Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Letter to Malu Fernandez

Business Mirror's editor-in-chief Lourdes M. Fernandez tells the stories of our kababayan.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Goodbye, Grace Paley!

Tonight, the gibbous---no, it's the full moon!---is waxing outside my window when I read about the passing of Grace Paley, five days late. But it's no goodbye to Grace Paley for me.
That broom that she wrote in "An Interest in Life" is forever etched in my memory because it was a broom I knew.
"My husband gave me a broom one Christmas," Virginia, her character, began. "This wasn't right. No one can tell me it was meant kindly."
No one can tell me pointblank, whether life for a woman is really meant kindly. Until writers like Grace Paley started pouring ink onto the pages and spelling out what I was only made to guess at age 33.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Argao's Old Belfry

What did awardwinning writer Ninotchka Rosca say about belfries in her most recent book, "Sugar and Salt," which had Tandang Sora, her heroine, "giving away tidbits of Philippine women's history as 'gifts' to her family and relatives before dying?"
Tandang Sora talked of the Spanish friars trying to convince the natives they called indios, referring to us, instead of the group of people that we actually call bombays, to "build belfries to guard men's bodies and cathedrals to guard men's souls."
The belfries were supposed to "warn the people against pirates and the cathedrals, to warn people against sin." I found Ninotchka's "Sugar and Salt" inside the National Bookstore at Davao city's Gmall after some weekend staring at old cathedrals and belfries in Cebu and remembering how, in the year 2000, I had dragged seven year old Karl from Silliman university elementary school to the old cathedral in Dumaguete and together, we clambered up the belfry to stare at its huge bell.
I remember how my little boy stared at the old bell, with his mouth open, as I marveled at the date etched on one of the walls. Then, when I was about to move further up, I caught sight of abandoned souls sleeping on the dusty floor.
I did not climb the belltower in Argao on the few moments that I managed to escape the city in July to spend some moments there. I did not have the seven-year-old-turned-14, nor his younger brother, to drag along with me.
So, I watched the tower from a distance, noting how the sun struck and cast shadows on its stone walls. Except for one or two devotees who came to light candles, the whole place often looked deserted the few times I was around.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Every step of the way, everything that I see reminds me of my boys. A friend talking of her 14-year-old daughter makes me long for my own 14-year-old Karl, living in a topsy-turvy room with another boy and his guitar, 500 hundred kilometers away from me. Just thinking of him talking to people I don't even know makes me feel very uneasy. The chocolate cake that Che and I just tasted reminds me of Sean, 6. So are the sight of apples along the sidewalks, the pistacchios and cashews on the store windows, the smell of towels, the sight of children, teachers and the fact that I am not doing the groceries anymore.
I don't look up when I hear fathers comparing notes about their kids, even if I hear from them the echoes of what JA used to say: "This boy would never come to me when his mother is around. I don't know what she has that I don't have," says one father. At times, I catch an officemate saying she would rather hang herself the moment she could no longer live with her kids.
But I have killed myself long ago. Every time I turn that corner near The Venue on my way to the Gmall, I long to open my heart to strangers, to show how deep it is bleeding. But a heart is not something you could "unbutton" in the middle of the street, so, I keep on plodding, while everything inside me, disintegrates. I am now a living dead.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

No Exit

"Do people never sleep there?" the taxi driver asked, pointing to the boxlike structure, where I came from. "That building has always been alive until morning," he observed.
"The newspaper never sleeps," I said, explaining that at that hour, the production people were about to take their turn printing tomorrow's newspaper after the editors had closed and approved the pages.
"But people need sleep," he said. "Who goes there in the morning?"
"After the production people finish printing," I continued, "The newsboys come in at dawn to get the papers and deliver them to the newstands. Sometimes, they also deliver the papers right at the subscribers' doorsteps. At eight, the business and advertising people come. So, are other office workers, like the editorial assistants, in the newsroom. The day desk editors also come in to see to it that reporters pursue the latest news stories for the day. In the afternoon and towards the evening, the reporters start trickling in to write their stories. Then, afterwards, it's editing time all over again."
It was already half past 12 in the morning when I talked to the taxi driver on my way home. Late in the morning, I went to the laundromat and watched the washing machine, and then the dryer, spin. "The newspaper is one huge machine," I couldn't help mumbling.
The man running the laundromat who kept asking where I worked, looked up.
"Well, I work for a huge machine that never stops churning," I said, and marveled at the irony of my words. I thought, "I don't think I could ever serve a machine, no matter how big."
Then, I started dreaming of going to a far flung place where no machine could ever reach me. Instead, I conjured images of the remote areas of Mindanao, where the machines are more deadly. People are getting killed by another type of machines---the machine guns--right in the places where they live.
With the Human Security Act, the policies that cater to the World Bank and the global capitalist system, debt servicing, the deregulation of everything, privatization even of health services and more, the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is one deadly killer machine.
"Societies," "civilizations" are machines that demand subjection from everyone within reach. Even the groups fighting for change have to invent their own "machine" to fight the old, oppressive and abusive one.
Probably, in this life, there's no escaping the rule of the machine--but isn't it terribly sad and dreadful how such mindless inventions could take control over one's life????