Friday, July 3, 2015

Tarps for Turfs: Its Ecological and Political Hazards

Political season is near and the early birds are displaying, albeit prematurely, their tarpaulins all over. Only last Friday, while on my way home from Sablayan, newly-posted tarpaulins caught my attention. In it is a picture of a certain political figure from San Jose who had been a candidate seeking a slot at the municipal council in more than three elections in the past but never won. When I first saw the tarp, I have mistaken it for an advertisement of Globe/TM for the political (I am sure of this) material likewise carried the red, white and blue theme but instead of “TM” what was printed in the trap is “TL” which suggest his future campaign slogan, an acronym for “Tamang Leader”. “TL” too stands for the beginning letters of the man’s given name and surname. But allow me to refer to him simply here as TL and understand why I like to just keep to myself the reason why.

If my memory serves me right, TL filed his last candidacy as member for the local legislative council of Municipality of San Jose in 2007 under United Nationalist Opposition or UNO. I was informed that TL is a registered voter of Brgy. Central, San Jose. I was told too that our main man is only visible during election season and also connected in an accounting firm in Manila. Other than this information, I have nothing more to say about TL, his true love or whatsoever. I have seen his campaign posters before and he is neatly wearing a coat and tie. But TL is a pariah in the mainstream political landscape in the province. But since I only saw his tarps in SAMARICA Area for I do not have a chance to travel to MAPSSA lately, I have a hunch that TL is vying for a shot for provincial position, either as board member or governor (or maybe as a congressman). Let us forget about TL momentarily but in due time, when the campaign period is on, we may consider listening to him.

Tarpaulins proliferated everywhere in Occidental Mindoro. Political tarpaulins of the incumbent officials are ever visible projecting their good image. But no doubt we are now entering the new era of what I call “Tarp for Turf”. Practically almost everything needed to be printed for public information were in tarp, signage and everything. In every activity, replacing the old cut-outs and curtains, the tarp took centre stage, literally and figuratively, as backdrop for the platform. The political contenders and pretenders, with their promise of good governance and certain advocacies employ tarpaulins. Political tarpaulins are ugly manifestations not only of the politician’s, but the system’s prevailing culture of lack of delicadeza. Tarpaulins, both the business and the thing, grow like mushrooms in the haystack but sadly, finding the true political leader during election time is as torturous, if not as impossible as finding a needle in a haystack!

But going back to tarpaulins per se, tarpaulins are non-biodegradable for they are xenobiotic so they are ecological hazards. According to experts, due to its high plasticity it takes approximately 500 years to degrade. Take note of this fact: Kahit magka-apo na sa tuhod kolehiyalang grumadweyt na cum laude at kalansay na ang patay na mga minsang ginawan ng tarpaulin na isinabit sa punerarya at sa paaralan (kung minsan kahit na gate ng bahay ng cum laude, na may nakasulat pa na “with love from Papa and Mama”), hindi pa rin matutunaw ang tarp at madaragdag sa libong toneladang basurang nalilikha ng buong lalawigan kada buwan! We know that tarpaulin or tarp is a broad sheet of cloth cover made from a water resistant or waterproof material. Original tarpaulins consisted of a cotton based cloth material. Most modern tarps are made from a polyester material coated with latex or PVC, largely due to cost effectiveness and also strength and longevity gains. Sad to say, it seems that political promises would also take 500 years before they are fulfilled.

But not unlike politicians and political issues, tarpaulins can be re-cycled.  In this tarpaulin (read; garbage) oriented and infested country, while both sitting and aspiring politicians  consider themselves as tamang lider, the informed voters considered them as May Tamang Leader. Tamang Leader and May Tamang Leader are contradiction in terms but ordinary voters could not easily differentiate the two…



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Silence of a Church and Mindoro Mining

Instead of issuing statement regarding the recent reinstatement of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of Intex Resources for the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP), the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose (AVSJ) issued a pastoral (?) letter that has little to do with social or public concern but more of an internal administrative matter.

The letter I was told was signed by Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD of AVSJ and read in a Mass at the San Jose Cathedral last Sunday, June 14, 2015. It carried something that has very little to do with the Catholic faith and divinity in general but about an Estafa Case filed only last February this year against priests Ruben S. Villanueva and Rodrigo A. Salazar, Jr., SVD. The alleged pastoral stood firm to the conviction of the local Church to pursue said case in civil law instead of her own tribunal system. Both Fathers Villanueva and Salazar in their capacity before as heads of the Social Services Commission (SSC) and the Vicarial Indigenous People’s Coordinating Office (VIPACO), respectively, are staunch anti-mining advocates.

In Oriental Mindoro during a mammoth rally against the Norwegian mining firm last June 12, 2015 conjoining with the 117th Anniversary of Philippine Independence, thousands of participants coming from various religious organizations, priests, nuns and seminarians signified their disgust of said mining project in whole Mindoro island. Though Calapan Bishop Warlito Cajandig was not around, the involvement of his flock has the good prelate’s blessing. Nobody from the AVSJ, priest and laity alike, came to attend the historic gathering. Not even their shadows. All of the formators and seminarians of Saint Augustine Minor Seminary in Calapan joined the mass action, as I have witnessed.

Incidentally, among religious organizations based in Calapan, the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) been the most visible during the June 12, rally. The BCBP Chapter there fully animated the theme, “Be Brave. Be Bold”, anchored from BCBP’s 35th NAC in Pasay only last May 1-2, 2015. This is what I also expect from same organization in Occidental Mindoro to be brave and bold amidst injustice and abuses in our midst. This deafening silence of our local Church made her lost her relevance in this burning call towards protecting Mother Nature and promoting social justice.

