Dear Asthma,

So I came home from the ophthalmologist today and I just wanted you to know: Fuck you. Or, as we around these parts would say, “Pakyu. Pakyu dobol.
Let me start from the beginning. Back in October, when the heavens had deemed it necessary to fall upon us biblical amounts of rain, I bought a tube of sealant and applied it on the ceiling – because drippy gutter led to leaky ceiling which further deteriorated into damp bed. Anyway, I got an itch on my right hand, and I ignored it. About a month later, the itch turned into a reddish, scaly, dry patch of annoying skin. By December, I felt like Typhoid fucking Mary. After going to a dermatologist who looked suspiciously like my friend Jex, I was given a prescription for mild soap, moisturizer, Betamycin (steroid), and petroleum jelly.
Around that time, something weird was going on in my eyes. I am not even going to tell you what. All you need to know is that I was scared to death. (Hey, don’t judge. Overactive imagination + scalpel + eye = AAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!)

So back to the nice ophthalmologist from Medical City, Dr. Ranier Covar. After checking out both eyes, the good doctor asked me a few probing questions, “Do you have asthma?” Check. “Do you have allergies?” Check. “Do you have eczema? Skin asthma?” Check and check (see above). He then told me that the shit going on in my eyes is a. quite common because of the cold weather, b. I’m the third person today to consult him about the same thing, and c. I basically have an allergy in my eyes. I wasn’t even aware that that kind of shit could happen.
AND the eczema and the eye shit both come from one thing… (drum roll please) you, Asthma. I was also told that my kind of asthma is the type that brought along a whole spectrum of side allergies – including but not limited to allergic rhinitis, eczema, and the eye allergies. Wunderbar. Prescription this time? Allergy pills (steroids) and two eye drops (one of which contains steroids). Steroids are friends, though like some friends, they’re only good when taken in moderate amounts.
So my dear Asthma, I fucking hate you. You are a bitch. What are you doing, making up for lost time? I’ve only had you since 2004, did you want to make up for the other 21 years? Demmet.
To wrap up. Asthma. Pakyu dobol, I hate you.

[Also, that weird rash you have? You may want to get that checked. If you’re a freelancer like me and you have no health card, don’t be scared of getting a consultation. I only paid 300 for the dermatologist and 500 for the ophthalmologist. The thing that will cost an arm and a leg are the drugs. Next stop, checking out the HMOs. Stay tuned.]

Hung-over Sugarfree: A Sa Wakas Review

I’ve always believed that everybody comes with their own background music. There are some days that seem to follow the rhythm of Hit Me Baby One More Time or Don’t Cha – no judging – and there are times when whole swaths of your life seem to be outright rip-offs of a two-bit song. Whole sweeping segments of your life told in every lyric word, in every note, in every falsetto. This seems especially true in the happiest moments and ironically, in the most tragic as well. As we’ve discussed before, Sugarfree has chronicled those (mostly love-related) moments and have therefore provided the songs of both triumphs and tribulations for an entire generation. Specifically, mine.

