Quezon City

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What the etch?


BRANDED. (Photo by Jiggy Ilagan)

Call me racist or any term synonymous to the word, but I have always set the standard that tattoos looked good only on good-looking people.

Men (well, seldom on women) who have tattoos but do not suit them well used to scare me – they always gave me the notion that they were always up to no good. “Street freaks” was the term I used to refer to them.

Notorious. Barbaric.


Maniacs. Hoodlums.


My idea of tattooed-people (regardless of the looks) however changed, when I accompanied my cousins last March 10 to have their biceps *ahem* branded.

55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas

You have probably heard of 55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas, the tattoo shop in 55 Maginhawa St., UP Village. Just beside my newest favorite hangout place (Tomato Kick), 55 Tinta is your venue if you want to get reasonable prices for your ink stains. Oh, and sometimes, this is where some of the biggest rockstars in the country gather and shift to their “steady lang” mode. If you are that lucky enough, one of them could even be the one to put his art on you.

So when my cousin found out that I was going home to take a short break from work, he then asked me to come with him and his brother that night to 55 Tinta. More than the feeling of excitement that I shared with my boys, I was actually curious on how tattoos are etched on people’s skins. And yeah, flesh at times, too.

My brother and I followed my cousins to UP Village (the bus took me four hours to get to Quezon City) around 9 pm. Since 55 Tinta opens at 3 pm until 12 mn, we still had enough time to grab a quick bite at Tomato Kick. Jiggy, the younger of the two brothers, went in first to have his arm etched.

We met Sir Alain Mamon, a regular tattoo artist at 55 Tinta. He was on for the night, thus he was the one to give Jiggy his first ever body markings.

MOST WANTED: Sir Alain Mamon (Photo by JC Quinto)

Jiggy was asked to sign a waiver before starting the session. It was quite a shocker for us upon learning why the management gives waiver to the younger customers. Stories of parents rummaging and scolding the 55 Tinta staff for putting tattoo in the arms or bellies of their children were retold by the company we had – Idol and Emboy. From then on, the shop implemented strict rules for the customers to follow.  But this gave my cousin the slight fright – waivers are usually signed when undergoing medical procedures. I even joked him that good thing, there was no DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) written on the form.

55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas provided a homey ambiance, as we were all greeted by the staff’s friendly smiles and warm greetings. Just like any other curious customer, we kept asking questions to Sir Alain while he was drawing ink on Jiggy’s arm. Maybe he ist used to inquisitive people already, because he did not bother how absurd some of our questions were. If I were the tattoo artist and the audience would keep on throwing questions at me, I’d probably get annoyed.


A Name That Shall Live Forever

Miami Ink and LA Ink are two shows I usually watch in Discovery Travel and Living channel. I find it amusing how each tattoo tells a story. It’s not just some random decision why you have the name of your boyfriend/girlfriend written permanently on your chest. (And then you don’t end up together – saklap!) Every color, stroke and figure etched on the skin is significant.


LIVING THE LEGACY: Faye Denise Regaldia Lacanilao

Faye is a cousin of Jiggy and Kuya Gino. When she visited the country last August 2010, she had her mom’s maiden name, Regaldia, tattooed on her wrist. Since she won’t be able to pass the name on to her children and grandchildren, Faye wanted something that would always remind her of her roots. The tattoo itself is a literal “outward” sign of her family’s hardships and milestones.

55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas did a very smooth job on this girl’s branding.

With no one to continue the bloodline of the Regaldia clan, my cousins decided to have the same design as well.

(My bad. I can't remember who took this photo.)

There is no question on why Filipinos just love to get tattoos. When the Spanish first landed in the Philippines, the Filipinos who welcomed them reportedly had tribal patterns in their entire bodies. No wonder the country was once named “La Isla De Los Pintados” or “The Islands of the Painted Ones”. In the 16th century, only the chieftains of the Filipino tribes were allowed to sport a tattoo, with the branding as an indicator of what rank the male is in.

For women, on the other hand, tattoo was a form of art and beauty. They even dared then to have full arm and chest tattooing. It’s only now where the society created the stereotype that tattoos are symbols of unspoken profanity for prisoners and tambays. Guilty, that’s me.

Jiggy and Kuya Gino wanted to pay homage to the name responsible for their existence. While watching Sir Alain, I could not help but think of other people’s reasons for getting tattoos. Not underestimating the pain brought about by the needle (Yes, my cousins say that it did hurt a bit.), one must overcome the physical discomfort to bring the tattoo to life.

POINTILLISM. Franco Reyes (of the super band, FRANCO) turned Andreau Lacanilao into an instant sketchpad. (Photo by Jiggy Ilagan)

Going back to “pain”, Jiggy and Kuya Gino said that the process was quite painful. Theirs were small tattoos, what more of Andreau Lacanilao’s? Kuya Andrew also had his right part of the back tattooed by Franco Reyes last April 2010. It was a huge tattoo showing the art of pointillism. Pointillism is a technique in painting where small, distinct dots of one solid color gather in pattern to form an image.