Bishop Palang some months back issued an official statement in defense of his priest, Fr. Fernando Suarez, from a memorandum of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or USCC alarming their local dioceses over Suarez’ healing masses in the United States. The prelate fully protected him against the alleged “damaged caused to the reputation” of Fr. Suarez in said statement released last April 20, 2015. But in the recent call to protect the environment against mentioned destructive industry, nothing, as in nada, was heard of from the Church’s officials of the island’s other half.

When Fr. Villanueva and Fr. Salazar are still occupying their previous positions in AVSJ, they had been key persons in staging a rally against Intex. Foremost was the one held in May 2009 in Mamburao which was mandated and participated by Bishop Palang himself. But in May 1, 2012, Intex offered a Mass celebrated by Bishop Palang in commemoration with Philippine Labor Day, the Fiesta Celebration of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Brgy. Pag-Asa (Sablayan) to mark the mining company’s launching of its Livelihood Enhancement through Agro-Forestry (LEAF) Project. Well, I have no qualms about such gesture from my bishop for such is an avowed duty of every priest. Priestly blessings, like sacraments, indeed should be apolitical.

But since Villanueva and Salazar, and other anti-mining clergy,- both diocesan or otherwise, left the vicariate, nothing was heard of about matters pertaining to Intex from the present leadership of my local Church. Its diocesan social action arm closed shop, not unlike her seminary, and never been re-opened since.

On Thursday, June 18, 2015, Pope Francis is about to release his encyclical on care for environment and for creation called Laudato Sii or “Praised Be”. That day, the Vatican will release the first comprehensive Catholic moral statement on creation care and climate change to the faithful around the world. How wonderful and timely it could have been if the Church leaders of my diocese came up with a letter signifying and presenting their stand on Integrity of Creation anchored on deepest defiance against the Mindoro Nickel Project. As I have said earlier, they used the divine authority of the Catholic Church to herald something that concerns not of faith and teachings in general. They wield and use it against individuals (priests, for that matter) and not in contradiction of bigger and systemic foes like mining companies and the prevailing unjust mining policies of the land!

Eduardo Balamiento, a cyberspace friend, correctly stated, "They (the AVSJ officials) should have resolved that conflict with the priests within the Church in silence. But in mining issue, it should be heard." I couldn't agree for more.

But at least, AVSJ’s present “pastoral” direction that my Church is heading is now clear to me after this personal reflection and I am sad. Very sad...

(Photo; CybermovementagainstMindoroNickelProject)


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SVD Priests’ Long Journey with the Mangyans

Since 1936, the Catholic missionary Society of the Divine Word or SVD been officially in-charge of the ecclesial responsibility for the whole Mindoro island and in 1950’s, the SVDs been active to support the Mangyans in many ways. Jurg Helbling and Volker Schult wrote, “The [SVD] missionaries helped the Mangyans with credit and medical care and they supported them in dealing with settlers, traders and provincial officials as well.” (p.156; “Mangyan Survival Strategies”; 2004; New Day Publishers). This blog entry is my humble tribute to pioneering SVD missionaries who worked utterly with the Mangyans of Mindoro particularly former SVD priest Antoon Postma, the time-tested clerics in Fr. Ewald Dinter, SVD and Fr. Dennis Flynn, SVD, to cite just three. Here’s a rejoinder: This lowly blogger is not an alumnus of a SVD-run school or in any way connected to the congregation. That is for the record.

Well, Postma is known for his various works about the Hanunuo (an ethno-linguistic group of the) Mangyans especially their distinct culture with his all-inclusive documentation. He is no doubt a world- renowned authority on the subject for he lived with them for more than 50 years and he is an anthropologist. On the other hand, Fr. Dinter is best known for his charismata in dialogue and “inculturation”. He is a recipient of Saint Joseph Freinademtz Award, one of the six categories of the SVD Mission Awards bestowed some years ago during the Centennial Celebration of SVDs presence in the Philippines. Fr. Flynn, a Filipino-American, as a little boy, spent the most of his youth in the Philippines, including the war years 1942-45 and later entered an SVD seminary in the US and eventually ordained a priest in October 1961. A year later, he was assigned to the Mindoro missions. Fr. Postma left priesthood in 1989 and Fr. Dinter came to Mindoro in 1966, while Fr. Flynn established Mangyan, Inc., an NGO, in 2003 focusing on modern upland agriculture and all of them are still connected with our brethren in the mountains.

When Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose (AVSJ) was created January 27, 1983, her Mangyan Mission, later known as the Vicarial Indigenous People’s Coordinating Office or VIPACO, together with religious congregations of nuns, holding dear to their mandate, facilitated programs and projects towards gaining equal opportunities and treatment, right to self-determination, protection of indigenous culture and arts, ancestral domain and sustainable human development of said indigenous peoples or IPs. The late Bishop Vicente C. Manuel, SVD, DD, having a degree in Sociology and a big heart for the Mangyans, who described them as the ”poorest of the poor in this forgotten half of the [Mindoro] island”  was into conviction that such ministry need not be confined to band aid solutions and dole outs like scholarships and mercy missions. Bp. Manuel’s SVD brothers struggled with the Mangyans against aggressive activities detrimental to the upland ecosystems. The Mangyans are the proximate stewards of God for our forests and mountains, as what the cleric often reminded us lay faithful.

