Monday, December 15, 2008

Letters to Marge (Chapter 2): Maverick's New Boss...

Hi there, Marge...

Time for a recess and put a lid on the history lesson for while. To the left is your "Official Maverick Company I.D. Card," which is/was printed on a standard issue PVC card just last weekend. (In case you ask, you were four days and four months old in the photo, but you're already one week shy of seven months right now as I write this...)

Your Uncle Pom breezed over to my desk at the store office and saw me printing this out. He said half-jokingly: "This is a waste of company resources."

Well, he's right. But I answered by saying: "What's life without a few pointless things?" He then smiled, shrugged, then went back to his cubicle.

My point? Have fun. Do things, make things, and say things if you think they're cute and might brighten up your day (or someone else's) for a few colorful moments. Long as you don't hurt anyone, or cost anyone anything... much.

Cheers, girl... the History Channel will be right back... (whether you like it or not.)



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Letters to Marge (Chapter 1): Everything’s Great When You’re Downtown… or Meet the Parent/s

Hello there, Margaret…

Here I guess, is a good place as any to tell you about me in general. Let’s see… where do I begin…?

I was born into a family of apparent prominence. Your great uncles have always trumpeted the whole “being a Golangco” bit almost to the point of nausea. Upon further research on my part as I grew older (and judging from the various reactions I got along the way), I learned that indeed the name “Golangco” had quite a bit of bearing in its time. Stress on “in its time.”

As a child, I do remember riding a bicycle around a huge compound in downtown Manila, where your grandfather still lives as I write this. That compound used to house one of the country’s biggest lumberyards and sawmills. Assuming your grandfather and great uncles haven’t sold off what’s left of the property, then I will tell you that that lot is only an eighth of the original land, which stretched all the way to a canal to the Pasig river out at the back.

Back then, the Pasig river was still a river, and not a mega-sized puddle of sludge and toxic waste. One would still find people swimming by the banks, it didn’t stink as much, and I would almost remember seeing large fish to and fro while staring down at it from the Ayala Bridge. But I digress…

The canal was necessary to bring in the huge logs on rafts for processing in the sawmill. Some of the mill workers used to bring me to the back and show me how they can catch a few tiny fish by simply dipping a small plastic bag at the canal’s edge. And once or twice, I remember getting away with playing on top of the logs before they were sliced up and dried and all…

I didn’t get to play in the streets much, since there was much fun to be had inside the property. And the fact that the many trucks coming and going could have squashed me into a pancake, which would have meant that you wouldn’t be reading this, because neither of us would exist… Aaaaaanyway…

Apart from the sawmill I mentioned above, and workers’ living quarters somewhere in the side areas, the compound had two main structures flanking either side of the main entrance, which was around four to five meters wide since it had to be able to fit big-ass trucks carrying big-ass things…

The two structures both had offices in the ground floor and mezzanines, while the upper floors were where we lived. Your great great grandfather (and believe me, if the stories are to be believed, he WAS great. Unfortunately, I did not get the honor of meeting him either…) had two wives. This was pretty common practice for Chinese men of means like your GGG (great great grandfather) was. Each wife had one side of the compound, complete with classy wood finishing on practically everything. Hey, it was a lumberyard, and there was no wood shortage way back then.

I’m tempted to go through the whole architectural thing about the compound and the houses like the obsessive old man I think I’m turning into. But I’ll spare you that for now.

What I will get into is that growing up, our side of the compound had four families in it. The four families of the four male children of your Great Grandfather, one of whom is your grandfather. Confused yet? No? Great. It was a lively place. Or maybe it seemed lively, because I was too young to know jack shit. Or maybe because time was so simple then. But I grew up as a child who knew he was going to wake up and find people bustling all over the house. Not necessarily my parents, who were nowhere to be found most of the time, but there were always people. Usually house-help and your great grandmother, who kept me occupied by teaching me play with dip saucers by floating them in big plastic basins filled with water, then staring at them for hours and imagining they were little boats.

And of course, there were the Sesame Street reruns that I watched voraciously, and the Japanese robot cartoons that I caught from time to time. By the time you read this, you might still hear about “Voltes V,” and “Daimos” and their ilk…

We had a stone furnace in the “central” kitchen that they fed wood to burn for cooking. It had a small chimney pipe on top, and I remember wondering if Santa Claus ever came down through that and burned his ass on the furnace. Of course, not in those words back then. I don’t recall why I didn’t play much with my cousins as early as then, but I remember watching people do stuff all the time. I watched people cook, I watched people do laundry, I watched people clean stuff, and so on…

I was told I was your Great Grandfather’s favorite, and he always had me hanging out in his office just downstairs, while letting me spend hours looking at the different travel postcards he had under the glass on his desktop. Back then, plastic laminates and other odd finishings on desktops hadn’t been invented yet. And desks, especially “executive” ones, always had a sheet of glass on top. Beneath the glass, people kept things like calendars, little notes, family photos and travel postcards.

And while staring at those postcards, your great grandfather would tell me what he saw when he went there, or if the postcard was simply sent to him, he would describe every detail he saw on the postcard’s front photo. As we do this, he’d play this little music box encased in a small moulded lead cottage with a water wheel at the side. Until now, I still don’t know what that song was, but I still remember how it goes. Even now.

I think that music box is now still in a glass cabinet containing a lot of your great grandfather’s stuff.

* * * * *

And all that, I suppose, rounds up my toddler years. If you want to get a better feel of a lot of the stuff and the pop culture color of that time, you may want to check out this retro site that I stumbled upon: but try to stay on stuff from the early eighties upwards since I was born on 1973.

The real exciting stuff is still to come, kiddo… :D



P.S. hopefully, by the time you see this, i would have already posted some old photos...