map Garlands

by Armand Gloriosa

Published in Issue No. 22 ~ March, 1999

Lawrence flung away the issue of Businessworld with a theatrical gesture of nonchalance onto the table of Conference Room One. “So the world is on the brink of a recession, and oil prices are lower than ever because, inter alia, demand from Asia is down. The world may be going to hell, but at least it’s satisfying to see Gulf Arabs pumping their own gas and cleaning their own toilets again, nya-ha-ha-ha.” Lawrence now lowered his voice, as if he were afraid that their clients would overhear. “Personally, though, I wouldn’t worry, Mel. There’ll always be something for us to do. In the worst of times, the creditors, grave dancers, asset strippers, carpetbaggers, unrepentant alliance capitalists–these people will still need us lawyers, and they’ll be able to pay us, too.”

“So I guess we’ll be fine come what may–short of Erap declaring war on China,” Mel said. He sighed. “Well, while we wait for the vultures to darken our doorway, should I put off sending those demand letters for attorney’s fees to our existing clients?”

“Soon-to-be ex-clients. No, go ahead. Let’s have them sent out. We’ll start with the deadbeats, the ones who weren’t paying us even before the Asian Crisis started. Then, maybe later we can start writing to the genuinely hard up. “Speaking of hard up,” Lawrence went on, “Let me tell you about something that happened. Last year I took my nephew to that shop in Greenhills that sells those toys for the rich–Pajeros and cell phones and jet skis and whatnot. The boy insisted on going inside, and I didn’t want to, because I know what supercilious assholes the salesmen are. But it meant so much to the boy to go in and see the things for sale inside, so I gave in. While we were browsing, a salesman was following us around. He made me uneasy breathing down my neck like that, so just to have something to say, I pointed to the Toyota 4Runner that my nephew happened to be looking at, and said something like, `How much is this?’

“It was a mistake. The salesman lifted an eyebrow and said, `Oh, well over a million.’ And then he turned on his heel and walked away, having at last gratified a deep-seated urge to snub the riffraff who couldn’t possibly afford his lovely merchandise. It was so humiliating, so mortifying–but thankfully my nephew understood none of this.

“Well, guess what,” Lawrence said with hand-rubbing glee, “Just last week I passed by the shop. The shop’s closed. It’s not there anymore. I’d just like to know that asshole is now. Out on the street on his butt somewhere. Caught by the Asian Crisis. Goddamned toad under a harrow.”

Mel Gomez and Lawrence Tiu had been classmates and friends in law school. Mustachioed Mel was swarthy and had dark, naturally wavy hair that stuck close to his scalp, while the paler Lawrence sported a crew cut that made him look even younger than their twenty-seven years. Mel was bookish and relatively inexperienced with the “real world”, and so Lawrence had tried to teach his contemporary the hard-nosed Chinese Way of Business–no freebies to friends, credit and discounts only to proven clients, and so on. Despite this, both Lawrence and Mel had been naïve enough to think that they could have a practice of their own from day one, without having to pay their dues in the “name” firms: “Better the head of a chicken than the tail of an ox,” Lawrence was fond of saying. The law firm of Gomez and Tiu had gotten off to a parlous start, at first charging too little for difficult and time-consuming work, or else charging too much for what should have been routine work. But very quickly the duo picked things up and learned to improvise along the way, copping opposing lawyers’ techniques, making mistakes left and right and recovering from them–and billing clients all the while. After two years, the two had learned to oil the wheels, to cross troglodyte palms with silver, and in general, how to make themselves agreeable to auditors, judges, fiscals, sheriffs, hearing officers, policemen, etc. etc. At first there was self-loathing at the idea that they were sullying their moral virginity in their daily dealings with the justice system. Yet strangely enough, through it all there was never any question of their feeling guilty about any of it–it was simply the way things were.

As the two were talking, one of their three secretaries popped her head through the conference room door and said, “Attorney Gomez, Mang Bhen is asking if he could see you. And Attorney Tiu, the networking people from Executive Computer Systems are here.”

“Mang Bhen? What could he possibly want?” Mel said.

Lawrence chuckled. “Probably been fired for drinking on the job. They got tired of waiting for him to pickle himself from the inside. Belinda, please show the Executive people in here.”

“Belinda, is Conference Two free?” Mel asked.

“I’m sorry, Attorney,” said the secretary, “The other secretaries are collating your memorandum on appeal there.”

