ICQ Chat From 16 Years Ago

Out of curiosity, I tried to check if the ICQ chat is still operational. To my surprise, ICQ is still around and active! I used to have an ICQ chat account 16 years ago. Sixteen years ago, we didn’t have social media yet and a fast internet connection. I was one of the regular customers of the computer shop. When work demands were low, I spent my free time browsing through the internet for Hollywood gossip or chatting with random strangers in Yahoo Messenger or ICQ.

Unlike some who made fancy-sounding names, I used my real name in YM. As a result, two of my high school mates sent me a chat message asking if I was the Iris that they knew from Tdel. Of course, I denied that I was that person. One of them was not convinced and even challenged me to open my webcam.

I learned my lesson from YM so when I created my ICQ account, I used a unisex name. I can’t remember exactly how I ended up chatting with an IT in Baguio. The first chat was supposed to be brief. I was just interested in the latest happenings in Baguio. He probably liked me as a chatmate so the next day, he sent me a message to ask if I had eaten my lunch.

He was not aware if I was a “he” or a “she”—he simply did not ask. He was probably more concerned about having someone to talk to rather than spoil the mystery if he was chatting with a girl or a boy. For almost a month, I spent half of my lunch break chatting with him. He talked about his recent break-up while I divulged some relationship issues from my end. He gave me some sensible relationship advice that was generic and applicable to both genders.

In the fourth week of our cyber friendship, I decided to unmask myself and be honest about who I was. So one lunch break, I told him about my age, location, and my gender. I did not realize that being transparent about the real me would cost the beautiful cyber friendship that we established for the past three weeks.

“You know, I kept on spying who among the people here is chatting with me secretly. I was not expecting that my chatmate was not the person that I thought to be,” it was one of his final messages to me.

Days passed and there was no message from my ICQ friend. They say that virtual friendships rarely develop into something real. He created a fantasy of chatting with somebody that he secretly liked in the office and he was disappointed when he learned that I was not that person. It was understandable for him to be vulnerable because he came from a breakup. What I took from that experience was the sound advice that he gave during the low times of my life.

With the advancement in technology, I feel like I’m being saturated with means on how to connect with people. Maybe I’m old enough to know that not all virtual friendships are worth the time and space so even my social media accounts are cleaned every now and then for inactive “friends.”


Tretorn Shoes

Tretorn shoes are included in the Lazada 12-12 sale.
Yes, you hear it right, GenX people, the iconic shoes
of our childhood and teenage years are back in the market.

I posted the Tretorn’s Lazada ad on my Facebook wall and
I was surprised to receive nostalgic comments about the shoes.
Truth to be told, I only knew about its popularity and
brand when my mother tried to buy me a pair of Tretorn shoes
in Balanga Arcade sometime in December 1990.
K-Swiss shoes, another popular brand, costed PhP1500 then while
Tretorn ranged between PhP1200 to PhP1000 depending upon the
material. Of course, the leather line was more expensive than the
canvass shoe style.
PhP1200 pesos was such a big money during the 90s; I could have
bought 3 pairs of a local rubber shoe brand like Kaypee.
So you guessed it right, my mother settled for a less expensive
Thailand-made brown leather shoes.

90s was not yet the era of eCommerce or even Duty Free so owning
a pair of imported shoes was such a big deal. And because
most of my classmates were wearing either a K-Swiss or a Tretorn,
my saving glory was a pair of white Nike shoes that I requested
from Kuya Boyet, my uncle. Pardon me for my naivety, I did not
know how expensive a pair of Nike shoes was. I just wanted
a pair of imported shoes and he was the only closest relative
who was working abroad at that time. Hahaha.

It was 1991 when I paraded the white Nike shoes on the campus.
I have a little secret, the shoes were one size smaller so I had
to wear lace socks instead of sports socks to lessen the discrepancy.

I did not tell my mother or my uncle about the
blisters I had to endure because that would break their heart.
They knew how much I wanted to own a pair of imported shoes.
But anyway, the shoes created enough space later on for my feet to fit in.

