Chapter 7: Macabre Empires and The Monkey Mind


“Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’– the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl.  From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”


–          Elizabeth Gilbert / Eat Pray Love




July 3, 2010



It was a bright and sunny morning outside.

I was in P’s arms crying that early morning.

I was in bed, in my PJs, and P was already in his work clothes, barely having three minutes to spare so he can catch his 7 AM call time.  It just dawned on me that I just lost my job.  I did not have plans of waking up early but I had to make breakfast for my significant other so I dragged myself out to bed and went straight to the kitchen to make eggs and garlic fried rice. Fifteen minutes later, I watched P have his breakfast while I silently sipped my coffee.  I watched him and saw myself three months from today, starting all over again, and wondered how he will take all that.  I felt sad knowing how hard it will be for the both of us.  I felt sorry for him because he would have to carry me, both financially and emotionally, and that was somewhat beyond my prospect this year and seeing P go through all that just made me cheerless.  Shall I stay in Dubai?  Shall I go home to the Philippines and rest for the meantime?

The stress was eating my head like acid.

I was in P’s arms crying after a few minutes later.  I lay flat on my back and whinged and said profane things to my employers – to Dubai – to global recession – to the universe – for kicking me out at a time when I should be keeping a real job.  A job that has nourished my decent lifestyle for years.  P held my hand and said, “Kaya natin ito (We can do this together)” concurrently brushing my hair that was already wet with sweat-tears.   I knew at the back of my head that disappointment has already governed my head.  I knew how tough it would be.  Perhaps I also knew that the flipside of those tears were not really for me, but for P.  I did not want to see him go through hoaxing every probable misery that would inflict me – and I am such a bad sport when it comes to failure – fixing me up from head to toe.  I looked up to him, my tears blinding the macabre empire in his face, his full frame blocking the tiny sun coming from the window as he looked back and said, “I need to go to work, babe.”

I propped up, wiped my tears, kissed him full on the lips and said, “Thank you.  I love you.”

It was a few minutes later, after P left for work, back in the room when I realized that I wanted to say the exact five words to the universe who seemed to have fine-tuned my motions of late and somehow challenged me by taking away my job

Or perhaps it has been awhile when I actually looked up to the universe and said, “Thank you.  I love you”, because my breathing space took an exclusive turn towards the room I slept in since the beginning of the year and the person I shared my bed with since the beginning of the year.

I was suddenly lost.  But not alone.

I pulled the covers and started crying all over again until I was so tired, I slept.

It was a bright and sunny morning outside.











January 1, 2011


My father’s voice was deafening.  It reminded me of God’s voice when I was eight years old, a year when there was nothing godly to me except for my father’s voice billowing inside my ear whenever I did something mischievous.  Today, he was on the microphone, in our hefty front porch, navigating a game of Bingo that he sponsored for the family reunion on New Year’s Day.  All of my family, including my nieces and nephews, joined up, except me, who was busy editing a short story that I have been working on for the past three days.  A cousin from the United States was also there and in the event of money being drawn out by its toffee-nosed dollars, I sat in the corner of the portico, oblivious of my bad luck but aware that one day, it will be me who will be sponsoring the prizes.  And that although it will still be my father who will be the master of ceremonies when that time comes; my name would be decorated for all my relatives to see because I will be subsidising the finances.

“ . . . and for the consolation prize, mama and I will be donating 200 pesos!”, my father babbled on, as if talking to each and everyone’s devious hearts, persuading them to regard themselves for taking chances with a stupid Bingo game – the ultimate probability cause which is so typical in this cultural empire of the macabre – as if to reduce their perpetual belief that life is a game of chance and that the unlucky dies flat on the floor.  I wondered where my father’s mind was when he talking.  I did not see any gleam in his eyes, so I knew that his dialogue was manufactured to impress.  I admired him for being such a great party host.  I always wished I had his charm.

I looked away from the electronic lavishness of my laptop and gaped at everybody’s highly strung facial muscles.  Everyone’s greasy faces showed how much rage they were feeling inside.  Excited.  Excitable.  Is that how a happy face should look like?  Stretched and oily?  I touched my nose and my fingers gathered my abundant supply.  Oily.  And yet, unlike the pack, I was tranquillized.

What the hell am I searching for this time?

Why am I sedate?

Why can’t I be happy like everyone else in this porch?

It was the first day of the year and it was a beautiful and sunny day.  Why am I filling it with words?  Why can’t I just enjoy the day?

“Jon, can you go to the kitchen and refill your grandmother’s glass of water?” my mother called out.  I sighed and went to the kitchen.  I remembered the same time last year in Dubai, when I celebrated the New Year with my best friend Norman at Jules Bar.  I suddenly smiled remembering the craziness of that night.

That very yellow night.

