(Tales over a couple of beer bottles)

Ever had those nights where you have good sit down with a friend and do a good 5 hour talk about life? Where you ended up? Dreams that you reached or those nightmares that you still fear? Not those topics where you do not try to balloon your achievements? Just a talk about life.

I had one of those talks… It was fun, painful, hard, and a huge eye-opener, to be honest. And , this talk was from a friend waaaay back during my elementary years. Just a quick history, I broke his arm back in 1999 while playing a game of tag, and we became best friends till then. No kidding! I was trying to dodge him and then when was about to tag me, I sprinted to his right. He went for me and he did a wild step to left using his right leg. He dropped to the floor and broke his arm. I was even shouting to everyone that he was fine! Since then, we became friends. You can ask him yourself! Hahaha!

Turk, meet Emman (20 years hence)

Anyways, my friend’s name is Emman, and he messaged me through Facebook that he was coming over to my place for a quick visit. When he arrived, we did not miss a beat. We bought a dozen bottles of beer and we started the night!

We kicked-off our ‘session’ at 9:00 pm; and talked about our kids and what not. He got married and just had a daughter with his wife. One girl, that’s all. As for me, I got 2 girls. The night was still young so we got off to a slow start. We got talking about how we were so much worse than our kids and acknowledged how much of an advantage it was for us. We were bragging that we’re always 2 steps ahead of our kids’ antics. Emman and I were not the star-students back in the day. We used to love school fights and even bet money for it. No, no we did not bully anyone! It was like two guys just blowing off steam. But with fists instead of just talking.

We were two different worlds clashing together in a very classic fashion. I was more of a talker, Emman was more of a thinker. My ways were brash and slapdash, his were well-oiled and precise. He has a thing for the art of drawing, I have a thing for the art of music. It was not a block out bingo like all friendships, but we got to fixate ourselves on ONE THING. We were both freaking competitive. We will do anything to get ahead of anyone. Whatever means necessary.

We used that burning competitive spirit in all things, work and play. We may not shine our best in the workforce but we did do some painful damage in the gaming Industry. We used to play Counter-Strike and dominated local tournaments. Unfortunately, we did not get to play alongside each other but we owned their behinds anyway. The highest peak we ever got in the gaming world was in 2005. The golden age of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. WHEW! That’s so hard to type.) Our common friends decided to play a private server for Lineage 2. We were the only Pinoy gamers who slayed numerous Pay-To-Play players and took hold of their castle! I kid you not, it was like a Lord of The Rings moment when the Uruk-Hai decided to storm Helms Deep! We placed our flag on top of their castle with the name of our Guild: “Kasu Matra” (Yeah yeah… I know.) And lastly, we got to be the top Pinoy Guild for the whole South East Asia in the game of Dragonica. Side by side we took down high ranking players with our Top-Notch Skill and Wicked APMs (Actions per minute). We named our Guild “Alamat” which means LEGEND. And yes, we dominated that game for almost a year, cause that’ss what legends do.

Time passed, and we eventually went on our separate ways and became adults. Emman got a job, I got a job… We went radio silent for more than 5 years. And the last thing I remembered was he went on overseas to work in a hotel. I was surprised that he even remembered me when he got back from Qatar.

Mine is bigger than yours

Around 10:30 pm, our talk started to take a deeper turn into a tunnel. A topic that we’re struggling to avoid. We had the talk about our other friends who are now “big-time”. Some of them run their own businesses, have their big houses with the white picket fence; and some sit on a corner office as a high ranked official in a big-shot company. We started to compare how big their achievements were and how little we accomplished, given that we all started off in the same pace. Emman is now running a clothes business while I write articles for a living. This was a bad topic to continue our drinking sesh, so we just went right on to see where it would take us. We dug so deep, we even browsed through Facebook to see everyone’s current status, checked out their featured photos, read a couple of posts where we saw former classmates taking selfies with the Eiffel Tower and Mickey Mouse; saw some of them attending a Guns and Roses concert sitting at the VIP row–a painful experience, to say the least–but I think we were men enough to continue, so we looked some more. Yes, this is our way of punishing ourselves. We hated the fact that we were looking into other people’s lives and compared them to what we have achieved; but yet, we could not stop looking and dove even deeper the Facebook abyss. We got so far down it felt like we could not stop but eventually we did, and we talked some more. Emman was skeptical knowing that a whole bunch of our common friends are now what we call big time. That was where we knew something was off. People weren’t posting what they did WRONG.

