Friday, December 30, 2011

Year-End Musings and the Crisis of Resolutions

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The wind blowing from my window gradually cools as the evening turns into an early morning. As I juggle thoughts, plans, and faces in my mind I am left with one thing now just before the year 2011 call it quits: to make a recollection of the year past and make tentative plans for the coming one.

What can I say? The year has been a voyage as if in a sail-run ship, unpredictable days of brief triumphs and downright failures, swaying to the waves of outside events, clasping only the knowledge of steering and maneuvering. Forgive the figures of speech. If only those will be enough to describe the past twelve months.

...Brief Triumphs
Triumph is a strong word. But then its meaning resides in us, in what we consider triumphs and in what we do not consider as one. My gauge comes in the form of writing output, published works. My first history research paper came out this year, a fruit of my first unemployed semester. I can still recall those times when I had to hitch on a full-packed jeepney just to reach a rural barangay to interview war veterans. Then there are those published poems, one in Ateneo, one in South Korea, and two in USA. I am yet to make a ripple here in the country but at least I am aware that I still have many things to learn in craft and art that is poetry.

...Downright Failures
As I have never been a fan of personal lives getting posted like tabloid stories and being talked about by people who know nothing more than mere gossiping, I intend to make up anyway for the ugly events of the past few months. Responsibilities and mere adventurism blurred as I coursed through a sudden deluge of accidents and incidents, both intended and not. And as the coming year look upon me like a new chance I desire to follow the more amiable path, where more lives would be put at peace and where I can see real responsibilities put into realizations. Love conquers both in a good and a bad way but I wish to immerse myself in the uncorrupted form.

And at this juncture I wish the send my apologies to those people who may have felt the tug of my uncontrolled life in the past months. Amendments may come long but at least these tentative steps to settle things would suffice. Ugly details have been spilled around, yes, but I still stand by that conviction that there lay that thick wall dividing what’s public and what’s private in one’s life. I will be the sentinel of this border.


...of Resolutions
And the crisis lies on the concept of resolutions. A yearly set of resolutions inevitably assumes that what you have set the previous year has all been accomplished. That is not necessarily true for me.

- Write more and learn to write more. Lack of formal grounding on this craft is no longer an excuse not to excel. Go learn by the experience. Go learn through rejections and revisions. Writing is a love affair of its own.

- Travel more. Reach even the smallest corners of the cities or towns in the Philippines. Interview the commonest of the common and extract from them the essence, the soul of the ground that is the Philippines. The people’s stories, the structures of the past all form the moving saga, the moving history of ours.

- Save more. Not to poke fun on a well known establishment. But I need to save now owing to the uncertainly of my present situation. Unexpected problems can be best weathered with a sound pocket.

- Ponder more. An activity which I failed to do after graduating. Quiet moments under the trees. Quiet moments in a deserted train station. Quiet moments in the house. Quiet moments just before sleep. In the absence of deep prayers, may an exercise of meditations would help in organizing my thoughts and plans.

I close myself for this year, swallow in the down times, carry my bag to move onto the more aggressive and adventurous years ahead. I will walk on my own; this is my story.

“...travel on foot [is] virtue.”
-Werner Herzog

Rizal is in the Heart Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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Words will flood again as Filipinos celebrate today Rizal Day, a commemoration of the martyrdom of Jose Rizal, physician, doctor, patriot, national hero. The air we’ll breathe will soon be saturated with the scent of flowers from the wreaths offered in different monuments and statues. Having read his works and studies parts of his life, Rizal indeed is worthy of all the honors still being given to him. As for me, Rizal is in the heart yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Living Up to the Season’s Spirit: Giving to Typhoon Sendong Victims

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Being a non-celebrant of this month’s celebrations has given been relative freedom from pressures of excessive giving and excessive consumption at the same time. But the continuous bombardment of the media of photographs and video footage of the destruction wroug
ht by Typhoon Sendong in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro permeated through me. And so in part to enable our organization, Kapatirang Pitong Lawa sa U.P. Los Baños to participate in a community service, a relief mission was organized for three days at San Pablo City, Laguna.


I was only able to come on the last day of the mission and what surprised me was the volume of goods that the organization was able to collect. Sacks of clothes came from one barangay alone and last-minute donations were also received. Despite the intermittent rain the group was able to transport the goods to LBC which offer free delivery of relief goods to Mindanao. What we have collected thus far may be small compared to others who have truckloads but giving, as I realized as I went home after delivering the goods, is as subjective as any other concepts. It is not about how many or how much you have given. The worth of something you have given is lodged in the sincerity of your giving. You give out of heart, so they say. We hope the goods would reach the people of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro before the year ends.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sendong Silences the Christmas Season

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In this period when almost all the Filipinos are gearing up for the festivity that is Christmas, a rather ugly event cuts through an otherwise pristine season of celebration. Typhoon Sendong may not have devastated Luzon this time but it almost turned the southern cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro into wastelands. We see cars overturned, muds flowing through the streets, and dead people being piled up like unusable logs. We then see the survivors lining up to get drinking water which has become a boon for them.

It is really a contrasting view, a view of brown and mud as compared to a view of red and green pine trees of Christmas. But then it is quite more saddening to note how much of our happiness, at least in the Philippine setting, is anchored on how pompous our Christmas celebrations would be. Is it the only time of the year when happiness can be found? Is it the only time of the year when we could gather together and prepare for lavish food? Is it the only time of the year when giving can be a common sight?

“Araw araw ay magiging Pasko lagi...” It may not be conducive for the people of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro to celebrate Christmas and so let us give them the rest of December for mourning. And since we have all been harking how Christmas can be celebrated any time of the the year, then we might as well reserve the festivity for them in the coming of the new year. The pain and hurt might still be there but we, as a nation, can only move on and press on forward. For now let us give all the assistance we could extend to our fellow Filipinos affected by the tragedy on the south.

