Tag Archives: Pinoy nostalgia

Dear Neckromancer: Things We Did to (Annoy Teachers) Amuse Ourselves

Dear neckromancer,

We were in school when the typhoon came. Classes were suspended and I had to wait a long time for my sundo that my PSP’s battery died. I couldn’t text because there was no signal. I couldn’t let my notebook get wet from the leaking ceiling, too.  I wonder, how did students from your time amuse themselves?

curiously loquacious

***

Dear CL,

When the teachers made us copy the notes in the blackboard or from our own books, were called to meetings, or otherwise occupied, we students had to be inventive. To illustrate, I made a list with instructions, so you could duplicate them for educational purposes.

  1. SOS: This is a variant of tictactoe played on the last pages of one’s paper notebook. The page is filled with a grid (math notebooks are the best) and players take turns filling out the squares with either an S or O. The goal is to not let your opponent make more SOS than you. So it’s actually less like tictactoe and more like Connect Four. There is no actual score kept, and the game is stupidly simple it merits no bragging rights.
  2. Poetry, or what passes for it: A piece of paper is folded in half once, twice, and another time. It is then filled with sayings, comics strips, and doggerel like, “roses are red, violets are blue; God made me handsome, what happened to you?” These minibooks get passed around like illegal software to solicit chuckles from the class.
  3. Text: Before there were cellphones, we invented short message service. A class monitor would list down talkative “noisy” students, who were charged a peso for every sentence out of hand (not related to the discussion).  So resourceful classmates learned sign language by the letter and talked to each other by flashing hands when the teachers looked away. Despite this system, we didn’t invent jejemon or sexting.
  4. Counting Teachers’ Mannerisms: I think you still do this. This makes the student look attentive and provides the necessary bragging rights.

From a former teacher himself, Happy Teachers’ Day to teachers everywhere!


How I Ruined Radio (Ours)

When I was young (that was 20 years ago), despite my memories of me complaining to my aunts, there was a lot of things a kid could do during rainy afternoons. Most of these things were inventions of fertile minds that desired to escape the same boredom, in so pursuing, was never reached by it. We believed that jumping off the porch should have been an Olympic event, with greater points added if one jumped off the banisters. We bought crackers for one peso and collected the plastic toys placed inside (lead hasn’t been invented yet). We shot each other with bows made of rubber bands and fingers, with arrows made of used plastic straws made stiff and heavy by inserting used cigarette butts inside. We hid each others rubber slippers as a prank to prevent our playmates from going out, and later we threw rocks at each others’ heads when they hid our slippers or threw them on the roof. So sometimes, we had no playmates.

For those times, I would gather my toys and select an old rattan-bound cabinet  and let loose with a new episode of the adventures of whatever action figure I had a fancy to at that time. The plots were taken out of Saturday morning cartoons, Sesame Street and Batibot inspired the supporting characters, and a sprinkling of Shaider provided the weird. I could have written Dora the Explorer episodes. Or maybe I was the black guy in Yo Gabba Gabba.

Then there were times my aunts would complain and threaten to spank me if I leave the odd action figure lying unattended away from its proper storage, so I had other diversions. I was not yet 10 years old at the time, unlike Kevin McAllister, so TV wasn’t my life. Besides, I could only watch it at certain time blocks: mornings before going to school,  Eat Bulaga, and the odd cartoon series (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Ghostbusters, or Vilma) on Friday nights. We didn’t have a VHS player then and I haven’t discovered porn.

But we had a radio. My father bought a karaoke set, some 2 1/2-feet high and a foot wide, it was designed for what people called Multiplex then. There were two cassette decks (one with a record button) and lots of lights and turning knobs. It was the first time I saw a treble and bass control knob, and the first time I learned that big speakers are supposed to throb. My father hoped that this machine was enough for minus one renditions of the occasional revelry. I thought it was a great machine to add to my irregular action figure show.

I was then the DJ of my show. I raided the record collections of my aunts and uncles and thought they won’t mind as long as I played what they liked. I played Air Supply, Asin, Queen, and Enigma. I introduced songs like I was The Triggerman. I made up daily Top Tens, but I didn’t bother with a Crazy Countdown like in DWKC. I would prepare a tape on cassette2 while cassette 1 was playing, rolling it up with a pencil. As the song was ending, I’d put up a chatter, and slowly slide the master volume down. I’d start to play cassette 2 and turn the volume back up. I loved that machine. I used to put stickers on it, to make it more colorful and lively. I almost never got tired of the blinking disco lights.

Alas, time passes, and perhaps my father acquired the machine in a dubious place, or else the ever-present dust gathered in the tape decks. For the tape decks were ruined, in the parlance of that time, we say it eats the tapes. What a ruined cassette does, however, is to chew up the magnetic tapes and spit them out in horrifying fashion. Sometimes the experience is made more horrifying by the mangled sounds the process made.