It was always about what they achieved. Thanking God for a blessing in the form of either a promotion or success in their business. In short, everyone was talking about how big-time they are, and all of them are on a subconscious duel on who is BIGGER. Emman started talking about one classmate we had who is now bigtime. He’s into buying and selling cars, aside from handling his own business. Emman said that before he was able to get to where he is, he used a cheap way in finding a girl who was “trusting” enough to fund him with his business. He would then woo her, eventually discard the girl, and find a new source of funds once the fountain of ‘moolah’ (money) ran dry. Emman even said that the guy was bragging this to him, and I was like, “How come I have not heard about this?!”. Emman just blurted out a line which put a dot on the topic, “They do not post this on social media, bro.” More like an exclamation point to the subject if you ask me.

After looking at tons of profiles of our former classmates; comparing who’s bigger and who’s the biggest, we got to a point where we stopped. In a sense, we felt dizzy doing this. It was like… we were ‘Spinning’.

The Age of Spin

Dave Chappelle attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

Before social media; and yes, even before Friendster!, our lives were nothing but simple. Not an inch of complication of a hidden competitive atmosphere between friends and enemies alike. If we did not like the person, we would ignore them for the rest of our lives and just be set. But no, since the foundation of social media took a foothold among us Pinoys, the world just got smaller and smaller. I am speaking for Pinoys only, though. Now, we get to have access to almost every information that is happening around the country and the world, that local news channels have no hold on what not to report anymore. Information filters are non-existent, thus the existence of fake news materialized. This new era is what Dave Chappelle called: ‘The Age of Spin’, where all people have no clue on where to focus anymore, because of all the information they can collect, trickling down to the very minor and minute problems we have, and makes everyone go nuts whenever they see something online.

Let’s talk about the Age of Spin. Remember back in 1993 when the Mayon volcano erupted? Every single Pinoy was on focused on what was going to happen next. Evacuation plans were placed; Government was scrambling, making sure that programs to address the displacement of people, relocating the affected population to a secure site; ensuring security to farmlands, repairing of destroyed infrastructure and rebuilding of the local economy were in place. People were praying for the safety of others; families of those living near the volcano were on constant watch, all of them, anguished yet alert. Even with their ever-watchful eyes glued onto what was going to happen next, the eruption took the lives of 75 Pinoys who were mainly farmers around the area. Not a single iota was out of place and the whole country was focused; like it was an event to watch out for. The social media presence was not pervasive during these days, so everyone was limited to what we see on television and what we hear on the radio. Back then… Pinoys cared a lot. When I mean a lot… that’s “A LOT”.

A total 180 degrees from what we see right now. The boom of social media has its ups and downs. The ups being connectivity with loved ones. No more writing letters and long distance phone calls through a payphone. Your relative who is either overseas working or living somewhere in the United States is just a click away. But we fail to see the negative side of all this. Don’t get what I mean? Well try this… Pull up your mobile device or fire up your laptop/desktop and start scrolling 10 to 15 times up or down on Facebook. Go on, I’ll wait.

You’re back? Good. Now, how many posts did you see that talks about a weather calamity? How many posts did you see about a successful buy-bust operation about current war on drugs? How about happy posts that show like a celebrity having a new child or new boyfriend or girlfriend? Now, did you leave a ‘like’ on the post? Did you even read them? Or more importantly, DID YOU CARE? This is what Dave Chappelle was trying to say about the Age of Spin. We are a click away from the world and with all information in this biosphere we call Earth at our fingertips, we don’t know what to focus on. We literally are in a SPIN.