“We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were much too afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.”
–  Oscar Wilde / The Picture of Dorian Gray







January 1, 2010


We were at Jules Bar at the fabulous Le Meridien Dubai for the New Year’s Eve party.  Apparently that’s where my best friend Norman Cautivar, my sister’s fiancé Alexandre Viaud and I went because it was the nearest from our place and the least jam-packed New Year’s Eve party venue anyone from Dubai can go to without the massive $100 entrance fees and without being massacred by the plastered alcoholic community of the city that went to the bigger venues to experience the countdown frenzy.   Everything at JB was purple and silver and everybody shone.  I was a bit nervous seeing the overhead balloons that covered the entire ceiling of the club half hoping there were no liquid bombs stashed there somewhere.  This brought to mind the climax of the Sidney Sheldon novel Windmills of the Gods.

Dinner was club sandwiches and fish and chips.  A contoured symbolism of light eating that should take over in 2010.  Well, at least to three of us, who all went on a gorge fest in the year that was.  Especially me who went from size medium to maternity section halfway through the year.

We were all missing my sister Dess who was in Russia for work.  We sent SMS messages to her as she sipped her wine inside the hotel that she was staying in, feeling suicidal I presumed.  Norman, in bloom with what’s around him, recalled the last New Year that we were together and that was in 2002, back in Saudi Arabia, with our friend Jess Garcia.  I tried going back in time but have forgotten most it.  I remembered being in the carpet, eating wanton and watching a pirated dvd of Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers.  Other than that, it was a blur.  Alexandre wished that he was with his beloved, Dess, and started booming the horns in between spoonfuls of fish to welcome the year that will make us all, even if not together as a family, offspring of good luck and paradigms of beauty.

At 9 something PM, we started dancing to the 80s music, Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind hey Mickey! , that I found entertaining but at the back of my mind, also found disrupting.  If this is how I am going to meet the new year, 80s music, boozed, dancing mindlessly and roving my eyes to possible candidates of love among the club people then 2010 would turn out to be just another 2002.  With Chinese food and DVD.  All the same dizzying with thoughts of resolution that dissolves into the cold air after January 2.

I thought about burning up like I did back then.  I thought about The Crush and his woozy smile.  I thought about me asking questions.  I saw me dancing.  I saw me jumping.




At exactly 12 midnight, it started to rain outside.  Temperature dropped to 5 degrees.  Inside, with the thumps of music and borrowed euphoria, our world was sweltering.

The Jules Bar crowd, where Norman, Alex and I found ourselves dillydallying with, intoxicated and shining with sweat as we, ferociously conveyed a very drunken and a very tormenting splash of movable entries of the mind.

I was, in fact, happily gyrating my best and enjoying my perspiration, and at the same time, tussled with the fact that yellow was my color of the year.  Underneath my jacket, I was wearing my old and battered H & M yellow shirt and yellow socks.  From that thought and the nameless faceless people who hugged me afterward, I knew deep inside my schizophrenic heart, that 2010 will be a great year for me.

We left the bar so late and so inebriated that we unintentionally found ourselves in a Chinese restaurant having wonderful crap and mumbling profanities to the bone that squeaked the humorous monster in the three of us.

Nobody drove that night.  And there were no taxis everywhere.  It was almost 4 in the morning.  And then a car sped by us and stopped.  A lift!  We said hello, got in and I saw in my peripheral view, a man in his 20s, could be Iranian, could be whatever, speaking in a rabid tone I immediately found potent as he swerved us around, taking control of the steering wheel.  I looked at him and he immediately got the message of . . . hope.  He smirked.  I was torn between drunken fantasy and reality.

I dropped Alex who was practically dead and then to my house to drop off another carcass named Norman.

A few minutes later, I found myself in a deserted parking lot with a New Year’s Eve cuisine . . . burning up . . . sucking my Iranian’s penis inside his car.  Only in its third hour, my 2010 was right in its tracks – alcohol, solidarity, beautiful chaos and sex – and there, inside the car with my beautiful stranger, I have learned the syllabus of recognition.

I laughed.



Whether the feeling is, good or bad, you process it into action, or treat it as a fleeting thought that passes and may be forgotten. So if you have a fleeting evil thought and it passes – should you waste time feeling guilty about it? The natural safeguard for ethical behavior is your heart or “gut feeling.” This is the best indicator of wrong or right.

–          Paul Jerard / Meditation and the Monkey Mind


December 17, 2010

There is comfort in chaos.  I have always known this to be one of the most imposing prospectus in modern-day living.  Each time I am so at peace with my being and everything is beguiling enough it all becomes so agonizingly perfect, I dwell in chaos.  I just need to.  There have been various times in my life when madness has shown me more answers than meditation did.  I met most of my one night stands in pubs and discotheques and once in bed, after sex, it has brought me inner peace more than the living rosaries every October back in high school.

