the wallowing gets to be too much that it consumes your entire being for days, an angel whispers a gentle reminder about how being a whiny bitch isn’t the best way to be. That whispering angel may be using strong language (eg, ‘whiny bitch’) but it does so gently because it realizes that your problems are yours to own and handle and they are still real. Angels are considerate and in-the-know. Angels are real.
May 3, 2016
Because I have hopes of coming home someday, but not in the next 5 or 15 years. Blah blah blah I have to help myself and not look to the next Philippine president for help in making my life at home something that would resemble a Bon Jovi song, ie, a bed of roses, and/or take me home to the Philippines from Bangkok or Uzbekistan from my OFW jobs, etcetera. I know! But still I need someone like Grace Poe and not the current frontrunner whose rape jokes aren’t even very clever, or as they call it in Visayas, ‘bright’.
It has become uncool to be effusive about what you feel about the upcoming elections because effusiveness, I guess, is never cool! Also, blah blah blah everyone’s mind is made up and just because someone on Facebook wrote a very compelling note as to why ‘Marcos’ is just the wrong surname to ever put on a voter’s ballot, there are people whose admiration for Bong Bong is never going to waver despite that supposedly smart senator’s parents’ penchant for murdering leftists during Martial Law. Very, very bright people I know won’t be swayed by your gruesome tales of torture involving wrongfully and/or unjustly accused Martial Law activists whose privates were mangled and/or whose lives were taken because zzz they fought for their rights. Please, stop boring these hardcore BBM supporters with your horror stories because they’re still going to vote for their guy. The only way to really scare them, clearly, is to put them in a time machine and make them relive the Martial Law era’s atrocities. You could also kidnap them and put them in an empty movie house and make them watch Martial Law documentaries and things, A Clockwork Orange-style, and cure them of their obviously twisted thinking.
Philippine politics, discussions of it, parinigan-sa-Facebook of it are and always will be the ugliest. If Philippine politics ever decides to adopt a name, it should be Kevin because we need to talk about him! And you know what? We get only one in every six years of this ugly thing called Presidential election. Why not hate-watch it, or better yet, add something to the discussion, point out who’s the ugliest of them all and why the ugliest should not be elected. Blah blah blah everyone has an opinion and all that can be said has already been said, and the rest is just noise and drama. I know! But not everyone’s mind has been made up. A bright, shining example of a person whose mind was influenced by the surge of all that noise is myself and maybe 2 or 3 people I know who changed their mind about voting for someone after pretty shitty dirt about certain candidates were read, heard, considered. Some noise help!
It would be really nice if the Philippines could be Presidented (nge) with someone who’s not going to turn it into an archipelago of graveyard. And besides! If you think about it in truly plain terms, really distill the essence of the frontrunner’s platform, or what you’ve heard of it, killing all the murderers in the land is the only thing he knows how to do (or does he?) and that is not going to really make anyone’s life any better.
As the characters in Dawson’s Creek would say, ‘You don’t get it, do you?!’ and ‘This is not a movie; this is real life!’ By which I mean, our life in the Philippines is not a science fiction movie like Minority Report where predicting crime and capturing would-be criminals go hand-in-hand in making the country crime-free. We don’t have a stash of Samantha Mortons lying around and incubating their crime-detecting superpowered selves waiting for the next criminal to pounce. There are criminals because the country is poor and shitty and guess whose fault that is! Not Samantha Morton’s, that’s for sure. What if the criminal is a Tom Cruise who would just be wrong for prison? Would you still vote for your bet prez? No, you would not. But as very smart persons in FB would reiterate, stop it with your activisms!
The answer to a heavenly Philippines lies not in a Grace Poe administration but in one that doesn’t make the Philippines worse than it already is. Manila is just the worst. I know it’s not actually the worst but it’s my worst. In my reality, it is the only worst I know. I have no words, truly. Just ‘worst’ and ‘bad’. The way a life is being lived in Metro Manila is just not how one is supposed to live. If my pretty hopeless desire to have someone smart and idealistic like GP is, well, hopeless, then, okay! I guess I’ll just float around in Minority Report hoverboard space!
Bangkok is my home now but it could be snatched away from me by a president who could, on a whim, decide that the Philippines should sever its excellent relationship with Thailand. It’s not likely going to happen but who knows! He’s so bad, he makes me want to become a better person and never use putangina ever again because coming from his filthy mouth, being a pottymouth has just become something to never be.
This is nothing but a selfish wish to continue being a citizen of a country where I was born even though my favorite tale to tell is and always will be the one about how I am… half-Chinese.
