September 2018

Highlights, ramblings, what have you. Here goes! Continue reading “September 2018”

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Lessons from a hairdryer

I can be very devoted to very unimportant things – like hair dryers. The one I have now is a really cheap version of a branded model, and it was purchased recently because of the fact that my hair – after 18 months – was reaching a length that necessitated hair dryer use most mornings. That, or it’s another way I cope with another short-lived oath not to buy new clothes for a while. Affordable hair dryers seemed like a necessary compromise. I also haven’t owned one in quite a while.

I got my first hair dryer when I was in fifth grade. Back then, my sister and I sported waist-length hair that we braided, put up in buns, or clamped into the so-called “shok-shoks” or butterfly clips. My mama, that Christmas, presented my sister and I with slim boxes wrapped carefully in red paper – this was 1999, when some of my classmates were starting to get Nokia 5110s and I seriously thought – for five seconds – could it be? – until the wrapping came off and it turned out to be a travel dryer. Cream for me, blue for Ahlee. If I close my eyes now, I can still recall the dull thud that my heart made as it landed the wooden floor of our bedroom. I can still recall my sister and I cracking jokes and giving knowing looks to each other and putting on half-smiles as we hugged our beaming mama. In retrospect, that was a pretty extravagant gift from my parents. It was a beautiful, practical gift for two girls about to become teenagers. This is how I attempt to atone myself now. Yes, we wouldn’t get our first cell shared cell phone (yes, a 5110), until I was in sophomore high school. But we started to learn using hair dryers in grade school.

But when your social life revolved around extra-curriculars in an all-girls school, you rarely need to show up with perfectly dry, straight locks. So unless it was a weekend, or a family party, that dryer stayed in our messy bureau. I went away for college, and brought that dryer. I started using it more frequently. My dormmates borrowed it all the time as well. Aside from drying their hair, it was used to service damp underwear, favorite tops, and even HUM2 projects. It finally gave up (exploded actually) sometime around 2008, while one of my housemate’s friends was being used to dry a couple of tennis balls. I never mourned its loss though. Although I do remember thinking, it could have lived on longer.

Back at home, and after I graduated, I used my mom’s big orange dryer – one that she’s had since she was a 20-something in Saudi. She hardly uses it herself, and that’s how it’s lasted so long, plus I suspect it was a model way more expensive than our local travel ones. But now my sister and I were working, going out to dinners, and borrowing Mama’s hair dryer all the time. She let us use it of course, and we figured, she wasn’t using it anyway. It bid us goodbye sometime last year. It just suddenly disappeared on our dresser, and it might have died on my Mama when she was actually the one plugging it in. We never talked about it, although I do remember thinking, that one lived a pretty long life.

So last summer my Papa bought Mama this new, very modern salon-grade model. I actually recognized it as the one Asian bloggers were always mentioning in their “what’s in my drawer” posts. Mama still keeps it in its box and I believe I’ve only seen her use it once. But it’s a really good dryer, and my days now are filled with events and awards and various social iterations that I offer up as excuses for coming home really late. So I “borrow” it. But she caught me using it two weeks ago when I forgot to return it in the box. She only told me off by saying that I should put it back properly when I use it. And after all these years, the Christmas day guilt sort of came back, two-fold; first, for not taking care of that little travel dryer as well as she’d taken care of her own ones, second, for taking and taking from her without ever asking or giving back. I didn’t know what to do, except that I realized, with urgency, that I needed to stop overusing one of the few things she has set aside for her own. So that’s how I ended up with my own pink foldable dryer with two settings.

It took me this long to learn a lesson, and as it turns out, I’m still not that good at drying my own hair either. Last week a few strands caught on the thing, and got stuck. Thing was still working but I freaked out because I could clearly see the broken, rough black strands wound around the fan. Today I traveled back and forth, from Marikina to The Fort, to Makati, to get it cleaned at an accredited service center. Because I can be very devoted to very unimportant things. 0930

Papa and Monsters (Old and New)

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Brad Pitt’s Gerry wasn’t just a fantastic Z-killer – he was a scared, nervous father who was hell bent on protecting his two daughters. So you know what World War Z made me reflect so much on? My own father, who used to battle with evil creatures too.

When we were very very young, we had no idea what our father was doing in Saudi – but we believed that he was there staving off monsters for us. And he narrated his “adventures” to us in his voice tapes of stories about “Green Eyes,” or, the vicious green-eyed monsters (Ha! parental lessons on idioms! Jealousy as a monster!) which we four kids had escaped from.

Before e-mail and Skype, there were handwritten letters and casette tapes. I believe Mama still has most of them in a box in our room. Growing up, the story of the Green Eyes was the rationale of why Papa was abroad and why we were here with Mama. The Green Eyes were after kids living in Saudi. Hence, we had been squirreled into safety by our parents and Papa has to stay there to keep them from following us.

There were several episodes of these “green eyes” and I hope I can still find those tapes. My father was an amazing storyteller – and mind you, he had only his voice, recorded on casettes and couriered to MNL. With tremulous afflections and varying high-pitched versions of “tapos, tapos (insert what happened next)!” he narrated a series of adventures, his version of letters to home for us kids. They were our bedtime stories and what we listened to at night. Papa and Mama hiding baby Ahlee in a suitcase. Bolle being too big for the suitcase (haha) but being an agile baby being able to run with Mama and Papa nonetheless. I don’t remember what my angle was but I think I was always the one who was good at keeping quiet (!). Ahloy, being the smallest and being a newborn then, was always handy enough to hide under abayas and coats and pretty portable. In the tapes, Papa would excitedly narrate chase stories of Green Eyes turning corners and being big and all but he and Mama still always managing to elude and con them at airports, at our Saudi house, in cars. They never reached Manila.

Papa also vividly described them in his tapes, and here I am trying to cull that image from my memory: they were big, wet, burnt monsters, with green eyes, dripping yellow tongues, sharp claws. They’re like massive black turds. They’re the scariest thing we could think of as kids, and we had our parents to thank for them. We prayed to Jesus to keep Papa safe from them and to keep them from coming to the Philippines. Papa was our hero and everytime he’d be home he’d have a fresh story of how he escaped them and had to hide in our house for meantime.

I believe it was a very short saga – I don’t think, after those couple of summers, that we ever dwelled on the Green Eyes so much anymore. Eventually Papa stopped telling Green Eyes stories in his tapes and we started school and we learned to fear so many other things like my Mama’s belt or being found out for our mischievousness and many other blurry kid memories. God, but it’s so nice to remember it now.

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Yesterday over Skype, it was me and Bolle telling Papa stories about the house plans, and showing off the new puppies, and there was Papa, blurred and pixelated on the screen, his face covered with worry, squinting through his glasses at the print-outs of the floor plan, and just very anxious if his dream house would ever happen and if we (and the money) would all just fit. Papa is still fighting with monsters, but they’re of a different kind now. We don’t need stories about Green Eyes to understand why he’s really there and why he can only be home for two months every year. We’re old enough now to see his fear, and his loneliness. But that doesn’t make him less of a hero in my own heart.

Papa and Monsters

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