My First Tag Game: Proudly Philippine Made

>> Thursday, May 24, 2007

Day after day I click on blogs and I see more and more people drastically changing their content to accommodate a fast-growing phenomenon called "blog tag games". Whoever started this is probably the same genius behind the now famous "Don't Read This" Youtube chain-comments or the "Forward this or else you die" chain-emails. It's just a matter of time before these "blog tag games" become terroristic acts really and include outrageous threats. But anyhow, there's always a first time for everything. Thank you Blogie for the initiation. This is probably a good way to gauge if the people you think are reading your blog actually read your blog.

Without further ado, here are three things that make me proud to be Filipino.

1. EDSA People Power Revolution

I was too young then when it happened but even if I wasn't there to witness it first-hand I can still feel that overwhelming sense of Filipino pride everytime I hear the theme song "Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo" (sad to say they only play it during the anniversary). The song sums it up. It is the Filipino's moment in history, his contribution to the whole world. I just hope that these politicians will pick another venue the next time they do the "people power" thing so as not to trivialize the original EDSA.

2. 7K+ Islands!

A lot of Filipinos don't realize this because they are used to it, but to people born in large continents, the idea of 7,106 islands is unfathomable. In the office alone, I had to show to my Chinese or Sudanese officemates video clips of the islands to prove to them that I was not making it up. I myself pretty much appreciated this only here in Doha when, everytime I say the fact, my audience gets wide-eyed with wonder. And why not? Countries in the Middle East (Qatar included) are "making" islands because they are not blessed with such amazing natural treasures.

3. The Festivals

Filipinos are fun-loving and creative people, so creative in fact that we need to express it through Festivals, countless of them. Whether it be for nature's bounty (Kadayawan Festival - Davao City), or to uplift the community's spirit in times of tragedy (Masskara Festival - Bacolod City), to honor a saint ("too many to mention" applies here but one good example is Sinulog Festival - Cebu City), or to dispel rumors (Aswang Festival - Capiz City), Filipinos are apt to organize grand and colorful festivals. Almost every city in the country has its own fiesta. It's not impossible that soon there will be a festival happening somewhere in the country for every single day of the year.

So that's it. It wasn't that bad after all. My turn to tag 10.

I'm sorry guys, don't bother with this if it ain't fun for you: Kala, Maxie, Jinoe, Portia, Joey, Hani (of course it has to be "Three Things That Make Me Proud as a Paki" for you my friend hehehe), Roa Ming, Andie, Lola Odette and Maui Pacquiao. Ignore if you must, no biggie.OUT


The Ghosts are Knocking Again

>> Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It must've been around 5PM when I heard the faint knocking on my bedroom door. My room doesn't have any windows so the only light that kept it from being pitch black came from the cracks of space of the AC unit. I was alone in my room. I wasn't expecting anybody, so instantly, I felt suspect. I hesitantly approached the door and tried to ask who was knocking. No answer except for three more soft taps on the door. I opened the door slowly, placed my feet as a doorstop and allowed just enough opening to see who was on the other side.

I was already thinking of worst-case scenarios and the worst thing that could happen was: someone would try to grab me as only a hand could fit through the opening, then I would close the door and slam it on the hand, thereby hurting it which would cause it to retreat and that would be the time I would close the door, lock it and call for help.

But when I opened the door, there was no hand, instead, there was an old lady, all wrinkled in the face but with neatly-fixed gray hair. She wore an old black dress with a pink collar. She looked lost and sad. When I opened the door, she instantly leaned closer such that her face was almost going through the door (I didn't think of this scenario! what to do?!). I felt my heart race. When she was close enough I saw that she had completely black eyes, then she said in a raspy voice "I need a typewriter," to which I hastily replied "No, I don't have," and quickly closed the door but careful not to slam it for fear that she might get offended and decide to grab me anyway.

I stayed for a moment more then slowly went back to bed to resume my nap. That was when I woke up. Yes, it was a "dream". To me it was more than that because this has happened several times. It was not an outrageous dream sequence. It seemed more like an out-of-body experience (OBE).

