Like any decent, self-respecting person, I refused. I said I’m cool all by myself that night. He insisted, said that since their group is too small, they’d be joining an umbrella organization in their Christmas Party at some hotel in Malate, Manila. I reiterated that I’d be quite happy reading in solitude while everyone seemed to be out clogging the street on their way to christmas parties. He said, he wants me to meet his boss, Marsha Ledesma
–that bubbly owner of Philippine Postcards (a travel magazine). I agreed.
Traffic that night was unbearable. One that would test your bladder, back muscles, lungs, eardrums, and that part of your heart for your boyfriend who persuaded you to join millions of people in Manila in celebrating Christmas vacation and expending Christmas bonuses.
Waiters added an extra table to the already long table (seated around were about 50 persons in corporate and semi-formal attire). Nobody seemed to mind my knitted sleeveless covered by a good old sweater, so I started enjoying what was served.
Until the woman across me started asking
“Why are you late?” first question in a genuinely sweet tone.
“I came from Los Baños, ma’am.”
“Oh I see, why very far?”
“I teach there, ma’am.”
That started an animated conversation with an official of the Publishers’ Association of the Philippines, Inc.—the prestigious organization of editors and publishers of various publications of the country (as in every region is represented).
Later that night, I learned that membership in this non-profit group used to be legally compulsory for anyone putting up a newspaper/magazine/comics. Now, I believe it has acquired such a respectable status that publishers themselves (even Filipinos abroad) are the ones who request for membership, to participate in national congress, seminars, and other worthwhile journalistic events.
When I thought the interrogation was over, she introduced me to other officials like their newsletter’s editor-in-chief, Mr. Johnny Nuñez. So in other words, I didn’t finish my plate, not even my wine, but boy did I enjoy the company of those people.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES: So how do you find teaching?
AI: Still loving it. Well, I havent been there for what 50, 30, 20 years? Not yet bored. It was only three years ago when I started teaching.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES: She’s looking at us when she says 50 years.
AI: No! (laughs with them) I mean, oh well, that’s being paranoid.
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES: That’s old-age paranoia.
Later on, I accomplished a couple of things: sing with them an off-tune christmas carol, watch my boyfriend do a sweet duet with his officemate during the dance portion, choreograph our team’s highly-lauded song interp of “The Warrior is a Child” (“UP kasi” whispers the kind emcee to me), and coach their team leader in his Christmas message (love! love! love!).
It was one crazy, absurd night. So absurd, during the raffle, I won second grand prize: washing machine.