Monday, October 24, 2016

Of Miss Earth Bahamas 2016 and Cleopatra Jones

She was the crowd's favorite no doubt. Among the five 2016 Miss Earth candidates who visited Sablayan last October 21-23, 2016, Miss Bahamas was the most jolly and mingles with the locals with great gusto. From the motorcade at the town proper up to the Parola Park while she and the rest of the candidates are about to ride in the longest island-to-island zip line in the world, she was followed by children and teenagers chanting, “Ba-ha-mas! Ba-ha-mas!”

She refused an umbrella and preferred to beat the heat of the sun during the motorcade. When the pick-up she was riding passed near the gate of Saint Martin Hospital, she suddenly jumped out of the vehicle and had groupies with the nuns and school children among the near hysteric crowd. She left her escort at the back of the pick-up. She was escorted by Councilor Melchor Quiatchon and he was astonished when Candisha Rolle, Miss Earth Bahamas 2016, climbed back at the pick-up all by herself, capitalizing on her whole 5’ 11” height. Her story of interspersion did not end there. When the pick-up stopped at the Motor Pool, ever smiling and waving at the crowd, Candisha Rolle graciously walked towards the nearby Municipal Building where people are gathered and waiting to meet the visiting beauties with cheers.  

I was with the crowd of people sitting at the foot of the zip line tower when I, together with Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, noticed a group of young boys waving their hands at Miss Bahamas when the beauty queen from the former British colony appeared on the line. The Bahamas only became a Commonwealth realm in 1973. The folks were enchanted by her colored beauty and I remember when I was a young boy having a crush on African American fashion model turned actress named Tamara Dobson. I was in high school when I saw Dobson doing lead roles. They are both action films shown at Levi Rama: Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975). Cleopatra Jones is a lady James Bond sort of a character actually. Since then, I had liking for the so-called black beauties, albeit in films. I never had a close encounter with this kind all my life until the 2016 Miss Earth beauties visited Sablayan, my second home. Let us forget Cleopatra Jones and Tamara Dobson for they help me remember my age. Let us go back to Candisha Rolle to forget it. What I mean is my age.

Ms. Rolle was selected Miss Earth Bahamas 2016 on August 27 also this year. She succeeds Daronique Young for the tilt. That night, she also won Best in Evening Gown, Best Costume, Miss Amity and Miss Popularity sub-awards. Ms. Rolle, according to her Facebook account, studied Human Resource Management at Southern College in Nassau. In that same account she professed, “I truly enjoy dancing.....and I love comedy!!!!” Well, what else can I say but wish her luck in the coming pageant night on Saturday.

Before I shake my hands off the keyboard, allow me to share that Tamara Dobson ended her short movie stint via the 1976 film version of the play “Norman…Is That You?” If you ask the same question pertaining to the guy posing with Miss Bahamas in the picture shown above, the answer is a big “yes”….

(Photo: Philip Saligumba)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Manny Pacquiao: The Boxer and the Senator

Manny Pacquiao was an absentee congressman during his two terms as representative of Sarangani province but in May 2016, voting Filipinos bequeathed him the 7th seat in the Philippine Senate. Then CongressManny (now SenaPac) spent almost all of his legislative days inside a boxing camp and due to his dubious scholastic records, we deemed him not capable as a politician.

But 16,050,546 voters elected him to senate and now gaining grounds as advocate of the restoration of death penalty and his recent unseating of Senator Leila de Lima as chair of the august body’s committee on justice and human rights investigating the supposed extra judicial killings along with the government’s fight against drugs. Seasoned politician and President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon’s attempt to quash SenaPac’s motion proved inutile. De lima, whom Pacquiao outvoted and placed last among 12 winning candidates, was unseated by her fellow newbie senator. And the hard core devotees of President Rodrigo Duterte, including those who say that the legendary boxer is unfit for membership in the senate, applauded the boxer for his guts to discontinue what her bashers describe as “Leila lies”. Those who cheer the killings of suspected drug pushers and drug dependents likewise hailed him when the SenaPac contended during the same inquiry that, “We senators are here to investigate, not to protect witness. That is the rule here!,” referring of course to de Lima.

With these powerful shots at the senate, many Filipinos who are dismayed by his previous Bible-totting and his 'gay people are worse than animals' remark became instant supporters of Manny Pacquiao, the politician. With Sen. Dick Gordon at the helm, the inquiry continues at the Senate. On the other end, Manny Pacquiao, the boxer, is with Freddie Roach at Elorde Gym inside Mall of Asia exchanging punches with his sparring mates Jose Ramirez and Leonardo Doronio.

Compared to his stint in congress before, Manny Pacquiao is slowly learning as a senator. He definitely learned a lesson or two from his lacklustre feat in the House of Representatives in the past judging from his performance at the senate committee on justice and human rights just recently. Despite of his perceived deficiency as a national legislator, he was apparently able to learn slowly. But he is yet to disclose his legislative agenda other than restoring the death penalty.

The old and familiar names and faces in the senate already disappointed us for so long so let us not hurry the SenaPac. Anyway, he’s just in the middle of the first round in an institution that already lost its longstanding character, in a country where those who oppose death penalty, including the Catholic Church, are considered coddlers of drug addicts and criminals.