Photo Credit: Bobby Lagsa/NPPA Images


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Of Deltas and Losses

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It’s a wonder how much of life’s experiences can be summed in the alternating descriptions of deltas and losses. Delta is not that foreign to me, having been acquainted with it through physics to denote change. Yes, changes. Then there are losses. Forgive this semi-series of emo posts. I have said to an intimate anyway that this will be my last post of that character. It is time to get over the ugly details of the recent weeks and move on.

Breathing in Changes

When one chooses not to act on something, an impetus I choose to call change will definitely run over you. But in accepting change as your inevitable shadow (in the protagonist and antagonist sense of the word), you can somehow weather eventualities not in your favor. War, as has been reminded to me recently, brings changes. War is fundamentally ugly. And so ugly affairs definitely change you or your environment. Inevitable or not, we just have to brave all of them. In my case, braved it all I did. But hopefully things would turn better after all those hasty decisions made just to patch the problems. Change compelled those decisions. And those decisions will soon attract change. That only shows that we can never go round change. It’s a part of us. It’s in the air we breathe.

Bridging Losses

We get to lose something every now and then. It may be a few bills or a wallet sometimes. Or we get to loss a chance to watch a long awaited concert. But to lose a relationship, more so a bounded one, rakes into one’s psyche and leaves you that feeling of emptiness. Perhaps emptiness is not sufficient to describe it. A calm, more likely. A calm in the storm. The calm you feel after recovering from a high fever. A calm which rings into your ears. A calm that smells of pain no matter how hard one deny it. But loss is never felt more painfully when you bridge that emptiness, when you try to overcome the realization of the loss. But as with change, we can only move on when we brave the reality of loss. Only then can we find the initiative to make the necessary amendments.

Forgive my vagueness reader.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life Created, Life Ruined

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How does one create life? Is it really confined to the biological process we are all familiar with: an entity carried in the womb of a mother and brought into this world after nine months of nourishing? Or can it be described through a relationship where the bond between two persons is strengthened by experiences shared together each day? Perhaps the distinction will lie on the definition of what is life for you or for me. As a further thought, how does one ruin life or recreate it?

On my own definitions, I saw life rose around me in the form of a family, a concept I grew to respect and appreciate for one does not get to receive so much attention beyond its circle. Its stability and happiness, ironically, is defined by norms which are totally indifferent to the human factors involved in the family’s growth or death. And I recently saw a life (or perhaps lives) got thrown into an existential abyss, leaving on its disposal a void of almost the same character but charged with more pain and suffering.

But how do I act in the midst of these two conflicting events? Do I move to preserve what the norm says is to be preserved in exchange for my personal happiness or deny the norm itself and make a living definition of happiness for me?
The answer is that I am utterly confused. And at least by typing away these simple thoughts in the wee hours of the day, I’ll receive that proverbial spark inside me and have the clarity of mind to proceed with the decisions that should be made. Life, as I have always seen it, is always wanting. I am urged to fill in the empty spaces but I still find myself tethered by responsibilities.

Name saving is no longer a safe haven, for all the details of an ugly past have been spilled anyway. I just hope to find the right bets, the right choices for the actions that must be done. Peace, at least in the personal level, cannot be attained for now. And so I plunge into these bitter and decidedly ugly battles. Still, I expect to come out of all the problems not really clean but redeemed. I have overlooked many things but I intend to correct them for the betterment of the many.

And so to my questions. Well, one can create and ruin life. After all, this moral existence is an existence of constant change. We can only live with the wounds of the creation or of the destruction. The bright side of all this is that we OURSELVES have the power to recreate our damaged lives not only once but more. Living gives us hope. I may have the most guilt- and problem-ridden heart at this hour, but I am anticipating a better closure to all of these present predicaments the soonest possible time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rethinking December Consumption

.The month of December comes in with the usual chilly morning air and festive mood. Christmas is at hand and all would now be Christmas songs and carols in our ears, Christmas decors to look at, and Christmas delicacies to indulge with. In short, it is all about consumption again by our dear, old senses.

But a simple thought, written by Sarah Nardi in an issue of Adbusters Magazine would make one rethink on how one would approach the Christmas, beyond all the pretexts to celebrate the birth of the Messiah of Christendom. She spoke of fasting done in the (more or less) same holiday of the Muslims, the Ramadan. It is not about consumption but in fact abstinence, designed as the short article said: “…to bring closer to one’s spiritual self.” Christian or not, it may be high time for those who chance upon this blog post to revamp our consuming attitude for the coming holidays. One can make it a re-founding of one’s self. That’s something to think about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December In Silence

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Let this uneven breathing and a light fever
describe the multitude of thoughts and feelings
inside me as December commences today.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Maguindanao Massacre as a Reminder to Filipinos

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Two years after the bloodbath that was the Maguindanao Massacre we are yet to see closure and sufficient justice served for the families of those murdered. But as the blood stains over those grounds in Maguindanao percolate underground let us be reminded by the sobering fact that the massacre is a direct show of our capability and incapability of handling power, of handling that hunger for power. Our political maturity (if not stability) is still a utopian state. But let us hope for the best. For now, we’ll do better if such a horrible thing as the Maguindanao Massacre will not happen anymore.

* Photo credit: "They Own the People" Human Rights Watch Report, © Reuters

Intermit

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One must come to that moment when an activity must come to an end, however temporarily. And for my case inaction must now come to an end.

