Friday, December 21, 2012

The Wrath of Manurigao River

The wrath of the Manurigao River is turning into murky brown the color of the sea, I was about to say when I posted this picture. Seen from the highway of Caraga while on board Ramsey Ahmed's motorcycle about a week after typhoon Pablo, the vision itself looks threatening, reminding someone of a scene from Armageddon. Is that a natural color of the sea? I asked Ramsey, who stopped his skylab to allow me to take some pictures. The gigantic waves even dwarfed a carabao grazing under what remained standing of the coconuts along the shoreline. I have known Manurigao long before typhoon Pablo made its landfall in nearby Baganga and Cateel areas of Davao Oriental, leaving behind a trail of devastation to people and communities. Manurigao figured out in many of Allan Delideli's stories and anecdotes during the making of the book, "Understanding the Lumads: A Closer Look at a Misunderstood Culture." During those times, he couldn't help telling stories how the lumads had to hike for very long hours on their way to school, crossing the river along the way; and how dangerous the water current can get during days of torrential rainfall. When I arrived in that part of barangay Baugo, where the bridge traversing Manurigao had fallen, people told me how the logs had gathered its strength underneath the pillars supporting the bridge, so that eventually, the bridge had to give way. "It was also for good, Day," a storeowner said, "With all those logs gathered near the foot of the bridge, trapping the water, we would all have been submerged. If the bridge had stood, the water would have killed us all!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Greenpeace comes to bring relief--and a warning

This story did not come out of the paper where I work, so, I decided to post it here. Greenpeace describes the recent typhoon Pablo as “very rare” and “unusual,” a sign that what has been predicted a decade ago about climate change is already happening. Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia typhoon Pablo operations chief, reiterated the environment watchdog’s warning for governments to do everything they can to stop carbon emissions, including calling off coal-fired power plants being lined up in Mindanao, before the worst can happen. “It is very rare to see typhoons forming near the equator, especially at this time of the year. And for us (in the Philippines) to be hit by a category five typhoon is something unusual and extraordinary,” Dia said as the Greenpeace ship Esperanza docked at the berth 3 of Sasa wharf here, to deliver relief goods to typhoon victims. He said the impact of the recent typhoon should be sufficient warning for the Philippine government to take with extreme urgency the call to shift away from coal-fired power plant in favour of renewable energy. “We have to act fast,” Dia said, “Are we going to wait for a tsunami type of event to happen?" he asked. "Even Japan has declared it will close a lot of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.” “For those who are still skeptical, are we still going to risk more lives and limbs before you can change your mind?” He cited the report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change that the severity of typhoons, drought and extreme weather conditions has been increasing in intensity for every rise in seawater temperature. “We don’t have any argument now that the weather has been changing in a very bad way,” he said, of the typhoon. He also said that for countries like the Philippines, identified among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, with very limited resources to deal with the problem, “It is very urgent that we solve the problem, not only globally but also in our own small way,” he said. “We have to ensure a better pathway for development, one of which should be a shift to from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy,” he said. “If we will not help each other now, we can see more of this (typhoon) happening in the future and the cost will be immense in terms of property and agriculture and lives lost.” He said once each coal-fired plant is built in the country, people will be stuck in this form of energy sources in the next 20-30 years, and hopes for the environment will be getting dim. “We have to do it now,” he said, referring to the shift to renewable energy. “We need to really act fast at the same time, start preparing for the worst.” The Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which has last been involved in the clean up of the oil spill that hit the island of Guimaras several years back, unloaded 55 tons of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Save the Children Foundation to help the typhoon victims. “This is just a small thing against the immensity of the impact of the typhoon,” he said.

Friday, December 07, 2012

What Pablo brings in Compostela

December 6, 2012. Ja said as soon as I arrived several hours after dark, "How can you help yourself from being overwhelmed? Were you not overwhelmed? I've done that before and I was just overwhelmed. There were just so many things to shoot. Many things were happening all at once. You get distracted. You don't know where to start. You would naturally lose your focus. Even the most professional of of us, do, did you not lose your focus?" I said, "!!!" He did expect me to lose focus. I felt bad because I ran out of battery. I showed him the pictures because I felt bad. 'Ahhh!" he said, "So, you lost focus, too! You're simply overwhelmed!" I felt worse. I no longer wanted to see the rest of the pictures. Earlier, at the Compostela terminal, I texted him, I'm going home now because I ran out of lithium. Instead of staying close to my subject whose houses were torn down, I allowed my subject to guide me to a bridge somewhere because they said that bridge directly face the valley of New Bataan, where many people were carried away by the flash flood. They said it was important that I should see that bridge across the Agusan River, which overflows sometimes, and inundate the landscape with muddy water. Perhaps, Ja was right. I was also overwhelmed. I let my subjects guide me, instead of me, charting the story. When we returned to their shattered hut, their Grandma was sitting on the old sofa in the midst of the muddy sala. She sat just below her picture on the wall, the last thing staying there after Pablo's devastation. The Grandma wearing the same dress as the one in the picture. I told her to stay where she was but when I finally pressed the shutter, my camera said, re-charge the battery! The whole area had no electricity. I said I had to rush home. At the bus terminal, it was so hot I wanted to collapse. Somebody was selling water inside the old bus. He handed me one. It was warm. "Please give me a cold one," I said. The vendor looked at me, then he looked around, then back at me. He said, tongue in cheek, "There's no brownout in this town," he said, glancing at the other passengers. "Yes, there's no brownout in this town," he said. "There's electricity everywhere."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Will you please tell Leopoldo I'm going back to Silliman U

