Perplexing, I say.

It’s one of those Korean dramas that invaded Philippine airtime. My mother and her sisters love them. Those Koreans know how to cry, they say. Nothing unnecessary. No postmodern this. No postmodern that.

On screen, Slim Girl and Not-So-Slim Madam are fighting over Hunk. Slim slaps Not-So-Slim, whose cheek roses up. Not-So-Slim gasps for approximately five seconds. Then, in retaliation, she yanks Slim’s silky hair. Hunk intervenes, but in doing so his face is scratched, slapped, and punched by both women. Hunk’s flat-ironed bangs remain intact.

Chazrick turns off the TV. There’s still a hum.

I don’t get it, I say. You really think this is us?

You can write Korea, laughs Chazrick. You can write anything.

And you can star, I say, being that you’re so yellow.

Mocha.

Right.

Chazrick scoots under the comforter. It feels like moist sandpaper.

You really think Morgan Renoir has your best interest in mind? I ask.

I’m the lead, Chazrick says. Morgan said I’ll have creative control.

Like at Love It?

Morgan said I make the show. I. Chazrick.

You? How? What exactly did he say?

Cultural Determinism.

Oh, I say. Cultural Determinism: if you were born in the States, they’ve been looking for you. It’s that simple. Your accent is clean. Your skin glows. And everything about you smells of apples. This, I’m sure, does not apply to us writers. They don’t need our alphabet, let alone our ideas.

There’s too much value on drama here, I say.

Drama? Chazrick says, sounding as if he’s not up for my philosophizing tonight. He kisses me and turns over to sleep. You mean theater?

No, I say, I mean the perpetual nightmare of the upper class. The wealthy suffer the most. Fiction is their documentary. The wealthy suffer multiple infidelities and cycles of revenge. Right?

Chazrick is almost dead asleep but I continue anyway.

In the beginning: A funeral. In the middle: A funeral. Everyone wails. The whole time. All because the mother cheats on her husband who’s been depressed about their son being kidnapped by guerrillas. Later, we discover the son dead in a trench. The mother continues her affair with a man who happens not only to be the half-brother of her husband but also a former guerrilla. Eventually, the brothers murder each other, and at the double funeral the widows wish to fight but they can’t because they’re cousins. Piano score at the end.

Chazrick breathes hard as he sleeps. I can’t sleep. The unfamiliarity is tragic. This was a good idea. This place inspires. This is good for us. Really good.

The bells on the vendor carts outside must be warped.

Pandesal, the vendors yell, pandesal!

Everyone here begins early. I write until I become sleepy.

Are we too familiar? Too comfortable? Is there still passion? Will he ever leave me? Can he ever leave me? I can never leave him. I owe him. I owe him my life. Manila. Manila.

It is 5 a.m.

6. heartthrobbing

8 a.m. Morgan Renoir used to have sex with Reese De Verdad, who these days, in this very office, though not at this very moment, has sex with Sid David, former heartthrob news anchor turned executive producer for Pinakamagandang Maganda Network (PMN), who is now standing before us with combed eyebrows.

MR raves about you, says Sid David. He exhales white smoke in his white-walled office and offers us white chocolate from a tiny white bowl. MR, he continues, tells me CV is pure Pinoy talent. We have a BHR for you, Mr. Villarosa, a BHR.

BHR? I ask.

Big Huge Role. CV will be the best thing on television since Sexy Spaghetti Dancers.

I know no Tagalog, says Chazrick.

English, Sid David assures, is the language of entertainment. English is the lingua franca.

And Korean? I ask.

That’s not PMN. Those other networks just don’t know what to do with our own. The simple fact is Greater Asia, especially Korea, is attractive right now.

But what if a Korean experience doesn’t translate?

That doesn’t matter here, says Chazrick.

Right he is, says Sid David as he ashes his cigar. We don’t worry about authenticity.

Authenticity, I think to myself, is something all writers have. Someday someone might think it’s acceptable for a white man to pretend to be a geisha. Universal human condition? That line is drawn between our thighs.

Sid David’s new show will supposedly pique the interests of artists and audiences alike.

It’s humanitarian, he claims.

Thirty minutes of competitive, comedic improvisations performed by the basest of society, culminating in a grand prize of P50,000.

We provide what the people want, claims Sid David.

So, says Chazrick, what’s my role? Who am I?

The Big Man, says Sid David. He stands on his chair. The Handsome Host, he continues, with the voluptuous Reese De Verdad at your side.

My mother collects Reese De Verdad movies. Reese De Verdad always plays the lonely, lowly provinciana looking for love in the city. I don’t think Chazrick should settle for this.

Your stars are always mestizo, I remind Sid David.

Times are a-changin’, says Sid David as he sits back down and puts out his cigar in a glass of water. The notion of the light-skinned standard is so colonial. We’re global. With global standards. The most beautiful people are phenotypically ambiguous. You don’t know where they’re from. It’s the mystery that’s beautiful.

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