Odd Encounters 4

“I like your tattoo. Is it real?” We’re in the middle of a noisy conference hall. My feet already hurt, and I’m not even wearing pumps. My skirt is a little too tight. She has long straight hair, an earnest beautiful face, winning smile. She looks like a Filipina soccer mom.

I always want to say no, not real. I like to rotate temporary tattoos. It’s tempting. I forget people don’t always like tattoos, or seeing them. “Yes.”

We talk about tattoo work and color. Tattoo colors are different colors. They are black and gray. Colored. Watercolor. “It fades,” she says. “After a few years, if you’re not careful. Keep out of the sun.”

“I have one too.” She says. It’s secret. Most women tend to get tattoos in secret places: hip, rib, back of leg, top of thigh. Other women tend to get tattoos in small places: wrist, ankle, the tiny place just under the back of your neck, the tip of your spine. “But I don’t show the others.” Conservative culture sometimes makes for conservative rebellion.

We continue to wait for the meeting to go on break. It’s hard to be different here. They remember differences, even after the years pass: the girl with blue hair, the two people who kissed in the parking lot (but they were married to different people), the Japanese man who went mad in his office, shut himself in. This, that.  They call you siga, like you wade into things to wage war. I think of the dozen tattoos I seriously wanted, and how they lurk under my skin, waiting.

“If I was a bit…” I want to say brave, or dumb, but being brave or dumb isn’t defined by the body art you wear, or the armor you carry. “Crazier, I guess. I would have covered my arms now.” I make this gesture, like pulling on sleeves.

She tells me about her friend — always a friend, the ultra Amazon, tattooed goddess type friend. I wanted to be that girl, I want to tell her but I don’t. I don’t really know this woman. For a moment there, I even forgot her name.


After the Life Altering Break-Up (henceforth dubbed LABU). I went through the mandatory soul-searching Activities.

I drank a lot of bad craft beer and a few good ones, a lot of whiskey, oodles of Black Label, and Double Black. I ran a 10k, tried a few new hobbies, and gave up some others.

Once, in an effort to acquire [redacted], I met up with  L –, a good friend from Baguio at a nearby mall. L — played guitar very well, but also sold [redacted] on the side for extra cash.  As I waited by the tiny Ferris Wheel, listened to the inane loop of children’s songs (these places always seem to have children nursery rhymes sung in little irritating voices). I thought. Hurrah! This is my life. My friend showed up next to me the way spies do in movies, materializing from the nether.

“Uy.” Followed by a friendly shove. L — was gaunt, but carried a beer belly around like a favorite kid.

“Beer tayo?” My treat, since I was buying.


Sometimes when I look back at periods in my life they come back like snapshots.

There was this one sad/happy day when I went to eat with A — at this cute little restaurant in Taft. It was raining, I think, but I don’t really remember. I don’t remember the food because I spent most of the meal with my head on the table, crying. I don’t remember why  (we usually have a purpose, like a gig or an inuman) we met up, but that wasn’t really important.

A lot of the snapshots involve cab drivers. Mostly because I wasn’t driving in the city yet and Manila has snarly, horrid traffic that gets exponentially worse as the weather worsens.

I once sat through a terrific lecture from this old cab driver who happened to be probably the most devoted member of Iglesia ni Kristo. First, he tried to invite me to service. When I demurred, he said. “Iha, sa simbahan mo mahahanap true love mo.*” He proceeded to tell me about his first wife, who passed away and how he met his second wife, and how lucky he was in love.

I was really sad when I got home that day, let me tell you that.

The next week or so, I was stuck in three hour traffic with an utterly insane cab driver who told me how he caught his wife cheating.

He had been deeply suspicious of an affair between wifey and neighbor, who was also one of his closest friends. It was his birthday. They had a little celebration, which became a drinking session for the adults. In time, the number dwindled as various party goers said goodbye until only the three of them remained.

Kuya Driver feigned extreme drunkenness and told them that he was tired and needed to sleep, but that they could keep drinking if they wanted. His wife even tucked him into bed and gave him a good night kiss.

Imaginin mo yun!”**

An hour later, he caught them in-flagrante delicto, on the sofa in the living room. The neighbor ran for his life, disappearing so fast he left his pants and shirt behind.