Sir Alain also gave points to remember when getting a tattoo. For us who live in today’s different times , we should learn when is the right time to get a tattoo. Never have one if you are still too young. Don’t even dare if you are not ready. Hold that thought of having yourself branded when you have no idea (not one bit) of what you want. Postpone your plans of visiting a tattoo shop if you are intoxicated.


STOP and STARE: Gino Ilagan (Photo by JC Quinto)
ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE: Jiggy Ilagan looks over as Sir Alain gives his final touches. (Photo by JC Quinto)

While watching the whole process, my sister and I felt the urge to get our own tattoos as well. I felt very much excited for the boys, who, despite the pain, still managed to wear a grin in between deep breaths. Having a low tolerance for pain, I think that I still need to collect the right confidence, and to practice wearing a game face before letting my skin be branded. My sister, though, feels that she is very much ready to have one. I would not be surprised at all if one day she shows up with a star or a cross in her body courtesy of 55 Tinta. 🙂


Make your momma proud, boys.

Quoting a line from Franco’s song (Song for the Suspect), we really need to “understand, as much as we can.” A tattoo is a representation of a person’s story – a story which sets him apart from everyone else. When we learn to listen to what a person has got to say, chances are we would understand where he is coming from.

A tattoo in the long run could fade, but definitely hard to erase. So as a  chapter in one’s life, no matter how hard you try to forget it, it would always be there to remind you of the lessons you have picked up along the way.

The trip to 55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas also enlightened me with my stand on people with tattoos. Everything outside is just physical. What matters is the life a person lives, and not how the person presents himself to his environment.


FIRST TIME: Sir Alain Mamon and Jiggy Ilagan. (Photo by JC Quinto)

Emboy and Jiggy Ilagan (Photo by JC Quinto)

My cousins still can’t get over with their brand new features. More than the tattoo itself, it is their reason of getting one which I’m sure is what makes them proud. The ink that formed a precious family moment is forever inked on their skins.

They paid a price, but money could never pay the bliss the boys felt.


What 55 Tinta Tattoo Pilipinas marked on them were not just plain tattoos.


What these boys had for take home after leaving the shop were soul tattoos.


After all has been said, would you care for an etch? 🙂





Worth-mentioning: We did not go home immediately after Jiggy and Kuya Gino had their tattoos done. Who could resist a few rounds of Kick, and a tall order of Green Tea No Classic Hazelnut Syrup Blended Whipped Cream? 🙂



And all I needed was a dog.

I come from a family of pet-lovers. My mom and her brother used to tell us stories about their dogs, and how much they loved each. If I am not mistaken, the Ilagans housed 13 dogs before. I just could not imagine how I would be able to move around our place if until today we still have the 13 mutts as pets.

In reality though, I am scared of dogs. Whenever we walk going to the church, I bite my tongue in the belief that a stray dog would not get near me. I am not so sure who told me that practice, but me and my sister used to do that all the time. Well, at least if there is a dog along the way. Too much exposure to Resident Evil I suppose. We don’t want to be infected with rabies now, do we?

The only way to get over your fear is to face fear itself. Call it courage, I gave in to what my dad wanted. One overseas call changed everything – he informed me that his cousin was selling a shih tzu puppy, and that he was going to buy it for us. Since puppies are just the cutest living creatures, I gave in and gladly informed the rest of the family about it. A few weeks later, a new member of the family was welcomed.

say hello to ratsky. he loves to take long walks in the church patio.

Ratsky was the darling of the crowd. He grew to be very sweet, and spoiled at the same time. Stubborn breed shih tzus are, Ratsky always wanted to be the center of attention. You never expect him to bark even if you play rough with him. He does things his way, and he does not want to be disturbed when sleeping. Ratsky always waited for me in going to bed, and he slept with me almost every night. I kinda miss him, since I was used to his good night kisses before dozing off.

Ratsky, though he is a dog, needed to have a partner for life as well. Perfect timing surprised me and my grandmother one lazy afternoon, when my cousin’s boyfriend then rang and asked if I was interested to buy a female shih tzu pup, for a very cheap price. Cheap indeed – my grandma accepted the bargain and bought the dog for only P2000. Apparently, the seller needed easy money to buy his kid’s school supplies and textbooks. So we said goodbye to the P2000 (well it was grandma who actually cashed out the money) and waved hello to a new addition to our growing family.

tanya's a toughie. she can wrestle with a labrador and find her way out of the fight easily.