April 17, 2016
I should be very pleased with how Bangkok handles its party city aura. To have a truly enjoyable night out in this city, you must be out by 7:30 pm and getting tipsy by 8-9:00 pm. Go out later, say, 10:00 pm, and you miss the best seats (ones that let you ogle with minimal effort) and people in the crowd are already on their way to sobering up. This teaches you to schedule your nights out responsibly. But do you always want your nights out to be scheduled properly? You do not.
In Manila, you text friends at 10:00 pm and tell them, ‘I’m in the cab now and on my way!’ while you’re stepping out of the shower, secure in the knowledge that they will believe your claim of being stuck in eternally horrific EDSA traffic – they know how it is and they will spin the same yarn about traffic. You shower at a very early 10 pm if you feel like being punctual, for once.
You arrive at your pre-party bar, usually Barcino or Distillery at The Fort, profuse with apologies. Mostly, no one cares and your friends would even commiserate. By 12, you go to the Main Bar whose bouncers are at their most alert and from 12-1 midnight, Manila party peak hours. At 12 in Bangkok, you’re on your way home telling your party companions in Line that you had fun! In Manila, you call in sick for work the next day because there’s no way you would want to make it to the office after partying ‘til 4-5:00 am. Here, you drink 5 cups of coffee and you’ll be fine.
I should be very pleased because, like my daddy, I believe that conversations beyond 12 midnight cease to make sense – I’m okay to separate from friends when the conversations start to get punctuated with yawns. He had a more cutting phrase for it but the essence of his belief is that you’re bound to find yourself deep in bullshit, enjoyment-free conversations if you stretch your drinking sessions when the beer stops tasting like heaven (if it ever did) and starts to have the consistency of vomit water.
During this year’s Songkran, I was home by 12, very safe and quite dry. I wasn’t shivering in my soaked shirt and shorts and not delirious with naughty glee from the water-splashing extravaganza. My face was chalk-free and my feet were just sufficiently yucky from Silom’s muddy sidewalks. On the contrary, last year was truly gross and dirty. Songkran 2015 had us crawling our way through Soi 4’s gropefest and debating the merits of going home while things were just beginning to get interesting. But that’s nothing compared to Songkran 2012. Tiger beer in hand, I was destroying Caucasian men and women in Soi 4 with my powerful water armalite, demolishing fellow tourists left and right.
What’s fun now is thinking about an alternate Southeast Asian universe where Manila is the kind of city that you never want to leave, is much better in handling its tourism affairs, and a festival equivalent to Songkran draws tourists in droves and Manila people enjoy 5-day vacation on top of the numerous holidays already imposed upon these islanders’ lives. Because they have time to vacate the city, they do so without being burdened by a woeful airport and airport personnel.
I’ve only been to a few Songkrans and I hold no authority on fun, but it looks like the joyousness is drying up. As long as there’s water and soaking-wet voluptuous people in white shirts or shorts, there ought to be no lack of joy for people who delight in such a sight. I don’t know if Songkran is getting repetitive for me or the festivities have really been watered down so that the water fights seem very controlled and less outrageous, but it doesn’t feel as fun as it used to. This year, Songkran was just sexy.
February 23, 2016
I didn’t think it was my straight friends’ duty to come to my defense when Manny Pacquiao so famously said very ignorant things about gays and animals. I didn’t think I was entitled to their charity because it’s not as if I have been very supportive or vocal about causes that any of my friends – gay or straight – may have wanted me to support. I’m sure, though, that if it had been any of their basic rights that were suddenly called into question, I would not have acted so callously.
On the other hand, straight and “straight” friends who urged/are urging everyone to just move on from the issue as there are more pressing problems that are more worthy of discussion than Gay Problems are just as awful as MP. I could have lived without that kind of admonition to practically forget about the fact that for years, my peoples have been denied civil rights. I could have lived not knowing how they feel about their fellow human beings not enjoying the same rights as them.
I have around 600+ FB friends, so I know there’s bound to be a few profiles who would say shit like ‘Move on!’ or ‘What is your problem?’ or ‘If one man’s words can shake your beliefs, your beliefs aren’t too strong to begin with’ or some shit. What a waste. They’re about as wasteful as those who didn’t think to just use plain and fewer words to expose the homophobia that runs in their hateful, spiteful veins. Them and the sports fans/Pacquiao fans who don’t realize that if he wins, takes a seat in the Senate, votes against a cause they fiercely support and believe, and uses the book of Revelations as the basis of his decisions, they will be very sorry, and it would be too late. I’m not a fan of stupid-shaming (although it is often fun to read) but it is hard to deny that stupidity and lack of patience for the art of thinking is what’s causing all this.
