Sunday, October 29, 2006


What the pack?!?

It's amazing how a little schedule change can really pack things up.

Now, I have a packing problem!

Since I was supposed to fly off to Manila this coming Friday, I've pre-packed my bag with the stuff that I need to bring. This includes a lot of my clothes, clothes for my siblings, 8 pairs of shoes, and some Christmas gifts i was able to purchase the past few weeks. It was a difficult task to fit everything in my carry-on, but since I did it with so much diligence and passion, I succeeded in doing so. Great! Just great.

But wait! Before the week ended, I was told that I have to be in China from today until Wednesday. Since the clothes in my carry-on suitcase are for Manila's tropical weather, and the part of China i'm going it is the 6-14 degree area, that means all the things I pre-packed will be useless. And of course, I'll have no use for my sister's clothes and Christmas gifts during this trip.

Now, I'll have to unpack then repack my clothes. And not only that, when I fly back on Wednesday, i've got to unpack and repack again for the Friday trip. I have to repack a lot of my clothes, clothes for my siblings, 8 pairs of shoes and some Christmas gifts I was able to purchase the past few weeks.

Packer talaga!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Two weird experiences... and it's only 4 pm!

In exercising my duties as a helpful citizen and accidental tourist guide in Hong Kong, I've experienced two unexpectedly, pleasantly weird situations today. Both involved helping some poor schmuck (and schmuck-ess) at the MTR and the Mall.


While waiting for the MTR going back home, a tall African woman approached me asking if I could direct her to Tsim Sha Tsui. Being a Kowloon kid, I immediately sprung into action and told her to ride on the blue line going to Sheung Wan, go down at Admiralty, change trains and ride the red line going to Tsuen Wan and alight at Tsim Sha Tsui.

After that brief explanation, she looked at me with those glassy eyes that screamed: "WTF DID YOU JUST SAY?" I explained again, and again she looked like she didn't understand me. Then I did the best thing given the situation. I told her:

"I'll just bring you there."

Since it's just a station away from where I live, I decided to be a good tourist guide and really take her to her destination. We got on the train and I pointed to her where we're going, where we're changing trains and where she's supposed to get off. Once at Admiralty, we took the red train and I explained that we were actually under the harbour. Throughout my lecture, she had this big smile while nodding. (Which often means: "WTF DID YOU JUST SAY?")

When we got to Tsim Sha Tsui, I told her that it was her stop. She looked at me, smiled, then suddenly bear-hugged me and pressed her cheek against mine. Then she said "Thank You" and got off the train. But before she walked away, she looked back and winked at me. At that point, I could only say: "Uhm... take care!"

I reckon that was some "African Thank You Ritual" (not!). It was weird, yes, but it was kinda amusing being hugged by a total stranger.


Lunch time, and I decided to go to the Food Forum at City Super and order my usual Sweet and Sour fish. As it is required before each meal, I went to the restroom to wash my hands. While I was doing so, there was this really old Chinese man who was having difficulty operating the faucet. It was one of those motion operated faucets, and he just couldn't get it to work.

I noticed that he was watching me and trying to imitate what i was doing. But to no avail.

So, what I did was I went to his sink, put my hand under the faucet, and the water started to flow. The old man began washing his hands and soaping it. Before he could rinse, the water stopped. Ergo, I had to put my hand under the faucet again. I did, and the water flowed, and he rinsed.

Now the weird part. Since my hand was still within the vicinity of the sink, he suddenly grabbed my two hands and started washing them!

It was a classic grandfather/grandson moment, something Norman Rockwell would paint or a Life photographer would shoot. The trouble is, he wasn't my grandfather and I wasn't his grandson. He was an old Chinese tourist, and I was just a stranger trying to help.

After "we" washed our hands, he got a paper towel and started patting my hands dry. And as he left, all I could say was: "Xiexie".

Whoa! Two weird experiences and still so early. I'll probably go straight home after this. I think I've had my crazy people quota today.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Anak ng Petula 2

In my continuing obsession over Petula Clark's "Downtown", I've actually searched all over you tube for any video on the song. Ideally, I would've found that snippet from the movie "Girl, Interrupted" in order to relive Brittany Murphy's suicide scene.

No dice, though.

