Saturday, June 27, 2009

Somewhat Reddish, Rough on the Edges

Somewhat Reddish, Rough on the Edges
(word polaroids by Maria Alina Co)
(aimless writing collection)

Recently, for some unknown reason, a vision of a red table popped like a bubble inside my head.

It was somewhat like looking at a familiar face beaming at you in the middle of a crowd. You squint and stare, but couldn’t quite place the face. Or if you have one of those memory jars, where all sorts of memory things are cramped inside, swimming, waiting to be fished out.

I didn’t fish the table out. It managed to pop out of the lid and reveal itself in its full form.

Days before my eighth birthday, my eldest brother Kuya Ariel was cooking something up. I didn’t know for sure, but I knew it had something to do with one of his construction workers, a carpenter, who sneaked in and out of the back of our house.

Kuya was just a starting contractor then. He borrowed a lot of money from my Auntie Bebe, and then some from my Mother’s amigas to make his own construction company. I remember a lot of wood and metal scraps, small mounds of cement lying around our garage. I also remember hushed angry voices and painful tears echoing inside the four walls of our bungalow. It was the eighth time my daddy quit his job. And days before my birthday, when he swore he’ll never work a day again.

The day of my birthday, I had a small party. My guests were just three—Dorothy, my bus mate, Ida and Kathrina, my classroom buddies.

After I blew the birthday cake candles, Kuya took my hand and led me to my room (which I shared with mommy and ate). At the leftmost corner, leaning on a wall, was a large wooden study table, and scandalously red—thick red, with a rough texture. It’s the kind we doodled in drawing assignments in grade school. Rectangular, with four squat red legs. A red chair stood empty in front of the table, as if beckoning me to sit. Kuya’s chinky eyes were unusually large and misty. Beaming proudly, he kissed me on my forehead and said, “Ok ba Mylene?”

I sat on my new red chair and traced the edges of the table. Rough on the edges, it had wooden splinters that somehow escaped turning red. I nudged on the red drawer, which made an awful scraping sound.

“Diyan puwede ka maglagay ng books, notebooks, crayons, papel-- kasya lahat diyan,” Kuya explained.

I glanced at my three guests, who looked blankly at Kuya’s surprise. They weren’t impressed. I planted a quick kiss to Kuya’s cheek and uttered my thank you.

Over the next days, the red table stood empty, save for a picture frame my mom put there. I didn’t dare place my things inside the drawer. I was afraid the splinters would come alive and poke its spikes on my things.

Kuya checked on me almost every day. But most of the time, I was lying on our bed while doing my assignments. He’d say, “Kaya ko nga binigay sa’yo yan para diyaan ka mag-aaral.” I’d obey grudgingly.

Until one day, Kuya Ariel slammed our door open, his face red with anger. In his hand was my report card, line of sevens floating in red ink.

“Mylene, ano ‘to??? Paliwanag mo kung bakit ganito grades mo!” I blushed, but said coolly, “Bakit ka nagagalit? Si Mommy at Daddy nga hindi galit. Kuya lang naman kita ha.”

Wordlessly, Kuya grabbed all the books and notebooks on my bed and threw them on the ugliest piece of furniture in the room.

I was dazed and confused. Biting my lip, I began to weep.

When Kuya finally stormed out, I fixed the mess on the red table, muttering under my breath, “I hate you, you ugly thing!” I kicked the table with all the strength I had left, but I ended up hurting my foot instead. Besides being sore, splinters poked out of my toes. So the red table found a way to retaliate after all. I guess it hated me too.

At the end of the school year, the red table vanished. I think it must have been the middle of our fourth quarter periodical exams when one day, I went home to find our room suddenly spacious. The red table was gone.

I told you a while ago about my memory jar (which is large, glassy and transparent, like an old-fashioned mayonnaise container without the label). I put memories I’d rather forget inside this jar. I know now why I chose to forget the red table.