I have not been breathing for a long time; having not able to write anything except for a few lines I have tried to scribble in my free times. I miss my extensive scribbles of drafts, late night writings and readings. Yes, I have attempted to dislodge my self-realized ‘writer’s block’ (see that particularly entry here) but it seems that I still have not exerted much effort to triumph over it. Events—both domestic and relational—have severely affected this writing aspect of my life, something that I wish yet again to exorcise by doing this simple musing.

But will this thing still work, discussing my thoughts in my blog? Perhaps. I still have faith in this blog activity after all.

As to those thoughts: I realize each day that personal life is balanced by putting one’s attention to the world beyond one’s bedroom. Too much brooding over domestic stuff rots you inside, while too much attention on outside affairs makes you an abstract entity. The merging the two gives you a corporeal identity. Life isn’t always about yourself; it is also sharing the living with the others. But most of the time, we cannot have those ideal situations, and we have to wade through a flood of struggles. True, it makes life spicier but makes us susceptible to surrender.

But in any case, one must have to press on forward, carry a dog tag of optimism, and continue to live life. I cannot afford to sit down with my knees on my cheeks letting the world turn with all its ugly affairs. I know I am in for some extreme feats and decisions in my personal life in the coming months and I have to go for them. There is NO other choice. This is the ONLY definition of choice for me—to go for them. Only then, I believe, will I be able to fully say that I am living that ‘free life’ that existentialism has tried to define.

I wish my fingers would bleed ink so that words would now flow freely after this.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Business of Busyness

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The word ‘busy’ has earned both my respect and my contempt. It is viewed in a good light whenever an active engagement in some work is necessary and a complete turn-off when I see it being used as an excuse by individuals just to escape. I wish people would stop overusing the word.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

KAPWA sa UPLB Continues to Bloom at 22

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The coming of the month of November brings to mind not only the nearness of the Christmas season but also of the celebration of the anniversary of our organization, Kapatirang Pitong Lawa sa U.P. Los Baños or KAPWA sa UPLB. The twenty-two-year-existence of our org is a testament already of the members’ commitment to keep the group intact and active.


Yes, there have been those years (which I have witnessed personally) when the organization seemed to be on the brink of division and extinction but the small embers of encouragement that came from some of the members gave way for the org to bloom more beautifully. The success of the recent Clean Up the World activity which drew hundreds of students proves the resident members’ newfound compelling powers. It is, so far, the org’s first activity with the largest number of participants. Alumni and resident members await bigger challenges for the organization. Bigger activities. Bigger goals at least until the 25th-year anniversary.

At this point, I send out my sincerest wish that KAPWA sa UPLB will continue to grow internally and that such growth be manifested in the quality of its activities for the city of San Pablo, for U.P. Los Baños, and the Philippines.

Confronting Writer’s Block

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The word ‘frustrating’ would not suffice to describe those moments when the eager hand and pen cannot connect to the mind. The mind, being the formative source of thoughts and inspiration, sometimes fails to open up its metaphorical wells and provide the willing writer – professional or not – of those seeds to be planted on paper. In this fast-paced world, such elaborately described phenomenon will only be relegated to the label of a “writer’s block.”


Such ‘writer’s block’ for me involves those harrowing nights of complete emptiness. Those harrowing nights when I spend the early hours of the day just staring onto the lined pages of my draft book, occasionally focusing on the soft tapping of raindrops on the roof or on the hum of our battered electric fan motor. It was grueling to glide through a vacuum where even anger or thoughts of anger do not inspire you to write even a single word. It is, to say the least, a living nightmare.

But inspirations come quite ironically on seed-like moments too, when mental vacuums are turned onto seemingly simple things:
Watching a child dance to the music of a children’s song.
Scribbling onto post-it notes.
Smiling in front of a comfort room mirror.
Listening to a movie sound track rendered by an orchestra.
Singing loudly in the jeepney.
Talking to an acquaintance.
Putting one’s head against a wall.
I’ve seen how such awkward activities have turned my complacency in writing to a raging task which I have to do for it is a part of my life, for it is a life. I have already mentioned many times that to write is to breathe, and to breathe is to write. That is personally true for me.

In the end, one effective counter-attack to a writer’s block is to engage in activities so devoid of any characteristics related to writing that they would actually turn your attention back into writing and will let you see the vast space of inspiration for the writer, a space whose fabric is composed of intertwined reality, fiction, dreams, and the unknown. One just has to open one’s eyes and see behind what these mortal eyes can perceive.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts on this Post-Given Grace Period

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The lingering sleepiness on this particular Sunday was warded off by the topic of Jordan’s “Perfect Rhythm” radio program: Given Grace Cebanico. The program was only 30 minutes long but it effectively summed up the life of Given Grace, not as a student, not as a daughter, but a faithful servant of God.

It is quite disappointing that much of the details of the last few hours of her life were distorted by the media and the eternal evil of gossip. Jordan shared that she actually came from a night-long preparation of a school-related work and not from a party as is known by some of my acquaintances. And I myself, despite not knowing her personally, could not imagine her partying the night away like that given the hectic schedules of the last few days of the semester in UPLB. She could have only been working on school stuff. Unfortunately, yes, quite unfortunately, that she became the target of those beasts who took the form of drug-pumped suspects.

Jordan played Given Grace’s favorite songs and on the last part of the program, Given Grace’s rendition of a Christian song. It is quite reassuring, despite the brutality of her death, that she is now in peace with her God, away from the ugliness of her departure. At least on that extent, the people who love her are appeased. And on this mortal existence, it is also relieving to know that Given Grace’s killers were promptly arrested before her funeral. Justice was initially given to Given. But I know that Justice will soon tighten her grip and resolve for the punishment of the suspects.

For her fellow Christians, the reigning question as Jordan aptly put it is: “Why her?” But not one can really answer that. Misfortune falls to the good and evil alike. And that is one hard fact that we should all remember.