What I found was THE Petula Clark singing THE song on one of THE variety shows during the 60s. (I think.) It was such a blast from the past watching this. The color of the video, Petula's fashion, her hair, they all screamed "Retro." And of course, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

And I must say, if I were a kid during the 60s, I think i'd have a crush on her.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Five for fighting

Nothing helps relax a mind like writing lists. That is unless it's Jojo writing lists and tacking it on our corkboards like he used to way back in Adformatix. Now that's infuriating more than relaxing! Grrrr... But I digress. I picked this list up from the next, and thought it would be fun to fill up.

Here goes:

1. Five Minutes to yourself. How would you spend them ideally?

- Reading a magazine
- Talking to people I miss (that's a lot! My family, Mark, Kin, Elsie, Jo, Prichy, D' Frendz, the SSC gang)
- Helping people who need help
- Lying on the couch with eyes closed and just listening to my breathing
- People watching at SoHo and LKF with a Mango Juice in hand

2. Five Dollars to spend right now. How or where would you spend it?

If it's US$5, which is around HK$35

- I'll look for some hungry soul and treat him or her to McDonald's
- Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream
- Roast Duck Meal at Maxim's
- Tank tops for my sisters from Uniqlo (which is on sale!)
- Doritos and Cheetos and Munchies

3. Five Items in your house you could part with right now?

- All the plastic bags i've amassed
- Old magazines
- Shirts that are either loose or have shrunk
- Useless DVDs that my friend gave me
- Junk from the previous tenant

4. Five Items in your house you absolutely, positively could never part with?

- Family Photos
- Wardrobe Closet (and all the fabulous jeans inside)
- My bed
- My comfy couch
- My uber cool leather jacket

5. Five Words you love?

- Happy?
- Sure.
- Harrumph!
- Eeeehhhhhhh.
- Thanks.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Onion Skinned

Once on the tram, a Filipina I talked to remarked that: "parang ang pino ng balat mo." I guess she said that because: 1.) I have fair colored skin, 2.) you can actually see the veins under my skin. Given that description, i'd imagine how thin my skin could actually be. This is particularly true around the leg area where my skin is whiter.

Today, I realized how thin my skin might be. This afternoon, I bumped my leg on my desk as I was rushing to get something. Then, later in the day, my colleague accidentally hit my shoulder with a book he was carrying.

When I was changing my clothes tonight, I noticed that I had two bruises: one on the leg where it hit the desk, and one on my shoulder where the book landed. The strange thing was, the impact of those two accidents were so, SO minimal. It was just like somebody brushing me a bit vigorously. But the bruises it left were actually a bit big.

The one on my leg is this bright red 3-inch gash, and the one on my shoulder is a pinkish-red, 2-inch, V-shaped welt. I should be more careful next time lest I want to look like I was flagellated by someone. Ugh.

Well, at least when someone remarks that i'm onion-skinned, I have bruises to prove it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Malted Monday

Thanks to an unschedules stop at 7-11, there's a yummy new addition to my breakfast repertoire.

Presenting Nestle's Malted Chocolate drink.

For the longest time, I bought the extra-rich and extra-creamy variant of Nestle. In fact, i'd buy two packs and this would be my liquid breakfast. Today, though, they didn't have that variant. In its place, there was this nice, bright yellow pack - something unfamiliar to me. I picked it up, saw the variant name, and thought of giving it a try.

This is really, REALLY good. Since there's malt and chocolate, it tastes like a cross between Magnolia Chocolait and Ovaltine. There's a taste texture that feels good on the palate, and it feels much lighter than the "extra" variant. Needless to say, I chugged these two boxes in a few minutes, and i'm thinking of buying more later.

Sorry extra-rich and extra-creamy, you've been replaced.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Leather or not

Melvin and I were at Zara this afternoon drooling over some nice leather jackets. Since winter is coming up in a few weeks, most of the brands have brought out their heaviest leather so that people like me can go through the cold still looking nice and streamlined, as opposed to looking like eskimos bundled under pillow thick jackets.

I've been planning to buy a leather jacket since last year. Part of me was against it though since I can only use it for 3 months in a year, and the remaining 9 months, it'll be locked away in my closet gathering molds and mildew. (Hmmm... that sounds like 80% of my wardrobe. hahaha.) In fact, I had a leather jacket in 2003, but I opted to leave it at my parents' place in the US since I won't have too much use for it in Manila anyway. Given that, another leather jacket might not be practical. (Then again, fashion isn't supposed to be practical.)

