Friday, May 30, 2008

What's ailing me and the balm

"Why did you live your lives so blatantly, so flamboyantly? I'm sorry, but if Brian Gorrell don't get you, then I will." - Kitty Go

As much as I wanted to quit Arnel Pineda cold turkey, I have been unable to. I tried by controlling myself from peeking at then wham! there are more videos and update about Journey and of Arnel. I love this site!!!
And as much as I want to continue living in my fantasy world ogling, daydreaming and exercising poetic license (excessively) in my writing about Arnel the reality remains that back home –the Philippines, things are not well. The things that are bothering me so much lately are the POEA, the Vicente Soto Medical Center scandal and Lex Adonis –the jailed media man. I am still researching on these issues, but I have finally seen the video of the infamous surgery in Cebu. At first, I could not make a serious comment on it, as I did not have any proof. But after analyzing the video, I can definitely say those medical personnel involved need to be hanged. So where are the same people who thought Terri Hatcher’s statement was worth protesting about?
Even though I still own properties and maintain an apartment in the Philippines, I don’t have to go back there anymore, but Arnel has to. He will go back to that mess where the POEA instead of helping and assisting the OFW (the number one breadwinner for the Philippines, in their billions of dollars in remittances) consistently finds ways to bleed the OFW financially. One in particular that makes my blood curdle is their so-called PeDos fee (Pre-departure Seminar fee). God forbid if they miss one more opportunity to suck more blood out of the turnip. Who is the monkey with the peanut brain who heads the POEA? Call me I need to teach you a few things. Then there’s the case of politicos suing media people for libel. Mike Arroyo at the last count has sued at least 43 journalists. I like his wife Gloria though. Although I myself have some problem with the ethics or lack thereof of some of these Filipino journalists, most of them are very disciplined and exercised journalistic professionalism. Kitty Go and I are on the same wavelength on this issue of libel and the media, reason I like her.
My editor and mentor told me I have to get back and finish my book by January and stop this insanity about Arnel, that Arnel is not cutting the check. But hey, money saved is money earned; Arnel is my Xanax and Zoloft combined. Can you tell that when I wrote of the above; POEA, etc, I am prone to violence but writing about Arnel transports me to lala land? Oh well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's Up With People

When I am not wandering aimlessly here or abroad, I really do have a life. And I do important things like watching an important show - ala Broadway. Last Saturday I was invited by my friend Billy to watch "Up With People" present a multi-cultural expression of what the world looks like when it is united.

Up With People is a global education program for young adults ages 18 to 29. Founded 43 years ago, it was conceived and driven by the old adage we famously hear all the time - "The youth is the hope of tomorrow". The program makes classroom theories about global perspectives, leadership and inter-cultural communication come alive through hands-on application.

Although a person regardless of age if equipped with the right skills and attitude can make a difference locally and globally, I feel that the young can dance and tickle a keyboard without having to worry about an arthritic limb. And that is just what we were treated to...nimble performers with energy not generated by Starbucks.
As we entered the door, young men and women were lined up to direct the guests and taking our tickets was a young man with a smile as big as Texas -"Bienvenuto," he said as he gripped my hand. Not sure how to respond I stammered "uhh, whatever" and he smiled even bigger.
The students were from all over the world and they sang and danced dressed in the costume of the country they represent. The stage was bursting with energy and color not to mention the student's enthusiastic anticipation of the next country they were about to fly to. Natalya from Uzbekistan, one of the 2 students that Billy hosted came to chat with us. She told us she was one of the 25 who was picked to live with the village people in Thailand for a week. She made it sound like, "Woo-hoo, I won the Texas lotto!" I wondered if she knew what she was getting into. But really, if this group doesn't do anything else but make this trip to Thailand their life will never be the same. The program is far-reaching and has a rippling effect not only on the student's life but to everyone involved; the local community that they would be descending upon and the host families who opened their hearts and homes and rearranged not only their furnitures but also their schedules. Then there's people like me who just sat and watched...for free.
I was particularly awed by this girl who came out dressed like a Spanish senorita. She was led by another girl to the front of the stage. You can tell she was handicapped, until she let that vocal chord explode. Mezzo Soprano? She was the female version of Arnel Pineda ( my new source of infatuation). Her name is Jessica Rojas. After her performance she was led back out of the stage and I silently wondered what else could a blind girl do for the organization. In my limited world and selfish tendency I bordered on thinking that she might be more of a liability than an asset to the organization. Until Billy told me that she not only could sing, she is also a travelling staff member. You see what I mean when I say that this UWP program is far reaching? After watching Jessica what's my excuse for not doing anything? As of this writing Jessica still haunts me. And I mean that in the most positive way.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Open Letter to Journey

