Why I feel lucky (and tonight, drinks are on me)

(This is not a Fair Play entry but a "pa-senti entry.") 

Today, I turn 34.  And I'm lucky to reach this age.

I had a ruptured appendix in third grade and the poison had already spread I was told. That was in 1988.  In 1997, as a sophomore college student, I woke up with a massive “hangover,” in a hospital, the one induced by a smooth, fist-sized stone administered by a group of tambays.

We were on our way home from somewhere, when, our drinking buddies told us to be careful as they were going to beat up two guys.  

There were two guys ahead of us, so we told ourselves, "Those guys are going to get it." Then I heard folks running, turned around and the last thing I saw was this massive stone.  I woke up in the emergency room and the doctor—wary of the chemicals already in my bloodstream—was unwilling to administer more anesthesia. Getting stitched without one is a rather unforgettable experience.

"You're lucky you got hit just above your eye, and not at the back of your head," I was told.

It was a crazy night.  We were two young and stupid college students who were screaming "If God really exists, let it rain beer, drugs tonight…”  It didn’t of course. 

It must have been the chemicals but what made me turn my head that moment wasn’t the footsteps I heard--we already thought the two guys ahead of us were going to get it. What made me turn and avoid getting hit in the back of my head, was when I heard a soft voice say, "Michael." 

"Michael," not “Mike” and up to this day, I still don't know whether I really heard it or I imagined it.

I was 18 and a few months after that I got a gig as a correspondent and got fired after six months.  There was some sabotage, but it was my fault too, as I disappeared for two days after another binge.

I got another writing gig in 2000, because my brother was trying to get me off the streets just as a fellow activist of mine was found in Leyte, peppered by bullets.  So he got me a gig in and it ended after a year when after yet another binge, I woke up in a hospital, with a tube down my mouth. It's not a pretty picture.  The combination of uppers and downers wasn’t accidental.

I still remember one of my best pieces I wrote in this period was a feature about a boxer struggling to comeback after an addiction. It went like this, "MINUTES before a fight, the boxer warms up, moving, weaving, bobbing and throwing punches here and there. As beads of perspiration roll down his face… his eyes lock on a fictional foe in a picture of grace in motion --shadowboxing. 

However, 28-year-old ------, a three-time former RP champion, will be doing more than shadowboxing, in his bid to retain lost glory. He’ll have to outbox and conquer the shadows of his past that has hovered over his horizon like a dark unwanted cloud…"

I was high as a kite on that unwanted cloud when I wrote that.

A few days after waking up in the hospital (highlighted by a pretty student nurse who knocked on the room and said…Sir, I’m going to remove the catheter), I got sent home. A few weeks later, I met a girl who would be my wife seven years later.  Like I told her, if all those things didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have her or Mico.  Fate has its funny ways sometimes.

A few months of cooling off at home, I finally exercised the demon with the help of daily trips to the tennis court. I tell you, finally getting to say, “No!” is a wonderful experience. After a year, I returned to Cebu and once, I met a former source of mine and she had a funny look and she said, “I thought you were dead!” That Mike maybe, but not this one. 

Then I got another writing gig, and so far, it’s been quite a ride.  I started as a correspondent again and after finishing my AB Sociology degree at USC—the only department willing to accept me—in 2005, I was made a staff member. Then in less than two years, I became copy editor, assistant sports editor then the sports editor and got a column.  It was also at this time I started my blog, which I think is one of the longest-running blogs in the country.

It was also this time that I saw something that I would never see in my lifetime and it all started in that magical night in Hanoi.  Footie fans have dealt with this for years,  getting derided for our dreams, and suddenly they are within reach.  

Pre-2010, colleagues scoff at me for pushing football, and they’ll say, “Just accept the fact, we are hopeless in football!”  They went gaga over Phil.  They still scoff, but hey, football in the Philippines is mainstream now, scoff all you want.  

Today, I turn 34.  And I’m lucky to be a football writer in the time of the Azkals.  Just imagine, I come up with jokes for stories sometimes and they get republished as news?  A question I asked during a meeting last year led to Face-Off.

People ask why don’t I travel with the Azkals and all. But I’m content with being from the outside looking in.  Plus I don’t have a passport and I’m afraid there might be remnants of those wild days that might be uncovered by tests (there are tests, right?) that come with getting one.  

Plus I hate traveling and big cities.

I’m 34 and I’m lucky that I can look back at some of the stupid things that I’ve done.

Let’s all share my luck and tonight, drinks are on me.  Go to your favorite bar, my friend Mike Hu will pay for it.  As we loved to say back then, “Go morning the night!”

When you get the bill, just say “Mike will pay for it,” and if the waiter says, “Mike who?” 

Just tell him, “That’s the guy!”


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