This is why Emman and I were thinking, with all these happening around… What the heck should we focus on? If the answer is cliché like, “Dapat uunahin ko munang isiping ang sarili ko”(We ought to focus on ourselves first.) Then you probably don’t get it yet. The main point of what Emman and I were discussing was, with this trend that’s happening we CAN’T even FOCUS at all. That’s why we tend to distribute this energy towards other things like… well…other people which is unhealthy! And we are guilty of doing it every day! We got to thinking that we may be looking at this in a different light, and the reason why we get to be so hard on ourselves is we do this and not able to focus on what is important.

11:37 PM, we raised brimmed of alcohol our glasses and gave a toast to focus and more story telling.

The painful and uncomplicated truth

Being a Pinoy, some of us will look at photos of someone who is either successful or rich and then say, “good for him/her”. However the majority will think otherwise. They will start comparing themselves and sink deeper into their life and will just think that the party is over for them while others are just starting theirs. This is a growing problem for us Pinoys. The foundation of small friendships has become fickle. The technology that was created to keep us together is somehow triggering something else. The closer you are to people, the harder you think about yourself, and the more distant relationships become. The technology that was meant to keep us connected is now disconnecting us from the most important person in our life. Yes, the man/woman in the mirror. We have gone from “a few good friends” to “Tons of ‘em that do not even remember”. Emman and I saw a couple of profiles that has over 1800+ friends! Imagine that?!

How about this: The idea of deleting friends that we do not know, and keep a maximum of 100 friends, and then if we meet someone new, we will give them a test! If they pass it, they will enter our 100 Friends list. Mind you, it’s very important to keep it at a hundred! So if we ever go over that number, we will delete the least important person we think and move on. That way you can keep track of those who are important. Not to mention that deleting friends in Facebook is like that movie, “The Purge”.

Come to think of it, do you do this? Do you delete friends from Facebook? Like spring cleaning, just taking out the clutter and possibly move stuff around to make them look pleasing to the eyes and soul? Take out the negatives and keep the positives in? No? Well you should. Ever had one of those friends who always post something salty it makes you want to vomit? Or one of those who shares scary and gory articles or pictures? Well, you are in control! Take them all out and keep the ones you want. Always remember that people will always judge you on who your friends are. Not me though, I judge people by looking into their music playlist. Hahaha! If ever you have some Korean Pop song in midst of your list, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN MY 100 FRIENDS LISTING! (Just playing!) Just to add a few fun parts, you can send them a message saying something like, “This is an automated message: I deeply apologize for this mishap but I am now deleting you from my friends list. If you need a detailed reason why, please reply YES”.

12:51 AM, Emman and I deleted a couple friends from list. Raised our glass full of alcohol and drank more.

Remember, remember…

A drinking sesh is not complete without reminiscing! Remember those kids you see in the middle of the streets, running and goofing around? That was us. I lived far from Emman’s place so all of our playtime sessions were planned. He lived near our school while I was one jeepney ride away. It was either after school or a Saturday morning till night session. We were the type of kids who will not go back home til it is late in the afternoon. I was a little lucky since I lived far off, I did not get the typical shouting from your mom to go back home.

We always played. We were never inside our houses. Playing tag, hide and seek, ‘tumbang preso’, etc. As long as the light of the sun touches the ground, we were OUT! I remember back then while playing a game of hide and seek, Emman removed his shirt and hung it on a bush and he hid 2 blocks away. That was a nasty trick to play! Wait… that probably wasn’t the foulest ploy we did. When we didn’t like who we were playing with, we waited until it was about to get dark and asked for another round of hide and go seek. We picked that guy who became “it”, and once he started counting, we went home. Oh yeah! That is how we did it. Worst case was this guy was looking for us till 10:00 PM! We did not regret it one bit. Hahaha!

