Postcardpretty Podcast: an island girl’s stories and musings about the Philippines and the world.
These stories are narrated by myself, and have previously been published in Sunstar, Medium and some have made their way in my first book, Postcards from Elsewhere.
Update 2020: I finally started my own podcast called ‘Postcardpretty’ Podcast! I am reading some of my essays and musings there. You can listen to it at RSS feed, Anchor or Spotify.
What is Day Gaming? – Postcardpretty
Postcardpretty Podcast Episode List
- Ep. 1: Introduction – What it Means to be Filipino
- Ep. 2: The Filipino Identity Crisis
- Ep. 3: The Multilingual Filipino
- Ep. 4: Language Classes in the Groceries. Culture Lessons on the Dinner Tables
- Ep. 5: Filipino’s Obsession with Bathing
- Ep. 6: Amusing Filipino English Expressions
- Ep. 7: 12 ‘Only in the Philippines’ Moments
- Ep. 8: Writing about the Mundane (and Coronavirus)
- Ep. 9: This Pandemic has Unleashed my Inner Grouch
- Ep. 10: What is Day Gaming
Ep. 1: Introduction – What does it mean to be Filipino?
I never really thought much about being Filipino before.
Having lived in the Philippines for almost three decades. I’ve been neutral about my cultural identity. I didn’t actively think about what that really means.
I admit, I’m not overtly patriotic — I don’t go around parading the Philippine flag, or make “Proud to be Pinoy” posts. Nor was I a big fan of karaoke, or lechon, or Christmas family reunions.
It was only when I lived in the US did I become more aware about my cultural identity. It’s interesting how your Filipino-ness shines through when you’re uprooted from your natural habitat to live in another country.
For example, my US peers have constantly described me as “always happy,” having a “very sunny disposition” — odd descriptions because I’ve never been described as such back in the motherland.
“It’s so easy to make friends with you,” was another common comment I got. I could befriend the loudest of extroverts to the shyest of introverts.
“Sociable” was something I also got a lot. I was the one among international students who always instigates mischief — otherwise most of them would be happy studying in their rooms all week long (and we didn’t come to the country to do that, did we?!?!).
Yet I know I’m no special snowflake. I noticed — with the few Filipinos I encountered in Philly, they exhibit the same traits of friendliness, openness and warmth with people. It’s so easy to open up to fellow Filipinos — and our full sincerity of our actions.
Sometimes I wonder if a culture’s disposition is directly correlated to the climate.
So this is how I come to appreciate our culture and our people more. I continue to write personal stories and collect stories of others about what it means to be Filipino, and what it means to be Filipino, elsewhere.
As we go along discovering what it truly means to be Filipino, maybe we will together come to appreciate our own heritage and identity more and more.
That’s the goal.
Ep. 2: The Filipino Identity Crisis
During my travels, I’ve been constantly approached and asked where I come from. For fun, I make a game out of it to let them guess. Most commonly, I’ve been perceived to be Thai. I’ve also been thought to be: Singaporean, Nepali, Kazakhstani, oddly Russian, and on rare occasions, Chinese or Japanese.
But never Filipino. When I tell them my real identity (like Batman), two reactions alternately happen. Either: “Oh really? You don’t look Filipino!” they say it like a genuine compliment, so I just smile. I couldn’t help but wonder what they really mean by that. What’s a Filipino supposed to look like, anyway?
Filipino Identity Crisis
Or reaction #2: Utter ignorance. “Where is the Philippines? Oh wait, wasn’t that in the Bible?”
Silly, those where the Philistines you guys.
Sometimes I wish we have something notoriously spectacular, like the Fidel Castro or the Angkor Wat or the Dalai Lama. Oh wait, we have Manny Pacquiao.
Some people are probably more familiar with Wakanda.
‘Are Filipinos Asians or Pacific Islanders?’
A fellow traveler asked as follow up, seeking to ensue an intellectual debate.
This gets a little more interesting. Before I could answer, another one butted in: ‘Neither? They seem more hispanic or latino to me.’
To note, these were raised by people who were neither Filipinos, but Americans. As westerners try to lump us into a particular ethnic group, we become more alienated and confused. Hence the understandable Filipino identity crisis. In the first place, we never classified ourselves as such or such before. Categorization is all a western invention.
The Philippines is a creation by Western colonizers to begin with. If the Spanish never came, force-baptize the natives and named our islands after a historically unimportant king, there never would have been ‘The Philippine Islands’ in the first place. Our islands would probably have been absorbed by Chinese civilization from the north, or be integrated into the Muslim Malay nations from the south. Who knows?
