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Tita Tita: Parlor Games

It took me a while to start this column. Late December my niece, the editorial director for Metro.style, sent me a text asking if she could give me a call. I don’t get to see her that often, but I did want to thank her for the gift she had sent over made by her adorable son, a baker. I called her immediately, as I was just done with one of these long lunches with my velada mates, with endless chatter, that honestly, bores me.

"Hija," I said, "what can I do for you?" After the usual pleasantries of asking how her mom was and her super hard working husband, she pops a question, “Would you like to write for us at Metro.Style? It’s a new online magazine from ABS-CBN.” And I said I hadn’t written in years, not since I left the industry and began my small endeavour– about that later. I was curious, she asked me to write about how I see things going on in the social whirl. I was amused. I said I hardly go out, I shuttle between the beach house and Manila and have found solace in doing something more, uh, substantial. "But Tita," she said, "you do still uhhhh, circulate? Tito does, and you are always together?" I said I would think about it, given so much happening, I don’t know where to begin.

Then, while preparing for our media noche at El Campo, I asked my Tito what he thought. My sisters and nephews were in earshot. So I said, "what to write?" He said, "just say it how it is. You have seen quite a lot of things going on, and really, life should be given some perspective – but don’t be a bitch, sabes? They won’t like that. Remember it’s a new audience out there – they don’t like catty stuff."

"Tita", my fashionista niece Karina who just finished school out of London said, "Oh, be real and be encouraging. These millennials – always warm and fuzzy… Que voy hacer?"

I put it off. Yet again. We stayed on for the length of the break at El Campo, shuttling from the golf course, to lunches at Punta and Tali. The drive can be irritating, I actually didn’t want to leave the house.

Now back in Manila, deciding to visit the parlor for the New Year (okay, the salon), I was inspired to do my first piece. I don’t really go that often, maybe once a month, or unless I need to have something done because Tito needs me to come with him somewhere. I am so unlike my mother, who recreated a salon in her dressing room, with the Hollywood lights, the shampoo bowl, and the astronaut hair dryer. That and weekly trips to the Realistic Salon in Malate, of course you won't know that.

The salon is actually a snapshot of how people view themselves. It’s interesting to watch the people come in and out, seeing it as a wondrous escape. I honestly think it’s a great way to relax, and people watch.

My father was always firm in making sure we were always courteous to everyone. Our whole household span three generations running our lives, and really, they watched over us more than our parents. But I digress, lo que quiero decir, is that people gravitate to you if you are naturally kind.

I usually sit in a corner, near the entrance and watch, in amazement at the cast of characters that visit. There is este, the quiet heiress. Definitely, DBF, de Buena familia but DBF has its share of bad eggs, and well, marginalized resources. She drives herself in an unflashy Japanese SUV, sorts out her own parking, and comes in to the reception waiting her turn to be led to her seat. Of course, lurking outside, are friendly looking (as compared to the government-I-am-in-power-type-pot-bellied-type-of) guards. They let the señorita be. She sits at her spot, and is almost inaudible when she speaks to the stylist who bellows her name, and all you hear is her – huy, naman…and the hush tones ensue. Simply dressed in jeans, worn, fashionable, and a plain T-shirt. She lays down her duffel on the floor, of which you can see is a bespoke version of one of those covetable brands everyone Instagrams. She pulls out her iPad and gets on with her day. They say when done she pays her bill and has her tip pre-prepared and slips it to everyone with a thank you.

Then there is the Entitled Socialite. She saunters in an hour with yaya in tow to carry a panoply of bags, while she totes around a bag that could spell the end of life in the Amazon.  She shrills out, "where is my favorite chair?" and huffs about the staff not being professional given she gives so much money to everyone. Dressed in furry shoes which she say she picked up from their just-returned winter break, she finally gets to her spot and bellows for yaya to buy her something from Dean & Deluca. Left alone to her own devices while yaya is gone, she picks up the phone and chats up a storm 'til her stylist comes to her. Now calm, she makes the assistant hoard all the magazines so she can skim through them during her next few hours. Figure her out in every social rag, and at every major ball. She is actually a nice person, but I guess social media gets the better of you.

I guess the second type holds true for the government-types too, and the publicist-types who likes to demand for attention.

But you know, there is always a silver lining. There is the Courteous Client who comes weekly, on time, pays monthly for her treatments and is just a darling. She buys pizza once a month for the staff, and always remembers the birthdays of those who take care of her.

And the Charitable Gentleman. He comes to the salon every few weeks for a scheduled haircut, leaves his credit card for his daughter's haircut while he heads out shopping, and picks her up for a movie or a bit of a snack. There is a naughty version of this CG, he leaves the card for services of someone not his wife nor daughter. Que cute no?

I guess the world I grew up in was very different from the observed characters we see. I see them in the grocery, and in the shops, and in the restaurants. Oh, I am not Mother Marie Eugenie either, okay? But I just feel that we need to have a bit of ourselves kept in hiding. Que locura este, Instagram! Are we basing our self worth on likes? It's no different from the old days when people were dying to see if Maurice would write about them. Don’t we all love him?

I leave you with this thought, something Pops would always say, "Lo cortés no quita lo valiente."  It costs nothing to be polite, or politeness is never a sign of weakness. It is your choice to keep your life to yourself, and to your family. But we live in ambivalent times where presence is dictated by stature, power, or society. But honestly, its being around people everyday that really matters. Pues, I hope that this is lesson learned.

Un abrazo, te hecho todos a menos,

Tita