10 July 2013

placeholder pondering

Chatting with a dear friend of mine days ago, she dropped a term that I never hear applied to people that much: placeholder

Did a quick look at online definitions and this is what came up:

Placeholder- name, words that can refer to objects or people, whose names are unknown or irrelevant
- Filler text, shares some characteristics of a real written text, but is random or otherwise generated
-Lorem ipsum, text used to demonstrate the font, typography or layout in a document 

So that lorem ipsum thing I am familiar with, being a writer and all, and seeing it posted as dummy text in incomplete websites or in sample book layouts. Yes, that's what I hear people use more often: dummy text. Words that are just there as dummies in lieu of the real content. 

Then I checked one more definition and it now pertained to people, but in a specific arena.

Placeholder (politics), a person appointed to an office temporarily, until a permanent replacement can be chosen. 

Until a permanent replacement can be chosen. So a placeholder is a temp. Could never be promoted, could get fired anytime. In the Philippine workplace, perhaps the term I am more familiar with is substitute. Like when I began teaching 8 years ago, I was "only" a substitute teacher sitting in on the post/item of someone there in the cog. When that someone takes a vacation or leaves, the post/item remains. So they put in a substitute until they are able to get a new post/item to put the substitute in. Which is also what happened to me, eventually. But this kind of placeholder has more quality in it. Like you're just a substitute because you have no item. But you're still there because they value your capacity as an individual, and you are not just a "dummy person" standing there for someone else. So you are not a placeholder, technically. Because placeholders are temporary, and they have less value actually.

Now to apply being a placeholder in a love life discourse? Yep, now I see it: it's possible. Like someone is just a placeholder for someone until the real person one truly desires arrive. Now that's quite new to me. Maybe it's just a matter of semantics or, I don't know, slight cultural differences, but the term is new to me -- yet the concept is not.

Maybe I'm more used to terms like being the spare tire in a relationship or being number 2 or number 3. Our culture has more of that. Sa Filipino, marami ding terms. Ikaw lang ay panakip-butas, panandalian, mga ganyan. Stuff of OPM songs and melodramas, ganyan. Or kung mga mas matinding pagkakategoryang may paghusga, puwede kang 'yung jowa na ipapakilala sa parents, 'yung jowang di puwedeng iuwi sa bahay, babae/lalaking puwedeng pakasalan, o babae/lalaki na pangkama lang. Pero wala pa yata akong alam na direct translation ng pagiging placeholder.

But as my friend expounded, I immediately got the idea of the placeholder because in one of the worlds I inhabit, we have a term for that, actually: stand-in. In the film industry, when big-named actors need to stand in front of the lights and camera while the crew fixes and measures things for the upcoming shoot, they call in people to stand in for the actors. Dapat katulad ng artistang tatayo doon -- ka-height, ka-weight, ka-skin tone lalo na, and if possible, isuot niya 'yung costume/wardrobe na isusuot ng artista sa eksenang iniilawan. Stand-in. Hindi ka si Ate Vi pero iilawan nila ang eksena na para kang si Ate Vi. You are just there in place of her. And when they are ready to shoot the scene, you are no longer needed and the real Ate Vi steps in. Roll direk na ang peg.

Stand-in. Placeholder. I never thought that this could also be applied to someone in love. Like imagine being devoted and loyal to someone whom you think should be "the one" for you yet it is revealed that, all along, you are nothing but a placeholder, someone to just call "jowa ko" for the sake of having a jowa. And this is evident in the way she sees you, the way she actually characterizes you, that when you hear it, it's like she already built a deranged obsessive possessive monster of a person that's supposed to be you. And you've always wondered how she actually looks at you or thinks about you. Funny how a person who ocassionally tells you she loves you also looks at you as a spawn of the relationship devil. All because of her need to have a placeholder in her life, perhaps. Which is indeed sad, so sad. It's like getting someone dahil "puwede na 'yang maging jowa" or simply because no one better is available at that moment. 

Was rereading one of my favorite comics this morning and 
it's funny that I stumbled upon a discourse similar to 
what I'm blogging about here. 'Yung konsepto na 
"ideya lang na andiyan 'yung isang tao sa buhay mo"
 ang peg. Pak na pak. Zaturnnah!

Puwede rin namang nainlab talaga ng husto sa iyo 'yung tao, in fairness. Pero after some time, habang nagkakakilanlan kayo ng husto, puwedeng naiiba na ang opinyon niyo sa isa't isa. O kaya 'yung isa lang sa inyo ang nagbabago ng paningin sa maraming kadahilanan. At imbes na magkaroon siya ng guts na sabihin sa 'yo ang tunay niyang nararamdaman, tinatago na lang niya hanggang sa lumaki na nang lumaki ang negatibong imahe mo sa isip niya, hanggang sa isang araw, sasabog na lang ito nang wala kang ka-clue-clue man lang na ganun na pala ang pagtingin niya sa iyo. Kasi nga placeholder ka na lang pala, nariyan lang para masabing may jowa siya, o sayang naman kasi may nakukuha naman siyang ganansiya dahil nandiyan ka pa, tulad ng pag-aaruga at pagmamahal at kung ano pang binibigay sa iyo ng tao. Placeholder ka kaya andiyan ka lang, pero di ka puwedeng isama sa ibang bahagi ng buhay niya, o di kaya'y ayaw niyang mag-participate ka sa ibang bahagi ng buhay niya. 

