Monday, August 29, 2005

I Lost A Friend (part 2)

I went to Larra's funeral alone. Since there aren't much public transport on Sundays, I settled for taxicab. It was too late for to realize that the driver took the long road and had to pay as much as forty pesos. I saved the plate number on my mobile phone. I'll deal with that creep some other time.

I entered the chapel not knowing what to do. I've always been aloof at funerals, sometimes feeling uneasy. Larras was surrounded with her neighbors, colleagues, and relatives. I was approached by one of Larra's sisters, whom I knew before. After greeting me, she pointed out to the marble urn above the white altar.

"There's Larry," she said while holding her emotions.

It was just an uneasy feeling. I'm not used to being introduced to an urn before, especially if it contains someone you befriended dearly.

Some of my workmates arrived later. Tita Malu sat beside me as we recollected all of our happy memories with our head writer. Larra is the comedian in the office, a happy-go-lucky kind of person who always bring joy to other people. Her death was sudden and an unexpected ending of her beautiful life.

Minutes later, a special mass was celebrated at the chapel in Larra's memory. I couldn't help but to shed tears at one time. I couldn't even dare looking at the marble urn.

The homily discussed about two fears Filipinos are afraid of: suffering and failure. These fears should be faced with faith and determination.

After the mass, I had assorted conversations with Larra's friends and colleagues in the chapel. We were able to piece together the events that led to her murder. I cannot divulge the details as of now, but we were very sure that the murder was carefully planned. We hope that the police will not be misled by some of the evidences. Larra's colleagues from the bigger TV network are determined to have this case solved, especially that her death is a blow to broadcasters whose duty is to expose the truth against the wicked and corrupt.

We treated ourselves to light lunch, after which Larra's urn was to be transferred to her hometown. Tita Malu and I were about to leave until Larra's sister offered me to carry my friend's urn. I obliged. She was heavy.


I just received a text message that our production team cannot attend to Larra's burial this Tuesday and will have to proceed to our production meeting as scheduled. There was nothing we can do, we have an TV show to produce. We know that Larra will agree.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I Lost A Friend (part 1)

We at the office thought it was a bad bad joke...

Our show's head writer, Larra, has not been in the office for two days. Since she also works as researcher for a bigger television network, and we have been informed that she will be in Samar Province to cover a reunion of a housemaid and her family in this poor area for her other show, we surmised that she was away. Although she had written advance script for upcoming segments and episodes, Tita Malu, our production manager was scrambling to get in touch with her. We had a segment cancelled and a was replaced by a new one, and it did not have a script.

I volunteered to write the script for the new segment, which was okay since Larra is a great friend of mine. We are like partners in the show's creative aspect. Larra writes the scripts for segments and episodes while I execute the shots, revise the spiels if need be, accompany the editor with the splicing, and make a great segment. We often leave the office together and have dinner at an eatery or be pampered at a salon.

Larra, like I, is also gay. When I first met her when I was new at the job, I must admit that she was my karma. She worked at a TV network that I despise, studied at a university I also despise, and was a meek, humorous contrast from the loud, serious then-researcher.


As I was typing a script for the sudden segment, Tita Malu gasped in words of shock. "Please tell me this isn't true," she exclaimed to the other end of her mobile. As if upon signal, all the staff and crew drew near our production manager, wondering what that was about as sadness and bafflement marked her face. "This isn't happening," she answered back as she puts the cell phone down. Tita malu then announced to us what seemed to be a bad bad joke.

"She's dead."



The people at the office blurted a chorus of what-happened's and why's. Tita Malu answered, "11 stab wounds."

More questions were raised in the office.

"Since when?"

"She was dead for two days now."

"Who was on the phone?"

"It's our boss. She said she was informed by our former head writer."

I shook my head as I try to re-compose myself and continued on typing the script. "That's definitely anouther bad prank from a disgruntled employee." I seemed to kept on reassuring myself.

After seconds of thinking what to do, Tita Malu instictively contacted Larra's colleagues from her other show. After minutes of waiting on hold and seemingly-endless referrals, she finally have gotten in touch with one of their writers. Tita Malu pretended that she was looking for Larra because she had a message from her older sister. Tofe, the other show's co-writer was asking for any contact number from Larra's older siblings. Finally, after we cannot wait for a "no Larra's not dead" any more, Tita Malu opened up and told Tofe that she had received a news that Larra was dead.

"Yes, Larra's dead."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Saints Move In Mysterious Ways

Tomorrow, Thursday, is St. Jude day. People from all over the metropolis flock during the afternoon to a small church right beside the Presidential Palace to attend mass and to pray novenas to the patron of hopeless cases and things despaired of. The church-goers are a diverse bunch: students who wanted to pass the board exams, teachers who wish their visa applications will get approved, sons who beg for their parents to get healed, daughters who are in search for a Caucasian husband. I don't fall in any of the groups, my case for St. Jude is different.

