Dear Daddy

It was easy: The family just had to bet on the right horse. If that guy from Negros had won, he would’ve listened to a small number of people who have trouble moving on.

Now you will be transferred from our mansion to the Heroes’ Cemetery, an act that freezes you, in the public’s mind, in the time you were a soldier, when you were patriotic, and pure.

We’re lucky many people – among them the Majestic Nine who’ve rewritten Philippine history recently (yey) – don’t need much convincing to look past your infractions and see only your accomplishments.

The Cultural Centers of the Philippines, the Lung Centers, the Coconut Palaces you had built (using people’s taxes, of course). The discipline you enforced on our people, who don’t like rules. The communists you ordered rounded up and punished.

All this made your foibles – the debt you buried this country in, the $10 billion you stole, the 3,257 lives you had ended – a work of implausible fiction in the eyes of your fans.

What about our countrymen who do know about and probably used to hate that Martial Law thingy? Their ability to forgive and forget leaves me near tears. Can you believe it? We’ve just been repeating the word ‘healing’ in the place of a sincere apology, et voila we’re off the hook.

Now the Libingan, tomorrow Malacanang. Yes, Daddy, it won’t be too long now before we return to the palace whose shoe closets Mom misses. We lost in 2016, no thanks to that tsinelas-wearing, bus-hopping, poor-loving lawyer from Bicol.

Winning the #2 post in the land would’ve been our ticket to the next election cycle. But come 2022, with a friendly incumbent, maybe we can leapfrog to # 1 and rule over this pusong-mamon, amnesiac nation #OnceMore. Winning will prove that your dictatorship was not an embarrassing and terrifying chapter in our history.

Wherever you are, pray for our successful comeback, Daddy. I can’t wait for the blasted hashtag #NeverAgain to stop trending.

Your favorite things

  1. Dinakdakan
  2. Sisig
  3. Burgers esp Burger King’s Four-Cheese Whopper
  4. Pizza esp Shakey’s Texas Chicken BBQ Pizza
  5. Marbolo Black
  6. Tanduay Ice
  7. Pesto Pasta
  8. My weak version of Shiatsu massage
  9. Justin Timberlake
  10. Spotify’s Peaceful Piano playlist
  11. Local news
  12. Candles
  13. Bacon
  14. Holding mini acapella concerts by the window
  15. Action movies
  16. When I pluck white hairs from your head
  17. When I run my fingers through your hair
  18. When I scratch your eyebrows
  19. When I scratch your back before you go to sleep
  20. Our friendship (maybe)

Gora: Bolinao, Pangasinan

The farther one travels from Manila, the less it seems inevitable as home.

The never-ending parade of cars and barely concealed road rage, the perennially packed MRT, the proliferation of gangs attacking commuters (the Batang Hamog, Saboy Bigas, and Dura gangs, to name a few), the circuitous routes, the expensive fares – who has the energy to deal with all of that? It is no wonder people, relieved from the necessity of commuting for work or school, stay at home on weekends, decompressing for the next week’s war with the pace of city life.

I say war because it feels like no one likes this routine of hurrying. Or maybe I am projecting. I have occasionally heard officemates and friends complain that in Manila because of the time and the many vehicle changes it takes to commute, one already feels tired arriving at the office, and even more spent still coming home at night, to manage anything more than an hour of television before going to bed.

This is why I feel, in my old age, I might relocate to the countryside, where I am from, where traffic is a memory of the future, and where nature is one quick jeepney ride away.

One such place is Bolinao, in Pangasinan, where you wake up not to the groans of tricycles, but to the sloshing of waves. You open your door to an uninterrupted sea.

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This was our view from Sundowners Inn, which is located in the town proper. Most of the resorts in Bolinao are along the shore, and are thus more expensive than Sundowners. But if you just need a respite from your neighbor’s laundry blocking your view of buildings long in need of another coating of paint, Sundowners will cut it for you. Sundowners is a shadow of its former self: its restaurant is no longer open – the cook has retired, end of story – and it could use more lamplights, but its lodgings are clean and spacious. An airconditioned room for two costs P1,000 a night. It is a good starting point to try Bolinao’s restaurants in the heart of town.

The most famous is London 2 Bolinao, named after the owners, the British husband and the Filipina wife. Since the husband is Moslem, the restaurant doesn’t offer pork dishes.

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Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the food, but you should try the pancit, kinilaw, fried chicken, halo-halo, and the fruit shakes.

