*I wrote this piece over a decade ago. It was supposed to be for my defunct column in Manila Bulletin. For some reason, I changed my mind about letting it see print then. Seeing it after more than 10 years, and having been advised by a friend who has read it and deemed it worthy of a read, I decided to post it. Randy Quioc, whom will you will read about much later in the piece, celebrates his birthday on April 18.
I’ve never been a big fan of my face. With siopao cheeks that would put Judy Ann Santos’ and Lyn Ching’s to shame, and a forehead so wide I could type an entire thesis on it, my face simply fails to meet the world standards for beauty.
My mother has always given me the impression that I have a face that could launch at least one ship; and I almost had myself convinced. But then I learned about the expression, “a face only a mother could love”, and that was a real wake-up call for me.
For a while, I seriously moped about this; and every day I found more facial features to lament about, like my virtually absent chin or my double chin (which kind of contradict each other actually). The line “You can’t face a problem if the problem is your face” kept ringing in my head. I started looking in the mirror less and refusing to have my picture taken unless I was really, really prepared for it.
I looked at other girls and wondered why God had blessed them with a face that could turn heads and make hearts beat faster, while I was stuck with mine—a face which even I wouldn’t remember if it were on somebody else’s head. I began to take interest in beautiful women (and I mean this in a totally non-sexual, non-romantic way) and their lives. And I learned that many of them weren’t too happy about their looks either, no matter how beautiful they were. And I realized that they, too, cried at night, sometimes over even more serious stuff that I’d ever cried about. I always thought (and I believe some psychological research exists to support this) that the world was kinder to beautiful people, and that they, therefore, had things easier and led happier lives. But that’s a big subject for argument right now.
All things considered, I believe I have every reason to be happy. School was never too difficult for me. My family is intact and well. I have friends (though their idea of term of endearment for me is stick insect). I don’t have two left feet. I can eat like a pig and not look like one. And though my heart’s been badly broken on several occasions, God has made up for it big time. And if all that means having to wear my face, I’ll take it any day of the week and all of my life.
Randy Quioc, my favourite aerobics instructor, likes to tease me about being bitter about things that his imagination contrives for him, like the make-believe unrequited love I have for a certain boy and (of course) my contemptuous schemes to inflict serious physical injury on his girlfriend. But, for all his sass and often tongue-in-cheek takes on life (especially mine), Randy has taught me one of the most important truths I’ve learned in my life. And despite myself, I am eternally grateful to him for this and I will always remember him for it—Bitterness is next to ugliness.
Note: Randy teaches the 5:30 p.m. aerobics classes at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Ateneo, Mondays to Thursdays. If you’re after some fat-burning grooves interjected with pseudo-words of wisdom and lousy attempts at humor (often at my expense, don’t worry), show up one afternoon. You can take the spot he always reserves for me. I haven’t used it in months. But don’t believe anything he tells you about me.
12 November 2003