There are two jackets i'm lusting over. One is a black bomber jacket with motorcycle-inspired zippers in front. The second is a streamlined and suit cut jacket in a brown so dark, it's almost black. I tried them both and Melvin says they both look really nice. He's more partial to the bomber jacket, though.

Anyway, I'm giving myself a week to think it over. Hopefully, both jackets will still be available and in my size this Saturday. If they are, it's a sign.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Attack of the College Boy

I decided to have lunch at the KFC outlet in King's Road today. I ordered my usual Zinger meal: Zinger burger, criss cut fries and Pepsi. Usually, this meal costs $24.50, so that's the amount I prepared. But when the cashier asks for my payment, she said: $19.50 please.

Of course, this baffled me a bit. Initially, my thought was that they have some lunch time promo. But on my way out, I noticed this poster by the front door. It said: Student Saver Meals. Under that promo, students get $5.00 off on selected meals, and the Zinger meal was one of them.

Then it hit me. She thought I was a student!

Now I have two things to smile about. First, I saved $5.00, and second, I really look a decade younger than I really am.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm under a Tax

Oh no! Every year, people in Hong Kong dread this day, and it's finally happened to me.

I've received my tax statement!

Unlike in Manila where it's the company's job to deduct and remit taxes to the government, here, we have to pay for it ourselves. The problem is, usually a person has to pay for his taxes for the next two years! So I have to pay the government my tax dues for this year and the next. Bummer!

The good news is, I don't have to worry about saving up for tax money the next 14 months. That means I can buy anything I want. ANYTHING! Mwahahaha!

Well, it's a good thing I have until January to pay. At least there's 2 months more to scrimp and save.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

She Banks!

This will sound really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY strange, but the more I watch America's Next Top Model, the more I realize how full of practical wisdom Tyra Banks is.

When I first caught ANTM Cycle 1 some eons back, I thought it would be a flash in the pan and it was just another model's way of holding on to the fame she has. But after following Cycles 5 and 6, I've come to conclude that Tyra does know her stuff. And she really knows her modeling tricks of the trade.

In the last 3 episodes of Cycle 6, she was teaching Danielle and Jade how a little twitch can actually change the texture and overall feel of a model's photograph. She taught them how to smile with your eyes without moving your lips. She taught them how closing the legs a bit can turn a "man's magazine pose" to a "elle girl magazine pose." She even taught them how a squint can soften a person's features.

And the amazing thing is, all her tips work. I was flabbergasted at how Tyra did look softer and friendlier when she squinted her eyes. When she smiled with her eyes, I did feel it, and yes, she didn't even move her lips. It's really impressive. All those years of modeling did make Tyra more than a supermodel, she's a supermodel mentor!

Now I have no doubts whatsoever that she's the best person to host ANTM. And I also have no doubts whatsoever that I'm going to be glued every Sunday at 8:30 to watch ANTM Cycle 7.

Monday, October 16, 2006

That's Entertainment!

Lara's wedding invite finally came in the mail today. Although I was half expecting it, seeing it being delivered by our secretary was a pleasant surprise to end the day. It's always nice to receive good new by snail mail.

The invitation is GORGEOUS! I've always been attracted to chocolate brown, so the brown satin ribbon that greeted me was a welcome sight. Their theme is east meets west, and both the overlay and the actual invite reflected this in a toile kind of way. It was refreshing to see something ornate and classy at the same time.

But the biggest surprise of the invite wasn't inside, it was in front. Here it is:

Yup, I think Lara thought I was a former member of the now defunct "That's Entertainment." Actually, I've been called Lester Samonte a couple of times already, but the last one was about 5 years ago. In truth, Carol was a bit reluctant to give me the invite at first. She had to ask: "Lester, do you use the surname Samonte in any of your correspondences?" Then after showing me the invite, I knew it was for me, despite the gaffe. Carol followed up by saying, I thought "Samonte" was another addition to the Lester Edgard Regalado Morales that we know. And she said that if it was, then my name would really be the longest name she knows.