One day, mommy told me the truth. “Mylene, you should know, your dad no longer pays for your tuition, Si Kuya mo na nagbabayad, installments, since your daddy lost his job. So try to understand na lang why he’ s very concerned with your grades. He only wants the best for you.”

That moment, my heart must have stopped, the world must have turned dark. Guilt seeped in, wave after wave after wave. I would have placed myself inside my jar if I could, and wallowed in shame, together with my old forgotten things forever.

But there was only one thing I had to do. Repent. And so I did with all the love and kindness I could give. Every day, I thank God for blessing me such a wonderful, loving brother.

My Kuya paid for my education from grade school all the way to college. More than my school necessities, he provided my family a few luxurious things. He bought us a brand new PC, a car, a huge LCD TV. Yearly, he shopped new clothes for me. In high school, when Birkenstock was the “in” thing, he bought me an imitation in Itti (Birks was way too expensive). He bought me my very own Swatch, Sanrio things, Nike rubber shoes, my ball dress, Guess jeans, Giordano shirts, name it.

But never a rough-edged, red study table again.

I can only imagine now what happened to the red table. Perhaps, the construction worker chopped it in pieces and used it for a construction project.

Or made fire out of the table’s four legs.

Maybe Kuya gave it to a charity organization, where a kid used it to know her ABCs and 123s.

These days, its redness pales in my mind. But I can still feel it today—the rough edges of its rectangular glory. I trace it again and again, my fingers never bleeding, loving its roughness.

Maria Alina Co, 24, graduated magna cum laude and best thesis from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, with a Film and Audio-Visual Communication degree. She is now a TV Network Executive Producer and a part-time magazine writer and voice-over talent. This year, she is taking her Master’s degree in Media Studies in Ateneo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Frank Oz and Bowfinger

When Bowfinger premiered way back in 1999, I must have been asleep, too busy, or just a sore plain loser. I never got the chance to watch this comedy.

It wasn't only until 10 years later, while my boyfriend and I were burying our heads in DVD racks in Metrowalk, that I was introduced to Bowfinger.

"Napanood mo na 'yan? Maganda 'yan," Sam recommended.

I wasn't that convinced so he bought the DVD for me. Looking at the tagline "The Con is On", I thought it was one of those Mafia-type comedy films I've grown tired of. Unenthusiastically, I poised myself on the sofa, as Sam pressed play and the usual opening title cards rolled on.

But at the start of the film, at the moment when Bobby Bowfinger set up a meeting with his two actors and said, "We are making a movie!", I knew I misjudged it.

Bobby Bowfinger, a small-time, almost non-existent filmmaker nearing forty, is desperate to make his feature film. So when an accountant-turned writer Akhmid pens "Chubby Rain", a science fiction script that ends with the protagonist screaming to the aliens above, "Gotcha Suckas!", Bowfinger gathered his team of small-time actors and crew to make his dreams come true.

The first and obvious thing to do is to convince a hot shot Hollywood Producer to produce the film and get a hot shot Hollywood actor in it. Expectedly, the Producer (Robert Downey Jr.) turned him down, and the egoistic top actor Kit Ramsey kicked him out of his car.

But Bowfinger had a brilliant idea-- shooting the film, without Kit Ramsey knowing he's in it! The ultimate guerilla shooting.

That easy?

What followed are a series of hilarious puns and antics. Kit Ramsey (played by Eddie Murphy) was sort of a wacko and did have fantasies of aliens and stuff. It was fun seeing Bowfinger's crew stalking him and following him around with a hidden camera.

Bowfinger also poked fun on Hollywood stereotypes. Heather Graham's character, for example, is portrayed as the quintessential naive girl from Ohio who arrives in Los Angeles, expecting to become a star over night, a girl who sleeps her way around to get to the top.

Kit Ramsey, the hot shot actor, is the typical Hollywood male star with a big ego.