The reason I allude to this time as post-Given Grace period (much like post-WWII period, etc.) is that it is undeniable that most of us, Filipinos, have been moved by her death. For death, when it comes to a most senseless form, can really move a person’s heart. And especially on Given’s case for she could have achieved more if she have only lived longer. Which makes me wonder if our lives have been moving towards some higher call, towards a life that has a purpose. Given Grace found her purpose in God and she died embracing such purpose. If her death would lead others to approach the God who gave her life’s purpose, then I believe Given Grace did not die in vain.

* Photo provided to Pransisem by Marlon Jaurigue, an orgmate of Given Grace in Young Software Engineers’ Society, UP Los Baños

The Death of Muammar Qadhafi and the Upcoming Darker Times in Libya

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I connected to the internet on Friday to see different news websites plastered with news articles, videos, and analysis about the capture and eventual (albeit quite controversial) killing of Muammar Qadhafi. The death of the once-strong leader of Libya is a pivotal point in the campaign of the revolutionary forces who took up arms against the more-than-forty-year-old regime. To some extent, the revolution is somewhat serendipitous, as the revolutionary forces have different strongholds in different towns in Libya – some eventually falling to the Qadhafi forces and some eventually getting recaptured by the revolutionists. Such erratic campaigns have discouraged outside backings for the rebel forces (which should have meant a shift to diplomatic sort of reconciliation for this war-torn country) but Qadhafi’s capture put a cap to these misgivings.

But darker times are already seen in Libya, for unlike some of the revolutions I have followed in the history books there was no prominent leader (or a prominent group) who/which could direct the reorganization of the government of the country. I can put forward a naïve parallel comparison to Cuba, which at least had Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Raul Castro who led the campaigns during the Cuban Revolution and when the regime they sought to topple (that is, Batista’s government) has fallen, they eventually emerged as the new leaders of Cuba, something which was more or less expected by the rest of the revolutionary forces there. The same cannot be easily said of Libya as the people who form the collective revolutionary forces came from different tribes (and if I may venture to say, religious sects). That would be quite a headache for the National Transitional Council (NTC) which, according to some analysts, is also divided into factions.

In any case, the bloodbath would surely be significantly lowered as the focus would now turn to the building of the country’s national government. It also certain that the circumstances regarding the death of Qadhafi would be the topic of future historical inquiries and investigations. One only has to watch the few videos capturing the last few minutes of Qadhafi’s life to realize how difficult it would be to clearly write out the details of his death. But in the end, what is clear (and in fact somewhat ironic) is the way he died. He gained power through revolution and another revolution killed him in the end.

As an afterthought, it is only now that I got the chance to watch a bloody revolution from its start to its end (although the question if it is really the end is another story). But such things are not new anyway. History is replete with similar events. The only difference is this knowledge that one such revolution happened in my time. (Well, Enough of these random thoughts.)

Photo Credits: Yahoo! News / ABC News

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Birth and A Death in U.P. Los Baños

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Having spent almost six years in U.P. Los Baños, I could not help but scavenge for news every now and then about my alma mater. This present blog post was conceived after receiving some recent news about UPLB. The ‘birth’ part is somewhat metaphorical while the ‘death’ part is, sadly enough, quite literal.

A Birth: Rex Victor Cruz Carries the Torch of Chancellorship

A new chancellor for UPLB has been selected and officially declared by the UP Board of Regent on September 29, 2011. Dr. Rex Victor Cruz of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) will start to assume office on November 1, 2011. According to the UPLB website, Dr. Cruz carries with him his vision of “One University, One Goal, One Destiny for UPLB” directed by five-point thematic agenda. It is a fresh start for the UPLB constituents after a rather longish leadership of former Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco whose term was marred by various issues and controversies. How well will Dr. Cruz fare (not to mention the question of how well will the activists take his appointment) is yet to be seen. Perhaps after a year, we’ll be able to make a few assessments with regards to his performance. But such assessments, of course, would come from the rank and file and would not, in any way, prove to be encompassing. For now, we can only hope for the best for this coming administration.

A Death: Given Grace Cebanico and her Senseless Murder

Gloom now envelops the UPLB campus as the news of the senseless killing (and allegedly rape) of Given Grace Cebanico, a BS Computer Science student. It really ‘strikes home’ for me firstly because she was a UPLB student and second, she was an orgmate of one of my orgmates. I engaged this orgmate of mine in a conversation to flesh out information aside from the details publicized already by the sickening media.

“Kalog”, a Christian, a DOST scholar, and a rather attractive person. These are but some of the few descriptions which I am afraid would never be enough to fully describe the person. She was also appointed to be the promotion head of a fair that her org is organizing for next year. It turns out that she will never be able to attend it. “Sickening” I think would be an apt word for this tragedy. It makes me want to vomit, for a lowly way to satisfy one’s carnal cravings like this can only be described as belonging to the nature of beasts and animals. I cannot even imagine even in passing that gray area where rationality comes into contact with beastliness.

Mournings and tributes are only right to be done at these times but in the end, nothing, not even a very powerful person could bring back her life, much less his dignity which was unruly taken away from her by some beasts. The supreme retribution that all might be looking forward to is the imposition of justice and punishment – equally, if not more than enough – to all those who planned this barbaric act.

It is a bitter death, yes. But it resurrects again the age-old issue of security in and around the campus. UPLB may be notorious for being liberal in many aspects but that is not an excuse to be lenient in security especially amongst its prime constituent, the students.

My sincerest condolences to her family and to her second family at school.

