by Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla

 

Do you know that beauty queens are not naturally morena? Most, if not all of them, get their perfect bronze glow with the help of bronzer and a can of non-stick oil spray. Marinated chicken, anyone? Now I get the connection between sabong and beauty pageants. On this particular day, our manok is not the morena kind but she is glowing in her sequined gown under the midday sun.

A year ago, if you ask me what brand of panty liners beauty queens wear, I will just roll my eyes in disgust. Not at the panty liner but at your nerve to even ask me such a question about those airheads (or so I thought). Obviously, I used not to care. But today, ask me the same question and I will tell you what brand beauty queens use and tips on how to make them invisible underneath those bikinis.

That's the problem when you're on the inside. You start to develop this genuine empathy towards the women who, you thought, were molded artificially and put on stage to make women feel bad about the take-out fried chicken and ready-to-eat waffles they had for breakfast.

When you work behind the ropes, you know the heartbreaking stories behind their smiles; you see the pins and nauseating amount of hair products that glaze their heads; and you see the wedges (even flats) under their eternally beaded gowns and know for a fact that they carry their own gowns and bring their own make-up.

On the flipside, you also develop an automatic okray system with your colleagues whenever semi-hopefuls from hell gatecrash at your events hoping to be discovered by talent managers and camp gurus. Sadly, the only thing that gets developed is your temper when trying to explain in several languages and several hours that this is an invite-only event and they are not on the list. Lastly, you will feel the need take up target shooting whenever hao shaos (die-hard fans pretending to be media representatives) try to slip through the doors when you're about to go on a bathroom break.

My officemates and I are walking along Ayala Avenue, a few yards behind the tambutso. The young Makati crowd is taking photos of our manok, who is busy taking #selfies using her mobile phone. Some people call it vanity. I call it a necessity. If I'm that pretty, I will hire an on-call personal photographer whose sole purpose in life is to capture every fabulous moment of my fabulousness.

I am fiddling with my smartphone and posting online updates when I find myself unable to get back to the main road. Pakshet! I forgot all about the steel barricades that line the main road. I quickly duck into the underground walkway and emerge across the street when I bump into a familiar face.

“It's you,” he says. It's the tall guy from the bookstore. “Mean girl.”

“And you,” I reply, mimicking his royal freshness. “Yung kupal sa bookstore kanina.Bakit?! Bakit kailangan ko lagi makipag-away?!

I expect an equally mean response and prepare my stance for a fight but what he does after completely stuns me. He laughs. And it's one of those wholehearted laughs you hear from someone who obviously enjoys a good sense of humor. It's genuine, free of any traces of insults.

“Mean girl ka talaga,” he says and raises his hands in the air as if surrendering in defeat. “What are you doing here?”

I point towards the approaching pink float with our manok and the Philippine flag.

“You work for a beauty pageant?” he asks. I do not like his tone.

May problema ba tayo?” I fire back.

“Hey, hey,” he moves back and shields his rimless glasses. “I mean, you don't strike me as someone who works for a beauty pageant.” Okay na sana e. “Masyado kang brusko,” he adds.

I want to punch him in the face but just then, the crowd picks up and someone bumps into me, again. The paper bag with the comic books goes flying towards him, including me. He steadies me as the crowd zips past us in a blur. Our PR manager, Bianca, passes by and sees me. Even from a distance, I can tell that I have disturbed her resting bitch face and perfect eyebrows.

To the Makati crowd, we look like a couple who got caught in the moment and embraced in the middle of a beauty contest parade. How tacky! I see Bianca raise one perfect eyebrow before moving on with the crowd. And before I could shake my head and say “No, no, it's not what you think”, I feel something growing hard, very fast.

Quickly, I push myself away from this stranger. My entire face is a mixture of utmost irritation. He flashes his pearly whites before bending down to pick up the comic books I had dropped. And just like the moment, he is gone before I could even say “fuck you” and slap his face.

I check my comic books and one of my Archie Double Digests is missing. I see him again just before I board the van that would take us to the press conference venue. Holding my comic book, he gives me a big wave before disappearing into one of the buildings.

 

Read Chapter 6: If a sexy actress gets married…

 

 

 

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Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla is a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She wrote Bedroom Blog by Veronica, a relationship blog for Cosmopolitan Philippines from 2009 to 2011, which covers most of her single dating life. In 2015, she published her first book Before I Do. She’s passionate about coffee, red wine, books and Mad Men. She stopped collecting hearts when she got married in 2013 and went back to collecting Archie Comics ever since. Send the author a tweet @kceustaquio.

Edits: Paula Bianca Abiog

Before I Do

Philippine Copyright © 2015 by Katherine C. Eustaquio-Derla

Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental. Image from Pexels.com.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying without written permission of the publisher or author. The exception would be in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews and pages where permission is specifically granted by the publisher or author.

 

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