It was in 1993 when I had my first and last pair of Tretorn shoes.
Imagine me waiting for two years just to own one? The hype about
Tretorn shoes were slowly decreasing by the time I had one but
just the same, I was so happy to wear them and parade them in
school during Fridays. (I wore black school shoes from Monday
to Thursday). I seldom wore the Tretorn shoes so they went all
the way with me to college. My dormmate saw how dirty they were
and advised me to clean them using a fine toothbrush and a little
white toothpaste. I told him that that was exactly the look and
character that I wanted for in Tretorn shoes: the dirtier, the
better. Until now, I am not sure if his opinion is the opinion of
the other kids who grew up in the States. Or it was just him who
was too conscious of one’s proper grooming. Anyway, I appreciate
his concern and he was one of the nice guys in the dorm.

Fast forward to the present times, yes, it’s quite sentimental to
own a pair of Tretorn shoes but if ever I would buy one today,
I would just keep them as a souvenir of my childhood and teenage
years. With all due respect to the brand, I know it is iconic but
I feel awkward wearing a trademark from my past.

Kodak at Photoshop

Bago nauso sa atin ang digicam noong early 2000, sino ba naman ang mag-aakala na darating ang panahon na ang pagkuha ng litrato ay magiging very common na lang? The lowest price you can get for a film of 12 negative slots was around a hundred pesos during the late 80’s. Yung ibang camera na hindi rewindable ay lugi kapag may palpak sa shot mo dahil hindi mo na mao-overwrite ang kuha mo. Samantalang ngayon, halos lahat may camera na lalo’t kasama ito sa feature ng cellphone.

Ang mga usong camera film noon ay Agfa Color, Kodak Color at Fuji Film. Kapag rush ang pa-develop ng film, aabutin ka ng 30 minutes at may extra charge yun. Kapag naman normal na pa-develop lang, maghahantay ka ng 1-2 days depende sa dami ng dine-develop nila. Usong-uso noon ang pick up line na “Film ka ba? Kasi parang made-develop na ako sa yo!” (Ang kakornihan nga naman, walang pinipiling panahon. LOL)

Mula elementary hanggang high- school, hindi maaaring hindi kilala ng mga taga-Balanga si Mang Pikoy. Sya lang naman ang sikat na photographer sa Balanga para sa mga class picture. Jason Magbanua levels! During the class picture-taking at dahil bawal magkamali, talagang effort akong idilat ang mata ko. Grade 3 ako sa isang class picture namin, nakapikit ako! Buti na lang at may 3 kopya yun kaya pinili ko ang pinakamaganda. Fast forward to 2008, during my wedding preparation, biniro ko ang nanay ko na si Mang Pikoy ang kukunin kong photographer. Unfortunately, may sakit na ata sya noon at hindi namin mahagilap.

Aminado akong late bloomer pagdating sa what’s in noong araw kaya nagulat ako sa isang photo studio ng i-offer sa kaibigan ko na may option daw syang “iparetoke”ang graduation photo nya para kuminis naman sa litrato ang kutis nya.

“Eh bakit mo babaguhin?” tanong ko sa studio crew.

“Para makinis syang tignan,”sagot nya.

“Eh hindi naman sya makinis, di ba?”nalilito pa din ako dahil wala pa sa kamalayan ko ang retouch-retouch na yan ng litrato.

“Kasi ang graduation picture nyo ay habambuhay makikita kaya dapat maganda kayo,”sagot ulit ni Kuya.

“So paano ang gagawin mo?” usisa ko ulit. Medyo nako-conscious na ang friend ko nung mga panahon na yun.

“Ide-develop ko lang tapos pipicturan ko ulit sa mas magandang ilaw,”pang-wakas na sagot ni Kuya.

