Saturday, February 25, 2017

Fab 50

What is it like to be 50 years old and gay today?

I came out to myself in my late teen years, came out to others in earnest after college, then started fully embracing the urban Pinoy gay man’s lifestyle when I was already in my mid-20s onwards.

(Let me just make a quick qualification: There really is no one definitive “gay man’s lifestyle” at any time in history. But there are many similarities to the gay men’s journey that one can come up with a loose set of milestones: coming out, meeting other gay men, experiencing homosexual acts, falling in and out of love, learning to navigate their particular gay culture, etc. To the best of my knowledge, my lifestyle as a gay man in Metro Manila was fairly average, with just a bit too much on bathhouse sex than the average Manila gay guy, but too little experience on romantic pursuits.)

By the time I was in my 30s I was very much into going to gay clubs on weekends (Zoo and Penguin Café in Malate first, then Giraffe in Makati ‘til the early morning), visiting the bathhouse when I’m horny and still have pocket money, and cruising the movie houses when it was petsa de peligro time of the month. It was also around this decade that I hit the gym. At first I just wanted to get a hunk body that I can show off at clubs and bathhouses. But then I also discovered the joys of illicit encounters in the shower areas and saunas of the gym.

When I reached my 40s, there were several major changes in my lifestyle. First was physical, the advancing age. With it came reading glasses, a slower metabolism, and, when it came to sex, a longer recuperating period in between orgasms. But I was also earning more, so I was eating more—in quality and quantity.

Bizarre trivia: The term "slaps ___ with a large trout" 
was popularised in chat rooms.

It was also around this time that technology and connectivity improved, and more opportunities for hooking up became available, from chat programs like ICQ and MIRC, to sites like guys4men (that eventually became GayRomeo and then Planetromeo) and Downelink, to mobile apps like Grindr and Hornet. From physically going to particular areas in the metro to find “people like us,” gay guys can now conveniently meet online and mate offline.

At 46 years old, I met D and we entered into a relationship. It was our first for the both of us. From exclusive we eventually opened our relationship. This allowed us to pursue (safe) sex with other men; despite this, I noticed that I didn’t feel the need to hook up as much as I did before. Looking back, it’s a combination of several factors: [1] my libido wasn’t the same as before; [2] I preferred convenience over lust (if the guy was a borta bottom who had his own place, insisted on safe sex, doesn’t sound clingy, but lived all the way in Sta. Rosa, I’d easily decline; whereas before, just the borta bottom fact alone might have made me drive all the way to the south); [3] the fact that I was in a relationship made me very comfortable in not pursuing other guys, even if I was allowed to go at it.

And that’s the strange thing about freedom, at least in my case. Precisely because I have the freedom to hook up with other guys, it’s easier for me to take hook ups for granted, and I can shrug off offers because, well, there’ll be others. If I had been barred from hooking up, I’d greet every offer as a delicious, dangerous treat that’s doubly exciting to pursue precisely because it’s not allowed.

Give me freedom, and I’ll choose to be boring.

Well okay, honestly, not that boring. As I grew older, I had less time to go to the gym, but more time to treat ourselves to eating out. I began to mimic my father’s figure. But I also found out that there is this market for daddies. And these daddy-loving gay guys are often young, in their early 20s. When I do the occasional hook up, it’s with guys in their 20s or early 30s. Hey, that’s marketing, that’s just the law of supply-and-demand.

You just may find out more about it here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Three Second Rule (Gay Guy Edition)

Google “3-second rule” and you’ll get rules about food that fell on the floor, basketball, or keeping your seat. But we gay guys have our own 3-sec rule, and it’s related to the hada process.

I don’t know how this rule was established. I’ve read somewhere that the straight world also has a 3-sec rule. In a bar, if a guy sees that a girl has made eye contact with him, he should approach her within 3 seconds, before self-doubt or bad thoughts prevent him from making a connection.