We also tried Adora, which is a good carenderia, and Bolinao Seafood Grill Atbp., an open-air seafood restaurant which serves calamares that’s light on the breading. Bolinao isn’t like Bacolod or Cebu, which are food capitals offering variety on every corner. The Northern Luzon palate, in general, is less greasy and more streamlined than other places I’ve been to.

Bolinao’s landscape, however, is storied. It boasts of the country’s second tallest lighthouse.

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It also has caves, the most intricate of which is called Enchanted Cave. It has a grotto.

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It was too dark down there for my camera, but it has an indoor pool. I looked for it on Google, and here’s one photo from http://www.outoftownblog.com (thank you, Sir/Ma’am).

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We also went to Cindy’s Cave, which is a much humbler work of nature.

Bolinao is also home to a waterfall tucked so far away only the locals know how to get there. We stopped to ask at least ten people for directions because there were no signs. I kind of like that because it means the place hasn’t been thoroughly commercialized yet, and it forces you to talk to people. Plus, the harder you look for the place, the much more rewarded you feel finding it.

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Bolinao’s most famous destination is baby-powder white-sand Patar Beach.

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Patar is a public beach – as it should be – and there are plenty of cottages that cost a few hundred pesos each and have no concept of personal space, so do not come to Patar for self-reflection.

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You can do that at any of the less populous resorts before you hit Patar. In our case, we found a family along the road that rents out their two cottages for a song. They also sell San Miguel Flavored Beer which is the best grease for soul-searching.

Speaking of souls, we caught its Holy Week procession when we went back to town.

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Ritually gathering – for processions to street dances – keeps small towns together in a way that is hard to do for and in the city. Doing things as a group reinforces ties that bind. The defined world of the countryside is calming for the mind rent apart by the seeming limitlessness of city life.

Or maybe it is time for me to buy a car to cope with Manila.

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Home away from (the West Valley) fault

Worry transforms time into a burden.

When Phivolcs rolled out their atlas of the West Valley Fault, it was hard not to imagine being found in a heap of debris when the Big One takes the metro. Living in low-cost condominium whose walls are decorated with cracks the length of lightning, I’ve been racing against time looking for a new apartment.

I expected to find 5,000-peso studios all over Quezon City, but I had forgotten that inflation had pushed them to the perimeter of La Mesa Dam in Quezon City or Muntinglupa at the lip of Lagunda de Bay. Instead, I have found 15,000-peso 23 square-meter shoe boxes which opposite walls your hands can almost touch if you spread your arms across the room.

But there have been exceptions, big enough spaces at prices that don’t make your knees weak.

There is the 38-square-meter unit in a high-end condominium built by a reputable developer which is in the market for P 13,000 a month. It needs some cheering up — a fresh coat of paint, house plants –, and it would be a dream to live there. It has a balcony looking out to a quiet street in a residential-meets-commercial neighborhood. I was going to sign the reservation contract (taking a leap of faith because I still had to look for the deposit and would no longer have money for anything, after rent, besides food) when the building administration could not show me a copy of the structural soundness certificate.

I have asked about this certificate of every building administrator or developer I have spoken with. Either they didn’t know where it was or they heard it for the first time. Reading up on earthquakes, I had come across an article where Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said this is the document one had to ask from a developer before moving into their property.

The friendly woman from Fairview who showed me her condo unit in New Manila didn’t know what it was. Her condominium is along Aurora Boulevard, which is prone to floods. It is close to the LRT; every time a train passed by while I was there, I couldn’t help but remember Angelica Panganiban in Santa Santita. She, the woman, not Angelica, gave me a huge discount and offered to buy any missing appliance or fixture I needed. Rent would only be P13,000, inclusive of association dues and water, for a unit that is furnished and has a balcony. Should I get her unit, she told me I’d have to live with the ruckus of the next-door neighbours, several spa therapists bundled up in one unit by their employer.

The broker of buildings in the Timog area told me she’d ask their architect about the certificate. I was looking into her unfurnished 25-square-meter studio housed in a five-storey condo. When I followed up a few days later, she said that the certificate is part of the occupancy permit, which means that it had been complied with, but the P13,000-unit I was asking about had been snatched away from me.

She was telling the truth because an employee of a condotel in the same area would tell me day later that construction for buildings with more than three floors requires a structural stability certificate, which is the mother document that includes the structural soundness certificate. The structural soundness certificate involves something about seismic analysis. Hurray. This was the very first time I heard something specific and technical.