I have never felt scared of this building where I work and sleep. The interior looks like a funeral parlor and it's extra ghastly at night but I believe that monsters or ghosts have a sense of geography. For example, I can only laugh at the thought that while walking in the desert, a manananggal ("remover" in English) might suddenly swoop down on me and eat my heart. A white lady would appearing in one dark corner would be a joke since most women here wear black. Such concepts do not exist here in Qatar.

But the knocks tell me a different story. The first one came from a lady. There are no specifics, I only know the gender. But while I was on my bed, I "awoke" slowly (or maybe this was the OBE part) and I saw her silhouette on the door. The door was wide open and she was just standing there looking at me. Then I went back to sleep (or to my body).

The second one was particularly funny. I was on my bed as usual then I "woke up" when all of a sudden the door swung open and revealed an Arab man shouting "wake up" repeatedly amid the clanging of a bell-like sound. I actually woke up and laughed a bit and texted my mom about it at three in the morning. At first I thought the man was my boss but now I realized that he wore Arab clothes and not Sudanese clothes.

The third one was weird. As usual I was on my bed and "awoke" because someone was caressing my penis. I looked up and saw the same lady I saw the last time. Still no details on this lady. I just know that she has shoulder-length hair. She disappeared a few moments after I "woke up" and then I actually woke up.

The fourth was the only scary one. I was on my way up to my room. After turning off all the lights in the office, I went up the dark stairway. When I reached the top I paused on the hallway leading to my room. The toilet door at the far end was slightly ajar which allowed a faint fluorescent light to illuminate the hallway. I froze because I felt that somebody was waiting for me in my room. And I knew that my body was back there sleeping, and somebody was already there beside me, waiting for my spirit to return. I decided to make a lot of noise on my way to my room, so much noise that I woke myself up.

The old woman from yesterday was the fifth "knocker". I don't know why they have to knock in my room and why they need to knock when I'm asleep. I've always wanted to see a ghost but I hope they'd show up when I'm really awake.OUT


How Was Your Day?

>> Sunday, May 20, 2007

There are a lot of things happening in a day while you're in it, but on routine days, "OK" should be enough an answer.

I woke up and started to press my clothes. It took me twenty minutes to finish pressing a pair of pants and two long-sleeved shirts--this means that I need at least one full day to finish pressing my wardrobe that's now piled up inside a big plastic bag. Tomorrow then.

I went downstairs to the office. From the stairs to the service kitchen, I uttered "Assalamu Alaikum" six times. I made my coffee and did small talk with Khaled. I timed my conversation with him. Small talk with Khaled starts with the weather and mutates to religion in five minutes.

Today, the topic was "buying a girl". Khaled asked me how he can buy a Philippine girl. I told him that if he buys a Philippine girl, he'd be buying a prostitute. What he meant by "buying a girl" was giving a dowry. I explained to him that Philippine girls only need to fall in love (if it's still true anyway). "We Sudanese do not believe in love," he said. I almost pursued the generalization but then I remembered that this was the same guy who didn't know what a "candy" was (seriously). I shrugged and wished him luck in finding the right inflatable. "What's an inflatable?". But I already pressed my ignore button.

The boss' wife called. Another rush job. "Take pictures of the new resto and make stunning profile in less than six hours," she said. If Donald Trump decides to retire, she or my boss can host The Apprentice. They are fond of giving short-notice challenges. I rushed to the resto's location with the boss' brother, I can't find my camera crew so I left without them.

After an hour, I was back at the office. Young Yang approached me. "I'm leaving tonight," he said smiling. I see fireworks and a grand buffet. Everyone must be rejoicing that he's leaving.

Young Yang is notorious for creating trouble. This 21 year-old Chinese kid's English vocabulary consists of the most offending words formed into the most politically incorrect and insulting sentences. Everytime he opens his mouth, eyebrows cross. Just last night he got the Indian receptionist pissed because of simply being Yang. Shouting and table slamming ensued. He'll be back in two months though. I asked him to buy me DVDs in China. "Yes, in China, only 3 riyal, this DVD. Maybe you want PS2? Or something a game maybe? What moooweh you want?" I wished it was longer than two months.

