Manolo's apartment was half the size of mine, but it was so sparsely furnished, it actually felt roomier.
"Hanggang next-next week lang naman," he explained apologetically.
There was the bed, the table, the kitchen sink, and the toilet. The toilet is more appropriately referred to as the water closet, actually, what with it doubling as the shower room as well. What little clothes Manolo had left in his possessions were stashed under the bed, along with his shoes, and other junk. There was a pair of 30-lb dumbbells lying under the table.
Christian was cooking instant pancit canton, so Manolo did most of the talking.
"Bakit di mo subukan? Ok naman ang sahod," he said.
I met Manolo and Christian one long ago night. They were callboys, then. At that time, I wasn't exactly new to the trade, but I was going through a particularly rough patch. I borrowed some dough from a loan shark a neighbor recommended, and he wanted his money back immediately. I had nothing. I've been sending invitations through my network, but none of my former clienteles was interested that particular night.
Let me get this straight: I'm not a callboy. I'm not a streetwalker. I don't stand in the dark, displaying my ware.
That means I charge by the hour...
...and I charge a lot.
Through the course of this blog, you will learn more about this difference between me and some of my friends (among them, Manolo and Christian). All in due time, my dear readers.
So, back to the story of How I Met Manolo and Christian: I was desperate, and I was young. I was 19, then, and although I was physically fit, and streetwise, I knew I couldn't stand against an angry loanshark. He already sent someone to harass me by hanging out with me one whole day a couple of days ago, and I had to introduce the "tail" to everyone in class as my cousin. The tail literally followed me around campus, making sure everyone within hearing distance hear that I was in debted financially--and indebted heavily at that. It wasn't physical harassment, it was worse. I almost lost my patience, I shoved him back a couple of steps, and he started creating a scene about the money I owe. I promised to cough up the dough I owe them within the week just to make him stop.
With nothing but a few pesos in my pockets, I decided to swallow my pride and do something very, very pedestrian: stalk the night for customers.
The Quezon City Memorial Circle is ringed by a wide highway called the Elliptical Road. The Elliptical Road is lined with various governmental buildings, including the Quezon City Hall, the Department of Agrarian Reform (a.k.a. Farmer's Squatting Place), the National Housing Authority.
Along this circular avenue revolves the lives of male prostitutes.
And it's conveniently accessible from my place within 10 minutes by walking.
The way I saw it, if I went to stand with the Circle Boys, I would be risking my reputation. Someone I know from school could pass by. I had to take my trash away from home. I had two choices. Hustle in Makati, or in Manila.
Since I had no money for gas then, I decided not to take my car. Both Makati and Manila are accessible via bus. I could get better paying clients in Makati; I also had a higher risk of getting beaten up in Makati (there were some gangs going around at that time, according to the talk). Manila was cheaper in terms of fare. I also considered the psyche of potential clients. Knowing the old adage of not bringing your trash home, I was thinking QC-based potential clients would probably be cruising around in Makati. Manila was still risky in that aspect, but substantially less so.
Manila it was, then.
I took an FX to Taft Avenue, and asked to be dropped at the Pedro Gil Stn. of the LRT. From there, it was a short walk towards the Philippine Women's University, a popular hang-out for callboys.
Have you ever wondered why callboys and hookers always flock to the same place? How come you don't see them scattered all over the city? The answer's rooted in animal psychology. In order to survive the desert, animals had to "remember" watering holes. This data is passed on through several generations, until it becomes almost instinctual for them to follow the road towards the nearest watering holes. Watering holes in deserts and jungles are popular congregation spots for animals of different species. Animal brain developed until it wasn't exactly a thinking process, but an instinctive process to equate "Hungry = Go to Water". As predators notice the correlation between watering holes and various animals (or to them reads as "various preys"), they processed a new knowledge which they then passed on through their offsprings: "Watering Hole = Many Animals = Many Food = Profit!". Until, eventually, humankind ruled the world, and the oldest profession in history was born: prostitution. Prostitutes--like most cunning business adventurists--frequented established spots together because that's where clients would "most likely" be looking for a trick. You can perhaps stand by EDSA or Commonwealth or Katipunan waiting for a customer, and YES, you can get one, but standing in established spots (like Quezon Ave for hoookers, QC Circle for callboys) multiplies that chance a lot. More clients looking for your service means the better you can bargain for it (although, you would have to contrast that bargaining with the fact that you're in competition with other 'service professionals').