Meanwhile, I expect that both the implementers and the potential victims in the on-going fight against drugs will both cheer for Manny Pacquiao in his fight against Jessie Vargas (27-1-0) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada for the WBO welterweight championship bout. There will be a decline in volume of crimes and vehicles in the streets and the dizzying hullabaloos of our leaders, the fight, regardless of the result, will surely hit the headlines next day rather than the killings and the president’s consistently inconsistent policy statements and Senator de Lima’s forum shopping in various Catholic gatherings and Eucharistic celebrations.

The next Manny Pacquiao fight for sure, as it was before, will give the divided Filipinos the political break that they fully deserve, even momentarily…


(Photo: Service Space and Time)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Retailing Human Rights

There is a prevailing Filipino culture called tingi or retail and this is due to our financial incapacity to buy items or products by wholesale. Majority of the consumers can only afford to buy small packs of basic items for our daily needs from toothpaste to charcoal. This is how the masses survive the day.

Well, generally the term ‘human rights’ means  a broad spectrum of rights ranging from right to life to the right to a cultural identity. They are basic pre-conditions for a dignified human existence. In a nutshell, there is the civil and political rights on one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. Allow me to stop at this point for I do not intend here to give you a course on human rights or HR. I’ll just allow you, my dear reader, to self-study the matter and besides, we Filipinos are yet to arrive on a national consensus on the categorisations and classification, concepts and principles and theory and praxis of HR. The keyboards are burning and the so-called internet warriors coming from different quarter debate over theories and practice of human rights in the country.

HR issues are reduced to swords or guillotines aimed at annihilating their critics or political rivals instead of being an instrument aimed at uplifting human dignity. In doing so, we end up valuing personalities than the sanctity of HR tenets and the inviolability and our basic rights as individuals and as peoples. This way of “enlightenment” on HR, HR is reduced to mere instruments of politicking and political stunts. Indeed, our hazy view of HR is manifested by our enduring, hotly contested arguments or disputes about it, especially when Rodrigo R. Duterte was voted to power by 16 million Filipinos last May.

It is apparent that with the explosion of the summary execution of drug suspects by agents of the government is a blatant violation of the victims’ constitutional rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The victims, as some of the HR groups claim, were not given due process therefore their civil and political rights were violated, thus the term extra-judicial killings or EJKs.

On the other hand, this administration’s adherence to economic, social and cultural rights is showing a commendable start. For instance, the decisive action of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano distributing thousand hectares of lands which was only partially covered during BS Aquino III’s previous administration. Another is DSWDs giving livelihood jobs and organizing of the Conditional Cash Transfer or the 4Ps beneficiaries into cooperatives as a more permanent measure to alleviate poverty than giving dole-outs like cash allocations made possible by DSWD Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, to cite just two. Though these are initiatives of the progressives in the Duterte cabinet, these praiseworthy actions can also be traced to the president.

Jerbert Briola, a friend of mine, forwarded me a PowerPoint presentation of political analyst Ramon Casiple apparently from a lecture rendered before group of HR advocates days after the inauguration of President Duterte. I will be going to share it to you later. Casiple, by the way, was our guest speaker in the national assembly of an HR network where I formerly belong. The event was held in Quezon City last August 25, 2011. One of Casiple’s slides sent to me by Jerbert reads: “The Duterte administration will have a mixed human rights record. His anti-crime and anti-drug campaign is spawning vigilantism and extra-judicial killings by the police.” On the other hand, he stressed, “His [the president’s] social reform agenda supports many human rights demands and advocacy.” True enough, approaching the100th day of his presidency, Duterte’s human rights record is a mixture of good and bad. More than ever, according to Casiple, it is now high time for the HR advocates to exercise vigilance, undertake popular education on human rights, and independently mobilize support based on specific HR issues therefore, revitalize the HR movement.

Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status, and cannot be positioned in a hierarchical order, like what the HR educators have taught. Denial of one right invariably impedes enjoyment of other rights. Thus, the right of everyone to due process cannot be compromised at the expense of the right to an adequate standard of living. 

When human right is retailed, the essence of human being is degraded wholesale…

(Photo: GMA Network)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hullabaloos of President Duterte

The left and right controversies involving President Rodrigo Duterte’s, during the campaigns and now, are intentional and therefore part of his strategy to win the presidency and later to sustain himself as a populist president at this early juncture of his administration. This is not spontaneous. This is orchestrated and planned. He is intelligent, they say, therefore all his actions and words are expected to be calculated.

The first 3 months of any sitting president rest on shaky ground due to criticisms he gets from international community on many issues and concerns foremost of which is his fight against drugs and criminality including his questionable diplomatic policies and his lieutenants’ paranoia over the imminent taking over of what his fanatical supporters refer to as “Yellowtards”. The traditional politicians inside PDP Laban too cannot be trusted. He and those around him who are not party members know that PDP Laban’s ultimate agenda is to gain party advantage and get the majority of the political seats come 2019 onward and put into effect its party line all over the land and pave the way for Koko Pimentel’s presidency after Duterte’s term. The president’s allegiance to his party, aside from the push for Federalism and issues rooted in socialism, is rickety too. Likewise his alliance with the Left which vows to continue their parliamentary struggle specifically those issues incorporated in the People’s Agenda for Change. It is not far-fetched to assume that in the future, these groups will ultimately clash over their opposing principles, issues and advocacies.

