Forget I said cheese

My wallet isn't exactly a mess. Barring, of course, the many ATM withdrawal slips that populate the main pocket (and, if you're willing to know, get thrown out every time I get my salary) there isn't much to look at. There are business cards from people I don't even know. There are the usual IDs: my driver's license, my excuse for a company ID. There are two handwritten notes I'm keeping for posterity, but that's for another blog entry. And then there are two photographs. Just two: one's an ID picture of myself, placed on my wallet since it's got nowhere to go. The other one's an old family photo.

It's not really something to be ashamed about, but at one point, I felt it is.

College friends, of course, look through people's wallets, looking at photographs from high school and, as time passed, college itself. (Or was it my cousins? I might have them mixed up, but I'm sure the more mainstream, or comfortable, of people did exactly that.) I've been through that said. I can't remember whose photos I was going through, probably because I didn't really know who were in the photos I was looking at. The last I can say: she's a girl, and those were her high school friends. Studio photos were, of course, all the rage back then.

Okay. I might've mixed this up with my high school classmates. Take note, classmates, not friends.

I did not enjoy my first three months in high school. You know how that went. I was bullied, from the classroom to the corridors to the school bus, and months later I committed my first offense and was kicked out. Those three months began the process of my disillusionment with my generation. We were, I'll admit, very shallow.

"Patingin nga ng cellphone mo," this girl, Karla, said. She's a year higher than me, a little girl with a cute face and a very intimidating personality. She was one of those kids who bossed me around. (Who didn't?) But I was clueless, of course. I probably thought she's interested in my phone's contents. That's what we did then, before we started caring about our disappearing privacy. I gave her my stubby, fat phone, which contained text quotes from my mother - yet another fad at the time.

"Puro galing sa mom mo," she remarked. "Loyal ka?"

I actually felt insulted.

And since I only had a family photo on my wallet - I always had, nothing else - it felt like a badge of how far I am compared to my contemporaries. These are the people who go to Picture City at the Alabang Town Center and get their photos taken. Group shot after group shot, a reminder of fun times. During school days, they'd swap these photos. One would take a serious photo ("gusto ko yung serious") and another, a wacky shot ("mas fun!") but whichever way things go, the photographs become a social gathering all the same.

I had the very same thought seven years later. I was in college, in my final year. I just got the contact prints from my yearbook photo. There were ten or so of them, all poised for publication, at least until I rejected them because I liked one particular photo the best. What to do with the rest? Swap them, of course.

The photos I was talking about earlier, some were high school graduation photos, too. There'd always be a dedication on the back, either of a crazy, friendly kind, or if you prefer cheese, the romantic kind. "The past four years are my best because I spent them with you." It's quite obvious the tradition would continue in college, in perhaps the final graduation rites a lucky person would go through.

I only watched the swap happen. My mom took all my contact prints. She wanted to keep one of them but held off picking which one. We all just forgot about it. I don't even know where they are now.

No worry, because nobody was interested in my photos anyway. Nobody went to me and said, "swap tayo ng contact prints!" The tradition was for veteran members of the fraternity - not the kind in Batch '81: that was explicitly banned - and for a person who's looking in from the outside, well, it's a pretty painful experience. You just don't tell them it is a painful experience, because they'll press you for details just so they can mock you.

"Nasa mom ko lahat."

"Loyal ka?"

I took a lot of photographs in college. Everybody knows that. I was armed with either a bad phone camera or a digital camera (I've since inherited that) and took snapshots of anything and everything. "Candid photos, as always," I'd say whenever I brought out my camera. I'd say it to no one.

I've lost my only copy of the photos when my PC's hard drive conked out, but luckily I uploaded most of them on Multiply. Yes, the site everybody abandoned after a layout change. Many people still use it, especially here, so I wasn't surprised when the site announced that they've opened photo printing at a local chain. I was glad, actually. I can choose good photos of me with people - I rarely took photos of myself with people, but I have them - and have them printed and cut in wallet sizes and put them in my wallet, just so I can defend myself from other people. "Hoy, may kaibigan rin ako," as I bring out my wallet and show my duets and my groups.

The difference is, I don't exactly have permission to have those photos in my wallets. Imagine the potential awkwardness in carrying my photo with, say, Ranice on my wallet. Yes, we were pretty close in college. But that was back then. Nothing justifies having it printed specially for my personal consumption, even if it's my photo. I mean, who am I to them now? Right now?

And your responses...

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