(NOW, I am thinking of how such title may sound a tad off, like invoking certain macho colors, a typical TV commercial where the target market – men, young men, teenage men – is offered some alcoholic drink – wine, vodka, champagne, rum, gin – and of course women will appear in the commercial, dahil sa #patriarchy, or to paraphrase Olivia Laing wrote: Women make their way in the real world, “the world of men, only while they were sexually” current. “Afterwards, they vanished completely…” If women are present, it is likely that they are for sale – their physique, their tears, their humor – or they are selling something—alcohol, a men’s cologne, a vulca seal na pantapal sa tumutulong kisame.)

Quite a digression for an opener, and also let me call attention to how the Laing quote did not contain any second letter (it actually did, I had to paraphrase), the letter that follows “A”- for alas, this is already my second column for Chronicle this year, and so following the constraint I detailed last time, each column shall avoid using one letter: the first column avoids the first letter, the second column avoids the second letter, the third avoids the third letter, and so on.

It was the same essay Olivia penned – “Drink, drink, drink: women writers and alcohol” from her collection Funny Weather – which prompted this column. The earlier quote was also from this essay. In the second paragraph, Olivia wrote: “Alcoholism is more prevalent in men than women. … Still, there’s no shortage of female drinkers, no lack of falling-down afternoons…. Another paragraph later, she quotes Marguerite Duras: “Alcoholism is scandalous in a woman, and a female alcoholic is rare, a serious matter. It’s a slur on the divine in our nature.” Of course, I am looking for stuff to quote which defer to my constraint: the non-presence of the second letter, the letter that follows “A.” Yet not only do the quotes have to lack the second letter, they must also have certain qualities: of resonance, of radiance, of prettiness.

  So I read this Laing essay, and I recall this long-proposed writing project, to touch on the culture of drinking in the Cordillera. The writer’s group in the city was once eyed to lead this creative endeavor. I distinctly recall Ser Frank – an editor in this newspaper – zealously discussing the proposal, tossing ideas around, giving off energies that say C’mon let’s do this. I distinctly recall as well, Kelly Ramos, who just had her natal day a few days ago: she was the last head of the writer’s group when Ser Frank was tossing around his zeal, discussing his ideas some swirling, drunken evenings ago in Rumours, or perhaps Luisa’ssame difference halos.

  So I opened with parentheses, digressions and then the Laing essay and here I arrive at where I wanted to start: the wonderful women I met in the City of Pines, and have I ever shared wine, or rum, or some kind of alcohol with them? With Kelly, once or twice siguro: one in Volante Pacdal, when her friend Lyra visited, and then another time in her cave in Crystal Cave, when Jesa and Nikki and I came over just to dawdle, look at Asin Road at night, pretend to doodle while Kelly does her serious art works, oil and paint and canvases and wood complete. Were we too polite around Ta Luch that’s why we never had alcohol with her, just coffee in Narda’s way, way lifetimes and summers ago when she met us Pedantic pips, Levi and Janine, exchanging views on art and radical movements, poetry and car rides to the old spot of Mt. Cloud. Or tea, or coffee, with lots of pastries a few times in her house, where we used to have meetings for our Tuklas project. 

When I first met Miss Kora, it was the Martial Law commemoration, the ninth month (that month has the second letter) of 2017. Kelly introduced us, I guess? We had dinner at Cathy’s after the program at People’s Park. Perhaps I am inventing memories: I recall her asking us, Kelly, Kislap and I if anyone wants to have this common alcoholic drink that is usually named pale pilsen or red horse. I think we had one each?  And then she said that was her treat; someone – was it her? her daughter? – had a natal day, or something. 

Ate Auds would never hurt a fly, yet she will express her indignation at fascists and human rights violators; she knows her priorities. She also sticks to her gastronomical preferences: favoring tea, or even coffee, over alcohol. I recall someone whose name has the second letter so let me just refer to her as SJ Lara—her name in this social media site? She arrived at an evening program in Malcolm once – I guess it was for the Ampatuan Massacre. She was evidently drunk and was dancing and I envied her, on account of two reasons: (1) she was drunk and (2) she was dancing… in People’s Park.

  These women I admire in the littlest and quietest and giddiest of ways. Do I wish I shared more alcoholic drinks with them? Perhaps, perhaps not; I swim in the non-committal. I wish though that whenever I get the chance to set my palms and feet on the City of Pines again (or Cagayan de Oro, for that matter), I could see them, without fail, and then we can have pale, or some homemade tea, or some super strong coffee that will make us drunk, to mess with this French writer Charles whose surname starts with the second letter: not with poetry nor with virtue or with wine; instead, with mirthful laughter, or the stupendous silence accompanying proximity, fully content with mere nearness.