Since this administration rests on shaky ground, it needs a mass base that will continue to be attached or relate to, and believe in everything he will say or do. There is no need of ideology or political principles to unite them. Intrigues and rumors are sufficient to band together, say, the internet warriors, and gain grounds. The cyberspace as it was proven during the campaign period is the most bankable and they have to sustain it. The internet is still the best weapon for this connectivity as long the crisis they have projected since day one, which is drugs and criminality, is highlighted by way of controversial statements or any form of verbal stunts to get the attention of the public and the whole world no matter what would be the outcome. Bad publicity, as we say, is publicity still.

Constant media projection will keep you always on the limelight, hence, evading isolation and ultimately test the level of fanaticism of your followers. He needs a group of people who would rally behind him, fair or square, by hook or by crook, in sickness and in health, so to speak. This is a gamble for you might gain more enemies than friends, critics than followers. But that would be easy for an instant apology or rejoinder could patch them up later anyway. Or lambast the journalists for quoting you out of context and throw them all the faults to the fullest. The call of the day is to be consistent with sprinkling garbage juices and let the deodorizers do their things later. What are important at this early point is to coagulate their connectivity to the masses. So every time you face the camera and the scribes, be quotable, and do not think of the consequences. Just connect to the people who thirst for trash no matter what. Their day would not be complete without it, like the telenovela.

Majority of the Filipinos have penchants for tough and rough leaders because they are tough and rough citizens themselves. We are generally tough and rough as bullies in school and over the net, we are tough and rough as public servants involved in corrupt practices, we are tough and rough as religious leaders baptized with hypocrisy, we are tough and rough citizens who do not follow rules and order. Therefore, we want the toughest and the roughest to continue to lead and represent us!

Having such a mass base or a people’s movement, formal or informal, is necessary under this condition. If you are lucky, this will assure political stability in the process until such time that this wide mass movement gain credibility and power over another groups or individuals (specially the butterflies and the turncoats) around him that cannot be trusted until this movement get the needed power to lay compromises and to assert them. 

Controversy is significant than plain and simple reporting of your achievements if you want to be always connected with the people. If President Duterte would stop making controversial statements, what would he feed to his social media machine? How could his army of on-line warriors survive without such controversies? It is a waste of time to advise him to watch his language or keep quiet. No mortal could stop him now. Not even the roof of a car. Besides, the president is just speaking his mind, just being our president and being true to himself like what we are told.

Well, positively put, controversies are part of the process of knowing. Controversy can be a beneficial and commanding tool to promote learning. Needless to say, controversy is a double-edged sword. The attention we get from it may hurt us but apparently that is what the new breed of Filipinos want: to get hurt as a nation and to hurt each other as citizens…


(Photo: Stripes. Com)

Monday, September 19, 2016

This War Is Kind (A PaRody of Stephen Crane’s Classic Poem War Is Kind, 1899)

Do not weep, maiden, for this war is kind,
Because your brother was a drug peddler to the sky
And he is not to be arrested but destined to death and not alone,
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the law enforcing regiment,
Great souls thirst for your blood yet you didn’t fight,
Men of your kind, they say, are not human hence must die.
The unexplained glory flies above the gory will in them.
Great is the butcher-god, great, and his abattoir (or was it his kingdom?) —
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for this war for change is kind.
Because your father was spared by the “yellow” trenches,
Raged at his breast, resisted thus died.
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Swift blazing desire to feed his family, his ever-loved regiment
Eagle whose irreparable self is forever red for gold,
These men born to felony must straightaway die.
Bystanders were taught the virtue of slaughter,
Tutored or tortured on the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the loosen packing tape that wrapped your son,
Do not weep.
This war is kind!


Here is Stephen Crane’s original poem text:

War is Kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them.
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind!


(Photo : Time Magazine)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Resembling The Lone Ranger and Tonto

I was barely ten when I had my first close encounter with the Mindoro indigenous peoples. I ate, slept and played with Mangyan children each time of a year. During our town’s fiesta celebration, Mangyan families from the boondocks of Mansalay, daring the two-day and one night foot travel via Insulman in Batasan, gather at my grandparents’ residence in Capt. Cooper St. to witness the festivities of lights and colours. My Mamang cooked food them, prepared their beddings in a vacant store room near our family’s ancestral house. The Mangyan elders chewing nganga, with wide grin in their faces and smile in their red lips, simply nod every time my grandma reminds them not to spit on the cemented part of the pavement. She treated them as visitors and not as ordinary strangers seeking temporary refuge. Unlike the town’s wealthy matriarchs, she never drove them away.

Claro, her son, even risked his life for his friends in the upland in many occasions, they say but not going into specifics. They said that their chief cowboy made them change their attitude towards lowlanders who are mostly arrogant and mean. Each time my uncle sits on his weapons carrier truck heading to the mountains, boxes of canned sardines, kilos of dried fish, candies, sacks of rice and bunch of dried tobacco leaves were neatly piled behind his WC51 for his friends’ consumption. The Buhids are treated by him not only as his workers in the ranch but trusted friends. Because my Mamang loves his son, she cared for them. It was her son who gave them the first taste of the modern world. At the very tender age, I’ve learned stories how the Buhids hunt wild animals and nurture the ranch owner’s thoroughbred horses. He even related to me how good my uncle was over the saddle, on catching a stray cow with a rope and firing his revolver. There are many untold stories about his cowboy years that I’ve heard from David Ighay, the Mangyan chieftain, the one who speaks fluent Tagalog. After his cowboy days, my uncle also excelled in other manly actions like motorcycle dirt riding, scuba diving, practical shooting, among others.