That was the first cassette deck I destroyed. It was never used for that purpose again, and my family had to buy a small radio just for listening to the voice tapes our OCW relatives sent to us, and for composing such replies. The blinking disco lights lost their sparkle, and the knobs got loose. My uncle had to insert wads of paper just for adjusting the volume. The stickers faded, and the edges began to turn brown as the glue proceeded to decay.

And on the process went, until a flood claimed it at last.


Fandom, or Electric Fan Fancier

Hot nights like these make me curse out if the electric fan performs below par for me. Maybe if had I laid off on the extra rice I wouldn’t have so much body heat. It is times like these when I remember when brownouts were common just before President Ramos was elected. Back then I remembered accepting as a fact of life (I was an early stoic) that some nights I will be sleeping in a dark room with three other people (my parents and my sister) in a badly-ventilated room. Ayoko ng masikip, ayoko ng mainit, ayoko ng madilim!

I learned at an early age the etymology of bentilador. Curious things, electric fans. That was also a good way to teach children what electricity does to help people. An electric fan, as opposed to an abaniko or pamaypay, helps little children sleep during summer. I also became an adept on electric fans. One of the first time-wasters I learned was singing (or just shouting) in front of a slowly rotating fan. When visiting other peoples’ houses my eyes (and sweaty body) gravitated towards the cooling breeze. I cared about brands. I dreamed of owning a 3D (usually looking at old magazines and thinking, gusto ko ito). I cared enough to stick stationery stickers on our old Hitachi. I cursed electric fans that don’t turn. I remember begging an uncle to lend me his hand-held fan, run by batteries, and trying to stick this in body parts that were formerly alien to gentle breezes. I was amazed by my first encounter with a dehumidifier (looks like a tower fan with the ice box). Later, I was disgusted with the owner when I found that the ice box was full of mosquito larvae.

20 years after, I still owe a lot to electric fans. I have experienced comfort by air-conditioning systems, but I don’t think they will replace fans soon for me. For one thing, they are prohibitively expensive. I have this thing with open doors and windows, especially after having munggo for lunch and kamote for snacks. Another thing would be control. Especially when I’m power tripping, I want the fan to circulate the air only around me.  Last, I want to be cool, not cold.

I wonder if people designed electric fans like they design TVs?

***

- Do you know brownouts are unique to Filipinos? Other people have blackouts, we have adobo-flavored power outages.

- A stunt my cousins and me frequently pulled was to stop electric fans with our fingers.


Deconstructing Sunscreen Part 2

And here come my thoughts in italic:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99, if I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. Here is the speaker, apparently facing a gym full of graduates. It is not implied that the speaker is a member of the faculty or even an alumnus of the school, so we might forgive if the advice turns out to be on sunscreen.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. This. And this. This too. Seriously, don’t ever think all science is absolute. Very little of it is.

I will dispense this advice now. I thought it was only the sunscreen?

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. This is the best and most dignified admission of old age I have seen. But power? beauty? Tell that to Mr. Volcano in the back row, the one with the very large mortarboard hiding his humongous zits. Tell that to Miss Sweetycakes, 16 years old. She’s in the hospital, pregnant from a baby sired by her own demon father.

But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You’re not as fat as you imagine. If you didn’t eat so much of McDonalds and Jollibee.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. Sometimes it works. Have you ever heard of intuition?

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. The practical troubles, my dear. The coming rent with no money to show for it and the payday a week away, what to feed Miss Sweetycakes’ unborn child, they are as real as the beating of your own heart.

Do one thing everyday that scares you. And be scared everyday. Great.

Sing. If you sing well, good. If not, advertise where you are going to be ahead of time, especially to people who might not take your singing in stride. Or you can just pack an mp3 player on the train and listen, if you must have your “music.”

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss. Do Filipinos know how to?

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. It’s envy, not jealousy. Get your sins right.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Practice what you preach, sinner!

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. So when the sheriff hauls you in to court for estafa, show the judge the juicy details of your lovelife, but leave the sex videos at home. You might be slammed for contempt.

Stretch. How about compress?

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t. No comment. Hahahahahaha!

Get plenty of calcium. Eat chalk.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. When they’re gone, you’d be walking like your cheap, lead-laden, Made-in-China plastic soldiers.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary, what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Banish the thought. Have fun! But don’t be too disappointed when you fail. (Not “if,” expect to fail. But fail with dignity.)

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.  An instrument of doom, device for the salvation of the world, cog in the machine, or a tool of Divine Sexy Time.

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. You can also dance horizontally. It is the most performed, but not universally acknowledged; enjoyable even without music, awesome when it is; most intimate, but not exclusive; dance in history.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Look intelligent, even if you are not. Then run for public office. Not reading directions but following them anyway nets one a good tour of duty in the military.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Are beauty magazines supposed to be read?

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Not too tightly on the neck or balls.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Travel to both Ayala Avenue and Payatas, eat Haagen-Daz’s then learn what PSP means. If you plan on being a writer you will have a lot of material.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Am I the only person who thinks this is an innuendo for digestion problems?

