traffic analysis

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


(Photo courtesy of Kevin Engle. On left is Felicidad Reyes to her right is her sister, Manuela Vargas)

(I am posting excerpts from my Uncle Gras Reyes' essay "Embers In My Father's Fireplace" which saw print in the Ani publication The Literary Journal of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Jan-April 1991 Edition. Kevin Engle a friend I recently 'met' on Facebook recently posted an album featuring old photos of Baguio City. In the album, I was surprised to find two photos of my grandmother, Felicidad Reyes, included. Those photos reminded me of these excerpts...)

"My father (Atty. Francisco 'Ikong' Reyes) married a market vendor, a "career" she started when she was a grade schooler. She would not be allowed to go to school unless she sold rice cake early in the morning. Before sun-up my grandmother would already have cooked rice cakes (puto) ready to be sold while hot and steaming.

"Her father died before she finished intermediate school. In his deathbed my grandfather advised my mother never to be without merchandise. Thus, my mother became a vendor all her life, selling fruits and vegetables in the city market. My father once told her to stop being a vendor because his law practice could provide more than enough for the family but my mother refused. My mother countered: 'Don't ever introduce me to your rich clients or your friends in high society because many of them happen to be my customers. When they learn that I am your wife, they stop buying from me.' but how could my father avoid introducing my mother to people?

"Elected as president of the Rotary Club of Baguio, president of the Lawyers League of Baguio, once a city councilor, organizer of the departments of law of the Baguio Colleges and of St. Louis College, and either chairman or member of several boards and communities of civic organizations and reputedly the number-one practicing lawyer in the city of Baguio during his heyday, my father had to attend important social functions where he had to bring my mother. My mother hated dressing up like society matrons, but she had to. And when she did, she was completely transformed into a pretty, affluent looking woman.

"My father once asked one of his clients in a party if his client knew my mother. 'Of course, I know her,' said the client. 'I met her a couple of times in other social functions. Besides everybody knows anybody's wife in this small city.'

"' No, you don't know my wife,' my father said, whereupon he pulled him close and told him to take a closer look at my mother.

"'Yes, of course, I know her. What's the matter with you?' said the client. My mother tugged at my father's sleeve and motioned him not to tell the client, but it was too late. My father said, 'She is the person you buy your vegetables from in the market.'

"The client turned pale. Aghast, he said, 'Oh, no.' The reason my father told him who my mother really was could possibly be the client's way with my mother when he bought vegetables and fruits from her. Not knowing that my mother, the vendor, was one and the same person as the wife of a successful and popular lawyer, he was discourteous and bossy and ordered my mother as though she were his servant. 'Put those vegetables and fruits in the bag. See to it that nothing gets crushed. And   bring the whole bag to my car. I don't have time to go around the meat and fish sections. Buy me some meat and fish. I will wait here in my car.' My mother would quietly obey. That was how she maintained him as a customer. But due to my father's revelation, she lost him as a customer. The client became a mayor of Baguio in spite of himself. People say, however, that it was during his term that Baguio plunged into its most decadent period. Gambling and prostitution became rampant.

" As a toddler I was brought by my mother to the market and allowed to play on the cement flooring while she tended to her store. The market, she said, was clean, 'Peep under the stalls and you can see the market from end to end -- no trash. It was common to see mothers pushing prams while doing marketing.' My mother also said that she could leave her store untended and nothing was stolen; she would come back the following day and her fruits and vegetables would still be there as they were when she left them. Sometimes she would leave petty cash in her cash box and no one bothered to open it nor steal a single centavo. By today's standards, that was too good to be true. But my mother said it was that way in Baguio before the outbreak of World War II.

"Incidentally it was my mother who first made and sold straw flower garlands, better known as cuentas nga everlasting. She also introduced strawberry jam, as taught by an American missionary. The Good Shepherd Sisters used to buy strawberry jam from her and later they made their own.

"The public market was never crowded except during the Holy Week when many visitors from Manila came up to Baguio. During the Holy Week Baguio was transformed from a sleepy village into a bustling city. After that burst of activity the city once again slowed down. And when the rainy season set in, the place became cold and gloomy. For me the dreariness was compounded by the beginning of school days. Relatives and friends who stayed with us during the the months of March, April and May all went home to Manila after the 'summer' session of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Baguio. The gaiety of three months -- the picnics, excursions, movies, games, parties and rain-free days -- changed overnight into gloomy, somber and tedious school days."