I remember the much younger David Ighay, the lead cattle worker, always accompanied by his “bodyguards” Danum Dauy and Ligduman Humbos. I remember my uncle, in full cowboy outfit, with spurs attached to his boots, hat and all, going out of the truck with David beside him in red poplin G-string and his long waist-length hair hooped by a strip of cloth with floral design, no footwear whatsoever.

As they appear at the wooden gate and walk together on the pavement, they looked like The Lone Ranger and Tonto to me.

Even when I grew up and finished my studies, had a family of my own and got a job, he keeps on going down the mountains though my grandparents are now long gone and the ancestral house no longer there. And the ranches all over are just things of the past and Mindoro’s cattle business ceases to be as lucrative as before. He also drops-by at the houses my uncles and aunties and their immediate family for more than four decades already since the day they first reached our Cooper home of yore.

He brings native wallet, panuhugin (bracelet), kadyos (black legume), a knife or a broom for a present every time he visits us especially on important occasions such as fiesta and Christmas. Rice, used clothes, salt, coffee, sugar, medicines and a little cash were given to him in return. He had been close with all our clan members and treated him as a distant relative. David Ighay, upon learning that the cowboy already passed away, wept. And over cups of coffee that night many years ago, the aging Mangyan, who was already a teenager when the war broke out, told me wonderful stories how my uncle, generous and caring as he was, won the hearts of the average tribesmen, women and children alike, and gained the respect of prominent Buhid leaders in the highlands of southern Mindoro in the early 70s’.

Bapa David Ighay, tribal leader from Banaynayan in Panaytayan of Mansalay town, Oriental Mindoro gave in to senility and peacefully died on his sleep on the night of August 19, 2016. The following morning, following the Buhid burial custom, his remains were wrapped in a banig, placed in a big basket locally called buyog and immediately carried to their sacred ground atop the hill with the splendid Caguray River angrily rolling below. A Daniw was performed for the eternal repose of the chieftain’s soul.

Their stories at least to me in this particular moment, like that of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, cannot be told separately. ..


(Photo: From the movie “The Lone Ranger” (2013)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Confirmation Bias and the Philippine Anti-Drug Campaign

When the president you have elected or his closest political rival or his critics and their publicists go with your opinion, you think you cannot go wrong. How could you err if you share the same sentiments or them confirming your existing beliefs? You tend to look for or interpret information in such a way it confirms your biases that lead to disregarding or ignoring other information or evidences contrary to your preconceived ideas or prejudices.

In many points of my life, I have also been a prey to confirmation bias. This is due to the difficulty that, human as I am, I cannot easily see it coming. According to Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. in his column Science of Choice which appeared in Psychology Today dated 23 April 2015, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true”. Regardless of the things that divide us, for instance our social standing and religious or political beliefs, humans deceive themselves in many occasions. For example, when a junkie or drug pusher is advised by his parents to stop his vice, he has this tendency to be confident that he can still be a good family member - a good loving father or a husband, a good neighbour and a good citizen despite of the fact s/he is hooked on drugs or peddling it. He can still feel morally upright as long as he does not harm other people. As long as he constantly prays to God and ask for his forgiveness each day and pray for the Lord's blessings. As long as he does not hurt, do injustice, kill, rape or rob people. So if the junkie or pusher gets busted, killed or in the process commits crime to satisfy his cravings for drugs, his false optimism brought about by his self-deception paid an important part in his sad fate.

Having mentioned this, self-deception is as deadly as shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) or any prohibited drugs littering the slums or during parties for it deadens our perception of reality. Confirmation bias as self-deception is a thing that blinds us to weigh things by gathering evidence and participate in some intellectual quests that is required in every thinking species in the face of the earth. Confirmation bias as a form of self-deception makes us act like those hooked into shabu.  Robert Pagliarini, writing for I Have Net in an article titled Five Tips to Avoid Confirmation Bias, aptly puts it, “The problem with confirmation bias is that you selectively filter what information you choose to pay attention to and value. So, not only will you actively look for evidence and seek out experts that confirm your existing beliefs, but even more perniciously, you'll hide from or discredit any information that contradicts your viewpoint.” If drug addicts do the most heinous of crimes because their minds are poisoned by meth and other substance, he is at par with those who are drifted into confirmation bias for they both do not see things objectively. They only do and believe those things that confirm their prejudices, as I have said. If those who are fallen into confirmation bias ignore and reject all that cast doubts on their beliefs, the drug addict (and sometimes the political publicists in our midst and including of course their patrons) defy moral compasses, ethical standards and legal dictums and instruments just to serve their own cravings and agenda. They are incarcerated in their own assumptions.

Scrutinizing the exchanges of those who favour and those who oppose the bloody anti-drug campaign happening in the Philippines today, especially the posts, comments and memes over the social networking sites concerning the rift between President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Leila M. de Lima, it’s easy to point out  how one sector of the publicists deceive their readers. They deceive people by hiding or distorting the truth (or evidences not favouring their line of thinking) and like nincompoops, the readers believe them. To those who deceive people, theirs is the advantage for they know what they have imparted are lies. It isn’t the case in self-deception.

As Ken Taylor, co-creator of the site Philosophy Talk, have noted, “But in the case of self-deception the deceiving party and the deceived party are one and the same.  That’s what makes it so puzzling.” In this particular case of the word war between the hard core supporters of de Lima and Duterte, in this case of self-deception, are same banana. Taylor is right in concluding that philosophically speaking, self-deception borders on the paradoxical.

