Thursday, September 21, 2006


But it's not serendipity but synchronicity, as the venerable Butch Dalisay pointed out here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Tale of the A Bao A Qu

On my last night in Kuala Lumpur, I was supposed to go looking for the book, “Indigenous Politics, Development and Identity in Peninsular Malaysia,” by Colin Nicholas for my article on the Orang Asli when I found myself straying inside Borders bookstore at the Berjaya Time Square. There, I found a collection of writings in translation by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. I texted this mystical friend whom everybody called Antares, who was not impressed by Borges at all--—and why would he be? His interests were not earthbound, I found out later. “What crazy idea gets into your head?” he texted back. So, I horded all those Borgesian books in my arms, all in a swoop, found some cushioned chairs, picked up “The Book of Imaginary Beings” and began reading the tale of the A Bao A Qu: "To see the most lovely landscape in the world, a traveler must climb the Tower of Victory in Chitor. A winding staircase gives access to the circular terrace on top, but only those who do not believe in the legend dare climb the tower. On the stairway there has lived since the beginning of time a being sensitive to the many shades of the human soul known as A Bao A Qu. It sleeps until the approach of a traveler and some secret life within it begins to glow and its translucent body begins to stir. As the traveler climbs the stairs, the being regains consciousness and follows at the traveler's heels, becoming more intense in bluish color and coming closer to perfection. But it achieves its ultimate form only at the topmost step, and only when the traveler is one who has already attained Nirvana, whose acts cast no shadows. Otherwise, the being hesitates at the final step and suffers at its inability to achieve perfection. It tumbles to the first step as the traveler climbs down and collapses weary and shapeless, awaiting the approach of the next traveler. In the course of the centuries, A Bao A Qu has reached the terrace only once."
On my way home, I regretted not buying the book, which I thought was much too expensive for my pocket!
It was not until more than a week later, when I was already back in Davao that I opened the magickriver website inside Clickerz Café along Ponciano and began reading Antares’ account of the A Bau A Qu.
I was amazed. Is this Antares, who scoffed at the mention of Borges, who actually traced the Malayan origin of the Borges’ tale by an American scholar based in Alexandria, Egypt?
How could I not be awed by the serendipitous designs of these encounters? First, it was my last night in KL, when it finally dawned on me that I could no longer talk to Colin Nicholas, an anthropologist deeply involved in the issues of indigenous peoples in Peninsular Malaysia. He just left for Penang that morning. His book was the last chance for me to get to know anything substantial about the Orang Asli but it was only available in a certain bookstore, not in the commercial ones like Borders. Knowing that I did not know how to get to that bookstore, I gave up hope, decided to call off my search and strayed inside a bookstore.
How come that the first story I came across was a tale that actually came from an Orang Asli?? And how come I never knew I was actually bringing it back with me on my way back to Davao?


Not until after talking to Datu Teng Odin on the phone (he is the secretary of Mayor Muslimin Sema in Cotabato city), while pursuing this story for Newsbreak, did I find how little did I ever know about the different and differing cultures in Mindanao.
Because I did not want to tell him outright that all I wanted to know was Misuari’s age, I asked Datu Odin if he knew when was it this year that the chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) celebrated his birthday.
He said, he did not know because they don’t normally celebrate birthdays. Muslims don’t, generally. In fact, he said, Mayor Sema did not use to celebrate birthdays but after he ran for public office, he has often given in to pressures even if he did not want to. Mayor Sema was among the 15 MNLF central committee members who wrested control of the MNLF and ousted Misuari---about six years ago, three or four years after the peace pact with the Ramos government. After they also got their own dose of acrid tasting government betrayal three years after betraying Misuari, they have all decided to patch it up with the Moro leader, who until now, is still in jail without trial.

The Blogging Magic

“But what’s the use of writing anything if no one gets to read it?” asked Caloi, when he first heard of the irony of blogging in secret.
Dasia had a way of describing it: it was like shutting the door of your room to whisper your deepest secrets live on the radio.
I just paused in the doorway of and did not reply.
The idea of a secret blog floating in the worldwide web, just waiting to be discovered, continued to enchant me, like magic. How can I experience magic if I continuously prattle about it?
On May 29, the magic seemed to be working. I was still in Kuching, Sarawak, inside the Medan Pelita cyber café, desperately looking for the next place to stay in KL the following day, when I came upon this blog by fil-am poet Luisa Igloria.
It was not until about a month later, when I was back in Davao that I was able to write her. She was still recovering from a loss and was about to embark on her writing residency at Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Ragdale, she said, was a rare break she’s giving herself from the numerous demands she has to meet as full time mother, full time professor, full time wife and numerous roles she has to play in-between aside from being a woman writer. She sent a picture of a sundial she discovered while taking a walk in the garden at Ragdale and for a moment, it felt like I was there with her! Heh, ilusyonada!
It’s a pity that I’ve just returned to blogging now, I hope it’s not yet too late to say how she wanted to share the rare treat she had enjoyed in her yellow room at Ragdale by inviting ALL Filipino writers, artists, composers to go online, to open the Ragdale website ASAP, find out what’s in store for them there and apply, apply, apply! Luisa Igloria also blogs.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Kuching on my Mind

Tua Pek Kong Temple, just across the Medan Pelita, still haunts me in my daydreams...

The Dangers of Straddling Lines

“He will straddle the line, aware up to the point of knowing he is getting the worst of both worlds, but never stopping to wonder why there should ever have been a line, or even if there is a line at all. He will learn how to be a twinned man and will go on at the game, straddling until he splits up the crotch and in half from the prolonged tension, and then he will be destroyed.”---Thomas Pyncheon, “V”

I have never been any good at straddling lines, though, once or twice, I had been foolishly at it, trying to work for a government press office, while once in a while writing stories for the newspapers, which everybody else around me was doing, anyway; each of us trying to pass herself off as a journalist even if she were associated, one way or another with some interest group or office. Shame on me, indeed, and what a shame!
But unlike most of my peers who were valiantly succeeding at the game, I was failing miserably. I never quite became the “twinned woman” that Pyncheon meant, feeling deep in my gut that there has to be that line somewhere, which I can’t see but which I may have to pay with my life and sanity for crossing or straddling it; and straddling it had felt like a curse.
So, I did not actually split up my crotch in half from the prolonged tension because I was already falling then. I was already deep in the rut when I felt the last gasp of my own life force pulling me out of that hellhole.
Crossing that invisible line to the other side, I discovered how many people have been at the game, splitting their crotches in half in prolonged tension, self-destructing. Straddling lines have been a reality in the country’s journalism profession, which for most people, promised much power but not much pay; and straddling lines have been used by powers-that-be to justify the killings of journalists in the country, now dubbed as the world’s worst place for journalists to be.
Yet, who am I in this world to condemn or even to badmouth the “straddlers?” Vergel Santos, a hardliner in this respect, had even said (during the 5th National Union of Journalists of the Philippines national congress in Tagaytay)—that even freedom is not for free. It comes with a price, he said, and you pay for it in various currencies. You may have to pay for it with courage, or passion, or love, he said.
The impulse to create or to write is not something that one can summon at will just because somebody else is telling one to do it. When someone out there is forcing me to write a story that I don’t want to write in the first place, I get the urge to run and crawl back to the borders, where lines get blurred and where the overwhelming stench of death and decay can easily make one blind.