I've been praying to St. Jude for three weeks, after a two-year hiatus. Back in college, I prayed for two things: for a great career in advertising and for our political party to sweep the upcoming student council elections. I never landed an ad job and none of our candidates won. Although I did not blame the saint for that, I discontinued my novenas from then on, only to realize that saints, and their intercessions with God, move in mysterious ways.

Last year, I landed a job on a TV show, with my father's help. I guess he needed someone in the family to follow his footsteps. After working for two months as a researcher, I was promoted as segment producer, and a raise and praise from the executive producer to boot. Months before, our political party swept six of seven council positions, including the president.

Flash forward to three weeks ago, it was a Wednesday. My mind was a battle of thoughts and endless option-weighing. Although I feel comfortable in doing TV work, I could hear the call from afar to re-venture in literary writing. My dad has been prodding me to go rolling to the Free Mountains and follow the path taken by my mom and older caregivers. It feels so hard to leave the country that you love, and all the people and places you would leave behind, but still feel hopeless about the land's current stale state. It has become too heavy a load that I needed someone to help me in my decision. I turned to St. Jude Thaddeus.

I pray my novenas requesting St. Jude to help me make the right decisions, decisions that I will eventually not regret. Making a bad decision has become a phobia for me, because I have made some and it paid me dearly.

Tomorrow, or perhaps in a day...or a year...or so, I will hear his answer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Introduction: A New Week, A New Plan

I personally would like to welcome you to my domain. My name is Empress Maruja, daughter of Emperor Jovenal, son of Dowager Olivia.

Okay, enough of that "creative introduction" crap. You can call me Maruja. I'm from the Philippines and I hope you could take a peek of my journeys on and offline. Enjoy!


It was a start of a new week at the office. I work as a television practitioner. I was supposed to accompany our editor in arranging the segments for our upcoming episode, but when I arrived I realized that the prodcution assistant had to capture some additional clips, and it took quite a while. So, I made use of my waiting time solving week-old crossword puzzles and telling my stomach not to eat too much.

It was also a start of a new diet plan. First of all, I refused to call myself obese. I would rather consider my body as "mango-shaped," a bit plump. I did not bother about my weight back then. I used to buy clothes that were tight-fitting because wearing tight-fitting clothing was all the rage then. I did not even bother to fit them before buying them. But whenever I would went home, half of the clothes would fit, tightly. The rest are how should I call these...a size too small.

Don't bother me about taking me to the gym. I tried that once. After a continuing prod from my dad, I tried going to them gym, and boy was I the most ill-figured than the rest of the bunch. Although I enjoy running the threadmill while staring at the cute, buff guys beside me, but I was turned off when I was sweating profusely and the gym instructor asked me if those were sweat...or tears. I don't deserve to be ridiculed.

So I continued to eat whenever I feel like it. Whenever I pass 7-11, I would head straight to the instant noodles section and buy the latest imported brands from Thailand and Korea. Or I would buy the oddest-flavored soda Coca-Cola and Pepsi could think about, like Pepsi Fire and Sprite Ice. Or I would grab the biggest Clover Chips or Lala Fish Crackers. Or sometimes I buy them all and indulge them in my midnight post-dinner while watching late night programs.

But last week, I was viewing video clips from our office's first anniversary. I was stunned to see myself in the monitor. It was not a pretty sight. I could see my flabs coming out from my supposedly larger-sized shirt (I wore an L then, and yes, I still insist I'm an M). I could not believe that I became that wide, minus the "10 pounds" one gains when on TV. I looked at my bag and took out a brown paper bag. In it was a gift given to me by a co-worker during the anniversary. A gift that I will pay eventually after a month.

It was a set of diet pills.

I was advised to take a capsule twice a day. My eating habit would not change, the co-worker insisted. That catchphrase caught my attention. Day after day I popped two capsules a day. I did not bother taking measurements of myself befor taking them. I was afraid of seeing a 36-above waistline. But everyday when I woke up, my clothes feel a bit looser. I stare at my body and see rivers upon rivers of stretch marks along my thunderous thighs. My stomach's skin began to look like crepe paper. I was losing weight so suddenly, so fast, and it's scary. But I liked it.

I took the last pill Sunday. I see myself and was thinking "I don't wanna go back to being fat." I have to do something without buying 24 pills for 1500 pesos. From then on, I limited my food intake, I only ate when hungry (or acidic), and I stopped buying food from the convenience store. It's a tough battle, and hopefully I'll succeed.