Of course, you may likewise argue that this little reflection is laced with confirmation bias, or to some point, self-deception…


Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Sa Kabilang Buhay.

Nang mabalikan siya ng ulirat ay nasa isang mahabang pila na siya ng mga sari-saring tao na hindi niya kilalala. Lahat ng mga nakapila bagama’t nakakakilos ay walang imik at walang anumang tunog na malilikha. Palibhasa nga ay mga kaluluwa na sila.

Sa dulo ng linya ng upuan ay ang nakaputing roba na balbasing matanda na hinihimas-himas ang kanyang tandang na alaga. Naka-upo ang matanda sa trono na nasa mataas na pedestal at sa kanyang paanan, sa gawing gitna, ay isang entablado na may dalawang lamesang kinauupuan ng isang demonyo at isang anghel na parehong nakatuon sa kanilang malalaking itim na aklat. Anghel ang mag-e-eskort papuntang kanang pintuan at demonyo naman sa kaliwa.

Patay na nga siya! Sa katotohang ito ay kinilabutan bigla si Edong. Isa na siya ngayong kaluluwang naghihintay kung sa Langit o Impyerno tuluyang hahantong. Sinapo niya ang kanyang umurong na kaliwang kamay at sinubukang ipadyak ang paa. Inutil na ang mga ito. Kinapa niya ang likod ng kanyang bungo. Biyak ito.

Kani-kanina lang sa lupa.

Si Danny Trejo daw ng Hollywood ang kamukha niyang artista. Sa lindig at tikas, sa porma at mga tattoo sa katawan. Pati sa motorsiklo ay ginaya niya ang Machete film series actor. Idolo niya ito noon pa. Ang kanyang Rusi ay binihisan niya na parang Harley Davidson. Itinaas ang manibela ng lampas-balikat at ang tambutso ay inalisan ng muffler. Kaya malayo pa lang si Edong sa kanilang bahay ay dinig na ni Tisay na parating na ang asawa.

Si Edong ay may air-condition and refrigeration shop na sa isang sulok nito ay kanilang silid at banggera na siya ring lutuan. Madilim ang shop kaya binuksan ni Edong ang ilaw nang siya ay dumating. Ipinagbawal na kasi ni Duterte ang tumoma sa labas kapag lampas na ng alas-diyes ng gabi kaya umuwi na lang siya na bitin sa alak.

Napansin niyang bahagyang bukas ang isang freezer na kayayari lang niya kaninang bago siya umalis. Ang freezer na ito ay kay Pareng Ben niya na may kapandakan ngunit isang bigating frozen meat dealer sa kanilang lugar. Bagama’t sa tingin ni Pareng Ben niya ay wala ng pag-asa pa na ito ay makumpuni, ewan niya na kahit may pambili naman ito ng bago ay ipina-repair pa rin ito sa kanya. Kailangang paandarin ni Edong ang freezer hanggang umaga para ma-testing kung papalya pa ito o hindi na. Isinara niya ito at isinaksak sa kuryente, kumuha ng Red Horse 500ml sa ref at naupo sa tabi ng freezer at ipinatong dito ang kanyang lumang Caterpillar working boots na hindi na niya nakuhang hubarin pa sa kanyang mga paa. Binuksan niya ang TV at nanood ng Bandila. Tinungga ang extra strong beer, direkta mula sa bote.

Kahit na kabilin-bilinan ng kanyang doktor na huwag siyang kakain ng matatabang karne dahil sa kanyang alta-presyon at dahil nga na-double by pass na siya, hindi niya naman ito maiwasan. Kasi naman ay parati silang may libreng rasyon ng karneng baboy galing sa kanyang Pareng Ben. Takaw na takaw siya sa gumagalaw-galaw pang taba ng baboy sa pinggan na pinatuyuan sa asin saka nilamutakan ng hinog na kamatis.

Pabulyaw niyang tinawag si Tisay para maglabas ng pulutan. Malikot ang mata ng asawa na tila atubili habang papalapit ito na may dalang plato ng chicharong bulaklak na kakapainit lang. Maraming minuto ng tagay at lantak. Bigla ay nakaramdam si Edong ng hilo at nahirapang huminga. Namanhid ang buo niyang katawan at parang binibiyak sa sakit ang kanyang ulo. Bigla na lang siyang bumulagta sa sementadong sahig. “Krak!,” tunog ng kanyang ulong humampas sa sahig na semento.

Sa Kabilang Buhay (Uli).

Takang-taka ang maskuladong demonyong bumuhat sa kaluluwang ipapasok na sa Impiyerno. Hindi nila mawari kung bakit ang isang kaluluwa na hindi naman galing sa Alaska o Antarctic, kundi sa erya ng mga iskwater sa Tondo ay mamamatay sa hypothermia na pati ang kaluluwa ay nag-yeyelo pa. Nakilala ni Edong ang kaluluwa ng lalaki sa unahan, “Si Pareng Ben iyon! Si Pareng Ben nga!,” hiyaw niya.

At hindi nga siya nagkamali…


Monday, August 8, 2016

Chance Seeing My Favorite Journalist

I had a feeling that it was him.

