Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BITON..(But not Louis)



The only time I get to have new shoes is when school starts. I came from a middle class family and the only time we get new stuff is just before school. My folks would buy me a pair of leather shoes and a pair of rubber shoes for PE. The idea of buying shoes out if vanity is totally alien to my folks. Not even Christmas. We get our new shoes in May and it’s got to last to next year.

Once my father bought me shoes and he did the “boston” thing. For those not in the know, “bostons” are small pieces of leatherine that you nail to the soles of your leather shoes. The idea is that the boston will preserve your shoes from wear. In practice it did none of that and instead made your shoes slippery and makes a sound similar to:

“ka-plok..ka-plok. Ka-plok”.

So much for my plans of turning to assassination as an alternative career. If James Bond used bostons, his license to kill will be revoked by M.

All our shoes then were made in Marikina.( Can you still buy shoes in Marikina other than in SM Marikina? Sorry Off-topic.) If the shade wasn’t right we did the “jovos” thing. Jovos is leather dye that you apply to your shoes using an old toothbrush. It comes in many shades are is usually available in your local sari-sari stores. It is also very noxious so don’t touch the stuff---and don’t use the toothbrush for your teeth. How noxious is jovos? Let's just say that if it can stain the hide of a dead cow, immagine what it can do to your skin. Rumor has it that it will also kill rats. I haven’t killed any yet.

When we polish our shoes, we had the old Broadway shoe polish aka “Biton”. No imported Kiwi wax yet. Broadway comes in small tins that you open using a small coin. It also has the tendency to cake and dry when left in the open. You apply Biton using an old t-shirt or better—an old underwear whose garter has turned bacon (the joys of recyling). Biton comes in all shades and even comes in white (for polishing that D.O.M –mish white shoes used by D.O.M.s, biyudos, members of the Knights of Columbus and old court prosecutors).

To make your shoes shinny, you apply a nice coat of biton, and then you use a shoe brush. Then comes the nice part, you spit on your shoes. Yep you read that right, YOU SPIT ON YOUR SHOES (saliva only please...). Then you buff your spit into the wax using a soft cloth. Now you know the origin of the phrase “spit polish”. Spit polishing is one of the pure joys of a manly man. Apart from a convention of taxi drivers, it is the only time when it is socially acceptable to spit in public.

I even remember this shoe shine guy who works the floor near the courthouse in Manila. He produces this flawless shine that is water repellant. Instead of Biton, he uses lard. Lard as in cooking-Cisco-lard. Imagine the surprise on my face when he started applying Cisco to my leather shoes. Then he applied the second part of this trade secret: non-stop spitting on my shoes (health certificate, manong?) I think he used a cup of his own saliva on my pair alone. I do spit polish my shoes, but my technique doen’t require a WHO health advisory, but this guy was really abusing his salivary glands.

Fast forward to Kiwi and the insta-shine foam. Too bad for this generation.

(* picture from www.militarykit.com, citing fair use)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009



I went on vacation last week to Boracay with my family. Part of the requirement in any Boracay vacation is the mandatory rubber sandals. Nobody goes to Bora without rubber sandals---a throw back to the time when one must wade through the water after your boat docks at the boat stations. Now there is a central jetty, but people still go there in rubber sandals—OK flip flops.

It’s been years since I bought a pair of flip-flops and I bought mine the old fashioned way—at Mangahan Public Market for P100. I still could not believe that some numbskull has the nerve to sell flip flops under some lame brand and charge P800 pesos or more for a pair. No sir..not me.

Rubber sandals that I remember came from public markets and when they are new, they smell like rubber tires. Rubber tire smell equals real rubber. This means that real men’s rubber sandals are made with the same material they use in SUV tires. They came in several brands that I remember, Dragon, Islander and of course Spartan. Mix that with the myriad of brands that you forget. The sandals I got from Mangahan market is colored army green and has a small label which says “Combat”. There is one in camouflage, but I did not get it, lest I be “over fatigued” (“get it…over fatigue..hahaha”).

Going back to Spartan, I may have used several hundred pairs of Spartans growing up. They are unbelievably durable, except that they have a knack of losing that round thingy that connects them to the main sandals. And what could be a more appropriate name for a manly footwear than to name it after the most feared warrior state in the ancient world. King Leonidas will be proud.

They not only protect your feet, but you can use if for a lot of stuff as well. I use it to knock down ripe fruits to the ground (ripe santol? Preferably stolen), use it for knock down the can in a friendly game of “tumbang preso”. Even use it to bulldozer sand to make a sand castle or a sand fort. For friends who play sipa, it is used as a racket. For those who skateboard in the eighties, it is used as an elbow pad. They always wear out fastest in the heel area. Once there is a hole larger than a coin, it is time to go back to the market. They also smell rubbery when exposed to moisture.

It was just my luck that I could not find Spartan in Mangahan Market. Hell, I wouldn’t trade it for any lame Havaianas. What's my problem with the Havaianas? It's too colorful (unlike the plain-colored Spartan). My manly reputation will be in jeopardy if people see me wearing those floral design thingy's. It's also too glamorized and too expensive. A manly man seeks the simple things in life--ok, we're pretty cheap too.

To sum up my arguements :A manly man would never be caught dead wearing a glamorized multi-colored “TSINELAS”.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

White is the new sexy?


Going to Cubao, I came across this billboard staring Sam Milby.

Check out the message..(and I could not wipe the smile off my face) .