I find the name “Tanya” enigmatic. But there is nothing enigmatic about this dog. In fact, I consider her as my worst enemy. She chewed the frame of my eyeglasses before, and I was using them for only two short months. I don’t think she’s a pure breed. With the kind of attitude she has, I would like to conclude that the spirit of a Jack Russell and a French Bulldog possess her fragile body. Ironic this is, Tanya with a fragile-looking body, but wait ’til you see her when she runs amok! 🙂

Eventually, Ratsky and Tanya had their own lot – Tara, Tala, Prince and Bonita. Tara was given to a family friend; Tala stayed with us at home and afterward was given to my relatives in Zambales; Prince was left with us also, and Bonita had a short-lived stay with my cousins – she somehow escaped and never came back.

Prince was a favorite, since he is the only male puppy, and he really took after his father. They have the same color, as all female pups sported their mom’s exact color as well. When Tanya gave birth, I made it clear with everyone in the house that the male baby is mine. I was not there in Quezon City the day Tanya labored and “pooped” the babies out.

call me a drama queen, but prince is just gone too soon. 😥

Prince was named after the Korean TV series, “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince”. I was at the height of my Gong Yoo-madness then, that I even named the dog Prince despite my family’s strong objections. He was the naughtiest dog we ever laid eyes on – too hyper, always on the go, attention-seeker. Weird this may sound, but I am positive that Prince has ADHD. But I have never heard of animals being diagnosed with human personality disorders.

Despite Prince’s disturbing movements, he was very affectionate. He knows when someone is sick, or if someone needs some caring. Though I did not get to see him everyday, my home visits were made memorable thanks to Prince.

But he had to go. Maintaining four dogs in a not-so-big place is quite a hassle. So we handed over Prince to a family friend. Prince brought joy to his foster family, and we were just so glad that Prince was able to adjust right away.

the prince and his meal

Last Saturday, Prince died due to dehydration. The vet even said that his poo had blood in it. The news broke our hearts, as well as the hearts of his foster family. Call me a drama queen, but I think he was just gone too soon. The moment I saw the message from her foster mom, I felt as if there was a big lump in my throat which I could not swallow. Okay, cut the drama short, I cried. How could a strong, fit and active dog just die that quickly? I am not blaming his foster family, because I know they took care of him well. Then again, I cannot help but wonder how fast his passing was.

If you have watched the film Hatchiko with Richard Gere as the lead, you would probably understand how I felt and am still feeling right now. Losing a dog is like losing your most trusted and loyal friend. Science may never explain completely the relationship between man and his dog, because the bond is more of like a natural course that takes place once a man bonds easily with his pet.

Prince will be surely missed by us, and by his foster family too. I know that he is in a much happier place right now – where there is probably an unlimited supply of his favorite dog food, and where all the good times a dog could have roll.

There are life lessons which only a dog could teach us.

One of the best thing I have learned from my bebes?

Life is very short. Do not hold on to a grudge for so long.

There were times when I got pissed with Prince so much, to the point where I had to throw one of my slippers at him to chase him away. But after a few minutes, here comes Prince with the slipper I threw. He gave the slipper to me and even asked for a pat on the head. In return of the pat, he gave me a wet kiss on the cheek.

Love would always overshadow whatever anger you hold in your heart.

How I wish though it would be the same for us humans, to forgive right away, that is.

Significant or not, life is just a breath away. There is nothing wrong with being honest with our feelings.

“I may be upset, but hey, I still love you.”

Prince taught me that.

A dog taught me a life lesson.

Beat that. =)

journey well, prince. imma miss you! =)

CareDivas: forever and beyond =)

Most people do not find delight in watching  stage plays. Their reasons? The running time being too long, the script being so boring; actors not delivering their roles well, and the venue being extremely cold. The last play that I saw actually had me snoozing inside the theatre. (I found out that I wasn’t the only one who gave in to the charmer called “sleep”.)

I am a fan of theater acts , but due to the geographical constraint that I carry (FYI,  I happen to work in Batangas and I only get to be in Quezon City on weekends.), catching the latest stage plays became a complete struggle for me.  I wanted to watch RENT last February 25, but going to RCBC Plaza in Makati on a Friday night meant hell along EDSA. In short, the venue was just too far. Plus, it was my sister’s birthday night-out that evening, so from the very start I knew RENT was far-fetched.

Since I was practically logged-in on Facebook the entire Saturday, I saw a status update made by my batchmate from St. Scho Manila (hello there Leloi Arcete :D) who at present is working for Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Her shout-out was a call to those who wanted to catch the company’s latest musical comedy entitled CAREDIVAS. The February 27 shows were at 10am and 3pm, and PETA was not far from our place. To kill the curiosity inside me, I  was able to convince my mom to watch the play the following day.

CAREDIVAS. They are just tooooo hot to handle.