Nakumbinsi si friend na iretoke ang litrato nya at ako naman ay parang labag sa loob na baguhin kung anuman ang itsura nya. Sino ba naman ang makapagsasabi na mauuso years later ang photoshop? Na hindi lang sa desktop o laptop pwedeng baguhin ang itsura ng tao kundi maging sa cellphone, magagawa na through application.

Noong araw, kung pangit ang kuha mo, hindi mo agad ma-adjust o ma-filter. Pero ngayon, pwede mo pang baguhin ang kulay ng buhok at mata mo. Nakakaaliw pero minsan, kailangan din nating ipakita na nagkaka-pimple tayo, na pumuputi din ang buhok natin, na may laugh lines na tayo dahil hindi naman tayo imortal.


Slam Book and Facebook

I grew up in the age of slam book, which was our Facebook in the ’80s. My first slam book was a small peach one, followed by a standard notebook size one and then a green hardbound one. My objective in having a slam book was to know more about my friends’ interests. My hidden agenda was to check who among my friends had the same crush as mine!

Let’s compare slam books versus Facebook:

  1. Presentation- in terms of the presentation, the slam book is more personal since Facebook’s layout is generic. Therefore, a slam book’s appearance reflects the owner’s style.
  2. Gender of the user- slam book is more popular to girls than boys while Facebook is popular to all genders.
  3. Age of the user- assuming that both of them existed in the same era when it comes to slam book, the range of the users’ age is from 9-17 years old whereas Facebook users are from minors to seniors.
  4. Accessibility- you need the slam book itself and a pen. Facebook users need a tablet, a mobile phone, or a computer and an internet connection.
  5. Interface with friends- a slam book offers a more personal interface with the user’s friends because it’s awkward to be asking a stranger to have a few minutes to answer the questions on it. On Facebook, strangers and friends can just “like” your post if they find it amusing.

Out of curiosity, I tried to be my 10-year-old self again and answered a slam book that I found online. Of course, I didn’t have an email and blog when I was 10 years old. I got my first email when I started working, a company email. I had my first blog five years later. 

As a 10-year-old, I consider going to the plaza alone as a big achievement because I was afraid of crossing a busy street. Until now, I still have that fear. I just put on a brave front and try to focus as much as possible when crossing the street. Funny how I always wrote that I wanted to be a doctor when I almost always fainted at the sight of the hospital before. 

Most children of my time believed in Santa Claus. It was magical. Christmas softened everyone’s heart. Actually, the gifts that my brother and I received were simple and inexpensive. It was the thought that somebody as special as Santa Claus took time to “visit” us that counted.

Pink was the dominant color in my childhood. I was already in college when I realized that I never really wanted that color for myself. I was just influenced that it was my favorite.

My parents loved to wear perfume. It is something that I did not get from them. Today, I barely wear perfume–only when needed. In terms of my role model, I looked up to my late mother because she was sociable and intellectual.

I used to write in the slam book that I love jazz. Truth is, I’ve never heard a piece of jazz music not until I was 15 years old! But in terms of singer, Whitney Houston has always been on my list since I was a kid. In the 80s, almost every kid knew the lyrics of her hit song “The Greatest Love of All.” Ironically, I don’t remember being a fan of any celebrity (actors/actresses) before. 

I laugh at my 10-year-old self now when I remember that I used to write that I love Japanese foods. How can that happen when there were very few restaurants in Balanga when I was growing up? And kinilaw na isda is not even a Japanese dish. What was I thinking then? Hahaha.

The weekend activity that I was referring to was the Saturday visit to the church with Mary Ann to pray with Ate Meding and the Banzon kids. We prayed the rosary for Mama Mary. They called it Legion of Mary. After that, Mary Ann and I would eat in Denbell’s and then go home.

One of my favorite hobbies was reading magazines like Time, Newsweek, MOD, Woman’s, and Women’s. When I started working, I bought my own magazines like Good Housekeeping and Health and Home. I stopped collecting magazines when it became more convenient to research on the internet. 

