Gayahin natin si Macky. :) This was something I wrote six years ago. I would've posted another story but they're... racier. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. And all that jazz.
“I can never really quite understand why Filipinos today are so addicted to coffee,” Renato said to his friend William one morning while waiting in line for his usual cup of Starbucks’ mocha frapuccino.
“You mean besides the fact that coffee contains caffeine which is, in fact, addicting?” William joked.
Renato laughed. “Yeah, besides that.”
“It became a symbol of social status, that’s why,” Jack piped in, having just entered the coffee shop and catching the last lines of the conversation.
“And speaking of anything social,” Jack added, giving Renato a critical once-over, from the plain blue shirt down to the pinstriped black pants and matching shoes, “honey, how many times do I have to tell you that even History teachers need fashion sense?”
“Oh God, here we go again,” William rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
“Nyah nyah nyah,” Jack made a face and stuck his tongue out to William. “What’s your excuse anyway?” pointing with his pinkie finger to William’s polo shirt and faded blue jeans.
“I mean, honestly,” Jack went on, pulling Renato to William’s side then formed two L-shape patterns with his thumbs and forefingers, as if forming a frame with his two friends in the middle. “God, the mug shots of my previous boyfriends are classier than this!”
“Fine, fine,” Renato raised his hands in mock surrender. “You win, ma’am. Fashion guru of the new millennium…er…”
“One hell of a diva, literally and figuratively,” William supplied, laughing.
“Hey hey hey,” Jack snapped, slapping William’s shoulder playfully. “Ancient babaylans were given much more respect than what you guys are giving me right now.
“Anyway,” he continued, now talking to the coffee boy at the counter. “Hi handsome. A tall glass of white mocha frappuccino, please.”
“That’d be a hundred bucks, er…”
“Sir will do just fine,” Jack said, winking at the coffee boy.
“Yes, um… sir,” the coffee boy croaked. “One hundred pesos.”
Renato sighed. “Even the price of coffee…”
“Why—,” Jack started to ask, pointedly eyeing Renato’s glass with a confused look.
“I paid for both of us,” William explained.
Jack rolled his eyes and stamped his foot. “Like I said, it became an indicator of one’s social class.”
“Why do you say that?” Renato asked, as the three of them took their usual seats by the window, facing the snakelike pattern the cars in the highway in front started forming.
Again, Jack rolled his eyes, and then dropped his jaw in an idiot’s fashion. “Duh! Hello! Look around, dear…”
The three of them scanned the place. Students practically dominated the entire shop.
“What?” Renato asked. “The students?”
“Mm-hmm,” William agreed. “I bet they don’t even like the taste of latte, either,” eyeing their half-finished iced mochas.
“And look at their uniforms,” Jack observed. “Hello, sixth grade students drinking espresso? Do their parents know this? Oh wait, don’t answer that—there go their parents.”
Renato clucked his tongue. “Tsk tsk. Pathetic. Coffee—another product of colonial mentality…”
“Not necessarily,” William said.
“Kapeng barako,” William repeated. “I mean, coffee per se is not a product of colonialism, as far as I know…”
“Kape was derived from Spanish,” Renato reminded his friend.
“Well, maybe so. But see, the Batangas blend is so uniquely… us—Filipino. ‘Di ba? It’s probably one of our tourist attractions here,” William joked.
“Okay, don’t get me wrong here,” Jack put in. “I mean, I didn’t do well in school after all, but,” he started making circles with his fingers, “exactly how can we relate that to these minors who treat lattes like some kind of Slurpee?”
“What I’m trying to say is that perhaps it is innate within us to have this natural love for coffee. Well, in general, that is,” William added, once again looking at the students’ half-finished coffee. “Perhaps it didn’t even evolve into an indicator of social class, just like what you’re saying, Jack. What if the datus back then had already considered coffee beans as precious as their bahandi?”
“Well, I think there were no records that show—,” Renato started to interject.
“Speculative history, old man.”
Renato just laughed. “Yeah right!”
William started laughing too. “You know what I mean. You’re the one who’s into re-examination of the past and all…”
“So now you’re saying that kapeng barako is an explanation of the present day coffee shop franchises that offers high price for—what?—a 16-ounce frapuccino?”
“Well why don’t they just offer kapeng barako instead of opening a US-based coffee shop here?”
“For one, it’s too strong,” Jack said.
“Shut up,” William and Renato jokingly said in unison.
