Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Anna-Come-Lately (My Secret Life as Scrabble Addict)

I have always been a late bloomer and adopter.

I almost flunked kindergarten, was the perennial "it" in tumbang preso and touch-ball games; didn't go out unchaperoned until the eve of my wedding; didn't learn a sport until I was 40; didn't learn to bike, drive, swim, dance, sing .. period.

I didn't begin to wear the miniskirt until it was on the way out. I never even dared put on the hot pants. I was a late adopter of the shoulder pads -- am still wearing a pair now and have vowed to wear them till death do us part.

When I meet friends of my youth, they still manage to recognize me -- thanks to a hairstyle that I have stuck with through thick and thinning hair.

I caught up with the bus of IT just in the nick of time, but not until my heart fairly burst with huffing. I was a recalcitrant who refused to touch the computer with a ten-foot pole. A straggler who wouldn't surrender her BIC ballpens and yellow lined pads until she was threatened with "touch or go." As I didn't want to go, I touched, nay, embraced the technology. How was I to know I would fall in love with it? I now have a permanent love affair with Word, Excel, and Publisher. Incredibly, I had a fling with FrontPage when my director bullied me into updating our official webpage.

They say that life begins at 40. But true to form, mine began much much later. My online life, that is.

I was born the day I stumbled on an online game.

Now, there are games and games ... and there is internet scrabble.

Imagine yourself before your PC, playing your favorite word game with a live opponent miles away. As you wait for her/him to form a word, you chat: "hi," "good luck," "where are you from," what time is it where you are?" You might be playing with an American first. Next, a Canadian, an Indian, a Singaporean, a Thai, a Briton. Or most delightful of all, a fellow Pinoy, who might be living just off the campus where you work or as far away as Oregon or Hawaii.

Pinoys are easy to spot. They like to use give-away names. I clicked Taray, Manlalaban, Dagohoy, Kurdapia, Bongga, and Tubongph because I could giddily say "kumusta" at the start of the game and "ang galing" when they "bingo" -- which is scrabble jargon for when one uses all seven letters in the rack in a single move. Those who live far away would eagerly ask about the weather in Manila, the level of cheating in the last elections, the casualty count in yet another supertyphoon. Others would turn out, delightfully, to be Philippine-based Filipinos who would suddenly drop by.

As in real life, you meet all kinds. You tell them you are from the Philippines and the reactions are mixed -- from rave (wow! cool!) to rant (how did someone from the third world learn to play English scrabble?). There are those who play quietly all the way and those who would divert you from taking your turn by non-stop chatter. You meet players who would generously pass when you accidentally misplayed your turn, and those who jam the board to block every move, playing as though winning were a matter of life and limb.

The nice thing about the site is you can "buddy" the very nice and "no-play" the absolutely un-nice. You can see when a buddy enters and leaves the site, play and chat him, even observe and kibitz him when he is playing with another. As for those whom you have no-played, as far as you're concerned, they might as well be in limbo.

When you make a new buddy in the site, you begin to paint a portrait in your mind. You start with a silhouette seated before a PC. Then you add brushstroke after brushstroke -- man, woman or androgyne; young, old or middling; white, black or in between; plump, lean or just so. The more intricate strokes are for drawing the inner person -- family man or free spirit; happy or brooding; friendly or taciturn; straight-talking, subtle, or funny. So the portrait grows, but is never finished. You add, delete, refine. The wonderful thing is, unless you meet your buddies face to face -- which is unlikely -- they can be (more or less) what you imagine them to be.

You don't get too attached to a portrait you've made or you're a candidate for heartbreak. Be ready to junk a portrait because, let's face it, online friendships are so ad hoc. But you learn not to mind, because out there in the online world are thousands -- nameless, faceless, waiting to be clicked on and played with and made a portrait of. And let's put it this way -- what if your online buddy just collapses and dies -- and he will do it offline of course. Will anyone bother to inform you about it? Sorry, bud, online friends are in the category of illegitimate children.