Yes, we’ll go back to Dumaguete; yes, we will, we really will. Though, I have to warn you, this is beginning to sound like John Steinbeck’s alfalfa in Mice and Men—of Lenny and the rest dreaming of planting alfalfa on the patch of ground they dreamt of owning one day and never did, as far as that novel was concerned. We will still go back to Dumaguete—Karl, Sean and I; we’d get inside Silliman University as a matter of course; careful not to sit on the bench under the acacia no matter how tempting, because the itchy til-as is sure to fall from one of the branches, just like what it did to Karl the first time we arrived several years ago. Instead, we’d go straight to Katipunan Hall hoping to find Prof. Philip van Peele, the Belgian professor who speaks perfect Bisaya when all the rest of the teachers (Filipinos) speak English; perhaps, to ask him why some people like me have poor memories of sound? Though, I am merely speaking from memory, I still would like to discover again how it was to walk the lane from the pier straight to the university, how it was to see for the first time the waves smashing violently against the seawall, as if the whole sight was a copy of an old painting; or, how it is to look up and listen to Karl’s six-year-old footfalls shaking the very foundation of the wooden Hibbard Hall; or was it the second floor of Katipunan, where the dean finally approved of all the subjects I was to take that semester? How could an unlettered soul like me arrive upon the shores of Silliman, dragging along with me a six-year-old child ripe for the first grade while I joined the graduate class at the English department just a spitting distance away? Soon, everybody I knew in Silliman was gone, except for the creative writer Ian Casocot and the venerable Cesar Aquino, every poet (including Sheilfa) calls “Sawi.” But still we find ourselves going back to Silliman, our thoughts straying inside Katipunan Hall, the domain of the English Department, a place which I described that first time I arrived as the most likely place where Andres Bonifacio could have held a meeting. But having exhausted our memories there, we’d go to Claytown to find out about the old apartment where Karl and I spent horribly lonely days together, our door switched in between the one occupied by an Indian couple and their five-year-old girl named Unnam (the Indian word for moon) and the door occupied by the Balikbayans who just arrived fresh from the US. We will find the spot where Rafael, Karl’s first pet kitten, died. One of the days-old kittens Karl’s Korean friends stole from the cat-mother, Rafael did not survive on milk and water. We will stand on the exact spot to remember the sadness written there, leaving a permanent mark in our hearts. If Silliman wouldn’t want me, I would be going there as a ghost. It would still be 5:30 pm of a typical university day, and I’d be rushing to Dr. Ceres Pioquinto’s Asian Literature class, trying to stop the ticking of time as I wait for a photocopy of Ceres’ lecture, while students ambled around me, whispering about my old alcatel; while I—hunched, waiting before the photocopying machine, praying hard I won’t be late, I won’t be late for Ceres’ class, fearing Ceres’ catastrophic outburst, which I used to find so devastating. Or, maybe, finding myself in that bookshop tucked somewhere beyond the public market, looking for some undiscovered English author but finding out to my dismay that the bookshop has already been mined of its best titles; all I found were rejects and leftovers. What do you expect? The whole university was crawling with scholars, writers and aspiring writers, potential artists, beating each other to such stuffs, while I was in my room at the Nerisse Dorm, trying to understand Plato’s Metaphysics before plodding on to the neo-classical poets. Sheilfa said there was definitely one place inside the university we would not feel so outcast: inside the three-story library whose vast windows faced the expanse of the football field. We will go back to Silliman U and spend entire days inside the Library, hungry eyes mining the darkened rows of books displaying Balzac, Petrarch and the like. The last time I checked, I could no longer find Susan Sontag on the shelves. Her books were stolen. It was still the turn of the century. Year 2000. The air between the darkening rows of books written by Dead Authors was musty and full of mysteries.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Reading Miguel

Last night, while forcing myself to fart, I finished Miguel Syjuco’s “Ilustrado,” and in the morning, forcing myself to burp, I was still puzzling over its ending, I decided to read it again; discovering and deeply appreciating with utter amazement the book’s extraordinary style: Miguel Syjuco turning out to be fictional at the end of the novel; and Crispin Salvador, who was supposed to be dead at the beginning of the novel, turned out to be the one writing it—or do you get that disrupted feeling it is the other way around? Just to get a taste of how post-post-postmodern authors disrupt our usual order of reality, read the prologue and epilogue of the novel, written by Miguel Syjuco and Crispin Salvador, respectively, in route to Manila on December 1, 2002; and let's see if you won't get confused, or wouldn't want to take a pause and think; or, read the entire novel again, slowly, as in s-l-o-w-l-y so as not to suffer indigestion, in checking and counter-checking which reality you are still treading. This might be a good example of how the novel invents and re-invents. "Which point-of-view was it written?" Ja asked, over breakfast, as if the novel was written in the 1960s. No, not a point of view here, Ja, but points-of-view; and be careful when you speak, from which point of view are you speaking; because realities could easily be interchanged; the author playing, Miguel becoming Crispin and Cripin, becoming Miguel. It was a totally enervating experience!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The River Talks