Before Sunday noon, there were already eight of us who would be watching CareDivas.  I called up PETA’s office number and reserved tickets for the 3pm show. We could not contain our eagerness to catch the play, but the recipient of the  “Most Excited” was my 84-year old grandmother.  Her excitement was just felt all over the house, because of the person in the picture below:

Phil Noble as Jonee

Phil Noble is my mom’s first cousin. His mommy and my grandma are sisters, and that makes us relatives. I used to see Tito Phil during family events. A small talk and a little bit of catching up during such occasions were just enough to say that yeah, we are family. All I know time, is that he’s a relative and that he had what I regarded as the coolest job on earth. He was a media person, and I have always wanted to be one. Even though we were not that close, I always felt proud whenever I see his name appear on the credits. I said to myself that someday, my name will also be flashed on the TV screen. So I went to college, got myself a degree, and here I am now, a Sped teacher. 😀 What happened along the way is another issue. ^_^
We arrived at the PETA theater with enough time to chitchat with some of my cousins and other relatives as well. They, too, were there to show support to Tito Phil.

Going back to the play, CareDivas is the story of five gay caregivers working in Israel. In the morning, they individually attend to their old and sickly patients. At night, these five different persons transform into “D’ Nightingales” – one all-diva singing group. They perform in a small club, and a humble dream of making it big in Tel Aviv motivates them to treat every performance as if it were the last.

As they work together to live the dream, conflicts start to rock the boat.

Bombings all over Israel. Immigration officers who keep on showing up. Deportations. The nasty and saintly employers. The mysterious guy (I remember how girls used to scream whenever he comes out on the stage ^_^) who makes one diva go gaga over love.

Lies. Pretensions. Sacrifices. Love.

The divas have their own stories to tell, but what brought them together is their lifelong passion of upholding the lives of their families back in the Philippines.

After watching it, I concluded that the  play explicitly revealed two things: first is the unheard, unseen and unspoken of issues experienced by most of our Overseas Filipino Workers, and second is the society’s acceptance of people from the third sex.

Having a father whose work is in another country, I was able to relate to some of the scenes portrayed by the divas. Who knows if your loved ones working abroad deal with hardcore nightmare everyday? Being an OFW is no joke at all.

CareDivas reinforces the call for gender equality: that being gay knows no boundaries as well. With us living in this time, the gay community are no longer confined in the four corners of salons. Moreover, the play teaches the audience to learn how to be true to oneself. Self-acceptance is the step to much bigger chance of being respected by a wider range of people.

Straight eye for the queer guy? =)

Kayla (Jerald Napoles) with my sister Kat

The diva who really caught my attention (aside from Jonee of course) was Kayla, portrayed by Jerald Napoles. For me, he had the greatest singing voice… and I forgot to mention, he has a very nice body. Being the diva who got deported back to PI, he delivered many of the dramatic lines. He was able to tickle our funny bones – especially the first dancing scene where he bumped and grind just like an experienced macho dancer. Oh and by the way, I heard he is very much straight. You are one great actor, Mr. Napoles. Too bad I was not able to  have a photo op with you.

MACHO SHOT. L-R: kuya mark, AG, kayla (jerald napoles) and JC

As what I have mentioned earlier in this post, the main reason why we watched the play is because of Tito Phil. More than being proud of him, I am happy to see him perform on stage because of his commendable skills in acting. If he has to be mataray, he will be mataray. If he needs to shift his emotions, he does so in a manner that is hard to notice.  I never knew also that he could sing! =) And he just looked dashing when he was in his blondie attire. He is indeed a true diva – forever and beyond. =)

My grandmother was all-smiles the entire play! She was so proud of her nephew that she was one of the many people who rushed out of the theater when the play ended, so she could have her picture taken with Tito Phil.

And boy, she got her wish granted. =) Awesome is the word for you, our dear Jonee! =) Congratulations!

me, jonee (Tito Phil), mama nita, kat

jonee (tito phil), mom, me

jonee (tito phil) and jc

L-R: mama nita, tito blas, jonee, tito vic

This is a must-see, seriously. CareDivas is a musical play that will have you laughing and crying at the same time. It has so many lessons to impart that it would be hard for me to write ’em one by one.  PETA is once more successful in producing a play worth your time, money and energy. With a handful of legendary actors as cast, there is no doubt that you would want to watch it for the 2nd time around.

This afternoon delight brought by PETA is something unforgettable for me. A show like this gives me hope that more and more Filipinos will soon appreciate the real entertainment offered by theater. I am positive that PETA would continue to create more plays that would exhibit the realities of a Filipino’s way of life.

We are all stars. We will shine, come the perfect time. We are all divas.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of CareDivas! It was definitely a great show.

***You can still catch Care Divas until March,2011. Reserve your tickets now!

Contact Peta at  (02) 7256244, (02) 4100821-22, 0917-5765400, petatheater@gmail.com

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