We scrabblers in the internet -- we have affinity with each other. We talk about our neglected families, call our spouses scrabble widows/widowers, our children scrabble orphans. We talk about our family threatening to send us to Rehab. We discuss about organizing Scrabblers Anonymous -- similar to AA -- and worry there would be no one to attend the meetings because everyone would be -- where else? -- online!

What is in a computer monitor that makes you tell a stranger deep dark secrets you wouldn't tell your best friend? Someone told me she was gay and that only I and the closet knew. Another confided about having a terminal illness and a year to live. Yet another talked of having the most awesome telephone sex the night before.

And you know what, dreaded retirement suddenly seems tolerable.

Until then, excuse me, while I log on.


twelve-verses said...

Mommy! Don't worry, we won't send you to Rehab! As long as you don't snap at us when we interrupt you for playing. Hehehe. Love ya.

- Mylene

Anonymous said...

hi fellow word pusher! still fresh to me the FIRST TIMES i used to play online with you. u were so bubbly if i may call you one. not for winning most of the games (LOL) but i really enjoy playing that ANNRYM in ISC.

it was a big break for me when you gave me the handle of ronald credo, tiger2002... SALAMAT PO! LOL...

how i wish you could join me in actual tourneys.

and... keep on playing with me in ISC, he he...

i am not that good. see how my surname is helping me - MELVIN DALANGIN!

please take some time to post a feature article at inquirer re scrabble in philippines and in general. it's the power of your composition that will take this brain-squeezer game to a higher heights. surely this will entice those scrabble enthusiasts to participate on actual tourneys. The moment your article hits the paper things will never be the same again.

You will create thousands of instant jobs coz more schools will formally include that in PE or at most a subject to be considered thus more INSTRUCTORS... baka pwede ako dyan... he he.

Let us make it sound like we are calling the attention of our government sector to support this sports (???). Yes SPORTS!!! Just like Chess.

you know i have to pause for now. baka wala ng sense ang sinasabi ko. ang galing galing mo kasing magsulat.



annamanila said...

Thanks for letting your arm be twisted into reading my blog. Will try to write more about scrabble to entice you back. Haha. Yup, let's discuss how we can bring scrabble into national consciousness ... its anomalous that there's no Filipino world champ in scrabble yet (as far as I know). Perhaps you and your group can organize an event -- something different that will call attention, be a springboard for action. See you at isc. Btw, anonymous-anonymous ka pa dyan eh sinabi mo din ang yong buong pangalan. LOL

rhodora said...

Hello, Anna! I clicked your site from the link on Noemi's blog.

I am also a mom, have 3 grown up kids, and have been blogging for a year now. When I visit other sites, I feel like I am out of place, kasi napansin ko, parang wala akong ka-age - puro mga bata sila. But what the heck - the blogosphere is not owned by the young, and technology is for everybody!

Like you, I am also a late bloomer. For me then, internet was meant only for emails, until I discovered blogging.

I hope to read more of your writings here... you have such great style!

annamanila said...

Hi Rhodora. You made my day. You're the first person to post a comment here who is neither relative nor friend. :) Did you read my "hurting, coping healing: stories of women betrayed." You can access the series by clicking on "view full profile" on my page. I should have put it where it's visible rather than tucked up in that corner. But I am really still groping -- can't configure my page to my specifications. Well, I guess it will mature and "grow out." Will you send me a link to your site? Would be great to read insights of a kindred spirit.

faith said...

hi miss anna,

I got here through Noemi's blog. Count me in as another reader. Unlike you, except for my hubby,it is my family who does not know about my blog. Let's just say that it is there where I can write most freely.

annamanila said...

Faith! Thank you, thank you! Noemi did promise to announce my blog "to the world." She's really well-read ha -- a benchmark to aspire for. Your kids do not know about your site? I wonder why. No, you don't have to answer that. Maybe I find answers in the pieces of your mind you let out in your site. Can I visit it. Tell me how.

jonsaint said...

