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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia I WAS young when Filipinos were going bananas over North American wrestling as they are now over mobile phones.

Interestingly, in a sleepy society that has nothing, or that has less, mobile phones are a rampant commodity. One Macanese-Chinese businessman friend of mine told me it is because Filipinos are idle and gullible. I needed some time to fully grasp what he meant by that, but now I know, basing my judgment on documentary films about the Philippines being shown here. Interestingly, a mobile phone is the first ever thing a new Filipino domestic helper buys with her first salary. A simple Filipino contract worker here, whom Chinese locals regard as Kao, Cantonese for dog, has at least two mobile phones.)

One famous North American wrestling show burning hot in those days, that people would kill or die to watch, was WWF or World Wrestling Federation aired at an unearthly hour way past midnight without the annoying commercial breaks.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched classic wrestling matches packed on a pirated VCD I bought from Guangzhou; it was not that a fast and easy buy because I had to twist some arms (or rathar my arms got twisted). My children wanted to watch their favorite Chinese program and there would be no way for them to miss it. But the child in every adult sometimes gets so stubborn and naughty, and the one in me insisted that I had to watch my wrestling even it would cost me a fortune (as if I needed to always remind myself that my kids are Chinese). I told them to go out with the maid (whom they call che-che, which means big sister in Cantonese) to buy themselves sweets. (In a city like this, nothing costs a penny. Ala nakang asali keng mamera, ara pin.)

When rare opportunities come I watch wrestling; I do so not because I believe it is real, but rather it always reminds me of my late father. Obviously, it is more of a fantasy than a reality, a creation of purely theatrical acts and imagination—who could stand up after having one's skull crashed with a table, his legs snapped in two and his back mercilessly scratched a dozen times, not to mention the insulting spit in the face and the chains around the neck? Watching wrestling when I was a little tyke was sweet; but now with San Miguel beer, it is even sweeter, ethereal perhaps.

Tatang—unschooled as he was, but often sounded much like the French Philosopher Roland Barthes—one day told me that North American wrestling is a rehearsed performance like a dance in a matinee show; however, the former differs a bit due to the reason that it represents myth and symbolizes the modern man's psyche and dream. That reminded me of the Great American Dream epitomized by Superman, Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, and other superheroes that get beat a lot more than they deserve but will never die, though they whimper and bleed a bit at times to make the audience's experience more colorful. I wanted then to be like them. Every kid wanted to be like them, so they wanted to be white and American.

With all the fiction and make-believe wrapping of wrestling, Tatang and the whole family (if no one succumbed to the inviting calls of the mighty Hypnos and Morpheus) would wait no end to watch it, rather than stomach the repeats of Ferdinand Marcos's televised political speeches in English, which usually lasted for seemingly eternal hours invading all TV channels. Tatang told me the Marcos speeches were more fictional than wrestling, and Rick Martel was more of a hero and much more interesting than Marcos.

It was one rainy and flooding day when Tatang gave me that philosophic way of looking at wrestling. It was one of those notorious days that had nothing but rain. Rainy days are when floods destroy the rice paddies and people's lives and dreams. Rainy days are when people stay mostly at home pondering why there is inequality among peoples—floods in the Philippines kill and impoverish people, while floods in the Netherlands inspire the Dutch to invent the world's most efficient drainage systems and anti-flood barriers and improve their lives. Rainy days in the Philippines mean children can neither go to school nor meet friends to play. The ever failing drainage system (if such exists) and the dilapidated houses and buildings prove my father's contention to be true and irrefutable.

Aside from poverty and decay, everything else in the Philippines is more fictitious than North American wrestling. All leaders after Marcos are all wearing masks and weaving myths, reminding us that Marcos has come back to life broadcasting his usual lies. People don't watch as much wrestling nowadays; luckily they have mobile phones.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang, now Macao resident and married to a Chinese local. He is a teacher and a Masters student of Dr. Chrisopher Kelen at the University of Macao. He has published two books of poetry, Parnaso, in Filipino (1991, Angeles City, Philippines) and Lighthouse, in English (1999, Quezon City,Philippines). His poems have been published in Poems Niederngasse, Adagio Verse Quarterly (USA), Mitochondria (USA), Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS), LauraHird, Muse Apprentice Magazine, Retort Magazine (Australia), Jacobyte Poetry (Australia), Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, National Midweek, A Critical Survey of Philippine Literature, The Surface (USA), Aesthetica: a Review of Contemporary Artists (UK), Stylus Poetry Journal (Australia, New Zealand), Our Own Voice: Filipino Literature in the Diaspora, Dalityapi Makata, birdandegg, Spillway Magazine, Rattle Magazine, Wild East (Hong Kong Literary Circle), and others. Several poems of his are forthcoming in the future issues of literary magazines including Snow Monkey, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS), spreadhead.net, and others. His work has been anthologized in Synaptic Graffiti: Slam the Body Politik (poetry on CD, Australia) and in Mitochondria: an Anthology of Rarities and Loose Ends. He has just finished writing the manuscript of his next book entitled Voice in the. An amateur artist, he has held in early 2004 a solo art exhibition entitled "White and Black" at UNESCO Center in Macao, through the sponsorship of Macao Foundation.]

-Posted: 12:04 AM 4/12/07 | More of this author on eK!