And Bowfinger? Well, I just love his character here. He's a lovable loser. He's desperate, broke, not to mention a poor taste for scripts (I mean, Chubby Rain is a senseless, B movie!) But I feel for him. He just loves what he does and will do everything to finally make his movie. He's an underdog, but anyone will root for him. Yes, he lied to his crew, but he only did that, because he did not want to disappoint them.

Bowfinger was directed by Frank Oz, whom I find out, after googling, is actually a famous voice actor and puppeteer.

He's the voice of Miss Piggy, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Animal and Sam the Eagle in the Muppet Show. In Sesame Street, he gave life to Cookie Monster and Bert-- my favorite Sesame Street characters.

In Star Wars, he's loveable and wisdom-filled Yoda. And it was Oz's idea to reverse Yoda's grammatical sentences, from verb to subject (ex. Disappointed, you were!).

Frank Oz is also the Director of Indian in the Cupboard and the remake of Stepford Wives.

Frank Oz and Bowfinger- definitely two firsts for me. This is the first time I knew of a Film Director, who's also a Puppeteer and Voice Actor. And, my first time to mark a comedy film as one of my favorites (I'm the type that usually goes for drama and dark stories)

Anyone who hasn't watched this yet? You like hilarious laughs one after another? Or perhaps, you're like me, an independent small-time filmmaker desperate to make a movie. You'll love Bowfinger!

Monday, June 1, 2009


word polaroids by Maria Alina Co

It was twelve midnight when Sol started kissing me.

I know I cannot be precise, with all the alcohol that swirled in my head and the smoke that clung to the ceiling last night. But it just felt like twelve o’ clock.

And when he started tugging on my blouse, I was surprised to feel…well, surprised. As if it was my first time. Of course, it wasn’t. Sol and I, we’ve done it in 1993, thirty-two years ago, and I can be precise on this.

I had met him in an elevator in one of the few buildings in Ortigas, boasting of high tech doors, shiny windows and modern elevators. He had always pressed number 9, while I stayed behind for the 10th floor. He had the crispiest suite, the tidiest lump of thick hair held by a fragrant gel. His nose was as forward as his posture. But what I found sexiest was when he cleared his throat. He did this all the time, thrusting his flexed palm above his mouth, just before stepping out of ninth floor.

And exactly 6 o’ clock in the evening yesterday, I heard that same clearing of throat. Only it was gruff, husky, the kind an old man gets when he’s either too tired to smoke, or too much smoking made him tired.

I was one step out of the mall clutching two plastic bags of grocery, just enough for my week’s needs when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the gesture. But the tight flexing wasn’t there any more. It was a weak, withered hand of a 60-year old man. Sol was one step into the mall when I shouted his name, “Solomon Cruz!”

I was happy to see him, of course. God, thirty-two years and I haven’t heard anything from him! The last time I heard he still worked in that damn advertising office, and rode that same elevator six days a week. And the last time he heard of me was that I had two new things or events in my life. I had a new boyfriend, who was a film director and a new job as Production Manager in a commercials production.

“You still look beautiful,” he told me this while I was about to drink from my cup in Willy’s coffee shop in Alimall. I was blushing terribly behind my cup--I drank a lot in one gulp. “You look good too,” I said, drinking in his now thinner and definitely whiter hair. Sol smiled, it hasn’t changed a bit. The same cute crumpling beside the edges of both eyes. He is an attractive old man, all right.

Then came the topic I always expected would be raised. I’m not irritated with it. It’s just that I’ve been through this question before, and I’m tired of saying my usual answer, which is exactly this: “Well, it just happened. Or rather, didn’t happen. I was happy with my life, skipping boyfriends as I would stones. Plus I had other things in my mind. My career, my dreams. And I was forgetting it, delaying it year after year, when suddenly I found myself like this: beautiful and single.” This statement is guaranteed to elicit light-hearted laughter from a listener. But this time, I was determined to respond differently.