She narrowed the field for me. The low-rise apartment I spotted in Teacher’s Village, which is under two kilometers from the fault line according to Tremors.com.ph, is no longer an option. Most two-storey houses or low-rises are built, because undertaken by private homeowners, without construction engineers who often (let’s hope) comply with the 1992 or 2010 National Building Codes, which include provisions for the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings. It is the high-rises, bankrolled by property developers and developed by construction engineers, which are likely to have been built with steel reinforcements and used sementong buhos.

My choices now come down to two condominiums which rental prices are within my budget because will be borne with a friend whom I hadn’t known could be persuaded to move back in with me. One was built a few years ago, the other in 1996. The first has a 38-square-meter two-bedroom that has been repainted, and has a command of the city skyline. The bathroom though is so small the shower is right above the toilet, which means the entire bathroom is going to take a bath when one does. The only drawback to this condominium is the building manager who talked to me as if I wasn’t going to be able to pay the rent. She asked my friend who went with me about my background, in Mandarin, right in my presence.

The other two-bedroom is 68 square meters, in a building that was built with sturdy materials according to the building manager, unlike today’s low-cost high-rises. It has two bedrooms, one of which has a balcony, and the other, a four-door closet perfect for my fashionista friend. It has a sprawling common area, a kitchen, a bathroom (with a clear division between shower and loo), and a laundry area I can already picture in my mind will be the home of my hanging plants.

The owner is an amiable Chinese woman who didn’t make a face when I asked about my urban-legend soundness certificate. The broker is one of the nicest brokers I have met ever since I embarked on my paranoid search for an earthquake-ready house. My friend, who was abroad when I went to view the unit, wants to see it before we sign the lease. The building is 5.53 kilometres from the West Valley Fault, half of the prescribed 10-kilometer distance according to my disaster risk reduction expert officemate, but because it was probably built with a conscience, it is looking to be home.

Yesterday, I called Phivolcs and a man named Tolits gave a short but helpful lecture on the phone. He said some of the things we worry about, like the West Valley Fault swallowing up entire villages, are “Sa pelikula lang.” At the worst, the earth will crack open by three meters. Tall buildings which followed the building codes will not crumble to dust. One will definitely feel the shaking though. It is important to secure fixtures because while one’s building may not shatter into pieces, a falling cabinet will most assuredly smash one’s head in. He reminded me that when the Nueva Ecija Fault moved, Manila and Baguio felt it. We cannot escape it, one way or another, he seemed to say.

Postcript

I wrote this two months ago, and I still have not moved. My friend found the condo too far from her place of work and I, my present address peerless.

Gora: Bangkong Kahoy Valley, Dolores, Quezon

In Bangkong Kahoy Valley Eco Resort, in Dolores, Quezon, we stayed in a cottage without walls, making the outside – a tennis court, of all things – as much a part of the inside.

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We loved our straightforward beds and our hanging mosquito nets.

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The cottage comes at PHP 1,600 for four people. There are smaller and bigger cottages. There is also a lodge on the property which has queen-size beds, Wi-Fi, and television, at PHP 6,000 per room. It also has its own restaurant which serves good hot meals cooked by the same warm woman takes your orders, who is also the lodge’s caretaker.

Bangkong Kahoy contemplates, on one side, Banahaw, considered a sacred mountain, home of healers, and, on the other, Cristobal, known as the Devil’s Mountain.

Sacred mountain Banahaw.
Sacred mountain Banahaw.
Mt Cristobal, I think.
Mt Cristobal, I think.

The cool climate is friendly to growing raspberries, lettuce, and all manner of flower.

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The resort’s tap water comes from a tubod at the summit of Banahaw, and tastes clean and primeval.

Bangkong Kahoy's water comes from a tubod or spring at the summit of Mt Banahaw.
Bangkong Kahoy’s water comes from a tubod or spring at the summit of Mt Banahaw.

You can go up the summit where there is also a grotto of the Virgin Mary. For a small fee, a guide will make sure you won’t get lost in the thicket of trees and birdsong.

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On our way up there, we passed by a tractor in the middle of an obviously recently cleared land, a reminder of the steep price trees had had to pay to create this getaway. We were told it would be for some sport (football? mini-golf course?) – how odd to bring the city to where you’ve gone to take a break from it. A small basketball court would cut it in a place built for quiet than competition.

Paving paradise to put up a football field.
Paving paradise to put up a football field.

Still another way to pass the time in Bangkang Kahoy is star-gazing, because there is no smog, unlike in Manila, to conceal an always illumined sky.