Kuya Germs! Your long lost entertainer is here in HK!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Of kindred spirits and lost souls

Most of today was spent with a new acquaintance named Karen. She and I were invited by Fernan to breakfast at their nice place in Parkview, and this was the first time I met her. Clicking with a first time acquaintance - though not impossible - is also not common. Karen is one of those few instances when the first time meeting felt like a reunion among long lost friends.

Part of it is largely because Karen and I share the same story. We were both asked to move to HK early last year, and we arrived here pretty much the same time. Both of us came here for the same reason - honest-to-goodness regional experience. We both aim for the same thing, bringing back home the things we've learned and use it to make the industry work a bit better back home. We both come from the same school, and conveniently, know a lot of the same people. Our industries are intertwined - she used to be with a research agency and later on moved to a network. On the other hand, i'm in advertising, and as she herself said: "Creative people hate researchers."

That's true, but not in this instance.

Hours after getting to know each other, we found a lot of other common threads. First, we're both still very much attached to the Philippines and continuously long for home. Both our hearts are in the Philippines - she has her husband and her family back in Manila, while I have my family and my life back there, too. But whilst I come home every month, she takes a trip back home every two weeks. She really must miss her husband, and missing a loved one is something I can easily relate to.

Second, we handle homesickness more or less the same way. She told me that whenever boredom and longing for Manila kicks in, she either goes the the parlor, spa or the mall for some therapy. My therapy is shopping, of course. After all, i've got too little hair to cut and am not too big on the spa thing. Karen tells me that she sometimes goes to Worldwide center just to listen to Filipinos chatter - this alone brings her joy, and it's something I've done a couple of times as well. We've talked about uncontrolled "tear rolling down the cheek" spells, and the adrenaline rush that comes with every trip back to Manila.

Listening to her is like listening to myself. Looking at her experiences feels like looking through mine. She's also a lost soul, and knowing her is like finding a kindred spirit. And finding one would actually make life a bit easier here.

Unfortunately, she won't be here for long. After 18 months, she's decided to come home. The call of her heart is so loud, it prevailed over the sound of money, materialism and shopping noise of Hong Kong. She quit her job, she's living the glitz and glamour of this country behind to be with the people who really matter, and the country that's really in her heart. Yes, in a month's time, she'll be back home in Manila.

Of course, I envy her. Doing that is something that has crossed my mind so many times since I first set foot here. Many times, I was just a hairline away from actually doing it - quitting, packing my 70+ pairs of jeans and going back home. But from where I stand now, there's still something to accomplish here: a lot more points to prove, a lot more people to help, a lot more of lives to touch. If it weren't for these circumstances, I might be writing this blog from Makati and not from North Point.

It would have been nicer if we knew each other longer. We could have helped each other guide each one back home. But somehow, knowing her story and knowing she's coming home might just be the guide I need.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cheapers Creepers

There has been a proliferation of unbelievably cheap stuff in Hong Kong lately. Maple is still on sale, and i've got about 30 blouses in my flat (heck, I could open a boutique, but alas, those are for my sisters and some are Christmas presents.) After wandering through Fa Yuen Street, I walked out with 10 "pashmina"(yeah, right) shawls which I got for only $20 a pop. Then, there are the $20 shoes in Isuma (and there are now about 10 pairs at home.) Ugh, I'm such a shopaholic.

Then today, I walked into this video shop in King's Road and they had Koreanovela boxed sets on sale! It ranged from $20-$60 for a box with 10 DVDs and 30 episodes! Now that's really, majorly cheap. (Having been to Shenzhen, I know how cheap DVDs can be, and this, my friends, is uber cheap.)

It looks like Hong Kong is really set to replace Bangkok as my favorite shopping destination!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sticking to one

Aside from jeans, I'm also fond of watches. In fact, they fondly call me "The Watcher" at work because of my penchant for wearing different watches everyday. Peter even noticed that I usually match my watch with my belt, and it gives them a bit of joy to anticipate "what watch will he be wearing today?"

It's actually part of my daily decisions - do I wear a leather or metal strap? Will it be brown, black or green? Crocodile strap or distressed leather? To make the decision making process easier, all my watches are in my side drawer so I can easily open and choose.

But the last time I did that was 3 weeks ago.

Yes, for the past 3 weeks, I've been wearing just one watch everyday. The same watch I wore in Japan during my visit to Mark. This watch right here.