The approach of something wonderful

But for gay guys, it’s different. It’s about knowing how to properly identify another gay guy while in public; more importantly, it’s about figuring out if that gay guy is also interested in you.

Of course, today you only need to tap your smartphone or swipe to the right to know if someone’s interested in you. Back then, we had to navigate differently. And it taught us to be observant always and to be aware of context clues. The last thing a gay guy wants is to hit on some guy, who then turns out to be straight, so the gay guy is hit—literally—on the face by that guy.

So how does the 3-sec rule help in the hada? Let’s set up the scene first. You’re walking in a mall and you see a guy walking towards your direction. You fancy him; and from all context clues available (Does he have a keen fashion sense? Does he saunter or sashay? Does he have any hint at all of a pilantik in his movements?), there’s a possibility that he’s gay. And then it happens—you both locked eyes on one another.

Ordinarily, most people will immediately break off that eye contact. But because you’re interested in him, you employ the 3-sec rule. And it’s a two-part rule. The first part is this: try to hold his gaze for three seconds before you look away. That 3-sec hold is meant to convey: “Hey, I’m interested in you. Are you interested in me too?” And then afterwards, look away.

Since both of you are walking towards each other, that 3 seconds gaze should occur before you pass each other. Now comes the second part of the rule. As soon as he passes you, count one, two, three, then look back. If he also looked back to check you out—PAK! That’s it. Confeeeearmed. You can now approach him.

So that’s it. First, hold your gaze for one, two, three seconds. (Keep your gaze somewhere between neutral to friendly. Do not frown or do a Blue Steel pout on him; you’ll send mixed signals.) Then when he passes you, count one, two, three, then turn back to look at him. If he’s also turned around and looking at you—jackpot! Reel each other in.

What happens next is solely up to you guys.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Top 5 Hada-riffic Places I Frequented

Last time I mentioned about aura-han and the places where gay guys do it. Let me tell you about my favorite hada places in the metro. Since I lived in Marikina at that time and commuted to work in Pasay (and then Makati), the places that I frequented were mostly in the Cubao area. Back then, instead of fighting among fellow commuters for a seat in the jeepney going home, I’d kill time by watching movies.

Let’s count up, starting from number 5.

5.  Pre-renovation era (1989 to 2000) Greenbelt 1, including the public restroom beside the outside food stalls

This was the old entrance facing AIM; notice it's called Greenbelt 1
by this time. The shops and restaurants on the right side aren't there
anymore; they were replaced by Rustan's Supermarket and a BPI branch. 

When I worked in my first ad agency in the mid-90s, it was within walking distance from Greenbelt 1. Back then it was just “Greenbelt” because there were no 2 to 5 yet. It had two movie houses, shops and restaurants, and was much smaller than the sprawling corridors it has today which connects it to Greenbelt 5. Back then, the men’s bathrooms inside the movie theaters were cruisy with yuppies and white-collar workers. Once I hooked up with a middle-aged guy who was standing at the back; he was only wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. When things got hot and heavy, he invited me over to his place—he had a condo unit near Greenbelt. Eventually I found out he was the business (and domestic, I assumed) partner of a local couturier more known for his wedding gown designs. (He wasn’t among the more popular, upper tier designers often mentioned in society pages; in fact, I never heard of him until after my hook-up. But he did have a shop in Glorietta before. I don’t see it nowadays.) Interesting also is a public bathroom that serviced the patrons of a number of food stalls and small-sized eateries located in an outside area beside what is now Rustan’s Supermarket and BPI (the food area is now occupied by the multi-level steel parking building between Greenbelt 1 and the stand-alone McDonald’s). Those bathrooms were near the lockers of the Greenbelt security guards; they’d often use the bathroom to change in and out of their uniforms. I suspect they all knew what was happening there, especially at night. I never saw any of them participate in the happenings; I guess they were just being careful not to be spotted by their fellow guards (never shit where you eat, and all that jazz). But they sometimes provided a short but sweet feast for wandering gay eyes whenever they took off their sandos or pulled down their pants. Late at night, when it was only the night shift roaming the premises, the action inside that bathroom could get pretty active. However, the roving guards made it a point to always drop by the bathroom during their rounds, so often a look out was needed. But you know how resourceful, resilient, or just plain persistent cruising gays could get. Whenever a guard appeared, the gay guys scattered and disappeared. Once the guard left, everyone reappeared and flocked back to feast. Just like cockroaches.

