1. The Way Bicol Smiles


“Yes, I was infatuated with you: I am still. No one has ever heightened such a keen capacity of physical sensation in me. I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy. Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams. And you weren’t having any of those.” 
― Sylvia PlathThe Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I spent all of Sunday alone in my Quezon City apartment.  This is not so weird at all.  What’s really weird (coming to that as premise of this editorial) was missing my friend Patrick who I met in Bicol last week and his winsome smile that somehow marked its historic curve on my head since I flew back to Manila.  I also saw Juarez, Mexico via the film The Councelor (a place that has haunted me for years after Carlos Castaneda and the Tori Amos song) and Mark Herras telling the world that he is now a father and that the mother of his child is five years older than him.  There has been a lot of coordination that was done at work today too.  I somehow couldn’t get through most people and it confuses me because this is how addicted I could become – not even considering that today is Sunday and no one will ever pick up – and more.  I somehow hated that fact for the simple reason that I haven’t learned the concept of a ‘weekend’ especially when it comes to work and I chose to be stubborn.

. . . But what’s with my friend Patrick’s smile?  ANDImage WHY DO I MISS IT?

And so I went to Facebook and stalked his photos.  I saw one that replicated that same smile in my head.  I even saved it in my folder.  Still not satisfied, I made it as a screensaver in my lappy lest I may still be haunted in the days to come and the photograph would help ease my mental disruption – satiate my dense castle in the air – or finally slaughter my tell-tale desirability to a 32 year old man I only knew for three days.  But then the photos spoke as I wanted them to speak.  One was when he was still skeletal and young and behind him was the Kremlin.  What was he doing in Russia?  Threadlike and calm, I began reproducing the vague, lyrical content of the blurred scanned photo in my head and made it move:  I saw a young, effervescent Patrick having his picture taken and my voice was cloaked in the Tolstoy wind singing Rhiannon.  He flashed his teeth – crooked and perhaps needed some dental attention – and the smile comes in and the moment froze.  Like the photo and my wind-voice stopped as well just in time to smack Rhi-a-a-a-nnooooon.

A few minutes later, I was texting him.  I asked him why there was a picture of James McAvoy in one of his profile photos. He replied to me and said he ‘kind-of’ looked like him years ago and that was according to his friends.  Of course his friends were blind and he unfortunately believed them.  It’s a case of the blind leading the blind I must say but just the same, I replied to his SMS saying, ‘Of course you look like him.  Your eyes are the same.’

A few days ago, dining at 1st Colonial Grill, this trendy restaurant in Legazpi City, Patrick ornately elucidated the word URAGON which is supposed to be a universal peculiarity among Bicol men like him. Since my mother is from Leyte, her dialect suggests that uragon means lustful.  And shameless as I am, I used that as an entree to a delectable spicy dinner just when the appetizers were being served.  Patrick, red with shyness, stood up to his ground to wrangle my brash, unappetizing query.

He said it’s not all about the gata or the sili that the whole of Bicolandia cooking is famous for that tots up a Bicolano man’s sexual equivalence.  Moreover, the faculty of its foodies being a natural aphrodisiac does not associate the term uragon in seizing up the real meaning of it.  Apparently, the word, in their language, is more allied to strength, dignity, fearlessness and responsibility. I was quite sure it was his tourism tongue talking but when I started feeling something in that smile of his, not to mention how incredibly good looking he was even in dirty worked-up clothes, I somehow believed in everything he said.  And found everything quite . . . brand new.

OK, so this is the introduction of the word ‘feeling’; a word I gratefully NOT USE in my writing because I’ve always believed that feeling generates an emotion along the way of writing otherwise my Prose teacher would’ve screamed from his grave the word ‘cliché’.  Taking it all out, scrapping out the word or feeling or emotion that would somehow justify the middled conscience of my BIG LIFE, how would I write or type or authenticate the sentences that I am writing now just to tell the reader of this crappy article that my feelings doesn’t really matter in the end?  My (horrible horrible) friends would never resuscitate my old stories of love and attraction because ALL of them have been sold to the devil and can never EVER be retold.  I guess my old boyfriends would not even rekindle love with me because they’ve been reduced to the person that they once were after me (I am witch, you see) and would not even validate how good of a lover I was to them because in reality, I am no Paulo Coelho.  Their stories with me were Toni Morrison novels with a film adaptation of Jonathan Demme.

. . . But what’s with my friend Patrick’s smile?  AND WHY DO I MISS IT?

Because it has been a while I guess. It has been a real while since I felt this shallow. Or deep. Or something in between. More or less, it has been a while since I got affected by such truthful smile.  A non-theatrical smile that encompasses the perfect cone-shape of the Mayon volcano itself, the way Bicol’s highly spiced gata would make you want to crave for more rice, the way the heat in Bicol last week stoked my skin and unthinkingly turned it brown.

The way a smile can change your perception and perhaps, even your past.

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