My Mom sent me this watch 2 months ago when my brother-in-law came back from the U.S. It's a silver, Fossil Automatic watch - one of the new watches from their 2006-2007 collection. From the time I first tried it on, I fell in love with it. And why wouldn't I?

The size - albeit a bit big - fits my wrist and frame perfectly. The silver-ness of the watch, even if it's stark, is very pleasing to the eye. The design is simple and classic enough to dress up or dress down. So, on the whole, it's gorgeous! Plus, as Mark says, the best thing about automatic watches is that they're silent - it doesn't tic like the usual watches do.

My colleague actually noticed that I've been using this for the past few weeks. This afternoon, he told me: "Looks like you're just sticking to one now. You've finally found the perfect one for you."

Yup! You're absolutely right.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anak ng Petula

A few years after watching it on the big screen, I got a DVD copy of Girl, Interrupted last night and watched it at home. Aside from Angelina Jolie's Oscar winning performance, one thing about this film that stuck to my subconscious is Petula Clark's song: Downtown.

I've been hearing this song as a kid. If i'm not mistaken, my Dad had a cassette tape of Petula Clark and this ditty would often pervade in the air during Sundays. Hearing it would conjure up images of happy families in the 60s, going down the tree lined boulevards in the U.S. on a weekend.

But after Girl, Interrupted, the song now feels a bit more dark and haunting. Maybe it's because the song was playing in that scene where Brittany Murphy finally kills herself, or maybe its because there's an eerie calmness to Petula Clark's voice. It's the type of voice that would put you in a trance and make you do whatever she wishes.

Whatever the reason is, I now find myself hooked to this song. I've actually been listening to it since this morning, and i've probably heard it more than 50 times already. It's insane!

Then again, Brittany Murphy was insane in the movie, too.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blanc Wall

Pacific Place was all abuzz tonight, and naturally, my Journalist instincts kicked in. Upon further investigation, I discovered a large contingent of Taitais and other beautiful people converging at the Atrium at the ground floor. What used to be an open space was now a sea of black dresses in silk, jersey and tweed. And this could only mean one thing:

There was a fashion event!

Indeed, there was. Mont Blanc, that brand we all know as pens that are wonderful to write with, was presenting their holiday jewelry collection.

Yup, they do make things other than pens. It was hard to see the baubles from where I was standing (which was the balcony), but based on their tarps, it looks like they could give Tiffany's a run for their 925 sterling silver money.

The models were very run of the mill. In Hong Kong, as long as you're lithe and blonde, you can pass off as a model. And there was a couple of generic blonde models last night, like her:

Then there was this other model who was Asian. She was gorgeous, tall, great body shape and bone structure, and she even looks healthy! And her face... Chiseled, big round eyes, cheek bones as high as Mt. Everest - she was like a sculpture that came to life. Her face was perfect!

Too bad I can't say the same for her walking skills, though. She was as awkward as an ostrich wearing rollerblades!

Oh well, as Kuya Ers would say: "Buti na lang at maganda siya." And mabuti na lang maganda yung jewelry ng Montblanc. It made hanging around Pacific Place worthwhile.

Maybe I should get those for my sisters and Mom for Christmas.

Monday, October 09, 2006

In the tube

Mark told us last night that one of the recent commercials we did was actually uploaded on Youtube a couple of times. The thing was, he nor any of the production people did it. Mostly, they were Iya Villania fans who wanted to put their idol on net for 1.65 billion people to see.

It was a bit strange to see the commercial as accessible as this. I had fun doing this commercial. I chose the song, I gave the choreographer the directions that led to her highly charged, head spinning dance move, and of course, the copy. This clip was the only one I could access because it was the only one that could be embedded.

Whoever uploaded this made me smile. After all, she (or he) says that this is "craziest, headbanging commercial ever!" And note that the person actually recorded it from the television set before uploading it.

(Upon further investigation, i have about 10 more other commercials lurking around Youtube. Cool!)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Deed is done

Today is a great day. What made is stellar is an unexpected good deed that I found myself doing in church. It was a simple, and on hindsight, embarassing deed, but it looks like the other person appreciated it so much. And that made it worth doing.

Three cheers for good deeds!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Just my luck

A couple of weeks ago, I was raving about this really nice dress that I stumbled upon and purchased at Zara. It was a printed dress with a purple grossgrain ribbon that I'm sure my sisters would love. When I looked at the rack, they only have the dress in Medium and Large sizes. Medium was perfect for Ate Bullet, but Ate Lissa was a small. I asked them to check if they had a small size in stock, but no luck.