Lately I have noticed how members of the younger set seem to be so vain. I'm talking about those gays in their late teens to early 30s who preen and check themselves out in any reflective surface available, every chance they can get, which is about every minute. 

It is impossible to keep a conversation with these types because they never really pay attention to you as they are busy touching up their overly-smothered-with-products hairstyle. They fold their sleeves and tuck in their shirts in the most contrived manner. They accessorize more than Madonna (during her Material Girl days) and they retouch their make-up so often they end up looking like espasol from Laguna.

The Vain Gay (VG) is easy to spot. He obviously works out as his toned body in fitted clothes would attest. He wears the latest styles, preferably the designer brands. He doesn't smoke and doesn't drink too much. He is too poised to make a fool of himself when inebriated so he prefers to keep his alcoholic drinks to a minimum. 

When you refer to his being gay (you assume he is gay because, uhm, he is sooooooo gay) he puts on a defensive stance and claims he's 'experimenting' or 'versatile'. But then you see him checking out all the more straight-acting guys in the bar. Or the cafe. Or the mall.

Here are 10 Tips To Annoy The Vain Gay (VG):

1. When VG cuts in while you are having a conversation with a potential mate, feign concern and ask VG: 'Is that a zit on your chin'?

2. When VG enters bar, cafe or mall and obviously shows off his newly purchased outfit, go up to VG and praise his sense of style then scream: "OMG! My sister bought the same pair of pants from the ukay-ukay for only 100 pesos!"

3. When you spot VG in the mall carrying his shopping bags of designer goods, mention to your companion/s loud enough for VG to overhear: "Hey, I just read in the latest issue of Vogue that (pick a brand among VG's shopping bags) is no longer hot!"

4. When you and your friends are enjoying yourselves in a bar, laughing and exchanging witty conversations and being the center of attention; and VG tries to join your group, quickly change the topic and discuss the difference between Pure and Applied Mathematics.

5. Tell VG that his brand of cosmetics/facial care was recently found to have cancer causing ingredients.

6. Find out what VG is allergic to. Spike his drinks/food with it.

7. Feign sincerity and ask VG: "When did your parents find out that  you were boring but beautiful?"

8. When VG steals your boyfriend, spread rumors that VG has a small dick from all those muscle-enhancing hormones he's been using.

9. Spread rumors VG has athlete's foot.

10. Tell VG a new Reality Make-Over Show will air on TV soon and that you entered his name as one of those who want to have a make-over.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


It's not what you're thinking. Stop snickering. Sorry no eggplants in this chapter. Everyone remembers playing with their food at one point in time. And who can forget the lashing we all got from such activities. My friend Dondi told me of how he and his siblings would gather by the dinner table, each with a spoon in his hand. As the hot rice was served they would all place the back of their spoons on the scorching rice and wait a few seconds. As the spoon would heat up they would then 'brand' each other on the face or other exposed body parts. What a racket they would make till their yaya or mom would break up the fracas and thus they would begin to eat. Day in and day out. Same routine until they got older and tired of the silly game. 

Aside from the bahay-bahayan and tinda-tindahan my cousins and I used to play, we loved play-acting as well. We would peel suha seeds or patani and with its natural adhesiveness attach these at the base of our inner eyes and pretend they were teardrops. On and on we would emote and ape the dialogues we would hear on the radio dramas. Improvising our very own soap operas. Red chiclets were our lipsticks. We would lick our lips and generously rub one chiclet on them until the chiclet was plain white. Our lips were now coated with the red coloring. Sometimes Nips would be used and we'd end up with yellow, green or even brown lips. But chiclets had a moist better quality, enough to rival Mama's precious, imported lipsticks. I would cry out "Mama, I didn't try your lipstick, I ate chiclet!!!" Every time we had chiclets my younger female cousins and I would play Charlie's Angels.  

Sometimes we would lock ourselves in a room, and with blankets and bed sheets as gowns, we'd play Ms. Universe with Lolo's rattan cane as our scepter, the piano's keyboard muffler as our sash and from old shoebox cardboards we fashioned a crown. Chiclets of course served as lipstick but were also now used as rouge and eye shadow. Santol or any hard, round fruit in season we would tuck in our shirts for breasts. That's why we had to lock the door. For jewelry we had Jack 'N Jill Chippy. The curved ones we would attach to our earlobes as earrings and insert some in our fingers to serve as rings. I believe my mother knew of these games and would prevent us from locking ourselves in the room lest we scatter crumbs on the bed. But of course I knew the real reason was that she didn't like the idea that her son had dreams of becoming a beauty queen.  