I spent the early morning along the banks of Lipadas River--no, not really that early because I was tempted to take a sip of coffee and I also got lost along the way. But once I was there alone with my point-and-shoot, trying to compose the image in the frame, I heard the river talked and gurgled; yes, it talked to me. It tried to attract my attention, it told me the stories of its long, tumbling journey from the mountains and how it arrived there, and what it found. I couldn't completely understand what it was saying because I have not studied yet the language of rivers; yet, I knew the river wanted me to stay, it was lonely, it wanted company, someone to talk to about all the shocking and disturbing things that it found along its banks. And for a while, I was tempted to stay. I was thinking that, maybe, if I stayed long enough, I would completely understand the language of the river, I would come to know what it was trying to say, I would be able to follow what it gurgled. Yet, I also knew that if I stayed long enough, I would change. I would metamorphose into something else, totally unrecognizable in my own transformation, even to myself. Then, I would find myself one day speaking the language of rivers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remembering Lianga, Surigao del Sur


How it Dawned Upon Me

Of course, I consider myself lucky, even privileged enough, to be surrounded by so many photographers, photojournalists in their own right, who wield their cameras like seasoned warriors in the Trojan War. Standing by the doorway, awed by the color of the sky, I would aim a point and shoot, and over my shoulders, Ja would say, "Not too much of the sky, Ma, look at the dome, instead. There should be more of the dome and less of the sky." "But the sky, I want the sky, can't you see its color, how different it is from yesterday?"
In another place, another time, I'd look over the window on the third floor of Marco Polo, fascinated by how the Ateneo de Davao building looked from there. So, I'd aim my point and shoot again, near where Tatay Rene was engrossed over his aerial shoot; then, unwittingly, he'd take a glance at what I was doing and say, "Why do you include the windows, Day, that would clutter the picture, you can do away the windows." "But I want the windows, Tay, I want to take a picture of that building through the window of another building." He would give me a puzzled look; and shrugging his shoulders, leave me alone.
At the lobby of a new mall, fascinated again by how the speakers creatively used an overhead mirror, instead of an overhead projector in making their cooking demonstration visible to a larger audience, I aimed my camera again to capture the scene. Keith, with a calculating photographer's eye, noticed my distance from my subject; and nudging me, said, "Get closer. You won't get anything there." In another forum in another mall, Bing Gonzales noticed how I was focusing my camera at the cords on the floor while a press conference was going on. "What are you trying to capture? What story are you trying to impart?" "I don't have a story here," I said, still focusing on the stupid cords. There is no story here except my endless search for stories.
Then, finally, I found solace on what photographer Nick Onken said in his book “photo trekking”: Choose subjects that interest you. Don’t only photograph subjects just because you are paid to do it but you should follow your guts. Explore subjects that naturally fascinate you and attract you for some reasons. This is how you develop your style.
It's just a bit like writing, I guess.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life in a Blur

Sometimes, life passes me in a blur, it almost doesn't make any sense. But at other times, it can also be so languid and dreamy, I would reach out for a book and get lost in its pages, engrossed in the discovery of another world. Then, I would feel all right again. Everything just seems to mend.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Near the site of the Fallen Lauaan

I need to run to the forest, if the forest is still there.

I just came from a forest area of Upper B'la, where I took a picture of the lauan fell by a neighbor--no, he's not necessarily a neighbor, but he lives somewhere in the area--in a land that Pa has come to consider his home. I took pictures of the dead lauan and caught a whiff of bad energy coming from the greed and pride of men. Maybe, it will take some other time for me to write about the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sunset in B'la

B'la is a place where you grow up in order to escape. But once you've done your escaping, you long to go back to it over and over again until the longing for eternal return threatens to break your spirit. This was what I was telling Pa as I rummaged through the dusty remains of old books and letters, one day I arrived home in B'la.
B’la came from the word B’laans, who owned the place before the settlers arrived, I heard myself saying. B’laans, the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, who were already here before the Visayan settlers came in droves. The Visayans, whose tongue had trouble pronouncing B’la, turned it into Bala, loosening it and unwittingly losing something beautiful and important. "That's not true," Pa protested, "That's a lie!" he said, "This whole place was owned by the Bagobos, there were no B'laans here!" His voice was shaking, he had trouble breathing. After all, it was Pa who beat the rest of the settlers by arriving here when the whole place was still a lauaan forest. But I love the name B'la, and I want to create a myth; and B'la and the B'laans fit in well together in the world I want to create. "Calm down, Pa," I said, "Calm down, calm down. Let's listen to a story."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