*Photo credits: Rex Victor Cruz (rexcruz.org) /
Given Grace Cebanico (Marlon Jaurigue, orgmate Young Software Engineers Society)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ka Roger and His Belated Hailing as a Red Hero

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The delayed announcement of the death of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, erstwhile spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) could have only benefitted their group as they needed to make the necessary adjustments at the demise of their once strong leader. Having no substantial knowledge on how the grounds lay at present – whether his death will signal the weakening of their (“revolutionary”) forces or otherwise – I can only make a simple comparison, that of the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

They were essentially of the same calling. They basically have the same form of enemy (or enemies). But how well will Ka Roger’s death fuel the campaign of their groups and all its different wings is yet to be seen. Che’s death in one way or another only galvanized the stronghold of Fidel Castro and his group in Cuba. The extent of the influence of Ka Roger, who can be considered already as one of the pillars of the Party, will be tested in this era of CCP without him.

As for the general public (who, for most of the time, is conditioned by the media), it is high time to take a short pause and ponder on this highly ironic fact, or call it existence. Their campaigns as “revolutionary” forces definitely have some basis (but how strong these basis are is another story) but the lingering question is how come not so many people join their ranks. It may be a naïve inquiry but a formative response would be some concepts are endowed with the thinking that they are higher callings. Perhaps for them, this protracted war is worth all their hardships. Or perhaps not. But they are indeed worthy of accolade for this is a brave way of painting a meaning–of the meaning–of their lives.

Photo credit: philippinerevolution.net

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Faces of the Storms


Sometimes, the rain comes to us like a relief. In a tropical paradise like the Philippines (yes, it is), a brief respite in the heat of the whole day compels one to relax, make a cup of coffee, rest on a comfortable chair and look out the glass window and watch as the rain drops kiss the polycrystalline shield and eventually slide down to the ground.

It is a picturesque description if not for the fact that heavy rains, particularly in our country, prove to be devastating. Rain can move you to a poetic, if not romantic, trance. But rain can also turn one’s dreams into dreadful nightmares.

And this has been true in the past few weeks. Three strong typhoons (and still counting) and we have another set of statistics for dead people; several millions of pesos worth of destroyed infrastructures, crops, and houses. The typhoons Pedring and Quiel could have wiped the entire Luzon with all their furies. The Philippines is gifted with water more anything else every year.

With the coming of the Christmas season, the devastation that left most of Northern Luzon to waste will surely affect the upcoming festivities. In the wake of these calamities, another round of blame throwing is at hand: the concerned government bureaus or agencies? or the people who refused to evacuate? But in the end, since we cannot really move the country out of the typhoons’ paths, we might as well do the most basic of all activities, and that is preparation.

Photo credit: calvinshub.com

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Dreamscape of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”


Two years after I accidentally obtained a copy of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, I am now finally done reading the series. The concept of Dream has never been brought into this level elaboration, if not re-imagination. If before dreams seemed only the hazy events unfolding only in the sleeping hours, dreams (or perhaps Dream) have transformed into a pale Lord who/which inhabits our waking and most importantly our dreaming world(s).


One thing I can only say about sharing this little accomplishment is that it will be difficult to recount the stories and the reading experience. Needless to say, you must read the series yourself.

A short line which left an impression on me came from William Shakespeare as he talked to Morpheus on the way to his castle: “…life is no play. We meet people once, and never see them again. There is no shape to events, no point at which we turn to the audience for their praise. No time at which we step behind the stage, to see the actors changing their wigs, and painting their faces, and muttering their lines.” Dreams fuel our lives. Life is not what it is now without dreams. And dreams are reality and fiction at the same time.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The 32nd Manila International Book Fair Experience


* one of the entrances to the Manila International Book Fair

in SMX Convention Center

* University of the Philippines Press Booth

* Ateneo de Manila University Press Booth

* school children attending the MIBF 2011

I can readily count on the fingers of my right hand the times I have been to the Manila International Book Fair (fondly called MIBF by others): 1) in 2005 when I met in person then Mayor Lito Atienza [held then in the World Trade Center Manila], 2) in 2008 with a fellow book enthusiast and 3) this year 2011. If before I only went to do random book picking, I can say that I have been relatively successful in this year’s MIBF as I was able to collect a number of Filipiniana books, especially those that I will need for my book project.

* a simple merienda bought from Albergus

* Pastor Hiram Pangilinan in the book signing session of his new book
“Hula, Multo, Faith Healing, Atbp.”

* Trailer Pransis and Jordan, DJ of Perfect Rhythm radio program

The MIBF is a five-day event but one can visit all the booths, skim through the books on sale, in one day. However, each day has highlight activities. On the day we attended, book readings for children occupied most of the afternoon slots in the stage area.

Some booths also have their special activities. As an example, the OFM Literature Booth hosted a book launch of Pastor Hiram Pangilinan, a preacher I have known in a not-so-distant past through his writings. One bonus at the OFM booth was meeting Jordan, the DJ of the 702 DZAS program “Perfect Rhythm”, a half-hour radio show airing every Sunday. My mother always tunes in the radio to this particular station and somehow my ears have become accustomed to Jordan’s greeting as I wake up every Sunday. During our brief conversation, he mentioned that a lot of people treat his program as their alarm clocks.


* book reading session of “The Boy with the Book”

* book reading of Kuya Jun at the Stage Area

* “thou shall be known by the mark”: MIBF marks

In recalling the booths I have visited which catered to Filipiniana books, I can only say that the Philippines has a wide array of written materials, from books on indigenous culture and arts, to technical manuals on medicine or engineering. Not to mention pocket romance books! The only thing that the Filipinos need to have and cultivate is the affinity for reading. Yes, it is good to see people buying and conducting book reading sessions in that kind of activity. But unless we get to the point where reading is as commonplace as smoking in public, we still have a long way to go to entrench the culture of reading in the Philippines.