To get back to my nationality guessing game, there was only one person who got it right once. Once. A Slovakian Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque we encountered in Ibiza.
Wow, you’re the very first person who got that right the first time!” I said, really impressed.
“It’s not that difficult. You’re an Asian tan with very good American English. So there you go. Filipino.” I was stammered, because now this includes another element to the whole equation: the Filipino Americanization. This is getting more complicated than I thought.
Geographically, we are in Asia. Hence, we are Asians! I cross-checked and consulted the world map and I confirmed that we are in the right continent. Likewise, we love our rice to death. There’s nothing more Asian than that! To be more specific about it, we are Southeast Asians, particularly, part of the Austronesian or Malay-Polynesian group. Identifying features of this ethnicity include: short face, mild epicanthic fold, straight, black hair, and a happy, light-hearted disposition. Sounds familiar?
‘Orphans of the Pacific’
On the other hand, being labeled as ‘Pacific Islander’ is not entirely wrong, either. Historically, we used to be part of the Spanish East Indies, which comprised of Moluccas (Indonesia), Guam, Mariana Islands and the Philippines.
Our land were once called ‘The Philippine Islands of the Pacific’. We are located in the Pacific Ocean; a tropical island paradise, 7,000 of it. Even if most of the comprising ‘Pacific Islands’ are 4,000-8,000 km away, we see plenty of similarities in physical features and culture among people in Guam, Hawaii, etc.
Filipino migration to Guam has been happening for several centuries– the Spanish were fond of exiling Filipino rebels and prisoners to Guam. The Americans continued the practice when they took over.
Kumusta / Como estas?
The term Hispanic is a broad representation of the people and cultures with historical linkages to Spain. This term commonly referring to her former colonies, although strictly speaking, it refers to the former Spanish colonies in Latin America.
After 333 years of colonization, we have a rich hispanic heritage. The native tsokolate and mais made its way to the Philippines after centuries via the Galleon trade with our latino brothers. We share our fervent Roman Catholic faith with other hispanic cultures; as well as our love for lechon, siestas and fiestas. Do you know that ‘Filipino time’ and ‘Latino time’ is exactly the same?
And who else do we share our enduring obsession with boxing and beauty pagaents?
Today, very few people in the Philippines speak Spanish, although many of our abuelos still do. Quite a few Filipinos also claim Spanish ancestry. I’d like to think my aquiline nose and freckles proves some European descent.
So the whole debate was really much ado about nothing.Our islands have been a melting pot of cultures for centuries. Identity crisis have always been part of us, and maybe that’s why it was so easy for foreign to colonize us. It’s okay to be a little confused about demonyms that outsiders assign to us. Who cares if you identify yourself as Asian, or Pacific Islander, or even Hispanic?
Next time a foreigner asks you, ‘where are you from?’ Just smile and say: ‘guess?’ and maybe it will be ensue an interesting afternoon conversation.
Ep. 3 – The Multilingual Filipino
“Hey, what language was that?”
Nico, my German friend, asked the moment I put my phone down. I just finished a conversation was with my girlfriend from home, while Nico and I were sat outside the benches while studying in the Fisher Fine Art Library. (Also, I just wanted to write that last sentence to tell you that yes, I do study.)
“Cebuano.” I answered. “Why?”
“It didn’t sound like the same language you speak with Ryan.” Nico responded, referring to another Filipino classmate.
“But this language Cebuano — it must be your first language, yes?”
I confirmed, and he shot a grin back in triumph. “I figured, because everyone always sound angrier in their own language.” Nico said I certainly sounded angry, but knew I wasn’t, because I was laughing after every sentence.
“Unless, you laugh when you’re angry in your culture,” he mused.
He made a pretty good point. We are always nicer and more respectful in another language, saying everything in a gentler, question manner, slightly unsure of ourselves; like we become children conversing to adults once again.
We do tend to take up different personalities in the different languages I speak. I feel more professional in English, courteous in Tagalog, sweet in Hiligaynon, and I’m a foul-mouthed, drunken sailor in Cebuano.
Being Filipino, I grew up to hearing and speaking different tongues — sometimes simultaneously, and it was the only world I knew of.
In my hometown in Mindanao, we spoke in Visayan, and our Muslim brothers Maranao; my father’s side spoke Hiligaynon, and my mother’s side of the family Tagalog. I know my grandfather’s temper is going on the upside when I start hearing his cussing in Spanish. English is taught in our schools from prep to college. And French… well, from dating a few of them.