Also hate those who have nothing to say, but thought it worthy of their time to write 2,000-word essays about how everyone should just respect everyone’s opinion. It’s the equivalent of wanting to shush everyone who are raising valid points about granting certain people some basic human rights, and knocking yourself out writing an essay that says nothing and wastes everyone’s time. This issue reveals something rotten about their personality, specifically their inability to see beyond the Pacquiao fanaticism and into the sheer stupidity of his comments and the seriousness of the matter.
I realize I’m not making brilliant contributions to this discussion myself, but this affects me as a person who might want to marry a person with dick someday, and I just need to say that I’m not going to take any more shit words and phrases from ‘friends’ who are expressing opinions that are shit. I truly do not want to become the kind of angry writing person in the internet who adds so many words so he can… add more words. Fiery discussions are on their way out, but it won’t stop here. To friends who are aware that I occasionally post feelings up in here, stop pretending people like me don’t exist in your life.
February 22, 2016
When ‘Brokeback Mountain’ came out in 2005, I loved it so much that I bought the soundtrack even though I never really liked country music. I thought that if I could at least play the score at home, I would be reminded of what such a beautiful movie made me think and feel when I first saw it. If it had been a love story between a man and a woman, I would not have bought the album but it’s doubtful I would have liked it less. But then, it would have simply been a film about two adulterers cheating on their spouses, and therefore would not have been as tragic and as touching.
Incidentally, tragedy is what makes ‘Brokeback’ an unforgettable, moving movie-going experience. This may be such a dramatic way of describing it but if you’ve actually seen it in a theater, you’d know that it definitely is an experience in as much as a movie with two men kissing induces hysterics, hoots and howls in the audience is an experience.
‘Brokeback Mountain’ is depressing but it’s the kind of gutting you want to relive. I want to do the same for ‘Carol’ which, although not half as tragic as ‘Brokeback’, is just as devastating.
The film, adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt, takes place in the 50s when it was tough for lesbians to be openly affectionate with someone they love (I don’t know this for sure but it seems like it). Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) meet in the toy section of a department store where the latter works as staff. Amid the frenzy of the Christmas season, when eager-to-please mothers and overworked retail store attendants can’t help but cross paths, the two lock eyes and sparks instantly fly. They are lipstick lesbians in a conservative decade, so much of their dates have to be done in a manner befitting two criminals conspiring to unleash unspeakable crimes on their unsuspecting victims – Carol’s semi-estranged husband and daughter, and Therese’ live-in boyfriend. There will be struggles ahead.
The pacing and acting are languid and understated. You wait for Carol and Therese to get it on but all you get, at least in the first hour, are furtive glances and cautious touching of hands. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara do not have big acting moments, except for one in which Carol snaps and cuts through the lawyers’ argument, and snatches her husband’s attention away from everyone to tell him to fuck all the lesbian accusatory shit as all she wants is visitation rights. The most touching scenes, though, are when Carol and Therese hold back on their emotions, so that when they find themselves alone in a motel, they hug and kiss as if someone might pop up and handcuff them, and hold them forever as captives in straight world prison.
Much like ‘Brokeback’, ‘Carol’ has gay characters fighting for their right to love. To say that someone is ‘fighting’ for the right to love is to risk sounding like song lyrics from a 90s boyband (specifically a 98 Degrees song). But Carol has actual battles: for the custody of her daughter and for the defense of her mental state, seeing as her lesbian ways were viewed as symptomatic of ill health.
It sounds a bit too much to say that Carol and Therese are ‘fighting’ for their right to love, but that is what is going on in films with and about gay people not being allowed freely to make out publicly, not even if they do it classily. Having bought but never read The Price of Salt, I feared it would end the way most of these types of films end: with someone getting raped, murdered or banished in a mental hospital. None of these potential endings are inconceivable; it’s a Patricia Highsmith novel after all. Fortunately, neither Therese nor Carol commits suicide.
I’ve always felt that lesbians have entirely different experiences in matters of forbidden romance. Even though I’ve known some lesbians, I never really felt like us and them have a shared struggle for the probably idiotic reason that girl-on-girl displays of affection raise way less eyebrows than boy-on-boy ones. But, to paraphrase a Lisbon sister, clearly I’ve never been a lesbian person. It might also have to do with the fact that I’ve never heard or read as many coming-out anecdotes from lesbian friends and acquaintances as I have from gays. Movies have been informing me about lesbians and ‘Carol’ has just told me that I’m wrong, and that in fact we have the same struggles and difficulties. What a beautiful reminder this is.