The past few days were spent by me checking out each of Zara's 4 branches here in Hong Kong, hoping to chance upon the same dress in small. But then again, no luck. I became obsessed with the dress that every night, I'd drop just to take a peek.

Last September 14, I went back to Manila with only one dress - a medium for Ate Bullet. As expected, her eyes lit up as she fit the dress, and it fit her perfectly. I felt bad that Ate Lissa couldn't have the same adrenaline rush that comes from finding a pretty, perfect fitting dress.

Today, I passed through Zara in Harbour City en route to City Super for lunch. I knew the sales weren't up until another 2 months, so I really didn't look around. But on my way out, there was this force that stopped me and made me look to my right.

What did I see? It was the printed dress with a purple grossgrain ribbon! It took my breath away! One piece left, tucked in between some plaid, wool blend dresses. I held my breath as I walked to the rack, pulled out the dress, and guess what?

It was a small! And it was still on sale, still with the same ridiculously cheap price tag.

Faster than you can say TRF, I was already at the counter clutching the dress. As Arnie would say, this is fate!

Hey Ate! I've got your dress!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Baby, I swear it's...

Thanks to Peter who gave me a copy of Beyonce's new B-Day CD, I am now officially addicted to the carrier single "Deja Vu." The first track out of her second album borrows the success factors of "Crazy in Love." First, there's Jay-Z's rapping, then there's the steady bom-bom beat that makes you want to just shake your butt and shimmy (which what it does for me), it has Beyonce's vocal acrobatics, and of course, it's got repetitive lyrics that makes it so easy to memorize.

I think i've listened to this song more than 200 times the past 3 days, and yes, I think I know the song by heart already. In fact, I find myself walking along Victoria Park singing this song in my head. And when I do that, there's a bounce in my step and there's a little wiggle in my tush.

Gosh! I hope people don't think I'm insane. Because if they do, then that would really be deja vu.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's it all about?

Alfie and I are the proverbial “cat and dog” of D’ Frendz. We have this penchant for getting on each other’s nerves and fighting.

Considering the history of D’ Frendz, Alfie and I are the oddity – or should I daresay, the aberration – of the group. In our 16 odd years as friends, “fights” are few and far between within the gang. The last major one was the “Tintin-Grace cold war” in the mid-90s.

After that, I don’t recall any big fights nor major dramas between anyone in the group. For more than a decade, everything was calm and smooth sailing, or so it seems.

Unbeknownst to the other Frendz, Alfie and I actually stopped talking to each other and given each other the cold shoulder a number of times. It would often start with a simple clash, and the next thing I know, we’d be “fighting.”

Clashes usually happen when things come from opposite directions. This might be the reason why we’d have these “fights.” Ever since college, Alfie and I were complete opposites. Alfie was disciplined and I was chaotic. Alfie was serious and I was overly carefree. Alfie was diligent and I was lazy.

In my mind, Alfie was the ideal student. I still remember when we first became classmates: it was Philosophy I. We’d all sit at the back row, and she’d sit beside her friend Rizza. They’d always come to class prepared whereas I’d come to class late and praying that the professor wouldn’t call me.

Now, if Alfie was the ideal student, I was the disaster waiting to happen. And eventually, it did.

Alfie and I were again classmates in the advertising class of Prof. Jazmines. (I’m not sure, but I think we were.) For our final project, we were supposed to create an advertising campaign for Trac Corporation – a company that was supposed to manufacture a Pajero type SUV.

My duty then was simple; I was in charge of the print ads. Despite the simplicity of the task, I bombed – big time! On the day of the presentation, not only did I come in late, but I was carrying hideous chicken scratches masquerading as print ads. It was a mortifying experience, and I could only imagine how equally mortified my group mates were of me.

After that incident, I expected myself to be a pariah in the eyes of Alfie and her friends – and it happened – up to a certain extent. I began distancing myself from her group of friends.

During our senior year, our paths crossed again by way of the UP Journalism Club. I was the really, really, really late recruit – joining the club during my senior year. What gave me the courage to join was Grace Paat, who likewise joined the club the same time.