Travel. Do not forget to pay the customs officer.

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Escape cynicism if you can. Or write a blog or diary if you can’t.

Respect your elders. Respect if different from utter subservience. And forget about “pabaon.”

Don’t expect anyone else to support you.

Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85. Sometimes, I hope that it will.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Like I have been patient with you.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen. F*%k!


Deconstructing Sunscreen Part 1

This “song,” is a 1998 construction of beats and an alleged commencement speech by Kurt Vonnegut, actually a hoax perpetuated on the internet and owned up by Mary Schmich, another writer. Its most famous incarnation is in a song by Baz Luhrmann, an Australian director. He mixed the speech (spoken by Australian actor Lee Perry) with Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good).”

In the Philippine scene, I remember the song causing a sensation. It wasn’t sung on noontime variety shows, nor listeners join in the spoken word like chants, and that was good.

Enjoy:

Here are the words, enjoy them. Later I am going to butcher the meaning from them:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99, if I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.

But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You’re not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary, what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you.

Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.


BS Dictionary

Galoot – is an informal term, usually attributed to Southern U.S. English, meaning fellow, especially one who is strange, or foolish. Comes from the Filipino history figure Januario Galut. Januario Galut is that Igorot credited as being the Ephialtes to Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar’s Leonidas. The hero was tasked with covering Emilio Aguinaldo’s trail from pursuing Americans a la Roland and Charlemagne and the Saracens.

It may have accompanied the word “boondocks” to the States.


Deconstructing Tatlong Beinte Singko

The hit that introduced us to Dingdong Avanzado and the “preppy” look. According to an article by FHM Philippines (see, I read their articles), Dingdong wore those jackets because his family made them.

The song itself is a simple, verse-chorus-verse ditty that one has no difficulty in memorizing it. Beware, listening to the music will result in LSS. Counter with a generous helping of Ke$ha’s Tik Tok.

And the lyrics:

Tatlong beinte singko lang ang aking kailangan
Upang makausap ka kahit sandali lang
Tatlong beinte singko lang ang aking kailangan
Para nasa langit na ako

Sige na ale, papalit ng barya
Sige na please naman ale miss na miss ko na sya

Tatlong beinte singko lang ang aking kailangan
Upang makausap ka kahit sandali lang
Tatlong beinte singko sa isang araw
Tatlong beses ko ring maririnig sa yong mga labi ang

Mahal kita mahal kita
Wala ng iba Wala ng iba wooh
Mahal kita mahal kita
Wala ng iba Wala ng iba wooh

Sige na ale, papalit ng barya
Sige na please naman ale miss na miss ko na sya

Tatlong beinte singko lang ang aking kailangan
Upang makausap ka kahit sandali lang
Tatlong beinte singko lang ang aking kailangan
At Para nasa langit na ako

Sige na ale, papalit ng barya
Sige na please naman ale miss na miss ko na sya

Kaya magmula ngayon iipunin ko ang aking mamera
Tatlong beinte singko para sa isang araw
Tatlong beses ko ring maririnig sa yong mga labi ang

Mahal kita mahal kita mahal kita
Wala ng iba Wala ng iba Wala ng iba wooh
Mahal kita mahal kita mahal kita
Wala ng iba Wala ng iba Wala ng iba wooh

Sige na ale, papalit ng barya
Sige na please naman ale miss na miss ko na sya

***

This time around, I won’t be doing this line by line, for the beauty of this piece lies in its simplicity that approaches Batibot songs. (Don’t worry Batibot fans, I have the highest regard for Batibot songs.)

Now kids, when I was young, the oil that was used to lubricate telephone wires (for smooth calls) was so cheap, calls cost only 75 centavos for two minutes.  Payphones were more appreciated, especially if you were waiting an eternity for PLDT to get around to installing a telephone line to your house. There were no cellular phones, no VOIP, no pagers, not even a delivery service for Hen Lin. And there was only PLDT.

Well, you might say two minutes is a very short time for someone to be calling another, especially a loved one. Then perhaps you haven’t watched Ginebra (as led by ex-Red Warrior Robert Jaworski) go through the last two minutes of a championship game. That was very exciting, especially as an “ending” bettor. Then again, it was a very short one for lovers too, but that was all they had.

As for the “heaven-like” feeling related by Dingdong in the song, (disturbing rhyme) teens who are “in lab” get so excited by the slightest sensation they get with their loved one. There were no monthsaries back then. There were less annulments (until Sharon Cuneta got one and showed us that it is possible with a minimum amount of grief). Silverworks has not yet attained the status it has now. And I think jewelries were more precious when given.

(And kids, as for the “mahal kita” part, that is what we call sweet nothings.)

And yes, the song has a moral. It entreats its listeners to save their “barya,” not for the Pasig, not for the Pondo ng Pinoy, but for two minutes of heaven. When you are old enough, you’ll get your two minutes of heaven too, but it will cost you more, plus the cost of beer.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.