Sa Wakas, A Pinoy Rock Musical
When I saw the teasers for Sa Wakas, a rock musical featuring the songs of Sugarfree, I immediately went into fangirl mode. I must watch this. They better not mess this up, I said, for a thousand Sugarfree fangirls (and fanboys) will descend upon them. Our hate mail will blot out the sun! Yesterday, we watched Sa Wakas, and this is not a rage-fueled, vitriol-laced review.
The Story
Sa Wakas revolves around the lives of three yuppies: Topper (Fred Lo), a photographer working to make a name for himself; Lexi (Caisa Borromeo), a doctor having trouble juggling her relationship and her career; and Gabbi (Kyla Rivera), a magazine editor hoping to find inspiration. It’s all about passion for these three, passion in their chosen careers, passion for their hopes and dreams, and passion for their relationships and in their selves. It’s a story we all know, a story we’ve heard from a friend or have played a lead role in.
Intertwined (more like embedded) in their story is the music of Sugarfree. Relationships are falling apart before us, and Sugarfree hits every note. I’ve always had a vague suspicion that Ebe Dancel, Sugarfree frontman and main lyricist, had looked into the most vulnerable parts of our lives – the breakups, the hung-over musings, and the longing for long lost loves – and wrote them into swak-sa-banga, sapul-sa-mukha songs.
We see the characters at their most vulnerable moments, at their weakest and most miserable, and I was sure that every single person in the audience could relate to at least one of them. We could all relate to those moments when the Universe throws everything at us, including the kitchen sink and the kitchen.
The Characters
Topper, bless him, knowingly plays the Asshat. He’s the guy in the middle of every drama like this. He knows he’s wrong, and for that I could not find it in myself to sympathize with him. At the end of the first act, I felt he deserved testicular cancer. Lexi on the other hand is a girl who knows what she wants. There are times when I felt she would have fit better in a medical drama, but we all know the feeling of wanting to excel in both our personal and professional lives and failing catastrophically in one (in more tragic stories, we fail in both). Sadly, she cannot have her cake and eat it too. Then Gabbi. I found her character very sympathetic, despite never having been in her situation. She exemplifies all of our bad timing and our wrong-place-wrong-time decisions that often lead us to disaster.
At the end of the play, I felt my applause was not enough to show my appreciation. The actors were effective – awful, playful, and funny in just the right parts. Kyla Rivera is adorable and has great comedic timing, and Fred Lo too, as I laughed when I wasn’t busy hating his character. Caisa Borromeo embraces the role of a woman not defined by her relationship status and I found myself empathizing with her as a victim of circumstance and indecision.
The Play
Sa Wakas didn’t need to impress me with the music, I already love Sugarfree, but still it did. The band and the ensemble were awesome. The arrangements were well thought out and the execution was great. It was surprising at times, with the transitions sometimes jumping from hopeful to sad to sadder. It works though. The music, set design, and lighting made for an altogether immersive experience.
The ballsiest move on the part of the producers and writers is the storytelling itself. Personally, I was confused until the first few strums of the second act. Upon our exit from the PETA Theater, the buzz was intoxicating, but I couldn’t help overhearing some fellow audience members asking what exactly happened to the characters. While it probably wasn’t the best way to tell the story, it worked for me. For the most part, it worked for me because of the poignant ending. It wasn’t the closing of a book and the opening of a new one, instead it was a painful and emphatic period (as in, The End, period.).
Sa Wakas works. It works because it tells us the story of ourselves, or at least, the stories told to us that nestle close to our hearts (like One More Chance). It shows us that things aren’t as simple as pushing the big red button marked “Self-Destruct,” it’s a long and drawn out process of things that go wrong, things that feel right, things unsaid, and things screamed at each other.
That said, why haven’t you watched it yet? Even if you aren’t a fan of Sugarfree, I’d recommend you to watch it anyway. There are exactly four more shows left. Go, dammit.
Notes:
  • Sa Wakas is brought to us by Culture Shock Productions and FringeMNL. If they made more plays like this, I’d probably watch more theatre.
  • If you are driving to the PETA Theater, be sure to get there early. Parking slots are few and far between.

Life After Dropping Out of College

My favorite probinsyana, Annabs of Suburbia, has written a wonderful guide on job hunting, an article that has inspired me to expound on it. Couple of weeks back, I was trying to write something about the UP Manila shitstorm but was too angry to finish it, but the gist of it was this: There is life after dropping out of college. I’ll not get into why people are forced to drop out, just thinking about it makes my blood pressure rise.

Anyway. So you’ve dropped out of college. Cue the dreaded question: What now? You have two options, a. find a job, or b. find a job. (Of course, this won’t apply to everybody since not all of us have to quit college because of financial difficulties, but I digress.) At any rate, finding something with which to support yourself is the next logical step.
Handicap, Schmandicap
First, remember that you are already at a disadvantage. The lack of a college diploma is a handicap with which you will have to contend. It will sit next to you at every other job interview and will poke at you incessantly while you’re filling out an application. BUT (there’s a big but in all of that) that handicap also makes you more persistent and relatively more street smart. Enter pointless anecdote:
In 2005, my friends had just finished college and they’ve asked me to be their Makati tour guide, so to speak. At the end of that day, I was the only one who walked out of a company’s doors with a job offer in hand. My friends were not by any chance idiots, it was only that I a. had work experience and b. knew how to use my skills to my advantage.
Therefore, the first thing you’ll need when Job Hunting Without a Diploma are skills. Sit down, get a pen and paper ready. What are your skills? List everything you ever received a “Best in” ribbon for. Debating skills can translate to good communication skills. Those Photoshop skills can translate into good design skills. A drafting class in high school translated to a draftsman’s job for me. Good English language skills got me a job in a call center then a video game website.
Next, you will need experience. This will come with time. Every little job you get adds to your experience, and subsequently, they all add to your skill set as well. I’ve been a tutor, a drug store clerk, a liquor store clerk, a data encoder, a draftsman, a tech support agent, a marketing agent, a creative writer, and a freelance writer. In between those are bouts of being a bum and looking for a job, of course. What sort of skills have I developed from teaching squalling children to staying at home and writing in my pajamas? A lot. Your job now can teach you a number of things you will have use for in the future, say, how to deal with people too drunk to count their money or how to find creative ways to teach a kid.
Experience will also help you “level up.” (Pro-tip: You don’t have to list all of your work experience in your resume. Sometimes, listing only the pertinent ones – pertinent to the company to which you are applying – saves time for you and the HR people. You don’t want to spend several uncomfortable minutes explaining why you left that company notorious for pushing out pornographic content, do you?) Working at a bad job or for a bad company can help you weed out the things you never want to do again. After working at a call center, I realized that I never wanted to do that ever again. The Universe, who for most of the time is a motherfucking bitch, will somehow help you find your place under the sun.
To Recap
So, handicap schmandicap, skills, and experience. There are several unquantifiable things you will need in your Job Hunting Kit, including 2 cups of diskarte, 3 cups of confidence (don’t go over, don’t go without), and a dash of luck. You will eventually develop a thick carapace to deal with rejection from assholes, but in the meantime, take a few tons of kakapalan ng mukha with you. Eventually, you will learn to shrug off comments and ads that discriminate against undergrads. Take my word for it, you don’t want to work there. Always be willing to learn and eventually you’d have leveled up enough that the piece of paper won’t matter – or at least you’d have amassed enough money to go back to school.