Today, along with my friend Daniel and his wife to be, who were in the Philippines for a holiday, I went to Greenhills Shopping Centre in San Juan.  Greenhills, the city’s centre for baratillio or rummage sale.  It has over 2,000 stores, and espouses an ‘indoor-outdoor’ theme, with the shopping center having the appearance of several distinct buildings (some separated by a main road) that are all interconnected through pathways and bridges. It hosts a Roman Catholic chapel and a Muslim prayer room. The shopping center is bounded by Ortigas Avenue on the west, Connecticut Street on the south, Club Filipino, also known as McKinley Street. The whole of it, a macabre empire of its own boasted saleable and buyable Ipods, Ipads, clothes, clothes, bags and shoes.  Also, scattered in and around the shopping haven were young boys and girls, all for the taking if the price is right.

Had it not been an insurmountable amount of effort to exterminate the buoyancy of Greenhills Shopping Centre, I would’ve inflamed it to its annihilation.  The tinderos (sellers) who were mouthing their commodities matched by the shopper’s accord to a more equitable buy did not just make my heart sing the enchanted but I was truly amazed by the repertoire of sound coming from their boxed lungs.

Back in Dubai, sometime in July, I lost my job and have decided to come home and embrace change, cuss the dashboard fuckers for letting me go after five long years of enslavement.  Had the global recession splattered its clear definition in front of my face, then that would have to be the only explanation I needed:  no job in a foreign land, ample time to make love (and to be updated) with myself, enjoy both the rush of things and the slowness of the day and have my mobile phone on mute for the heck of, what the heck, heckling fate and its unpredictability.  Also, I came home to rest and to see myself clearly had I been reduced into a cold being that I was in the last couple years.   But then two months after I have arrived in the Philippines, the love of my life also decided to leave me for good.  It was a cataclysmic for me because he was in Dubai and I was in the Philippines when the break-up happened, needless to say, my plan of coming back to Dubai was hampered.  Why would  I come back to a place where my heart used to be happy?  Why would I go back to Dubai to gather fix my broken heart when I can do that in the Philippines where love comes in scores of multi-coloured conditions?

And so in my attempt to hold together what seemed to have remained in my so called self-esteem, I decided to cook.

When I saw a garlic I thought maybe it can save my life.

I thought, “If I used to make eight out of ten people geniuses in their fields, a training manager as I was, then I can make this one grotesque looking garlic, a spectacle of its tiny little existence.”   I then heated the pan like it was my sleepy internal chiffonier and as I glimpsed toward the steam coming out of the pan’s Teflon blackness, I saw my innards responding to its desirous sizzles – its recklessly quick discoloration being vacuumed by the built-in exhaust vent.  A tiny Stephen King hand going inside my mouth, mauling my tongue and wounding my gums as it pushed its way down to grab my intestines and pull it out to finally make me feel empty inside.  It was a time when I wasn’t feeling anything at all.

The garlic did not save my life.  Or my macabre head.  My monkey mind took over that day when I most needed it.  I left the kitchen and said, “Fuck cooking.  I’d rather masturbate!”

Instead I saw myself walking a month later with my friends Daniel and Maria at the Greenhills Shopping Centre swamped in its Christmas shopping frenzy.  We went inside a sex shop because we wanted to buy vibrators as naughty gifts for each other.  Well, that was the original plan until we realized that most of the dildos came from China.

“I wouldn’t want that stuck inside my ass when the battery goes off,”  I said pointing at a plastic reincarnation of a slayer dog named Jeff Stryker.

“They look so cheap.”  Daniel said

“They are a thousand and five hundred pesos.”  said the Chinese-Filipino guy who was nice enough to laugh at my joke when I said, “Have you tried one of these?  Natatakot kase ako baka hindi magtagal sa puke ko (I am scared that it may not last long inside my pussy).”

“Then buy a new battery!”  the guy said, apparently amused with his own daftness.

“It is the quality!”  I spat not amused with his joke, or his face.

Maganda i-yan Christ-mas gift (It is a good Christmas gift)” the man insisted, as I amused myself with his broken Tagalog, typical of Chinese migrates that has ruled the country since the time immemorial that they have been called Chinoys (combo of Chinese and Pinoy) ever since.

I wanted to explain to him that we needed something made out silicone or at least some high-grade synthetic rubber because as I told the Chinese-Filipino merchant, “That kind of plastic would melt inside.  Might as well ball condoms AKA anal beads – mas mura pa (it is much cheaper).”

The Chinoy sighed and Daniel looked at me, an American guest to the country looking at two Filipinos making a price and quality deal over a sexual device.

I winked at him and said in my control freak tone, “Danny, we’ll take the butt plug instead.”

My voice was so loud the entire mall heard it.

And then I looked at the nice peddler and said, “Kuya, we’ll take the pink one.”

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