Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | September 16, 2006

Guy walks into a bar…

I lost my way to a seminar last month, landing in the wrong hotel.
Realizing my mistake, I stepped out hurriedly to find a row of taxis whose drivers killed time by playing a card game of sorts.
One of them spotted me and shouted, in all his glorious concrete-tongued accent: “Boooss, boooss, taksi boooss, taksi.”
I tried to bite back my retort but I couldn’t help it, and told him, “Ano ba talaga sasakyan mo, boooss o taxi?”

* * *

The seminar was about page design. Editors and journalists from the country’s top broadsheets as well as those from neighboring Asian countries attended the seminar. It was held in a ballroom capable of holding—and refrigerating 1000—people. There were about 50 of us tops.
That means that every one of us had about 20 people worth of hypothermic air biting our bodies.
A Thai delegate contorted himself into a knot in an attempt to fight off the cold, shivering animatedly every now and then.
He turned to his left and saw me stretched out like a beached whale in high noon and looked amazed.
“Wow,” he said. “You not freezing?”
“Nope,” I dead-panned. “I’m frozen.”

* * *

Thais love their boxing. And they love boxing as a whole.
A Thai journalist surprised me by asking about William Magahin, a disgraced ex-world champion who was incarcerated years back for being part of a robbery-hold-up gang.
“After boxing, he go nowhere?”
“Nope,” I answered.
“Bad. That’s because he not finish school. I tell my kids. Finish school. Finish school. Even if you famous, when everything over, no more. But with school, always something for you. He not finish school, that’s why he nowhere to go.”
“Not really,” I answered.
“Huh? Why? What else he could do?”
“Actually,” I told him. “He could have run for president.”

* * *

The thing I hate most about seminars is that you have to introduce yourself in front of a lot of people. It kind of deviates from the whole why-I’m-a-journalist thing.
You want the attention trained on others.
I managed to murmur my intro in as short a time as it takes to fire up GMA’s temper and the mic was teleported to the next table.
“Hi, I’m (name of page designer) from the Manila Bulletin,” said one seminar participant (seminarista?). “I’m one of 25 (emphasis on the number) page designers of the lifestyle section.”
Now you know why the Bulletin’s Page One has as much life as a neglected mausoleum.
Everyone’s trying to beautify its lifestyle pages.

* * *

Actually, the first thing that crossed my mind was meaner: “25 page designers for one section and yet Page One looks blander than Da Vinci Code played in mute and slo-mo.”
I mean, seriously. Who would believe that Manila Bulletin employs 25 page designers in just one section?
It’s like someone saying “Hi, I’m so-an-so and I’m one of 25 Arroyo spin doctors writing for the Tribune’s front page.
Tsk. Tsk.
My soul is headed for newspaper hell.

* * *

The latest seminar I attended was a leadership seminar.
See, here’s what I didn’t understand at the start when it comes to leadership seminars: They’re trying to train everyone into becoming leaders.
Are we trying to create a culture of subjugation? We lead. The rest of you who cannot afford to take part in these posh seminars follow.
Because if we create a world of leaders, if we try to Maxwell-ize everybody, who will we lead?
Maxwell-ed guy in year 3030: Okay folks let’s scale Mt. Everest. I’ll lead you to the summit!
Bored follower in back row: Great. Either this guy’s a nut who’s trying to kill us all or he doesn’t realize that we’re fish.

* * *

Two days into the seminar, though, I kind of got a handle on things. It helped that Francis Kong and Ardy Abello were such engaging speakers.
I’ve always enjoyed listening to Francis Kong. He does a good job throwing jokes to keep people awake. And it’s not easy keeping journalists awake at 9 a.m. in an air-conditioned room.
You’d be better off trying to keep Mike Tyson awake in a seminar on literary criticism.
And Francis tossed my favorite joke of all: The one about someone’s mother-in-law.

* * *

Truth be told, the mother-in-law is one of the most favorite punchlines in the history of comedy.
She’s right there behind lawyers and blondes.
I remember giving a talk in front of campus journalists on sportswriting as creative non-fiction and someone asked me if knowledge of really big words is a must when it comes to that form of writing.
I, smugly, answered: “It’s a necessary evil. It’s like a trip to your mother-in-law’s. You don’t have to do it always. You hate doing it. But every now and then, it would do you good.”
I really felt smart saying that, for some reason. Forget newspaper hell. I’m headed for the real thing.