4. Coronet, Remar, and Diamond Theaters  

Their old logos.

With the advent of multiple theatres
in malls, Coronet...

...and Remar were reduced to showing
second-run and sex movies.

Aurora Boulevard heading towards EDSA, pre-LRT2.
Look closely to the right side of the photo;
you can see the signage of Coronet. 

This triumvirate of movie theaters stands in a row along Aurora Boulevard, one beside the other. Each theater has its own appeal: Coronet has a small restroom, so it’s busiest at the orchestra wall and side aisles; Remar’s restroom has no urinals, but instead has a long wall with running water (easier to take a peek at the junk of the guy beside you); and Diamond had the biggest orchestra floor space. That made all three very cruisy; one can surely hook up every time one goes to any of the movie theaters.

3. Quezon Theater 2 

I couldn't find an old photo online. This church replaced
the old Quezon theatre. (On the right side off-frame
is the multi-storeyed National Book Store Cubao branch.)

Theater 2 was cruiser-friendlier compared to Theater 1 because of its layout. It was on the second floor, and one had to go up winding staircases and two escalators to get to its orchestra lobby, then another flight of stairs and escalator to get to the lodge/balcony area. It wasn’t audience-friendly and didn’t encourage loitering. So one knew that the guys hanging around were there to do one thing: aura-han. Also, the owners often showed the less-popular movies in Theater 2; the major hits were placed in the bigger Theater 1. That meant less ordinary audiences, more cruisers.

2. Slimmer’s World Pasig (along Marcos Highway; sorry, no photo available) – Because its location was not public transportation-friendly, that branch was rarely crowded, and most of its clients were car owners. I would only go there during weekends, but every time I went there, I always got hot-and-heavy action inside their wet area. While fewer people meant slimmer (pun intended) pickings, it also meant that when cruisers got lucky, they could take all the time in the world in its cruise-friendly sauna. The sauna was located at the farthest corner of the shower stalls; a noisy door separated the stalls from the lockers. All cruisers needed to do was to either turn off the light or drape a towel over the lamp inside the sauna; from the outside, no one can see what kinky things occurred inside. The noisy door gave cruisers an initial audio warning. And one needed to traverse the whole row of shower stalls to get into the sauna; that distance gave cruisers additional few seconds to disengage. P.S. – The only Marikina-based celebrity I saw working out there was a former member of a musical act that featured kids. But he was just all-business, not minding anyone but his trainer and a few acquaintances. After his workout, he took a quick shower then was gone.

1. Ali Mall 3 & 4 

This is the facade where cinemas 1 & 2 were located;
3 & 4 were situated at the back, on the P. Tuason side. 

The best time to cruise was during the last full show (or you can start cruising during the screening before it). These two theaters were seemingly designed to be hada-friendly—when you enter the bathroom, you need to turn a corner before you get to the bathroom proper. This allowed cruisers inside the bathroom precious few seconds to disengage from any overt sexual activity so that any unwanted newcomer (a straight guy or a roving guard) won’t be able to catch anyone in the act. Plus, the cubicles were pushed way back from the entrance; that allowed cruisers more warning time and buffer distance. I found it the most-friendly hada place too. The LFS crowd was more game, more adventurous. Some even got off giving a free show to the people around them. P.S. – I actually witnessed a celebrity cruising in Ali Mall. Back then, he was still mainly a theater actor, so he wasn’t as well-known as he is now. It was years later when TV soaps regularly hired him to play supporting roles (the bida’s uncle, father, boss, etc.) that he became familiar to the telenovela audience. Clue: A huge blockbuster indie movie made him a household name.

