All Wrapped UpBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Ever been to one of your relative’s houses, perhaps located in one of those ‘Pinoydoms’ along the Peninsula or the East Bay, hoping for some downtime?
You knock. They open the door, ask you if you had eaten but all you want to do is rest and logically eye their couch. You sit and sink slowly into the cushions. You try to relax but soon realize something odd - the couch begins enveloping your jeans akin to how a Venus flytrap slowly devours its prey. Once you realize your situation, it’s too late. Your thighs, your arms, already sweaty have merged with the couch’s outer coverings creating a sticky, if not unpleasant situation. You cringe in dismay but what can you do? They’ve covered the couches in, what else, but plastic.
Yes. That hideously thick layer of wondrous clearness that becomes uncomfortable the second you realize it isn’t leather. I encounter it every time I go to my Uncle Cristobal’s house. They saran wrap every piece of furnishing they have, not exactly the most comfortable situation for guests. But it accomplishes what they set out to do - keeping their décor from the retro 80’s looking like new - 25 freaking years later.
Now, if you’re Filipino, obviously you realized that it doesn’t stop with the plastic. Any type of material - old bed sheets, timeless draperies - as long as its surface area could manifest itself around something weighing over a ton and has yet to be tossed into the next box across the Pacific, is likely to be gingerly placed around any parcel of furnishing in the house. Couches, bookshelves, stuffed animals - you name it. Nothing is off limits.
Pianos are prime targets. My Ate Winnie used pure white covers for her old piano; my Ate Aileen donned hers with more tropical designs with hints of seagreen and teal while my mother covered hers with a nice thick pink bed sheet. My Aunty Gene went further wrapping her piano in a fuzzy material akin to Little Red Riding Hood’s coat. Just watch out if you’re wearing any Velcro though since you’ll likely to get stuck onto her cover like a fly on a spider web.
Electronics, just like furniture, are just as well covered. In my house, we cover anything and everything from televisions, VCRs, computer towers - even each of my gaming systems like my classic Nintendo 8-bit had their own, be it smaller covers. I’ve got to hand it to my Dad for resourcefulness though. Old t-shirts already filled with holes make for useful computer covers. And why buy expensive plastic see-through covers when your old underwear would suffice as a great cover for your fax machine. Just make sure you don’t accidentally step on it like I did - underwear becomes good camouflage on the floor.
I’ve become very anti-cover growing up this way. I couldn’t stand that after the ‘extra decorating’, the house looked as if someone is about to paint inside - or if you turn off the lights, there happens to be a host of ghosts in your living room - which is ironic considering how terrified my relatives are of ghosts.
But I’ll admit though, as much as you try to steer away from it, you get so used to it. My mother wrapped our piano in that pink bed sheet for 14 years now but taking the bed sheet off one day, the piano just didn’t look right. It needs the cover somewhat. It’s become a part of the instrument. I’ve become desensitized to the covers!
Some would say such deeds are done in part since we’re lazy and in effect, covering stuff detaches ourselves from the responsibilities of cleaning. But perhaps it’s more likely such folk, accustomed to having maids back home, desire for that life again where things looked like new, however many years after their date of purchase. We’ve evolved in response to our new environment, a maid-less culture if you will, by finding easier ways through life via the support of layers of cloth and plastic. In a way, the plastic has become our new maid - so to speak.
I tried using conventional methods like using Armor All to keep my things new and uncovered. But following in the footsteps of my ancestors is inevitable - below the rear window of my chading, I covered the back using the white casings given for coats and suits from Banana Republic to protect it from fading. O well.
I guess Sharika was right.
Underneath your clothes there is an endless story - or maybe just your fax machine. - PDM
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