Bankong Kahoy Eco Resort, Dolores, Quezon. Contact: Mobile: +63 929 819 8537 or email at bkvalley@gmail.com.                                                                                                                                         

My friend drove so I don’t know how to get there, unfortunately. It was quite hard finding it, and we had to stop and ask for directions many times, but obviously worth every wrong turn. Aside from the lodge restaurant, there is a smaller café which offers affordable buffet meals.     

Idol

Patience had never been one of my friend’s strongest suits, but he discovered that it could be learned when it came to a young man he was seeing, whom we shall know simply as Idol.

Idol, who looked, sa biglang tingin, like an older Daniel Padilla, wanted my friend to praise him each time he accomplished such monumental feats as waking up and getting up from the bed or turning the TV on.

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Loathing the icky feeling of public transportation, Idol insisted on being picked up and brought home by my friend. When Idol had to travel up North for work, he wouldn’t go on a bus because you know hell is other people, and my friend drove him, with no audible complaints, just a soft ‘Hay’ after Idol had fallen asleep just a little past Malinta Exit and given my friend the gift of silence for the rest of the drive. ‘I sometimes feel like I’m just his driver,” my friend would sigh to me.

My friend smilingly paid for majority of their dinners, Idol’s haircut, his expensive Crème de la Mer pore-minimising facial toner-cum-cleanser-cum-moisturiser, and his internet subscription.

Most of the time, Idol didn’t want to be seen in public with my friend, preferring to meet with him mostly at waiting sheds and on street corners with minimal lighting, like they were dealing in drugs. When in a public place, an invisible line would be drawn that could not be crossed by my friend suggesting that they were not strangers to one another. It could have been the perfect set-up for someone who wants to be a spy, but my friend had a simpler aspiration, namely being the significant other of Idol, who to his credit can be counted on to be sweet (he sent butterfly kisses my friend’s way) on the rare occassion he was on a good mood.

My friend also did not mind that Idol was a father of twins (but separated from his wife), which meant my friend would probably look after the occassional needs of not one but three human beings. The colors of conffetti for a joint Jolibee children’s party loomed on his horizon like a temperamental rainbow.

He noticed Idol made putting people down, especially women, into an art. Idol called former girlfriends the B-word at every opportunity, and pinned the failure of their relationship on the girls’ shoulders in the vein of “Umiitim ang siko niya” or “Malakas siya kumain for a girl.”

Once, Idol invited an ex-girlfriend (!) and my friend to cheer for him at an invitational football game, after which Idol showered the ex with expletives (and saliva) because she failed to compliment him for trying his best to make a goal but had not. My friend, by then informed in the ways of Idol worship, reassured Idol that he’d been A-plus-mazing! and that the obviously closeted referee had called far too many fouls in favor of the tall, sculpted and half-British members of the opposing team, the Philippine Mongrelles.

But one day my friend reached the end of his rope.

Things came to a head when Idol made my friend look for him ala Amazing Race, although this happened in a mall in Mandaluyong. Just when my friend thought he was about to reach their meeting place, Idol told him to make a detour as Idol decided to go somewhere else, making my friend start all over again. When my friend finally found him after several detours, he gave Idol a dressing down, the delivery of which was comparable to Maricel Soriano’s immortal “Huwag mo akong ma-Teri-Teri!” to a shaking Zsa Zsa Padilla in Minsang Lang Kita Iibigin. My friend, who not once had brought up Idol’s character flaws with him, told him off, and was ready to sever their ties.

Sort of.

Although that was the first time my friend took Idol to task for an infraction, it was not the end just yet of their almost-relationship. The day after, my friend would meet and talk with Idol, still under a waiting shed, but miraculously during the day. Idol did not apologize – “Aminin mo, nakakatawa yung pa-ikot-ikot sa Starmall di ba?”-, but my friend, in a manner consistent with people who aren’t through with love, found that patience is virtue he was going to be good at.

My biased list of top TV shows in 2014

Television is the most relevant medium today, Steven Soderberg said recently. It’s more profitable. More people turn out before their TV sets and laptops than at movie theaters. But I think that’s partly because TV looks and feels like a great film these days.

I myselft worship the experience of cinema, but television has a different pull. If great cinema is a religious experience, TV is a romantic or filial one. Your investment in the characters in television series is for the long haul. You fall in love with them one minute, and disagree with their choices the next. They become such regular fixtures of your routine, you form a relationship with them. As long as you know they’re not real people, of course, then you’re still fine.