When I made more gay friends, I started hearing of legendary hada places all over the metro: Ugarte Field (now Ayala Triangle); the areas around Araneta Coliseum (cruising gays and callboys would lean against the steel dividers on the sidewalks, trying to entice pedestrians and those with cars passing by, thus the term “bakal boys”); the whole of Quezon Circle, but specifically the areas around the restaurants (a cluster of trees nearby, the parking lot in front of the restos); the lagoon within UP Diliman’s Sunken Garden; particular movie theaters in the Manila district (the patrons there do not bother pretending to watch the movie, and the people running them just turn a blind eye). I’ve only experienced Quezon Circle (the wildest was on a Good Friday). Maybe some of you can share your old haunts/hunting grounds during the pre-online years.

Where did you make hada?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Is Aura-han?

Long before it became the name of an SM mall, “aura” or more accurately, “aura-han” was the term that gay men used to describe what goes on when they go cruising. What is cruising?

For those who only knew of a world with internet and mobile devices, cruising was the main sport of gay men pre-world wide web. Urban Dictionary defines cruising as searching in public places, either on purpose or at random but on the lookout, for potential sexual partners. Before, there were not too many safe spaces for gay men to cruise in—those places needed to be a bit discreet and not too public or crowded. Public men’s toilets were the most popular—you get the discretion, a sense of privacy, and a more targeted market (no women, of course).

I began my cruising days inside movie theaters. Oftentimes the men standing at the back of the orchestra section (standing, even though there were lots of empty seats for them to take) would also be loitering around the men’s bathroom. They would usually stand in front of the mirror for an inordinately long time, pretending to be doing something but actually checking out the men who were coming in. Or they’d pretend to be peeing at a urinal, stealing glances at the cocks of the men beside them. There was a clear cruising route in cinemas: back of orchestra to men’s bathroom to side aisle and seats, then back again, in random order. Sometimes the men would also go up to the lobby of the second floor, where they’d check out the men’s bathroom for the lodge and balcony audiences.

Their movements were more discreet during the earlier screenings, because they didn’t want to spook the straight guys who were there to just watch a movie. But the rules changed when it was the last full show, especially if most of the audience left were fellow cruisers. By that time too, the evening guard would have gone through his rounds before the start of the screening, then leave everyone alone. That’s when the guys would let their freak fly.

There would be a bathroom bacchanalia where voyeurs got off on exhibitionists. I’ve seen a two-way turn into a three-way or even a group-way. Sadly, I’ve seen a group of guys already getting it on, allowing others to join in—provided they were young and attractive. If an old, wrinkly gay guy joined in (usually tentatively reaching out a hand to fondle one of them), someone from the group will push his hand away. If the old gay is persistent, that push will be accompanied by a stern glance that said, “Look only! No touch!” If that didn’t work, I’ve seen instances wherein the group actually packs up and move their activity into a cubicle, shutting out the unwanted guest. Ah, the way we discriminate against our fellow gays.

* * * * *

So how does one navigate in a situation wherein words are seldom used, where silence is essential and almost everything is visually communicated?

Gay men developed a talent for reading people (and also “reading” a venue). That’s aura-han.

My best guess is that its etymology came from the way psychics read a person’s aura. For gay men, it’s reading all the context clues one can get just by looking at a person: how he’s dressed (Rich? Poor?), how he stands (Confident? Shy?), how he scouts the place, etc. I guess it’s what Sherlock Holmes (the Benedict Cumberbatch version) does, but specifically to check if a hook up can happen.

