Sunday, February 28, 2010

love for sale

Love for sale. What a strange topic to be discussing at 11PM (or any time, for that matter). Most people were either asleep or out drinking. For my friend and I, this was the only time we could afford to spare each other- a small two hour window for coffee on a nondescript Sunday evening.

After the obligatory his and hellos, we settled into our normal routine. It was then that my friend announced that he may be in love.

“With who?” I asked, with an excited tone that surprised even me.

“Get this: a masseur.”

I like to think I have an open mind and that there is nothing left to shock me but I must admit I was a little floored. I knew he frequented certain “spas” but I didn’t think it would come to this point.

“Okay…” I stuttered. “How did this happen?”

“I’m not really sure myself,” he began. From the look on his face, I could tell he was editing. “It all began after I broke up with my last boyfriend. I was drunk and I felt like getting a massage.”

“And then?” I asked, feeling confused. “How do you go from getting a massage to falling in love?” I’m usually a fan of happy endings but we were talking about massages, not movies so my first instinct was to berate him. But as he told his story, I felt a little compelled to hear it out before I made any rash judgments.

“His name is JR although that could’ve been a pseudo. It began with a simple massage. Afterwards, he offered to sort of fool around and I said yes. We all know that drunken decisions are not the most thought-out.” He paused, lit a cigarette and continued.

“It was strange. I’ve been with other masseurs before but he was different. He was gentle and caring. It almost felt like we weren’t just doing it. We were being intimate.

“But that intimacy came with a very steep price tag.”

“True. Be that as it may, I don’t know. When I went home, I felt really light. You know the feeling that you get when your crush talks to you for the first time? That’s what it felt like.”

“Maybe it was the alcohol.”

“I know. That’s what I thought too but then I came back a week later. I was sober this time and it was like… I don’t know. It was even better than the first time.” He had a smile on his face and in his tone.

“Better in what sense?” I asked.

“The massage was still good. We talked the whole time. We got to know each other a little more. We talked about our families, our lives… we talked about life in general. He’s a year younger than me but he’s married and stuff. He told me about his dreams and I couldn’t help but feel like he was showing me a side to him that even his closest friends didn’t know of. It felt like a first date, if you ask me. The sex was the same. It was still really gentle and beautiful. It just got a little strange when we, uh… when we kissed.”

“What?! You let a paid man kiss you?”

“It just felt right at that time. I heard that masseurs don’t kiss on the mouth. JR did and it was mind-blowing. Hands-down, best first kiss ever.”

“Okay. That’s weird.”

“I know! Wait till you hear the next part. I gave him the usual amount and a couple hundreds extra. I was feeling a little generous. He refused to accept it. They say money can’t buy you love. Apparently, it can. I have.”

The story continued with more details I’m not sure I can write about. They saw each other a couple more times. It seemed to me like my friend had found a new vice. JR started charging him again and my friend was spending a lot of money on this new love of his. Honestly, I was baffled. I didn’t even know where to begin. This was just wrong on so many different levels.

“I don’t know what to say. I mean, it sounds really good but if you think about it, maybe he’s just really good at his job. Good customer service and intimacy are two completely different things.”

“I know but if he was just faking it, it was worth every centavo. Growing up, I had a firm idea on the types of people who went to places like that. Never in a million years did I imagine I would become… one of them.

He was right, too. He had a good job and he looked okay enough. He was never without dates. I never imagined he would be the type of person who would have to pay for sex, let alone do it repetitively. I shut up after that. It was apparent he was convinced to continue this… whatever with his masseur and if it made him happy then I should let him be.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he said. I guess he minded that I bit my tongue. “Money’s not the only currency, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve all paid for love. We’ve all been paid for love.”

“I’ve never…”

“Yes, you have.” he interrupted. “In one way or another, we all have. Your last tryst is a perfect example. Don’t tell me that was love. You only liked the attention. I paid JR with money. You got paid with attention- lots and lots of attention. In theory, everyone loves for love’s sake but at the end of the day, our selfish side prevails.”

“With all due respect, I’m not sure I agree with you. There was more to my last thing than just plain attention. We genuinely got along. Sure, we had a strange ending but we had a lot of good times together.”

“It ended when you weren’t getting the attention you felt you deserved.”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

“I don’t know,” he continued. “What I do know is we often love for all the wrong reasons. Some people love because they’re lonely. Others do it to get ahead- no pun intended. Some do it for revenge. You’ve done it for attention. JR does it for money. I don’t really know where this is going but I think I owe it to myself to at least give it a few more tries before I dismiss it as nothing.”

“Just be careful, okay? You never know these days.” On some level, I understood him. In this city, everyone’s looking for love and if my friend thinks he’s found it then I should be happy for him.

That night though, as I lay sleepless in bed, I felt a bit unsettled. There was a question in my mind that I couldn’t afford to ask. I looked to the night sky for some clarity. I noticed that the moon was on its last quarter. It looked like a toddler’s unfinished project. Convinced that the answers were elsewhere, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Have you ever wondered what price you’ve paid for love?