For the Dork: Part II

“You got berated by a—whaaat?” asked J.A. Romualdez, not related to Philip Romualdez, when I told him about the chauvinist pig. “Verbally abused,” I corrected. “No wonder!” J.A. sighed. “What can you expect from those people?” he continued. “They are stupid, mean, ignoramus, they think like machines. Unlettered. Bastos. Couldn’t appreciate the simple things in life. Oh, yeah? An engineer, eh? You know some people, their minds are like engines, and more often, a screw or two loosen/s up, and that’s what you get from them: loose tornillos, malfunctioning engines!”
This was the first time that J.A. took my side in my protracted battle against the Dork, another name for the chauvinist pig. For in all other things, Ja and I always took opposing sides; from the war on Iraq, VS Naipaul, to GMO; from Davao Death Squad to mono sodium glutamate.
Even when I used to rant against the chauvinist pig, JA would often offer irritating remarks against me in favor of the pig; because every time I speak ill of pigs, JA felt he was being attacked.
But I was not attacking J.A.. Not at all. I was only talking about the Dork, another name for the pig, whose number on my phone I had accidentally pressed the dawn that my boy ran away and I was in panic. I was supposed to send a message to my sister but I still had an unsent message for the Dork at noontime the previous day. I had tinkered with my phone for far too long looking for my sister’s number when I accidentally pressed the unsent message to the Dork, and so it happened; at 12:05 midnight when everyone was asleep, my message was gone out of my outbox with hardly a poof! Afterwards, I heard a soft tinkling sound from my phone.
Hoy, na’y mga batang nangatulog diri, pagka-wa gud nimo’y batasan!” It was the Dork. I was shocked and awed by his manners; so gruff and low, if my mother had to describe it. Yet, I also wanted to laugh! The Dork sounded really upset and troubled, he must have been having a hard time with the one-year-old baby. I wanted to laugh because finally, it was the Dork’s turn to be in trouble. I felt like rejoicing. I wanted to dance.
If the pig had only known what I had gone through all those years he dumped me and left me alone with the baby to survive. I was numbed and dumbed sterilizing bottles and doing the laundry, I hardly had enough sanity left to write a sentence at work, where my editor used to wait for my story. Now it was the Dork’s turn to lick the toilet bowl, God is Kind and Full of Mercy, Halleluiah!

Monday, August 06, 2012

What is going on in my Garden?

I said, what are they doing here? Why did I bring them home? I should have given them to Sean’s teacher, whose grounds are so stable with the blessings of Patriarchy. Here, they will only wilt and die as they witness my devastation. What are they doing here? Are they flowers for the dead? What is there to celebrate? Yet, when I put them in my doorway, I noticed the starcluster in the pot about to burst with flowers; and another green came up with unexpected blooms; and my sage at the backdoor was leafing ferociously. Come on, I'm supposed to be dead, what is going on in my garden?

Turbulent August

I thought the only thing that would confront me this month is the trouble with my eyeglasses. I just had this new pair issued by my doctor the previous week but I had wanted another one, because this doble-vista only makes me feel blind in the middle. But then, Ja left in a huff and my whole landscape changed. Now, I am faced with the horror of sudden, unexpected moving. I needed not just glasses, but a whole new apartment for me and my boys. I needed extra effort to focus on my work because everywhere I go I get confronted by the pressing demands at home; such as what to prepare for dinner, what uniform Sean had to wear the following day, fixing things up, washings; I’m already too exhausted to do other jobs afterwards, including writing. Home is a total chaos right now because we are still in the act of packing. Even the DVDs that I bought on the eve of Ja’s unexpected departure had lain somewhere in the rubbles, totally forgotten. It was the BlueRay copy of “The Adventures of Tintin;” and now, I could not enjoy it, anymore.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What my life looks like right now

I've been to a much harder, much more dangerous climbs before: joining the health workers of Balsa Mindanao climb the miner's trail up the mountains of Pantukan in February for a medical mission to miners' families, mostly survivors of a January 2012 landslide that killed probably over a hundred people; survived the trip to Tudaya in 2007, at the foot of Mt. Apo, following a trail through the almost 90-degree ravine that local people called Palos Dos because the easier route was sealed by soldiers; riding through a skylab through the mountains of Caraga and another skylab to Casosoon in Monkayo, where tires of the Saddum truck left deep craters on the road. But nothing could match this latest climb, this latest hurdle, because it leaves deep, indelible marks on the spirit.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Goodbye

Every three to five years, we say goodbyes to things we love. We stay too long in one place until the place ceases to protect us, cast us away.
Now, I am saying goodbye to this room and this house, where Sean and I curled ourselves together on rainy nights or on lazy Sunday afternoons; and where on late nights or midmornings already late for work, I delivered pretend-lecture/conversations with Karl about Art and Architecture and History; for this has been up to this minute where my small family lived in the last four years--it would have been our fourth year here on August 15, but we never mark anniversaries; we don't celebrate dates.
Four years ago, I remember arriving here both with relief and trepidation. Relief for leaving that house on Mapa Street which used to flood every time it rained; trepidation because the new place was strangely new to us, too far away from the city where we worked, and we can't discern yet the good things that it promised. Or, if it ever promised anything.
But the sight of a cow grazing in an abandoned lot nearby and the sight of the trees and grasses; the comfort of the relative silence of the place; and the warmth of the light streaming from the sky to our windows, removed our initial worries.
"I feel like I'm in Istanbul," Ja had said as soon as we arrived, as he stood by the doorway looking at the Indians, our next door neighbors; and just across our window the beautiful Al-Ziddiq mosque issued its call to prayers.
For Ja had brought us here. Now, there's no more Ja to even ask, "Where are the Indians?" He just packed up and left, like an overnight acquaintance you meet at a party. Clean and light, isn't it? So, before I clean up and start packing, I still have to take pictures of the whole place, the things that Ja had once installed when we first arrived, and later abandoned. He never noticed that the place grows dimmer everyday. I will also take pictures of the stains in the bathroom and the markings on the wall, and the growing pile of books from the floor to the ceiling.
I'm nursing a bad headache as I write this, Dear Reader, and I badly need to vomit; so, will you, dear Reader, excuse me first, I needed to go the bathroom; and afterwards, I have to start packing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dear Reader: A Belated Introduction

