Q. 1: Tell me about his/her childhood or background. – MIGUEL

READ IVY’S RESPONSE TO QUESTION NO. 1.

MIGUEL

Nice café.

 I guess we should order. Yeah, sure. Just brewed. No, it’s okay, I’ll take care of it. Uh, maybe you should just go find us some place to sit.

Right, let’s begin. I printed out the list of questions you emailed and I brought some stuff along that might help. Just some notes and pictures. Printouts mostly, since Ivy made me leave my laptop behind for this interview. In any case, you can pick whichever picture you want to use for your article and I’ll email them to you tomorrow.

Good coffee, by the way.

First item: background information. Well, her name’s Ivy Rosanna Lopez. She’s twenty-five, works as a copywriter at the Kellman & MacArthur Advertising Agency and as one of the top talents for DM Ross, the modeling agency. She’s been working as a commercial model since she was eighteen. Here.

(insert bunch of glossies)

These are the A4-sized glossies taken of her during her first VTR with Glittergals. This was in late April 2000. She left Glittergals a year later to join DM Ross. And here.

(insert pictures of print ad for Shoujo Shine)

Look familiar? Yup, it’s Shoujo Shine, the popular, Tokyo-based clothes line for kids and pre-teens. When it was launched here six years ago, Ivy was chosen as its first image model and her face was plastered on billboards, magazines, newspapers, malls, movie screens, you name it. Shoujo Shine’s not the only thing she’s done, though. Here.

(insert pictures of various shampoo and cologne ads, etc.)

Those are some of the print ads she’s appeared in. She also did a couple of TV commercials and several spreads for Go Girl, Seventeen and Neon. Uh, here.

(insert spread of Go Girl magazine)

Yup, that’s her. I was there when they did this particular shoot. She also ramped twice for this annual fashion show for kids, although I don’t think she enjoyed it. Both times afterward, she went out and got roaring drunk and was depressed for days.

You know, this is really good coffee. Not like the battery acid we drink at the lab. You wouldn’t believe the stuff we—

Sorry. Back to Ivy. Um, she also worked as a copywriter for an advertising firm in Los Angeles for almost two years after graduating from college in 2002. She was a Comparative Literature major in UP Diliman before she shifted to Creative Writing. She flirted with the idea of shifting to Broadcast Communication, but that stopped when she won the Enrico Collantes scholarship for Creative Writing. Um, two of her short stories were included in Elysium, an anthology of literary work by young authors. She, uh, likes Coke, chocolate, chick-lit, Queen Latifah, Ben Stiller, Pussycat Dolls, über-violent martial arts films, Oprah

Look, I need to know: How embarrassed should I be right now? Your interview with her, I mean. Every time I ask her what she said about me, she’d just laugh and say: “You’ll have to wait to find out.” Or even weirder: “Not telling! It’s a secret!” Right. Like she hadn’t just spilled her guts and mine to a member of the media with intent to publish. I know she didn’t say anything too, uh, sensitive, even if we’d already agreed to be honest. She’d leave it up to me. But the potential for awkwardness is just too high, especially since she has in her possession several photos of mine.

Yeah, I know she stole them. It wasn’t exactly the slickest crime ever committed. What’s pathetic is that she actually tried to be clever about it. She only took the pictures, and to keep me from noticing what she’d done, she got these index cards from my desk, stuck them inside and put the box back in my closet. She even returned the scotch tape on the lid exactly as she found it.So far so good, right? Except that she used up all my index cards. I’d been planning to use them to take some notes for my research, so I was bound to notice that the last remaining cards were gone. Also, she kept sniggering and saying things like “Ivy Jones, Raider of the Lost Ark.” That sort of clued me in.

I’ll probably never get them back. Not in this lifetime. But here’s something she doesn’t know: I wanted her to have those photos. I don’t know why; I just do. Those photos are important to me, so I know she’ll take care of them. And after my sister told her I’d hidden those pictures in my room, she was so excited at the chance to snoop around that I figured I’d oblige her. Come on, I’m not dumb enough to actually stash incriminating files in a shoebox in my closet. It’s the first place anyone would think to look. I kept those pictures in an advanced calculus textbook on my shelf. Nobody looks in there.

Besides, I got my revenge when I managed to record her singing along with Aerosmith on the radio when she thought she was alone. I turned it into a sound file and made it my ring tone so that every time my phone rang, her voice would wail out: “I don’t wanna close my eyes, I don’t wanna faaall asleep…” The look on her face whenever she hears it is priceless.

Hmm. I suppose I could just consider us even and be done with it.

Excuse me a minute. I’m going to order another cup. What about you? Sure? Okay.

This is really good coffee.