This is not unusual in a Filipino household. The country, after all, has 7,000-plus islands, 170-plus languages and hundreds of dialects. Frequent movement and diaspora; Spanish colonial roots, and then raised by Hollywood and 80’s love ballads–our hodge-podge history has made it a given for every Filipino-born to be multilingual, or bilingual at the least.
We don’t really think about multilingual aptitude much, but then you go abroad and realize that most people speak only one language, for multiple reasons. Some weren’t granted the opportunity or exposure to other foreign tongues and cultures. Some by choice just refuse to learn any other language. Still others are simply crippled by the convenience of being spoiled into not having the necessity (I’m looking at you, America).
Foreigners always compliment at how “good my English is,” like it’s supposed to be otherwise. Moreover, they revel at how easily I can switch from one language to another. It’s kind of nice to show off once in a while, pretending it’s some sort of sorcery or superpower.
Nico, being European, was also multilingual, so I played around with the topic and shot back a question: “Nico, what language do you think in?”
His blue eyes danced, like he had been expecting the discourse.
“The German language is made perfectly for a thinking mind, I believe. The vocabulary is just so exact and concise, there’s little room for error.”
I shot the question back to myself:
What language do I think in? What language do I feel with?
On formal and professional context, English seemed the default. It was my rationalizing language. But in the social and emotional scenarios, Cebuano is my preference. How beautiful and whole it made me feel to speak in Cebuano.
Especially when it came to bodily feelings, I feel I could better explain myself in my language. How can you perfectly translate gigil? kilig? binhod? panuhot? pasmo? alimungawan?
Even in vocabulary precision, we could argue that we can probably win the Germans in some aspects, especially when it came to bodily functions.
When we look at the word ‘eat’—my editor Noel tells me there are numerous variations to describe the bodily function of eating. There is the general term ‘kaon’, but then there is also: usap, habhab, ugom, paak, pahit, ingkib, kitkit, pang-it, sibsib, lamon, lanlan, timo, pakal, sima, hamol, lamoy, subsob, uyab, ub-ob, lanlan, ingkit, um-om, timi-timi, hamoy, kibkib, pang-os, hamong, kilaw, supsop, and higop!
When we use the word ‘wash’ in Cebuano, we have the general term ‘hugas’. And then we have a term for washing the face (hilam-os), both hands (hunaw), one hand (hinaw), feet (himasa), calves (himatiis), inside the mouth (limugmog) and around the mouth (dam-ot)—all referring to bodily functions only. That alone goes to show our love for bathing.
The nuances of languages tell us how the people and culture are characteristically; and on this — it seems like Cebuanos are very attuned to our bodies and feelings.
Ep. 4: Language Classes in the Groceries, Culture Lessons on the Dinner Tables
I have to confess: I get super stoked with every opportunity to go grocery shopping abroad.
Seems like a very mundane thing, but the grocery store is always a potential cultural lesson.
Food is an important aspect of culture. It is among the best ways to understand the country and the people. It’s always interesting to see different fruits and vegetables, and the type of junk food the locals munch on.
A trip to the supermarket is always a potential language lesson, as well. One trip to Auchan got me twenty words richer in French — pommes, framboise, fraise, oeuf, fromage, aubergines, pain, beurre — you’re learning without even trying!
I wish I could bring home the collection of dairy products I could never dream to find in our local supermarkets; thing I only hear in nursery rhymes such as “whey” and “clotted cream.” I certainly felt more cultured, after having them with my tea and scones.
But after having a sip of their “coconut juice,” I realize how amazingly blessed we are. “This is a scam!” I said, as I grimaced at the “coconut drink” they were selling in European groceries. Bless their beef and their wine, but don’t buy shrimp and mangoes unless you want to be disappointed.
There are plenty of food items that are staple items in the Philippines that I will rarely find in Europe, and if I do, they come with ridiculous price tags — Asian instant noodles, pineapples, mangoes, dried fish, fish paste, and white rice in 20-kilogram rice sacks.
It is indeed amazing how much you can learn about the locale’s culture just by the food; and you don’t need to compare two cultures and two continents apart to realize that. The Philippines itself has amazing variations of food per island!
Let’s take a look at the enduring Filipino favorite that ultimately defines “Filipino”: the adobo.