“Why didn’t you,” I asked back. Sol’s eye crumples smoothed, lost in thought. Finally he answered, looking straight into my eyes, “Well, I met a woman who broke my heart. And I wasn’t able to get over.” I slapped him gently on his shoulder, “Oh Sol! The truth!”

Laughing, he said, “Ay I’m just too tired answering the truth. Well, I guess I delayed marrying one girl after another, until marriage passed me by. Sad truth noh? How about you?”

I struggled for an answer. Until finally from the farthest corner of my mind, I grabbed a line I must have gotten from a movie. “I guess it’s single-blessedness for me.” Sol smiled at this, content with my answer.

Our conversation was going well, really well. Turns out he’s still working part time in a car company as Sales Consultant. He quit his job in 9th floor shortly after I quit mine. He was surprised when I told him I just retired.

“Why? I don’t mean anything, Lucllle. It’s just that I saw you’re the type who wouldn’t stop working until you die,” he said, turning the corner to Kamias road. We were inside his car by this time after I invited him over for a decent dinner. I didn’t see any wrong in this. After all, we are already adults, and even way beyond that.

“I guess I got…tired. It was really hectic, the PM position. Before I left, the place was crawling with new graduates and young people with two years experience. Believe me, I was the oldest there!”

“So what do you do now?”

I told him I basically did what I wanted to do, what I thought I was left to do. I read all the books I didn’t read before – self-help books I never read while working, surreal, magical realist books, books about and for women, interior design books, the history books I skipped in college, even novels that I skipped in high school (I resorted to summary books). And yeah, I read and enjoy Harry Potter. When I paused, we were already sitting in my sala by this time, I looked at his expectant face. I resumed: I also write. What else? I take my time in everything, taking a bath, sipping my iced tea outside during a hot afternoon. My buying habits also changed. Like for example, in buying a new pan, it’d take me one week or more!

Sol was laughing, but it wasn’t tainted with mockery. Later, after a dinner of beef and mushroom and mashed potatoes, he confessed he laughed because he can relate with me. We were sharing a bottle when he spoke up. His tone was different, deep and smoky, as if it a strange sound bouncing on my living room’s walls.

“I know what you mean when you take time buying your pan.” I asked him how so.

“It’s like this. When we were young, we try to make things fast. We were all excited and hurrying to grow up, graduate, work, make money. We have hot asses from too much stress, too much…hurrying up. We wanted promotion, we wanted success, a new car, everything, we wanted all the pans!” Sol was gesturing with his hands, his right hand swinging, stressing words here and there. He didn’t have this gesture back in the 9th floor.

“…We hurry to have boyfriends, girlfriends. We wish to stretch the years automatically to get married. We wanted it all, successful families. But then, look at us now, suddenly things are just slow…we want them slow.”

And I couldn’t have agreed more. For a moment, he seemed as if he wanted to add something more. Instead, he searched for something in the pocket of his pants. It was a pack of cigarettes.

“Do you mind,” he asked. I said no, and asked for a stick as well.

Me and Sol, we didn’t run out of conversation. Yes, there were pauses, a second or two. But they never lasted. We always thought of something. Mostly, we talked about his and my former officemates in in 9th and 10th floors. What happened to Tina, a copywriter then, whom they secretly called Tinae for her shitty copies? Did Elaine and Bert marry? Is it true Mr. Jerome Remulla, a manager then, is a registered nurse now in the U.S.? Who are the deceased? Who “died” in the advertising industry?

By this time, I was dizzy. My eyesight was blurred both with tears from too much laughter and too much smoke. I hardly saw Sol sitting beside me, shaking with laughter. He was still in a shaking state when he posed the most serious question of the night, a question that poked me then and is still stinging me now.

“Lucille…don’t you get lonely sometimes?”

The clouds of tears blocking my view suddenly parted. I tried absorbing the question, which ended up a new version in my mind. Am I lonely?

