Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remains of the Day

My phone rang at 6:00 p.m.

It was Roman, my friend and one of my ex-business partners.

I winced and debated about taking the call or not. The last time I had spoken to Roman, he was still going on about the non-existent division of final profits from our unfortunate business venture that shut down two years ago. An unpleasantness  beyond remedy that I had already decided to bury in the past, but which he seemed determined to keep alive.

I bit the bullet and pressed Answer. I heard the discordant noise of what seemed like a child singing, so I thought he'd just butt-dialed me when his voice, full of his trademark happy grin, came on.

"Asan ka?"

"Ha?" I yelled over the din of what was clearly a videoke in the background.

"Asan ka? Punta ka dito."


"Birthday ko."


It should be abundantly clear to anyone who's read this blog that I am hopeless when it comes to significant dates like birthdays and anniversaries. My success as a producer would be impossible were it not for the existence of PMs and PAs to constantly remind me of meetings and bookings and other schedules.

And of course, I have friends like Roman who thoughtfully remind me of their birthdays, like an annual tradition.

"Deretso lang ito, sa Intramuros golf club. Andito rin si Kiko, hintayin ka namin."

Kiko is another mutual friend. Roman's lieutenant, and another business partner in the failed venture.

I normally bail on birthday celebrations - particularly ones that feature live, tuneless singing as the primary entertainment - but it is a testament to how highly I value Roman's friendship that I managed to drag myself out of bed. Sure, it took three hours later, and fifteen minutes more debating whether to drive or take a cab to Intramuros.

Laziness won out, as usual, and another ten minutes were spent waiting for a cab.

And then it was off to see old friends.


The undeniable sound of a live band - not a videoke machine, as I had surmised - was the only sign of life in the darkened fortress called the Intramuros Golf Club. I fumbled my way along the unlit, abandoned back entrance and eventually emerged at the roofdeck, awash in stage lights. 

"Asan si Major?" I asked the maitre d'.

"Who, sir?"

"Major Roman, the celebrant."

"Oh, si Colonel? This way, sir."

So it's Colonel, now. It really HAD been a long time.


Roman was in his cups, but looking precisely the same. The unflappable smile, the boyish bonhomie was still there.

He bounced his 9-year old son off his lap as he got up to hug me.

"Is that your kid?" I asked, incredulously. "Grabe, ang laki na!"

My colleagues' children have had, of late, the annoying habit of turning into adolescents and worse, teenagers.

I've burned them into children in the CD-RW of my brain, but overwrites are as insistent and annoying as prompts for system updates.


Bottles of San Mig Light instantly appeared and I leaned over.

"Halos one year na 'ko di umiinom!" I yelled at Roman over the din of the band.


"Sumakit tagiliran ko, eh. Yoko malaman. Para surprise."

Roman just grinned and, ever hospitable, had his minions produce a bottle of white wine, and graciously poured me a glass.

Kiko, still the irrepressible party boy - if getting a little thick in the middle - was the de facto Master of Ceremonies, alternating between plying everyone with drinks and harassing the female band singers.

It seemed just like old times - with the conspicuous absence of my ex-bff, Vincent.


"Any news from Vincent?" I inquired as I tentatively sipped my first taste of alcohol.

"Ayun, nasa Vegas pa din."

"His press releases on FB say he's in Spain," I snickered. "Nice to see he hasn't changed."

"May bago siyang lover," Roman grinned. "Purong Pinoy."

I am perplexed. Then I figure the white guy he had been with shortly after his flight to exile was ancient history.

"Why is he with a brown boy when he could be swindling the locals instead?"

Roman grinned wider.

"Lahat ng credit card, nakapangalan sa boyfriend."

I'd forgotten that Pinoys are even easier to grift - especially when they're star-struck and madly in love.

And Vincent is an unchangeable aspect of nature, just like gravity, and just as irresistible. He sucks people in, and then they fall hard.

Nevertheless, I find myself slightly missing him, on this night so reminiscent of countless other nights when we'd drink ourselves stupid while lackeys and toadies of all stripes attended to us like kings. The promise of easy, casual sexual adventures ever-present in the air, the arrogance of our handsome youth, the oyster that was the world.

I blame the wine, then one of Roman's boys pours me a second glass as I try to recall the moment when I turned into the immovable object to Vincent's irresistible force.


"Speaking of swindling," I segued into the inevitable. "How are our Chinese friends?"

Roman made a face.

"They stole P200,000.00 from us."

"Did the bank verify?"

Roman swigged his drink and poured out another.

"Sarado na yung account."

I'd long accepted my share of P200,000.00 as a very small price to pay for not choosing business partners more wisely, but it had rubbed Roman like a pebble in his shoe and he had been bruising for two years now.

"Nakita ko nga yung isang mokong sa taxi one time. Kinawayan pa ako."

"Why didn't you just shoot him on the spot? You do control Chinatown, after all."

Roman grinned.

I always did say "Kung hindi mo kayang ibaon sa limot, ibaon mo na lang sa lupa."


But I'd long gotten over the bitter truth that the Chinese partners in our doomed enterprise had swindled us out of profit. Roman is a trusting guy - well, we all were - but the fact that Vincent was the most vocal proponent of that consortium should've rung alarm bells like Balangiga.