Do you know that we have at least 20,000 variations of the adobo? I am used to having mine in soy sauce and served with pork or chicken, boiled egg, and black peppercorn and marinated in soy sauce, the Chinese-style version of adobo. In some parts of the archipelago, they can be served with many variants: coconut milk in Muslim Zamboanga, mashed pork liver in Cavite, pineapple in Bukidnon, and turmeric in Laguna!
Another confusion you might encounter is if you order “pochero” in Manila and Cebu you will get two completely different dishes. If you wanted the Cebuano pochero in Manila, you should tell them you want bulalo instead. I had wondered why, until I realized that pochero is Spanish for “stewpot,” a very vague way of describing any dish whatsoever.
Tabirak is my favorite holy week treat back in Mindanao, but Cebuanos never knew what I meant until I described it. I was schooled that they actually call it binignit. Ten years later when I moved to Manila, I re-encountered the problem when the Tagalog could not understand me. After a few Google image searches, I was told that they call it “Ginataang Halo-halo” in this region.
Cebuano friends complain Manila food is too sweet, Manila friends complain that Cebuano food is too salty. Cebuanos cannot comprehend putting sampaloc in their viands, while Manila folks find my love for green bananas completely weird.
You can certainly witness the amazing diversity of our 7,000 islands, just by our dinner tables alone!
Ep. 5 – Filipino’s Obsession for Bathing
Every time I travel, I always get into the trouble of overpacking toiletries.
No matter how I try to limit my personal hygiene products, I end up convincing myself that I needed this sunblock, this eau de toilette, or this hair serum, and trying to squeeze all my liquids and gels in a tiny Ziploc bag.
It’s not just because I’m female. Yes, women already need a lot of toiletries — but being Filipino, the stash of products increases twofold.
My roommates in America always wonder not-so-subtly how the household’s water bill has increased substantially since I moved in their quarters.
But I’m sure fellow Filipinos understand? We are known to love bathing. And as frequently as possible, once or twice a day, and some as much as thrice daily during the summers! We live in a hot tropical climate. We have more shampoo and soap products and bath products commercials than any other culture that I know of. We love being clean and smelling good; and can easily smell body odor from a mile away.
We even have exact words to describe how we ‘wash’ our body parts. In Cebuano, we have the general term ‘hugas’. And then we have a term for washing the face (hilam-os), both hands (hunaw), one hand (hinaw), feet (himasa), calves (himatiis), inside the mouth (limugmog) and around the mouth (dam-ot)—all referring to the same bodily function of washing!
This bathing habit can be attributed to our humid climate and abundant sources of water. Historical records show that even our ancestors from centuries ago have long been sticklers for good personal hygiene. When the Spanish colonizers came to the Philippines in 1521, the foreigners were aghast at ‘how often we bathed’. The Europeans believed bathing provides an open opportunity to take off clothes, and in turn can lead to immorality, promiscuous sex, disease, and sin.
Because of this creed, our European colonizers rarely bathed during the Middle Ages up until the late 1800s. Hygiene is only restricted to washing hands and parts of the face. Still, washing the face was done as infrequently as possible for they believed it could lead to blindness.
The European royalty were worse off than common peasants. Today I found out on the ‘Today I Found Out’ website that a Russian ambassador who visited France described that King Louis XIV “stunk like a wild animal.” The Sun King is said to find the act of bathing “disturbing,” and has only bathed twice in his lifetime. Another royalty, Queen Isabela of Spain, boasted that she had bathed only twice in her life: first, when she was born; and second, when she got married.
Russia wasn’t as finicky when it came to bathing and their royalty did it far regularly – relatively speaking, once a month. Because of this, Europeans thought Russians were perverts.
Historical records show that our ancestors thought the European colonizers stank. And we weren’t the only ones who thought so, too:
The Spanish explorers under Hernan Cortes first arrived in Mexico in 1519 under the Aztec Empire. It felt for Aztecs as if they had encountered an alien race: the Spanish appeared like fellow humans, but looked different: they had white skin, hair like the sun, tons of facial hair… and they also stank horribly. According to Harari’s ‘Sapiens’, Aztec natives had to assign incense burners to follow the visitors around wherever they went to hide the stench. The Spaniards thought this was a mark of divine honor, but now we know from their records that the natives just really found the foreigners’ smell unbearable.
At the least, colonizers tried to change the islanders’ local customs and beliefs — but they never took away their love for good personal hygiene.
Ep. 6 – Amusing Filipino English Expressions
Language definitely has a life of its own, and English is no different. In the Philippines, we pride ourselves in speaking very good English especially compared to our Southeast Asian counterparts. We certainly have our unique set of English expressions, words and idioms only unique to the Philippines!