Bp. Manuel, during his tenure has appointed three SVDs to said diocesan ministry. First was Fr. Wim Leijendekker, SVD, followed by Fr. Ramon “Monet” Bosch, SVD and later, Fr. Rodrigo Salazar, Jr, SVD. Fr. Salazar, a personal friend, believes that that large-scale mining is a threat to the livelihood and environment of the Mangyans. True enough, for all its seven sub-tribes, land is life.

The present Episcopal Vicar for the Indigenous Peoples of AVSJ is Fr. Fernando Suarez, MMMP who was appointed by another SVD prelate, the Most Rev. Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD,- his bishop protector, to the position sometime in 2014. This was years after Suarez was incardinated to the vicariate. But we are still about to hear Suarez’ and/or his local ordinary’s official position on the recent reinstatement of Mindoro Nickel Project’s (MNP) Environmental Compliance Certificate or ECC by the DENR reportedly upon instruction of President BS Aquino III.

Despite the fact that the SVD missionaries I have mentioned differ in so many ways, in their approaches, programs, strategies and ways of evangelizing towards their mission for the Mangyans, they are true to their prophetic role, to say the least, in bringing The Word to the (Mangyan) world. The Catholic principle of Unity in Diversity is fully animated by and in them.

As I have told you, I am in no way connected with the SVD, though, now it can be told, I once tried to enter SVD’s Christ the King Seminary in 1978. I passed the entrance exam but for “quasi- secular and semi-worldly” reasons, I did not return to enroll (further elaboration is immaterial!).  

Seriously, like them, I work with the Mangyans and a missionary in my own right. We all are, actually..


(Photo: Mangyan Inc.)


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why My God Won’t Show Up for Mayweather-Pacquiao

Freddie Roach once said that the mega fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is “a battle between Good and Evil”, Pacquiao being the Angel and Mayweather the Devil. Truth is, Manny and Floyd are both believers. With regards to Floyd’s materialistic ways he insisted that for him, God is still a priority. But to tell you guys, my God won’t be at MGM Grand on Saturday night, not because of the costly ticket, my dear readers. Nor because of the Churchmen and pastors singing the Philippine National Anthem that any hoodwink may consider as an infringement of the Constitutional clause on Separation of Church and the State. I’ll tell you later why my God won’t show up for Mayweather-Pacquiao.

In one of his Instagram posts Floydie explained his outlook about his God: "God will not give you anything you can't handle. That's why God gave me the best hands in the business to pray with, box with and count money with." God knows that no one is so wicked he never once in his life show in his heart something that God made. But since this is more of a sports write-up, I would not expound on Miguel de Unamuno’s theological concept of the difference between “God Idea” and “God Himself” as a rejoinder.

What matters most now, since both proclaimed their belief in God, of whatever basis they both have, on whose side the Almighty will be on May 3? But to tell you, a draw is not a remote possibility. Compared to his former opponents, Justine Beiber’s man now seems to be more kind against Justine Fortune’s bet. Pretty Boy is now “saintly” judging from his latest “no-trash-talking” and reserve gesture not taking into consideration his sincerity or lack of it.

Mayweather is his God’s child too. The child in TBE once declared, again on his Instagram account: "I am guilty! I'm materialistic and I'm motivated by money … but God is first in my life." How could a loving Father censure his son with such statements of loving acceptance (?) with such proclamation no matter how ridiculous it is conveyed? If my God isn’t God of love, understanding and forgiveness, my God ceases to be God.

“God will deliver Mayweather into my hands,” says Pacquiao on what he expects from his God. But in boxing as well as in life, we have to struggle and fight it out ourselves not relying on the deliverer solely taking action. In boxing, it is the boxer who delivers blow and punches, not God,- yours, theirs and mine. Reducing my God’s role to that of Air21 deliveryman and not as co-actor in our every undertaking is in a way, blasphemous.  

But my God would not be with Kenny Bayless or Tony Weeks on top of the ring neither with boxing camps or corners on that much anticipated bout, or with Al Bernstein and the rest of the crew for its media coverage. The righteousness and evilness the two champions in their personal lives, past and present, were not part of the Tale of the Tape like in any other boxing match that we have in mind.

Both sons of their respective Gods no doubt, Floydie and Manny are bestowed with the ability to hit their fellow pugilists would finally  be meeting each other in the grandest “fistory” of all time scheduled in the majestic basilica of gambling and entertainment in the whole universe, a place where spirituality has no room. Las Vegas is a vineyard of vice where God is irrelevant. And as I have told you a while ago, my God wouldn’t be in the house because in there, my God is a persona non grata. Would God dare to be a spectator in a sport where the ultimate objective is to hurt and maim your opponent? Be reminded too that God abhors den of gamblers and love of money. In the so-called Sweet Science, like in any other sciences, God and anything about God are less asked for.

If God would not be around, what will happen? Between bells, both Mayweather and Pacquiao will solely rely on their own style, athleticism, power and experience. The outcome of the fight will be greatly resolved by their ability to knock-out or punch each other out and not much on their God’s interference. In a profane and brutal sport of boxing, action has more weight and might than the mysticism and enormity of the player’s prayer. In every boxer-believer, fighting is a conviction that there is God up there. Action and prayer, though do not diametrically opposed, cannot go hand-in-hand evenly in the psyche of a pound-for-pounder. I would not mind being less-Godly and be a rock-hard, blood-thirsty boxing buff on that day!