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

The Corrs
Talk On Corners

Monday, February 22, 2010


Apart from the fact that we share the same birthday, I sometimes wonder if we have anything in common. We watch different movies, we listen to different songs, we wear different clothes… we even take our coffee differently. How odd that we’ve been friends for over a year and have close to nothing in common.

But then I just need to spend two minutes with you and I remember. No, we’re not cut from the same cloth. I’m boring white cotton and you’re shiny red velvet. We are, however, bound by an invisible bond of friendship. Some things just go together like peanut butter and jelly or butter cookies and microwaved queso de bola (mmm… I’m getting hungry), however strange or unexplainable it may be. Yes, we are different but isn’t that what the Coffee Babies are all about?

The Coffee Babies was your thing. You started it. I could never be so imaginative as to put several bloggers with close to nothing in common and expect them to get along. But you did. You saw something in us and for that, I will be forever grateful to you. You were the first blogger I ever met and since that fateful day in February, I’ve met quite a handful- some have changed my life, most have become good friends. None of that would be possible if it weren’t for you. Thank you, Herbs.

We’ve had our disagreements* but I want you to know that you’re okay in my book. You’re a good friend and your art inspires me. I hope you never lose that thing that makes you you. There may be bloggers who will try to take your place. They will be younger and their posts will be more hormone-enraged. They will claim to be more talented and more screwed up than you. Pay them no mind. In our heart of hearts, we know that they can’t lay a finger on our one and only bebigurl.

It sucks that you’re leaving but I know that you’ll have a better life there. I hope you never forget us and if you ever feel lonely, just come on home. We’ll be waiting with a latte in hand with your name on it.

And since I always end each post with a song, here’s one especially for you. You’re an original, baby. Don’t ever forget that. Australia’s famous for their boomerangs. It may take some time but I know you’ll come back to us. Maybe not soon but on an inconspicuous day like the day you chose to gather us all, we’ll see each other again. ‘Till then, take good care of yourself and try not to get into too much trouble, k?

Photo Credit: YJ

Sheryl Crow
You're An Original (Live)
C’mon C’mon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

prelude: touch

From the benign darkness, I picked you out of a line of waiting experts. I called you by your first name- something that placed a few of your peers in distress. Outside a homeless woman was singing her child to sleep. Ang mga bata na natutulog ay mahal ng Diyos. ‘Di kumukupas. Her voice seemed to betray a pain that I could not get my head around. I wondered if she knew what she was singing about.

The moment your hands rested on my back, I knew not to regret my decision to come here. My shoulders tensed a little and then relaxed as if to say Welcome home. You’ve been missed. You were swift with your hands. They were always your greatest weapon. They cut through the tension in my body like a pair of really sharp scissors on onionskin paper.

The oil you used flowed like thick, sweet honey. Okay na po ba yung pressure? you asked. I nodded although I wasn’t really sure if you could see it from the dark room. Under your generous hands, my body felt like butter on a sizzling hot skillet. Your palms on my back, your skin on my skin. I was afraid I would melt away.

Your hands traveled south to the scar that I shield from the light of day. Okay lang po ba ito? Hindi ba masakit? Your thumb ran through its embossed outline. Matagal na ‘yan. ‘Wag ka matakot. You knew everything about my body- each hickey, each bruise, each scar. Suddenly, everything was forgotten. You forgave every insecurity. I forgave every infidelity.

I flinched when your hands were on my legs. They were tired from running away. Running from responsibilities, missed deadlines and dismissed feelings. Dahan-dahan, I begged and your arms eased up. It seemed like you spoke a language only my body could understand. You were lost in conversation. I was no longer in the room. You didn’t even notice when a warm tear fell from my eye.

I closed my eyes so I could understand your secret conversation with my skin. The Muzak played sad contemporary songs from the nineties but your words were still very clear. Shhh… It’s okay. They’re not here anymore. There is no one left to suck the youth out of your fingertips.

I let you travel to all the familiar places. My body responded with a twitch here, a moan there. I didn’t want our time to end but with the fragile ringing of the house bell, I knew it would be over soon. I closed my eyes and allowed the inevitable to come.

Sir, tapos na po. Pwera na lang kung…

The ellipsis- one of the strangest punctuation marks in the English language. Don’t you just love a happy ending?

Photo Credit: fitnesslines

Norah Jones
Sleepless Nights
Feels Like Home [DE]

Monday, February 8, 2010


I’ve never been an envious person. When I was younger, my parents would leave me at home when they went to the mall. They told me I had to earn trips like that. Truth is, they didn’t want me pointing at each shiny object we pass by. When I was a little older and the tantrum-tendency wasn’t so high, I was allowed to buy one thing from the toy store as long as it wasn’t too expensive and as long as I didn’t cry.

It was small things like that that made me who I am now. I understood that things are earned. Nothing is ever simply given to you. You have to work for it. Instead of money, I would pay my mother with test papers and report cards. Quid pro quo, as they say.