Get to know some words we say and what they really mean. What are your favorites?
When a Pinoy says he’s getting ‘high blood’, don’t panic and call for an ambulance. It just really means that he’s getting really angry or agitated. Ironically, this idiom does hold some truth to it: heart-related diseases is the number one cause of death among Filipinos!
In the Philippines, ‘slang’ doesn’t normally mean ‘informal language’. If they say you are speaking ‘slang’ they mean that you’re speaking in a (highly-coveted) American accent.
Of course, this list isn’t complete without the word ‘nosebleed’. If someone suddenly yells ‘nosebleed!’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is going on a nasal hemorrhage It just simply means that they are having difficulty with the mental task on hand–most commonly, in English.
For example, if a Filipino is forced to converse to a foreigner in English for a longer time, he or she might exclaim ‘ah, nosebleed!’ if they have ‘run out of English’. Another is when they have to study for a subject such as astrophysics that’s too difficult to comprehend, they can have ‘nosebleed’.
This is something a lot of Filipinos like to say a lot that I have yet to hear from a native speaker (unless, well, if they’re five years old). If someone asks a serious question, Filipinos are apt to giggle and say ‘secret!’ especially if they want to tease you, flirt with you, or simply because they are experiencing ‘nosebleed’ and couldn’t think of a better answer. “Secret!!!”
When a Filipino says ‘appear!’ he basically means ‘high five!’ I don’t know how appear became the term for the said action, but maybe it originally meant ‘up here!’ as someone raises his hands for a high five.
“CR” or “Comfort Room”
The ‘CR’ is certainly something only Filipinos exclusively say. The ‘CR’, short for ‘Comfort Room’ is simply the toilet or restroom or washroom.
What’s up with calling it ‘Comfort Room’, anyway? Nothing is comfortable about a typical Filipino toilet, in the first place. Let alone even toilet paper.
“Maids’ Quarters”, “Dirty Kitchen”, “Sala“
Other parts of the house also have different terms that might be unfamiliar to the foreigner. Most of these are features from our colonial Spanish past, but still used today.
The Maids’ quarters (or Servants’ quarters) sounds like a very 19th century thing to say–but is still a part of many homes belonging to middle upper class to upper class Filipino families. The maids’ quarters is a room used for domestic and staff accommodation.
The ‘dirty kitchen’ is an outdoor kitchen separate or outside the main house, mostly for cooking food that create a lot of smoke, oil and charcoal dust.
The ‘sala’ is another Southeast Asian feature in the house. It is a living room, mostly the first hall from the entrance and is used as the reception of guests to the residence.
“Tomboy”, “Cowboy”, “Maniac”
And yes, we have more English terms that are misused, but generally understood, in the country (unless you’re an unaware foreigner).
When Filipinos say ‘tomboy’, they really mean a lesbian; whereas in others the term tomboy is just a girl who likes boyish things but not necessarily ‘into girls’.
A ‘cowboy’ here is now one who wears cowboy hat and shoes and circles the herd, but essentially a ‘cowboy’ means low maintenance, one who is adaptable and okay to everything. You are a ‘cowboy’ if you enjoy eating street food on the streets or commuting via habal-habal (motorcycle).
If someone calls you a ‘maniac’ (here pronounced ‘man-yak’) it doesn’t mean you’re some madman exhibiting violent behavior. In the Philippines, it means you’re a pervert.
When we say ‘napkin’, we don’t really mean the cloth on the dinner table you use to pat your face when eating your meal. We actually mean ‘menstrual pads’ or ‘sanitary pads’, used by women during that time of the year (shark week).
So here you go, some funny idiosyncrasies of English that Filipinos says! These are some of my favorite English expressions only Filipinos say. Did I miss anything? Share us your favorites!
Ep. 7: 12 ‘Only in the Philippines’ Moments
I’ve been interested in my own Filipino culture ever since I got back from the country. My renewed interest in our own culture is born after spending some time living, studying and traveling overseas.
I’ve talked about Reverse Culture Shock in the Philippines before, but here are some of the 12 ‘Only in the Philippines’ moments I have and can remember. Some are endearing, some are shocking, but all of them are definitely ‘Only in the Philippines’!
- Sending Most of our Income to Family
The world is familiar with industrious Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)—but do you know that 50% to 90% of their income earned abroad they send back to family? These OFWs have to go through loneliness, alienation, abuse hard work and discrimination while working in another country and send most of their hard-earned back home to their families.