Hi, Reader. I came upon blogging as a gate-crasher into a party. I arrived without an introduction. It was 2005, about a month or so before Davao Today came out with its maiden issue on the “Rise and Rise of Rodrigo Duterte;” six months before a memorable summer spent in a riverside kampung in Malaysia for the Seapa journalism fellowship, three years before rooming with Prateesh for the on campus sessions of our MA in Journalism programme at the Asian Center for Journalism in Manila, two years before our rented "home" in Matina disintegrated and crumbled to pieces, three years before it could rise again in another part of the city threatening to crumble once more; four years before I met a striking Mansaka woman who gave me a plant which horticulturists and culinary experts would actually identify as chives, four years before the tumultuous time when I would alternately scale skyscrapers and the most dangerous mountains in Mindanao for the editing of an 11-chapter-book on the Lumads, secretly crying on the road while listening to Louise Erdrich read and discuss with Debrah Wickenden Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America,” and sobbing, to the consternation of other passengers in a bus I was riding. Sobbing because Louise Erdrich’s voice was so good and melodious, and I was so damned tired, body and soul!
I brought these up to describe the particular time that the blog was born.
This blog is not a journalism blog, as you might have felt for a long time now. “Are journalists ought to blog?” used to fuel a fiery debate inside Prof. C.H.’s class in journalism ethics at ADMU, with Bryant espousing the strong “no,” Bryant getting stronger in his "no" as more people talked, while I defended “yes,” not because I did not support the hard stance on journalists’ code of ethics, but because I was arguing not as a journalist but as someone else.
Blogging has democratized the telling of the story; and I am not going to give that up too easily.
My blog had nothing to do with journalism. It was borne out of my desperation to write fiction. In one of the national writers’ workshops, I overheard the writer Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo telling another member of the panel: “But we, writers of fiction are supposed to be the best judge of characters,” she said. “We study characters in every story we write. The success of our stories depends on how we know our characters.”
That might not be the exact way she said it. But I’ve been thinking of it ever since.
When I opened this blog, I meant it to be a study of characters, I meant it to be an experiment. I hope you don’t feel cheated, once you read this. This blog has no other goals but to stoke the fires of Fiction.
And just like other fires, it is meant only to be discovered. Thanks for discovering it, Dear Reader.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

State of Mind

My project for this year is to gather all the Grantas scattered all over my and my mother's place: tucked inside some forgotten boxes, gathering dust in some obscure corner, eaten by termites near a crumbling post, buried under the pile of laundry. This, at least, will give you a hint of my state of mind. You probably know how it feels to have the things you treasure most abandoned in some forgotten corners, gathering dust and in such a sorry state of neglect, as we carry through, running after stories after stories while the real stories that we live every day remain untold and forgotten?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Damned

She can’t recall how she got there but she found herself one day torn between the devil and the deep blue sea; and it was the worst kind of nightmare because she can’t make up her mind whether to choose the devil or to choose the deep blue sea. She knew that she’d be damned if she chose the devil; and dead, if she chose the deep blue sea; so this heightened her difficulty, so that instead of choosing the devil over the deep blue sea or the deep blue sea over the devil, she hang suspended for quite a time, still trying her best to decide. It was so difficult. She wished she did not have to choose at all between the devil and the deep blue sea; she wished she were free. She wished there were no devil and she wished there were no deep blue seas but there she was, suspended between the devil and the deep blue sea, still trying hard to decide.She thought: what if there were only devils and no deep blue seas? Or, what if there were only deep blue seas and no devil? She found this unimaginable! But then, she thought, if there were only deep blue seas and no devil, then, she would have to choose only between the deep blue sea and the deep blue sea, which was not a choice at all, because it would feel so arbitrary; or if there were no deep blue seas, and only devils, she only had to choose between a devil and a devil, which she found so horrifying, she thought it was better to hang in there, suspended between the devil and the deep blue sea because at least, she had a choice! She can make up her mind between the devil and the deep blue sea; she can choose the deep blue sea over the devil or the devil over the deep blue sea. But still she wished she didn’t have to make such a choice, she wished such a choice were not this difficult, she wished she could escape from the devil and the deep blue sea, she wished there were no devil nor deep blue sea but there they were before her, both the devil and the deep blue sea, tearing her apart, pressing her to choose one over the other.She knew that if she chose the devil, she would feel so bad she would wish she had chosen the deep blue sea; and if she chose the deep blue sea, it would be so bad she’d wish she had chosen the devil. She thought the devil must be the deep blue sea or the deep blue sea the devil--but still. She would have to choose. Between the devil and the deep blue sea. She might choose the deep blue sea over the devil. Or, the devil over the deep blue sea. No, she had to choose the devil. Perhaps, the deep blue sea. No, it has to be the devil. No. The deep blue sea. The devil. The deep blue sea. The devil. The deep blue sea.No.Thedevil.Thedeepblueseathedevilthedeepblueseadevilbluesea.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Dork, the Pig!