The outcome of this super fight will be determined more by the American and the Filipino atop the ring and not by my God who is not bias against any race or religion. It’s another story when it would go by a distance and end into the scorecard or a controversial upshot.

It is because the impious gods and demigods of the Mecca of Boxing, unlike my God, would be there with all their mighty influence…

(Photo : Jec-Hon)


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pacquiao’s Sad Entrance Song

It sounds like a “punebre” or a funeral song to many than a walk-in tune for a boxer heading towards the ring. If Manny Pacquiao only allowed Guerilla Tactics to arrange and perform it for him, it could have been different. Guerilla Tactics by the way is a musical band composed of members who hail from Sablayan, venue of the first two professional fights of the Pambansang Kamao. His entrance song “Lalaban Ako Para sa Pilipino” written, directed and performed by  Pacquiao himself does not have luster. It’s almost a sad song. If only it were a movie, it’s more suitable in a soundtrack of a drama film rather than those in the genre of action movies, others may think.

Some would say that it’s what we Filipinos call “signus” or bad omen or a premonition? Or is it Pacquiao singing the “punebre”, in advance for the impending “death” of his opponent, the undefeated American boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. or the other way around?

“Eye of the Tiger” was PacMan’s favorite entrance music in the early years of his successful career. From the title of the entrance tune to Mayweather on May 2 itself, we, the fans, are assured that the Pac Man would fight for us but did not assure us that he will win. I hope I am wrong in this.

In his fight against Brandon Rios, a lot of people were amused with his choice of entrance music. It was Kathy Perry’s “Roar” which is “pambabae” (for women), they say. It’s a lame song, according to many but he convincingly won over Rios.

Yes, I have told you that “Lalaban Ako Para sa Pilipino” sounds like those being played in interment services and processions. But think how the dreaded, Undertaker beaten black and blue many of his opponents on top on a wrestling ring. How he knocked them down in the actual fight. But PacMan is not the Undertaker, you may argue.

The supposed sadness of Manny Pacquiao’s entrance music cannot be sadder than The Undertaker’s entrance music which is called Graveyard Symphony II V8.

A song which is truly part of the dirge, a “punebre” .….

(Video : Youtube)


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pacquiao and the Anti-Intex Protest

Just less than a month before the much awaited and historic Mayweather-Paquiao match in Las Vegas come April 3, 2015 Philippine time, Intex Resources Corporation on its website last April 7, boastfully posted that, “The DENR, acting to the instruction from the Office of the President has lifted the suspension of the ECC.” With the present policy on mining of the Aquino government, this is somehow expected.

Well, I would not deal here much about the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) for I have already exhausted all my contentions against it in other pages and threads, neither would I dare announce my fearless forecast on the coming Mega Fight of the two of the greatest boxers of all time.

In a post to the discussion thread the other day about DENR’s re-instatement of MNP’s Environment Compliance Certificate or ECC (ECC-CO-0904-007-2721), I have commented, “Like Manny Pacquiao, let us go back to the training camp with this mission” coupled with the picture that you could see on top of this entry. With the coming of the much talked about fight, somebody might think that I am just exploiting the upcoming boxing rumble to suit my advocacy's purpose. Or I am just using the upcoming fight to stress my point untruthfully while in fact, I am just stating the truth of what we, pro-environment groups and individuals are supposed to do in the following days as a preparation for another fight for fragile ecosystems of Mindoro.

Please be reminded that 24 Mangyan and non-Mangyan volunteers staged a hunger strike in front of the DENR Building in Quezon City from November 7, 2009 onward. The protest ended after 11 days until the ECC was finally revoked by then Secretary Joselito Atienza. You may ask, “So, what Pacquiao has to do with that?” First, let us not forget that Pacquiao and Sec. Atienza are supportive of each other’s endeavors and allies in politics then.

Besides, fresh from his impressive TKO win over Miguel Cotto, Pac Man visited the secretary’s office that year and the champ’s victory parade passed through the picket line and Pacquiao greeted them. Informed of the event, the protesters creatively made boxing glove- shaped placards with the the advocacy messages, “Knock Out Intex” and “Pacman, help us stop mining in Mindoro!”, among other messages as plea of support from the triumphant Filipino boxer who suffered his lost from Darlene Antonino-Custodio two years after. Custodio got more than 64% of the total votes for the First District of Cotabato against the People’s Champ for the congressional position in 2007.

The formerly known as “Kid Kulafu” (I am mentioning this taking the risk of being accused of promoting the upcoming movie of Buboy Villar), just days after the protest in front of the DENR Office, in November 21, 2009, Pacquiao confirmed that he would run again for the congressional seat, but this time in Sarangani province where he eventually won.

In fact, on that particular instance during the protest in front of the DENR’s office, there was a Manifesto of Appeal to CongressManny that we can read in full text in this link.

Another fight is on for those who stood firm, like local officials and the Mangyans, and the people of Mindoro in general.

Yes, like Manny Pacquiao….

(Photo; Roslyn Arayata)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ode to a Lighthouse*

While you give light and signal messages
To distant sea vessels and ships
At your foot darkness persists.
Therefore, Lighthouse,
You are a paradox at its best!

Your watchman is more concerned
With distant occurrences
Than what is happening right under his feet.
Answer me Lighthouse,
Are you a building of care or neglect?

The splendid edifice
End up on a hill or island isolated
Sought by life sailors to you they could connect.
Yet, for that reason, Lighthouse,
To a distant lover you are likened.

In Palaces, slavery are reminded to slaves
And Cathedrals add guilt to sinners
Bridges are affront to swimmers.
Indeed, true, Lighthouse,
With firmness and all, you are affirmative!