Anyway, that's how I met Manolo and Christian. They're callboys, regulars of the PWU. The first time I saw them, they were eyeing someone driving a car. They were caressing each other's well-developed chests to entice the customer. The customer passed them by after some consideration, stopped in front of a much younger callboy nearby, picked the kid up.
I walked towards them. There was no need to pretend with these boys. They knew I was there for the very same reason they were. We each got booked later that night. I came back to the spot a few hours later for a 2nd booking, and found them both there as well.
We traded numbers. Like most industry, it's better to keep a network of peers than not. We promised each other to pass around bookings that we couldn't handle or couldn't commit to. Manolo said he was expecting a Japanese "guest" in a few days, and he'd invite Christian and me over if his guest was to have any other Japanese friends with him. I said, sure, yeah, and gave my name as "Aldwin."
The next day, Christian sent me a message. He asked if I had notice the kid who was picked up shortly before I arrived. The kid was being hunted by the police; his customer was found stabbed several times in the neck, the face, and the gut.
To "fit in" Manolo and Christian's world, I had to inhabit the persona I had created as "Aldwin." I have told you about Aldwin before. I told them I was from Kalookan, and used to hang-out in the Circle, but I left a customer angry when I punched him in the nose for not giving me the amount we agreed on. Fearing repercussion, I was lying low from the Circle. "Until things cool down a bit," I told them.
Manolo, Christian, and the other callboys I know assumed I had the same sob story they do. I don't bother correcting them. What good would it be, telling them I'm educated, I drive my own car, and our family business in the province is doing well enough to give me a substantial monthly allowance? Would they have believed me?
"Bakit di mo subukan?" Manolo asked me. "Ok naman ang sahod."
Christian was done with the pancit canton. He served it on a plate, and brought some pan de sal with it to the table. He took the litro of Coke from the grocery bag under the table, and twisted the cap off. "Tsaka, OK buhay dun, di tulad sa Saudi. Kala lang ng mga tao dito, muslim-muslim kasi Dubai. Pero, hindi. Cosmopolitan na rin sila."
Odd choice of word: Cosmopolitan. A friend of mine, a flight crew (not The Pilot, trust me) used the same word to describe the same place: Dubai, Cosmopolitan. (Yes, my friend does get indecent proposals, and he accepts them, but only when they fly Business Class)
(I suspect Dubai has some sort of tourism campaign going on, and they're using "cosmopolitan" to push their agenda. That's the subtle psychological manipulation of advertising at work, people. You can't help but appreciate how words have tremendous impact on people's subconscious. If any of you are from Dubai, or had recently come from that country, can you verify this? Do they have a tourism campaign (Like the DOT's "Byahe Tayo!") anchored by the concept of being "cosmopolitan"?)
Christian had been working in Dubai for some months now as a busboy for one branch of a popular chain of restaurants. "Kulang na lang i-table ka," he said about the tip. Manolo will join him "next-next week" (which was he put it last week, and the week before that).
"Tiga-balat ng patatas," Manolo joked when I asked him what he will do there. I don't think he actually knows what he will be doing there.
Why don't you try it there? they asked me.
I know it's a question most people are wondering about. Someone even left a comment here in my blog about it. So, why am I in this business? What is a good, decently raised Catholic boy doing in an indecent industry?
I wish I can tell you I enjoy it. I don't The sex part is disgusting, really. I have had STD's for a grand total of 3 TIMES by the time I was 24 years old.
I do it for the power. I do it for the worship.
