Notes from the Outside World: I have become the “aleng pinagtatanungan sa pila.”

So, yesterday and today I went out (a rather rare thing, on a weekday) to get government stuff: a barangay certificate of residence, an NBI clearance and a police clearance. I’ve been prepping to get a passport, and since my appointment is sometime next next week, I decided to move my lazy ass to finally get things in order.

Here are a few notes:

  • Barangay Old Balara is extremely efficient. Reception offered to give me a barangay ID in addition to the certificate. I got a 2 certs and a barangay ID in less than an hour.
  • It is also a Pokemon Go gym.
  • Barangay captain is a little chatty and asked me if I was going abroad for work. (No.)
  • The NBI Clearance online appointment system is convenient; the payment system, not so much.
  • You skip around 3 steps (filling out forms, paying, etc) but you still have to queue for biometrics.
  • The queue was a giant Trip to Jerusalem game. At least we all got to sit.
  • After 30 minutes, my seatmate (a kid who – gauging by the envelope he was carrying – was getting ready for the great wide world of gainful employment) turns to me and asks me if he could get his NBI clearance the same day. I launch into an explanation of the dreaded HIT.
  • I tell him I always have had a HIT, and to not worry about it.
  • A woman walks by the line holding a plastic cup of kwek kwek. WHERE DID YOU GET THAT.
  • Another thirty minutes in, and NBI personnel helpfully explains to the class: what each line is for, what should have been done before queuing, what are HITs, if you’re here for releasing you don’t need to be in line, etc. “If you have questions raise your hand.”
  • The girl to my right turns to me, in what seemed like a mix of panic and horror, and asks “Pag releasing na lang po ba di na kailangang pumila?” She explains that she had been asked by somebody else to pick up the offending clearance and had been in line for as long as I have.
  • I tell her, gently, that she needs to go to the release window. No more lines. Men sitting behind us laugh.
  • After she leaves, the child dude beside me chats me up again. What do you do for a living, how much do you make?
  • Usually, I don’t like answering these questions, especially when posed by strangers but I tell him anyway. The kid looked genuinely mystified. How does one become “home-based”? I didn’t tell him this, but I wanted to: You will need a unique skill set that people are willing to pay you for.
  • He volunteers that he’s preparing to be a seaman (second mate) and he has a medical exam to get to after the NBI thing. In Kalaw. Yes. Manila.
  • I wished him luck. Travelling from Quezon City to Manila is murder.
  • It was my turn. Man behind Window 6 takes my picture, fingerprints, and signature.
  • The computer takes a few seconds to process, and the screen flashes: WITH HIT in big block, flashing red letters. Yeap.
  • Man behind Window 6 takes out his stamp pad, takes the photocopy of my license, and jots on a date.
  • The Police Clearance place at Quezon City Hall is directly beside the NBI Clearance place.
  • There are 4 windows. 1 for forms, 2 for checking the forms, 3 for payment, 4 for yet-another-payment. Tarpaulins announce how much each type of police clearance costs. For Travel/Passport: 200 + 150.
  • I was filling out my form when the girl beside me asks how much she will need to pay. I ask her what her purpose was, glance at the tarp, and tell her. 250 pesos.
  • She rummages around in her tiny purse. “I don’t have enough,” she mumbles. Her loose change sat on the battered table, and yes I counted, and yes, it wasn’t enough.
  • She asks if there was a Cebuana (Lhuillier) nearby, and I tell her there must be. This is near Kalayaan after all.
  • As I was about to tell her to ask the policemen nearby, I see that she had already left.
  • After the 4 windows, I was ushered into a room with screens facing outwards. Technically not windows, but more like computer stations.
  • Dude behind one of the stations motions at me, takes all the forms/photocopies/receipts, and encodes my information. He misspells Terraces, but not my name, which is nice.
  • Next station, a bespectacled girl takes my pic, my fingerprint, and my signature. She tells me to wait and points at the door past the island of biometrics stations.
  • Old lady opens the door for me, and I emerge directly behind the NBI place. Benches are set under the shade of a giant balete tree. I wait.
  • Two kids beside me get their clearances and sit back down to check it. One tells the other, “Mukha kang kalbo.” I fight the giggles down.
  • My turn, kuya pronounces my name beautifully. I thank him and study my ID. I didn’t look bald, but like most government issued IDs, I looked like I was ready to commit something illegal. Like estafa.
  • To leave, I pass by the NBI Clearance center. There is an empty kwek kwek stall along the wall to the right. Demmit.

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.
  • 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.