Norman A. Novio
April 7, 2015
Presing Park, Sablayan

(*With Apologies to El Duque de Rivas)

(Photo: Nomadic Experience / Apo Reef Natural Park Lighthouse)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My Excalibur : A Eulogy

Coming from his short stint abroad as a seafarer, his first ever gift to me was a plastic sword, its handle laced with “gems” and “stones” of different colors complete with scabbard. While my playmates are satisfied with their improvised wooden swords, I scuttle and scamper with my toy sword given to me by my Tito Baby fixed in my hand.

Neighborhood kids especially those fond of reading a certain komiks novel in Liwayway Magazine are jealous of my latest apparel. The year was 1968 and a serialized novel written by Nemesio E. Caravana and illustrated by Nes C. Ureta titled, you’ve guessed it right, “Excalibur” was one of our favorites. My playmates and I do our sword fights from late afternoon till sundown.

His closest relatives call him “Baby” being the youngest in a brood of seven boys. But as years passed by it gradually changed into other nicknames: “Bebeng” to his classmates in elementary and high school “Joe” “Jay” or “Joey” to his friends and later “Ute” (but he spelled it as “Ottie”) as a grown-up man. Before he went to college in Manila, I was told by my Mamang that Tito baby was once a junior seminarian but bolted out of the school for reasons I didn’t dare to ask. As I have told you, he have been in many countries like Brazil, Kuwait, Italy and other places in the world that I can recall from his travel photo album way back in the 70s. He was a seaman for some time and turned into businessman and eventually became a farmer when he settled down as his family grows.

My late father and Tito Baby have many things in common especially when it comes to firmness in their decisions, hard work and compassion for the needy, a sort of trademark of the Novio’s of San Jose as one of its pioneering residents. Papa and Tito used to read pocket books particularly war and espionage novels. During their younger years, separately in their lives, they have been caught up in melees and minor offenses against the law and persons of authority. Their hand writings are the most beautiful compared to the rest of their brothers.  

When he’s in his late 30's, Tito Baby encouraged me, his Kuya Manuel’s eldest, to pursue my long deferred college education. I stayed with them all through out until I finished my Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. He stood as my second father at that time. He and Tita Nida bankrolled my studies, from school fees and allowances, all the way. I was their general factotum, like what Tita Nida jokingly used to describe what I am to them. And I became witness (and sometimes accomplice) to some of Ute’s little misdemeanors. Without the couple’s help, with all honesty I have to admit, because of my immediate family’s financial hardship, there’s no way I could earn a degree in college. I could have ended then as a career-less and jobless bum without their aid. Nobody asked me but my early poems and essays were published through Tita Nida’s portable typewriter trademarked Brother. I have learned many things about literature and writing from their bookshelf. Including baby-sitting, cooking, driving, hollow-blocks- making, palay-drying and acting as an apprentice to a canteen, to name a few.

But as a family man and as he grows old, Ute became a transformed individual. He paid a visit to my mother late last year in Bubog and that’s the last time I saw him. I only see him on special occasions because I, too, have my own family to mind and to attend to, until the news broke out the other day that Tito Baby succumbed to heart attack in Manila after few days in the ICU. The well-dressed and be-mustached man who gave me a toy plastic sword when I was 6 was gone but cannot be forgotten.

Thank you Tito Baby, for that magical “Excalibur” of “Education” that you gave me. This is a very potent weapon from pommel to point until now that I have drawn from the stone spelled L-I-F-E. Like the King Arthur legend, this “Excalibur” served me well and later I became a gallant king in my own right!

Just like how the legendary Excalibur taken back to the care of the Lady of the Lake, he, now in the hands of His Divine Creator, will remain in my memory forever…

(Photo; Flicker)

Monday, February 23, 2015

It’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s BirthdayToday!

Question: What do Steve Jobs and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has in common?  Answer: They share the same birthday.

But since and our very own Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), the only boxer in history to win world titles in 8 weight divisions, and Mayweather,  the self-proclaimed TBE (The Bea.., err, Best Ever!) will meet May 2, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden, let’s set aside Steve Jobs for a while. Today, February 24, Floyd Mayweather, Jr just turned 38 but with great anticipation, he is aiming for his 48th win for his immaculate boxing record, just one win shy of breaking the 49-0 win-loss record of the legendary Rocky Marciano.

The clash of the two welterweights is expected to break financial records at pay per view, global sales and gate receipts. This fight is expected to be the highest grossing in history, at $400 million. Mayweather’s estimated income will be $120 million for the fight, with Pacquiao taking home about $80 million.

Said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman:“May 2 will be a signature moment for the sport of boxing and HBO Sports is thrilled to be a part of this spectacular event. I know the fighters and their teams will be primed to excel and we plan to work closely with everyone involved to deliver the same level of performance from a broadcast perspective.” The fight is expected to be the rarest of generation-defining boxing events, along with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987, Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I in 1971, and the most historically significant boxing event ever, Joe Louis-Max Schmeling II in 1938 when America and Germany are at the verge of war.

Pacquiao and Mayweather are the first two fighters in history to hold crowns in 4 divisions. If Pacquaio wins, he will become the first man in history to hold crowns in 5 weight classes. This fight is expected to be the highest grossing in history, at $400 million.