From then came the second wind of our friendship. Founded on writing on the logbooks (and keeping Abe from bastardizing page 69) to buying linoleum for the tambayan, to organizing parties and initiations. This was the time when the bridge of friendship slowly connected Alfie and me.

After college, Alfie disappeared. As it turns out, she moved to Davao to work for an NGO. This was yet another manifestation of how different we were. While she was out there alone trying to change the world, I was with the “yuppies-to-be” in Makati trying to change people’s perceptions about infant formula.

But that was something I’ve come to expect from her. Alfie is, after all, an independent spirit. Among the 10 of us, I can clearly say that she was the first one who really lived, breathed and demonstrated independence.

In college, she would make her own rules and stick by them. Even as young students, I’d always remember her calling the shots whether it’s in school or at home. When we started working, she was the first to move out and get an apartment. In her 20s, she was able to do things that a lot of us took more than a decade to accomplish.

Alfie’s independence is grounded on her maturity, and that maturity is grounded on her level headedness. Mention the word “proseso” and she would be the first name that people will blurt out. She was the type who’d always look at all sides of the issue before answering it.

Here lies another one of her opposites. I usually make decisions based on impulse and instinct. Alfie, on the other hand, would gather all information and almost flowchart it. She’d always look at every possible angle, and that’s where she’d base her decisions. Some of us actually find this “proseso” a bit long-winded, but it’s second nature to her. Just as its second nature for Alfie to be pragmatic and open minded.

And strong. This is another characteristic of Alfie. She has always been one of D’ Frendz’s stronger members.

When her Dad passed away years ago, I remember being at the funeral home as we waited for the wake to commence. Even then, she was a picture of strength. That time, she was concerned about the arrangement of the room, if there was food, and what time we’ll go home. She had an admirable composure that night, and it takes a person of unmatched strength to be able to pull that off.

Despite our numerous opposite qualities, Alfie and I do share some similarities. While being opposites create clashes, physics will also tell us that the clashing of two forces would often result in positive energy. And I think our friendship has a lot of that.

Alfie puts a lot of value into our group’s friendship. In one of her birthday celebrations, she decided to bring D’ Frendz all the way up to Tagaytay for a day trip. She single-handedly took care of every logistical need: from the van that we were to use, to the place where we’ll have lunch, to a coffee place where we’d unwind.

That day created a lot of good memories. Among these, my top 3 favorites would be:

1. Tintin’s exhibiting her penchant for explaining herself. We had a stop over at Jollibee, and not only did she order something, she took time to explain to the crewmember why she’s ordering that.
TINTIN: One hot chocolate, please. Hot chocolate lang ang o-order-in ko kasi kumain na naman ako breakfast kanina.
2. Rona’s impromptu song number at Gourmet CafĂ© Tagaytay.
3. Maricar’s near panic attack while we were maneuvering a dark road going down from Tagaytay. Her screams and gasps of panic are still fresh in my mind – and honestly, I was pretty freaked out that time, too.

Even though these events happened more 5 years ago, I recall them as if they happened yesterday. My mom once told me that you know that a memory is valuable to you when it never ages in your mind. These memories have that quality. No matter how long ago it happened, it has remained young. And of course, it never fails to make me smile.

A lot of the memories we’ve created have this quality. We’ve actually organized two weddings together – Mimin’s and Mayee’s. On the subject of weddings, I was also once her default wedding date. There’s one time when we had a party near their old apartment in Mandaluyong and we discussed Sharon Cuneta with her friend Cris. Then there were many times when we’d have impromptu lunches at Jollibee Megamall when I was still an Ortigas baby.

Another quality that Alfie and I share is our generosity. Alfie is a person who has so much to give. We – D’ Frendz – have been witnesses to the times she’s given herself to someone: sometimes to our delight, and sometimes to our consternation.

She gives herself so selflessly. These days, whenever we can’t get wind of Alfie on a weekend, that’s probably because she’s on a medical mission, or a project at the Bilibid prison. Amazingly, though, even if she gives so much of herself, she still has a lot left to give. As the adage goes: a deep well never runs dry. I figure that Alfie must then be a really deep well.

Right now, I feel a bit odd because even if I recall these details about Alfie, I can’t remember the reasons behind our numerous fights and cold shoulders. All I can recall is that there’d be days that we’d just stop talking, and then in a few weeks, we’d start chatting away like nothing happened.

