Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tyranny of the Good


I was a very young boy when I started reading books. One of the first genres I fell in love with was fantasy and I devoured the Dragonlance novels with gusto.

Who could forget Caramon's big heart and undying loyalty to his brother? Or Raistlin's constant torment between good and evil? Or Tasslehoff's endearing charm, despite his thieving ways.

These books may talk about dragons and mages, of kenders and dwarves, but the characters in them face the same daunting tasks we are given, the struggle to be good. It may seem strange but the truth is, the world they portray is much like our world, filled with the same wars, the same sorrows, the same joys.

Filipina actress Valerie Concepcion tweeted last Sunday night that she performed at a party for the Presidential Security Group where President Benigno Aquino had laughed at her jokes and enjoyed her show.

It was a normal tweet perhaps for anyone who enjoyed meeting the president, but the party happened when a tropical storm hit the country and killed more than 600 people.

The message unleashed a flood of righteous indignation. People posted angry messages on their Twitter and Facebook accounts condemning her and the president for being insensitive, for having fun at a time when the nation was in mourning.

In the Dragonlance novels, there once was a Kingpriest who ruled at a time when the powers of good were flourishing in the world.

He fought evil and sought to end wars in the world. But as time passed, the Kingpriest begun to persecute not only evil, but even those who did not think exactly like him. He had begun to assume that he knew what was good for the world, and those who opposed him were evil. He had become arrogant, and in time, called upon the wrath of the gods.

I suppose there is always a danger when we start to expect that people should think and feel the same way we do. Especially when we believe that how we feel and the things we fight for are for the good. It can make us cross the line from righteous to self-righteous. When we begin to think that our way is the only way.

Under the guise of good intentions, personal liberties can be questioned; the right to not feel bad, the right to have fun, the right to feel happy.

C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist  and staunch defender of the Catholic faith, was one of those who constantly warned against dystopian futures that arises from utopian visions. In his book God in the Dock, he said

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." 

I told Rudeboy that I found it interesting how people reacted. I am always curious about people, why we do the things we do, why we are the way we are.

"It echoes the late Christopher Hitchen's contempt about the comfort these 'hysterical bunch of pearl-clutching virgins and their righteous indignation' find in conformity," Rudeboy said. "Not to sound callous, but the world does not stop spinning for any tragedies, no matter how small or great. Christmas this year will still be celebrated with cheer, shallow or genuine, dead drowned bodies or none."

I understand that people are angry. They feel helpless, and worried and upset and as is often the case, we often lash out against those who seem to not care.

But as we have seen in the past,  people will learn to move on from tragedies. Lives will continue. The holidays will come. People will still hold parties to celebrate, friends and families will give presents and cook a feast, even as thousands of others lie hungry, homeless and mourning their dead.

That hard fact may make some of us uncomfortable, squirm, or seethe at the seeming callousness and indifference but perhaps, that's just the way it is. Each of us can and will respond to tragedies in different ways. To help or not to help. To care or not to care. how much to care. To give or not to give. How much to give.

These questions pose delicate and complex issues about morality and examine our responsibility to help those who are in need. But I'm afraid there are no easy answers. Each of us must find his or her own way in the dark.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Blame It on Me


The Games We Play (I)
Beauty and the Feast

It begun in August. Gino had just broken up, and was lonely for friends. He barely kept in touch with people during the time he had a relationship and as a result, most of his friends abandoned him. We had known each other for a couple of years, he would call me once in a while to catch up but we were never really particularly close.

"Sama ka, my friends and I are going out," I invited him once. The party was fun and when it was time to go home, I offered to let him sleep at my place.We chatted late into the night and I listened as he spoke of his jealous boyfriend who would never let him out of his sight, who gave him everything else but took away his freedom.

He had an excited quiet way about him, as if he had a secret which he longed to tell. He asked me why I don't have a boyfriend and I gave him my usual excuse. There's nobody to love, I said. Besides, isn't it more fun to be single? I gaily answered.

When we slept, he hugged me and ... I let him. It was not that I meant to - I don't want to give that impression. It was just that he was so kind and available. And when we cuddled in bed, he was so warm and despite my clouded eyes, I knew how to accept a gift.