We, the Filipino boxing fans should thank Manny and Floyd, Jr. for making this fight happen that started with their brief meeting during a Miami Heat game at American Airlines Arena on Jan. 27. We have clamored for it for more than 5 years. I am excited seeing both Jimmy Lennon, Jr. and Michael Buffer uproar their respective catchphrase “It’s show time!” and “Let’s get ready to rumble!” standing on the same boxing ring at the same night. Let us just hope that both boxers would be safe and stay away from accident on their respective training camps or it would be a mega-spoiler. The Las Vegas boxing community,- the bookmakers, the judges and the whole Nevada State Athletic Association, will always stand by Mayweather. In order to disappoint those odds, Congressmanny must have a convincing win, a KO if possible. So the tall order for Manny is how to convincingly beat an American demigod of boxing in an American turf!

Today marks what would have been, as I have stated above, 60th birthday of Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are two of the richest boxers in their respective country but we, not only “Money” and “Pacman”, but for all of us, should learn from Steve Jobs:  Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful... that’s what matters to me!”

What a "jab" from Jobs….


Monday, February 16, 2015

Priests on Trial: Gomburza

The notorious Dámaso Verdolagas or plainly Padre Dámaso in José Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere,” became the epitome of priestly abuses and hypocrisy to this very day. No doubt, there are still a lot of Dámasos in our midst. We hate the modern-day Damasos but  have forgotten the martyrdom of three secular priests in Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, known collectively as Gomburza.

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the February 17, 1872 execution of Gomburza as per records of the Spanish government, but according to the La Solidaridad and French newsman Edmund Plauchut, it took place on February 16, 1872. Philippine history has it that the aftermath of the so-called Cavite mutiny was a mass purging of people who have been suspected of having led or supported it. On the day the news of the uprising reached the central government in Manila, the Governor-General immediately caused the arrest of prominent priests and civilians as conspirators of the mutiny, among them, the Gomburza.  

In an article written by Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo, he said that during the trial, the principal witness was a certain Francisco Saldua who testified that the mutiny was a conspiracy, and confessed that he was a part of it. He wished to be pardoned in exchange for his testimony. He narrated on the trial that for three times he delivered messages to Fr. Jacinto Zamora, who had then gone to Burgos’ abode. Saldua said that the conspirators met at the home of certain Lorenzana.

Some military witnesses testified that they were told that should the uprising succeed, the president of the republic would be Fr. Burgos, parish priest of the Manila Cathedral but all were just hearsay. A fellow priest, Fray Norvel, testified that the Creoles were inciting the people to rise up in arms against Spain, and that he saw Burgos passing subversive pamphlets. Lies and unfounded information subdued the trial.

Fr. Burgos’ landlady testified as a sort of character witness. She vouched that Fr. Burgos was a peaceful man and with no liking for gossip. She said that Fr. Burgos would even advise the insurgents to seek reforms without spilling of blood or the recourse to violent means. He was the most distinguished among the three, having earned two doctorates one in theology and another in canon law.   He was a prolific writer and was connected with the Manila Cathedral, a good swordsman and boxer.  Burgos got into a quarrel more than once with his superior, Archbishop of Manila Gregorio Martinez, regarding the right of native secular clergy over those newly-arrived priests from Spain.

After eight hours of trial, according to Ocampo, the Council of War condemned to die in the garrote the three priests Don Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora. Padre Burgos’ last words are as follows:"But I haven't committed any crime!" Reportedly one of the friars holding him down hissed, "Even Christ was innocent!" It was only then, it is said, when Padre Burgos freely accepted his death.

There are present-day idiots like Francisco Saldua who, in order to save their neck, point at fellow human being with his far-fetched accusations.

There are also the likes of Fray Norvel who has the bad feeling and implicate and accuse his brother priests.

And there are still Archbishop Martinezes among us who favor friars (priests) from other places than the homegrown clergy.

They are, too, the Padre Dámasos of our time…

Friday, January 30, 2015

On Popularizing War and the Mamasapano Killing

Today is a National Day of Mourning. The whole nation is in grief on the killing of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force in an encounter happened last Sunday, January 25, 2014, birthday of the late President Corazon Aquino, in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Many Filipinos demanded an All-Out War against the so-called terrorist groups like what former AFP Commander-in-chief and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada did. To peace advocates, this proposal is disapproving. Let us not forget that the military victory gained by the Estrada administration was impermanent. After major military camps of the rebels fell in the hands of the government forces, MILF regrouped and gained more strength. Erap’s All-Out War became an open recruitment opportunity for the Muslim rebels.

Not few among us emotionally resorted to ethnic slurs against the Muslims and a huge number of citizens criticized Benigno S. Aquino III for the tragic incident. As sorrow swallows up the nation, innuendos and speculations came out from practically all sectors of society. There are claims that SAF’s main target, Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan", Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head is already dead but this needs further confirmation. Stories keep pouring and opinions coming from known groups and influential personalities gained media attention but those voices from civilians who are right there at the conflict areas are hardly heard.

And once again, netizens from Occidental Mindoro as it is elsewhere, barely armed with laptop computers instantly turned into military strategies and war tacticians forgetting that the horrors of war has more effect on the civilian population or the non-combatants rather than the combatants, government forces and the Muslim separatists alike. They call for an All-Out War from the comfort of their offices and homes that are million kilometers away from the war zones. In just a wink of an eye, we all became “experts” in Mindanao crisis!