My favorite television shows this year are peopled by unforgettable, relateable, loveable, complex or strong characters; in other words, real people. These shows and characters have made me forget books, which used to be my main thing. In a way, I wish the golden age of TV would end so I could go back to reading, but then again I do not want people to lose their jobs.

Since I am not a critic, I took to these shows and characters because of a combination of reasons, the most overwhelming of which are personal and, even, Jungian in origin. For expert opinion, there’s always AV Club.   

The Good Wife

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I am still not over the death of Josh Charles’ character, but Matthew Goode’s Finn Palmer, the emerging male lead this season, is smoother around the edges, a man your Ma will approve of — granted he’ll want to come home with you, in the first place. I can tell Alicia Florrick’s relationship with Finn is going in the direction of intimacy, and that’s enough to get me glued to my seat through the sixth season. But Carey Agos’ and Kalinda Sharma’s long over-due hook-up also works very well since I love both their characters, especially Sharma who just breaks all kinds of Asian stereotypes out there. As of episode six, I am still missing the personal life of Christine Baranski, who brings gravitas to the show.

The Americans

IMG_1402Keri Russell is so back. It was a pity that the simple act of cutting her hair pulled down the ratings of Felicity to a low it wasn’t able to recover from. But in The Americans, Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings’s steely resolve to serve Mother Russia reasserts her star. She is a study in how public and private roles meld in one persona. Her political mission does not erase her personality, but rather buttresses it, assignment after assignment. Her decision in the last episode to agree, after initially being at odds, with the Center’s directive to raise second-generation illegals is a powerful finish to an interior even melancholic season. The beguiling Nina Sergeevna is also another character who’s held my interest to the very end.

Looking

thCAB3D19KLooking gets the millenial vibe down pat. But it is more than that. The narrative arc is strong, and the characters’s stories gel well and set off each other in interesting ways. I love how unforced everything feels, and how each episode is a vignette unto itself. This is the one of the few series I’ve watched twice. This is breakfast in bed on a beautiful California (or Amihan December) gay morning. And Jonathan Groff is ridiculously good, like blueberry pancake. And Groff’s chemistry with Russel Tovery is just as good, like that of butter and maple syrup. There should be more LGBT-themed series out there like this that capture the travails and triumphs of love in the margins.

True Detective

IMG_1410Matthew McConaughey outdoes himself in this series, packing guilt, pathos, intelligence, and masculinity in one perfect punch of a character essay. I haven’t gotten around to finishing this heavy masterwork, and it will take some time before I find the stomach to do so, but from what I’ve seen so far, this is by a mile the most ambitious and most technically accomplished of all series this year. But I hope Season 2 isn’t too dark, or that I develop a thicker skin.

Girls

IMG_1404Lena Dunham still has it. Season 4 does not have an episode on par with the one in Season 3 where Hannah Horvaths cozies up to a hot doctor played by the smashing Patrick Wilson. That was wish-fullfilling art at its best. But this season is still a treat, a less H-Wood Sex and the City. Plus, Soshana, playing the part of one who is the very essence of annoyance, is always a joy to watch.
House of Cards

IMG_1409Robin Wright’s hair, a celebrity in its own right, deserves an award for defying scandal and the winds in Washington DC. Season 2 doesn’t have a Rooney Mara I can root for, but House whip Molly Parker and chief-of-staff Safina Jaffrey come close. Kevin Spacey should be snuggling with an Emmy for this role, with Matthew McConaughey sharing the bed if need be. This is the best political drama today, with brilliant camera work, and a rhythm that is ominous and urgent.

Madam Secretary

IMG_1411Madam Secretary is West Wing if Aaron Sorkin left the set. I like how Tea Leoni solves geopolitical crises without becoming hysterical, which is probably unheard of in the halls of power. The story-telling isn’t as riveting as Mr Sorkin’s opus, but a series headlined by a powerful female figure, told in a fairly straightforward manner with no messy adultery sub-plot for once, is difficult to pass up.

Newsroom

IMG_1412In a just and perfect world, I am part of the cast of Newsroom.

Favorite TV Character – Female

IMG_1406Leslie Knoppe of Parks and Recreation, for making earnestness and trying hard look cool.

Tied with Sophia Burset played by the fierce Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black, who is the face of the sisterhood. Laverne deserves a permanent spot on The View.

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Tied with Donna Paulsen of Suits, who is the most fabulous woman on TV.  

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Favorite TV Character – Male

IMG_1408Peter Quinn of Homeland for his quiet-waters-run-deep demeanor, monochromatic long-sleeves, and unspoken love for the misunderstood Carey Matthison.

