Beware of bad advice

Paolo P. Mangahas
Life is mostly about trial and error. Some advice may work for you while others may lead you to sticky situations.

My cousin had two German Shepherds when we were younger and these big dogs terrified me to pieces every time I’d visit his house.. They normally paced around their enclosed yard like soldiers securing the vicinity from any terrorist attack (no, my cousin didn’t live in the White House).

Because both dogs had delusions of being part of the armed forces, they had to be tied or kept in their cages every time guests arrived, lest these innocent visitors be mistaken as enemies of the state and get mangled on the spot.

These vicious canines were on their routine watch when I showed up unannounced one afternoon. Probably thinking I was some radical guerrilla on a suicide mission (who just happened to be wearing a Care Bears shirt), they wasted no time barking ferociously at me as I stood inches away from them on the other side of the gate.

My cousin, who was too preoccupied to tie them up (he was in the middle of a Nintendo game), merely shouted at me from the window and told me to just slowly enter the gate, stand my ground, and bark louder than his dogs.

It was an advice that seemed theoretically sound to an 11-year-old. So bark I did.

The last thing I remember was seeing two furry animals leap at me like tigers pouncing on their prey. I was knocked down, certain that I would lose a limb or two. What I didn’t know (and I hope my cousin did) was that both dogs just wanted to play with me and ended up licking my face.

The whole experience traumatized me nonetheless and I swore to never heed bad advice ever again. But as life would have it, I was never spared from this necessary evil.

The sneaky thing about bad advice is that it usually comes from good-willed people. If what has long been said is true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, bad advice is the street sign that conveniently points you straight to it.

And so with all good intention, I’m sharing with you some of the bad advice I’ve foolishly followed throughout the years, which have certainly made my life more interesting, if nothing else. Following them is totally up to you.

1. White socks go with everything.

Sorry to break this to you, but they actually go with NOTHING. Except for sportswear. And if you wear sportswear outside any sporting arena, then you’ve got way bigger problems than white socks.

Growing up, I was often expected to keep my wardrobe clean and simple, which meant having just one color for all my socks. It’s no wonder then that I wore shin-high white socks with black leather shoes and shorts to a family reunion one time, not realizing I looked more like I belonged in the Alps singing with the Von Trapp family than with my own clan.

I even went through a phase of wearing white socks with sandals. Enough said.

The sooner you learn this simple rule, the less “what was I thinking?” fashion moments you will have in life.

2. If you like it and it’s on sale, get it!

About 27 Teflon pans later you realize that not everything you get on sale is actually a bargain.

I was often made to believe that sale season is a glitch in the retail world that allowed bargain hunters a taste of the finer things in life – at 75% off. The glaring red sign with the universally-understood word, SALE, in caps, often lures people into thinking that they’re stepping into some benevolent store whose owner simply wanted to give back to society at the expense of his own profit margins. “We’re on SALE…because we love you.” Really now.

Slap! Wake up, people. Have you ever noticed how some stores can be perpetually on sale, almost the entire year without going out of business? This is only possible because their “sale” prices are actually regular prices that would otherwise be exorbitantly expensive during non-sale seasons.

And even if the merchandise you like is authentically on sale, it doesn’t mean you have to buy it. I learned this after noticing I owned about six pairs of exactly the same jeans I bought from different stores – on sale.

One more thing, when you see the words “Everything Must Go” on a store window, remember that it’s just a suggestion, not a direct order.

3. Memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements is important in life.

I have one word for this. NOT.

Tell me, in your entire adult life, when was the last time you actually made use of this colorful chart of known chemical elements arranged according to their atomic properties? If you’re not a chemist or anywhere near that field, my guess is zero. And using H2O on Twitter doesn’t count.

I was led to believe that the Periodic Table of Elements was so important in life that I even had my own copy laminated to ensure its longevity throughout the rest of my grown-up existence, imagining its usefulness in common situations like, oh let’s say, going to the grocery store where I’d never ever have to guess whether the pack of ice I need for a party is solid, liquid, or gas.

Phew! Thank you Periodic Table of Elements! NOT.

4. Eat the white, leave the yellow.

This isn’t a racial preference.

I’m referring to egg yolks and how, one day, health experts say it can cause a heart attack and the next day it can save you from cancer. The same goes for milk. One day it causes cancer and the next day it boosts your immune system. And while all these wonky health advisories are happening, we confused consumers are left with dry cereals and a sunny side up sans the sun.

Having the tendency to take things to the extreme, I used to regard these health advisories as commandments directly from God, completely ridding any supposedly unhealthy products from my diet. I became so picky with everything I ate I might as well have eaten air for breakfast. But even that I thought was toxic.

I lost so much weight in the process that people started to seriously suspect I was anorexic (or perhaps had ambitions of becoming the poster child for world hunger). Soon enough, vanity took over (the emaciated zombie look wasn’t my style) and I started eating everything again, but in moderation.

One of life’s simple pleasures is indulging in a delicious, “unhealthy” meal from time to time. I don’t know about you but on some days, I get my fix of crispy fried bacon and for the rest of the week, well, there’s always the gym.

5. When traveling, do as the locals do.

This piece of advice is actually not a bad one, on the condition that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

On one of my trips to Bali, I chanced upon a parade of locals garbed in traditional attire, making their way to a temple by the beach. Not one to miss such cultural pageantry, I trailed them all the way inside the temple as they brought in their offerings of fruits and flowers placed in ornate woven baskets.

My intrusion mainly went unnoticed probably because most of them were in a trance, moving rhythmically to the sound of hypnotic music. Out of respect, I decided to leave but was accidentally herded into the middle of the entire congregation as they formed a circle and started to chant.

My slight panic turned into complete terror as I saw an elderly man bring out a machete. I then understood the real reason they allowed me to join them — they were going to slice my throat and offer my blood to evil spirits.

As I searched for a way out of the circle, a black piglet was flung in the middle. Without warning, the man swung his machete at the piglet and beheaded it right in front of me. Too shocked to move, I then saw another man grab the headless piglet (whose body was still twitching) and wrestled with it on the ground, fully covered in the animal’s blood.

As their chanting grew louder to an eerie climax, two men suddenly took out swords and started stabbing themselves but miraculously drew no blood, as if shielded from harm by good spirits now that evil (a.k.a. piglet) had been defeated.

Though it was a noble ritual that celebrated good triumphing over evil, I learned that some local customs are just better off witnessed from a respectful, touristic distance.

These above instances are just a few of the more memorable “bad” advice I’ve decided to never follow again.

I’m by no means discouraging anyone from following these examples.

Go ahead, try them if you like — but don’t hold me liable for what happens to you except, I hope, for the rich experience you may gain from them. After all, life is mostly about trial and error. Some advice may work for you while others may lead you to sticky situations. And if that happens, well, you can always try barking your way out of it.

Tell me if it works. – 

Paolo Mangahas is a Filipino writer who has published several essays on food, lifestyle, fashion, and social and environmental development in various publications in the Philippines and abroad. He currently resides in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, managing communications for a regional marine conservation program. Follow him on Twitter: or

#BalikBayan is a project that aims to harness and engage Filipinos all over the world to collectively rediscover and redefine Filipino identity.

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