One favorite food my cousins shared was the Nissin Cheesesticks. These came in a plastic bag tied with a gold string. The cheesesticks were really salty and went well with cold soda. My cousin Carla discovered a great prank with these. Once she quietly hied off with some cheesesticks in her hand. When she returned she gave a big smile revealing cheesesticks arranged vertically inside her mouth. She looked horrible at the same time funny. She was like that evil nemesis of James Bond -- Jaws. Recalling it now, she resembles Hannibal Lecter with the steel helmet and the steel bars covering his mouth. I would later repeat the cheesesticks prank when I was in college and it was a sure-fire hit among friends in the canteen. (Folks hoping to try this should have a glass of water handy just in case they choke from all the laughter once they try it). 

In sophomore year at the UP Baguio High School, we were introduced to Greek Mythology by our English teacher Ms. Leonida de Leon. We marveled at the stories of Medusa, Arachne, Pan, and Narcissus among others. Batches before us told of the culminating event of Greek Mythology class, a Greek-inspired foodfest. This was one of the highlights of sophomore year. The class would be divided into several groups. Each group had to come up with dishes inspired from the stories we learned in Greek Mythology. We would then invite other teachers to  judge which group had the most appetizing, original and inventive dish. Batch after batch had 'Medusa's Hair' or spaghetti with meatballs, the presentation or execution making the difference. The redder the sauce, the more terrifying, but spaghetti nonetheless. 'Ambrosia' was fruit salad served on a carved-out watermelon. During my time, Ms. de Leon banned spaghetti and fruit salad altogether and admonished us to be more creative and original. I forget now what my group cooked but here's a proposed menu to top all other entries. Batch '84 should be proud of me. 

For starters I'd have 'Narcissus Soup'. A clear vegetable broth flavored with thyme and oregano. So clear you could see your reflection in it. Perfect for the ever self-conscious adolescent. Next course would be 'Aphrodite's Bread & Fava'; freshly baked bread with dollops of pureed, creamy, yellow split peas as homage to the fair Goddess of Love. Alongside I'll serve 'Arachne's Fritters' (or critters); deep-fried locusts (okay, okay locusts are not spiders, I know) accompanied by avgolemono; a lemon-and -egg sauce. After which I would lay-out 'Poseidon's Eels'. Eels fresh from the Greek Streams (-Of- Consciousness). Poseidon must have had, I surmise, domain on inland bodies of water as well; the eels spit-roasted with tomatoes, their drippings mixed with ground nuts, sesame seeds and crushed garlic as sauce. Next course, 'Perseus' Guts'; or Garthoumba -- chopped liver and innards wrapped with lamb intestine fresh from the oven. Main course: 'Zeus Moussaka'; a hearty meat and vegetable stew. For dessert I'd serve 'Atalanta's Golden Apples'; poached apples with a rich chocolate sauce enhanced with gold flakes from a famous liquor. YUMMY! 

Back in the mid-80's my mother and I once decided to catch a screening at the old Pines Theater along Session Road. It was still early evening we had just come from the market with some ripe bananas and a bag of bread, but decided to catch the comedy despite not having seen it from the start. Upon entering the dark aisles we could hear laughter from our right side, slowly and slowly, the entire balcony had begun laughing. I wondered what was particularly funny with the scene when there was no dialogue exchanged but was merely a montage of traveling shots. As my mother and I found our seats, the viewers in our aisle were snickering uncontrollably despite their efforts to suppress their laughter. It then dawned on me, the entire second floor was laughing at us for as we traversed the aisles, our silhouettes had clearly shown we were each carrying a bunch of bananas. The movie being shown was 'Bad Bananas Sa Puting Tabing'. Terribly embarrassing.  

Speaking of movies, don't you ever notice how Filipino cinema has incorporated the partaking of food as a major development in a movie's plot? Consider 'Lollipops and Roses at Burung Talangka'', one scene shows Nora Aunor stubbornly eating burung talangka, licking her fingers mockingly as Don Johnson complains in the background about her nasty habit and the stench from her preferred food. This was the precursor of events that would  lead Nora Aunor to end up with Cocoy Laurel. In 'Madrasta' the eating of lobster was used in two separate scenes to divaricate the steaming animosity between Sharon Cuneta's nuclear family against the one she had tried so hard to fit into. Although  lobster was cooked the same way in both instances; in the former, lobster was relished with a casual almost comical ambience as opposed to the latter wherein they ate the crustacean formally and in a  stiff manner. These dramatized Sharon's character's ever-growing alienation. 