“All right,” said Mel, “I’ll talk to him in my office.”

Mang Bhen was the building superintendent, a squat, powerfully built, evil-smelling snaggle-toothed man. Wearing the dark gray uniform of the maintenance contractor for whom he worked, he timidly came into Mel’s office, and at the lawyer’s urging sat down in the chair in front of his desk. Mel decided not to shake the man’s hand, lacing his fingers and putting his hands on his desk instead. “So, Mang Bhen, what can I do for you?”

“Well, Attorney, I would like to ask you for your help, if it is all right with you.”

“What is it?” asked Mel, although he had a feeling that Lawrence had read the situation correctly.

“I’ve been fired by Kleenfast. They said they didn’t approve of my drinking on the job, and so I only have until the end of the day to clear my things out of this building and look for another job.”

“When did they tell you this?” asked Mel.

“Just this morning.”

“That’s not allowed, Mang Bhen. This isn’t some American movie. You have to be given `due process’ before they can fire you.” Mel used the English phrase, not knowing how to translate the term into Tagalog.

” `Due process?’ ” echoed the man.

“Yes. That means that, under our labor laws, your employers first have to make clear what the complaint against you is, and then give you a chance to air your side. Only after `due process’ has been observed can they begin to take steps to fire you, where there is reason to do so, but not before then.” Mel’s manner of speaking was more stilted than it would have been in his more accustomed English Deep down, Mel was smiling to himself at how pompous he must sound to an onlooking layman.

“Well, Attorney,” said Mang Bhen, “It’s not true what they say about my drinking on the job. It’s true that sometimes I drink while I’m on the premises here, in this building, but that’s only when I’m already off duty. After quitting time, I hang around the basement with the janitors, and we sometimes have some beer or rum. But Kleenfast never complained about it, until today. This morning, without any warning, they just told me they didn’t like my drinking, and I was fired.”

Mel now spoke briskly, in the hope that he appeared businesslike, instead of actually wanting to be rid of Mang Bhen quickly. “I’ll write your employers a letter. I’ll tell them that I’m representing you as your lawyer, and that if they want to fire you, they’ll first have to put their complaints clearly to you, so as to give you a chance to defend yourself. I will also demand that the proceedings be undertaken above board, with me present whenever you have to appear to speak on your own behalf, or with me drafting your, ah, `counter-affidavit,’ if that’s what they want. If they don’t give you `due process,’ I’ll tell them that we’ll file a complaint before the NLRC.” Mel stumbled over his Tagalog as he tried to explain to the building superintendent what it was that he was going to do.

Mang Bhen started mumbling. “One thing, though, Attorney. I don’t have any money. I know you are an expensive lawyer, but–”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll help you, don’t think about money. There’s no charge, seeing it’s you, Mang Bhen.” Already Mel was calculating that the other side would simply back off the moment they received, to their surprise, a formal demand letter from a lawyer with an Ayala Avenue address, albeit practicing from the slightly run-down Madrigal Building. He wouldn’t have to follow through with the threat, and the whole moro-moro would be over, just like that.

Mel glanced at the Omega Speedmaster that he’d put on his desk. He liked to put his watch where he could see it most of the time while he was working at his desk, rather than wear it on his wrist, hidden away under the sleeve of his barong. He’d always wanted one of the damned things even before he went to law school, and only recently could he get past his old impecunious frugality and buy a fancy watch.

“All right, then, Mang Bhen. Don’t worry about it. You can still report for work here tomorrow, as usual. I’ll just send a letter to your employers.” Mel wrote down the name of the general manager and the address of Kleenfast. To get the foul-smelling man out of his room as soon as possible, Mel stood up and escorted Mang Bhen to the reception area.

To Mel’s surprise, Mang Bhen’s daughter was waiting on the reception area’s couch. She was a dull-eyed girl with limp, lifeless hair cut in bangs high across the forehead. Despite her tender years her skin was very rough. Her dark thin arms had light-colored splotches all over. She looked positively malnourished.

“My daughter, Attorney,” Mang Bhen said to Mel. “She is in the first grade in public school. She is number two in her class.” Mang Bhen’s unlovely mug glowed with pride.

Although Mel had learned from his UP days never to judge people from their appearance, the fact that this obviously ill-fed girl did well at school was still astonishing. “Are you a good student?” Mel said, rather patronizingly.