* This blog entry also appears in Back Trails blog

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recalling Childhood through “Oxygene”


Although I would agree that old objects, antiques, and the like can bring back even the most repressed memories from a very distant past, the same can be said of smell and hearing. This is particularly true for me, as scents of perfume or aroma are processed by my brain to be associated with certain events or people. This is also true for the sense of hearing. I literally grew up with music in my ears everyday.

And so when I stumbled upon the “Oxygene” album of Jean-Michel André Jarre, snippets from my childhood came back to me. I remember bringing a cassette tape of the said album from the house of my cousin (the tape belongs to his father) to our house. Then we would go to an upstairs room, close the windows, put the tape in an antique cassette tape player, and we would listen to the tracks with eyes closed, as if we were in a ritual. In recalling those childhood activities, I cannot say that I have been afraid of the music. It was, to say the least, therapeutic. The cover art in fact reinforced that budding idea that there is so much to be learned about this world. And indeed as of this writing, I can still say that much can still be learned about the world, however dark they may be sometimes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

“The Golden Boy” and Politics Perspectives


I have been reading the Sandman Comics Series by Neil Gaiman in the past few months now and it has been personally enjoying. The concept of dream in this series was extended and in fact every story line is packed with creative lines drawn from both reality and myths. This present blog entry will not attempt to critique each of the Sandman Series’ storyline but will only focus on a particular issue of Sandman (which, by the way, is the last issue I have read so far).

The Sandman issue 54 entitled “The Golden Boy” is part of “The World’s End” storyline, a place where different stories are told by the people stranded by storm in their respective worlds or time.

The term “The Golden Boy” refers to the main character in this issue, Prez Rickard who grew up to become the president of the United States of America. Just before he becomes the president, he was visited by the current president (Nixon) and the two indulged in a verbal swordfight regarding the running of the government. The president was a pessimist. He said to Prez that if he ever gets the presidency, he would be seen (negatively) by the people just like the other presidents and that later the same people will regret their actions. In the words of the president: “You don’t get to make a difference.” But Prez was an idealistic person. And he went on to become the president and fulfill his desire of making a difference to the America he came to know.

That verbal swordfight I mentioned was particularly striking as it conveyed a fact of the common conception (or is it misconception?) of the people on politicians: that they are corrupt and they are no good to make any difference. The ones who conceptualized this particular issue laid down this “political” conception which may have still been dominant during their time (90’s period). But it is obvious that such conception is still present today. It may have been shown through comics primarily for an American audience but surprisingly, it applies too here in the Philippines. The story compels one to think back and understand how we really see our politics and our politicians as well.

In the end I wonder, can any person (no matter how adept one is on the mechanics of politics) really know if a politician is keen or not in making a difference on the place in which he is elected?

* Photo credit: screenshot from the front cover of The Sandman 54
* Quote snippets from: THE SANDMAN 54, October 1993, Published by DC Comics

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Long Way to Southern Peace


The quest for “independence” in the southern Philippines begun with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with Nur Misuari as its rallying leader. The Front then split into Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf, the latter gaining notoriety in the eyes of the mainstream media and the civilians.

And now in recent news a new group has emerged from MILF – the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) with its leader Umbra Kato, carrying the conviction that the current peace negotiations between the government and the rebel groups are leading nowhere.

A new hurdle, a new challenge in the struggle to attain peace in the disturbed lands in Mindanao. Today is part of the gray period when the government and the separatist group(s) are rearranging strategies and mechanisms through which they would deal with each other.

Nevertheless, we hope for smooth, if not quick, resolution regarding this decade-old struggle in the south.

Photo Credit: newsinfo.inquirer.net

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pre-Birthday Sentiments


The month draws now to a close. September will come, tagging along my birth date. And so in lieu of a celebration, I choose to lay down a few thoughts here before that day comes. I am at present in the most active stream of youth period. Better make the most of it while the awareness is still there.


Looking Onwards


The things I’ve expressed on a semi-personal entry (Moving On, Moving Forward) still hold. We can only carry our past into the present and future. No forms of denial of the past can make our lives better. And so better move on and look onward to better things. Quite optimistic? Yes. It has to be.

Of Interests and Mismatches

Even at this age I am still surprised (and annoyed to a certain extent) when people convey directly, but most of the times indirectly, how I could have been this or that person, or how I could have had this or that career. Pity.

I was trained in the sciences with a love for literature especially poetry; existentialism; politics and international affairs; concepts and theories on conventional and unconventional warfare; music, among others; a deepening interest in Philippine history; and an almost addictive urge to travel to different places and dig in about their history and look for old houses. I wonder why even some from my own family circle does not appreciate when I was able to publish poems when they could easily relate to our acquaintances who made it to some popular TV contests. And I wonder why they cannot appreciate simple accomplishments on my part (research undertakings, etc.) when they can readily talk about the affairs of some of my friends.

This is not, in any way, a sentimental musing. Through such enumeration, I get to see that I have been indeed a person of mismatch history. It feels good to see their passive acceptance of what I have become. It only shows that I have created for myself so far a personality devoid of any un-filtered character influences. I recall just now what I wrote in my bio-note for a poetry anthology: “Pangarap nyang maging manunulat-siyentipiko.” That is a dream. And dreams are pursued on a personal level, not discussed among people.

Plans and Resolutions

Plans can be made now. Plans can be made later in the evening. Plans can made ten years from now. For now, I take each day as if it is my last, confronting challenges and answering problems that present themselves along the way. What I am trying to say here is plans (and definitely resolutions) are things not really meant to be broadcasted to accidental blog readers. They are crafted on a level deeper (and I hope more mature) than the personal level. Can I describe it as psychological level? I do not know.