Because trusting Vincent with money is like trusting a fox with chicks. And he has a head for business the same way a mudfish has an aptitude for applied chemistry.

Nevertheless, even Vincent, shifty as he is, got shafted in the end, so I guess there's always a bigger crook.

We should've just burned the place down when we had the chance.

Still - it no longer really bugs me the way it did. We were stupid, the Chinese confirmed a stereotype and got the better of us, end of story.

I'd still dance on their graves, though. It's one of the few things that keep me alive.


Kiko came over and whispered that the band was about to end its final set. But Roman was just getting started, and decreed that he would just pay the band for an extension.

Kiko scampered off to take care of matters, and the music switched to 80s hits as the band broke for dinner.

Roman and I both grinned like idiots as Seona Dancing's "More To Lose" came on.


He grinned even more.

"So, kumusta naman si Colonel?" he asked.


We used to cry
About the day when one of us might fall
Weak and blindly
Into another's arms
Demands all gained from jealousies
Would flow like water, drowning us
But leaving us with just another
Lover's false alarm


I have too many Colonels in my life. Maybe I'm impressed by rank too much. Or conflating it with accomplishment, which I in turn conflate with worthiness.

Then again, I am the son of a military man, and grew up thinking we were the Von fucking Trapps.

Must be them goddamned daddy issues.

I shrug.

"Why don't you ask him? We never talk anymore."

Roman looked deep in thought, and for a moment seemed about to disclose a confidence to me. But I'd long learned not to ask too many questions, especially if there was a clear and present danger I wouldn't like the answers.

The moment passed.

"Tell him to go talk to General Trias," he finally said.


A thousand tortured lives have fallen
Wounded, dying, cut down by the
Questions that we'd sharpened 
Just to save our losing days

We thought with nothing more to lose
We'd tear our hearts with jagged truths 
And everything we'd hung to for so long
Just slipped away


But the wine had gone to my head by that time.

Used to be we'd drink people under the table. I remember the infamous Jagermeister launch, open bar. The first and last time I touched that German abomination. The first time I blacked out due to alcohol, the first time I had to leave my car behind out of sheer full-on plasteredness.

From the few flashbacks I recall, the night ended with me being asked by Vincent not to puke in his mom's brand-new car as he brought me home, where I would hug the downstairs toilet bowl praying for death to come.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of EDSA, Roman and Kiko, in a haze of digestif-induced mania, were peppering the pre-dawn air with semi-automatics.

Clearly, one of the few times Vincent was the lesser evil.


And now it's over
Both of us through
And I feel older


But now, years later, two glasses of wine and I am undone.

Vincent in exile. No more private club to call our own little playground.

At least Roman's career seems to have recovered. Colonel Roman, now. He's a good guy and a decent man, and deserves it.

Some other officers arrive at the party - senior ones, from the way Roman greets them - and I take the opportunity to sneak off to the restroom.

And from there, tipsy with memories, I slip away into the night.


And now we're moving to new beginnings
But as we move we look once behind
To see what we might find of
Lost loves and old thoughts 
Of our nights of winnings
That lunge, tear and grasp
At lost wanting minds

last post for the year.

I hated you 2013.


  1. Awh.. Its a new year so 2014 would be a new start and hopefully this time more blessings would come to you and that you will succeed in whatever things you want to do :) I really love your blog too!! I wish though that you post more often haha :)

    1. Thank you, Simon, and happy 2014!

      I wish the bloggermeisters I followed would post more often, too. But I understand that blogging, like life, has its seasons. C'est la vie, c'est la change.

  2. Oh my god, Rudie. This was such a revelation. I've read you for years but I've not seen you this exposed. Almost like your dick was out. haha Seems alcohol has given you a fresh face. Manigong Bagong Taon and please come meet me this year? kthx

    1. In vito veritas, dear Nyl, as they say. Or maybe it was the Tagalog? English is, after all, a second language - one step removed from who we really are inside.

      Anyway…like I posted in your blog, so happy to see you again before the year ended. And so happy to have you here in mine first thing in this new one. Your number's still current, I hope. I owe you things…and then some.


  3. Oh and may I just say, I doubt the kids who blog these days would get the CD-RW reference but it brought a smile to my face. :X

    1. It's all about flash drives these days, is it? Or the damned cloud? Man, I feel old.

  4. I was a generation younger. But Seona Dancing conjures a lot of good memories. Memories I wish I lived. Haha.

    Happy New Year, Ruddie.

    1. The 80s are a curious time in terms of music, JM. New Wave, punk, pop, and rock came together in one big party.

      I do believe the soundtracks of our youth stay with us forever. Makes we wonder, though, if my college-age nephew will remember Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" with the same fondness I hold Seona Dancing.


      Happy 2014, Joms.

  5. Grabe Rudie, I was so surprised. I love More to Lose. As in. It makes me feel sentimental and a wee bit sad .. You used it perfectly.

    I miss you bigla. How have you been? I really miss you. I'm getting older. =)


    1. Good God, if it isn't my old pal Kane. Where have YOU been?