An Open Letter to Journey

Gentlemen, I was going to write sooner because I had some questions about the symbolism of your logo. What’s with the dung beetle with wings? You see, even though I’ve heard of Journey and loved Journey songs, I was not really interested as to who you were, individually or collectively, until Arnel Pineda showed up. I know you guys are busy so I went to the library instead and the research librarian gave me enough books to research about dung beetles. I’m telling you - librarians are a different breed; they’re like a breathing Google. I told her I was not researching for scientific purposes that would benefit mankind but that this was all about my racing heart rate caused by you guys. You would be proud of me because even though you are supposed to be quiet in libraries, I managed in hushed tones to tell her about ya’ll coming to Dallas. And of course, what’s Journey without Arnel.

Anyway, here’s the meat of why I am writing to you. As I watched your videos in Chile (for the nth time) I had a light bulb moment, which I would like to address each one of you.

I will start off with you Deen:
Towards the end when Arnel was handed a trophy, he kissed it and he handed it to you, but you didn’t even touch it. Instead you put your hand around his shoulder and I could not hear what you were saying but sounded like “No bro’ it’s for you!” That almost made me cry. It takes a bigger man to do that. I think that was your defining moment. I so love you for that, for knowing to make Arnel feel that he deserved that for himself. I cover you with my prayers that God will sustain you to have the strength to resist the wiles of drugs and alcohol because I want you to to be healthy so you can continue to beat them drums like an Iraqi prisoner.

Jonathan, I watched you tickle them ivories and I imagine you tickling my navel (I wish anyway) then you lowered your head just enough, raised your hand and the crowd went wild…. ooohhh. That is so cool but I want to go back to that interview with KNBR when you were talking about Arnel “who kept looking at you like saying, Can I go home now?” It was not because he was tired, that’s for sure, because like you admitted, after 4 songs in, he was still kicking. When he gave you that look like he wanted to go home already, it was because after hanging out with you guys for weeks on end, all he must have been eating was burgers and fries… you know, the American staple? He wanted to go home because he missed eating rice and fish. If you know what’s good for the band, ya’ll need to keep that in mind: we Filipinos are PBR, “powered by rice” per Douglas MaCarthur. Burgers and fries are good but to Filipinos that’s just snacks.

Neal, first off from the bottom of my racing heart, I thank God for who you are. I read that you always gave people the “chance to be” and your instinct seems to work all the time. It is people like you who give our aspiring and struggling wanna bes the drive and the determination to keep pushing their wares hoping that one day, someone will dare give them the chance. But I have a beef about you throwing towels to the audience. I noticed that Arnel held on to his, but I think the crowd started to ask for his too, so he reluctantly gave it to them. I don’t care if you have perspired and blown snot on the towels we need them in the Philippines. And I promise you, we will not keep it unwashed for over a year like Monica Lewinsky did. Remember that controversial dress that was stained with Bill Clinton’s banana water? Well, you get my point.

Arnel, My Arnel: I read that Filipinos at the Las Vegas concert were waving banners – "Arnel For President." Don’t worry about that, they did that to Manny Pacquiao too.
Right now your marquee reads:
Arnel Pineda - Singer/Songwriter, Journey lead singer = SEXY.
If you fall into this pressure of becoming a politician, I cringe at the vision:
Arnel Pineda - Philippine Politician = CORRUPT.
It’s a no-brainer, man.