We were on official travel to Manila when I had a chance of seeing him (?) afternoon of August 2, Tuesday, at the SM North while I and my office mates were sauntering around the mall. I had a wonderful chance to see the man in person for I am just a few steps away from his wheel chair. He had a lady companion that isn’t familiar and for sure she’s not a celebrity. When I saw him, I felt something jolted my inner self that no words and all the sciences I’ve learned from college can explain. It was something that my sanity cannot comprehend even as I write this. I felt something left my soul unsettled. I do not know if I was more than just star struck or something. Eros S. Atalia once wrote in Ligo na U, Lapit na Me that, “Totoo pala na kulang ang salita para sa lahat ng nararamdaman.” 

My hunch is always accurate and I trusted it very much when I was younger than today. I am fully aware that I possess a wonderful gift of recognizing a face but I never tested it recently. Maybe I am just so happy to know that my idol journalist is still alive. Even if I just mistook that guy in a wheelchair for my favorite columnist it doesn’t matter. It’s a very exceptional “private” memory I do not want to share to my companions that day. I do mind his physical and mental health and the medical conditions he is into so I did not approach the man to ask if he indeed was him. To see him alive, if it was really him, is enough for me. Personally for me, that meeting (of eyes) was far more memorable than the official business meeting we had with a certain high government official that day.

For around 5 seconds or more our eyes met though I didn’t stop walking, not uttering a single word or letting even a little smile going out of my lips. I can still see from his eyes his usual traits in that swift encounter: his guts and bravery. I am just one of his readers and I do not personally know him. It was September 2014 when his column stopped appearing in his newspaper. Browsing the net is even proved futile to find out something new about him or have an update on what happened to him or to know his present condition. Some people say that he is still in a coma or already is dead after suffering from a stroke that year. No fresh report on his whereabouts or whatsoever. No obituary was written about him either. The widely-read broadsheet where he last worked simply stated that he is on medical leave. Whatever, it is lovely to see great people still having a life worth living and fighting whether it was really him or not. That gave me enough reason to re-read my clippings from his column during his heydays that I kept for so many years when internet is just a thing of the future.

Perhaps, just like the other followers of his column and books, I terribly missed his writings. More so today that extra-judicial killings are constantly thumping the headlines, the move to change the charter towards federalism, among other issues and questions unfolded by the new administration under an equally new populist president. This eminent journalist influenced me in many aspects since time in immemorial mainly his argumentations and reasoning while striking his pen. He is the king of opinions in my opinion.

Though he looked so skinny today (judging from his television appearances that I’ve seen in the past) and perhaps most of the time he is nailed to his wheelchair, he is radiating with greatness. The man at the mall may not be him but I had a feeling that it was him. I recognized him instantly for with his shoulder-length silvery hair, his moustache, his tinny goatee and most especially, his very familiar spectacles. I will not tell you who he is for I am afraid that my once reliable hunch has already taken by age and the one I saw was not him. Therein goes the rub. 

After that momentary meeting of our eyes I was heading towards the mall’s exit door so I minded my steps briefly and when I looked at him again from behind my back, he was still looking at me. No expression whatsoever from his face until he disappeared from my vantage point. 

Maybe the man that I saw, if it was really him, knew that I recognized him. Or perhaps the man I saw was just somebody who was annoyed by my muted, mistaken curiosity…


(Photo: Independent Birmingham)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tu(d)la* : A Six-Shooter Anthology

1.  Modern-Day Lepers

Sinners right away are the lepers of yore
Measured as social outcasts, devils and more
Though no single stone they did ever hurl
They were stoned to death amidst the crowd’s guiltless growl.

Today, they are guilty right away in the eyes of men
Lifeless to prove that they are blameless and innocent
And no craft of man ever dedicated to them
Except for the bullets from trained marksmen.

2.  Ham and Bacon

A corpse wrapped like a giant ham dumped on a busy street,
Maybe killed not by the cops but by the drug lords themselves
Whoever did that brutal, inhuman feat
Never in the victim’s life did he ever taste
A ham like those in judges’ Christmas feast!

On the long presidential table the dignitaries swoon,
Craving for the pork and its return
For this butchering to them is God-adorned.
In the dark corner of the banquet two shadows move along
The killer and the mastermind, together they bring home the bacon.

3.  Alisin Mo Ang Lahat

Alisin mo ang karapatang mabuhay
Lahat ng karapatang pantao’y wala nang saysay;
Alisin mo ang karapatang dinggin sa husgado
Lahat ng batas ay wala nang sisino;
Alisin mo ang pangamba sa patayang ito
Lahat ng patayan sa iyo na’y panuto;

4.  Ang Bagong Tanim Bala

Hindi sa de-aircon na airport kundi sa mabahong lansangan
At ang mga biktima karamihan
Ay hindi pa man lang nakatapak sa alinmang paliparan.

Tanim-bala. Hindi sa bag at bagahe kundi sa ulo at katawan.
Sa lumang tanim-bala, umusok ang kanilang bumbunan,
Sa bagong tanim-bala, palakpakan ang mga hunghang!

5.  Ang Mahirap at Ang Mas Madali

Mahirap ang mabuhay sa tama man o mali,
Mas madaling pumatay sa nasa man o hindi;

Mahirap ang tumae kailangan pang kumubli,
Mas madaling pumatay kahit lantad ay pwede;

Mahirap ang magnilay sa Ika-limang Utos sa sanlibutan
Mas madaling unawain si Mocca Uson o si Carlos Celdran;

Mahirap ang mag-giit ng pag-iimbestiga,
Mas madaling maparatangan na sangkot ka rin sa droga;

Mahirap ang maging kritiko sa mga nagaganap na patayan,
Mas madaling magbintang na kakampi ka ng Dilawan;

Mahirap ang igiit na ang palitang-pananaw muog ng demokrasya,
Mas madaling ikahon na lang ito sa kampihang pulitika.