Aura-han was an important aspect of gay life. Developing one’s aura senses helped to identify “people like us” who are just around us. Cruising was the most obvious use for aura-han, but it helped when, in a crowd, you can sense another gay man’s presence. It helped me realize that gay men were everywhere, that we weren’t alone. It would take years for me to embrace my sexuality, and to not think that all gay men cruising were sad, desperate men. But at least I knew that gay men were not all flamboyant, effeminate types. We came in all sizes—fat, thin, young, old, rich, poor. And we all had a need to connect with one another, even if only in silence and in the dark.

P.S. – Nowadays I’m not familiar with the situation in public restrooms and in movie theaters. I fear things have changed, and those places can be riskier now. Do not engage if you cannot “read” a room and the people in it.

Making Da Moves In Da Movie House

Thanks to online sites and mobile apps, gay men these days have a more convenient, discreet way to meet other gay men. Hooking up is easier, meeting new friends (with or without benefits) is more convenient. Suddenly you feel that you’re not so alone in this world anymore.

But when I was growing up, the worldwide web was not yet in place, and wireless was limited to radio and short-range walkie-talkies. The idea of a mobile communicator was in the province of Star Trek and Space:1999.

"Capt. Kirk to Enterprise... low batt na ako!"
Space:1999 was one of my favourite TV shows
growing up.

So how did gay men hook up with other gay men when I was growing up? Let’s go back to the late 70s and early 80s, shall we? (Of course, gay men were already hooking up way before I was born. But let’s just stick to what I personally know, okay?)

Last blog entry, I said that in grade school I read in a library book about going through a “homosexual phase.” That made me relax a bit and accept the fact that I was draw to my fellow men. And I learned more about that in the movie theater.

* * * * *

But first, let me explain a bit about watching movies during the period of the late 70s and early 80s. Back then, we only watched movies in the theaters. Videotapes (VHS and the less popular format, Betamax), laser discs, DVDs, and torrents were not yet invented. The only way we could watch a movie is if it was released in Philippine movie theaters. Movies were shipped here from abroad, so it took a movie months, even years, before Filipinos were able to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters; simultaneous “worldwide releases” were unheard of back then.

Ganito ang New Frontier noon... naging Kia Theater ngayon.

Movie theaters back then had three sections, starting from the balcony, which is the lowest and closest to the screen. Behind that is a raised section; on the front part, at eye-level with the center of the screen, is the premium-priced lodge section. Behind it, usually much higher and furthest from the screen (and closest to the projection room, so one can hear the whirling of the reels), is the balcony section; this was where most couples on dates would sit, so they can make out.

The Kia Theater interiors which, interestingly...
...retained the lodge and balcony sections.

Also, movie theaters screened movies differently. Once one buys a ticket, one can enter the movie theater at any point in the movie. Also, the audience was not required to leave the venue after a screening is over; instead, they’d switch on the lights, play some music while the janitors come it to clean up, then once they’re done, the lights are switched off, they play commercials and trailers, then the next scheduled screening starts. This resulted in many viewers watching a movie from the middle ‘til it finishes. Then they stay to watch the next screening, and leave when they get to the part where they entered. (Technically, one can stay the whole day inside the movie house.)

Because audiences can come in and out at any time, theater owners would sell tickets continuously. And when the movie house was full, they’d just put up an SRO (for “standing room only”) sign outside. Moviegoers can choose to buy a ticket, come in, and wait until other viewers vacate their seats. In screening of mega-blockbuster movies, people would sit along the aisle.

Ali Mall, one of the very first malls in Metro Manila
Movie theaters operated like that until the start of the mall proliferation in the late 80s to early 90s. With the advent of multiplexes in malls, movie theaters became smaller. The lodge and balcony disappeared, and was replaced by one continuous incline. And even in some hold-outs today (notice the layout of SM Megamall and Robinson’s Galleria—their bigger theaters still have a separate higher section), they now have just one ticket price.

