In our lifetime, we have always looked up to people to imitate, emulate and adulate.
In more than three decades of keen winters and summers, a lot of female figures have come into view and have won me hands down. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I would find myself in the spotlight, caught in a cinematic plot, trekking the parallel universe of thos
e great women who have walked this earth, those who have graced the boob tube or glamorized by the silver screen, and those who have been immortalized in bestsellers of all time.
These are the women who exhibited grace under pressure, innocence through time, guts against adversity, sensuality over monotony, sensibility amid pain and love above anything else. In their own little way, they have managed to go beyond the societal stereotype to further reinforce a woman’s worth. How and why they have figured out in my life, I can’t really explain. The process of my affinity would be of a random nature, I guess. I would gravitate towards these women without me really knowing it. Allow me to share the sacred stories of my so-called goddesses, divas, and heroines… the women who rightfully belong to my mythology.
In the course of my wonder years, I would follow the story of this animated character named Candy-Candy. After watching her 30-minute saga on TV, I could draw her with my eyes closed. When my classmates can finely doodle Hello Kitty, I would opt to pencil this orphan femme anime from memory. I guess I learned from closely watching a classmate Arlene Sanchez who was truly gifted in the arts. She would illustrate anything beautifully and everyone was in awe. But when she drew this cartoon girl, I knew I could come up with own rendition. Sure, mine lacked proportion and detail. My crayon colors were not blended. But I guess it’s the imperfection that drew my classmates to yank me for sketching favors. That brought a lot of confidence in me to the point that my teachers convinced me to take part in an interschool on-the-spot painting competition where I eventually bagged the first place. That was one time I felt I had a miniscule Amorsolo gene somewhere tucked in my system.
Come the weekends of my innocent youth, I would emerge to be an action fanatic who followed the adventures of the Charlie’s Angels. The first edition of course: Kate Jackson, Farrah-Fawcett Majors and Jaclyn Smith. In between sips of hot ramen soup and bites of chocolate pretzel twist, I would rave about how these girls saved the day with much grace. Aside from the angels, I would goofily copy the dizzy twirls of Wonder Woman with matching aluminum foil wristbands, if not, I would settle to invoke the universe with my Isis persona. Fine, I had no athletic bone in me. I wasn’t outright gung-ho on prancing and dishing out stunts to save mankind. The most action I saw was when throughout my grade school stay, I would be elected class president year after year and would practice my leadership moves in the realm of my classroom.
Growing up, my mind was further stimulated with the highly philosophical group created by Charles Schulz. I must say Lucy Van Pelt had quite an influence on me. Not that I like sinking my nose in other’s people’s business, but I just had an opinion on anything, to the dismay of my mother of course. But when I’m not yakking, I got honed in the science of listening. I can say I recognized the value of deciphering other people’s woes on health, career and my specialty, love. During high school, aside from sorting out the relationship issues of my friends, I became a certified peer counselor for kulasas and lasalistas. Very much into this day, I still am into counseling my friends from time to time, sans the 5-cent booth, but now, over some Starbucks sips. Funny, when you’re young, you’re seen as crabby, but when you get old, you’re termed as bitchy. When I dish out advice, you bet I can be feisty and hit you to the core. But I have somehow mellowed down through the years, but still exhibiting a hint of crabbiness when people push the wrong buttons.
During the period of aqua net do’s and padded shoulder fashion, I fell in love with Madonna Louise Ciccone. I remember fondly donning her Virgin Tour fashion in parties and her video choreography I took to heart. Whenever I would visit my good friend Dolly’s cathouse in Bicutan, we would copy the dance diva’s moves, doobie-driven and booze-infused, we would get into the groove and surrender to beat of the Material Girl. To the dot, we threw our imaginary tambourines up in the air and caused a commotion. I remember being proudly garbed in goth when attending new wave parties. I’d say I was a decent dancer, a good enough singer but I convinced myself that I can be a performer. Yeah right. With the right packaging, I knew I could work an audience. Such were my juvenile delusions. Well, I got to join the high school chorale but quit midway before the annual recital. I guess I was more than that. I was a league of my own. Haha. This I proved not by singing but with my oratorical abilities. In senior high, I delivered “The Raven” with much drama that sent shrills down to my batchmates’ spines but I lost the honors to my bestfriend, all because I didn’t recite my piece with an accent. Phoeey. But I knew I had something special in me. And that was good enough for me. So onto college, I pursued my vision quest.
It was kinda disheartening that my assumed vocal prowess didn’t land me a spot in the college chorale, so aside from joining the college debate club in my freshman year, I opted to do a 180° turn and ventured into dirty student politics until I graduated. Somehow in between, I managed to have a musical career of some sort. I became frontwoman for a rock band called PRISM. In my baptism performance, I had a Madonna hangover where I sported a cut black lace glove, black tank and skirt while throwing away my mao cap, wildly working the stage as I kicked on with my borrowed leather boots. As I dished out eurorock covers, there was one artist by the name of Marissa Buñag who was constantly singing in my head. She was a local rocker who brought the house down with her husky voice with her infamous RAGE band. Invoke I did, I succumbed to the call of rock with her serving as my absolute inamorata. My alto 2 voice was so down the octave that I ended up singing The Dawn songs and a Propapanda ditty was a constant request. We would play in club parties, school concerts, and small gigs. Sheesh, we even fronted for Regine in a Coke concert. My bravest move as a solo artist was when I joined a competition singing Buñag’s anthem “Believe Me” against other contestants who were crooning the top40 hits of that time. And yes, no Hollywood came calling and that night, it was a bust for me. Still, I rocked on with another college band RETRO and I sang my blues away. Years after graduation, I got to join a summer voice workshop, sang at the Metropolitan Theater and afterwhich, I decided that it was time to unplug my mike for good.