The other Yang, masseur Yang, passed by us holding his right side belly. He had his appendix taken out. I haven't seen much of him in the past two weeks. Sometimes I wonder if he's just a ghost now.

I finished the profile in less than two hours, got it laminated and had an early dinner.

Half a chicken heavier I went back to my desk and checked my vitals.

Guests come in and out. Calls answered, transfered and dropped. Forms filled up, visas printed and the boss arrived.

A few minutes later, my mom buzzes me in YM.

Mommy: How was your day, pangga ko guid?



Hedonism and Digital Karma

>> Thursday, May 17, 2007

I've been listening to Skunk Anansie's "Hedonism" for a long time now but I haven't really brought myself to googling the meaning of the word. With karma asking for my dues last night, I finally came across Hedonism in a thick Ethics book.

Epicurus was the Greek dude who came up with this concept of Hedonism--the pursuit of pleasure or happiness (spelled with an "i"). Like other philosophies, this Thought also became hotly contested by the ancient and even modern nerds. Meanwhile, some pervs today cling to the idea and put fun twists in it like Sadism or Masochism and Suicide. Hey, whatever gives you pleasure, right? But knowing all these gave the song a whole new meaning and I find the lyrics brilliant even in its simplicity because of Skin's affecting interpretation of the concept and haunting rendition of the song. (The one below is the acoustic version).

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Anyway, back in college, I passed my Ethics class without attending it. My Ethics professor was Van's family friend and he agreed to give me a free ride. Now, after two years, I'm learning Ethics again. This time, it's for real. Van always says that nowadays, Karma is digital. Mine must be on a 386 computer cause it took two years before it caught up with me. Looks like I'll be earning the 85 grade the professor gave me after all.

I only have a week to read all five hundred pages of boring college textbook and write a comprehensive book review. Whoever reviews textbooks? Well I guess Qatari colejialas do. A certain Maryam called me up and asked if I can write a book report for her. I charged her QR200. Alright, I admit, I prostituted myself. I need the money, OK?

I should get back to my reading. So far it's interesting. And Karma, if you're listening, "I hope you're feeling happy now."


I'll Be Gone Til November

>> Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I woke up early yesterday because I knew the boss would be at the office early too. I knew this because the previous night, I gave him my resignation letter. And if there's one thing I know in the six months that I've worked for him, he keeps his early mornings free for tea and the sometimes unexpected meetings or, as the case presented itself, resignations.

I went down to the office from my room at 7:00 AM, anxiously waiting for the result of my letter like a father waiting for his first-born outside the delivery room. The boss wasn't around so I went out to grab something to munch just so the butterflies in my stomach would stop sucking on my intestines.

When I entered from the back door, after chowing down a 2-riyal chicken sandwich, I saw the boss at the far end of the hall holding his mug of tea. He was headed toward his room. For a moment we stopped right on our tracks, the several feet between us seemed like miles. Two gunslingers at the break of dawn, one was holding a black mug, and the other was trying to tongue some chicken sandwhich remnants in between teeth. Western music played in my head.

I searched for signs. He smiled at me = he's in a good mood. He's not using the mug I gave him = I'm headed for Hong Kong. But then he's always in a good mood if he's earlier than everybody else. And he has stopped using the gigantic mug, er beer stein, I gave him since the day the office boy had to put two tea bags just to balance the flavor with the water.

"Assalamu Alaikum, kef Javee?" The boss said. Suddenly my western soundtrack crossfaded to belly dancing music. Six months and my boss still doesn't know how to say my name, this I thought as I sat on his office sofa. Come to think of it, except for the boss' kids and the Flips, everyone else says my name differently. Javee to my boss, Jafer to his wife and the rest of the Chinese, Pei Ja Roong to some Chinese, Javis to some officemates, Jafar to the office boy, and Jeff to the maid's husband.

"Did you read my letter?" I asked him, but of course he did. I'm sure his wife also read it. His son even read it. It's just a matter of time before everybody gets to read it and then they'll encase it in glass at the national museum as one of the rare three-page resignation letters that actually worked.