* * * * *

I got my love for movies from my mom. She swooned over Hollywood love teams, and together with my dad, enjoyed a lot of movie musicals (especially The Sound of Music; my dad always played its soundtrack every Sunday morning when we were growing up). Growing up, my parents always took us to the movies (we actually saw Star Wars in Circle Theater, way before that movie house closed and became a “Praise The Lord” church).

Circle Theater along Timog became a church... 
...and now is an events place.

When I was in third year high school, my parents felt I was old enough to watch movies without their supervision. At first I’d watch with my siblings; then later on, with friends and classmates. But soon I realized that there were movies that I wanted to watch but no one else wanted to join me. So I decided to watch them on my own. That was when I was in third year college.

The first few times I watched alone, I was more focused on the movie that I didn’t bother much about my surroundings (except to make sure that no suspicious looking characters were near me—I was more afraid of being mugged or pickpocketed).

But the more I watched movies alone, the more I noticed my surroundings.

One of the first things I noticed was that there were often men standing beside or leaning on the wall at the back of the orchestra (the one separating it from the upper sections). They’d be standing even when there were rows and rows of empty, available seats. Why were they standing? Also, I also noticed that these men would, after some time, walk along the side aisles and sit somewhere in the first or second row. If they were watching the movie at that angle, their view was askew. So why sit there at all? Sometimes they would sit alone, but often another man would come over and sit beside them. What was going on?

One day I found out.

It was a fairly popular movie, because the orchestra section was quite full despite it being the second-to-the-last screening. I ended up sitting nearer the screen, and towards the left side of the theater. After a while, the crowd thinned out, but since I was already comfortable where I was, I didn’t bother switching seats. There was a guy who sat 3 seats away from me, and he was glancing at me all throughout the movie. I didn’t pay much attention to him because I was preoccupied with the movie. But then I noticed him quietly stand up and moved to the seat beside me. I was puzzled and a bit alarmed. Why did he sit beside me, when there were so many other seats to choose from? And why did he keep glancing at me? I didn’t sense any kind of danger, so I warily went back to watching the movie.

Then I felt his elbow touching mine as he gently placed his on the armrest. For some reason, which until now I have no idea why, I didn’t move an inch. I allowed his skin to continue touching my skin. And it was electric. I felt the heat and excitement coming out of my pores.

I felt him moving his elbow slowly, as if to caress my elbow. At that point I wasn’t thinking, “What if he’s a hold-upper?” I was wondering, what’s he going to do next?

Then I felt it, a gentle pressure on my thigh. It was his finger, gliding oh so lightly and barely grazing my jeans. It was intoxicating. I felt my thigh—and my cock—stiffen as he continued to move his finger back and forth, back and forth, applying a little more pressure at every swipe.

When he knew he had me hooked, he placed his whole hand on my thigh and squeezed it. He continued squeezing it as he moved his hand closer and closer to my crotch. I swear my whole body was burning up in anticipation as his fingers slowly touched my erection as it pushed against my jeans. I never had someone touch me down there before. He continued to squeeze, trying to trace the outline of my throbbing cock inside my pants. I closed my eyes, savoring his squeezes. It took all of my self-control not to moan out loud.

He unzipped my jeans and shoved his hand inside my pants. Soon he had my cock out. He looked around to check if anyone was watching us, then leaned over and took my cock into his mouth.

Oh. My. God.

I had no idea men could do that to other men.

After a while he stopped sucking my cock and sat up. He whipped out his cock and gestured at me. I returned the favor by going down on him. I could smell the funky scent of his pubic hair as I took him all in my mouth. That turned me on even further. His was my first taste of cock. But I was still unsure of how to give a blowjob, and I was worried that someone might see us. So, I sat up, took his cock with my right hand, and started jacking him off. He took over and started pounding his meat, while I leaned back on my seat and started jacking off myself. Pretty soon our hand movements and breathing quickened; we were close to cumming. I think I came first. As soon as he finished ejaculating, he wiped his cum off his chest with his hand, zipped his fly, then stood up and left. Not a word, not a thank you.