(with honest-to-goodness apologies to the real pigs). Mga baboy ang mga lalaki. Men are pigs. They even neglect the children when they live under the same roof, how can you expect that guy to take care of a kid who is not with him? It was Sheilfa, her voice so calm and quiet; her face expressionless. But he promised, I said. Promised? You believed in a promise? We were inside that café at Humberto’s, which I liked because it reminded me of Umberto, the writer whose stories had a lot of communists, anarchists, Italian fighters, monks and lunatics scattered all about. Sheilfa was sipping avocado shake, and I was crunching under my teeth what tasted like raw peanuts from my salad when I said out of the blue that I still wanted to exact justice from the Dork. Sheilfa regarded me just enough to get the idea who the Dork was. Then, I gained enough courage to say that aside from wanting justice, I also wanted to get back at the Dork a little. I was, in fact, thinking about a machine inside one of the torture chambers in the Tower of London, used to exact confessions from the reformist movement gaining grounds during the time of Henry VIII, King of England. I wish to God the Dork will be fitted into such a machine so that such a machine, symbol of ancient cruelty, will finally serve its purpose. I believed the Dork, not the early Reformists, deserved to be there. For what did the Dork do to me after all? Yes, I said to Sheilfa, I also want to maybe, hurt the Dork a little. How? Sheilfa asked. You could not probably hurt someone who never had a sense of having hurt somebody in the first place? I was stunned because she was right. My mouth hung open for a few seconds. So, you’re saying, there is absolutely no way for me to exact justice? (Note: I did not say revenge). It was about 1 o’clock and the café was not crowded but the men next to our table started turning their heads to us. I’m sorry to say, Sheilfa said. Am I cruel? No justice in this world? I asked again, just to make sure I heard it right. From Sheilfa. Uh-humm. Sheilfa said, shaking her head. No, she said. Am I cruel? she asked. I looked at her and then out the huge window next to our table. The street outside was deserted. Directly across, stood a shabby building, its stone foundation slowly weakened by moss. No matter how I wanted to believe her, the proofs were already showing. Wood rots after the passage of time. Even rocks, too, will soften and crumble. The Dork will also rot inside him, will rot so bad he will slowly be eaten by maggots even while he was still alive. I'm sending him the first maggots now. Take it from me, Dork! I will eagerly await the fall of the Dork.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

When I think about Mother

No, we cannot blame our Mothers for the sins of Patriarchy. But why, oh, why hadn’t Mother given me a warning, at least; or, a hint that something was wrong? She was a good woman, a tough one, even if, seeing her close you can sense about her something that is fragile and delicate, although you can’t exactly point out what that is. We first learned from her our English Grammar, Reading and her beautiful handwriting, complete with all the loops and ears, which never failed to impress people. But how could she have failed to warn us? How could she have missed out on the most important things in the girl’s life? Did she expect us to figure out for ourselves, before it was too late, the position that society and culture assigned to us? Did she ever consider that figuring out might take a long time and that we might not be able to do it until it was too late? Or did she ever fail to get the whole picture? Has she completely inhabited men’s minds and men’s structures she had totally blinded herself to them, she could no longer see how they were killing her and how, sooner or later, they would also be killing her daughters and her daughters’ daughters? She was a woman used to being obeyed. When you see her taking off her thick eyeglasses to wipe dry her sweaty nose and put it back again to peer into something to read, you always get the impression she was a woman in control, even if she might not be showing it. She had a way of defying Father, without making him feel he was already being defied, the rug pulled down under his feet without his feeling it. That was Mother’s secret, her extraordinarily ability. Her decisions always made sense to us. She preferred food and books first, before frivolous dresses. (Although I remember now, there were really not many books when I was growing up at home except for her public school textbooks!) She preferred a small, happy house to a luxurious one; although the latter was not really within her choice. She scoffed at people’s penchant for jewellery that her vanity rested on the fact that she never wore one herself. She knew, as most women knew, the difference between need and whimsy. We used to get the impression that she believed in the strength of women; that she fought for our education because she believed in our worth and that she believed in her secret way in the equality of the sexes. But why, oh, why, did she forget to tell us life for a woman would be anything like this? Why did she forget to teach us to love ourselves as women before everything else? Why didn't she teach us to be selfish instead of teaching us very early in life eternal self-denial? Why did she forget to teach us about the primacy of economic power? Was she so afraid or desperate she made up her mind to just leave everything to chances and decided not to talk about it? Did she expect us to just fit into the mold, no matter how square, stupid, unjust and unreasonable, whether we like it or not? Did she perceive the various and subtle workings of women’s subjection to men and their structures? How did she feel about those structures? Did she nurse a burning desire to tear them down or raze them to the ground. Or, did she feel helpless, sad, angry or depressed? Did she feel anything at all? Did she love us enough to warn us against our impending doom or perhaps, to find a way of escape? But why, oh, why, did she leave us alone?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tsa Elim

