Monday, November 01, 2010

Scary

This was my column on the date indicated above.

We all knew it was just a matter of time. Given its commercial possibilities, Halloween was bound to become a major social event in this country. Halloween also allows us to celebrate our fun loving side and to flaunt our flair for bongga (over the top). Over the weekend we saw just how Halloween has become embedded into our culture just like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. But there are other reasons why Halloween is now big in this country.

At the Bank where I work full time, everyone was agog over the Halloween festivities. There was a Halloween decoration contest. The guidelines of the contest specifically asked that people stress “fun” and go for wholesome themes that were playful and creative rather than the scary and ghoulish. The organizers specifically asked to do away with coffins and cadavers. Did people listen? Heavens, no! At least two departments displayed makeshift caskets and one even had a real person posing as a cadaver. People had a blast getting scared. One department transformed its conference room into a “ghost hospital” which resembled what must have been the laboratory of Josef Mengele during the Holocaust.

Halloween does offer people the choice of either going “cute” and dressing up as superheroes, fairies and angels or dressing up as zombies, demons and ghosts. But most people do associate Halloween with the macabre and the morbid.

The trick or treat (we had more than 300 kids descending on the building) featured kids dressed mostly as vampires and zombies. There was a sprinkling of Mazinger Zs and some Supermen and Batmen in the crowd, but generally the whole occasion looked like a gathering of various covens. When I asked my nieces who among them wanted to wear angel wings—they all scoffed and looked at me like I was deranged. They went as zombies from plants and zombies.

I checked out friends in the human resource profession and learned that most of the major companies did celebrate Halloween this year. Even Chinese companies, usually wary of celebrating occasions that “invite” bad luck such as ghosts and spirits, opted to hang jack-o-lanterns and cutouts of Casper this year.

The Halloween phenomenon is huge proof of how globalization is affecting our lives to the core. It is difficult to stay insulated from festivities so big in the first world countries. At the same time, it is indicative of just how the today’s workplaces have been taken over by members of Generation Y, the so-called millenials who look for every opportunity to bring fun into their work. At our Bank, the people who came to work dressed up in the most outlandish Halloween costumes were our management trainees. I couldn’t believe the extent to which they suffered aggravations all in the spirit of infusing a little creativity and excitement into the workplace even for just a day! Needless to say, the old fogeys in the office didn’t get the whole point of the hullabaloo. They all thought it was such a colossal waste of time and money.

Halloween is a time for scary stories, which probably explains why our television networks are scrambling all over themselves rehashing stories of witches and sorcerers. The results are often frightening because they illustrate just how stupid some people can be; but at best, they are hilarious. Last week, for instance, Ces Drilon came up with a story about a girl who admitted being a sorceress and who claimed she survived an attack of a coven of mambabarang (witches). How Drilon managed to keep a straight face and even look engrossed while being taken for a ride was what made the story worth watching.

But as they say, truth is always stranger than fiction. So here is a sampling of the even more scary stories that happened recently; stories that upstage even the most chilling tale of a headless corpse or a witch gone berserk.

It scares the hell out of me that Hayden Kho has managed to stage a major comeback. He has returned and is now back in the limelight. What is even scarier is that his handsome mug is now in huge billboards all over the metro and that there is this whole public relations campaign designed to “deodorize” his image. The choice if product is actually ironic: He is selling his own brand of perfumes! We are supposed to empathize with this guy? We are supposed to wear on our bodies the scent that bears the name of this pig? I think they need more than four variants of expensive perfumes to drown out the stink of this guy’s character.

Oh please, don’t lecture me about forgiveness and about giving people second and third chances. I really wouldn’t mind if this guy gets a life back as a clerk or as a kept man. But I do take it as an insult when he decides to make a comeback as a celebrity endorser! And the really scarier thing is that lots of people who are supposed to know better are actually accommodating this guy. They are party to the resurrection of the pig. Just a year ago, this guy was the most hated person in the Philippines. He is now the toast of the town again. Scary.

One of President Noy Aquino’s speech writers, an official member of his delegation to the 17th Asean Summit, Assistant Secretary Mai Mislang of the Presidential Communications Office for Strategic Planning and Development, committed a diplomatic faux pas that may have been cute on some level but smacked of immaturity and irresponsibility. She dissed the Vietnamese in a few tweets to friends, saying the wine that was served at the state banquet “sucked,” that she didn’t see a single Vietnamese guy that met her aesthetic standards, and that the easiest way to die was to cross a Vietnamese street. Like I said, the tweets were amusing at some level. At least she was honest. But it was scary in another level because it gave us inkling about the kind of people that surround the President.

Halloween coincided with the Fashion Week held at the Mall of Asia last week. I usually have lunch at the Mall because of its proximity to the office so it was difficult not to notice traffic-causing events such as fashion shows featuring half-naked people. As a blogger (who has been on leave for so long from blogging), I know quite a lot of fashionistas who have huge following in the blogosphere because they are supposed to be interesting people. These people post pictures of themselves wearing various contraptions that they pass off as the latest in fashion.

I’ve always been tolerant of expressions of creativity but I never realized just how different photos are from the real thing! In their blogs, some fashionistas look—how shall I put this delicately - interesting in outfits that look like rags put together in some haphazard way. We were in a restaurant in MOA last Friday when this very popular blogger came in with his posse of fashionistas. They caught everyone’s eye because of the way they attracted attention, like they were creatures of a more superior race. Let me tell you this: What they were wearing qualified as Halloween getup. And they were clearly dressed not for Halloween but for the runway.

What can I say, it seems we don’t need Halloween after all. There are more than enough reasons to make every day feel like Halloween in this country.

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