And this is how I learn that people who treat people as placeholders are not serious in taking the relationship to the next level -- because the placeholder lover is just someone who should be there in the present but there's no real guarantee of a future life together. Well, the thing is, I'm actually okay with this set-up if it was clear from the beginning. But to have it set-up like ikaw talaga ang gaganap ng role ni Ate Vi tapos kapag puwede nang tumakbo ang eksena, patatabihin ka na lang kasi stand-in ka na lang pala. Medyo masaklap yata iyon. 

Nakakatawa. Minsan na akong naging stand-in sa pelikula. Mga 1996 iyon, katipo ko pa sa pangangatawan at buhok si Beth Tamayo. Hindi lang ako nag-stand in sa kanya sa shoot, nag-double din ako. Like sinuot ko 'yung damit niya at sumakay sa loob ng van na kunwari ako siya, tapos saka nag-roll cam at ayun, nasama ako sa shoot ng eksena. Kasama ako sa eksena, pero tago nga lang. Nakatalikod, madilim. Siyempre hindi puwedeng makita na ako 'yun at hindi si Beth 'yun. 'Yan ang buhay pelikula.

Sa relasyon, puwede ring gawin 'yang double. Parang kloseta ka lang kung di ka out. Nagtatagpo lang kayo ng jowa mo sa "dilim" o basta malayo sa mapanghusgang mata ng mga kakilala niyong ayaw sa relasyong lesbiyana. Pero at least kahit kloseta ka, hindi ka stand-in o temporary o placeholder lang. Ito, alam niyang ikaw ang gusto niya bilang jowa, pero di nga lang puwedeng ilantad dahil maraming bulilyasong magaganap. Okay naman ako sa ganun. Been there, done that. Ilang beses ko na bang sinamahan ang mga jowa ko sa kanilang mga kloseta. Minsan masaya, minsan hindi. Pero dahil ako ang pinili nila para pumasok doon, okay ako doon.

Pero parang di yata ako okay sa pagiging placeholder lang. 'Yung hindi aaminin sa iyo ang tunay niyang nararamdaman, ang tunay niyang iniisip. Na hindi ka dapat kasali sa maraming usapin sa buhay niya. Na parang wala ka na sa pagpaplano niya ng future niya. Parang naiiwan ka. O kaya mas masaklap, tatapunan ka lang niya ng pansin kapag may extra siyang oras o panahon. In this day and age, we are all busy with our professional lives. Who isn't? But our personal lives shouldn't suffer from that, too. And I think if you chose to be with someone for a "loving relationship," then at least uphold the loving part of that term, and not just keep it for the relationship part to get back to whenever you're free. And it's not even about juggling priorities, or misunderstanding priorities, or accusing one party of misunderstanding the other party's juggling of priorities. It's not about that. It's about handling what you could handle, handling it properly, and being honest to the other party about this handling. Para lang malinaw ang lahat. Pero kung marami palang kalabuan, parang mahirap na yata iyon.

Siguro kung ganun, mas okay na let it go na lang muna. I mean, why commit then leave someone hanging or keep someone in the dark, right? Especially when that someone has been nothing but helpful, loyal, loving, caring and careful of you and your relationship pero ni hindi man lang maambunan ng kaunting panahon para ma-acknowledge 'yun. Mas mortal sin yata iyon. Now that, medyo may Pinoy term na puwedeng magamit for that -- paasa. So siguro, that's the closest translation that we could give to the placeholder word: paasa. Like paasa na lang na mahal ka pa niya nang tunay, nang malaliman, nang totoo. Pero ang totoo pala, nandiyan ka lang kasi, wala, gusto lang niyang andiyan ka, intay ka lang, standby. Will get back to you after the break. Parang commercial lang. Hindi ka kasama sa regular programming. O kaya andun ka sa programa, ang laki-laki ng role mo, pero walang acknowledgment man lang sa credits, kahit 'yung mula sa kanya lang. 

Interesting. So in between being in a closeted relationship and being someone's placeholder, which would you choose? It's very tricky, 'no? It truly is. Case to case basis din kasi iyan. I've known friends who were willing placeholders because they get things out of it. Sex, companionship, friendship, stuff that are okay. Many friends are in serious long-term closeted relationships because it's healthy for them, even if there are many challenges as well. When one of them is asked "But can you live without her?" and the answer is "No" because there is genuine love and affection in it, then it's worth having and keeping, even if it's below the radar.  May mga ayaw naman ng isa, nung isa pa, o pareho. Depende na nga 'yun sa tao.

Me? I dunno. Been there, done that na rin ang peg ko sa pareho. Kaya siguro, it's just time to focus on other things in life, and finally choose me. So yeah, I choose being single. Because I am nobody's placeholder. I am nobody's afterthought. And I definitely hate being put on standby mode. There's no point in being with someone who's already hell-bent on seeing you as a substitute, a temp, or worse, a villain. I guess this is the lesson I'm learning a lot lately.

Lamyerda time na lang. Masaya pa. Kitakits na lang. Again, life's too short to be stagnant, like I always say. Like the river, flow. Like the wind, blow. And like a bird, fly.

No day but today. 


  1. Hmmmm... margarita lang katapat nyan. Tara inom tayo. - Glendale