We started hanging out every weekend. We would go to the gym, eat out, shop, travel, meet guys, go clubbing. He would accompany me on my errands, my chores. He was my de facto "date" during company events, birthday parties.

My friends started noticing we spent a lot of time together and people would often ask if we were dating.

"Tell me, K, who is Gino to you?" E asked me once. I thought carefully before answering.

"He is like a fake boyfriend."

"OMG!!! Ppppuurrrrfeeeeeeeeeeeeccctttttt! I'm so proud of you, I'm actually crying right now."

I laughed. "Gaga ka talaga. But in a way, he is. He takes care of me, I take care of him, we spend time together, but without all the commitment drama. We can have fun with other guys."

"He's the perfect boylet K. I'm so happy for you."

"So, did I get an A?"

"A+!!! Sheeeetttt. I love it. But I'm worried about you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"K, you're the marrying type. (Yes, for now, you're a slut.) And you have the tendency to fall for him, I know you."

I shook my head, to tell him I disagree. I can't possibly fall for someone like Gino. He was just so not my type. He was merely a companion, a friend whose company I enjoy.

"Whatever he does for you, suklian mo. But don't go over the top. Because if you go over the top, it means, you want something else," E explained. "To maintain a fake boyfriend relationship and friends in the future, everything must be equal. If you go on other dates, you let him know, and always ask 'Do u want to meet after? Or how was your day?'"

"Wow, you are such an expert."

"You have the tendency to go over the top, K so the equal-equal part is important for you to remember," E admonished. "Cuddling is ok, but do not over do. And always remember, it's a fake relationship."

His words rang in my head.

Tall, dark, and decisively handsome, it was easy for Gino to attract people. He would sometimes lament that people think he's just a sex machine. As I listened to him rant, I thought to myself, he's probably the only guy complaining about his good looks.

It's not so bad right, to have people want you, desire you? On the outside, it may seem he's a confident young man, but as I got to know him better, I realize Gino was but a kid.

He delights in theme parks and dragged me once to take a ride. He easily gets scared of ghosts and scary stories. He likes to cuddle by putting his head on your chest. It was strange; that inside his hulking frame hides a sweet boy.

And he is sweet. He would surprise me by bringing me a sandwich and fried chicken, some slices of cheese at times. He would cut the food we were eating into smaller pieces so it would be easier for me to eat them, he would take care of me when I'm drunk, to make sure my things won't get lost.

Gino introduced me to Anton once, a tall handsome guy he was dating. From the look in Anton's eyes, I could tell two things: he knew he was handsome, and that like so many other gay men in the club, he was hopelessly in love with my friend.

Seeing my friend Gino's awkward grin, I knew something else: that Gino would never love him back.

Something changed as the months passed. As E correctly predicted, I begun to get attached to Gino. It was not that I meant to - I don't want to give that impression. It was just that he was so kind and available.

I shouldn't care too much, I reminded myself. It was only a matter of time, wasn't it? One of us will find someone else, a real boyfriend. It was a race and the stake was high.

One night, we were dining at our favorite restaurant. I was picking at the grilled chicken and steamed fish, I was morose. I saw his eyes shift over to me and I realized he wasn't as cold to my moods as I thought. Some song started to play in the background, an old song called "Lovefool".

"Love me, love me ... say that you love me,
Fool me, fool me, go on and fool me."

I swallowed and said, "I think we need to stop …"

But all of a sudden he was telling a story, a funny anecdote about his aunt who he met in Davao. It was hilarious, and our laughter washed over my faltering words, over my doubt. He was louder than doubt, eyes grinning, his laughing face half hidden in the candlelight.

The moment passed. And all I could think of was my surprise. That he could tell a joke so well. That he could be so charming, so engaging.

Who expects these things in friends, in quiet lovers. He was looking at me, laughing at his story. I saw how beautiful he was. And it seemed to me that he was saying "Let it be for now."

For we both know it would end so soon, and whom else did we have? Those random guys in the clubs, or in Grindr? I knew how that would be.

A prolonged, thrilling seduction. Some weeks of passion. Then ... nothing. How could I do better than this? This funny story, this lonely boy, who was the only one in the world who could make me laugh.