You know what I think? I think that the copywriter should be castrated and the resulting stump poured with patis.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fruits of Summer

Thanks to globalization, Filipinos have access to the fruits of the first world. Go to any large Philippine supermarket you will find apples, oranges, kiwi fruits, grapes sometimes even peaches and pears. Thanks to biodiversity, we have access to regional fruits such as lanzones, mangoes, bananas, melons and even durian and even to some unusual fruits that I believe are unique to the Philippines and some tropical countries. I could fire of a few right here: chesa, duhat, aratilles, camachile, makopa, santol, even caimito . The lowly fruits of summer I call them.

They also have a dirty reputation among petty neighborhood thieves. When I was a kid, we used to joke that the best santol would be “parang pag-ibig---mas masarap kung nakaw” (rough translation: the best santol would be like bad love—best if stolen..har..har).

Santol is also not glamorous as the only sweet part would be the flesh around the huge seed, and the fleshy part of the fruit would always be pungently sour---best eaten with salt or made into sinigang stock. I remember the fruit vendor outside of Angelicum school, he would have fresh santol that he would peel before your eyes which he would place in a plastic bag that would be dumped with rock salt.

Duhat and aratilles is another neighborhood treat. Our neighbor used to have a huge duhat tree and an aratilles tree. We would hit the fruits with our slippers and when the fruit falls down we collect them in a tabo filled with water. After making sure that there is no dirt, we would pounce on our fruits. Some would eat their duhat with salt, which is a bad idea if you have singaw. The unripe aratiles fruits would be stone hard. We would use it as ammunition for our slingshot. It leaves a nasty welt if you get hit. I have seen the kind of welt that is left by those plastic bb guns it is nothing compared to the large welt left by a green aratiles fruit propelled by a slingshot. Did I also mention that it the shot is well placed in your eyes, it could probably blind you.

Near my grandparents house in Tarlac, there is this huge camachile tree that gives camachile fruits during summer. A Holy Week visit to our grandparent’s house would not be complete till we climb the camachile tree and have some of the pungent-tasting fruit. My doctor friends tell me that camachile has de-worming properties. We probably needed it after wolfing down so much dirt-picked durian.

Chesa. This is one fruit I hate. When it is ripe, the flesh turns golden brown. And when you mash it, it reminds you of something you pick up after your dog spins three times in place.

Lastly, my favorite: Caimito. Of all the endemic fruits we have in the Philippines, this one has the potential to go mainstream. It is very fleshy, always sweet when ripe and best served split in half and ice cold. It also has medicinal properties and is a good substitute for anti-diarrhea properties. Too bad, they are not commercially grown and what little supply we have are also harvested as wild fruits.

As we approach Earth day, perhaps we should be thankful for the immense diversity it has given us in our own backyard. There is no accident in nature, and all this diversity comes with the plan to provide us with rich and nutritious fruits and memories of kids using their rubber flip-flops to knock them down.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Men and their instruments

No doubt about it, we are in love with our tools and our machines. All men are essentially cavemen. They are descendants of hunters and gatherers. Thus understandably, they take so much pride and joy with the instruments of their prowess. No man would put off the opportunity to talk about their cars, their guns, their grill (see previous blogs), their stereo, their computers or even their power drills. All men are proud of some machine or tool that they have. Whether you are a fighter pilot bragging about your supersonic fighter plane or a jeepney driver bragging about your stainless steel street machine, being proud of them is not conceit nor is it false pride.

"Tatak Sarao yan..hehehe"

Some smart aleck feminist even remarked that tools are the subliminal projection of men’s penises. Tools are their way of feeling usefull and is their response to the fact that female is the one allowed by nature to have offspring. I think that is over simplification. Yes, I do collect a lot of tools, how would they be representations of my delusions that I am a Peter North? No wonder all of my screw drivers have 10 inch handles and my neighbor recently bought a pair of micro pliers.

When men talk of their machines there are no strangers. You can start a conversation with any man regarding their machines and you will feel right at home:

“Ilang horsepower ba yang pump mo?

“How many rounds will the magazine hold”.

“Can it go 170 kph on the SCTEX?”

Just last week, I was riding a taxi cab, when the driver all of a sudden felt the urge to ask for an advice. He was having these squeaky noise whenever he would make a turn and the engine would stall. I am no ace mechanic, but when a fellow manly man solicits advice, you have to dish out something. Consider it flattery of the highest kind when a complete manly stranger starts a conversation with you. That could only mean that he could feel your genuineness oozing out of your pores. Think about it, if this guy wanted something technical or scientific, he would have easily asked an expert mechanic. But why waste an opportunity to exchange notes with another manly man? Manly affirmation is the key here, getting it right would be secondary. This never happens to women. Women will never approach another woman and out of the blue start a conversation about their computer or stove or their lipstick. For men to strike up a conversation with another man is normal, especially if it involved tools or machines. It would be creepy for another woman to go even start a conversation with another woman.

Now for the downside: no man would ever admit that he is helpless in the face of technical difficulty. Thus, the most logical thing to do is to tinker with it..trying to get it done. Most of the time we are simply armed with what little we know—or what little manly advice we got. There is even this delusion we have that given so much tools we can fix it. Thus we end up buying more tools every time something breaks down. Why just get an oil change when half the fun is buying a filter wrench and doing it yourself? Here’s a hot tip to the women out there, contrary to what may be written in the Orpah Magazine (or for that matter the Kris Aquino magazine), the best men are not in bars or in church functions, nor can they be found in a save-the-whale event, they are out there shopping for tools at the nearest Handyman.