He then proceeded to drag his wife out of the house to beat her senseless in front of all their neighbors. So badly he knocked out most of her teeth! The guy was also their neighbor, and it turned out everybody knew about the affair except him.

During this cab ride, I was mostly quiet, except the horrified gasps that kept coming out of my mouth. I kept wishing that I hadn’t forgotten my headphones at the office or engaged this particular driver in conversation at all.

I think he noticed, because he tried to console me with: “I had her teeth fixed, don’t worry.”


* You will find your true love in a church. or more colloquially, I was mostly evil and wouldn’t find a good man in a bar, so I better like save myself by hanging around in a church. 

**Imagine that! 

Market Trips

The best kind, where you can take photos and look forward to later eating.


The market was next to a line of seafood restaurants and along Manila Bay.



Select what you like, how many kilos of this and that, have them cook it for you and then chow down.

I love markets, the glistening rows of fish and squid, the lobster tanks, the shrimp.



(The eating, later, was also delicious.)

Doorways and Inanities

Yesterday KH and I were talking by a doorway. No, actually, we were in the actual doorway, chatting about whatever like no one was going to pass through. We were in a hospital. Like true blue Filipinos, standing in doorways like no one ever has to pass through. I was so ashamed.

This is a shoutout to all ya’ll who:

a) Get on the LRT and stand right in the doorway even if you get off 25 stops away. Bonus points if you’ve got a little extra height or weight wise. Bonus points if you don’t bother to move when people need to get out, so they’re forced to elbow you and hold their bags over their heads.

Extra credit if you like to cluster at the doorway even if the aisles are completely people-free!

b) Stand directly in front of elevator doors when they open, and then stare at people when they try to get out. Belligerence is the new black.

c) Stop in the middle of stairways to text, so that people can break around you like water breaking around the tide. Like just come to a complete standstill. People should have hazard lights.

d) Have massive family gatherings in front of escalators. Hugs and kisses, can I push you off this floor, thanks.

e) Stand in restaurant entrances and peer up at the sign, asking, is this it? Where are we? What are we doing here? 

Seriously, we should know better than that.


Last weekend, we went to the 7107 International Music Festival. I’d purchased the tickets in December, before they announced the full lineup. We attended despite misgivings, rumors of a political criminal funding the show, and stupid festival rules. The diversity of the lineup and a chance to experience a first in the Philippines more than made up for it. Plus Red Hot Chili Peppers! Empire of the Sun! Itchyworms! Up Dharma Down! Radioactive Sago Project! Taken by Cars! Kjwan!

Besides, the festival had a no-refund policy except if the event was unable to push through for any reason, like a zombie apocalypse or a major storm.

The Eagle at the 7107 Entrance
The eagle knows you’re carrying contraband. Not.

A Primer on Portable Toilets

Upon entering, I stifled a gasp of horror at the portable toilets. There were dozens of them scattered around the grounds like little blue houses.

“At least there’s plenty of them. Imagine if they only had, like, four.” The BF said.

He had a good point.

Later, when I did feel the call of nature, I stood in front of one, willing it open with the power of my mind.

“This is nasty.” The girl next to me said. She seemed to be deep in the same ritual, except she had her hands out in front of her in a universal gesture that meant nope. 

“Nasty.” I agreed. Inside, despite the heat, it was surprisingly clean and small. It was okay. Nothing earth-shattering marked my first time in a portable toilet. (One day I’ll tell you a story of how I almost peed in a portable toilet, by the side of a road, butt to the highway while cars passed by. I then discovered that I had lice, but not because of the portable toilet).

As the night progressed, peeing became a ritual. Girls held doors open for girls armed with tissue, phone lights/flashlights and sheer determination. You could hear girls holding their breath/speed-praying the precariously balanced plastic contraptions wouldn’t fall over. (I once read a Stephen King story where the antagonist traps the hero in a portable toilet and boy, I really regretted reading it at that point). The men, it seemed, had no issues. They simply peed with the door open and their backs to the world.

Why the ritual? The portable toilets had no lights inside. A simple, overlooked detail that turned peeing into an ordeal.

