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Holloween |

Young Star


- Paula C. Nocon of the Philippine Star’s YS -
In an effort to be relevant several Halloweens ago, I dressed myself up as No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani. It was 1996, the number one hit song was Don’t Speak, and Gwen was just beginning to make her mark as a fashion icon by deliberately revealing her bra straps under her tank top. With my hair curled, my lips red, a bindi on my forehead, and yes, visible bra straps, I was met with the blankest stares I had ever seen since Calculus 101. Not a soul could figure out who or what I was trying to be; someone even ventured into a guess: "Uh, Hindu Madonna?" So much for relevance.

Meanwhile, the most memorable outfit that night belonged to another friend who made an effort to be relevant to his own personal allegiance to Pinoy pop culture. He came in jeans, an orange T-shirt emblazoned with a Tide detergent logo, and with a name tag that said "Ehlmherr." Though his name was not Ehlmherr nor was he ever in the laundry business, his outfit was met with awe and wonder. What the hell are you, we all exclaimed. We were met with a smirk, and a rolling of the eyes.

He was an Eat Bulaga game contestant.

It was a stroke of genius. Amid a sea of the usual witches, ghosts, cross-dressers, and pop star wannabes he stood out with an effortless elegance of the postmodern kind. Our little Ehlmherr, in the end, won best costume hands down simply because he did the most relevant thing: he was just true to himself.

Well, last week, I was supposed to write a column about the process of selecting a Halloween costume relevant for this year. I wanted my article to be silly, self-aware, and twentysomething. I wanted it to be in keeping with the times: a list of suggested get-ups that might make an impact at next week’s whirl of Halloween parties. Costumes that are hip and now, but, in the Ehlmherr tradition, true to oneself.

The list went on and on, but alas, I was seized with a terrible attack.

Nearly 200 people, mostly tourists, died in the enchanted island of Bali after a terrorist explosion; our Philippine consulate in Manado was besieged as well. Bombs killed several innocent bystanders within a few days in Zamboanga. A Metro Manila bus carrying blue collar workers home from work imploded with a planted bomb. A shotgun-wielding sniper is shooting dead the unknowing and unaware, spontaneous combustion-style, in the US. And the President has responded by creating a war room in Malacañang.

I was shocked, saddened, afraid. As I was about to write last week’s column, I was gripped by a paralyzing fear that if I were to discuss frivolous Halloween costumes I would only come out silly, self-aware, twentysomething, and, well, just damn irrelevant. So, as I wallowed in depression I made a retreat, missed the deadline and faded into oblivion.

Isn’t this the journalist’s most dreaded allergy—irrelevance? It comes in many forms. Reporting on yesterday’s news. Insensitivity to the plight of your fellowman. Missing a scoop. Ignorance of current trends. Political incorrectness. Being out of the loop. And most of all, not being newsworthy.

You have to be worthy of your page, your airtime, your byline, they say in Journalism 101. Choosing the topic you write about within your given space and in keeping with the given times is a writer’s classic dilemma. Much like choosing a relevant costume for Halloween — you have to do it to gain entrance to the party, but you must never, ever take yourself too seriously.

After a week of brooding about this I woke up yesterday and realized that there really is no use in itching with the journalist’s most dreaded allergy. During hard times you can choose to be the cheerleader and write about the best that life has to offer. And during happy, prosperous times you can choose to be the designated driver.

Either way, you still care for your reader. Either way, you are still true to yourself.

So now I’m thinking of dressing up as Susan Roces, with a sign around my neck saying "No, my husband will never, ever, ever run for president of the Republic of the Philippines, not now, not in 2004, not in 2010, not even in the movies."

Or maybe as Laura Bush, with a sign around my neck saying, "I won’t do a Hillary by standing by my husband. I’m going to divorce him as soon as he invades Iraq."

Or perhaps I’ll do a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her Tatler Men in Black get-up. No need for a sign around my neck, that makes enough of a statement.

It’s like the spirit of the Masskara festival in Bacolod. The tradition began during the sudden drop in worldwide sugar prices and the consequent collapse of the Bacolod economy. To cope with the wretchedness, Bacolodnons donned happy masks and partied, and showed the world a brave face. They laughed, to keep them from weeping. So very Pinoy.

Besides, what was I sulking about anyway? Halloween, which is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, is always relevant. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day, a time of remembering our dear departed, a period of celebrating those who are still alive. Celtic in origin and Catholic in tradition, Halloween is always relevant to us Pinoys, because it is, lest I forget, the beginning of what should always be a happy time: Christmas.

Let’s put on those masks and be true to ourselves. Trick or treat, sad or glad, costume or no costume, a relevant Halloween to us all!
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