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”.