Saturday, December 31, 2011

That end-of-the-year feeling

In a way, the old year ended and the new year began with my friend J, amidst the gorgeous and very elegant backdrop of the Peninsula Manila's Sparkle Ball for New Year's Eve followed by an after-party at Salon de Ning where I drank Manolo Blahnik cocktails till 3 AM or so.

I woke up on the last day of the year, December 31, with an email on my phone from J. He was still in a different and much colder time zone, although he's moved to a place where the temperatures are more pleasant if you discount the wind chill factor. And apparently it's a city where the HMV store has closed down so I don't think he's been able to buy me the DVD set I wanted.


Anyway, I'd emailed J a link to one of the dozens of entries on the Travelife Magazine blog that included him, that I'd been re-reading at year-end and that had made me smile. It was an entry written while he was somewhere exotic and sunny and I was at home in Manila -- yes, he travels almost as much as I do, so we're hardly ever in the same city at the same time; and, no, he's not a pilot for Cathay Pacific -- and he'd been sending me messages while on a tour that took him to look at some pretty boring rocks in the middle of nowhere.

Well, reading that entry took me back to exactly that evening many months ago now. So I sent the link to him thousands of miles away with a little comment: "You were so nice then."

So when I woke up on the last day of the year, his reply was on my phone email almost as expected, and it included the following caveat: "I'm still nice."


We usually just joke around all the time "to take the edge of our days," as I like to describe it. But yesterday wasn't a poking fun kind of day. Maybe it's that end-of-the-year feeling that makes some people sentimental, but I decided to send him one of the longest replies I've ever typed out on my phone, devoid of the usual teasing and smiley faces, about what was different then and now. And what followed was one of the most honest BBM conversations we've had in a long time.


If you know J, you'll understand that that usually doesn't happen because his best friend Humor is always around to make everything fun, although it can be a rather annoying three-some at times when you want to talk seriously. I've rarely ever seen Humor leave his side -- talk about loyalty here -- except for maybe three instances this 2011. Once was when he was playing badly on a hot day at a tournament at Manila Golf, and we'd been on BBM at the same time discussing where to get the best and most expensive hamburgers in Manila. The talk about his favorite restaurant in this city probably put him back into humor. The other two times I can't write about.

But yesterday, Humor was on a break. Perhaps J had sent him to the next city to see if he could find an open HMV store and finally buy me this DVD set I've been so wanting after all. So we were actually able to have a serious conversation instead of just throwing BBM snowballs at each other as we usually do.

This was such a funny photo of a guest with so many party hats on
at the Peninsula Manila last night

But, fortunately or unfortunately, his best friend Humor did return by the stroke of midnight so we also returned to the BBM snowballs after that. As 2012 arrived, I was right in the lobby of the Peninsula Manila merrymaking with hundreds of other people including Peninsula Manila General Manager Sonja Vodusek and her family, the US Ambassador and his family, and the Israeli Ambassador and his family. Or perhaps more accurately, everyone was dancing around and I'd taken off my shoes and I was standing on a chair with a glass of champagne and a noisemaker, in a long gown.


That was when I happened to look down at the beautiful long mirrored table prepared for Sonja and her guests that was now strewn with purple flowers, pink and purple streamers, champagne bottles and confetti. What a beautiful picture, I thought. You know what they say about how things look different from the top? Well, it's true. So I took out my Blackberry and went snap, snap, snap -- taking photos from above while standing on a chair.

Then I sent the best photo around the world to friends everywhere who were on BBM and email, and of course J was one of them. Lots of people replied quickly with New Year greetings, adding comments about how pretty the table was or how colorful and picturesque it was. But J messaged back saying he couldn't make out the photo I'd sent him.

I thought he was just being his usual critical self, so I replied, in between swigs of champagne from these lovely little individual Moet bottles the Peninsula ladies (who were dressed so beautifully a la Audrey Hepburn in little black cocktail dresses and pearls) had handed out just before New Year's Eve: "You're the only person to say that! Everyone else has said how beautiful the table looks."


It was true, the Peninsula Manila looked beautiful last night, and the general manager's long table for 12 was especially so. I thought that was clear enough in the photo I sent him.

J replied within a few minutes: "Ok. How colorful and what a great table. Are you happy now?" He asked, and then added: "But in truth I can't make it out and I'm the only one who says it as I see it."

I couldn't resist going back to business-as-usual even if we'd had our serious discussion just a few hours earlier. I replied: "I was just thinking that you either had bad eyesight, too little imagination or very old Blackberries. Or all of the above."

It's true. J can probably indulge himself and buy a small country in the Pacific if he wants to, but he has two of the oldest Blackberries I've ever seen. And it's kind of an urban legend among people who know him that he never carries anything himself except perhaps his credit cards -- a rumor he takes great pains to refute to me, by the way -- but I can personally attest to the fact that he does carry his two phones himself. And sometimes a bottle of wine when he has to.


But for once, J certainly had no illusions about himself: "All of the above. Plus great honesty. Nobody else indulges you."

Indulges? That word stuck out like a sad thumb on a happy New Year's Eve, and I was pleased I could now turn the tables on him and BBM him a line he uses all too often and just too slightly condescendingly with me. I asked him: "Do you know what that word means? Is there such a thing as 'indulging with honesty?'"

J sends me a message like this probably every few days, especially about words I use in this blog to describe him. He once asked me if I knew what "paraphernalia" meant; and just the other day he'd objected to being described as "notorious."


And last night, he gave himself a pat on the back as we'd talked about how some people can't stop reading this blog because of the references to and content about him. He thinks he's single-handedly brought our ratings up, as we are among the most avidly-followed travel & lifestyle blogs these days, especially for a certain sector with adequate disposable income.

I was so tempted to reply: "That bump in the ratings is probably just all your friends wondering if it is actually you I'm talking about. Or worse. They're probably just all the girls you've jilted in the past who want to see whether karma has finally overtaken you."

But it was New Year's Eve and we'd just had a serious conversation a few hours ago, so instead I decided to indulge him. I texted: "I think the blog is irresistible to some people, but it's not because of you. But let me indulge you for a moment and admit that you're irresistible to write about."


It's true. It's fun to write about him because he has all these one-liners that he pulls out of a hat at a moment's notice and they can be really funny or outrageous. Maybe his steady sidekick Humor keeps a stack of flashcards ready for use anytime. I've already written how J never carries anything but his two Blackberries on a daily basis, so I'm sure the one-liner flashcards aren't in his pocket.

But J wasn't one to let up even on New Year's Eve. Without even skipping a beat, he asked me: "Or maybe I'm just plain irresistible?"

I still remember how I was walking across the lobby of the Peninsula when I read this particular BBM and how I almost tripped on my long gown. But my reply itself was pretty easy to type out: "Don't push your luck. I was just indulging you." Then I added: "Gosh, I love that word."

It wasn't New Year's Eve yet in his part of the world, so obviously he was still his same old self. He replied: "I guess I will see the words "indulge" and "irresistible" in your next blog entry."

I then asked him, rather grandly: "Which of these two words do you wish me to indulge you with in my blog, on this very first day of a better year for both of us?" During the serious conversation episode earlier in the day, we'd discussed how we'd both had a pretty challenging 2011, and we'd already sincerely wished each other a much better 2012.

I could almost detect his sigh across the Blackberry lines across the oceans as he typed out: "I never have any say whatsoever in what you write. I just know what you're going to write."

And for some reason, it wasn't a sad face at the end of this, but a smiley one. Let's leave it at this for now.

From all of us at Travelife Magazine, our best wishes for a new year of irresistible friends and a life full of indulgences.




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