But on hindsight, that’s how good friends usually are. When the level of friendship between two people is so comfortable, both of you can bicker, bitch, brood and bash each other, then wake up the next day as if nothing happened. In my mind, this is how our friendship is.

If you ask Alfie, she’ll tell you that I really can bicker, bitch, brood and bash. In fact, she’d often get a potshot or two, or 35, from me whenever we’d get together. Thankfully, (and hopefully) she never takes them seriously. I guess it’s because she knows that it’s just “carino brutal.” And if I may add, its really more “carino” than “brutal.”

It comes to a point that whenever I give her a complement, she often holds her breath and waits for the comeback. And more often than not, there is a comeback! I think Alfie has known me long enough to know that I’ll say something mean. After all, I’m consistent in doing that.

Which brings me to the final similarity between us – consistency. In my 16 odd years of knowing Alfie, I can say that she’s consistent. She’s consistently levelheaded, consistently pragmatic, consistently subjecting everything to a “proseso,” and consistently generous.

They say that consistency is the hallmark of character. If a person exhibits the same qualities through decades, then it’s something that’s ingrained in her. And if I follow that train of thought, then it means that all of the abovementioned qualities are really within Alfie’s personality.

I couldn’t agree more, of course. Because that’s what I see when I look at her as a friend and as a person. Even if we’re opposites, we do get along. Even if we’re similar, we manage to surprise each other.

And despite our numerous clashes and misunderstandings, she’s always been there for me. The same Alfie who has always been levelheaded, always pragmatic, always ma-proseso, and always generous.

With Alfie, that’s what’s it’s all about.

Happy Birthday, Alfie! (Ang tanda mo na.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Top Shopping

What’s a guy to do during a long weekend? If I were in Barcelona, I’d probably hang out at Parc Gruell and just marvel at Antonio Gaudi’s insane vision. If I were in Amsterdam, I’ll probably sit in front of Damrak and watch people pass by. If I were in Manila, I’d probably be playing with Javier and hanging out with my siblings.

But I’m in Hong Kong. And if it’s a long weekend here, I shop.

I’ve actually told myself to stop buying any new piece of clothing because my closet is already packed to capacity. Thankfully, I’ve got two sisters back home who are bigger clotheshorses than myself. So today, I’ve shopped for them.

Maple – my favorite source of all things funky – has brought out the all-important, 4-letter word: SALE! Quickly, I swooped in, rummaged around like the proverbial kid in the candy store, and walked out with 11 new tops!

Choosing was a very difficult task, especially since there were more than 200 fabulous tops to choose from. But I had to restrain myself, and was also careful not to spoil my sisters too much. So I decided to buy a few key pieces that would fit this season and last to the next.

Black. Any fashion editor will tell you that black will always be timeless and is solace for people who suffer from the “I don’t know what to wear” syndrome. My sisters, though, love things with a bit of quirk. So, I ended up buying these two black tops: one with a nautical twist, and the other with an embedded pearl choker.

Lace. Romance has been on magazines the past year or so, and it doesn’t show any sign of going away. What best captures romance than lace? No frou-frou lace thingies, though. These tops have stretch lace that gives the body shape, and see through details that give it an edge.

Crafts. Although crochet reminds me of my Mom whenever she’s upset (she crochets glass holders whenever she’s stressed out), combining it with jersey makes for a very easygoing and slightly bohemian top.

Quirks. These tops definitely march to their own drumbeat. One has combines lace with knits and tops if off with a belt made of metal and lace. The other is a soft, eyelet bustier that’s a cross between innocent and vampy. And the other one reminds me of a funky schoolmistress.

Looking at the fruits of my hour-long spree, I could already envision the big smiles that my sisters will have when I come home. But the best part of this spree is that this whole loot cost me less than $500! And for Hong Kong, that’s quite a steal.

Ugh! I feel the urge to go back to Maple tomorrow! Must stop myself.

Must stop myself.

Must stop myself.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Light up the sky!

Watched the National Day Fireworks tonight, and it was awesome.

This is the 3rd time I've seen this while living in Hong Kong. Twice for National Day and once for Chinese New Year.

Tonight's show was the best of the 3 that i've seen. Too bad I didn't bring my digital camera to capture it.