I knew then that there was no turning back for me.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How Will I Know

“When did you realize that you’re gay?”

Ganito kami noon...
Growing up, I didn’t know I was. But I knew didn’t quite like what boys should like: girls, sports, soldiers and guns. Worse, I was interested in art. I suspected I was different, but I didn’t want to think that I was bakla.

...ganito kami ngayon.

Because at that time, being bakla meant you were less than a man. Being bakla meant you were the butt of jokes. Being bakla meant you wanted to become a girl. Bakla was Dolphy in the movie Fifita Fofonggay. Bakla was comedian Georgie “Atching” Quizon, Dolphy’s younger brother, who always played a gay role in the movies.

He looked so much like his older brother,
but he ended up playing second-fiddle to him.

All throughout grade school I thought, “Nah, I can’t be one. I don’t want to be one.” And that feeling persisted all the way until high school. One day I decided to be nerdy and research “homosexuality” in the library. And what I learned was encouraging: Almost all boys and girls go through a “homosexual stage,” so I guess I wasn’t different after all.

I clung on to that throughout high school and college, even when I had intense, unrequited crushes with boys. Hey, it’s just a phase, right? But by fourth year college, I was like, “This phase is taking too long!” I had to confront myself with the possibility that maybe I was gay.

The good thing about college was, one, I knew more positive gay role models in school, and two, I joined the theater group, where I was reassured that there were straight people who were more accepting of gay guys. But still, I never had sex with any of the gays and accepting straights in college theater. Instead, it was in another theater that I had my first sexual experience.

It was in the movie theater.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Let’s Start At The Very Beginning

It’s a very good place to start. When we read, we begin with A-B-C. When we blog, we begin with coming out.

Coming out stories are never the same for two people. But despite individual differences and peculiarities, the coming out process has over-all arches that are similar to other coming out stories. So, if any of my recounting sounds familiar, well and good. That means you’re not the only one going through it.

I was born in March 1966, making me a Piscean Fire Horse; I’d like to imagine myself as a fiery sea horse. I was born to two full-time working parents. I was the second child, second son; eventually, I’d have five more younger siblings (and we’d lose one of them, the second-to-the-youngest, when he was just 4 years old).

At the time of my birth, Ferdinand Marcos was on his third month as president, and there were no malls, mobile phones, or the internet. We also did not have a landline phone at home; back then, my mom was concerned that the maids would hog the phone while she and my dad were out working.

Growing up, I sensed I was different from other guys; boys fascinated me more than girls. I remember staring at my dad’s naked torso (especially his developed chest—he used to work out when he was still single) whenever he’d walk around the house shirtless. Everything I saw and heard among my peers, the elders, and in pop culture said that I should be interested in girls. But try as I may, I was never attracted to the opposite sex. (I once kiss a girl—our neighbor—on the cheek, but I didn’t like it; I was more anxious than excited. Why did I kiss her? We were playing bahay-bahayan, and she was the “mom” while I was the “dad”. I never took on that role again as a kid; today though, I’ve embraced my “daddy” role. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

When I was born, we lived in a small, two-floor apartment in Cubao. (Fun fact: we lived one street away from our cousins, who lived one house away from the Tan Caktiong’s. Yes, the owners of Jollibee. My cousins remember the time when they’d sell their burgers at their garage. Perhaps they were taste-testing the future Yumburgers.)

I don’t remember much of our stay there, except for certain clear memories: [1] For Christmas I received a battery-operated toy F-14 fighter plane that had blinking lights, retractable wings, and ran in circles, stopped, then ran again;

[2] We had a surly old maid neighbor whom we called “Karakatoa, east of Java” because she was wont to explode her top like the volcano;

[3] I was afraid of thunder more than lightning (although I’d already cringe when lightning flashed because of the loud clap that’d follow it); [4] We watched the TV show “Gentle Ben” featuring a little boy and a gentle black bear;

[5] We had a unique Christmas tree. Unlike the usual pine tree-shaped ones, ours was a 6-feet high wood-and-plastic ornamental tree that I suspect was originally meant to be merely interior decoration; instead, my parents would bring it out every December and drape Christmas lights and décor on it.