The love affair between food and cinema is not totally Filipino. Western movies have exploited food in their themes as seen in '9 1/2 Weeks', 'Like Water For Chocolate', 'Chocolat' and even 'Fatal Attraction' wherein Glenn Close cooks Michael Douglas' daughter's pet rabbit to prove her point that she wasn't 'game'. Lately in the Philippines however, we have taken the relationship of food and storyline to extremes. With 'Patikim ng Pinya' and 'Kapag Ang Palay Naging Bigas, May Bumayo' , I rest my case. Have we so lost our cinematic tastes? And will we ever produce another great movie chef the calibre of Brocka?

(I wrote this essay ca. 1999 - 2000)

Monday, November 1, 2010


I learned to bake at an early age. Like most kids, my first venture into baking was the brownie. It was my cousin Pia who gave me the recipe and taught me to bake. Later on I graduated to making banana bread, scones, muffins, pastries, cheesecakes. Everyone has cooked brownies. Brownies with cashew nuts (or other nuts), marshmallows, raisins, etc.-- or a combination of the above. One summer my cousin Dimbo stayed all day playing in the sand at the beach. He grew so dark we called him 'brownie' the rest of the year.  

At the UP College Baguio in the 80's we sometimes made and ate 'adult' brownies. My dear friend Joji (bless her soul) gave me my first brownie. Although I am not/wasn't ever really gung-ho over marijuana, I do have fond recollections of the organic stuff. Joji was batches older than I was but had stopped school for some years and by the time she got back to the university we found each other sharing same classes, our major being the same. That particular morning in the campus, I saw Joji yet cramming for another exam and had joined her. She was nibbling on some brownies (at 730 in the morning) and offered me some, with a wink. I got a small piece, with a smile. We started out studying, sharing our notes and books but ended up talking, laughing, tripping on the grass (the grass growing out of the pavement in the front of the lobby), smoking our cigarettes continuously and still laughing some more. Our light-headed giddiness carried over to our classroom wherein our teacher in the middle of the exam asked us to leave the room with our bluebooks and all. We both did pass the course just the same. And became good friends. 

Joji was way out cool. She had a nice shag, comfy jeans, hi-cut reeboks, and an old beat-up chedeng she inherited from her father. One time she picked me up from the house and brought me to the top of Wright Park past the lake of Mansion House. Once there, she got a bottle of rhum from her bag and toasted to yet another boring schoolday. Yes, she introduced me to rhum too. Rhum that we drank by shots followed by coke. (The softdrink, mind you.) Or whistles when no chaser was available. 

Joji was the first friend I 'came out' to. It wasn't at all dramatic. Although my other friends in high-school and college had probably known I was gay, just like in my family, the matter was never discussed. With Joji however, out of the blue, she one day asked me, "Do you have a boyfriend?" She sensed my unease and apprehension (I was a tight-lipped closet case) and continued to rib me; "C'mon Marts, you can't be a virgin all your life!" That did it. She broke the ice. We laughed all morning. She talked about her present love life, I talked about my fantasies. We drank some more. I trusted her not to tell any of our other friends. She didn't say a word.  

We drifted apart after college but during Baguio's earthquake I sought out Joji. She was now renting a room in Jungle Town and had camped out with the neighbors in an open lot in the area. She introduced me to her new friends over bottles of Tanduay. She was still the same old, jolly Joji I thought. We vowed to keep in touch and we did occassionally. We got together at least twice a year. She eventually had two kids by her boyfriend. Two adorable kids who competed with me for Joji's attention whenever I would visit. It was during this period when I was drinking my heaviest and at the brink of a major depression. But Joji picked me up. Reassured me that all will turn out for the better. She had this sense of calm and a way with words that made me feel secure. She wasn't doing all that well either but she had optimism and confidence that we would both get out of the rut we were then presently in. Wherever she is now I am grateful to Joji for instilling in me a sense of hope and the resolve to fight pressing exigencies. 

A friend of mine has the following as one of her earliest memories of her childhood. She once owned a dachshund whom she really cared for. Once her (groovy) mother cooked 'adult' brownies and left them on the table to cool. A few minutes later, my friend saw her dog lying on its back, seemingly lifeless. He wouldn't budge or even move when his name was called. He neither did flinch when cradled. My friend saw traces of the brownies scattered on the table, chairs, floor and on the dog's mouth. My friend cried out to her mother; "What did you do to my dog?!" To which her mother screamed; "What did your dog do to my brownies?!!!" End of story.