December 11, 2015
Jessica Z and Stephen K
Jessica Zafra and Stephen King both believe that I (and also you) should write a thousand words a day. Stephen King suggested very graphic images of how to create thousands of words a day that could eventually lead to tens of thousands of words a week, and then hundreds of thousands of words a year. These suggestions, not surprisingly, require the lack of another human being in a closed room, with you typing away in your writer typewriter. ‘On Writing’ is truly a book about how to be lonely and you could perfect the art of lonelying yourself by following Mr. Happy, Stephen. King.
Writing one thousand words or more a day does not sound intimidating especially right at the moment you hear it told or when you’re reading about a book about writing. But then you get off the writing workshop and/or you put down the book about writing and there are so many things all of a sudden. Just the very thought of opening the laptop is enough to make you let out a smelly groan. It’s so nice to imagine productive days, days that overflow with feelings magically outlined on paper, or, if you’re devoted to fiction-making, all of the feelings you have ever felt during the day are words now owned by characters in your fiction. But life sometimes does not permit you to be the ideal Person Who Has Written and Written Well.
There is also probably no limit to the amount of excuses one can make to justify 1000-words non-creation. Aside from job and tiredness, there is also hunger, hate, vanity, jealousy and other writing person feelings. And also, as very cool people up with the times would say, BECAUSE BOOKS. And fresh show downloads and new DVD purchases – things that taketh away from precious writing time.
Since I am a person who functions superbly in what Douglas Coupland in Generation X calls a structured environment (or something) I find that I could never be without a job that wants me in its loving arms from 9-6. I do not battle the demands of a job and the image of an exhausted office employee, an image so maligned by those for whom the freelancing life is the ideal, I no longer associate with oppression. Oppression is such an ungrateful bastard term for something that gives what I need and want. I do not anymore question the sanity involved in having a 9-5 job (which less structured environment persons find unappealing – which they’re very much entitled to the thought of) because, come to think of it, it is one of the more reassuring life states to be in – employed.
There is also societal pressure to have better looking bodies so some days, working out at the gym takes up time that could have been spent writing the next Palanca non-winner that I would never ever submit.
I’ve been meaning to ask certain borta-writer friends of mine how they balance the obsession with having abs and writing but they just might think I’m crushing on them or something.
One could write more than a thousand words each and every day in this life just listing the number of things, and each item’s explanation, for the lack of a consistent daily, ideal, precious 1,000 words.
Social Media The Destroyer
It’s boring to see social media get blamed for the lack of long, carefully thought out missives about various issues that occupy the common and uncommonly opinionated man, and also incorrect because SM does in fact bring out the wordsmiths in all of us.
I want to call on my Facebook friends who used to be blogger friends to ditch Facebook maybe forever and go back to blogging. But my persuasion ‘game’ is not very strong so I don’t pursue this pursuit. This is the sort of foolish, low ideas I occasionally have that I’m proud to have kept for as long as I’m taken by the next great idea.
Having Facebook and Twitter is a blessing and a curse. Some people handle their multiple social media accounts with flair and are probably making the best use of one of mankind’s most maddening inventions. People who are good in SM get something from their feed and immediately form opinions that the rest of us could immediately love or loathe. Myself, I find that what works is to not quickly opine on each and every single that happens because I don’t always trust what comes out of my mouth.
Diarized Confessions of a Chronicling Memoirist Versus Fiction Making
If your fiction writing is poor and you are a writer who is rich in feelings but poor in imagination, you are probably keeping your shelves stacked with really fat diaries filled with things no decent human being should ever have to read.
I don’t think that detailing my daily commute or my OFWy epiphanies would be of any interest to anyone so mostly, I keep them to myself. But, a year ago, I moved to Bangkok and felt like my experiences in here could mean I’ll be rich in anecdotes and turn me into an interesting human. But I still am not.
A person I just met once told his dog who (which?) was barking at my creamy soft legs: ‘Ignore him! He’s not interesting.’ My self-esteem got instant comedy. I may have looked amused on the outside, but on the inside, I was crying real tears of both shame and amusement. Shame that I would allow people to say such things to me, and amusement because it truly is funny when someone meets you for the first time and decides you are uninteresting.
The circumstances do not matter; a person I just met saw through me and labelled me accordingly and I can’t say that I disagree.
There are life experiences that I could sprinkle with hyper-hyperboles and attempt to prettify with pretty prose. Lots of real life experiences can be turned into fiction that certain people might love or hate. From things that happen in real life, but that would require imagination – powerful, interesting, fully-realized – and lots of work.
Sometimes, that’s all I have, feelings, which I want to talk about.
