Judging from the drug cartels that have allegedly infiltrated show business circles and the recent nationwide drug testing in schools, the Philippines must be awash in narcotics of all kinds.
Things were not always this way, though. Back when all the addicts had to go on were meth and marijuana, people went to great lengths to get high. High enough to believe that totally non-narcotic products could give them some sort of buzz, at least.
Take Cali Shandy, for example. Cali was a staple at awkward boy-girl soirees of the ’90s, the point being to get everyone drunk enough for things to not get awkward, I guess.
Infused with the kick of pineapple juice, and a pansy-ass 0.5 percent alcohol content that was later reduced to zero, swigging a Cali while puffing on a cigarette was a surefire way to tell the world that you were a virgin and would stay that way for a few years yet.
It was sadness in a bottle. It was so sad, in fact, that being offered anything else to drink prompted shouts of joy. “Whoo, mango juice! Sem break!”
A barely supressed memory, anyone having Cali Shandy now is guaranteed to hear the sarcastic warning to “not drink too much, you might get wasted.”
Gudang Garam clove cigarettes had marijuana in them. This was gospel truth for many high school students who had no actual idea on marijuana: what it is, what it does.
Sold at P45 per pack when an average cafeteria meal was something like P30, these Indonesian cigarettes ought to have at least some weed in them since they were so expensive. (Protip: An actual teabag of marijuana cost P35 at the time.)
To justify blowing their money, kids would convince themselves that they were light headed, and would do silly things while “high.”
This was actually just raging hormones and smoke at work more than anything else, but even when the secret eventually came out that they were just cigarettes that tasted and smelled funny, Gudang Garams were the cigarette of choice for at least one weird kid who would still secretly pretends is totally smoking a joint, man.
There was a time when the government saw drugs in everything, from Eraserheads songs to temporary stick-on tattoos that were supposedly laced with LSD. The threat of LSD-infused tattoos was so serious that there were actual letters from school principals warning parents not to let their children buy them.
The ambulant vendors who sold the stuff outside the Ateneo gates were eventually lynched by militant members of the AGSPAC (sort of the PTA, I guess,) their wares scattered on Katipunan Road, and the ducks and quails they sold as pets were set free to waddle around campus.
Nobody ever really got high on them, and it did not really make much sense from a business viewpoint for dealers to give acid to kids on small allowances, but this was the ’90s, when aswang stories made headlines, so, you know.
Temporary tattoos were also sometimes given away in packs of long-dead junk food brands Cheezel and Chikadees, so it might have been Philippine advertising’s first foray into viral marketing.
Plastic balloon, as far as we can tell, was some sort of chemical byproduct that someone somewhere thought was a good idea to put in kids’ mouths. Plastic balloon came in tubes, and you coated it around a straw that came with it, put it in your mouth to prime it or whatever, and then you blew into the straw.
This gunk somehow became an actual plastic balloon that smelled like paint thinner. Less-skilled balloon blowers were usually rewarded by plastic monstrosities that vaguely resembled a transparent scrotum.
This stuff actually did get you slightly high. High enough to think that playing with plastic nutsacks was fun, at any rate. The real draw of the plastic balloon, though, was the vague burning sensation the “plastic” left on the lips, and the temporary dizziness it brought. Oddly enough, nobody really complained about this mystery chemical. Way to keep your eye on the ball, Department of Health!
Things have changed in a decade, of course, and cocaine is now as common as Biogesic For Kids. But in a more innocent time, all we had to alter our perceptions were our ability for self-delusion and our imagination. On the up side, we now have jobs, so we can buy all the cool drugs that are on the market now.