* * *

Ardy, on the other hand, put us through situationers to see how we would handle different objectives.
One situation he asked us to play-act was trying to make an elevator pitch to an employee who was being pirated by the rival Philippine Star. How do you make him stay if you have only one minute to make a pitch?
I tell you, only then did I realize that Max Soliven doesn’t have a lot of friends at the Inquirer.
Whoever the devil is in charge of newspaper hell, make room for a lot of people.

* * *

My pitch went this way:
Elevator opens, I enter. Employee stands alone.
Me: I got into a fight yesterday at the port area.
Employee: Silent.
Me: Tried to beat up a man who was using the Inquirer to collect dogshit.
Employee: (suddenly interested) Now why would someone even collect dog shit?
Me: Apparently, guys over there have discovered a new technology that turns dog shit into paper.
Employee: No way!
Me: Yup. They named the paper Philippine Star.
(canned laughter)
Me: Philippine Daily Inquirer. Widest in circulation. Rich compensation packages. Unquestionable integrity.
I fish out a card.
Me: Call me.
Elevator doors open, I step out and look back.
Me: Or, you can always choose dog shit.
Whoever the devil is in charge of newspaper hell, the shittiest basement’s mine.

* * *

The thing about Francis Kong’s talk is that sometimes, what he says gets you into deep-thinking mode.
Somewhere into the seminar I realized how much we, as human beings, still need to evolve.
Technology has evolved and knowledge has evolved. But us human beings?
We have stagnated.
We’re still barbarians. We just have new toys and new methods with which we display our barbarism.

* * *

I mean, think of it. Back during simpler times, it was Atilla the Hun telling Asia: “Give me your lands or I will send my sword and spears to make war with you.”
Nowadays, it’s George W. Bush ordering the Middle East: “Give me the heads of the al-Qa’ida or I’ll fire my rocket launchers and machine guns at you.”
Five hundred years from now, it’s going to be no different.
It’s going to be George W. Bush LXI  pointing at China and saying: “Give me the secrets of your cooking or I’ll zap you with my electromagnetic deatomizer.”
We’re barbarians through and through.

* * *

Speaking of George W. Bush, if mothers-in-law are really bad people, then he must have been one in his previous life.
That’s why he’s acting this way and reaping bad karma.
On the other hand, we do know that GMA is a mother-in-law…

* * *

And speaking of Bush and GMA, let me leave you with this joke Francis Kong once cracked in a previous speaking engagement.
“Politics comes from two words. Poly, meaning many and tick, meaning a blood-sucking parasite.”



  1. Ahahahahahaha.
    Nai-imagine ko canned laughter after every item.

    That’s it, kukuyugin ka ng mga taga-Bulletin, Tribune at Star.

    Anong gusto mong serve namin sa lamay mo?

  2. Mani.
    Yung matamis ah.
    Saka yung maanghang.
    No mixed nuts please. Yoko ng peas.
    Pero ayoko nung nakakahon.
    Gusto ko yung Sunjoy na tinimpla sa malaking plastic container na red ang takip.

  3. And you forgot, George W. Bush and the Mother-in-Law Federation of the Universe.
    Kukuyugin din ako.
    Plus GMA.
    Anliit na ng mundo ko.

  4. Magtago ka na Ochoa! Pag me nagtanong samin sagot kami agad, “Francis? Sinong Francis? Walang Francis Ochoa sa Inquirer!”


    Pwede ka na magsulat ng mala Bob Ong book na English version. ;-)

  5. Hahahaha.
    Baka naman mainsulto si Bob Ong.
    Magdala ka ng flowers sa lamay ah?
    Calachuchi gusto ko.

  6. I-turn in kaya kita pag hinunting ka ng mga taong pinagtawanan mo dito sa post na ‘to?
    Tama, tama.
    Lex, ‘yaan mo, hahatian kita sa makukuha ko reward.

    Tapos sa lamay mo papa-sakla ako. Saka terembe.


  7. Damang-dama ko ang pagmamahal niyo.

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