Even if we are just traveling and not working overseas, most of our shopping or pasalubong is still for family.
“Cousin Mila would love this top, Tita Janice would like this Coach bag, Uncle Noynoy would love this Japanese sake! All our shopping is definitely for our family left back home!”
2. What about Neighbors’ Sleep?
Eh, two things don’t exist in this country: Noise Pollution and Public Disturbance.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that there is a lack of respect when it comes to noise levels in the Philippines. It seems to be absolutely OK to belt out in the karaoke (off-key) at your home at 3 in the morning. Nothing wrong with that–nope, not at all.
3. Pointing with our lips
When someone asks you directions, especially among older people or people in the province, do not get shocked if we answer by pointing–get this–with our lips.
Allow me to illustrate via a friend’s experience. He is American. On his first trip to the Philippines, he asked a woman in the street for directions. The woman pouted her lips and pointed to the direction (this is a very Filipino thing, especially the elder ones).
It basically looks like this:
My friend was utterly confused, but then leaned in and kissed the woman. He thought the woman asked for a kiss and was a cultural thing, and was returned a big slap on his face!
4. Divorce is still illegal.
Aside from the Vatican City, Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is still illegal, or at the very least, still not possible.
5. Rampant Number of Lady Boys
Lady boys are aplenty in the country, and are already an intrinsic part of society, highly tolerated even for a super Catholic country. We have local and national competitions for ‘Ms. Gay’ for transgenders. They provide great comic relief among friends and even in local media.
6. Poking into other people’s business
We care about you. We care about what you did and what you’ve been up to. Where for many countries it is rude for people to ask you about your private affairs, in the Philippines, we are just ‘making conversation’. We love gossip and we don’t know what ‘mind your own business’ means, at all.
7. Sharing Food.
It is rude to eat your meal if the other person isn’t eating at all, so we invite everyone to share our food, even the portion is obviously not enough for two!
Food is an important part of Filipino life and culture. In fact, the phrase ‘Kumain ka na?’ (have you eaten?) is used as a greeting if you see an acquaintance passing by the streets.
9. Having a BIG family
Filipinos have BIG families, and if you marry one, they’re going to be part of you whether you like it or not.
When you have a Filipino BF / GF and tells you that you will be meeting their family, they don’t mean their parents and/or siblings. They mean the whole she-bang: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second-degree cousins, even second-degree cousins twice removed, heck, there are even individuals they aren’t even sure if they’re related to or not.
Most of the family members even live close by as neighbors, or in one big apartment complex or neighborhood.
10. Allergic to Road Safety
Ahh. Don’t we all like to live our lives on the edge? For Filipinos, most people find road safety ‘uncool’—what seatbelt?
Hence, you see some ‘cool’ badass guys ride motorbikes without helmets or drivers / riders without seat belts. They go as far as purchasing ‘fake seatbelt plugs’ just to disable the seatbelt alarm! Crazy.
Because seriously, Filipino guys here believe that folks who follow road rules are wimps.
11. Sunday is Day Off — even for Police / Traffic Enforcers
Again, going back to Catholic country—Sunday is day off for us and maybe for criminals too? Because it certainly is for Police! You never see traffic enforcers or police on Sunday, so one can even violate traffic rules on Sunday at their own risk–high likely chance you won’t get caught. An acquaintance was imprisoned for two days because he got the misfortune of being caught on Friday evening under DUI charges until he posted bail on Monday because there was no police on duty on weekend or something (was hazy on the details, but that was basically what I was told).
12. Giving candy for change
Some smaller shops give candy instead of coins for change.
Ep. 8: Writing about the Mundane (and Coronavirus)
My teacher Radel used to tell us that the mark of a good writer is to write about a topic that is dull and mundane (like gardening or collecting stamps), and still magically weave it to be compelling and meaningful to the reader.
So today, I’ve decided that I’m going to write about being bored.
Not that I have much of a choice. These days, we’ve been living life like an Edward Hopper painting: self-isolating, but oddly comforting, and introspective. Collectively it is decided to go into solitude and so we attempt to seek comfort in it. The days seemed to have blended; and the weekends, nebulous. At the very least, staring perennially at the white walls have given me more vivid dreams at night.
That is about the most romanticized bs I can give to detailing my totally nondescript quarantine. I’m a storyteller...of course I’m totally going to embellish my quarantine stories to my future grandchildren.