"Yes, I did," the boss said matter-of-factly after sipping tea. "What you wrote were true and reasonable," he began. He explained some points, clarified some issues, made some adjustments, released some promises and asked, well, pleaded, for me to stay. I felt relieved. A big weight was taken off my chest, and also that piece of chicken meat between my teeth finally came off just in time to save me from an embarassingly wide and chunky smile.

Wyclef jean & the ...

For the first time ever, I actually looked forward to work! My spirit was renewed. I was overwhelmed because I was ready to leave for Hong Kong. I didn't even spend my mom's birthday present just in case I needed to buy my ticket to freedom. That's why when the boss agreed to my demands point by point (and something more) I said yes.

I'll be gone til November then. Six months more. Is half a year shorter?

I went out of the office feeling great and loved and important. Later that day, I found out from my spies that my boss and his wife discussed my situation until late in the evening.

Meanwhile back at the office, three separate and loud arguments boomed around the office halls. People were crazy. I don' t know what they were talking about. I savored that moment, that for the first time, I was the happy worker around the office. No troubles for now. OUT



>> Monday, May 14, 2007

My mom, being a true blue Ilonggo, fancies the word "moda" which means "fashionable", "fad", or "the in style". When we moved to Davao, she didn't care much about Bisaya and when she's around my Bisaya-speaking friends, she'd start off talking in bad Tagalog, and give in to her Ilonggo roots by the time she got to her second sentence. And everytime she'd say "moda" my friends would secretly laugh because "moda" is Bisaya G-speak for "mother".

Like most Filipino mothers now, my mom is proudly OFW, and like most OFWs my mom has a story to tell. What I will tell you though, is the day we baked a cake.

I was probably around 8 or 10 years old, when my mom decided to try her baking skills. And why not? She bought new measuring cups and she borrowed my auntie's oven (or was it an improvised double broiler, I cannot remember). It was the perfect time to bring out the rusting mixer from the cabinet and use it once and for all.

She measured each ingredient carefully. She tried to look like an expert baker but when she turned on the mixer, jolted and said "Ay, kalbo!", I knew that she was a noob and she was hanging on to that recipe book for dear life. My role was to lick all excesses from the bowl and the spatula. This served two purposes, one, it helped for a quick wash, and two, the official taste test.

The taste test was sumptuous. But to carry that same taste after the fire test was a whole new ballgame. My mom panicked when, after three hours, the top half of the cake still wasn't done. We've already used up all our toothpicks and have graduated to using forks to see if the cake was ready. We stopped pricking when we officially made the supposedly flat spongy surface looking like a moon replica.

Finally, we made it. We made an edible pair of leather boots. The cake came out overdone on the bottom part. Only 20% of the cake was cake. The rest was, as I've mentioned, edible leather boots. The texture was so tough but I devoured it as if I was Hannibal Lecter on a face buffet. I seriously loved it. It was the most delicious chocolatey goodness I have ever tasted.

What I'm saying is, my mom is different than most moms. She can't bake, but she passes on recipes for a better life. Her hands may be hard on dough but her touch is as soft and warm as freshly baked bread. We only see her once a year but her voice is always loud and clear as if she has never left our side. She hasn't read us too many bedtime stories but when we chat she'd tell the most intriguing real life anecdotes that can put my blog out of business if she decides to blog herself.

My moda. She's different but I wouldn't want a different moda. I love you mom, happy Mother's Day.OUT


Random Resignation?

Mothers' Day. 10PM. I find myself at Coffee Beanery, reading Love and Other Near Death Experiences, a novel about life's randomness and how the simplest action can lead to major life-changing events or death. On the table is my White Cafe Mocha, and one whole chocolate cake for the boss' wife. I have been reading the same sentence for the past ten minutes. I finally stopped reading the book. I bookmarked the page using my folded-up resignation letter.