Ang Sakit, Ang Sakit-Sakit Na: The Valentine’s Day Sugarfree Playlist

Music plays a large role in love. Remember that scene in One More Chance where exes Popoy and Basha are stopped at a red light and a jeep pulls up next to them with speakers blaring out, “Nanghihinayang~ Nanghihinayang ang puso ko~!”? In real life, it isn’t quite as dramatic or as provident as that, though there are times when you kind of wish it worked like it did in the movies.

Now, bands like the Beatles and the Eraserheads have such extensive discographies that they have a song for every possible thing that could happen to you. Sugarfree, I’ve realized recently, seem to have condensed a boy-meets-girl-and-disaster-happensstory in four albums. To check this theory, I listened to their songs and have made myself inadvertently miserable for the last four days. I can’t help it. It doesn’t matter if I’m not single, it doesn’t matter if I’m perfectly happy, and it doesn’t matter if I’m emotionally stable (I am, really, at least some of the time). It doesn’t matter. Sugarfree has collected all of your heartbreaks and distilled the mix into a misery concentrate.
This misery concentrate contains every heartrending experience you’ve ever had, from that time your crush called you dude to the night you once considered the end of the universe.
Part 1 – Hamsolonely, Ligawan, at General Landian Phase
Kailan Ka Ba – Sino? Nasan? Kailan ka ba, darating at ako ay sagipin sa mundong malupit, at naiinip. Sino? Nasan? Kailan ka ba?
Remember what everybody tells you? Yung, “Darating din yan.” Syempre gusto mo silang sakalin pag naririnig mo yan. Asan ba naman kasi? ASAN?
Kwentuhan – Kwentuhan lang, wala namang masama. Usap lang, ibaon mo na sa limot ang lungkot.
Uuuy. Dito madalas nag-uumpisa ang lahat. They seem relatively harmless, those talks about nothing and everything that go into the night and extend into the early morning. Exercise caution though, since this can branch out into the dreaded Friend Zone. That’s like the Twilight Zone, except for some people it’s much, much worse.
Telepono – Natatandaan mo ba kagabi, apat na oras tayong nagbabad sa telepono. Inabutan na tayo ng umaga no’n, ngunit bakit ngayon, malamig ka bigla. Magdamag na sa tabi mo, wala man lang “hello.”
Angyare, ate? Kuya? Tinamaan ka lang ba ng katorpehan? Hingang malalim, in out. Ayan, okay na?
Feels Like – Just when I’ve given up on this game they call love, oh something about it tells me, life will never be the same again.
Ohohoho. Ayan na nga. Nahulog ka na sa patibong! Sarap ng kilig no?
Hari ng Sablay – Ako ang hari ng sablay, ako ang hari ng sablay.
Babala: Nakakatanga talaga ang pag-ibig. Wag na tayong maglokohan. Okay lang yan.
Prom – Ito nang gabing di malilimutan, dahan-dahan tayong nagtinginan. Parang atin ang gabi, para bang wala tayong katabi, at tayo’y sumayaw, na para bang di na tayo bibitaw.
Ayan na ang mga simtomas: malalagkit na mga tingin at pang-oOP sa lahat ng kasama nyo.
Ikaw Pala – Ikaw pala, ang aking hinahanap-hanap.
Andyan ka lang pala, bakit di ka nagsasalita? Kanina ka pa? San ka galing?
Part 2 – Sorry na nga kasi. Sige na. Please? Putangina naman Bash, ganyan ka ba katigas? (also, the Catastrophic Failure, the Relationship Collapsing Upon Itself, and Wawa Semplang Phase)
Heto Na Naman Tayo – Heto na naman tayo. Ano ang ating gagawin, pag sinabi na ng damdamin, di sapat ang pag-ibig? Upang buhayin at paikutin ang ating mundo. Ilang sugat pa bago sumuko? Ilan pa ba bago tayo gumuho.
Araykupo jusko. Ansakeeet. Here’s when you realize that somebody needs to go fucking invent a pain pill for heartbreak.
Martir – At kahit na ilang ulit mo pa akong saktan, basta’t sa susunod di mo na ako iiwan.
This is usually ill-advised, but if you can’t help it, why not? “Balikan mo lang ako di na ako magyoyosi/iinom/maliligo! Gagawin ko kahit anong gusto mo! Sige na.” 🙁