As I keep repeating in this blog, I have long diagnosed myself to have malignant narcissism. Us malignant narcissists are fixated on getting worshipped, being adored, being constantly affirmed of our vital role in history.
I was watching a documentary on The Unabomber the other day, and was impressed when the FBI claimed they established a "new criminal profile" based on The Unabomber: The Lone Wolf. When the forensic psychologist explained the features of The Lone Wolf as a criminal profile, I compared myself to it, and found myself oddly proud that I fit the bill.
I do it because I see in people's eyes how much they want me. How much they want to bathe themselves in my glow. It's in their eyes, the longing, the wanting, the craving.
An old friend of mine, one from school, actually, contacted me. He's setting up a new venture.
"Power Wellness Center," he said. "It's going to cater to people living power-driven, power-hungry lives. It's a place people go to for their wellness." He sounded positively excited. "It's like going to the hospital before you need to go there. My wife, she's a nutritionist, she'll do 'nutrional consultation' and device diet programs. You and I can be 'emotional and psychological health councellors'."
"Sounds like a fancy way of calling a shrink," I said.
"Exactly!" he said. "I took some training in Eastern health practices, that's my specialty. You can do that pop psychology you do, and sleep with the desperate housewives to jump start their sex lives," he said. My heart skipped a beat, but then I realized he was just kidding, and had no idea of my other life. "I know a girl who does all this yoga thing, and she's a registered nurse, so she'll also offer botox and gluta injections."
"I'm not sure, bro. It sounds exciting, yeah..."
"Think about it."
Then, there was also that job interview I went to last month.
"Mr. Du Jour," The Editor said. "What exactly can you contribute to our publication?"
I slid a list across her desk towards her. It was on a plain bond paper torn crosswise.
"What's this?" she asked.
"That's a list of local male celebrities suspected to be homosexuals," I told her.
She shrugged and slid the list back. "You got this from the internet. Big deal," she said. Clearly, she was unimpressed.
I took a ballpen out, and encircled three names.
I slid the list back to her.
"I slept with these," I said. I was bluffing. I only had sex with one of the three names I encircled, and only because his cousin--a politician--was drunk, and forced both of us to do it while the politician watched. But the two other names, well, I know someone (or someone who knows someone) who had sex with them.
She glanced at the names I encircled. She wasn't amused. "Old rumors," she said. She didn't even touch the list.
I took the list back.
I added 2 more names to the list.
Two male showbiz personalities I have personal knowledge of preferring the company of men over women.
2 names that have managed to remain squeaky clean despite the internet's persistent information dissemination.
2 names that have never before been accused of being gay.
I knew I hit gold when she tried to force her smile out of her face. She stared at me, straight and challenging.
She tapped one long fingernail over one of the names.
I named his condo building in Makati.
She kept tapping.
I gave her which floor.
She kept tapping.
"There's a portable DVD player in his RAV4. He watches himself jacking off when stuck in traffic," I told her.
She leaned closer, and smiled at me in a way that told me she was going to let me in on a secret. "His studio--" and by that, she meant the TV network holding an exclusive contract with the model-actor I just named. "--gives me good money to keep his shit out of my magazine. He pulls big bucks for them, you know?"
"I suppose I can go on top of a mountain and scream his dirt out in the open, and they'd come to the rescue and launch a massive PR campaign to clean up, eh?"
"Even if you go to their rival TV network, no one would air that out. The rival TV network would only use that information to weasel a guesting from him," she said. "But I like you, boy. I like your spunk. How soon can you start?"
"I have to file a resignation. 30-ish days?" I said.
Welcome to day 20.
Manolo and Christian ate instant pancit canton sandwiched in pan de sal. It wasn't how I usually enjoy instant pancit canton, but I have put worse things in my mouth to survive.
"Bahala na," I told them. "Pag naka-ipon ng pang-visa."
Christian wolfed the remaining pancit canton on his saucer. "Tumatanda ka na, brad," he told me. "Umiba ka na nang linya."