no, but still.


in accordance with my "say yes to everything" policy, i allowed ate to bring me to an upscale hair salon called emphasis which was next to the powerplant mall in rockwell. days before, she kept insisting that i get highlights in my hair. "byron really liked his highlights," she kept telling me. "do you want highlights, too?" even though i really didn't want to, i said yes anyway, afraid that i might disappoint her and everything - the free meals, the hotel, the rides everywhere - would come to an abrupt halt. so, i went in.

the stylist (he insisted to my uncle tim once that he "was not a barber, but a stylist") had an assistant who put some white crap all over my head. i assumed it was some sort of dye. when he finished, he brought this black machine over to warm up my head. it looked futuristic, like darth vader's helmet had exploded. it warmed my head, and he gave me an issue of gq and vanity fair to read. i flipped through the pages and stopped when i saw some boobs. i guess europe's gq shows boobs.

then, the fat assistant took me to get shampooed. he took a long time shampooing my hair and putting some more white crap on the tips. i really had no idea what he was doing. "what color are you getting?" grace asked me. "i don't know," i said. "he didn't ask you?" "no." both the stylist and the assistant didn't say much to me once they realized i couldn't speak tagalog. they both seemed gay, so i trusted their abilities, and i just let them go about their business. i did start to worry, though, when the woman's shampoo/rinse finished long before mine.

when everything was done, my hair had brown streaks, and lourd, the stylist, showed me how to "style" it. "always start in the back," he said. then he mussed up my hair a bit and patted it down. "it's like a fro-hawk," he said, then added, "all done!" i thanked him and got the hell out of there. when asked if i liked it, i said that i did. in reality, though, i looked and felt like an asshole. after all, on the ride over, i saw kids, some naked, some barefoot, playing in the dirty and polluted streets. and my aunt was paying to have my hair colored. just what exactly are we doing here?

the streets of manila are much crazier than i remember. there are no real lanes, as all cars weave in and out as they please. my uncle rebel, and tony, our occasional driver, seem to just go whenever they get a chance, and they pray that no one will hit them. they drive with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the horn. and everyone seems to be okay with it. also, there is no speed limit, no seatbelts, no rules at all. even though there are traffic cops, the cops don't do shit. in the few days i've been here, i've seen many a car bust through a red light. and i'm not talking about a light that's just turned red. i'm talking about lights that have been red for a long ass time. cops just keep on keeping on. apparently, on the rare occasion they find someone violating "the law," they pull them over, but they don't write a ticket. instead, they extend their hand and expect pesos in return.

that's how things are here. if we're not in our air conditioned hotel, we're in an air conditioned car. if we're not eating at a fancy restaurant, we're walking around an upscale mall. i'm not complaining. it's all free, and it's better than being snowed in at my studio apartment in columbia city. it is late december and eighty-five degrees here. filipinos are friendly. everywhere i go, it's "hello, sir" and "good evening, sir" and "thank you, sir." i asked grace how much department store clerks make, as there are loads of them everywhere. she said about $200 a month, and it's only contractual. so most only work for six months. no benefits, no insurance, obviously.

i want to help them all. i'd like to stop stuffing myself silly with delicious foods, stop blasting the ac, stop making pilgrimages to malls (there are actually chapels in every mall), and instead hand pesos out, do something to make these people's lives better. there's a bathroom attendant in every bathroom, and there are a lot of bathrooms. there are elevator attendants, people who greet you at the door, security guards galore, everybody working silly work for nothing. there are two guards who guard the statue of jose rizal twenty-four hours a day. what the hell is that. everybody's got drivers, and everybody's got maids. even poor people have maids.

"it's not right," my mom said. "would you rather they be starving and homeless?" my dad asked. "no, but still," my mom said. my mom doesn't know the answer, and i sure as hell don't know the answer. but haven't we been at "no, but still..." for long enough?

1 comment:

sprout said...

highlights, jimbo?