“Well, it’s true isn’t it?” Jack raised one of his eyebrows. “I tried it once I couldn’t sleep for an entire day…”
“Jack, you haven’t slept a wink since you came out of the closet fourteen years ago,” William pointed out.
Jack stuck his tongue out. “Che!”
“Anyway, I admit this queen over here has a point,” William said, while watching Jack “crown” himself with his right hand, the other hand waving and throwing kisses on cue with queen. “But let’s also point out that we, whether we like it or not, have been colonized…”
“And still being,” Renato put in.
“…and majority of the people are being blinded by the dollar signs. Perhaps lattes, frapuccinos, and others can be viewed as substitutes for what is truly Filipino, and the media presented it to the youth as something hip, something in—like boy bands and Britney Spears. But the fact it worked—that coffee in general is still liked… that is exactly Filipino. If this was a fad it would’ve faded long ago…unless there is something innate within the Filipinos to accept it.” William looked at his companions, unsure. “Are you guys getting my point? Or the Filipino thing gotten way out of hand?”
“Yeah, we get you, all right,” Renato said. Then he sighed, “I just wish, though, that they offered what is truly Filipino in the first place…”
“Then why are you drinking that?” Jack asked, pointedly eyeing Renato’s almost empty glass.
“Well, are they offering kapeng barako in the first place?” Renato snapped back.
“Why don’t you suggest that they offer one?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Why should I?”
Renato tried a different tack: “Why are you drinking that?”
“Oh, you know me,” Jack answered, “I’m one of those people who are ‘blinded by the dollar signs,’ as Will put it.”
“Fag,” William joked.
“Hag,” Jack countered.
The three of them laughed.
“We could start our own coffee business,” William suddenly said after a few minutes of silence.
“With our salaries?” Renato said, doubtful. Then he added, with a sideways look at Jack: “And with one of us here not working?”
Jack raised his eyebrow and put his left hand in front of Renato’s face. “Block. Anyway,” he turned to William, “can we go now?” He started to get up and dusted his white silk shirt. “All of this barako business made me remember something.”
“What’s that?” William asked, who was also up and was picking his books laid on the couch.
“Oh, I’m just gonna find one for myself. My very own kapeng barako,” Jack winked. “In every sense of the word.”
“That can wait,” Renato smiled, motioning the other two to sit down. “I didn’t call for a… er… ‘meeting’ just to discuss Philippine history, you know.”
“Oh?” Jack replied in mock disbelief. “I thought that’s what teachers like you do all the time…”
William laughed. “Hey, you’re not the only one who has a social life, Jack,” he quipped, sitting down once again. He turned to Renato. “So, what’s up?”
“Yeah, what’s up?” Jack asked, finally sitting down as well. He rolled his eyes and sighed. “This should better be good.”
“Oh, this would really interest you, Jackie,” assured Renato, “because I will be needing your expert advice.”
Jack merely raised an eyebrow.
“Remember Tina?” Renato continued, ignoring the Jack’s skeptic look, “the Winona Ryder look-alike, as Will here puts it?”
“Mm-hmm,” Jack nodded, “another History teacher, right?”
“Right,” William affirmed. “I believe you two were introduced last Christmas when you gate-crashed the faculty party.” He laughed, then turned back to Renato. “Well—?”
“Well, here’s the deal,” Renato said, then hesitated, his face suddenly turning beet red. “I know this is none of your businesses but—well—since we’ve been friend since grade-school and all—,” he lowered his voice. “We’re going out tomorrow night.”
“What?!! Oh, my God! You asked her out?” Jack shrilled after the news sank in a few seconds later. He was so loud, all the people inside the café turned to look at their table.
“Lower your voice, will you?” Renato whispered urgently, his face now turning into a weird shade of purple.
“Oh my God!” Jack repeated, this time in a loud whisper. “But what—how—when—?”
William laughed. “Well, it’s bound to happen, Jack. You should see them at work—always fooling around with each other,” he joked hitting Renato playfully at the back. “Wow! That’s great news, buddy. Congratulations.”
“It’s just a first date, you know,” Renato replied, though he couldn’t help but smile. “It’s not as if we’re already married.”
“Congratulations just the same.”
“This calls for a celebration,” William said, glancing at Jack who seems to be in a state of shock. “Another round of coffee! My treat.” He excused himself and went to the counter, forgetting to ask what the other two want, let alone whether Jack or Renato still want coffee.