We have forgotten that All-Out-War would have more serious collateral damage to the citizenry, those who have no direct participation in the armed conflict,- women, children and the elderly, Christians or Muslims, than the combatants. These opinionated and prejudiced people in cyberspace are popularizing war seeing it as the only way to end such man-made horror. History taught us that war, both internal and external and whatever scale, has tremendous effects in economy and the community as a whole. It would also drain resources, monetary and other wise, from the national coffer. War can never be a top priority in resolving social and political conflicts as stipulated in our Constitution.

As of today, no definite figures on how many civilians were killed and how much money the Philippine government has spent in said military campaign during Estrada’s time much more in almost a century long history of secessionist war in the region. As of body count, though no define figure was released, it is safe to say that it reached a couple of hundred of civilian lives!

After Estrada launched the All-Out War in 2000, number of refugees fleeing from the conflict swelled to 800,000 individuals. Imagine the anguish and pain of leaving behind almost everything you own and had worked for because of the fighting. We cannot estimate how much the government has spent in said military campaign but it is for sure dreadfully expensive. It was as dreadful as the actual battle itself. Imagine, the military deployed at least two marine and two infantry battalions, or the equivalent of around 2,400 men, not just for days but for at least over a month. Think how many ammunitions and bombs they needed, aside from other peripherals like food, fuel, among other logistics.

Every massive military offensive coming from both forces is a psychologically draining experience for every individual and family who there at the battle front regardless of the intricacies and the untold stories behind the operation and the encounter that cost the lives of 44 PNP commandos and 12 MILF fighters. All we know is this: this issue has been misted up and the public are being bombarded by confusing reports about what really happened but the investigations are going on. But we do not completely expect full disclosure on these investigations for truth, like peace is very elusive though the former is necessary to achieve the latter.

Well, based on the loud outcry of many Filipino netizens to “exterminate all rebel and terrorist groups” in Mindanao by exhausting all the military might of the Republic a-la Erap, it clearly shows our war-obsessed mentality is deeply embedded in our psyche, thus unknowingly we pass this cultural conditioning towards war and killing to our children.

As we honor our fallen SAF44, we should remember that an All-Out War would just put the lives and properties of civilians and the non-combatants or those having hors de combat status as collateral damage. Putting the lives of these gallant officers for motives and objectives only known to those who are in power and those agencies and governments which makes profit or advancement of their security interests out of war, needless to say deserves condemnation.

Will we allow our police and military men as mere chips in the game of the generals by launching another All-Out War in Mindanao and once again be betrayed by those officials?...



Friday, January 23, 2015

Wood Sawer

Nagsimula ang lahat sa Number 132 Capt. Cooper Street. Isang kalyeng nakalatag malapit sa gilid ng pampang ng ilog-Pandurucan. Samantala, sa Cádiz, Spain noong araw ring iyon ay isinilang si Elvira Lindo, isang kilalang Españolang journalist ngayon sa New York.

Nang ang kanyang nanay ay dalaga pang napadpad sa Kanlurang Mindoro, naging dispatsadora ito sa isang tindahan ng Intsik na asawa ng kanyang pinsang buo. Hindi lang ang pagbibilang “chit, ng, sa, si, go, lak, chit, pwe, kaw, tsap” ang kanyang natutunan. Marami pa. Sa bookshelf ng samu’t-sari at kakaibang aklat at magazine ay iniluwal ang isang duktor na may apelyidong Bethune na isang Canadian pero namuhay raw noon sa Tsina. May kakaibang tunog sa babae ang first name nito.

Naging suwail na mag-aaral sa sekondarya ang batang pinag-iistoryahan natin. Naging laman siya ng kalsada at batbat ng aktitud ng isang lumpen. Nakatapos nga ng high school ngunit namumutiktik sa pulang grado ang kanyang permanent record na ka-kulay ng katatanggal na sanitary napkin!

Sa tulak ng atubiling panahon noong siya ay nasa kolehiyo nang siya ay matutong magsulat ng scented pen sa stationery, pentel pen sa school desk at brutsa sa pader. Pero likas rin sa kanya ang magbasa, mula sa maliit na selyo hanggang pinagbalutan ng tinapa. Mula komiks hanggang Free Press, Catholic Digest hanggang Hustler. Sulat dito, basa doon. Basa dito, sulat doon. Dahil dito, naging totoong manunulat din siya sa wakas. Sa pang-hihimok  ng kanyang mga guro sa mga asignaturang literature ay sumali siya sa patnugutan ng kanilang pampaaralan pahayagan. Hindi napigilan ng aktibismo ang kanyang pag-akyat sa entablado para makapag-tapos ng Batsilyer sa Edukasyong Pangmataas na Paaralan at naging Manunulat ng Taon.

Hilig talaga niya ang pagsusulat gayong sa mga sinehan lang siya natutong mag-English at sa Liwayway naman ang tamang pananagalog. Mahina ang kanyang memorya kaya tulong din sa kanya ang pagsusulat. Hanggang sa nauso ang blogging. Marahil ay kabilang siya sa iilang blogger sa mundo na walang sariling laptop o desktop computer. Pwede nga namang manghiram lang.

Sabi ng paham sa titik at letra na si Mark Twain, kung ang manunulat daw ay hindi pa kumita sa kanyang unang tatlong taon, mas mainam pang siya’y maglagari na lang ng kahoy na panggatong (Tingnan ang larawan sa itaas).

Tanggihan man ng pamantayan at panlasa ng lipunan at kultura ang kanyang mga akda ay hindi siya titigil. Hanggat may gumagamit ng tungko na panluto, siya’y mag-aalok ng kahoy na panggatong na kanyang nilagari. Kahit man lang sa aporismong iluluwal kada umaga mula sa magdamag na pagbubuntis sa kanyang imahinasyon. Hanggang sa makapagsulit siya sa kanyang Dakilang Patnugot balang araw.