I am seething with an ancient anger, an anger which had a beginning but had no end. It started at Tsa Elim, one of the old, decrepit commercial buildings that made up a whole bloc of establishments owned by Chinese merchants in front of an ancient university in downtown Cebu. The building housed on its third floor a student dormitory called exactly by that name. The building, itself, was rundown: paint flaking off its dirty walls; dark, musty corners smelling of cockroaches and disinfectant; rusty frame of windows squeaky with age and neglect. It had a landlady that reminded me of Nikolaevna Tereshvoka (whoever she was!) because she had pointy nose; thin, pouty lips; dry unkempt hair; and beneath the soot and grime of her unwashed face, a hint of fairness and unusual beauty. Her real name was Madam. She had a way of transforming the soft vowels into hard. Ilibin, she would say, when I asked her what time the canteen would open. Her green printed dress looked like it had never been washed for years; the brown stains and ugly blotches cluttering its faded green print design. But never mind. My anger had nothing to do with her. She was only doing her job collecting the P1,600 rent for a bed space every month from us. At first, I was accommodated in the third room of Phase One, the long row of rooms connected by the long corridor in the first wing of the building. Our windows looked out to Phase Two, which had windows and rooms exactly like our own. We slept on double-deck beds, two double-decks to a room good for four students. Each room had a built-in bathroom that never worked. Every night, a janitor ensures that the electric pump carries the water from a faucet on the groundfloor to a huge open tub where the students took their water for washing. It had hints of cockroach wastes settling at the bottom. The Janitor, wearing old tattered shirt and a pair of porontong, saw to it that the electric pump continued to groan the whole night because the maddening sound brought along with it the assurance that there would be enough water for bathing before classes started in the morning. Curious horde of students arrived from different parts of the Visayas and Mindanao, each horde looking like they came from different versions of Mars. The skinny freshmen from San Carlos city would pass me by the corridor, refusing to speak or to make eye contacts; the affable guy from Iligan named Jojo Palangan; the sweet mestizas from Cagayan de Oro, but looking back now, my fondest memories always went to a group of Maranaos and Tausugs in one room, their bright Maranao carpets prominently displayed, their dark tapestries hung on the wall. They knew loyalty and friendship. They would always fight and die for you once they consider you their friend, a trait I could only fully appreciate now. The year was the tail end of the 80s. Jane, a classmate who would later become a policewoman, had trained in Karate on the third floor of the adjacent building. Feeling like a cold war detective in a spy thriller that caught the imagination of some people in this period, I would clandestinely meet a group of political science students in another building called Raja Humabon a good one block away and we would secretly take the elevator to the seventh floor to lay out the campaign strategy for the next day’s student body election. Jane was crazy about Karate and Bruce Lee and Cindy Lauper and joining the movies. I had signed a waiver never to join a protest action while on campus. It was the beginning, not the end of my suffering; the Alpha and the Omega of my crucifixion; a struggle that could last a lifetime. My story started at Tsa Elim. It was quite a long story. I don’t know how to begin.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Inner Light

While Mick Basa, (perhaps, going through a phase) was trying to fathom the very depth and breadth of the existence of God, I found myself being torn by a dilemma between the devil and the deep blue sea; completely aware that whichever way I'd happen to choose, I’d end up fucked up and soul-dead anyway. The God question was the least of my worries. I told Mick, he would need a God to turn to one day when, he, too would be confronted by his own self because of his choice between the devil and the deep blue sea; because sometimes, he had to choose the devil and at times, the deep blue sea; and it’s terrible when he chooses the devil, and he's dead when he chooses the deep blue sea. Sometimes, when it's the devil, he’d find himself cast out by his own inner mirror, he'd run out of his inner light, a feeling so terrible he would very badly need a God to forgive himself. Because a dilemma is a dilemma. When you are faced with one, you had to decide as promptly as you can, I learned this from Prof. Ch. H.'s class, and once you’ve taken on a decision, hold steadfastly on to it and never look back. To look back and discover the “what ifs” would be to blame yourself; and once you start to do that, you’re sliding fast into the abyss. But I always have this tendency to look back and to blame myself. It takes a God to stop it—and save me from perdition.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Day I turned into an Ore

Until now, I still need to make sense of that experience; to arrange, to put (my mind) in order. As Karlos said, I can do my own debriefing. I can describe how it started and how it ended. I can begin the story right in the beginning; but I can also jump right in to the most important part, or go back again and again to something that I cannot explain, something that I cannot grasp, something that I found horrifying. The story was not about myself. The story was about itself. It began on the night we saw the body of the girl and the body of someone else carried to the town's funeral house by a dumptruck used to carry ores. The story continued with us, riding the same dumptruck used to carry the dead and always, the ores, in a gravity-defying trip up in the mountains of Pantukan, where we found people constantly battling the elements earth, fire, air and water; winning some and losing more in that battle; and still fighting odds of a different category, such as neglect and greed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Bitter Love

The first shoots of the real ampalaya leaves finally appeared before my eyes when I awoke this morning. The first series of leaves which shot up from the seeds I discarded from the kitchen and later planted in the pot appeared roundish and strange, and made me doubt, at first, if these were really my favorite ampalaya, until I inhaled the unmistakable sweet-bitter scent of its leaves.
From now on, I will doubt no more, my love; the bitter-er you are, the better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Silenced

I did not write anything about women on the international women's day. I did not write anything for me. I spent the whole day running after stories after stories like a headless chicken and the stories had nothing to do with me.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Red Earth