After half an hour, I was already inside Lee's room and he's reading the three-page letter. For those who have already filed this kind of letter, you'd know that a three-pager is quite long for a simple resignation. Yes, it was a personal letter and that's why I went to the boss' house instead of at the office.

I told Lee to give it to his father. I didn't want to be there when he arrives. I'm not a coward. It's just that I don't want the boss to speak right away after reading my sentiments. I want to give him the chance to formulate his reply.

I left the cake for Lee's mom. I find it disturbing to be giving a good news and a bad news to my employers at the same night. At the back of my mind, I thought it was a cunning idea (if I had planned it anyway) to have the boss' wife root for me as he weighs my demands.

I'm ready to leave Qatar though. I have set my mind when I put my name on that letter that I will accept whatever the outcome. Honestly, I expect that he wouldn't give in to my requests. The only thing that's sure is that there will be a major change, and such change may be sooner than I would expect.

Lee walked with me out of the house. We saw his mom turn at the street's corner so we dodged out of sight. He couldn't go far though so I went alone. "Good luck, man. And enjoy the shuffle," Lee shouted as I trodded out of the compound. He has been reading my blog, my big fan (so he said).

Ah, the purely random shuffle. I have forgotten about that. OW has been in the shuffle mode for more than a week already. Is life really random?

I took out OW, selected the "Doha Nyts" playlist and played Vienna Teng's "Gravity"--the first on the list. I haven't played this playlist for almost four months now, I thought. Then, I pressed "More Options" on OW, selected the shuffle option and turned shuffle off. I've had enough randomness for six months. It's time to regain control of my life.


God, Clarity and the Muse

>> Wednesday, May 9, 2007

After my birthday, I've decided to let it go, to stop ranting and to get through my remaining days in Qatar as quietly as possible. But some voices are just too loud to ignore.

The other night I had a conversation with God. I was doing my nightly walk and passed by a Mosque. I promised my mom that I'd pray on my birthday, and since I didn't do it I thought I should at least give a shout-out to God or Allah, whichever name He preferred here anyway (it would depend on His passport I suppose). I did not stop and pray, it was more like, I was praying while walking, but directing all thoughts to a minaret and hoping that the speakers protruding from the windows also held a microphone so God can pick up my thoughts.

I asked for clarity. I realized that in six months, I did not achieve anything here. I complained most of the time and made some people feel bad while I did that. I asked Him to at least give me purpose or the sense of it. Before you give me 40 Days and a book (and a complimentary key chain and t-shirt), spare me, I'm not that lost.

I said I had a conversation with God. A conversation means that a message was sent and a reply was received. I say that because I think He answered me. Right after I left the green on the Mosque's compound, Natalie Merchant's "Wonder" played on OW:

"they say I must be one of the Wonders of God's own creation, and as far as they see they can offer no explanation. I believe fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle. Know this child will be able. Laughed as my body she lifted, know this child will be gifted. With love, with patience
and with faith."

Merchant, Natalie ...

Of course I brushed it off as a coincidence. OW was still on shuffle mode and it's not like I'd deliberately play it just to make it all cinematic and force goosebumps on my skin. But then, as I walked farther I met the PC Guy who was trying to convert me, and while it's not unlikely that I'd meet him there, it was the first time that that happened.

I'm crazy, I know. I'm not good in math but when I add these two together I can only assume that my prayers have been answered (damn! I wish I had prayed for a million bucks! Clarity. What a loser. LoL). The instances did not offer me a particular message. But the assurance that I was heard and acknowledged was enough.

Then, this morning, I woke up with a solid idea. I'm going back to my writing. Not blog writing but scriptwriting. And I have to do it before I leave Doha. That will be my purpose here!

Enough ranting. Enough complaining. I don't care anymore that I woke up sweaty today because my friggin Chinese roommate has low tolerance to cold temperatures and has turned off the AC just as the dawn's heat was creeping up. I don't care anymore that last night the boss made me write emails at 11PM. I don't care anymore that the office is impossibly loud today with thousands of people talking er shouting in unison.

Actually, I do mind that last one. Shut up, people! I'm trying to think now. The muse is back and she only has two weeks on her visa. I need to write while she's still here. I need to write while I'm still here.



