Things we share

It felt bizarre when I met my officemates for the first time. Fresh out of college and into my first job, I had the uncomfortable feeling that, somehow, I already knew them.

It wasn’t a mystical intuition. It was not the chilling insight of déjà vu, no; I didn’t have the supernatural insight that I have met them before in a previous life. But over trainings, meetings, and lunches, I was surprised that I found nothing surprising about them. I felt like they’ve already shared with me their intimate beliefs, when they haven’t; I felt like I could already describe what their friends were like, when I really couldn’t. And even at a gathering over abundant alcohol, when I most expected to see the unexpected from them, I saw and heard nothing of note.

Is it possible that I have met enough people in my life that I’ve come to know all the varieties of personality traits that there are? Are all my new and future acquaintances merely amalgamations, mixtures in different proportions, of all the habits and manners and human characteristics that there are, and of which I’ve already seen everything?

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Popes

There was a surprising little exhibit this week at Gateway Mall in Quezon City. The lobby hosting the show is not a particularly impressive space; unlike, say, the foyer of Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the area of the exhibit is less of an intentionally defined architectural feature and more of an accidentally wide opening that the building’s architects found themselves creating when they set the structure’s width. What the floor space lacks in definition, it makes up for in subtle decoration—the tiles possess a luxuriant specular sheen that sets itself apart from the usually drab flooring of less prestigious malls.

The building’s upscale accents are still not enough, however, to entirely conceal the occasion’s dissonance. There on display at the lobby were relics of soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II, surrounded by writeups on his life and photographs of his visits to the Philippines. There were even kneelers, because maybe some of the faithful would be so touched by the items on display that they would be moved to pray right there, in front of all the curious and unexpecting mall-goers, to venerate the artifacts of the beloved pope. I was reminded of Pharisees beating their chests in the temple of Jerusalem, and I just hovered at the fringes of the exhibit, content with perusing the distinctly aged photos.

Pope John Paul II relics exhibit at Gateway Mall

I’m still not completely comfortable with Mass being held in commercial centers—I have questions of sincerity and ‘quality’—what more with this exhibit of revered relics in what is perhaps the foot-traffic epicenter of the metropolis. Thankfully the photos on display, as if they heard my concerns, assured me that there is a rather important historical basis for the venue of the exhibit.

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On the verge of real

I’m currently living in the neighborhood of what is called one of life’s milestones. It’s also a place someone has called a pre-departure area. I’m about to graduate from college.

I’m bracing myself for all the changes that society associates with these personal eras of transition. I expect quite a number of my living parameters to swing to new lows and new highs: amount of free time, financial dependence, and the importance of doing homework, among other things. We lose some things and gain others. It’s okay, they say, because change is simply always bittersweet. But what they don’t tell us is that it’s more of bitter at first, and the sweetness is only an aftertaste—because the pain of losing is stronger than the joy of gaining.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what people mean when they say that to enter the working world is to enter the real world, which is a phrase that I’ve always complained about. It’s as if they want to say that school is an illusionary world. Of course I haven’t really worked (the sum total of my full-time working experience is the one month of internship I took last summer), and I don’t have the age and experience to have any certainty about the meanings and contingencies of being a working person. But I realized that I’ve been grasping the wrong sense of ‘reality’.

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The scene

There is music as most people know it: catchy, powerful, or moving, but also canned, repetitive, and disposable. A kind of Pareto principle is at work here: majority of the people appreciate only a fraction of all the aural creations available out there. But an important difference emerges from the fact that unlike the Pareto principle in economics, where the important few deserves a proportionally greater regard, in music anyone has a lot to gain by daring to go beyond the popular few, and attempt to explore the alternative lands. Because there is also music as only a few people would care to experience it.

When music lovers talk of a music “scene”, I’ve realized that they are invoking a sense of community, a tangible one, in fact. I experienced it first-hand when last weekend I finally found a perfect time to enter the hallowed, and admittedly cramped, hall(s) of Saguijo Bar. It’s the place mentioned in passing in the obscure Sandwich track, Her Favorite Band:

Video games killed the video star
YouTube the gig in Saguijo Bar
I was really there
With my girlfriend, yeah

And, as if I were following the lines of this allusion-indulgent song, I actually brought my girlfriend with me there. But unlike the song, Saguijo should not be obscure at all to anyone who has listened with a non-negligible amount of interest to artists such as Sandwich. Saguijo in Makati is, after all, perhaps the most exalted of all the alternative music meccas in the metropolis still opening their bars after dark these days. Its sister acts include Route 196 in Quezon City and 19 East in Parañaque, just to name a few.

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Washing up liquid

On Monday night last week, I found myself and my parents fussing over curious new products at a grocery store.

A sign hanging from the ceiling on the aisle declared, “Introducing Waitrose, multi-awarded British brand.” Strategically located at an aisle’s end near the sign were the products being introduced. And they were funny because we couldn’t quite figure out what they were for. It was easy to assume they were liquid hand soaps: attractively colored liquids stored in clear, elegant plastic bottles, and simply labeled ‘Washing up liquid’. I would have assumed so if I hadn’t inspected the fine print at the back of the product, instructing users to avoid prolonged skin contact with the liquid.

My best guess is that it’s a general bathroom cleaning product, the kind that cleans tiles and toilets. That’s what the faint image of a bathroom brush on the label seems to suggest anyway. I don’t know about you, but ‘washing up liquid’ is a vague name, especially when you’re not going to put any instructions or indicator of intended use on the packaging. Washing up sounds like paghihilamos to me, washing one’s face, and suggests nothing about cleaning bathrooms. I do hope that no one would attempt to wash his or her face with a liquid that’s strong enough to clean toilets. British English is a bit over-idiomatic for a society that’s been exposed to American culture for far too long, and this product’s name is consequently confusing. Too bad for a colourful product formulated to reduce odours.

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