Now Ross, I don’t know how you ended up having more hair than me, and I think Michael Bolton asked that same question too, but that’s beside the point.
When you said, “ I think we will move here” I hope you were kidding. The Filipinos in California would not like Journey living in Chile taking Arnel away from them. You would not want to tick them off. No, they’re not mean people who will curse you behind your back. They will look at you with goo-goo eyes then cuss you out in Tagalog or in Bisaya. But seriously man, I can see you’re tired so if you’re just looking for another place to retire, come live with me in Cebu. So call me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Arnel Anonymous

Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness
Feeling of shakiness
Irritability or easily excited
Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes
Difficulty with thinking clearly
Bad dreams

According to Alcoholics Anonymous the above symptoms are what an alcoholic experiences when trying to quit the booze. And the exact same symptoms are what one experiences when an AP addict tries to get freed from anything Arnel Pineda. Like logging into AP forums 9 times a day, incessant talking about AP, giddily watching his videos while humming along with him because really, that’s all you can do – hum. (Or risk looking stupid like Syasya Padilla and Martin Nievera).
Then there’s the constant replaying in your mind of how cute he puts his hands together when he tries to clap not to mention the mooneyes when he strive to reach a higher note. And of course, his quintessential smile that dances in your head and if you’re not careful, will get you committed to the mental ward at the county hospital without your consent.

I have no shame when it comes to Arnel; I talk about him regardless what setting I am in. I was at a friend’s birthday party the other day. I gave the prerequisite hugs and wishes and “how’s the husband and kids” routine. And listened to some sob stories even though I could care less that one guest's husband was hauled off to jail for beating a co-worker because the co-worker said he was voting for Osama- when actually he meant Obama.

My friends know that my genes are not predisposed to addiction of any kind but they are painfully aware that I am always looking for the next high. And the "high" at the moment is Arnel Pineda. They also can't deny the fact that the only man I talk about with a passion and dedication is Jesus Christ, so when I started ranting about Arnel, they know I must be on to something.

I had not seen this group of white friends for quite some time, so this was the first time they heard me talk about AP. I gave them the abridged version of the Neal Schon episode then gave them the link so when they get home they could fire up their computer. We finished the cake, hugged some more then I got in my car and headed to lala land again. I mean home.

Two hours later, my phone rang and it was the birthday girl. “Ritchie, I just watched the video of that Filipino guy Arnel.” And? “I just want to scoop him up and plant him in my lap.” She said it like it’s a matter of entitlement. I was bent over laughing and I said “ Betty, how old are you today?” "Seventy-six” she said.
And I thought I was the only one who’s got no shame. After we hung up, I had that smile on my face like -See? I told you he is addicting. But then again, she may not live long enough to get hooked.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Crisis in Cebu

Yesterday, on the Drudge Report, in red and on top of the page it says : 100,000 may have died in Myanmar (Burma) cyclone.
While a Cebu paper carried the headline : A TEAM from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Computer Crimes Division will be in Cebu today in a mission to identify who uploaded on the video depicting the removal of a body spray canister from a patient’s rectum.
Notice the difference of the two headlines on what matters to some people?
I've heard of kids swallowing all kinds of stuff. But an adult with a canister up his rectum? Why? and who stuck it up there?
A month or so ago, this same paper reported about this Jan-jan, the guy from Cebu whose boyfriend (yes, boyfriend) stuck a perfume canister up his anus. When I read it, I didn't think it was funny. Constipation is not funny. At least, I don't think it is. So can you imagine a canister stuck up there? I don't care how small.
So Jan-jan went to the city hospital to have it removed. And it was removed. Not just removed but "happily removed." The medical team who did the procedure were clapping and laughing.
And what's a happy gathering without someone capturing the moment. The moment was frozen in time and was even uploaded on YouTube. (YouTube always gets you in trouble, like getting everyone addicted to Arnel Pineda). So the legal saga began when Jan-jan found out that his arse was up on Youtube. He sued the hospital for 6million Pesos! Also, there were talks of possible revocation of the teams licenses - for jeering. No, jeering is ok, just so you don't do it on Youtube.
I went to this hospital four years ago with my Australian friend because she runs a charitable foundation that helps this hospital. While there, I saw 2 cats lethargically walking and casually licking on dead bodies in one room then leisurely walk over to another room to visit the maternity patients. A 3rd cat too tired to walk but with moon eyes, was coiled and relaxing on the lower level of the medicine cart while a nurse in crisply ironed white uniform smilingly pushed it around. She must be a fresh graduate. I asked my friend, "Is this ok with the doctors here?" She looked at me funny. "With the few and overworked doctors we have, do you think 3 malnourished cats would bother them?"
As I was reading Jan-jan's story, I thought, maybe one of these "few" doctors did the procedure. But the newspaper said that there were as many as 14 medical personnel in the OR. Did these corrupt government officials hire more doctors since I was last there? I doubt it.
Because I only read bits and pieces of the whole story, I don't really know the whole truth. But here's my perspective on this news bit. Here in America, we have stores everywhere selling sex toys. I even passed by one the other day. The building looked like a church were it not for the sign that says it was not. So we can assume that there are people who "really" use these toys, or that nice building wouldn't be standing there. Anyone who has kids or has been around kids knows that anything could happen to any toy. It could malfunction or you could have a malfunctioning playmate. Imagine US taxpayer's ire and horror if Dallas Morning News carried the headline that the FBI are on the hunt for the techie who uploaded the video of some malfunctioning sex toy.

