She was the tiniest of the seven young and beautiful aspirants. The simplistic and innocent looks on their facades took the speculators in awe. She wore this refurbished gown given to her by this woman who worked as a maid in Hongkong. I learned she was her God Mother. After tiring shifts of introduction, talent, parade of different wears, the decision of the judges was handed down. "And the winner is,....." No drums rolled, it was just a small beer event in a remote village. "And the winner is.... Joanna Aubrey." The gay master of ceremonies announced with a blast.

She smiled, paused and looked at me with the sparkle of her eyes wanting to say 'Thank You'. She brought out the best in me. I knew she knew the queer character in me. But she was reserved, perhaps not wanting to hurt me. It was my fault after all, I was so defensive then. When she paraded down the narrow street almost sizing up the village, her parents were so proud. They kept telling me they'd hold a party for their only daughter. She was their trophy.

Before leaving the teen years though, she started chasing the word "virginity." She got pregnant. Beautiful as she was, she maintained my admiration. She continued her studies while she could. She gave birth to a female angel, divorced with her hubby. To cut the story short, she is now one of the many Filipinas in Canada, full pledging her time to look after the aged.

I still admire her and she remains beautiful in my sight.

Character 00011- Uncle John

People are people and people matter to me. Such is my uncle. It is so sad though to learn that the thoughts we have for one person often comes after his demise. As we learn the zigzag road of living, we come to a point where different personalities affect our individuality, our extant struggle in this world.

Scared of ghosts? The first person that comes to my head is my uncle John. He was such a recreant knowing he was muscular and a big adult then. He certainly left an impression which I don't think would deduct the measure of my respect for him. On some instances, he didn’t have the nerve to make his way home after a few rounds of drinks with my dad and his friends. His house wasn’t that far but when the night catches up on him, he trembles worrying about how to make his way home. My older brother and I always had to be his body guards, and when he was in drunken stupor, we were his human canes. How shitty scared he was then.

He was a person I always looked up to in my younger days. He was a jeepney driver and a bachelor until he was 44.

Numerous early mornings in the past, he would send my family pandesal-Filipino traditional bread, enough to suffice up the measly breakfast my parents could afford us. On Christmas occasions, he would be our Santa Claus, giving away money to every kids in the compound.

His home was also my home, my resting place in my innocence, my comfort in my naïve world. He died and I was gloomy.

Malaise-Character 00010

So, here I am. I have all the time bestowed on me but just keep on going up and down the stairs of the building. I am not really sick other than the worries which the wound on my leg keep causing me.

This morning, upon waking up, I had my meal, had the make-up class, took a nap, listened to music, took a nap again. I feel uneasy though I know I have the faculty to do something worthwhile but I don't have the nudge. It's so hard to deal with this kind of feeling. For now...

Him-Character 00009

Upon getting off the bus obviously tedious from the trip, I looked both ways to check if he was there waiting for me. I felt so tired that carrying the heavy luggage both in my hands aggravated my condition.

Earlier, while on the bus, he just sent me a text message reminding me of our rendezvous. I was really excited. He gave me easy to follow directions which ironically I had a hard time reckoning.

I just thought, I hit the right spot, waiting, searching, and feeling his presence. I moved to a vacant slot on the side walk. Mesmerized by the speeding vehicles and buses on the big road, I kept wiping the sweat rolling down my body. Put the towel on my shoulder, took it, wiped and put it on my shoulder again. The weather in Manila was really hot that I couldn't imagine staying here for good.

Then, a bus, stopped a few meters past my location. I waited eagerly for the disembarking passengers. "I hope he is there." I thought. The bus moved again but he wasn't there. I wandered my eyes to the surroundings. I knew I must be right there at the meeting place which he described to me through his text. Moments later, I saw a guy in his mid-40's. He was very uneasy busying his fingers on his cellphone. I just realized I was doing the same thing too, and he could be him.

But "No", I wanted to back out. He was not the person I imagined to be with in my life. That bulging stomach, that face, aaargh, and he kept looking at me. Maybe because I kept looking at him also. But what if he was my textmate. I wanted to run away from the scene and go back to my hometown. I thought I just did the craziest thing in my life. Meeting a stranger whom I would be disappointed with later.

I was feeling hungry and I decided to go to a nearby cafeteria. Then, I received a text message from him saying that he was on his way. I felt relieved. I was excitedly waiting for him as he got off the bus from the other side of the road. He was wearing a cap. Tall and lanky, he looked obscure but I felt some kind of intense passion. We met, he helped me with my luggage. We took a bus ride and the ride was never ending. We are still on it.

Mop-Character 00008

It's TGIF and it always makes me feel good to prepare for dinner as I am with my boyfriend. (Usually on weekdays, I find it convenient taking my meals at Ate Liza's Cafeteria.) I feel zesty whenever this day comes which is extremely the opposite with how my students feel. Most of them don't show up online. That means more time for me to attend to my proclivity to blogging. (Thanks God) (Sigh) I can't wait for the weekend to come.

Every Friday, it has been a tradition (LOL) between me and my boyfriend to buy a kilo of rice at a nearby store and cook it ourselves. We just love stuffing ourselves with too much carbs but we dont' think the next meal is the end of the world.

So, I decided to go to the store and I had to pass by the guards post downstairs. I was looking at the familiar guard stationed.

"Do you use a mop in your office?" He asked. The hell, why would he ask such a question in the first place?