The Shuffle

>> Sunday, May 6, 2007

Tonight I got out of the office at 9:30. Before, I would've felt guilty leaving my post while the boss is still around. But now, I don't care. The office has been a crazy place since the very start. Its lack of organization or even the simplest system results to disgruntled employees (yes, including me--surprise surprise ey?) who can't wait to get away permanently or temporarily. That's why it was a good decision to walk to a distant cake shop to get sapid sweets while listening to Orange W (for future reference, this is what I'm calling the Walkman phone from now on or better yet, OW). OW was on shuffle mode and it got me thinking, how does shuffle work? What brilliant technology is behind it? Is its randomness an act of fate or simple mathematics? Then, back to reality where our own shuffle in the office has happened yet again.

I've been a victim of the famous iBoss Shuffle a few times and I know how it feels. Without any advance notice he'd just tell me to go to the internet cafe and take the shift there. His employees are just songs on an iPod, play, pause, skip, stop. Tonight though it was somebody else. And I feel sorry for this Nepali guy, our office boy, because he gets shuffled just cause some smart a$5 at the internet cafe needed some detention.

Yep, the office also doubles as a boot camp. Got some staff that needs spanking? Send them to us, free of charge. We'll even send our best office boy in place of your man while he cleans toilets in our office. The shuffle lasts for a week or a month depending on the damage done by said staff. And while the boss thinks he's got it all figured out by taking disciplinary action, we get our schedules disturbed and tasks doubled because we need to "train" the piss-offs.

When I got back to the office, the boss had left and I found the next-door PC guy (guy who works at the computer shop next door) lounging on our side of the court. Two nights straight now I would find him sitting in my comfort zone so I had to ask. "I'm working here now" he said. See? The office's "system" is so random that you never expect what's going to happen next--a secretary goes AWOL, a PC guy gets recruited--and the boss doesn't even bother to explain the turn of events. We figure it out for ourselves.

Then PC guy told me the whole story, from his whole miserable year under PC Boss to how my boss saved his career two days ago by offering him a job here in our office. "So how's your boss as a boss?" he asked me finally. I had a lot to say but didn't. I didn't want to spoil his fantasy job. And besides, my story needs a case of beer and sizzling sisig and PC guy, being Muslim, won't even tolerate a Non-Alcoholic Bud much more a minced pig's head on a hot plate.

"I noticed that you like to read, yani, so what do you like to read in, yani, particular?" PC guy said nodding at the book I was holding. I know where it's headed, he's going to convert me, he wants me to read the Quran instead, I thought. But I'm glad I was holding the right book, one that has a deceivingly friendly title but with an attitude: Love and Other Near Death Experiences. I almost laughed when I showed and read the title to him.

He talked a little bit more but in my mind I already pressed the mute button and spaced out. If the boss can do it, so can I. I watched PC guy's mouth move but there was no sound or maybe I refused to accept any sound. Tonight, it's my shuffle working. Stop, play, pause, skip.


Birthday Gift Came Early

>> Tuesday, May 1, 2007

It's still three days before my birthday but already somebody gave me a wonderful gift. I just found out today that I've been listed in Qatar Visitor's list of Best Blogs in Qatar. The news comes as a surprise because I have never expected other people to read my posts except for my family and friends. I can only hope to extend my readership outside my circle and it's a slow progress. So, to the guys in Qatar Visitor (John is it?) thank you so much for the recognition. You've made me feel welcome not only to the world of blogging but also to Qatar.

Also, I would like to thank Derf for the truly fabulous header he made me (there are three actually). I'll be using them in the months to come. Derf, I'm still working on the button thing. For some reason blogger won't display linked images. Anyway, it's complicated but will figure out a way to do that soon.

Special thanks to Blogie for adding me to the Davao Blogs RSS feed, I truly appreciate it my friend.

So I guess that wraps up my blog sponsors hehehe

If any of you wish to give me gifts, I'm still accepting presents until May 31. OUT




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Thirtysomething educator who holds the secret to the meaning of life. =P

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