Hats funny
PENMAN - Butch Dalisay () - January 11, 2010 - 12:00am

My recent piece on hats drew appreciative responses from quite a few readers, so apparently I’m not the only hat-wearer around town. (But of course I knew that: National Artist for Literature Rio Almario fancies fedoras; his fellow NA Frankie Sionil Jose favors berets; and poet Teo Antonio and artist Danny Dalena have been wearing hats for the longest time, although Teo — like me — has more urgent reasons to protect his pate, having to do with endangered follicles.)

Reader HRV — who, I imagine, is as elegant an octogenarian as they come — calls them “joys in my golden years,” something to grace her “silver profusing” hair. Reader Rolando Perez shared not only my passion for Tilley Endurables but also a picture of himself wearing one. My globetrotting friend Julie Hill, writing from her home in Southern California, shared her favorite: “cost 99 cents and is the best; I bought it at a nursery; it is made 100 percent from paper! Of course made in China — you crush it, no problem, it retains its shape.”

But the hat story that I found the funniest came from theater director and Penman suki Freddie Santos, who recalled how he came to own and wear a solitary cap you could’ve traded for a full outfit, from shirt to shoes, with change to spare. I asked Freddie for permission to excerpt his story (which he’d intriguingly titled “Hat and Cold”), promising to do my best not to make him look foolish. I should’ve expected this trouper’s answer, which was “You couldn’t possibly make me look any more foolish than I already did!” So thanks, Freddie, and here goes.

“Hi, Mr. D, top of the season to you! Oh, what painful memories you churned up within me with your article this week. Two weeks ago, I was in Hong Kong directing an event. Temperatures were dropping all over the place so rather than walk around, I decided to ‘chill’ indoors at the hoity-toity Pacific Place mall. Considering the general pricing in this place, I had no intention of buying anything; I just wanted to window shop until my rehearsals that afternoon.

“Well, however cold it was outside on Hennessy Road, it was even cooler inside the mall and, with my pate clean-shaven (by choice!), it didn’t take long before the aircon draft started affecting me. Gotta get me some head covering, I thought. I hadn’t brought my favorite Russian farmer leather cap which I keep in my car for emergency headcover, so I decided to buy a cap before my slight coughing started to resemble something of the swine flu.

“I looked around, saw the Lane Crawford store, and walked straight into their jeans and casual wear area. I spotted a fatigue military cap, tried it on, found it fit wonderfully, and handed my credit card immediately to the salesperson... all without checking what the price tag was. I mean, this was a cap! Fifty Hong Kong dollars from any hole-in-the-wall grocer on Nathan Road! Granted, this was Lane Crawford, I figured 200, maybe 300 HK$ at the ridiculous most.

“Then the credit card printouts were given for me to sign. One thousand bloody effing HK dollars!!!! Roughly seven thousand pesos... for a cap, not even a hat, a cap the imitation of which could have been accomplished by any supplier of any stall in the Greenhills tiangge!

“But because...grrrr ...my body fat is superseded only by my arrogance, I signed away, doing my darnedest best to keep my hand from shaking. I immediately went outside and lit a cigarette, fuming literally and otherwise, all the while staring at my capped reflection in the Lane Crawford window wondering how... just how... could I possibly maximize this situation?

“Reselling the cap was out of the question since no one in his right mind, at least not in the Philippines, will pay anywhere near that kind of money for a second-hand military cap. Throughout the latter half of that cigarette, in between very short puffs, I just kept whispering to myself: you look really good in that cap!! You look like, wow, at least ten thousand bucks! In that cap. That is now yours. Forever. And when I put out that cigarette, I swore... I would be the best-looking capped person on both Hong Kong and Kowloon sides! Passersby of all nationalities would glance and think: oh man, who is that great-looking no-makeover-needed dude...with the cap?! It fits him like... like... like hair! Is it bespoke?! Has to be, just has to be!! A bespoke cap, yeah!!!

“Only after I had pushed myself onto that level of self-delusion did I muster the wherewithal to continue with the rest of my life. And for the next three days, in my hotel room, at my worktable, in the bathroom (!), all the way till I got back to Manila, I wore that cap.

“This coming January, I’m scheduled to go back to Hong Kong. Guess what I am sooooo bringing with me! Sigh.”

I had a good laugh over that story, but I suddenly remembered my own brush with the costs of ignorance, many years ago, when I went to the USA for the first time, on the first foreign trip of my life. I landed in Washington, DC, and not knowing anything but the grumbling of my stomach, I stepped into the nearest restaurant next to my hotel to assuage my hunger.

Having been to DC many times since, I know now what DC means — “dining costs”! I ordered something like a chicken sandwich—and got a bill for $10. That’s par for the course today, but this was 1980, folks, when you could still take an airconditioned Love Bus from Manila to Makati for P1.50.

When I told a cook in the fellowship center about my first American meal, she laughed (while making me a $2 lunch) and said, “You shoulda framed that chicken!”

Don’t lose that cap to the harbor wind, Freddie. Better yet, frame it!

* * *

E-mail me at penmanila@yahoo.com, and visit my blog at www.penmanila.net.

CAP DANNY DALENA FIFTY HONG KONG FRANKIE SIONIL JOSE FREDDIE FREDDIE SANTOS HONG KONG LANE CRAWFORD
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