“Opo,” the girl said.

Mel was given to dramatic gestures on a moment’s inspiration. Now seized by one of his generous impulses, he gave the little girl a plastic ball point pen from out of office supplies. “This is for your schoolwork,” he said lamely. The girl thanked him in the same flat, lifeless tone with which she had previously spoken, and father and daughter went on their way. Only later did it occur to Mel that the child was too young to be using ballpoint pens in school and probably would have appreciated a pencil more.

A week went by, then two. Mel knew that Mang Bhen was still reporting for work as usual, but the man hadn’t come around to tell him anything about his situation. Later in the afternoon, Mel had some food delivered by Jollibee to the office, and then he called for Mang Bhen.

“Kumusta na po kayo, Mang Bhen?” began Mel. Once again they were in Mel’s office, for Conference One and Conference Two were bustling with secretaries collating copies of pleadings.

“Oh, things are fine, Attorney. Kleenfast doesn’t want trouble. The general manager and his people haven’t bothered me at all since they got your letter. I’ve been reporting for work, and I’ve been getting my salary, as usual.”

“And are we behaving ourselves, Mang Bhen? Are we laying off the Tanduay, the San Miguel? Eh heh?”

For a reply, the building superintendent merely chuckled.

Mel congratulated himself for winning the bout against Kleenfast with a single well-placed roundhouse, and waited to be thanked by Mang Bhen, to be told some words of appreciation. When those words of approbation did not come, Mel looked at his watch on the table in irritation and was about to dismiss the man when Belinda came into the room with some pleadings for him to sign.

As Mel mechanically affixed his signature on the various papers put in front of him, he asked her, “Belinda, I haven’t been able to access my files from Lawrence’s newfangled server all afternoon. What’s wrong?”

Belinda replied, “Attorney Tiu thinks the server has probably been attacked by a virus.”

Mel yelped out “A virus!” so suddenly that Belinda started. Mel rushed out of the room without excusing himself to Mang Bhen and went to the filing room where the server was. Lawrence was sitting in front of the server’s monitor.

“`Nampucha, a virus!” Mel said frantically. “Can we save our files?”

“It’s been fixed,” Lawrence said in a tired voice. Apparently he’d spent the whole afternoon trying to solve the problem. “I rebooted the server, and I’ve been able to access files here from the computer in my room. Actually, I don’t know whether it was a virus. It could have been a configuration glitch. I think I’ll just spend the evening backing up our files and reconfiguring this server. I promise, I won’t crash it.”

Belinda materialized behind them, looking over their shoulders. “Haay salamat,” she said, “I thought two years’ worth of files had just disappeared.”

Relieved that the biggest disaster of his short legal career was a nonevent, Mel was on his way back to his room, when he met Mang Bhen shuffling out through the open door. “I’ll just be on my way, Attorney,” breathed the man miasmally into Mel’s face, “Thank you very much for your help.”

At last, Mel thought, successfully keeping his expression straight in the face of the blast. Some overdue gratitude. Then he remembered. “Is your daughter here?”

“Yes, Attorney. She is in the reception area. She always comes to this building after school. She waits for me, and then we go home together.”

This time Mel was ready. From his room he took out the Jollibee Champ and soggy fries in the red plastic bag that had been delivered a few hours earlier. The little girl sat in the reception area the way she had two weeks before, still looking like she could do with a delicious treat once in a while.

“Here you are,” said Mel, handing the plastic bag to the little girl. Mel realized that he didn’t know the girl’s name.

“Thank Attorney Gomez, Yolanda,” said Mang Bhen, smiling fondly down at his daughter.

“Salamat po,” came the little robotic voice.

A few minutes later, Mel was sitting in his room, testing the file server, and accessing file after file. When he was satisfied that the server was working properly after all, he leaned back in his big executive chair and thought that it was a mistake to give the little girl a hamburger. Only westernized burgis children liked hamburgers. Other children tended to dislike them, not regarding any viand as a real meal as long as there was no rice to go with it.

His chagrin at his latest solecism was forgotten, however, when he tried to clear his desk and wear his watch. The Omega was missing from his desk.

“I agree,” said Lawrence. “Everyone in this office can be trusted. We’ve never lost anything ever since we set up this office. And to think that he did this after you represented him, for free. Ingratitude twice over, I’d call it.”

Mel was sitting in his chair, steaming. If he were seven years old instead of twenty-seven, he would have burst out in tears.