"Yes," I replied and I felt strange.

Then, he went. "Don't tell the administrator you do, a mop fell earlier from the upper floor. He'll surely get mad at you 'coz his car was hit by the mop."

"How could you postulate that was our mop in the first place just because it fell from the upper floor?" I asked with the surging pressure in my blood. "Can I see it?" I continued.

He led me to the store room and pointed to a mop with exploited fibers.

"Excuse me, we regularly change the fibers on our mop. That certainly looks cheap, thus it is not ours." I chucklingly said and I know that wasn't me. But that's how I get along well with "Vaughn"-the guard downstairs in his late 30's.

I left right away for the store.

Being gay made me realize at a certain age that never would I get myself into trouble involving hoodlums and bullies and whatnots. I had my friends, the close ones and let them alone with the usual physical adventures of teens-bullying, being in touble, tripping, mauling when necessary, etc. The thinking was assigned to me.(LOL) Honestly, I was revered as one of the leaders in the group so I had to do away with the hooligans. And not to forget, I was a coward, physically.

I don't know but teenagers find excitement in their misadventures. They want to be domineering as possible. Understanding and communication are always the last resort. Whenever they feel they are aggravated, reprisal is likely the initial response.

One of our hangouts many years ago then was to gather in group at a particular place in the neighborhood. The place was private and we felt more freedom there from the nagging of our parents.

One time, Noel, one of my closest friends invited me out for some drink. It was one of our friends' birthday. They drank, we drank, and we split from the group. We obviously felt bored as the night progressed. Though we were already in spirits, three of us sneaked out of the hangout and went to town to continue the fun.

Noel, Harry and I went to a bar catered to folk, rock, and country music lovers. It so happened I met some friends in college. They were the same people I worked with as a News Editor for our school publication not until I dropped out.

When everyone was pickled and tipsy, Noel invited Harry and me to go out and buy some cigarettes. I told him I didn't have to go with them, I'd rather wait inside while talking with some college acquaintances. But Noel ejected me out of my chair saying that we went to the place as a group and we should leave as a group.

The moment we stepped out of the bar's patio, we were caught off-guard with multiple attacks from several youngsters outside. They all started batting and hitting us here and there. Some had bats, some had knives, and some had bats with attached knives.

There was a stir, I could hear the sound of jabbing and physical attacks. I never knew until I was left behind crying and pleading for help. The attackers had gone and so were Noel and Harry. I sat in one corner of the bar outside. I knew I was safe and I was drunk. I was crying. I was alone.

A few moments later, I felt some pain in my back. I started to move my hands, pressed them against my shirt as I felt some wetness, then viscidness. I moved to where the light is and then I freaked out. My white shirt turned bloody red and so were my hands.

I rushed back to the bar and asked my college friends to take me to the hospital. I was starting to get sober. I didn't feel weak though much blood gushed out of my system. I never imagined a small spree would put my life in jeopardy. I was so young and full of dreams.

The KNIFE used to stab me according to the doctor was a semi ice pick, had it not been two centimeter away from my lung, it would have plunged me to death.

As for Noel and Harry, I had the impression that they were recreants but we met again and we each had a story to tell.

Jody and Boy-Character 00006

Whenever I feel the urge to smoke, I go to my room, grab a pack of cigarette I usually lay on the table inside, take out my lighter if there is or go the kitchen-like area in the office and get the matchbox. It pisses me off when a lighter I buy disappears shortly and is nowhere to be found. I must be very careless and forgetful that I can't keep a lighter for more than two weeks. I have to buy a lighter every now and then.

So if missing my lighter irritates me, how much more if I have run out of cigarettes? There are times, I crave for cigarettes at past midnights and I have no choice but to control the addiction. Most of the time, "Manang" saves the day.

I call her "Manang"-it is an honorific vernacular to refer to older women. Manang is from Capiz, a town notorious for evil creatures or "aswang", the Philippine version of vampires as portrayed in movies. When I first saw her, she caught my attention one rainy afternoon. She was trying to fix an umbrella she just picked up from the garbage to keep herself from the rain. It was last year when I got the chance to to learn more about her life and the people behind it.

"You are from Capiz?" I asked in awe.

Rumor has it that there are indeed a lot of evil creatures in the town and I want to hear it directly from someone who hails from that place.

"It's a word of mouth sir, but I have never seen anything yet. I was born there, spent some years but I had to settle here in Manila when I married Boy."

Boy is her husband who works as a valet. He has been working for the same building where our company is located. Imagine, he receives, less than 200 dollars in a month. He always crosses his fingers some drivers and tenants would be generous enough to give him tips to get through.

They are a common sight everyday. They work hand in hand no matter how meager their earnings are to support a family of six. Manang tends a small space where she sells cigarettes and some candy. She is my survivor when I really have no money.

I don't know but I feel happy whenever she tells me she makes some earnings in a day and is able to send some to the country. She is saving up for the construction of their shelter in Capiz where they plan to settle for good. So far, she already has bought a tricycle to add to their livelihood once they go back to her hometown.

"Sir, life here in Manila is not what I expected. It is really hard. I am glad that you pay your debts on time but I am worried that a lot of workers here in this building who owe me cigarettes and they disappear like bubbles." she once told me with a sigh.

Manang takes out an old notebook from an old bag which looks like a rubbish. I see a lot of items listed under the names written. They are clearly written as mine but she just starts crossing out my name. I am cleared. She looks at me and smiles.

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