Why One Arm is Darker than the Other

Since getting the 1972 Volkswagen FrankenBeetle out from the shop, a lot of things have changed. For one thing, I now reserve a column for ‘Gas’ in my expenses spreadsheet and as soon as BPI approves my application, I’ll have a bank account for car contingencies. I’ve also applied for a savings account with life insurance bundled in – you know, in case I de-limb myself in a horrible accident.

Aside of being partially ready for accidental dismemberment, other changes have happened. For one thing, as my mother so kindly pointed out, my left arm is two shades darker than the right one. What changes have happened?
1.     I am not ashamed to be seen in a car that seems to be held together by rust and cracking rubber. It is 41 years old, and by sheer force of will and mechanical miracles, it is running. After 3 and some years of being parked in various places, it rose back from the dead.

2.     I have masking tape in the car. Why? Because I need it to keep my air vents in place (while driving). We were taping the windows in place while gassing up, and the gas station crew and the owner of the Vios beside us stared in wide-eyed wonder.

3.     For entertainment during drives from Quezon City to Buendia, Pasay City, Remi and I have resorted to singing ditties. The radio works, but I don’t have speakers. I don’t plan to get speakers any time soon, I enjoy listening to the steady rumbling of the engine. I’ve come to take note all of its small burps and backfires.

4.     Whenever we see another bug on the street, I beep twice. They beep, flash their lights, and wave back. It’s like I’ve joined a cult. An obsessive, extremely geeky cult, though extremely nice and good-natured. (While at Kuya Nards’ shop last Sunday, we saw a silver 1966 Beetle. The owner was buying parts, and I was having my front shocks replaced. He chatted us up, and he noticed my lack of bumpers. He gave me his card, told me that if I want bumpers, he’ll give me the ones he has at home if I could drive to Imus, Cavite. Also, we passed a beautiful brown bug on Boni Serrano, and the driver flashed his lights twice, beaming the entire time.)

5.     The largest part of the adventure of getting from Point A to Point Bis whether we’d get there at all. I’ve taken to calling the car Sheer Luck (or formally Sherlock) because of this.

6.     My Want List now has 2 shock absorbers and 2 tires at the top of the list. (I’ve already replaced the front 2 shocks and tires.) Disc brakes and a new paint job are my new expensive daydreams.

7.     I now groan with Remi whenever Alvin Elchico announces a gas hike. (In other news, however, I’ve only gassed up twice in two weeks.) I also have a schedule for oil changes, tune-ups, and brakes checks.

8.     As previously mentioned, one arm is darker than the other. Simply, I drive with the windows down. I’m not sure if I’ll have the AC unit in the car fixed.

9.     I now know that I have a 1972 German Volkswagen Beetle with a 1600cc engine (that came from a Brasilia). It will take about 40 liters of gas for a full tank, and is a comfortable ride once you replace the old shocks.

10. It’s amusing to see people hitting each other when I pass by. It’s the slightly twisted, but ages old game of Pendong Peace.

Image via: http://www.pinoyexchange.com/forums/showthread.php?t=507145&p=55532781&viewfull=1#post55532781

So anyway, yeah. That’s why one arm is darker than the other arm. Any more questions?