The longer this is becoming, the more resentful I have become. I’m starting to resent people in my feed who are doing good for themselves during this lockdown. Baked focaccia bread? mute. Meditated and found inner peace? mute. Hugs and breakfast this morning with bf? mute and fucking report.
Not that this is anything new to me. I’ve been constantly bored before, especially during the empty days of summer break in my childhood, the parents are at work and the helpers didn’t want anything to do with us.
And this was back the nineties. Our household didn’t have the internet then; nor a computer; nor stable electricity (…that sadistically enjoys to have their blackouts during the time of my favorite cartoon show).
And so we filled most of those days with drawing, reading and play pretend–this was really the time when kids still wanted to be astronauts and not YouTubers when they grow up.
I remind myself that I should be thankful that I have the luxury to feel ‘bored’. Our ennui is petty and trivial compared to the weighty responsibility the front liners have to carry everyday. Overworked and underpaid; those who practice medicine get up to work everyday in order to save lives and run into the high risk of getting sick themselves. (off-topic, why do doctors say they ‘practice’ medicine, aren’t you supposed to be good at this already?)
So now, rather than bask in self-entitlement, I decided to do as what an 8-year-old me would be doing, unplugged. Que horror! How am I supposed to churn something with a physical pen and paper–can I even write manually nowadays? Is my penmanship still legible? Could I actually write without a grammar checker Chrome extension? Can my attention stay focused without the disruption of my Twitter news feed; or the gay cowboy with a mullet?
Is there even something for me to write about? I haven’t traveled this year; and it seems like I wouldn’t be traveling anything soon. I feel paralyzed to not be able to write about strange stories from faraway places…
Fortunately/unfortunately, we live in a crazy weird time when toilet paper is coveted, bleach is a perceived cure, and immunologists gets death threats and secret admirers.
I shake my head as world leaders embarrass themselves yet again in world stage, and thank God I am a writer to cap my sanity; else I would probably need to make a beeline to a therapist once this is all lifted.
(I might still do.)
I thought 2020 was supposed to be a year of clarity, like perfect eye vision. Maybe writing about the mundane can equalize the absurdity of it all.
Ep. 9: This Pandemic has Unleashed my Inner Grouch
I recall the simpler times when everyone’s hoarding toilet paper during the start of the lockdown. That was March of 2020.
By May 2020, buying trends have changed drastically and it seems like everyone’s hoarding flour now. Day 40 of lockdown and people are now seeking comfort in baking focaccia and banana bread.
Also by day 40, I am pleased to report the significant drop in workout videos in my stories feed.
I could not stand quarantine overachievers. I couldn’t stand people who are being productive during this time: doing daily pushups, enrolling online classes, doing meditation or taking up calligraphy. The nerve, people are bettering themselves while here I am, just doing my bare minimum to get through the day!
It’s not that I haven’t been trying. I’ve tried to get into a healthy routine, eating healthy and being consistent in the mat–and boom, more bad news and further extension of the lockdown. I console myself by eating a whole tub of ice cream and staying in bed 12 hours a day. In a week I will get better, but more bad news and more extension. The cycle repeats again, it’s a vicious cycle. My inner grouch is taking over as season 3 of enhanced community quarantine unfolds.
I’ve come to loathe the c-word and refuse to say it now in my conversations or writing. Partly because of media overkill, and also mostly because I’ve just gotten sick of it (not literally, *cough*). I have trained myself to using ‘the virus’ or ‘the pandemic’ in its place. I have also consciously did a self-ban on other related words that have expanded into our vocabulary since the pandemic: ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’, ‘quarantine’, ‘flatten the curve’, ‘the new normal’.
Irritability is a Defense Mechanism
Usually I am not a horrible person–albeit a bit passive aggressive one, I am normally very optimistic about things.
But it’s day 40 and I’ve officially reached the peak of the irritation phase in this pandemic.
We are still continually exposed to uncertain and often contradicting news and conspiracy tweets. Whole governments are lifting our spirits up and letting us down; and now resorting to gas-lighting.
It is natural for humans to fear the unknown and hate having no sense of control. Irritability is a defense mechanism, our ‘fight’ in the fight-or-flight survival mode to make sense of this VUCA world. Many of us resort to venting, ranting and lashing out.
Turns out, venting out to others is a coping skill, and it reduces the intensity and soothes our feelings. And when we hear others vent, we also learn that we are not alone in this. It confirms that we are not alone in these new, perplexing feelings.
Venting should not form into a habit. It will be unfair to your friends, passing on the burden to their sanity. At the end of the day, it doesn’t solve things. Focus on what you can control, as they say.