I asked some of the workshop friends if end-of-day diaries are included in the 1,000 words a day ordinance and was told that they’re not supposed to be. It’s so unfair, but it’s just as well. Imagine living in a world where the feelings of people, both interesting and you-want-to-strangle ones, are all up in your face. Picture a society where every single person that ever crossed your path tells you all about their day, their innermost thoughts, their take on issue, both big and small and big. Unimaginable!
December 9, 2015
Because why would they? Nose bleed is what happens when a person gets punched in the nose, or when the brain is too stressed beyond human capacity, so blood can’t help but ooze out. It’s what happens when you’re Carrie and teenage girls are mean to you. Nose bleed happens in other instances that have nothing to do with speaking a certain language imperfectly. Thais don’t have the jokey nose bleed the way Filipinos do when they are suddenly made aware that upon speaking to someone who speaks English beautifully, they, native Tagalog or Filipino speakers, fail to match the proficiency and the beauty of the proficient English speaker, which is such a Filipino thing to do and feel.
I have to say, though, that there is nothing wrong with feeling inadequate with one’s unspectacular English-speaking skills, which compels one to make a nose bleed joke. I’m saying this because I’m a coward who feels the need to make a disclaimer, and also because I really think there is nothing wrong with coping with a perceived deficiency. That coping mechanism happens to be cracking a nose bleed joke which I’m not sure if people are still doing. I sure heard a lot of it in my former office when certain native English-speaking (sometimes, non-native speaking) executives pay us a visit for the sole purpose of hearing us speak English beautifully. Of course, they couldn’t care less about how we speak (or maybe they do which should explain the visitations), but that joke got cracked a lot (eg, ‘I have to take Katarchina to dinner tonight. Nose bleeeeed!’ etc.).
I’ve thought about it, deeply, and realized that being good English communicators does great wonders for the country and its people. If it weren’t for our relatively stellar English proficiency, we would probably be less adaptable as a people who feel the need to grace all corners of the earth with our presence. We probably wouldn’t be one of the most human resource-exporty country in the world, which we are. More importantly, I probably wouldn’t be here in Bangkok doing what I’m doing and loving the shit out of not being in the Philippines where things can be sometimes not so great.
It’s frightening to imagine Filipinos not being such good English speakers because if we didn’t have that, we would have much less, but maybe we would have something else. All that would be left would be our world-class resiliency and singing voice. Horrific. We would just be hospitable islanders who make laughable signages that other excellent English-speaking people would ridicule us for. Since we are such great communicators, we do this to ourselves. If we weren’t the occasionally vicious grammar Nazis that we often are, we would probably find alternative ways to be cruel to each other. The nose bleed joke is therefore essential in perpetuating our strong English communication culture.
I sometimes fantasize about a Philippines that is peopled with Pinoys who would speak Tagalog at least 95% of the time, the way Thais, and presumably other Asian nations, do. I just wish we were less obnoxious about this proficiency.
But who am I kidding? I used to find hilarity in those emails passed around containing jpegs of atrociously worded signs in China or any other country that doesn’t revere English the way we do. But I have changed and my humor leans towards other brands of jokes now. I still find hilarity in playing with open and closed vowel sounds and that might never fade. I used to sing LFO’s Summertime for this very reason (‘New keeds on the black had a banch of heets, Chinese food makes me seek. And I think it’s fly when the girls stop by for the sammer, for the sammer.’).
Thais, and presumably other nationalities who don’t give much thought (ie., give zero fucks) about their English proficiency, don’t have nose bleeds of the variety that is caused by English-speaking deficiency. In place of petty nose bleeds, they have hypertension when some foreigner has the nerve to engage them in conversations that would require more than yes or no answers which, in the absence of English language knowledge, they opt to answer with a nod or a shrug. This is wise as it keeps them healthy and free of nasal blood flow.
In truth, non-native English speakers (eg., Thais) might only be slightly peeved, or some of them might actually feel like this lack of superb English communication skills poses a major barrier to achieving potential greatness. I once asked a Thai if non-excellence in English is something that can get you ridiculed in Thai society, a reason to have your Facebook post screencapped and showcased to ridiculer’s own feed to be liked because shittily-worded compositions in Facebook are hilarious. I forgot his exact words but the meat of what his answer was that Thais ridicule fellow Thais for other reasons. And even though he was just one person, I believed him even though he was attractive and probably doesn’t get ridiculed for much so embarrassment is probably not something he experiences regularly.
Some Pinoys, on the other hand, make cracks about lost apostrophes and misplaced commas. Sometimes it’s well deserved such as in instances where the grammar crime is committed by someone with heinous thoughts. Sometimes, you can’t help but be on the side of the grammar criminal. It’s strange but an understandable phenomenon. Think about it: If little notes about turning off the faucet in our public bathrooms were heinously worded, where would we be?