Pransis

Although some quarters say that celebration of day of birth is reserved only for the heathens, I would like to share a final thought on that vein. In every celebration, a birthday in this case, it is a personal hope that one would not get lost in the pomp and lavishness of the celebration. Instead make that date as a day of reflection, as a day of taking stock of one’s achievements and failures, and as a day to make renewed resolves for the remaining parts of one’s life. We have only one life (or to put it another way, we are only given one life); let us not waste it in nonsense endeavors. Learn a craft. Live for someone else. Anything. For as long as it gives meaning to your life, one cannot ask for more.

Did these sentiments make sense? I hope so.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On the Possibilities and Impossibilities of Food Technology


A longish travel under the indifferent rains inevitably led us to talk about pristine topics such as childhood recollections. My share of story concerned my grade school years, when food from the school canteen were rationed to our room so that we have a choice of buying and not going out of the room during recess time.

The food delivered to us was composed mostly of different rice delicacies, mga kakanin, and the ubiquitous soup placed in green plastic cups. The soup cost 1 peso and I always made it a point to buy one. When I had to go out during the break time, I often went to the other school gate to buy cheese bread (for 1 peso) and palamig (again, for 1 peso). Needless to say, my daily allowance at school was 2 pesos since I walked to school everyday and I went back home for lunch.

Such recollections created the question of: Is room-to-room delivery still done today? I answered in the negative. What I thought was with the coming of new technology, of new techniques to manufacture what they (companies and advertisements) claim as “nutritious and safe” food, modern-day parents most of the time would choose to prepare pre-packaged (that is, factory-made) food for the children. I wonder if parents of modest earnings give their children bananaque or puto as baon. I think they are just relegated to the level of snacks, as pamatay-gutom. I jested that children probably prefer nuggets because they could form their names with them. That activity cannot be done with a banana-que or a camote-que.

The discouragement in the choice of home-made food sold (or prepared) for children springs from that thinking that pre-packaged food is cleaner. Hygiene has been observed in their preparation. The irony is highlighted with the fact that these cleaner foods are oftentimes loaded with preservatives (let us not deny this) enough to preserve our bodies when we die.

The choice between home-made food and pre-packaged food is an everyday food battle. This is true for children and adults alike.

But in the end, the choice is up to the individual. To fall or not to fall in the delusion of safety and nutrition, that is the question.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Philippines acquires “New” Warship

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Shown in newspaper headlines today is the photo of the country’s newest warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar. Named after a Filipino general during the Philippine-American War, this warship is actually a de-commissioned US Coast Guard cutter. It is yet another sign of the government’s intent to defend its seas, obviously on the country’s western seas. More than this warship, the President is also looking into the acquisition of more ships, fighter jets, and armored carriers (“PH buying more ships, says P-Noy” by Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 24, 2011, Vol. 26, No. 257, front page, A6).Of course, such desire is not geared towards an all-out military action as we all know that we don’t have the full capability yet nor the resources to engage into wars, much less battles. The President’s plan only goes to show a focused intent to defend our sovereignty, particularly over our waters.

It is likely that critics are huddling together now, brewing up counter-statements to the government’s actions. But we must look forward into the future and see that if we play softly against those who make aggressive advances over our territories, we cannot hope to earn respect from other states. We can only back up and support the government with these initiatives.

The issue of such ships having originated from the United States will be hot soon enough. But that’s another story.

Inquirer article: “President Aquino: Ship symbol of our defense”
Photo credit: Mike Alquinto/ NPPA Images

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving On, Moving Forward



Being alone for almost a day has given me a chance to reflect more about myself and my life as well on a larger context. My mute audience composed mostly of my books, magazines, and numerous notes and drafts added to the conducive atmosphere. And such reflection dwelt on the concept of moving on, or moving forward.

With the past few years literally drenched in confusing events, sorry moments, and mud holes for secret keeping, there came certain moments when moving forward seemed no longer a promising step. One loses the initiative and the proverbial road in front disappears, only to be replaced by guilt, fear, and anger.

I have just reread a favorite book (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) and in it surfaced a line that splashed through me like cold water after a long slumber: that “…guilt is a poor foundation for a life...” And I venture to extend this and say that fear is a poor foundation for a life, that anger is a poor foundation for a life. Yes, there are heaps of things to be straightened out from a past that has not been given proper thought for the future.

But the present is always a clean slate on which one can act to prevent the ugly past from sipping into the future. I have always known these, known this in passing, and it always felt good to be reminded of these – acting properly in the present for the past and for the future. And just now, I see that it will never be in a linear form of thinking. Past, present, and future blend together. To deny one’s self of the initiative to move forward is not only to deny and disown the past, but is also to deny and disown the present and the future.

And it is for this reasoning that I continue to live each day. I do not know if I can found such thought in the quarters of my beloved existentialism for this is essentially optimistic in nature. But nevertheless it is purifying to breathe them in. Not a bad thing after all: a cleansing day, a cleansing of the mind.

To move forward each day, yes; without any question.

(You are free to consider this as random thoughts or perhaps a bit worse, dear reader.)

Public Transports, Drivers, Conductors, Barkers, and Attitude



I write this in the wake of a biter encounter of an intimate with a conductor with apparently brusque manner. Instead of attempting to dampen the heat of the argument, this conductor of a well-known bus line continued to act as if he owns this intimate of mine, as if he is the boss of the bus aisle, as if manners are no longer require for their job. It was for a valid reason that this intimate of mine blurted out: “Kuya, kaya konduktor nga lang e!” pertaining to his coarse attitude which most likely pushed him towards that job.

A clarification: this is not, in any way, aimed in disparaging such job, or a driver’s job or even generalizing them into one particular description. Our family’s breadwinner was once a bus conductor too. This blog entry is meant to point out that some of those who work in the transport sector often times forget that in every piece of work they do, manners (at least in the level understood by elementary school children) still matter.