How to Cope with Irritability during the Lockdown
The pandemic has affected us all profoundly. This could forever change how we work, learn exercise, travel and of course–eat out. I have quickly learned the art of dining in, and have become the most ardent supporter to my friends’ budding home businesses, ordering homemade lemon cakes and chocolate chip cookies and cheesecake bars. My closest human interaction outside of the nuclear unit is the Grab driver.
Many of us have made appropriate adjustments to live in this time. We’re living in a time of non-dancers are dancing, and non-cooks are cooking. Even my boomer parents have quickly adapted to the millennial way of living of remote work, zoom conferences and K-drama binges.
But how do you avoid the unavoidable streams of anxiety every now and then?
Turns out, my overachieving lockdown friends may have been right. Rather than obsess with the news and refresh your Twitter feed every 15 minutes, give yourself a break from all the negativity. Netflix is the most obvious solution, but also try to be productive and do something new and acquire new skills.
Regular exercise is good at keeping the depression and anxiety at bay, as does meditation. You can hit two birds in one stone by going into your mat and practicing yoga.
The lockdown is difficult for extroverts especially, who need constant external stimuli and social interaction. So if you are a social person, we have all the great tools such as social media and internet that our ancestors from the 1918 influenza epidemic did not have. Host Zoom inuman sessions, Netflix parties and the like.
Don’t forget to keep a daily routine. Stay constant with your waking and sleeping schedules. Eat on time.
Watch something else entertaining, such as Netflix, or do the household work you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the time for the longest time.
Know that this too shall pass. Be optimistic that humans are resilient and intelligent, and we will ultimately find a solution and take control of this pandemic. In the meantime, it’s best to focus on what we can control, and retreat to the surprisingly soothing act of kneading flour or gardening in order to comfort ourselves.
And since the city has just recently lifted the liquor ban, I’m guessing hoarders will switch from baking essentials to hoarding bottles of alcohol very, very soon.
Ep. 10 – What is Day Gaming
A Quora was posted to me on another site on the strangest strategy I’ve seen a friend do to score girls.
Guys ought to learn a thing or two from my friend Jerry.
My friend Jerry, is a ladies man.
He got dates all the friggin’ time.
Interestingly, he wasn’t ‘classically’ good-looking. Jerry was only 5′7, regular looking, no high baller, nothing different or impressive. Just a regular Joe with a friendly smile and a great sense of humor.
But compared to our other single guy friends, he is always seen with some cute girl wrapped around his arm.
So the guys are curious why he gets dates all the time. I’m not even sure if he’s on any of the dating apps. Seems unlikely.
Jerry doesn’t even like to go out to bars and drinking. He was more like a mall-and-coffee, basketball and chill kinda guy.
One day, Jerry and another friend of ours were in a coffee shop chilling, and a cute girl comes in and sits on the table beside theirs.
Our other friend elbowed Jerry, nodding towards the direction of the cute girl. Before even realizing it, our friend saw Jerry whip out his laptop, search a website and tap the girl on the shoulder.
“Hey, can I get some recommendation from you? I’m trying to buy a present for my mom’s birthday, and I need some female advice.”
“Oh, sure!” she chirped, and for the next 30 minutes they chatted about what Jerry’s mom likes and dislikes, and together they went through the e-commerce site, before finally choosing a present, carted it, purchased it, and then they started talking about her and throughout the end of the conversation Jerry was able to get the girl’s number and a date before bidding adieu.
Our friend was flabbergasted. “How did you—?”
He was so impressed at our Jerry’s skills that he shared it to me and to the rest of our friends later on.
To the guys, it made completely no sense. Strange.
For a girl like me (and one who knows Jerry quite well), it wasn’t so strange at all.
You see, Jerry at face value is very approachable. Nice. Like he would never hurt a fly. His look and demeanor made every girl feel safe (friend or romantic interest). He had a very light energy about him. That feeling of being safe is extremely important for every girl before they consider dating or even being friends with you.
If he approached women in bars it would’ve been a different story maybe—as women are used to being approached all the time in bars that we naturally have our guards up. But when we are in a place where we don’t normally get ‘hit on’, say a coffee shop, women’s guards are often down.
Another characteristic is his spontaneity. There is something so charming about him being so flippant about approaching people (both men and women) like it is the most natural thing in the world. Some people would hesitate and gather their nerves to approach someone, but he seems to rarely think about it.
Safety and spontaneity—just some keys to sparking a woman’s interest.