All of a sudden I thought of those online friends who became inactive all of a sudden. How would we know if they're dead?

faith said...


By family I mean my dad and sisters. I only have a daughter, 2 years old, and she is the inspiration for my blog.
Just click on the link "faith" in this comment, and voila, you'll be in my blog.

annamanila said...

Rhodora! My comments on your wonderful piece on loving/focusing on yourself couldn't get through .. it's being filtered by a spam guard. (Should I be flattered i am mistaken for spam?) Well, i just wanted to say its absolutely ok to take care of yourself .. for how can you nurture others (and you have to -- being a mom) if you don't have well-being. All best.

Toe said...

You are soooo funny! How could you flunk Kindergarten? :)

Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad you did because I also found out your blog.

I'm also a latebloomer when it comes to the Internet. Hey, I didn't know I could play scrabble online. :) I do the jigzaw puzzles though.

annamanila said...

Toe, thanks for straying into my parlor (almost like the mountain going to mohammat). I didn't really flunk kindergarten, I dropped out of it (as far as my memory goes). I will invoke literary license -- and I am very, very licentious. :)

annamanila said...

Toe! Thanks for straying into my parlor (almost like the mountain going to Mohammat). No, I didn't really flunk kindergarten. I dropped out of it (as far as my rusty memory goes). I invoke literary license -- and I am very very licentious. And yes, you can play online scrabble -- i know of at least three great sites. Let me know if you're interested.

rhodora said...

Hi, Anna! Yes, I'm having problems with my comments, the Spam eater is eating all. I'm still figuring out how to fix them.

Thanks for tagging me. I'll try to do the meme... hehehe, you know what - we have similar secrets.. ganyang ganyan din ako... hiding chocolates, reading diaries and letters...

I'll link you to my site. Let's invade the blogging world - MOM POWER! LOL!

annamanila said...

Rhodora! Yup, I will link you to my site just as soon as I figure out how. :)) Will check on you every now and then to see about the meme and whether the inordinate spamguarding is already fixed. Mom power! -- now, that's a good one!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna, what a refreshing bit of literati! Loved your blogging, and it sounds like I am not alone in being a late bloomer as well though I'm not yet a blogger, I had only ever read one other bloggers site and I decided it wasnt for me but now I am not so sure.

I wasnt far off base when I called you effervescent, now that I have read these lines. Very enjoyable Anna and I will return.

Funny you should mention the fact that bloggers and online players might turn up their toes offline and we would never know. I was thinking that very thing recently and I decided to include in my last wishes that one of my kids would go to the ISC and send a message to my buddies saying I had recently 'turned up my tiles' so to speak, otherwise they might well wonder what had become of me. Most of them know I spend a great deal of time there.

Loved your site and thank you for checking to see if I had visited yet. Keep up the good work, other women and men will relate very well to your insights on life. Aimless

annamanila said...

Aimless! Your comments must have overwhelmed me. See, I wrote a piece on living will and will to live. I have just posted it.

Thanks a mil for the encouragement and the inspiration.

Leah said...

Do you play Scrabble on line at My handle there is muni-muni.

I also play Literati, leave me a message with your yahoo mail and I'll invite you to mine.

hope we can catch each other on-line ad play one time.

annamanila said...

My playing name at scrabulous is, what else, anna. But I haven't played there for a while.

My real scrabble home is isc (internet scrabble club, and my handle there is annrym (go figure -- lol). Try it? Go to, register a username and password, wait a few seconds and you get a confirmation. Then you're ready to go. I usually play weekends late morning or early evening or weekdays after 10. (Blogging, however, has kept me from playing some days -- haha)

Email me when you want to play. I can also go to scrabulous if u want. Let's set a scrabble date. LOL

See we got more things in common than the obvious.

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