Please don't get me wrong. I understand that doctors should be held to the highest degree of accountability and that patients are due the utmost respect regardless of their ability to pay or lack thereof. Jan-jan should not be put through the public humiliation (he was already humiliated in private... and in private parts). But to go to an extreme measure of bringing in the NBI to Cebu? With the current rice crisis? Who pays for their food, hotel and transportation not to mention the bar tabs? I could just hear their drunken conversation discussing the days progress: "So, you got any leads as to who uploaded the video on YouTube?" "Naah, but I got the canister. I think I will post it on eBay."
You understand my frustration here? Mark Twain is right : If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you read the newspaper you are misinformed.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Oh Well...Here I go Again

This is so not cool anymore. Jimmy Buffet came to town, right in my neighborhood and I missed it. No, I am not a parrothead but that's beside the point. How could I miss Jimmy Buffet goosing the local parrotheads?
Because I was "preoccupied" with Arnel Pineda. I am not ready to use the word "obsessed" so I am being gentle with myself here. Nothing and no one makes me lose my head - not film or sports celebrities anyway. Well, unless you count the time last year when I was at the Masters' Tournament and I cried because Tiger Woods stepped on my toes - not really, but you know what I mean? That close.

The last 3 weeks, I am only getting 3 to 4 hours of sleep. I have jumped over the fence and crossed the line of sanity. This is my typical day now; before I go to sleep, I watch Arnel Pineda videos. I used to when I wake up, stagger straight to the kitchen and grind my own beans to make coffee. (a pound costing more than my hourly pay) Yes, that's how discriminating I am with my caffeine. But now, I go straight to my computer - flickering my tired, sleepy lashes and watch more Arnel Pineda videos! By then, I am late for work so I just stir up some instant Nescafe. Then when I get to work I watch some more of his videos, of course, not minding my co-workers rolling eyes. When the phone rings I get ticked that I am being disturbed in my humming -- highway run, in the midnight sun....
I also now call him My Arnel. "Now that is sick", my daughter says.

After my last post someone emailed me, asking if I will be writing more about AP. I said, "I hope not, what else could I say about him anymore?" But I was wrong, I still am not able to shut up about My Arnel. My friends are obligingly kind - they indulge me even when I am riding on their last nerves - because of my talking constantly about My Arnel.

But one just could not stand it anymore, he told me the other day, " You are like a post turtle"
A what? "Did you ever drive down a country road and come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top? You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he can't get anything done while he's up there, and you just want to help the poor thing down. That's a post turtle. In other words, you need to get back down to earth and be useful again."
But I am useful, I protested. Because in my "preoccupation" with My Arnel I make sure to pray for him.

I say, Lord Jesus, please take care of Arnel's vocal cords, because I know that them Journey songs are known to rip vocal chords, but I also understand that if You brought him to this level, You can and will protect him. Also Lord, if Cherry and Cherub can't come with him on his tours, please take care of them back home and comfort Cherry's heart so she won't worry about them groupies. It would be nice if You arrange a visa for them but in time, I know You will do that.
I know You know this Lord, but Arnel needs to sing only when necessary, so please don't let him sing again with SyaSya and Martin. They look ridiculously pathetic next to him.
Oh, and another thing Lord, would You please tell the Filipinos in California when they meet Arnel at the airport, not to kiss him hard on the cheek so he won't misalign his already problematic jaw? Or better yet, tell them not to kiss him at all. Because, really, I can't handle another video of them hogging him while I watch and salivate.

And with that prayer I sign off with a prayer for myself : to come out of lala land, so I can sleep again, do my job at work that I am paid to do and most of all write again like I am an adult - in my right mind. And I mean write again, but enough already about My Arnel.