“I am. I live alone. ‘Course I am.” Suddenly, I felt the cloud of tears forming again. My eyes hurt, and my chest welled up with a stinging pain that rose up to my throat and caused me to sob horribly. “I am, I am,” I said.

I told you before, I felt it was twelve midnight when he kissed me. It was dark in the living room, with only a single yellow lamp lighted beside me. The air tasted like twelve o’ clock. Sol planted at first a soft kiss on my cheek, then another, then another. I kissed him back, my wet face pressed into his. The pain in my chest welled. Suddenly, I thought of a house, a two-storey house, with me and Sol in the foreground. Sol kept on kissing my face, until my lips gravitated towards his. As if it’s the most natural thing in the world, he kissed me back. In my mind, there’s a kid on the porch, perhaps two. Two cars in the garage, three maids in uniforms. Sol’s embrace made me think of the interior of the house. It was warm, big and lonely at the same time. And perhaps old. Old. The word lingered in my mind as Sol pressed his body on top of me. He was surprisingly light, lighter than he was thirty-two years ago.

I was caressing his back as he tugged on my blouse. I felt awkward, tugging his shirt back. Instead, I touched his face. I was trying to get a grip of myself, wondering how sex at the age of fifty-eight would feel like my first time, when I felt a twisted pain on my back.

“Aaawwww….” I grimaced. Sol kept his body pressed on me, kissing my neck.

“Sol, Sol, I have a p-pain, cramps…”

Sol stopped, raised his head and looked at my face, contorted with pain. “I’m sorry, “ he muttered under his breath.

He stood up suddenly, smoothed the crumples of his shirt. His eye crumples was extra smooth as well, lost in deep thought. I massaged my aching back, whispering, “I’m sorry, Sol. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Luce. Your back okay now?”

“Umm…hurts a bit.”

Sol took me in his arms and carried me. “Where to?” he asked. I pointed to an oak door ahead.

I smiled up to him, “thank you. You don’t have to do this.” He slowly placed me on my bed. Sol looked down on my miserable mass of a body, a former sex goddess-turned-old spinster. Oh…but his eyes were sweet, caring, I knew this in the back of my mind.

“Good night, Luce. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Before stepping out of the room, I heard it. The sexiest sound—Sol’s clearing of his throat.

Now that’s taking everything slow, even in this, I thought before dozing off to sweet slumber.


Take the Lead the AYLC Way

(This feature article was published in Hinge Inquirer's Dasmariñas Gazette for their Graduation Edition)

Take the Lead the AYLC Way
By Maria Alina Co

So you’re a year away from getting that ultimate college diploma. Inevitably, that means you’re about to embark and take on the world very very soon.

The mere thought of it gives you the jitters. Never mind that your internship keeps reminding you of that impending doom. If only you can be Hiro Nakamura for just a second and have the power to stop time, you would.

But nothing can prepare you more for the “real world” than this existing program in the Philippines, created for young college students like you. If you have what it takes, that is.

The AYLC Way

The Ayala Youth Leaders’ Congress or AYLC is a yearly summit that brings together promising students leaders from colleges and universities from all over the country. The congress proper is a three-day event involving workshops, lectures, outdoor activities designed to hone students’ leadership skills and potentials.

Shaping tomorrow’s leaders, AYLC has been honing and supporting student leaders for over a decade.

Ever heard of the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know”? JQ Quesada, Manager of Ayala Youth Development Unit, is convinced it’s both.

“The AYLC serves as a platform for young leaders to interact and network with fellow leaders. It opens a network to our alumni, and even to friends, the chance to find connections that will help them realize their leadership goals.”

But, better be warned, Ayala Youth is not looking for someone who’s all As and perfect attendance. More than a good academic performance, an Ayala Youth candidate is someone who has a track record of committed service and leadership involvement.

A Good Leader

So, you up for the AYLC challenge? You want to lead? First know what it takes to be a good leader.