My girlfriend is a model. It’s nuts, but I think people are more impressed by that than my supposedly being some kind of child prodigy. Especially the guys. It’s kind of funny, actually. If I tell them, “I’m eighteen years old and I’m teaching Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics,” they’ll just blink and say, “Wow, you must be pretty smart. Uh, you’re teaching what?” But if I tell them, “My girlfriend’s a model,” and show them the picture of her in my wallet, they’ll go from “no way” to “holy shit, that’s her?” to “how’d a nerd like you end up with a beauty like her?” and finally, to “you must be a frigging genius, man.” I don’t get that kind of respect by being a teenage engineering professor. Yup, I know it’s a male-ego thing and it’s disgusting and juvenile, but you have to admit, it’s funny in a way.

It gets more complicated when I tell them she’s seven years older than me. The way they look at me, I’m never sure if it’s because they don’t believe me when I say Ivy’s older, or they can’t believe anyone could be so lucky as to have as a girlfriend an older woman who looks the way she does. Probably both. Most of the time though, it’s annoying having to explain to people about us. It’s a hassle I can live without.

So can Ivy. She’s already spent much of her life explaining herself to people and dealing with their judgment of her. All it takes is one look at her to understand why. For one thing, she’s really beautiful. Not in the anorexic, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination way most female models are. Ivy’s beautiful in a way that makes your chest go funny and your mind go blank. It’s like, well, magic. You can’t stop staring at her. Every expression, every gesture, every moment—you never want to miss a single one. Being around her is like being carried off by the wind and you don’t know where she’ll take you and you don’t care at all, and…I, uh, I mean—well, you’ve met her, of course, and uh…

She’s pretty, okay? And she’s a pretty good actress, too, which comes in handy in a shoot. But the real Ivy, the one who stays behind when the lights and cameras are gone, is the one you met: jeans, T-shirt, hair in pigtails, nothing but lip gloss. That was the way she looked when the scout from Glittergals spotted her buying a CD in SM. There’s just something about her that draws people to her. They look, they smile and they linger around her for as long as they can. Like I said, it’s magic, and I’m not the kind who says dumb, sappy things like that.

Um, at least not on a regular basis.

With her looks, you’d think she had it easy growing up. Not really, no. She was born in a small town in Bulacan, and even as a child Ivy was a looker. It made her stick out some. It had its perks, of course. Ivy told me how often she’d gotten away with skiving off chores thanks to her ability to be intolerably cute. But her looks also brought her trouble she might have avoided otherwise.

Ivy’s mom was sixteen when she got pregnant with her. She’d been sent away to relatives in the Visayas to finish high school there, but came home a couple of years early and six months late. It was a huge scandal at the time. Ivy’s grandparents hopped on the next ferry south, chased down the man who fathered her, and dragged him back to marry her mom. It was literally a shotgun wedding. Ivy’s grandfather showed me the old rifle he’d kept on hand the entire time. But even if he’d decided to risk it, there was still no way Ivy’s dad could have escaped. A crowd of people blocked all the exits to the church. The whole town turned up for the wedding of Mang Simon’s only daughter, and the priest could hardly be heard over the audience’s whispering.

Even the sight of Ivy’s dad standing there couldn’t stop the rumors. It probably started as a joke, the kind that wasn’t meant to be funny. They said Ivy’s mom had been raped by an engkanto, which was why she’d been so reluctant to identify her child’s father. The rumors died away as the couple settled down, at least until Ivy was born. Bits of her resembled her mom, but she was beautiful in a way that was almost—what’s the word? Fey. Predictably, the rumors about her supernatural parentage returned with a vengeance.

As she grew up, the other kids teased her about being the by-blow of an engkanto. For every kid who wanted to be friends with her, there was one who called her names and two who pretended to be nice to her but spread rumors about her behind her back. Her looks became a sort of handicap. If she got a good grade or landed a role in a school production, she got it only because she was pretty and could twist the teachers around her little finger. If she flunked a test or fumbled her lines, it was because she was all looks and no brains. She just couldn’t win.

When making friends got too frustrating, she stayed at home. All she did there though was listen to her parents fighting. Her parents fought every day over every little thing. Then one day, her dad packed up his clothes and disappeared. After several months, her mom decided to find work in Manila. She eventually left for the US, and Ivy was raised by her lolo and lola. She loves them with all her heart, you know. They’re the only reason she goes back to her home town. Otherwise, she’d never go within a fifty-kilometer range of her Tito Julio. The man’s a scumsucker. You can quote me on that.

Besides her grandparents, two of the most important people in Ivy’s life she met as a child. Here.