Limbo – Nasan na ang umaga, matagal na akong naghihintay wala pa siya. Di kaya na traffic o nasiraan, baka naman, nalimutan na niya.
Ay, eto madalas mas mahirap kesa sa Friend Zone. In Limbo, you don’t know what your status is exactly. And no, you can’t ask for an update.
Tummy Ache – And every time we come together, we watch and we discover that we can’t be together.
Ayun. Deads. You’re two parallel lines that extend on the same plane, but never meet.
Wala – Wala nang Lotlot sa iyong Monching. Wala nang Romnick sa aking Sheryl. Wala nang Gabby sa ating Shawie. Wala nang love sa ating team. Oh, meron pa ba?
Anong gagawin mo kung wala nang love ang inyong team?
Pagkatapos ng Lahat – San na napunta, san na napunta? San na napunta, san na napunta? Ibalik ang kahapon, ibalik ang kahapon, ibalik ang kahapon, bago maging huli ang lahat.
So san nga ba napunta? Magandang tanong yan actually.
Huling Gabi – Kapansin-pansin ang iyong ganda ngayong gabi at ang lungkot sa iyong mga ngiti. Ang kisplap sa iyong mga mata’y wala na, kita sa ‘yong tinging nagsasabing, “Tapos na ang lahat sa atin.”
*Sniff, sniff* Engeng tisyu, pesteng Sugarfree to.
Unang Araw – Wag mo akong sisihin, kung minsan ako’y iyakin, ito ang unang araw na wala ka na. Ito ang unang araw na wala ka na. Nasanay lang sigurong nand’yan ka, di ko inakalang pwede kang mawala. Yan na nga.
Eto na. Ito ang madalas kong tinatawag na “Next Day, Wasak.”
Dramachine – Ayaw na nyang bumangon sa kama lang maghapon, mukha nya’y parang langit na malapit ng umambon. Ayaw na nyang manalig sa tunay na pag-ibig, bakit daw ba kay bilis mawala ng kilig.
If we were discussing the stages of grief, this would fall under Depression.
Insomya – Nananabik, na muling dalawin ng antok. Nananabik, na muling tawagin ng hilik. Di ko alam kung ba’t ako, nagkaganito, di ko alam kung ba’t ako, nagkaganito.
Remember that time? Yung di ka makatulog sa kilig, daig mo pa ang call center agent sa pagpupuyat? Well, ngayon lungkot naman ang ayaw magpatulog sa ‘yo.
Hang Over – Mahirap bumangon, anong nangyari kahapon, pano umabot dito, kumikirot ang ulo at puso.
So uminom ka, pampatulog lang naman, di naman madami.
Get Over It – Sleeping in her clothes won’t bring her back, erase the past. I tell you, this one’s real.
Ayan na, nag-iintervention na ang mga kaibigan mo. Wag kang magagalit, nag-aalala lang sila sa pagche-chainsmoke at pag-inom mo araw-araw. Naghihinagpis na ang atay at balunbalunan mo, baka magstrike sila’t maubusan ka na ng lamang-loob. Plus, hindi masayang magbasa ng emo status messages mo sa Facebook.
Part 3 – “Sana tayo na lang, sana tayo na lang ulit” Phase
Kung Ayaw Mo Na Sakin – Kung ayaw mo na ako, leche, lalong ayoko sa ‘yo. Alam mo naman kung saan ang bahay ko, baka sakaling magbago ang isip mo please.
Ayaw mo na ba talaga? As in talagang talagang talaga? Andito pa yung jacket mo sa kwarto ko, di mo ba kukunin? Hello?
Patawad – Ako’y patawarin, di sinasadya, na ikaw’y mapaluha.
Sorry na please, I’ll do anything balikan mo lang ako. Pasensya ka na may pagkatanga lang talaga ako paminsan-minsan. :’(
Wag Ka Nang Umiyak – Kung wala ka nang maintindihan, kung wala ka nang makapitan, kapit ka sa akin, kapit ka sa akin. Di kita bibitawan.
Tulog Na – Tulog na mahal ko, nandito lang akong bahala sa iyo. Sige na tulog na muna.
Sinta – Pano kung ligaya ko’y bigla na lang mawala? At sabi mo malayo pang bukas, tapos na ang kahapon. Ang mahalaga’y ngayon, nandito ka ngayon.
Wala Nang Hihilingin – Kung gabi matulog ka sa ‘king tabi, di mo lang alam, dala mo’y ligaya. Kung marinig mo ang tibok ng aking puso, sinasabing habang ika’y kapiling, wala na akong hihilingin.
And that’s that. Sometimes it’s a happy ending. Sometimes, it’s not. Either way, di bagay sayo ang emo. Happy Valentine’s Day.