“In our present society, there is a great need for leaders with integrity, who stand for clear values and purpose, and who is able to elicit the trust of those he/she serves…we need leaders today who stand for something—values, principles, dreams and advocacies—and who fight to make change happen.” – JQ Quesada, Manager

“A good leader is someone who can empathize with his/her people. Someone who can relate to them but knows when to draw the line between office and non-office relations.” – Dang Victor, 22, Sports Writer-Producer

“A good leader is one who isn't afraid to make the tough decisions, even the unpopular ones. The mark of a good leader is when they display strength that others can draw from” – Vitto Lazatin, Media Marketing Officer

“He/she must have the knack of making people listen to him because it's hard to take charge when the people aren't paying attention to you; He/she must be open-minded and not biased towards him/herself. That means he/she is not a tyrant, meaning hindi niya ine-expect na siya lagi masusunod.”—Krista Pedroso, 20 yrs. old

“A good leader is flexible and has balance. He can balance between reaching the goals of the team, at the same time thinking of what’s good for them. Kailangan yung may paninindigan sa tao, walang iwanan, walang laglagan.”—Armi Rae Cacanindin, 24, Film Practitioner

Conquer the World No More

So if you think you have what it takes, take the lead. One year is enough time to hone that leadership potential in you. Rather than conquering the world, try changing it for a “change”. It doesn’t have to be that big a difference.

JQ emphasizes, “Many graduates first think of flocking to Manila, to areas with more opportunities. But one thing we tell our young leaders is to give back to their communities first. Use their knowledge and skills to improve lives of their community.”

*To know more about AYLC, visit


(This is one of my articles that got published in Hinqe-Inquirer Magazine)

By Maria Alina Co

We dream of endless summers—of rolling hills, of bamboo trees undulating and mango trees heavy with fruit. Beautiful sunsets, breathtaking sunrises. Picture-perfect moments with loved ones. The undiluted pleasure of lying on the sand while gazing at the mesmerizing horizon, where mountain meets the sea.
Every so often, we city dwellers take a break from the rat race, pack our bags, and take a holiday in some patch of paradise. But it is usually just a respite and we have to go back – aaarghh – to run the race again, back to the traffic and the pollution. How often do we wish the idyllic holiday would go on and on. For we can dream can’t we?

But dreams are not that impossible.

The Perfect Home
Avaya Cove, Ayala Land’s first venture in leisure development, is the fulfillment of that dream. It is a residential community at Morong Bataan amidst a resort setting just two and a half hours drive from Manila. Only 20 minutes away from Subic Bay Freeport, Anvaya Cove is an accessible escape from the polluted metropolis.
And a breath-taking escape it is, being both a mountain retreat and a seaside resort. Living there, one can savor nature as its most majestic and its most pristine while enjoying modern amenities and yes, almost endless summers.
As everyone looks forward to a great summer, Anvaya Cove gives the season an extra spice with its latest offering—The Beach and Nature Club.

Amenities and More
The Beach and Nature Club gives its members unlimited access to the Main Pavilion boasting of a bamboo café, a wine room, a sambali lounge, function rooms and game rooms.

For ultimate soothing and relaxation, city-dwellers can ease their worries away with Veda Spa and Beach Massage Salas.
Sports-minded individuals can while their time away in the Recreational Beach Area, which offers various water sports. For the more adventurous, the Nature Camp has zip lines, rope courses, ecological trails, and camping and picnic grounds.
Kids can frolic in the Sea Horse Kiddie Village, with a Kiddie Pool, and a Children’s Arts and Activity Play Center.

But for those who just want to hang out and have a classy good time, the Beach Cabanas, Pawikan Bar and Grille, the Lagoon, the Tower and Tower Bar are among their choices.

Perfect Fusion

With its vast terrain and breath-taking view, Anvaya promises to be the perfect fusion—a leisure club, a beach house and a dream haven all combined.
And yes, summer can go on and on in Anvaya…

(Visit for more details)