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”)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On Gina Lopez’ Caldero and Other Stories

I came across a story written by seasoned journalist Ellen Tordesillas which appeared in Vera Files last July 27, 2016.  It is about a tussle between Gina Lopez, the incoming DENR Secretary, and an unknown pro-mining participant in a business forum. In Tordesillas’ account, she accentuated that anti-mining are hypocrites for despite of their stance, they are using materials with elements coming from the mining industry. Gina Lopez is anti-mining but at the same time she uses a caldero or a microphone which are both products of mining.

Let me make it clear, I am in no way defending Gina Lopez here. I am not a fan of the Lopezes or ABS-CBN!

What was applied here is bad premise: One should not oppose mining if s/he uses anything made up of elements coming from mining. This is my take on the argument: Then, on that very same reasoning, one would not expect a pro-mining to breath fresh air in un-mined areas with, say for instance, carbon deposits underneath. The pro-mining individuals are not expected to swim too in a clean, cyanide-free river or eat fishes free of mercury contamination or enjoy all the gifts of nature that are not products of mining.  

To put it in the vernacular: Kung HINDI DAPAT gumamit ng kompyuter o caldero na pawang mga gawa sa mina ang mga anti-mining, ang mga halaman, gulay at bungang kahoy na HINDI mga produkto ng mina ay HINDI RIN DAPAT kainin ng mga pro-mining!  Unlike a caldero, my physical and spiritual self is not a product of mining, so, should I cease to use my whole self for my betterment and the betterment of my fellow human being?

I prefer to be called pro-environment than anti-mining, if I may emphasize. A pro-environment is one who favours and is biased for the environment over extractive business industries however financially feasible they are.

Both ends though should find right technology how to recycle mining products such as caldero, computers or other things containing minerals coming from mining. Similarly, responsible mining, if there’s really such an animal, should be defined once and for all and look for common working area to flesh it out. But how could the so-called responsible mining bring back and restore the mining areas destructed by mining operations to its original stage? This is our biggest “how” of all. Until it is assured, responsible mining rests only in one’s illusion!

Also, the Mining No Go Zones should be identified and established. Those communities vulnerable to environmental destruction like the fragile island ecosystem of Mindoro Island. Specifically I am referring to Occidental Mindoro’s  Key Biodiversity Areas, Island Ecosystems, Critical Watershed Areas, Geo-Hazard Areas, Natural Forests, Eco-Tourism Zones and Agricultural Lands.  Since we live in a fragile ecosystems, all mining applications in Occidental Mindoro should be cancelled and all existing mining licenses and permits be revoked. Let us focus more on agriculture and tourism and adhere to the 25 year mining moratorium ordinance of the province.

In-coming President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed Lopez as DENR Secretary who, until to this very day believes that there are no such thing as responsible mining. Duterte believes otherwise. The presumptive president is so certain that there is responsible mining elsewhere like those in Australia. On the other hand, just like Mar Roxas, Duterte’s candidacy was allegedly bankrolled by big personalities in the Philippine mining industry. But discussions and dialogues on mining must be anchored on facts and data of each individual mining application and not on fallacies such as I have mentioned above.

I haven’t heard much from the campaign supporters of Duterte regarding this. They are more eager to dwell on death penalty, drugs and corruption and Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, while our environment is dying slowly and the caldero of the majority of the masses in mining areas are empty …

(Photo: PTV-4)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sensing a Duterte Win

Though I am not a fan and I won’t vote for him this coming May, I smell the dawning of the Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

Violence is predominantly felt every day and everywhere in so many different forms and levels in our social interactions: abuse of power, crime, corruption and exploitation. The Filipino people are sick and tired of this chaotic reality happening right before our very eyes. Knowing the Filipino psyche, the word “Peace” is only confined to absence of violence as conveyed to us by both the mainstream and social media. Criminals with their vicious acts, both in the private and public spheres, continue to flourish as we see in the news sensationalizing  the very details of the case to the point that they bring irritating negative vibrations even in our supposedly most solemn or joyful moments. These news, the way they are presented, are giving us anxieties and even irrational fears or paranoia. Many of us are now suspicious of every stranger we meet in the streets, workplaces and even the people in our own neighborhood and homes. The criminals,- the kidnappers, hold-uppers, rapists, carnappers, etc., continue to draw blood from the hapless, innocent victims no doubt.

It is in this dreadful background that Rodrigo Duterte offered himself to the position for the nation’s top post which is the presidency. The former mayor of the then crime-infested Davao City succeeded in projecting himself as the crime busting messiah that is why, as of this writing, he continuous to gain support from the people and get high ratings from many surveys. To those who are behind him in his campaign and to millions who hope that criminality could be ended by using the iron fist approach in leadership, it is okay to employ brute force or even maim or kill in the name of peace and justice. Here lies the reality that generally, we Filipinos have very distorted concept of Peace and Justice.

Peace, to a genuine peacekeeper, is creatively and non-violently dealing with conflicts. True peacekeeping, over and above, is a way of developing alternatives to violence as means to resolving criminality. There can be no peace without justice. Justice in plain words is “giving what is legally and morally due to a person”. Indeed, we are true peacemakers only if we give what is due to somebody, his/her rights as human being to fully achieve his/her full potential and full development. The right to due process is foremost. Given the very alarming level of criminality in our society, presidential aspirants and all the candidates in general, must be committed to the defense of life and its sacredness in all its states and dimensions. The life of the suspects included. There is no room for extra-judicial killings or summary executions but on the other hand, many Filipinos today out of desperation, believe that such brutal actions are the only way to combat criminality. It is alleged that when Duterte was the local chief executive of his city, he formed death squads killing drug pushers and other criminals. We love men of action both in reel and real life. We are bombarded with movies depicting screen heroes radiating with fearlessness in the past thus this idolatry. But to follow the thoughts of Pope Francis, who am I to judge them?