Since then, I can’t say I’ve ever been jealous of anyone. If I want something, I save up for it so I can buy it. If I can’t save up for it, I’ll give my mom a really good reason to buy it for me. Even when my mom moved up the corporate ladder and our family could afford more things, I never asked for much. She raised me to know that it means more when you work for things and if you can’t get it, perhaps it just wasn’t meant for you.

That’s why I find it a little funny when I see children throwing tantrums at the mall. We all know that kids have such a high capacity to create drama. This here’s one for the books. I saw a kid crying, rubbing a jar of Smucker’s Goober Grape as she put it back on the shelf. She was sobbing real hard and it was annoying and stuff but if you listened closely, you could tell she was saying goodbye to her beloved spread. From my little spot in the aisle, I went a little closer so I could hear what she was saying.

“Sorry ha,” she began, patting the poor jar of peanut butter and jelly which was now on its rightful place in the shelf. “Tinanong ko naman pero ayaw niya talaga eh.”

This kid was seriously deranged. I’m guessing she wanted her mom to buy her a jar but she said no. I wanted to give her a lesson the way my mom did but I didn’t want to interrupt her little drama session. I took a jar myself, strawberry not grape and I could literally feel her gaze burning my nape.


It’s little thoughts like this that come out of nowhere when I walk around Makati. A few days ago, I was walking near the park in Salcedo when my iPod conked out its last note. I took it as a cue that it was time to rest so I bought a bottle of water and settled on one of the park’s stone cold benches.

I was trying to clear my head when a big yellow ball hit me from behind. My assassin was a little boy, perhaps not older than four. I picked up the ball and with a smile, gently threw it back at him.

“Pasensiya na ha. Natamaan ka ba?” asked the boy’s father.

I assured him I was okay and after playing catch with the boy for a few more rounds, they sort of wandered off into a different corner in the park.

I couldn’t help but stare at the boy and his father. I’m guessing he was about five or six years older than me. How was he able to fit life’s puzzle pieces together so easily? I also saw the boy’s mother. She was dressed in what looked like a bank employee’s uniform but was more than ready to play with her two boys the moment she spotted them. They couldn’t have been that old. They were so young but there they were, in love, settled down and everything. I’m turning twenty-four in six months. This isn’t where I pictured myself to be when I was younger. For one thing, I was pretty sure I’d be married by now.

And suddenly, a strange feeling bubbled up from under me. I could feel my toes quivering with each shake. Envy crept from the grass to my toes until it took over my whole body. I stared at the boy and his father as they roughhoused around the park. Why can’t I be more like him? Won’t I make a good dad? I looked at the boy’s mom as she sat on a bench with a sandwich in hand. Why can’t I have their life? Why am I stuck living mine?

I wasn’t used to feeling like this. It almost felt alien to me- to covet my neighbor’s life. I took these feelings and bottled them up. I walked to my metaphorical grocery aisle and prepared to say my goodbyes.

“Sorry ha,” I began, patting the poor jar of envy and dreams which was now on its rightful place in the shelf. “Sinubukan ko naman pero ayaw talaga eh.”

I questioned the fairness of the world. I questioned the choices I’ve made and when I could not ask any more, my feet led me home- to the house I share with my parents, to the room I share with my sister and to the bed I share with no one.

I understand that things are earned. Nothing is ever given to you. Otherwise, it’s not meant to be yours. But what do you do when you want something so bad but you just know it’ll never happen? Don’t we all deserve to be happy?

Joshua Radin & Schuyler Fisk
Dear John: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Monday, February 1, 2010


“Mahirap ba maging bakla?” I asked. It was a harmless question but it cut through her anyway. Her. What a strange pronoun to use. It’s not one I would like to use but JR, who now goes by the name of June, insists on it.

“It depends. Alam mo naman, maraming klase ng bading.” The others looked at her as though she just told us the world was square and not round. “Maraming marami! Kasing dami ng kulay sa pinaka-malaking box ng Crayola! And together, we all form a magical rainbow.”

“Typical,” I thought to myself. “Lacing truth with humor so it doesn’t seem so blunt.”

“Di niyo ba alam yun? Maraming klase ng bading.” June began. “May bading na parlorista, may bading na effem. ‘Yan yung typical na maingay, walang time kung makapag-pulbo at minsan nagda-damit babae. ‘Yung parating naka-pambabae, draggar. Merong nagpapaka-lalake na walang tigil mag-gym. ‘Yun yung tipong nambabarurot sa kama! Merong mataba. May specific market naman ‘yan. Merong payat. May matanda. May bata. Siguro depende yan sa klase ng kabaklaan mo. Sa Pilipinas, mas madali maging bakla kung pa-discreet ka. Straight acting daw eh nakakabahing naman ang pagka-paminta nila.”

“How ironic,” a friend chimed in. I was grateful she broke the silence. Our more conservative friends were still in shock.

“Bakit naman?”

“For a lifestyle born out of diversity and known for open-mindedness, you people sure do engage in a lot of stereotypes.”

Photo Credit: La mala educación

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)