Lawrence was rubbing his eyes, tired at this late hour from his caseload and the self-inflicted problems of his latest office toy. Lawrence himself was too tuckered out to feel angry for Mel. So he said, “We can give Mang Bhen a chance. Call him first thing in the morning–that is, before he hocks it or flogs it–and then confront him or something. Threaten him with jail.”

“I can’t just call him first thing in the morning,” Mel pointed out. “I have a hearing in Quezon City in the morning, and with heavy traffic that means I won’t be back in the office until close to noon.”

“I’ll call him, then,” said Lawrence. “I have only an afternoon hearing in Pasay. I’ll see what I can do with Mang Bhen.”

Mel was so upset that his faculties of judgment refused to function. “Whatever you say. I’ll be going home now. There’s no sense in spending non-billable hours in the office.”

The next morning, when Mel arrived from his Quezon City hearing, he went straight past the bustling of the secretaries and made a beeline for Lawrence’s room.

“I called for Mang Bhen when I arrived this morning,” said Lawrence, “But the janitors said he hadn’t arrived yet. Probably waiting for the pawnshops to op–”

“Don’t say that,” said Mel through gritted teeth, as if it were with Lawrence that he was having a fight. “I’ll try to call for him now.” Mel stomped out of the room, but the fusty carpet dulled the sound of his Bally shoes.

Although Conference One and Conference Two were both free at the moment, Mel deliberately chose to speak to Mang Bhen in his own room for the third time. As before, Mang Bhen sat in one of the two chairs in front of Mel’s large desk, and turned sad, expectant eyes towards Mel.

“`Maga po, Mang Bhen!” hollered Mel, as if he were hailing the man from one end of a corridor. He struggled to find the right tone and then said, “I just wanted to see how you were, how you were getting along with your employers. Especially since I understand you were late this morning?”

“A little hangover, Attorney. I’m sorry about that. I promise it wouldn’t happen again. You were right to have confidence in me, and to help me, and I’ll do my best not to rock the boat with Kleenfast again.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Mel said. Then, without transition, Mel began to tell Mang Bhen a little story.

“Once, when I was a kid, there was this little toy airplane in a store that I badly wanted. It was a `roaring jet’ at the end of a piece of string that you whirled around your head, and it went whirrr whirrr whirr–a cheap little thing, made of plastic, but I wanted it. My mother was always too harassed with her shopping to pay attention to my whining, and she never got it for me. So the next time she took me shopping with her, I picked up one of the planes from the shelf, and I held it in my hand all the way to the checkout counter. And you know, nobody noticed that I had it in my hand until my mother and I were in the car.”

Mang Bhen nodded sagely. “You were a child.” Mel imagined the air in front of the man’s mouth swirling in alcohol-saturated turbulence. “True,” said Mel. “But although my mother scolded me for taking the roaring jet, I don’t think she ever got around to paying for it later, either. She just didn’t bother about it. It really wasn’t my fault, but I felt guilty about it all the same. For years afterward.”

Mang Bhen was silent for a long time. He looked at the floor. After some time he slowly lifted his head, fixed his brown and yellow eyes on Mel’s, and painfully opened his mouth to speak. “I must tell you, Attorney. Actually, I didn’t have a hangover this morning. In fact, I was not able to sleep all night–”

Just then Lawrence barged into the room. He casually flopped into the chair opposite Mang Bhen’s and, rocking the chair on its back legs, instantly assumed the air of a patient interrogator who would not be patient for long.

Mang Bhen dropped his eyes again.

The three people in the room were silent. The humming of the air conditioner vent overhead provided a pedal point over which played the frantic scurrying of the secretaries and the ringing of telephones beyond the room’s open door, and the honking blasts from the buses on Ayala Avenue seven floors below, stifled by the glass windows coated with city dust and diesel soot.