6.  Orasyon sa Karapatang Pantao





(“Tudla” in Tagalog is “Aiming”,“Shooting”; “Tula” as we all now is “Poem”) Photo: []

Monday, July 18, 2016

Meet Kai-Lin, 5

Shown above is Kai-Lin Kalas, a 5-year old Alangan Mangyan girl living in the highlands of Mayba near the upper portion of Amnay River. Beautiful yet she would not make it in any beauty pageants when she grew up, for sure. Or be on television or in the movies for that matter.

Neither she could be an academic someday but can be intelligent in her own indigenous, ingenious ways. She does not have to draw life’s meaning by outshining in certain scholastic discipline or from publications and citations as what the renown academics did, but she can surely find personal happiness in the meaning that her roots have created and be relevant for her contributions to humanity and her ancestry. It this sense, she’s still a lovable child hereafter.

In reaching adulthood, Kai-Lin, together with the tribal elders and other Mangyan dwellers would participate in Agpamago, a ritual of prayers for bountiful blessings for their community. It is a profound prayer asking for the enjoyment of inner peace where the written laws and the limit of science would not dictate the existence of man’s life.   

Kai-Lin cannot afford to be like the raised like a princess and debonair Serena Marchesa to marry the most handsome Simon Vicente Ibarra (nee Tenten) who now owns the Marchesa’s ancestral villa in Askovia. Kai-Lin will definitely avoid, when time comes, the highly mechanistic society where citizens want to find explanations for everything that affects their lives like the characters in telenovelas. Human life, for the soon-to be woman of simplicity like her, needs not be measured in having the information on how everything works.

Someday, in the darkest of the night, Kai-Lin would sing the same lullaby sang to her by her mother while as a baby she sleeps on a hand-crafted native hammock. Telling stories she learned in school when the moon is shining in its fullness above the skies. The nourishing milk that flows from her breasts is understood only as a nurturing substance but so clueless on how colostrum works for her child.

In the meantime, the sweet little girl Kai-Lin and all the beautiful yet murky children of her age in geographically isolated areas have to take hours of barefooted walk, though accompanied by their parents, are exposed to dangers in the terrain especially during rainy days or at night, back and forth as pre-schoolers at Rang-Ayan Elementary School in Barangay Proper of Pag-Asa in Sablayan town. They already have a school building back in Mayba constructed 5 years ago and could accommodate all the pre-elementary pupils there but the Department of Education-Division of Occidental Mindoro still failed to station an additional teacher with permanent item to Kai-Lin’s place. With very high probability, Kai-Lin and her classmates would end up as drop-outs as their parents would later arrange their livelihood than being idle taking care of their little children away from home and from their economic base. Like many of the parents before them, their children’s education would ultimately not their priority.

Somewhere inside the school compound is boldly printed: “Education for All” but nothing is mentioned about its accessibility….

(Photo : IPAO File)

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Kumipis na ang dating matipunong katawan ni Lando. Unti-unti.  Nangitim na ang paligid kanyang sugat sa binti at utlaw na ang buto kaya nagpasya na ang duktor na putulin na lang ito. Kaya heto siya ngayon, alipin ng kanyang saklay (o maaring ang kanyang saklay ang kanyang alipin). Sa edad niyang bente nuwebe ay napakatanda na niyang tingnan. Hanggang sa lumabo rin ang kanyang mga mata na bahagyang-bahagya na lamang naka-aaninag. Mga parusang haplit sa kanya ng kanyang diabetes. Mabuti na lang at kahit papaano ay may programa para sa mga maralitang taga-lunsod ang kanilang parokya. Dagdag din ito sa mga gastusin sa gamot at pa-duktor. Kaysa sa noong kalalaan ng sakit, mabuti-buti na ang lagay niya ngayon.

At sana, habambuhay na.

Taga-deliber siya ng mga papeles ng kanilang kumpanya noon at sapat na rin ang kita para sa bago pa lang nagsisimulang mag-pamilya. Pero dahil sa karamdaman, halos limang taon na siyang walang lakad at walang kita, walang trabaho. Ang maging halos bulag na at hindi makalakad at wala pang trabaho ang pinakamasaklap na sasapitin ng isang amang tulad niya. Ito ang hinagpis niya sa mundo. Nakatira na lamang sila sa isang maliit na barung-barong malapit sa mabahong estero. Ang kanyang asawa ang bumubuhay sa kanila ng kanilang otso anyos na matanong at makulit pero malambing na anak na si Lek-Lek.