Meantime, Duterte is scheduled for a campaign here in Occidental Mindoro on April 15, 2016 and a huge crowd from all over the province is expected to come. Well, even in the internationally acclaimed Google News and Al Jazeera before me put articles saying that Duterte’s presidency is inevitable.  Except for this hardline way of achieving peace and order, his other stand on certain issues, say federalism, are mostly commendable. But it is sad to note that it is not the issue of federalism or his sound development agenda that moved people to support him but his street smart personality, his machismo and his scheme of how to ultimately end criminality.  

The present generation clamor for punishers. We as voters and as citizens lack good voting judgment as it was shown in the past. As I sense that the Duterte presidency is expected, I also expect that our immaturity as voters and the patron-client relationship in our political culture will remain, so is our regressive electoral systems.

People do not care if Duterte has close friendly links with some top officials of the CPP-NPA-NDF which was classified as terrorist group by many of the Philippines’ ally nations. His supporters are mum over his pronouncement that it is okay to pay revolutionary taxes to armed communist groups. They do not care if Duterte’s stand is not to continue our legal quest against China over territorial disputes. They do not care if Duterte is a womanizer. Plain and simple, we thirst for the blood of heinous, hardened criminals, and corrupt officials except of course if that felonious individual is one of our loved ones, or perhaps, our own president.

The only thing uncertain is how his supporters will sustain to back him up and participate in eradicating and annihilating criminals in this part of the earth in just 6 months (or even after his term). Participatory governance is essential in every president’s agenda and program. Are they willing to participate in every drastic action to attain a peaceful and just society that they and their candidate are aspiring for or trying to imagine?

Ironically, of all the presidentiables, only Duterte is assured of prayers by the Pope after the former personally sent the pontiff a letter of apology. Prayers of the pope are still prayers of the pope no matter what made him do it. Under Duterte’s watch, we must now learn how to pray more for our nation. God, please, have mercy on us!

As the support for Duterte continues to swell, so do my sinuses. Due to acute perennial or seasonal rhinitis, my EENT doctor told me that I would occasionally suffer from olfactory disorder. Over and above, all communicators have reserve privilege to change their minds…


(Photo: Cebu Daily News)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali and National Service*

To our Campus Director Ma’am Lorenza Elena S. Gimutao and her staffs and faculty members and the NSTP-CWTS Professors Melinda Santos and Jonathan Mariano, our NSTP-CWS Candidates for Graduation, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning.

Let us give first ourselves a warm round of applause.

It is particularly gratifying for me to be able to impart some words to those whose success we celebrate today – the NSTP-CWTS Graduating Class of 2016. They who are able to complete this unique, innovative, and worthwhile program of service to our nation.

As we all know, our government instituted on 23 January 2002 by virtue of RA 9163, the otherwise known as "National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001". Lumping together the spirit and intention of NSTP-CWTS is summarized in just 7 letters: S-E-R-V-I-C-E. Service isn’t an obligation, but rather, a grace. People nowadays define greatness in terms of position, honor, and glory.

Our world defines greatness in terms of power, money, intellectual brilliance, athletic ability, and good looks. But Jesus, the One who served best in human history, defines greatness in terms of service. We, being an ordinary human being must be involved in service, community service in particular. But sometimes, we serve for evil and cruel intentions, purposes and goals of individuals and even groups.

I am a fan of boxing so allow me to quote the great Muhammad Ali who said that: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Just to share, in 1967, Ali was drafted to national service in the US army to be deployed to Vietnam but refused to enlist. This refusal led to his arrest, trial and conviction for draft evasion. His refusal was grounded on human rights and his religious beliefs calling himself a “conscientious objector”. According to the lower Court, Ali violated the Universal Military Training and Service Act. Ali's boxing career dived out of control after his arrest, with the New York State Athletic Commission suspension of his boxing license and the World Boxing Association stripping him of his world heavyweight title. This also banned him from boxing in the United States. After he was acquitted by the US Supreme Court through tedious court battle, his boxing career started to flourish and became “The Greatest” even more.

In the Philippines, we then have PD 1706, which is providing for compulsory national service thus called National Service Law which was drafted in 1980 and signed into law by then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. This was the prevailing national service act before the enactment of NSTP Act 2001 or the RA 9163. Today, citizens are no longer forced to join the ranks of the army but instead undergo a program aimed at enhancing civic consciousness and defense with various components specially designed to enhance your active contribution to the general welfare. Through this Act, the compulsory ROTC completion is suspended. The term “service” or even the word “defense” (as in “civil defense”) went beyond military parlance. In this course, you attended to various seminars and trainings, both technical and values-oriented, aimed at serving the community. To serve is to risk something. If we do not risk our life and limbs, our time, talent and treasure, it is false service hence, a self-service. (Self-service may be acceptable in a restaurant but a unthinkable in a massage parlor! )

Kidding aside, Muhammad Ali is now 74 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease but still serving humanity. As Muhammad Ali was one of the first athletes to use his status as a vehicle to transform sports into larger societal issues through Ali’s six core principles: Respect, Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Spirituality and Giving,- all manifested by SERVICE.

One year is not enough to make a difference but we, no doubt, were able to inspire and educate people in our little ways. And even when NSTP-CWTS is over, there are still a lot of venues where you can commit yourselves in service despite the odds, when you face the main event, the life beyond school.

Thank you for the invitation and keep on punching, keep on serving!

Congratulations and God bless to the great sons and daughters of your Sintang Paaralan , ang PUP na inyong gabay, paaralang dakila at pinagpala….


(*Inspirational Message rendered on the NSTP Graduation and Recognition of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-Sablayan Campus on April 7, 2016)