Tied with Harvey Specter, for hiring Donna, and for being emotionally unavailable and perfect at the same time.

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Favorite TV Moment

I do not watch a lot of local television, but I am happy there is a gem called Gandang Gabi Vice (GGV) on Sundays. Vice often goes for under-the-belt jokes, which turn some viewers off, but what Filipino doesn’t? In fact, I think people like her because she takes Filipinos’ overfamiliarity up a notch, filtering nothing like your not-so-favorite aunt making a very public remark on your weight or lack of love life. This year, my favorite moment in television unfolded on GGV: a fictitious, one-episode-only relationship between Vice Ganda and former UST cager Kim Lo. In this magical episode, Vice does not hide his interest in Kim very well, and Kim, unlike some men we know, flirts with her on Philippine TV like the MTRCB, CBCP and his parents aren’t watching. May your tribe increase, Kim.

(All photos filched from the internet.)

To pee or not to pee, that is the question

Dear Bladder, Better luck next time.
Dear Bladder, Better luck next time.

I’ve used men’s restrooms before, and more than my welfare, it’s the men I worry about.

A few men have backtracked and rechecked the sign on the door after seeing me washing up at the sink. If I took a photo every time that happened, I’d have an exhibit by now.

I once stopped a group of burly men in the middle of conversation when I entered a locker-type toilet during a fashion show. Inside the cubicle, I heard one of them make a catcall or crack a joke.

In the college boy’s dorm’s shared bathroom, I and my friends wrapped towels around our bodies like we’d already gone under the knife and were only being prim and proper. What a sight we must have been to our dormmates!

But for many years now, I’ve only been using the female bathroom. As long as I don’t talk (my voice is like Mariah Carey’s – when she goes for the low notes in ‘Someday’), I can pass off as a woman. Unlike when I use a male bathroom, I don’t get funny looks inside the women’s loo.

At my old office, one of the female bosses complained about my using their restroom. At my new work now, we share the female bathroom with another company in the same building. Some of the women from this company have now talked to our administration staff about a ‘bakla using their restroom.’

There are men who feel uncomfortable when transwomen (and gays) use their bathroom. These are the sort of men who feel we are out to get them, that they are difficult to resist.

There are women who feel transwomen have no right to women’s restrooms, that we are still male and are therefore intruding on their appointed sanctuary.

In the world of these types of men and women, we better start saving up for the treatment of our future sakit sa bato, from holding it in for their peace of mind. *

Gora: Tampuhan Cafe, Taal, Batangas

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Rei: Tuloy po kayo!

Tampuhan Cafe in heritage town, Taal, in Batangas, takes its name after an intriguing painting by Juan Luna.

A woman is at the center of the painting, looking somewhat let down, while a man, obviously her paramour, has turned away from her and is looking out the window. Across the street from him, two figures can be made out engaging in small talk, or at least are proximate to each other.

This is a rendition by a local artist which hangs in the café.

IMG_0557A restored bahay na bato, Tampuhan café has a laidback vibe suffused with art.

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It’s so laidback you’ll let your guard down the minute you sit down, spilling your deepest darkest secrets to any willing friend.

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GIRL 1: I am secretly married to Zanjoe Marudo. GIRL 2: Talaga lang ah.

The café teems with paintings

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which are a taste of other, bigger works, housed in the adjoining art gallery.IMG_0563

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Even the bathroom has art. There is a gorgeous life-size mural of a woman clad in Filipiniana, covering her nose, obviously anticipating hell.

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The cafe serves Batangas lomi, which is a thick noodle soup on whose top fan out slices of meat, liver, boiled egg and fish and squid balls.

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They also have excellent traditional Taal pork tapsilog, which made its way to my stomach faster than I could take out my camera phone. For dessert, I had chewy revel bar, the better half of their top-grade kapeng barako. IMG_0586

The food and ambience will make you want to stay longer, which is possible because right above the café are two rooms you can each book for P850 per person, inclusive of that scrumptious pork tapa.

The rooms have antique furnishing, including a prayer kneeler, replicating the habitat and habits of an older time. IMG_0578

The rooms open out to a dining area for families and bigger groups. IMG_0579

From here, you can see the Pansipit River go its merry way to join Balayan Bay.

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Taal is one of the most charming towns I have seen, and Tampuhan has made it even more inviting.

Find out more about Tampuhan Café on their following social media accounts: IMG_0548