Portable toilets at 7107
The portable toilets were clean! But no lights, no light. Florence and the Machine lang.

Our second thought was that we were going to starve. Food was priced at P150 and up! The cheapest thing you could buy was McDonald’s Apple Pie, which is made from sayote, anyway.

I’ll tell you a secret. One of the reasons I’m crazy in love with this man is that he seems to be unruffled by things that ruffle me, such as expensive tricycles rides and idiotic prices for food. He takes life as it comes.

Blurry couple pic
Obligatory couple pic, I guess

I’ve never paid so much for a bottle of water (P80) in my life! If there was one thing I would suggest to the 7107 organizers, it’s this: next year, please give us refillable tumblers, charge us P300 for them and then give us water for free. In the long run, it’s more sustainable. I suspect the price of water led to a lot of dehydration incidents. Because if you have to pay that much for water, you’ll end up buying beer or going without.

(Before you comment about bringing one’s own, we had to give our water bottles up at the gate or literally empty our tumblers of whatever we had).

The reason?

“Baka alak laman niyan.” It might be alcohol. Gate Dude told us on the first day. Later, during the 2nd day, my cousin asked a girl drinking from a bottle of Emperador how she smuggled the long-neck bottle in.

She shrugged. “I stuck it in my Survival Kit.” She said, referring to the kits Smart Communications gave/charged for. “They didn’t check it.”


Day 1: Vibes, Hula Hoops and Dancing 

Huge venue!

I was blown away by the stages. I think we stood there for a minute, just staring.

I loved the way they set everything up — far enough apart so the music wouldn’t mix and just close enough for you to see the overall design. Despite my complaints about the small things, the big things they definitely got right.

It was obvious that the organizers love music and love all kinds of music. To be frank, I’m not really a fan of EDM. Before the concert, I even joked that I’d go to the bathroom during Kaskade’s set. (I didn’t. I went to dance).

We arrived late on the first day due to logistics and bus trips. We set up our yoga mat just in time to hear Motherbasss. It was a good way to ease us in — the mix of beats and heavy, heart-pounding drums. After that, the vibe of the first day just got better. It felt cheerful, to say the least. People were happy! I heard the VIP people had a lot of be happy about too: free food, overflowing drinks, even a pool over at the Guess tent. (It sounded epic and yes, I am jealous. They even had PlayStations set up!)

People danced, hula-hooped, did handstands, took pictures. People strolled around lazily, smiled and waved at each other.

It didn’t matter if you were GA or VIP near the stages — the audience area was open and you could set up wherever you pleased. People brought banigs, sarongs, knocked back beers and chilled.

“I’ve always wanted to go to something like this.” The BF said, contentedly, as the afternoon grew late.

“Me too.” I said.

The stage at 7107
Kid Ink and our favorite 7107 ball.



GIRL IN TINY SHORTS, HALF TEE, COWBOY BOOTS: [Insert name here]!  I didn’t know you were here!


There was a lot of that.

As evening fell, we met up with a group of friends. We transferred to their little camp in front of the the second stage. This stage was framed by an elaborate set of carabao horns that lit up into the night.

Parang ASAP-shots lang though.” One friend said, laughing, referring to the camera shots of the band and crowd.

My highlight of this part of the night was Taken by Cars. We ate and get an earful of the local music scene. I’m really happy that the organizers mixed local and international talent. I’m also apparently the only person in the world who wasn’t happy with Kjwan’s set. I thought Mark Abaya was dressed like a 50’s action star and that he talked a little too much.

Eventually, the pounding beats and bright lights of the main stage drew us back. DJ Alvaro was playing by this time and it was an intense set. By now, night had fallen and the winds picked up.

We could feel the heat of the crowd and a couple of my friends even ducked into it to warm up. We danced, we partied and we went home. We were prepped. We were waiting.

Day 2: A Form of Address

Right under the second ray, baby
Right under the second ray, baby

To the Girl Who Tried to Use Her Looks to Get to the Front of the Crowd, 

Hello. I’m sorry we denied you and really, had to elbow you out of the way. I’m sorry you had to try again and again and we just formed a wall to block you out. I know you wanted Kendrick Lamar to see you. We saw you pout and sniff. We saw you try again with the group of Canadians next to us, who by the way, denied you too. We heard dude next to us loudly and emphatically tell you: “No ******* way!”