How could I let this go, for a winter dream?

Weeks later, Gino and I bumped into Anton again in a club. After a polite exchange of talk, I made my way to the bar to get a drink. I looked over to where Gino was and saw he was being accosted by a couple of guys. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, basking in the attention. He smiled and waved at me, and I nodded back.

I turned around and caught Anton watching me with a faint smile on his lips. It seemed to be mocking me. Stupid boy, he'll never love you either.

I looked back at Gino and suddenly, I saw all too well how it would be from here. Gino would one day leave me, just like he left the others. And a leaving without the need for explanation, for a goodbye. For we really don't owe each other anything. We are friends, not lovers, something I'd almost forgotten. My heart was pounding.

How did it happen, I wondered? What safer arrangement was there and how did it go wrong? Did love creep in, tiny like a seed, only to grow larger and blossom with each shared meal, every night spent together? And the mystery of it all, why it would grow on one, and not on the other. Suddenly, I realize there was only one thing left to do.

I had to leave him first.

Blame it on me
I forgot the rules of the dance
We tip and we toe
We swirl and we turn
And then we dance with someone new
Always, there's someone new.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Gossip Girl: It-Girl Happened One Night


Bonsoir, Upper East Siders. Did you enjoy Thanksgiving as much as I did? I know one person who didn't.

After three weekends out of Manila, I was dying to see my friends to catch up and party.

"Hey! I miss you. I'm back. Are you going out this weekend?" I said to E. "Sige na. (Come on.) I'll be out of town again next weekend."

"Nasa Icon kami bukas. Birthday kasi of a friend (We'll be in Icon tomorrow. It's a friend's birthday)," E replied.


"Try naming humabol? (We'll try to catch up?)," E offered.

"Fine. Fine. Just so you remember, honey, I am not a stopover along the way. I'm a destination!" I said and we both giggled.

"Are you bringing your boyfriend?" I asked. E and his lover have an open relationship that allowed them to explore certain possibilities.

"Yep, I'll be with Arcee."

"See yah."

E and his boyfriend Arcee arrived a little past three in the morning. E was a little drunk then, everyone was, and we were all having a great time.

Arcee and I danced together. He had always been quiet; a rather shy and timid young man who would be content to sit at a corner and watch the party. 

I found him attractive the first time I met him and we would flirt playfully with each other. But tonight he seemed different. I wasn't sure if it was the white shirt that showed off his lean body and made him more masculine or the alcohol that made him more aggressive, but I could feel something was in the air.

My hand was around his waist and our crotches were bumping into each other. We were flirting, being coy with each other while the whole world was watching. I was having fun but I wanted to make the night more interesting.

"Ang saya tonight no?" I said. "Do you wana make it more exciting?"

He nodded.

"I dare you to ask your boyfriend if you can make out with one of his best friends."

Spotlight on little A. Now put to the test by one Queen Bee. Will Arcee take the bait and go from Brady to Britney? Or will his goody-two-shoes mindset turn into the night's biggest buzz kill?

Arcee looked at me, smiled, and left without a word. When he came back, he whispered "Done", and we locked lips. His mouth was forceful, insistent. The kiss left me breathless, giddy. I looked at him and saw him in a new light.

That night, Arcee kissed me, Gino, Chris, and several other cute guys in the club. We were all stunned as he flitted from men to men with a grace that belied his beauty.

Dawn was breaking. Pople were starting to leave as the party ended. I approached Arcee.

"Hey, do you wanna go home with us?" I asked.

"Actually, I am going home," he replied. "With my boyfriend." He nodded to the direction of E who was busy flirting with another guy. Ooohhh, a flat out rejection.

He was about to go, but he suddenly turned back.

"Maybe next time?" he said with a crooked grin.

I smiled back. "Done … and done."

Spotted: An it-girl being born. Word is Arcee killed the spotlight out of everyone and stole it for himself. It was a debut the likes of which hasn't been seen since the time of … well, Kane, himself.

Looks like our girls have to watch their backs. But don't worry K, the brightest stars burn out the fastest. Or at least, that's what I've heard.

Waiting for a star to fall.