When Mang Bhen finally found his voice again, his eyes were everywhere, on the ceiling, on the floor, on the papers on Mel’s desk, on Lawrence’s shoes–but he could not look his grillers in the eye. Mang Bhen presently told a little story of his own, but not with the kind of anguish that Mel had sensed when Mang Bhen had first begun to speak up. It was a different kind of anguish, coming from somewhere else, and this time there was anger, as well: “I had a younger brother who got laid off from his job in a factory making costume jewelry. Those were bad times for everyone, in the late seventies. In desperation, he turned to theft: the first time he did it, he stole some bread from a bakery; the second time, he grabbed the necklace of a woman in a passenger jeepney. Unfortunately, one of the passengers happened to be a Secret Marshal, and as my younger brother ran away the Secret Marshal also stepped out of the jeepney and shot my brother in the leg. Then the Secret Marshal came and finished him off, executing him on the spot where he fell with a single shot to the forehead. I heard about the way he died from the very woman he had robbed of the necklace. She was a God-fearing woman and pleaded with me not to blame her for my brother’s death. She felt almost as much remorse over his death as I did. She was a stranger to my brother, but she understood everything about his situation right away. She asked me for forgiveness, but there was nothing to forgive her.” Mang Bhen’s eyes, already past crying over all these years for his brother, once again met Mel’s, and now it was Mel who had to look down. Mang Bhen continued, “My brother was a poor man, and he couldn’t feed his family. Stealing food when you’re hungry isn’t a sin. And maybe, stealing other things when you cannot feed your family, maybe there’s no sin in that, too. Instead it’s immoral when the world gives more to those who have plenty and takes away from those who have less, punishing them. God can’t have intended for the world to be that way.”

In the room there was that anxious muteness once more. The chair that Lawrence rocked creaked rhythmically, adding to the cacophony of office noises offstage, as Lawrence tried to keep the movie-Gestapo officer scowl on his face.

“But what did you want to see me about, Attorney?” said Mang Bhen at last, the anger burning in his eyes even as he kept them on the papers scattered about in front of Mel.

“Nothing,” said Mel. “I just thought I’d see how you were.”

“I’m fine, thank you. I’ll be going now. I have work to do,” said Mang Bhen, rising, and he nodded in the direction of Mel and Lawrence before shuffling out of the room.

Both lawyers waited for the spell of gloom and the smell to fade away. Lawrence spoke first.

“I’d give him a week to redeem the watch from the pawn–”

“Anak ng baka, get out of here!” snapped Mel.

Lawrence, who was used to these occasional outbursts from his rather oversensitive partner, put his palms out in a gesture of surrender and stood up to leave. “All right, all right. `Tang ina,’ what a grouch.”

But it wasn’t the indignant Mel who had a bad conscience to wrestle with, and within ten minutes of the unpleasant, oblique face off with Mang Bhen, Mel felt angry and victimized all over again. The usual story: `Poverty is a license to steal! The rich are the real thieves! The poor are virtuous!’ What a pile of unadulterated organic horseshit! Between bouts of vexedly wringing the plastic battle-scarred Casio on his wrist around and around, he managed to tap out on his computer a letter in Tagalog informing Mang Bhen that, due to personal considerations he didn’t feel he could go on serving him in the capacity of counsel, and therefore Mang Bhen was to secure the services of another counsel.

Mel’s face was red, and his nostrils flared so that he looked like a snorting cartoon bull about to charge. Without pausing, he launched into a second letter, in English this time, addressed to the general manager of Kleenfast informing him that, if there were any replies to be made to undersigned counsel’s previous demand letter of such-and-such a date, Kleenfast would be better sending it off directly to the employee concerned instead of the aforesaid counsel, who was withdrawing his representation of the aforesaid employee. He zapped the two letters to his secretary over Lawrence’s new network for immediate finalization and signature.

Mel meant to mention his writing these two letters to Lawrence, just to revel in sulky satisfaction over his revenge, but Mel never got around to it. Under the pressure of squeezing the most billings out of the ordinary workday, he simply forgot.

The following week, a new building superintendent, younger, neater, and better smelling was assigned to Madrigal Building.

Ten months later, Mel was driving home along Paseo de Roxas in his showroom-shiny Honda City still with plastic wrapping on the upholstery. His mind was blank after a busy day, on auto-pilot and aware of nothing except the heft of the brand-new Speedmaster on his wrist. Then he thought he saw Mang Bhen’s little daughter with other street urchins at the stoplight at the Makati Avenue intersection. She was still wearing her school uniform of dark blue skirt and white blouse, but from that distance and in the dim light of the tall Makati street lamps at this late hour it wasn’t possible to be sure it really was Yolanda.

The following night, he slowed down at the same stoplight so that he could make sure. When the light turned red, he stopped the car and rolled down the window to more clearly see beyond the dark tint of the car’s glass, and immediately the stink of car fumes and city dust invaded the car. The girl he’d seen the previous night came up to him, holding garlands of sampaguita.