(insert printout of high school photo of Erwin, Sharm and Ivy)

This is really Erwin’s photo. I borrowed and scanned it just to have a picture of Ivy at younger than eighteen. They’re thirteen here, and you can tell Ivy’s going to be a model by the way she’s hamming it up for the camera. Either that or a comedienne. The three of them had been classmates since fifth grade, went to high school and college together, even shared an apartment. They still do, in fact. Ivy calls them her soul-sisters.

It was shared experience that brought them together. Until fifth grade, Ivy didn’t have friends. She had any number of acquaintances because, let’s face it, she’s fun to be with. But no real friends. She just didn’t let anyone get that close to her.

Sharm’s almost as much a looker as Ivy, but in a completely different way. You look at Sharm and you think “sex goddess.” Unfortunately, her sex goddess traits appeared a little too soon; she was the curviest girl in the entire fifth grade. Boys drooled over her and the girls hated it. There were rumors about how Sharm was screwing high school boys, a teacher, her cousin, and her alleged activities were chronicled in graffiti in the school’s back wall. Needless to say, she didn’t have any friends either.

Erwin wasn’t a shy loner like Sharm or a social butterfly like Ivy. He’s more the intense, bookish type prone to obsessions. One of these obsessions was a secret crush on a boy in their class. When his older brother found out, he bullied Erwin mercilessly, at school and at home. Erwin’s life-story is unfortunately nothing unique, and I think it actually it pains him to be so cliché.

The three of them became comrades-in-arms of a sort. Ivy and Sharm shielded Erwin from his brother and his cronies, Erwin and Ivy cleaned up the worst of the graffiti about Sharm, and Sharm and Erwin gave Ivy an excuse to stay out of the house whenever her tito was around, and stayed over whenever her grandparents left for work. As they entered high school, life became more bearable for her friends, but not for Ivy. For one thing, the scumsucker tito was still around. The rumors and bullying eventually stopped for Erwin and Sharm, but for Ivy, they became worse. In high school, she realized that there really was something different about her. And that’s the other thing about her that strikes people when they first meet her.

 

Let me put it this way: How old did you think she was when you first saw her?

 

Yeah, that happens a lot to Ivy.

 

There are plenty of names that might describe her condition. Hypopituitarism. Kallman Syndrome. Prader-Willi Syndrome. Turner Syndrome. None of these explain why every medical test conducted on Ivy, including bone tests, turned out completely normal. Or why she looks and feels perfectly healthy otherwise. It’s one of those things that defy rational explanation. She fought hard to keep her condition a secret from her grandparents because she didn’t want to be more of a burden to them. She lied to school and health authorities, and avoided doctors until her own fear finally overcame her. It was a bit harder to fool her classmates, since she did have to wear the required PE uniform. She tried, though. Bras stuffed with tissue, sanitary pads strategically tucked inside her bag, ruffled blouses, stuff like that. Still, her peers soon noticed that time seemed to have stopped for Ivy. It gave credence to the rumor that she was half-earth elemental.

 

Sharm told me about one of Ivy’s shoots under Glittergals. It was for an ad for some family bath soap. Ivy was chosen from among several other young talents to play the middle daughter, age ten to twelve. She wore a pink dress with short sleeves, and her hair was done up in ribbons. I remember that ad. Ivy could have passed for Little Princess Sarah. My sister Reese at age eleven looked older than her.

She was nineteen. Only her talent manager and the agency knew that she’d signed her name on the contract because she was already of legal age. Sharm was there during the shoot to pretend to be her guardian so Ivy could avoid any nosy questions from the other talents and their parents. Sometimes Erwin went with her. Nowadays, I’m the one who goes with her. It bugs her that she needs a chaperone to her own shoot, but it does make things easier for her. You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to her when she’s alone in a public place to ask her where her parents are, even now.

People think I’m unique because I got into college a little early. It’s not quite accurate. Around twenty percent of a country’s population is gifted. That means 1.6 million out of eighty million people. I’ve met other people who were considered child prodigies. But so far, I’ve met only one of Ivy. A twenty-year-old with the body of a prepubescent child. You don’t get to meet a lot of those.

Some years ago, my sister, who’s a Lord of the Rings fan, gave Ivy a nickname: Half-Elven. It was so close to her classmates’ idea that Ivy was half-elemental that it made her laugh. But you see, I’m an engineer. I’m not into that fantastical stuff my sister adores. But sometimes when I’m with her…well, I sort of think that maybe her classmates and my sister have a point. There is something a bit, you know, fairy-like about Ivy. She’s half-and-half—half-woman, half-child. Half-human, half-elf. Sometimes I think maybe her body is the one part of her that knows the truth.

Shit. She’d kick my ass if she heard me saying this. Better strike that off the record.

On second thought, leave it. I do have a score to settle. Next question.

READ MIGUEL’S RESPONSE TO QUESTION NO. 2.

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