In 1970, we moved to SSS Village in Marikina, and until today this is where we live. (Years later, I’d move out. But in January 2017, I moved back in.) Growing up in suburbia, I made friends with the kids of our immediate neighbors. On our left was Mayette (the girl I kissed on the cheek); on the right was a boy named Nes, who was several years older than my brother and I, and whom I had a mild crush on. Nes was more street-smart than us, but deep down he was also a nerd like us. His eyeglasses made him look gentle and smart too. I always looked forward to when I’d see him shirtless. Years later, I was fascinated by the hair that grew around his nipples and around his navel that trailed downwards into his shorts. One summer he didn’t go out of the house because he was circumcised. My brother and I were scheduled to be circumcised in a few more years, so I wanted to visit him to see what was done to his penis. But we weren’t allowed to see him either.

One day Nes introduced us to a friend of his, Abel. Abel was unpolished, a little uncouth, and rough around the edges. He had awful teeth, and didn’t share our same interests. I didn’t understand why someone like Nes would be friends with him. But still Abel came to visit Nes more and more. I didn’t like Abel, but there was something about him that drew my attention. Unlike Nes, who never talked about anything remotely related to sex, Abel was very sexual in an unconscious way. He’d reach in, shift or scratch his dick inside his briefs, then after pulling his hand out, sniff his fingers without any trace of self-consciousness. It’s as if he needed to know how he smelled down there, and I was intrigued and repulsed by the thought that I wanted to know the smell of his fingers.

But even with Nes and Abel in our lives, I never experienced anything sexual with a fellow boy (whether neighbor or classmate) or even an adult male. I wasn’t curious to know what another boy’s penis looked like; I had seen my younger brothers’ penises, and for me, that was that. There was nothing intriguing or fascinating. I remember seeing my grandfather peeing outside on our garden wall (I guess he felt he can just take a piss anywhere he goddamn pleased), and I caught a glimpse of his penis. That was the first adult penis I saw ever, and it was long, dark, and seemingly enormous. There was something grotesque about it. I’m glad mine did not look like that, I thought.

I remember though how fascinated I was with Batman, Superman, the Flash, and other male superheroes who wore tight outfits that showed off their chiseled chests, and underwear (or in the case of Flash, no underwear at all) outside of their leotards. I was drawn to the drawings of muscles around their armpits and their trunk-like thighs. Because Batman and Superman wore “tighty-whitey” brief-like costumes (What was the belt for? I knew Batman had a utility belt, but what about Superman? Did the belt help keep his underwear from dropping too low?), I tried to copy them by wearing a tight belt above my Jockeys. But my briefs kept going down whenever I’d vigorously move, so I tightened my belt further while hitching up my briefs even higher. This caused my cock and balls to be squeezed even tighter; I realized I liked the feeling.

In my quest to have tighter underwear, I decided to tuck my briefs into the crack of my butt, like the way ballet dancer’s dance belts (commonly known as “thongs”) are worn. And I realized that the friction between cotton and my ass crack produced a delicious feeling too, along with the feeling I get with my cock and balls. And with me pulling up my briefs to make it even tighter, all that friction eventually led to me experiencing my first dry orgasm. I liked it so much that I kept at it during siesta time in the afternoons. Until one day my ejaculation was so intense, I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, our maid and my other siblings were in my room. Obviously they saw how I wore my briefs and belt, but they were polite enough to pretend they didn’t notice it.

That was the last time I wore a belt and pulled up my briefs.

A few years later, I discovered the joys of jacking off. But that’s for next time.