You weren’t the only one trying to take our spot, tbh. 

Homegrown Itchyworms

We lined up at 11 AM, in the scorching sun. Our friends RAN. Literally, RAN, to get to that spot.

We stayed there the entire day. It was our Thermopylae. We were a phalanx. We didn’t go to the bathroom to keep it. We were literally shaking with hunger by the end of the day.

Malaysian band Scarlet Heroes
Malaysian band Scarlet Heroes with my sister Asia and I
She brought down the sun. UP Dharma Down's set was beautiful. Photo by Asia Urquico
She brought down the sun. UP Dharma Down’s set was beautiful. Photo by Asia Urquico

We were trapped by the massive crowd at certain points and food/water were secondary concerns. But we didn’t mind. We had an end goal.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus!
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus!
Kendrick Lamar at 7107
Kendrick Lamar pumps up the crowd. His pants, man. Photo by Asia Urquico

You see, we really wanted to see the Chili Peppers. We’re big fans. In fact, I’m still suffering from slight hearing loss.

Empire of the Sun. Photo by Asia Urquico
Empire of the Sun at 7107. Photo by Asia Urquico

I do have to tell you though, that it was worth it.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Waited over 10 years for this moment!
Flea = WOW
Anthony Kiedes
Anthony Kiedes. Photo by Asia Urquico

Next time, line the fuck up. 



P.S. I rarely bring big cams to concerts, because I prefer to enjoy the vibe and music so most of the shots here were taken with my iPhone (sorry about the blurry shots).

P.P.S. If the line up is as good next year, I’m definitely going again! 

This year

As always, I begin every year with the pledge to write more about things that matter to me, even if I feel that they don’t matter to others

Planner and black ink
This is what happens when you give writers planners — they just think of them as extra notebooks

I will take more photographs that are not selfies, or dogs 

My labrador Mai
But I find dogs to be the best of subjects

This year I plan to conquer mountains — in a literal sense, although the prospect sometimes terrifies me. I imagine only the cold, and not the stark black rock above the treeline or the pleasant burn in your muscles that comes from walking for hours.

I guess this is why people love the concept of the newness of the year — it’s the possibility of wiping the slate down and looking forward to being someone new. I don’t want to become new though. Just more.



Random Manila


Last night I found myself in the middle of an argument about Jamie Lannister. We were standing in the middle of the street, in an abandoned expo area. I kept watching the way the light spilled out. We’re very passionate about our passions, oh the fandoms.

Inside, they were playing another card game that wasn’t Magic the Gathering, but was made by the guy who made Magic. I can’t seem to find it on Google! Any clues?

I also randomly encountered two old friends and made a new one. It was a good night, even if I ended up waking at 10 with a massive hangover and a vague sense that I should curse the gods of drink. As if I had nothing to do with the tequila and beer I had last night. 


Earlier in the day, we visited a friend who kindly let us into his home to look at old maps of the Philippines made in the 1930s. I wish I took more pictures, but I felt kind of ashamed, photographing someone else’s home.

He pointed one out. “This is the estuary, I don’t know if it’s there anymore.”

wpid-2013-08-01-15.07.15.jpg wpid-2013-08-01-15.07.28.jpg

He also said, almost wistfully. “I have another map. It’s very old. 1910. It’s the forest cover of the Philippines.”

I drank cold clear water and felt very sad when he said that. Mostly because our forests have been decimated. We don’t do a good job of taking care of the environment at all.

I also learned that the reason star sapphires are named so is because of the peculiar, beautiful way they refract light. Manila is just so random.


Tonight, I’ll be attending a screening of a Cinemalaya entry with my best friend.  This year’s entries are lovely, but Transit stands out. A few of my film buff friends have been pretty vocal about how good the movie is!

I’ve posted the trailer below for you:

I’ll also plug Zig Dulay’s movie, which I also plan to watch:

To balance the indie, I also watched Bakit Hindi Ka Crush Ng Crush Mo, a romantic comedy that I found myself enjoying immensely. The fact that my best friend was part of the creative team behind it has nothing to do with it.


Enjoy your weekend!