Monday, May 21, 2007

Madwoman on the Streets

I'm about to become a full-fledged street bum. I'm about to be cast out of the house and my boys are no longer with me. The other night under the crescent moon, I was hungrily gobbling chunks of barbecue on my table when a street child approached me, said he badly wanted some food. I said, "Are you sure?" I can't forget another boy begging alms with a blind man in Maramag, Bukidnon several days before this. He turned down my offer of food because he wanted money. The people who saw me offering my food to the boy scolded me for being so stupid. "They don't need food, Miss, they need cold cash. Begging is a business enterprise." But the child the other night said he was sure he wanted food. He was very hungry, he said. So, I said, "Stay there, don't move." As if he was going to run if I ordered some food. The man at the next table eyed the street child with loathing and cast one hard look at me. "Who is this crazy woman now to tolerate this form of mendicancy?" The jeepney driver the other day said to give in to beggars was the height of stupidity. He called it soft-heartedness. So, I never smiled as the child and I gobbled our barbecues across each other. I tried hard to look tough. I glared at the boy and I glared at the man at the next table. I didn't even notice that the boy had finished eating---and went away to look for water and came back to thank me before he ran away---because I was still so busy glaring at everyone, trying my best to look very, very tough!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Goodbye, Home

“You won’t be able to bear it,” JA warned as he was about to leave.
“Just turn everything on,” he said, his eyes on the television set. “The silence would be overwhelming, it would be unbearable." He cast a worried glance at me before he looked around the place that had housed us and the boys all through these years.
Then, as if to comfort me, he turned on the television set. I felt the familiar surge of irritation as the unwelcome noise filled the room. I rushed to turn it off. “I’m not afraid of silence,” I said. “I will love it here.”
For a brief moment, I saw in his eyes a kind of admission. He was someone who has never been very comfortable with silence in the first place. "I have always been afraid of silence," he admitted for the first time.
As he picked up his bags and turned to leave, the past came to me in a flash. How I hid the radio inside the cupboard because I could no longer bear its noise. How he always kept it turned on, even when no one was around. "Is that your way of driving away the thieves or the spirits?" I used to ask, incredulous, because I felt I was the one being driven away by the noise. Why would anyone turn on the radio when he didn't even care to listen to it in the first place? I used to ask. How could anyone be so afraid of silence, he had to fill the room with noise?
How I threatened to crush the television set, enraged at how I could no longer have a good conversation with anyone in the house without sharing its attention.
Now that I'm alone, I will welcome the silence that will engulf me as I go home. This is the home that had kept my small family intact in the last six years. Now that my small family is breaking apart, this is my way of expressing my gratitude to the house that had been more than a roof over our heads over those years. It's also my way of saying goodbye. I won't begrudge the house its silence.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Stop Making Fools of Mothers!

I can't believe it! I wake up to a totally different world today. On the pages of the newspapers are images of mothers and daughters hugging each other as if motherhood is the greatest miracle to ever happen in the world! Everyone is singing praises to mothers! Everybody is treating their moms to a spa or to a parlor or a makeover (as if to erase the traces of abuse and neglect evident on her ageing face!), or bringing her to a fancy restaurant for dinner (as if this can make up for her being a slave for the rest of her life!) It's sickening!
I can't believe how they hype and promote the myth of perfect, sweet motherhood, and condescendingly pat mothers on their backs to make up for the kind of maltreatment mothers suffer for the rest of their lives. If the world is really sincere in trying to honor mothers, instead of making mother's day just one great marketing campaign, the world will not leave the task of mothering to the mothers alone! Society has a greater task of taking care of the children, now seen roaming the streets rummaging for garbage, pushed away from school just because they are poor! If the world is really sincere, what has it done to this mother? Will it listen to this mother's plea?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sean loves Martial Law!

I found this while rummaging through my old files the other night.
September 21, 2006---On the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the picture of the deposed President Marcos who declared Martial Law 34 years ago appeared side by side with the news of Martial Law just being declared in Thailand after a bloodless coup that unseated the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra only a few days ago. What kind of coincidence it was that Martial Law was declared in Thailand on the day we remembered with horror its anniversary in our country? But what coincidence, indeed! We’ve been living so close to this monster for decades that sometimes, we almost forget it continues to exist in our midst! Or, have we successfully deluded ourselves into thinking we are free until it sticks its ugly head out again to kill us? We gasped as we stared in horror at the picture of the Thai army on the streets of Bangkok’s Dusit area.
“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, catching my breath as I held up the picture on the front page to J.A., who for the first time in my life finally agreed with me and was nodding his head rather glumly.
“But that is my favorite!” said five-year old Sean, tiptoeing just to get a glimpse of the picture that caused my agitation. I did not mind him, at first, for I was still reeling from the unexpected (at least, for me) turn of events. I stood up and brought the newspaper to my room to read every line of it but Sean followed me there, pointing at the picture, saying, “But I like it! It’s my favorite!” He was pointing at the picture of Bangkok. I was puzzled.
“But it’s bad to be under Martial Law, Sean," I said, gesturing a gag on my mouth. "Under Martial Law, we can’t talk anymore.”
“But I love Martial Law,” he insisted.
I went back to the kitchen again and then back to my room, and back to the kitchen, until I finally sat down at the table to sip coffee with J.A., who started his long reminiscences about where he was when Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. But before he can finish his third sentence—when he was telling me how, as the one who used to handle public relations of a multinational firm, he arrived at the airport with all those Japanese visitors in tow to let them take their return flight to Tokyo and found all those soldiers in camouflage telling him there’s no longer any flight that day---Sean barged in again and J.A. had to stop in mid-sentence.
“Do we have Martial Law here in Davao, Ma?” I shook my head.
“Martial Law is bad, Sean,” J.A. said, turning to his son. “There will be lots of people on the streets with guns. They’ll point a gun at you and you can’t do anything about it. Don’t ever wish for it.”
Sean looked at us, hurt. “But I love Martial Law, di ba, Ma?! Martial Law is sweet!” he declared, fiercely. “I’ve tasted Martial Law! It’s soft and comes in different colors! I love the smaller Martial Law better than the big ones. I know because somebody from davaotoday gave it to me. Let’s buy Martial Law, Ma! Maybe, they’re selling it in the mall.”
J.A. and I looked at each other before the light of understanding finally dawned upon my confused mind. “AAAh!” I whispered, “You mean, marshmallows?!”

How to explain Martial Law to a kid who loves Marshmallows

After our momentary confusion about the meaning of sounds, I finally heard Sean explaining to Nina Valerie, the girl next door, the difference between Marshmallows and Martial Law.

“Marshmallows are good but Martial Law is bad.”
“Marshmallows are sweet but Martial Law is bitter.”

"Marshmallows are soft but Martial Law is hard.”
“Marshmallows are full of colors but Martial Law is dark.”
“Marshmallows are smooth but Martial Law is rough.”
“Marshmallows are love and pleasure, Martial Law is hate and pain.”

Sunset at Magsaysay Park

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Sanayan lang ang pagpatay," Paring Bert wrote.