“Yolanda?” he said, hysteria almost breaking his voice.

“Atturne-e-e-h. Bili na po kayo ng sampaguita-a-a-a.” Mel could see that Yolanda had grown even thinner, that her eyes were yellow, her lips dry and cracked. Her clothes looked unwashed and were probably the same ones she had been wearing the night before when he first saw her. On an impulse, before the stoplight could change, Mel bought everything she had. The fragrance of all of the garlands, swirling in the air conditioned confines of the car, was heady and overpowering. When he came home to his bachelor’s pad in Cubao, Mel draped all of the sampaguita garlands around the neck of the statue of the Virgin Mary that stood watch over the apartment. He didn’t want to have them dangling from his rear view mirror to remind him and accuse him. Traffic was stressful enough without that.

A week later, Lawrence came into Mel’s room during a lull in the buzz of office activity.

“Was that you I saw in the parking lot earlier today, talking to a street urchin?” he asked Mel.

“Yah,” Mel said. “She gave this back.” Mel waved a hand over the mess of papers on his desk. Lawrence decided he meant the long white envelope on top of everything else, soiled from being handled by unwashed hands. Lawrence picked up the dirty envelope and found three thousand pesos in it.

“You’re giving this kind of money away to street kids? Pare, saludo ako sa `yo, it may be almost Christmas, but I don’t think I could ever think of three thousand pesos as loose change to be given away.” Punctiliously he closed the flap and put the envelope back on Mel’s desk. “On the other hand, I have yet to see a street rat say no to three thousand pesos. That simply boggles the mind.”

“That was Yolanda,” said Mel.

“Who’s Yolanda?”

“Mang Bhen’s daughter.”

“Mang Bhen, the guy who stole your watch? Did he ever give it back?”

“He was fired.”

“Was he?” Lawrence appeared to be remembering for the first time. “You didn’t defend him after what he did, did you? Serves him right. I don’t blame you for not wanting to represent him. Have him get some goody-two-shoes activist lawyer to take him as a pro-bono case for an illegal dismissal suit, or at least he could get some Rene Saguisag wannabe willing to get paid in chickens or vegetables or something, nya-ha-ha-ha.”

Mel spoke as if from beyond the grave. “She said that her father had told her to tell me that he had his pride, even if his wife and daughter were selling candles and sampaguitas. He wouldn’t have anything to do with me or with any help that I had to offer. It’s been almost a year, and he hasn’t found another job, not with the economy the way it is. Yolanda had to drop out of school to work, selling–” and, as if he couldn’t finish his sentence, he instead mimed hanging garlands on a rear view mirror. “Mang Bhen probably doesn’t do anything but drink and beat his family. I know I saw black eyes on Yolanda this morning and bruises on her arms.”

Lawrence made a nasal `ngeh’ sound. “Just because you wouldn’t represent Mang Bhen in an illegal dismissal suit, he’s mad at you? The man stole your nice watch, for God’s sake! Has the world been turned upside down, that thieves are angry at their victims?”

“You don’t understand,” Mel began, drained of all spirit although it was only half past eight in the morning.

“You’re absolutely right, I don’t understand, and I don’t understand this, either,” Lawrence said, giving the envelope with the money on the desk a fillip with manicured nails. The envelope gave off a sodden, muffled thup.

“Where do I start to explain?” Mel said. He thought to himself, I was perfectly within my rights; now I’ll just have to live with my conscience.

Mel’s phone rang, and when he didn’t twitch a muscle, Lawrence picked it up. But it was a call for Lawrence, patched through to Mel’s office. Lawrence took the call, while the his partner gazed out the dirty windows. Lawrence eventually wound up the call.

Cheerfully, Lawrence said to the wretched-looking Mel slumped in his executive chair, “That was somebody from Union Bank, Mortgage Banking Unit. If you’re free this afternoon, we can pop across the street to Union Bank. They’ve got plenty of repossessed cars that they’ve got to move badly. I think I can pick up a practically new Corolla for a song. Want to come with me? –Dios ko naman, Mel, what are you crying about?”

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Armand Gloriosa was born in 1968 in Cebu, Philippines. He worked hard for years to become a lawyer, and when he did become one, regretted it. He married his first girlfriend, didn't regret it, and now has two children to show for it.