When I stepped into the wonderful world of advertising, my stress levels went haywire, same with my poundage. In between job orders, I frustratingly flipped through the fashion glossies and adored the svelte figure of Cindy Crawford, considering her curves as my impossible dream. Sadly, my cosmo visualization was disturbed with my succumbing to the fastfood nation. After work, I’d troop to the gym but such act proved futile. I found comfort in alcohol and the company of tipsy friends. Then in comes Bridget Jones flagging her weight gain in her love loss diary, in the same vein as I was having my rollercoaster lovelife with the Thin Man while battling the the physical manifestations of a being a cow who was writing her thoughts out. Heartbreaks happened, career moves ensued and I started to be on a downhill. I ended up being an Ally McBeal who would be addicted to coffee and work. I also started to be as anorexic as this television damsel. I would continue to argue my way out when it came to issues of work and relationships but still ever hopeful to find Mr. Right at one point in my life.
And at the turn of the millenium, I evolved to be a Carrie Bradshaw and had her own tales of Stress in the City. I was a writer by day, shopaholic by midafternoon and a fashionista by night.
After pensively tinkering with my laptop, I’d sashay in Greenbelt and be clad in fabulous clothes since my dress size was a to-die-for 2. I would even be a shoe addict come weekends. After acccummulating more than 60 pairs of foot treasures, I had my own sordid stories of an Aidan ex and a Mr. Big obsession. I’d have my caffeine rush and nicotine fix with my galpals and talked about mush and lust till the wee hours of the morning. Carrie became my alter ego. Actually, I never followed the SATC series till its last two seasons. It was only then I discovered that I somehow mirrored the life of this curly-locked, chain-smokin’ columnist. With Makati as my Manhattan, I had all these hypothetical questions on relationships and wondered why I never seem to make sense out of the matters that belong to the love department. So I obsessed writing my sappy narratives away, going through disaster dates, witnessing reruns after reruns of foolish exes surfacing every now and then, and later on convincing myself how fabulous singlehood is if I simply choose to uncomplicate it.
Mid of this decade, I had my ugly bout with depression, Minnie walked to the dark side. I emerged to be Emily the Strange, the comic book favorite of people who are morose and evil. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t sinister and never will be. With my episodes of family death and emotional catastrophe, I would be jaded as to play safe and exhibit a poker face on life. I breathed morbidity every chance I got. Perhaps I was too burned to care, too tired to love. I was a posterchild for depression. Life was literally sucked out on me and I only existed because of Xanax and Lexapro. Admittedly, I am still in my dark ages. I haven’t really seen the light. But every book has its ending, and that I am excited about.
And just over a year ago, I took on the role of Julianne Potter. For romantic comedy flick afficionados, Jules was the bastion of mush ruthlessness. She was an ultimate fool for love who later turned out to be selfless in the tail-end of her story. Very few people are privvy to the saga of my best friend’s wedding but I once again, saw how cinematic my world can be. It was a brief episode of my life that shook me to the core and made me realize that I had the ability to love in the truest sense of the word, if I choose to. Knowing that at the end of the day, you gotta do what’s right. After all the theatrics, George was right in saying that “by god, there will be dancing.” And to this day, I still struggle swaying to the goddamn beat.
At present, I am back to being Amelie Poulain. A lover of the simplest things in life. A girl who is mesmerized by puffy clouds and glorious skies. A woman with a keen imagination that feeds her. A character who has a genuine interest in knowing and helping people, and loves taking photographs.
I vividly remember how I used to be like that. When life was not at all complicated, stress was not in my vocabulary and love was oh so generously given and gratefully taken. A time when I knew no hurt in the world and every person I met was a good soul and had no hidden agenda. It was a time I knew hearts where easily drawn with crayons and are not easily crushed by the dreaded boogeyman. I am quite grateful that as I write this piece I am back to being that simple girl, taking simple snapshots, with simple wishes of happiness in her life.
Indeed, I do thank these heroines that have caught my fancy, conquered my mind and fueled my sanity. In my non-fictional existence, these were the women I mirrored, drew strength from, learned from and related to, when push came to shove and I needed to dig deep into my persona. They are like pieces of a puzzle that form me. Though I’d like to convince myself that I am still evolving.
All of us, femme or not, whether we like or not, have had a shadow of a woman lurking behind us, someone who encourages us to fly to unimagined territories only to bring us back when we happen to get lost in the forest. Which leads me to ask …
Is there a female figure, reel or real, that has sustained you to go through a particular life episode? Other than the woman who rocked your cradle, is there a woman who somehow rocked your world?
Of course, there are female figures in my life, in a real sense, who may not be as popular as the ones I have cited, yet they remain to be my lifetime idols. My mother, aunt, sister, godmothers and grandmothers. Definitely, I will be forever indebted to them for personally enriching my life.
But when life seemed to give you that surreal whack in the head, and box you in a scene that seems to be larger than life, then you need to be creative enough to pull all kinds of tricks from your magic hat. And a woman can never ran out of things to make the world go round.
They say that behind the success of every man is a woman. Amen to that. But for me, behind every strength of a woman is another woman. Imagined or not.