Two of my favorite TV shows were Shaider and O-shin. They were the only Japanese-produced show that I loved when I was growing up. Holy Week in the 80s was more serene than the present time. The Ten Commandments never fails to impress me especially the parting of the Red Sea scene. I think this movie led me to be interested in reading the bible. Because of this influence, I have always believed that God is love. 

Girl Scout Camping Experience

I wonder if being a Girl Scout or Boy Scout is still a big deal nowadays but back in my era (80’s), it was! I started as a star scout at the age of 9 but I couldn’t remember if I attended an investiture. The following year, I became actively involved in girl scout activities because that was one of the coolest things to do during those times. I felt proud wearing the green uniform, pink neckerchief with green and yellow ring, girl scout pin and hat. We wore the girl scout attire every Friday and if anybody did not wear it, it was like a mortal sin for either forgetting or for not joining the girl scout.

My grade IV teacher, Ms. Pruna announced one sleepy January that we’re going to have a girl scout camping on late February! I asked my BFF Shellah if she would join the camping and I was ecstatic to know that both of us were bent on joining it. There were two problems that we faced: first, if our parents would let us join the camping and second, we had no tent!

It took me a week to convince my father that the camping was worth it. It helped to have Shellah’s mother (Ate Ruby) to back us up. Besides, the camping site was a walking distance from our home and it was within the vicinity of the school. Our tent problem was solved when Rhonna told us that she could accommodate us.

The day before the camping, I packed my clothes and brought some kitchen utensils, cans of sardines, spoon, fork and plate. My parents were there during the opening ceremony at the school ground and when it was cooking time for dinner, they left. I felt like I was about to cry because separation anxiety was something that I couldn’t beat since I was in kinder. Shellah seemed to be enjoying so I just went with the flow and pretended that I was happy. My first night at the tent was unbearable because I had a slight aversion to enclosed spaces. As a result, I was mostly sleeping during the girl scout lectures the following day.

On our second night, there was a small miscommunication between our group leader and Shellah about the food. If I remember it right, all of us were adjusting to our own cooking capability and as well as the number of servings allowed per dish so how could you divide a small fried chicken into 8 little mouths? Shellah cried, maybe out of frustration. I cried, too but out of homesickness! Abigail tried to comfort us and she thought that I just cried because Shellah cried! Truth was, I cried because I wanted to go home!

The second night at Rhonna’s tent was another challenge for me. I wanted to tell her to open the zipper but I thought of worms and snakes entering our tent so I junked the idea. There were more daytime activities on that day and I felt like a walking zombie.

We had a bonfire on the 3rd night at the school oval and I was surprised to know how many of us were there. There were girl scouts from the other schools and as well as boy scouts from our school. I wish we had digital cameras in the 80’s!

Back at our camp site later, Shellah and I stayed at Ernaida’s tent to chat with classmates. Out of fatigue, we fell asleepĀ at Ernaida’s tent. Her tent was thrice the size of Rhonna’s tent and had a small opening so I didn’t feel like I was enclosed. I woke up at around 2AM and saw some six girls sleeping. I went to Rhonna’s tent to get my pillow and slept again at Ernaida’s tent.

Truth is, I cringe every time I remember what I did to Rhonna. She was very generous in accommodating us but when I felt some discomfort, I left her without saying a word. I was 10 years old and I was stupid.

After the camping, I was very much relieved and I felt like I was away for 4 years, instead of 4 days.

“So what did you learn from the camping?” my mother asked.

“I learned how to cook using wood and tripod,” I replied.

“Only that?” she seemed surprised.

“Yes,” I was confused why she said that.

As a mother and many years later after that memorable camping, I would have wanted my children to learn the following:

  • Independence- because parents wouldn’t be around forever.
  • Reliability- because being in a group, team or family means being there for one another.
  • Hard work-because we need to work for something that we want.
  • Friendship- because no man is an island.
  • Courage- because most of our fears are only imagined fears.
  • Trust and obedience- because leaders are there for a reason.
  • Loyalty- because a true friend stays through thick and thins.