Kahit siya’y walang “K” na makilala man lang ng personal si Elvira Lindo ng El Pais na kasing edad na rin niya ngayon…

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Poncho-ed Pilates?

The Papal Visit to the Philippines is over and we are back to normal. For days, people practically from all walks of life, non-Catholics included, had a very wonderful experience of being blessed by God and momentarily feel moments of holiness. But how can we sustain the lessons we get from this historic and memorable faith experience as a nation?

The Philippines once again caught global attention. Images of Filipinos braving Typhoon Amang’s (Yuto) Signal Number 2 strength captured the attention of the world. The word “Amang”, by the way, in Tagalog means “Male Child”. But to Ilocanos, though in different enunciation, “Amang” means “Father”.  Coincidentally, Pope Francis said his Culminating Mass in celebration of the Holy Child Sunday at the Luneta. Sto. Niño for Filipinos is truly a Child and a Father (read: Lord)!

Many of well-to-do individuals and central figures of faith from my place went to Manila and wear ponchos all the way to meet the Pope. Of all people, our bishop was not there to meet the Holy Father. I do not know why our priests left their local ordinary behind while the momentous event is unfolding.

Pope Francis’ visit has ended and the disposable ponchos have dried (I am sure that the disposable yellow ponchos were not disposed for it would serve as a symbolic souvenir from the event). We are again back in being a worldly man like Pontius Pilate. We are returning to our normal ways of yielding easily to pressure from those people who are superior to us in many aspects and social structures that are making us hostage of. The systemic corruption, the dangers of the electronic media, the subtle attacks on the family, the prevailing social ills, subhuman conditions, moral decadence and yes, environmental degradation are still a reality. Like Pontius Pilate, we surely again easily give way to something that we do not like when our position and comfort, life and limbs are at stake or threatened.  

Pilates we all are in this sense.
In Tacloban, the Holy Pontiff, perhaps, had his first experience of saying the Holy Mass in the middle of the storm and driving rain which is held in an open space. What a wonderful symbol of solidarity with the agony of the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) right there at the middle of ground zero. This would bring us to the issue of climate change and ecological challenge, its causes and the impending disaster that it would bring.

By way of a joke, Pope Francis asked two requests from his audience at Palo Cathedral the other day: “First, pray for me, and second, be silent.” People in my place are praying for the Pope, no doubt, but amid threats of all those structural problems, many men and women of faith, both the clergy and laypeople, fell silent. Perhaps, like Pilate, we are afraid of pressures coming from those who make this evil structure continue to exist. These are the pressing problems of the poor in our midst that many of us Catholics do not seem to care or understand.

As such, we are but a collage of photos of Poncho-ed Pilates….



Friday, January 16, 2015

Is Pope Francis Leftist?

Right after his visit to the Philippines and meet the thousands of still agonizing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims in Leyte last 2013, Pope Francis is bound work on with his first ever encyclical on environment hinged on environmental issues such as climate change. It is expected to be released by June or July this year. Environmentalists are hopeful that Francis' encyclical will jump-start the next talks of the United Nation (UN)-initiated climate change negotiation after the last round of in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement. The pope is scheduled to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York in September and expected to take the global stage taking off from his upcoming encyclical. Please read THIS report coming from his mini presscon while on board going to the Philippines yesterday afternoon.

Lolo Kiko pledged on his installation as Vicar of Christ to make environment a priority. Firmly Francis once said, "The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness." This stand of the Pope irked the rightists all over the globe saying that climate change is essentially a fraud.

They do not believe that climate change is man-made. Frank Walker writing for said that, “This [Pope’s stand] is the essence of Socialism. It’s just simple oppression imposed in the name of justice and it has nothing to do with the charitable teachings of Jesus and his Church.”  Another writer, Gerard Caplan wrote that, “Pope Francis is the most prominent leftist in the world.” True, he recently reinstated Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a practitioner of Liberation Theology who later joined the revolutionary, left-wing government of Nicaragua's Sandinistas in the 80s’. d' Escoto is criticized by the Vatican for allegedly importing Marxist values into the church. Nobody asked me but my first taste of such theology came from the book “Ang Kristiyanismo ay Rebolusyunaryo” by Fr. Pedro Salgado, OP way back in college.

If indeed the accusation is true that the Pope is the “most prominent leftist” in the world today, he cannot be compared to his Argentine compatriot in Che Guevara. Guevara blasphemed Jesus when he said, “In fact, if Christ himself stood in my way, I, like Nietzsche, would not hesitate to squish him like a worm,”  while Francis endlessly reminded that Christ is the center of this visit and not him. That is why personally, Che is not my “rockstar”. It’s Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a Latin-American like Che and Francis.

Speaking of Bishop Romero, in August last year, Pope Francis lifts Vatican- imposed ban on the beatification of Romero, who was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980. Beatification is a step towards sainthood. Pope Francis said this after his recent trip to South Korea: “For me Romero is a man of God. There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly." Amen. Is the Pope Leftist? I do not care. All I hope is his visit would change us Filipinos and revisit our faith.

Well, whether Francis is indeed a supporter of “radical leftist green movements” or a leftist himself as alleged by haters of the Catholic Church, the Rightists and the capitalists,- if our systems still neglect the environment the moment Lolo Kiko has left us, our Church leaders, lay and clergy alike, and not nature deserve “a slap in the face”...