Somebody come and play

After a few laughs, it got us thinking, “What happened to the kids nowadays?”. They’re rarely seen outside, and majority of them are either glued to the television or a mobile phone. I once saw a group of teens sitting around at Starbucks looking at their cellphones. No one was talking to each other! It was like a witch’s coven and they were like talking telepathically! You ask, “How did you know they were friends?”. Well, one of them blurted out “I know!”, and then the group laughed at the same time; so yeah, they know each other.

Talk to me!

This is another 180-degree tangent. I understand that today’s generation are the upcoming leaders of our beautiful and proud country, but if there is one thing I learned during my time in the corporate world; is that network and physical interactions are important. Communication is a key factor that will play as you move along your life. It is not just applicable in the professional environment, but also in everyday life! There are a lot of things that you will learn from a book or from school but it to make that knowledge fully functional and working, you should apply those in the real world and that is a whole new different level! These things should start somewhere and its foundation should begin with something fun.

The day you started playing tag outside your house with kids you barely know, is the first step to building good network.

I stood up and said with gusto that I will not let my kids cloister themselves up inside the house.

Don’t click that button

This is possibly one reason of the growing depression in the country. The odd thing is, this is mentally and emotionally controllable but the urge to look and click is a force we cannot ignore. I may not speak for all Pinoys, but most of us do this. Some of us even do this as a hobby. Peer into someone else’s life and compare. A quite tragic scene whenever you see one. However, as I said… This takes a lot of mental strength and emotional will to NOT do this. Hopefully this line gives you a peace of mind; ‘Everyone in this world will have their ‘big break’, it just ain’t your time yet.’

These are the moments in your life that matter. There is nothing wrong with eyeballing a couple of profiles in Facebook. It is normal to look at a small number of people once in a while. However bad it may look, you remember that the big break you are so longing for may be around the corner. Or it is also a possibility that you are not doing anything to rush towards that big break. It’s like what we Pinoys always say, “Gusto mong tumama ng milyones sa Lotto pero hindi ka naman tumataya”. (You want to win millions in the lottery but you do not even bet). Simply put, you have to carry your own weight and push forward.

Takeaways from beer bottle rants

Remember that whatever it is you have, other people might not. Everything that you are looking at right now is not comparable to other people, even you. Yes, they might have gone places that you wish you would have; but they could be single and lonely. They might have dined at a very prestigious restaurant; but they might have not enjoyed a single Jollibee lunch with a child of their own. Some joys are shallow and downright superficial, but you have to understand that the levels you are running are not the same. You took your path, and they set out on their own. The choices you made in life are not the same. In fact, a whole lot of factors are not the same. The only time it is acceptable to feel depressed about yourself is when you and that person you are clicking on social media started on the same foot, the same decisions all throughout and you happen to be lagging behind. That simply means you are not moving.

We Pinoys in general are a happy bunch and we always tend find that ‘happy place’ beyond the disarray of life. Whatever you have achieved in life, you have a place in this small archipelago filled with bliss and ecstasy. Do not take everything seriously and most importantly, do not fret about what you see all the time in social media. Put this into consideration, Philippines is the world’s SELFIE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. You read that right, OF THE WORLD. So it’s possible that what you are seeing is just them adding to that number just to keep ourselves number one. A little something to be proud but a little fickle if you ask me.

Shot, Pare! (Shot, dude!)

Emman and I raised our bottles for the good ol’ alcohol story telling and he said, “Walang pagsisisi bro… masaya tayo sa kung saan tayo nakarating. Wala tayong inapakan, hindi tayo nakalimot ng mga kaibigan at wala tayong inalipusta… yun ang importante.”

Translation: No regrets bro. We are happy that we got here. We did not step on anyone, we did not forget friendship and we did not take advantage of anyone to get here. That’s what’s important.”

Just like any Pinoy lasinggero would say, “Usapang lasing lang…” (It’s just the alcohol talking.)