The womenfolk in my AOH (area of habitat) were squabbling. The cute daughter of one of them was joining in some United Nations parade, and the kid in question was assigned to represent the country Laos. That won’t happen, the mother was saying, because what would people say if they’d see on the kid’s sash the humiliating words, “Miss Laos.”
It turned out, nobody had no idea what kind of country Laos was, and they thought the teacher was making fun of the kid. In the local language, “laos” in English means something like “washed up” or “has been.” It’s the word you use when you're describing Nora Aunor or one-year-old cell phones. “Miss Laos,” therefore, was very bad for the kid’s self-esteem.
So I came out and pretended I was just walking by. Then casually, I just blurted, “You know what, ladies, Laos is a very rich, highly advanced country.”
All eyes turned to me.
“Laos is so rich and advanced, they have colonies on the moon,” I said. “Laos donates billions of dollars to Japan every month, and Japan is already rich!”
“But Laos sounds… funny,” said the mother.
“No, Laos is not funny. Laos is in fact much better than the Philippines. Half of all the satellites orbiting the Earth have been launched by Laos.”
“Not only that,,” I said, “Laos invented the elephant.”
The ladies chuckled.
“Yeah,” I said. “A bunch of scientists from Laos gathered one day and decided the world could not live on horse alone. They needed something bigger. So they invented the elephant. Which makes “elephant” an original word from Laos. Check the encyclopedia and you'll see.”
Nobody said anything; they just looked at one another and maybe pretended thinking. This is what happens when you’ve somehow earned a reputation as the resident, self-proclaimed know-it-all; people begin to take your words seriously. They see me pounding on my shiny computer, solemnly shaking my head at a wilting plant, mouthing Latin-sounding names that are at least five syllables long, seeing that I actually subscribe to fancy science magazines, and they begin thinking you couldn’t possibly be wrong, ever. Several months of serving them scrumptious megadoses of truths and half-truths that now I can dance on the wide open space of the Bullshit Highway. Now, it would be difficult for somebody else to convince them that Bullshitum ad infinitum is not exactly the scientific name of the Philippine president (or any politician, for that matter).
For example, I told somebody a while ago that the original title of Nick Joaquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels was The Woman Who Had Two Navels...Yeah, Baby, Yeah! And she believed it. I told another that the first English translation of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere was Don’t Touch Me Here, But Touch Me There. That those groundbreaking titles were unfortunately scrapped by uninspired editors in favor of banal, conventional ones we now know today.
“Laos,” I said, “is a very cool country. So if there’s somebody who makes fun of Miss Laos, tell them, ‘You ignorant baboon, Laos is where all rich Americans go to retire and enjoy the good life.'”
I have no idea what happened after that. I just realized later nobody was talking about Laos, anymore. I gather that the kid was very happy about the parade. I would ask the kid about how parading around as Miss Laos felt, but she’s smarter than everybody else; she’d know it was I. And who wants that to happen?