Puzzled, Renato commented to Jack: “He seemed a bit… well… overexcited for me.”
“Who isn’t?” Jack retorted, his eyes misty with emotion. He sniffed.
“Oh for Christ’s sake Jack—.”
“I can’t help it!” Jack sniffed again, grabbing a clean napkin on the table and started dabbing his eyes. “My little baby’s all grown up and now he’s going on a date.”
Renato laughed. “And I need your help!” He smiled sheepishly: “I don’t know what to wear!”
Jack laughed too. “Honey, there are a lot of things to consider on a first date besides clothing.” He started ticking off a list on his fingers. “Restaurant—”
“God, you are such a nationalist”
“Well, she likes it there, too.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Things to talk about—”
“Personal and family background?”
“Car? You don’t have one, unless you want to be really romantic and whisk her off in a tricycle.”
“She has one.”
Jack laughed again. “Well, I guess clothing really is the only problem, huh?”
“What did I miss?” William reappeared, carrying a tray of iced lattes and biscottis. “Sorry these took so long. The sixth-graders were having a hard time deciding whether Rhumba Frappuccino is better than Café Machiatto.”
“Nothing much. I was just asking for Jack’s expert opinion on a very tough issue,” Renato replied.
“What? What to wear on your date?”
Renato laughed. “Precisely.”
“Will you be offended if I asked you to wear imported just this once?” Jack joked. “Whatever happened to that shirt I gave you on your birthday?”
“I still have it, and no, I wouldn’t mind wearing it now,” Renato shot back.
“Then you’re all set! Navy blue long-sleeves, black pants—not the pinstriped ones, please lang, and your black flat-toe shoes. You’ll look absolutely gorgeous!” Jack said, sighing.
William laughed. “I think Jack here is already falling in love with you too, Ren!”
Renato smiled. “Don’t worry Jackie, if it doesn’t work out I’ll come running back to you!” he joked.
Jack laughed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Ugh. Sorry but you’re not my type. Wait,” he looked at his watch, “it’s ten o’clock. Aren’t you supposed to call her or something? Straight people do those lovesick thingies all the time…”
To William’s and Jack’s surprise, Renato jumped up immediately. “You’re right! She should be at school already. I’ll just check if she got there okay.” He started fishing out for coins from his pocket. “Where’s the nearest payphone?”
“Outside, near the bank,” Jack replied, smiling, handing Renato a five-peso coin. “And take your time.”
“Thanks!” Renato said. “I’ll be right back.” He dashed towards the door.
“Tell her we love her too!” William called out, laughing. They watched in silence as Renato disappeared from view.
“I like her,” William said at last.
“Me too!” Jack agreed. “I mean, I only met her like, once but she is such a blast! She’s smart, she’s funny—”
“I mean, I really like her.”
Jack stopped at mid-sentence, his mouth hanging open.
William took one look at his friend and then dropped his gaze to the floor.
“Oh my God, Will,” Jack said softly, placing a hand at William’s shoulder. “Does she know about this? Does he know?”
Jack said nothing.
“Don’t get me wrong here,” William continued, still staring at the floor. “I mean, I’m happy for Ren and wish him all the best, but…” he trailed off. “I can’t help but feel… well, jealous. And bitter.”
“Oh Will—” Jack began again.
“While I was getting more coffee I kept thinking what if I had the courage to make a move, too.” William went on, as if not hearing Jack. “I mean, I was the one who pointed out to Ren how Tina looked so much like Winona Ryder.” He laughed, finally looking up and meeting his friend’s gaze. “You know me, I adore Winona Ryder.”
“But you were the one who introduced the two to each other, ‘di ba?” Jack pointed out.
“True,” William agreed. He laughed again—a deep, hollow laugh that did not even reach his eyes. “I guess I deserve this, huh?”
“Hey!” Renato finally reappeared, plopping down on his chair, his face obviously flushed with happiness. “Yup, she’s already at the office,” he reported. He turned to William and punched him lightly. “And I sent your love, Will!” he laughed.
William just smiled weakly.
Once again, silence enveloped the three.
Jack stared at Renato, who was happily sipping his fresh cup of latte. Then he looked at William’s direction, who was once again staring at the floor. He gazed at his own cup of coffee, its bittersweet aroma reaching his nose. Jack looked up again.
“Hey,” he began brightly. “Did you guys hear the new Whitney Houston song?”