Ipinagbubuntis pa lang noon si Lando ng kanyang nanay nang ang kanilang pamilya ay tumungo ng Maynila upang umiwas sa bakbakan ng mga NPA at sundalo sa Mindoro. Nobyembre ng taong 1987 nang ang kanyang mga magulang ay patagong tumakas papuntang siyudad. Akala nila ay tatahimik na sa kanilang baryo dahil napatalsik na noon ang diktador na si Marcos, kaya akala ng marami ay wakas na rin ng militarisasyon. Minsan na kasing tumuloy sa kanilang kubo at nakikain sina Ka Islaw, ang isa sa tatlong bangkay na ibinuyangyang ng mga militar sa plaza ng munisipyo. Inilatag ito sa lupa ng wala man lang sapin. Bakas sa mga nilalangaw na bangkay ang  pagpapahirap na kanilang dinanas bago patayin: Durog lahat ang mga kuko sa kamay, may paso ng sigarilyo ang maseselang bahagi ng katawan at tadtad ng saksak sa leeg.  Sabi ng opisyal na may dalang largabista sa azotea ng gusaling pampamahalaan, napatay daw sa engkuwentro ang mga rebeldeng iyon. Nabalitaan nilang hinahanting ng mga Matasadem ang tatay niya. Samahan ito ng mga mamamayang tapat daw sa demokrasya na isang armadong vigilante group. Sakay ng barko na tigib ng takot, lumuwas nga sila ng Maynila.   

Mahirap talagang makipag-sapalaran sa lungsod ng kawalang katiyakan ngayon lalo na sa kakainin at pang-araw-araw na gastusin. Pero naiisip niya, hindi man nakabubusog ang pagmamahal ay daan naman ito para makalimutan ang kalam ng sikmura at pagkalubog sa kumunoy ng pagdaralita. 

At sana, habambuhay na.

Lubak-lubak na ang bungad na sementadong daang lagusan ng eskinitang papunta sa kanila kaya kinukumpuni ito. Binabasag ang lumang konkretong eskinita para muling sementuhin at lagyan sa gilid ng drainage canal. Ang eskinita na pugad ng mga latak ng lipunan. Ang linyang daan kung saan kadalasan sa liwanag ng street lights ang mga bata ay nagtutuyaan at nagpapayabangan tungkol sa kani-kanilang mga magulang. Maghahamon ng away ang isang nuwebe anyos na rugby boy ng, “Tatay mo nga rapist!” sa isang kalarong ang erpat ay kalalabas lang sa hoyo. At iiyak na lang bigla ang mutaing bata na makakantiyawang supot ang tatay niyang drayber ng sikad. Nabugbog pa nga minsan ng isang ma-ngongotong na pulis ang tatay ni Mutain matapos nitong ipagkalat na ang mga bataan ng pigoy ang numero unong tulak ng droga sa kanilang lugar. Na siya namang totoo.

Sa edad na bente kuwatro, morena ngunit makinis ang kutis ni  Leny at sa taglay nitong ganda, maraming mabibighani sa kanya. Katabi ang mahimbing na natutulog na asawa, sa mga gabing maalinsangan na hindi siya mapagkatulog, napakiskislot din ang kanyang balingkinitang katawan sa tunog at yugyog ng sudsod ng jack hammer ng mga taga-MMDA na nagsasagawa ng road re-blocking sa may ‘di kalayuan kahit nasa katahimikan ng gabi. Madalas nang magputik ang lagusang iyon na dapat sana ay palaging nadudukal o namimentina, noon pa.

Pero kamakailan lang ay nagpasiya si Leny. Kung aasa lang siya sa pagmamanikyur at sa paglalabada ay mamamatay silang dilat sa gutom, lalo silang malulubog sa utang. May disenteng trabaho ba ang naghihintay sa isang hindi man lang nakatapos ng elementarya? At ang ikalawang dahilan ay sa kanya na lang. Ilang gabi na rin kasi siyang hindi mapagkatulog gayung kumain naman siya kahit papaano. May nararamdaman siyang hindi mairaraos sa tulog. Nagbabagang kadena man ng panlalait o kahit dagat-dagatang apoy pa ng Impiyerno ang kapalit nito ay tatanggapin niya. May puhunan naman siyang sisimulan. Mapagsasabay pa niyang maiibsan ang dalawa niyang pangangailangan.     

Simula noon, may ilang hapon na siyang nagpapa-alam na may pupuntahan lang. Lalabas siya ng bahay na bagong paligo at naka-pabango. Isa man sa kanilang dalawa ay walang mag-uusisa, walang nagtatanong. Magpapaalaman sila na kapwa may impit na awa sa isa’t-isa. Mga anino silang hindi hinuhusgahan ang isa’t-isa. Malalim na ang gabi madalas kung siya’y uuwi.

Ngayong gabi habang hinihintay nila sa labas ng pintuan si Leny, kinukulit na naman siya ng matanong na si Lek-Lek, “Tay, ano po ba ang pendeho?”  Tila balaraw itong ‘sing talim ng pagmumura noong kampanyahan ng kauupong pangulo. Tarak na tarak ang inosenteng tanong ng anak sa kanyang dibdib. Tanong na alam niyang bunsod ng istoryahan at kantiyawan ng mga kalaro ng anak. Mabuti na lang at mas entresado si Lek-Lek na ikinuwento kung papaano pinagbabaril ng mga pulis ang tatay ni Mutain. Nanlaban daw ito sa mga umaresto sa kanya. Sinugod daw nito ang mga otoridad tangan ang isang kaputol na bakal. Sabog ang utak ng tatay ni Mutain yakap ang kanyang sikad. Dedbol.

Nailigaw niya si Lek-Lek sa tanong na tiyak na magsasanga pa ng mas malalalim at matatalim na mga tanong tungkol sa pendeho.


Kung maaari lang sana, habambuhay na…

(Photo: from the movie “Mientras Su Durmida”)