I have already encountered bus conductors who only lack a whip to use for the passengers. Some of their harsh words are certainly not appropriate. They may not have finished formal schooling but that is not a reason for them not to treat the passengers well. To play with a common phrase, passengers are customers too, and customers are always right.

As with the drivers, my point concerns in particular jeepney drivers who belch out cigarette smoke as if they are chimneys to the great irritation of non-smoking passengers. I fully understand the feelings of craving for smoke, but to do the smoking inside a public vehicle despite an existing law against this practice is something really out of place. Their on board stereo with their ear-splitting twitters and chest-busting bass are, to be straightforward, rude too. Modulated sounds would to good for a ride.

Lastly, for a “job” that is obviously sewn in a fabric of charity, a little politeness would be enough. Barkers would do well to make their actions a reflection of their desire to earn money for their family and not as a reflection of their lack of education. Tax-paying people own the streets and highways (including the barkers to some extent) but that does not endow the right to rule the streets as if they are gods.

This is indeed an ugly picture in our environs. If the majority of the people shout of living moral lives, then we might as well fulfill this by performing the basics of such morality, devoid of religious strings – and that is treating people with respect. I may not have been out to different places with different cultures and political set-ups, but I think it is from this concept of respect that the sense of humanity blooms.

As a final note, there is still much more to be improved in our transportation sector and its varied transactions and mechanisms.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

CATS’ The Lab Magazine 7th Edition Now in Distribution


* part of the cover design of the The Lab Magazine 7th edition

* previews from the first few pages;
note the author before me, she’s Ms. Ainne Frances dela Cruz,
a co-contributor in The Lab and in a number of publications in the Philippines


* snippet from my poem

After several weeks of anxious waiting, my copy of The Lab 7th Edition has finally arrived. My message of thanks is sent to the Cultural Arts and Theater Society (CATS) staff from Underwood International College, Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. It has been a pleasure to be part of your publication. And the staff’s handwritten letter, however short, radiates with sincerity. I am personally looking forward to contributing more in their future literary endeavors.

A Final Note on Ninoy


It would be eventually quite irritating were I to repeat myself every year about my confidence and pride in the works of Ninoy Aquino during the very dark times of Martial Law in the Philippines. A plethora of critics and cynics abound who go against the man on our 500-peso bill, but I care not. History is often made by small things* and whatever attempts the others do to belittle the efforts of Ninoy to confront the iron fist that was Martial Law, we cannot deny that he did his part and was quite well aware of the role he was manning during those times. Through small things, he aided in bringing forth a greater thing – the eventual crash of Martial Law.

Perhaps my earlier note on Ninoy (read the entry A Short Note on Ninoy’) which is now linked in the iamninoy.com website would sum up what I think of the man. As a final note, I encourage each one, especially those who I call the post-EDSA I generation, to pick up those books relaying the events in the country from 1972 to 1986 and feel the moving spirit of Ninoy all throughout.

* from “A Letter of Mary”, by Laurie R. King, USA: Bantam, 1998,. p. 127

Friday, August 5, 2011

Creativity for a Living

.Humor poked in again one time during a travel on a bus. I was once called such ingenuity (if I can call it that) a form a racket (see my entry ‘RACKETS aboard’). But then as I think about it, one really does have to be creative in order to earn a living.

But on a more general context, isn’t such things symptomatic of a pervading lack of decent jobs for the Filipinos? When I say decent I mean to say a job that would adequately answer the needs of the person and his or her family, a job whose payment is enough to enable them to survive for month. And after all, once or twice, we have been irked by those vendors.

This is something to think about this coming weekend.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A SONA Late Review

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* screenshot from the website: www.coolbuster.net/2011/07/sona-2011-live-stream.html

It has been more than a week since the President delivered his second State of the Nation Address or SONA. And between that day and today, a multitude of activities has hindered me to sit properly in front of a computer and create words out of this eternally blinking cursor.

I initially intended to make a comparison of the contents of his SONA last year and his SONA this year. But owing to: 1) time constraints and 2) the most logical attack I could think of right now, I thought it better to dwell on his most recent SONA. Let us him give the consolation (for lack of a better term) for the first one. The second one deserves all the scrutiny.

A quick survey of his speech would reveal that reports of accomplishments certainly surpassed the number of pinpointing / blame statements. And the manner in which he delivered them – through the common Filipino or Tagalog flow of speaking – made it quick to absorb and easy to understand. I don’t know but the way he used concepts and metaphors reminded me of some of the speeches of Ferdinand Marcos which I have read or watched online. (Such form of re-emergence of the past has been noted by Sir Ambeth Ocampo in his article yesterday in Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled ‘Rape in 1896.’ He expressed a thought/query on the possibility that the ‘Matuwid na Daan’ concept is just like the ‘Bagong Lipunan’ before.) But the way Marcos articulated in English is certainly different from the simple approach in Filipino of President Noynoy. I will stop here so as not to make this entry a comparison between Aquino and Marcos.

The whole of the Address is fluid in character and much of the country’s various issues, sectors, and needs I would say were left un-discussed. To that extent, my activist acquaintances certainly have all the rights to describe it through different names. Some said it was no SONA at all. Some said it was all “wang wang”. But whatever noise we do, it was still the SONA of the President of the Philippines.

But personally, I think the next twelve months will be (or must be) the work grounds of the President on which to prove himself as a capable leader. I cannot say that there will be no detractors anymore. That is far from happening. But I bet a handful of hope for the next year. By that time, I think he ought to give a stronger message to the Filipino people who are impatient with development but at the same time do not do much to aid the administration. At least a few minutes before his third SONA, everyone and everything can be given a tinge of hope.