The earth wept muddy tears the day after they killed Fr. Fausto Tentorio.
Huge balefuls of rainwater poured in from the sky, turning the dirt road of the neighbouring town of Antipas into a raging brown river, as if heaven itself was angry over the death of the Italian priest and the irretrievable loss it meant to the village.
The white van splashed through mud and gooey dirt, giving us a fleeting glimpse of rain-soaked wooden shacks through the window. Along the way, it felt like wading neck-deep through sorrow itself.
But this was only in Antipas, for in the town of Arakan, where his convent stood witness to his murder, the sun shone so fiercely it could burn the soul dry.
Pebbles and rocks turned death white along the road, hot as an oven, as we passed by an army detachment guarding the town’s entry.
Fr. Fausto was killed between seven to eight o’clock on October 17, 2011; a Monday, while a flag ceremony was in progress at the school ground across the church compound. When we arrived the day after, people were staring at the spot of red earth where the priest’s blood had dried underneath his car, some shred of broken glass the telltale signs of the incomprehensible violence that had shocked the whole town, the whole country and the world, prompting the Italian Ambassador himself to openly speak during the priest's burial against the prevailing state of impunity in the Philippines.
But here in the compound of the Mother of Perpetual Help parish, people were talking about the gunman and a waiting motorcycle; and what sorrow and what anguished and what outrage the tandem had left behind by killing Fr. Fausto, or Fr. Pops as he was called here, who must have probably been ducking his head to enter the car, when the gunman pulled the trigger, and the waiting motorcycle started revving its engine at a distance, the gunman sprinting toward it.
Women were debating about what particular time this thing could have happened. Was it seven or eight o’clock? Probably eight? one of the women guessed, because school teachers were saying their flag ceremony started late that day.
“Uhh, it could have already been past eight o’clock,” murmured an old woman, who showed me a handkerchief full of the reddish earth she scooped from where the priest’s body had lain, soaked in his own blood.
The woman said she was going to bring the bloody earth with her, a remembrance of Pops. She was a friend of Old Rosita, the cook, who did not hear the shot, not any shot at all, she said, shaking her head, the wrinkles around her eyes giving her a tired, exhausted look; her mouth gaping.
Old Rosita, the cook, was going out to throw the garbage when she saw a body lying beneath the priest’s car. She thought it was the driver trying to fix the engine. When she saw it was Pops, she thought it was a heart attack. Alarmed, she tried to lift the priest, and that was how the priest’s blood poured all over her.
Napundo, she said, referring to how the blood must have pooled around the priest’s chest after he was felled by bullets. “I called but no one came for help,” she said. She was a thin delicate woman of about seventy and her short hair was streaked with white. She shivered when she recalled the amount of blood all over her body. “It was here, all over me,” she said, shaking.
She said it took a while for the police to come. When they took him to the hospital, she would have gone along with them, too, except that she was a total mess, Pops’ blood dripping through her clothes from neck down. She couldn’t probably go to town that way, she said, shaking her head again.
They said he was a priest not content to just say mass when his people was in danger. Someone recalled an encounter between government troops and NPA guerrillas in one of the villages of Arakan, where one or two NPA guerrillas were killed. The story went that the soldiers held on to the body of the NPA fighter, zealously guarding it so that anyone who dared come close to claim it, was considered the next target. No one dared come out to claim the body. Fr. Fausto did. He sent word to the soldiers the church will take the body to give it proper burial and arranged for the barangay officials to take the body itself.
The old woman said some policemen and soldiers were in the school ground the morning Fr. Fausto was killed. There was a “bayanihan” at the school ground and soldiers were there supposedly to help the parents.
Fr. Pops was already dead when they reached Antipas. The whole town mourn for the death of the priest.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Justice

Is justice possible on this earth? Or is it merely an idea, one of the countless fictions invented by the human mind? Yet, if there is no justice in this world, if justice is merely fiction, what’s the use of the idea of justice after all? “All creatures come into the world bringing with them the memory of justice,” so, says the magistrate in JM Coetzee’s, “Waiting for the Barbarians.”
We have witnessed numerous political movements and political upheavals in our lifetime, the rise and fall of dictators, the strikes, the protest marches and the euphoric people’s uprisings; and then, we watch the old oppressors come back to rule again. But as we train our eyes toward these panoramic events sweeping humanity, we oftentimes forget that the most savage, the most barbaric, the most damaging, the most debilitating and the most monstrous kind of oppression is happening right within our private lives; right inside our bedroom. And we can't even talk about it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dreaming

Last night, I dreamt of Fr. Pops. He was still alive. We were all waiting for him in a veranda but he was whisked away by a group of men even before he could reach us. He was carried off on a boat. After a few minutes, a car full of Catholic bishops, still wearing their holy robes, stopped by where we gathered, observing us. We were still longing to talk to Fr. Pops. I was wondering whether the kind of priest that Fr. Pops was, was the same as the kind of bishops the bishops were. I sensed in the dream they were not. When I awoke, I realized that Fr. Pops was dead. He was killed by a gunman on October 17, 2011, inside his garage in the Mother of Perpetual Help church in Arakan.

One day on Talicud Island

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tunnels

Reeling from shock, fatigue (at least, bearable now as the body begins to heal) and severe, almost unbearable "D" from the trip to Diat Palo, a mining community in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, just a ravine across from where the Diat Uno landslide occurred four days after the New Year.
I wish you knew the feeling. After the long trip on board a dumptruck used to carry ores from the mines, followed by an hour’s climb on a steep miner’s trail up an almost 90-degree cliff; and another ride on a Saddam (a reconditioned army truck from Iraq being used in Mindanao hinterlands), where I kept staring at the giant ferns above us to pull the heavy truck up the road so that we will not fall into the ravines bluish in their depths far, far down below. Seeing the desperation of people soaking their hands in mercury poison, cheerful at the prospect of money, inhaling toxic fumes just to extract gold to satisfy the First World’s craving. Saying yes to a boy, who asked, “Te, are you still coming back? Mingaw na mi kung wala na mo.” Nodding, smiling reassuringly at the boy but deep inside, feeling rotten. So, I just turned into a liar.
Had I been creative enough, I could have told him, “Don’t worry, Ondoy—for that was the boy’s name, not a typhoon’s—“Even if we are no longer here, we are staying with you in mind and spirit.” Just like Jesus. Perhaps, a lie like that can sustain the child for a number of years until he grows up and finds himself working in the tunnels.
Perhaps, he will not work in the tunnels, after all.
Perhaps, he will find a route of escape. Perhaps, he will grow mountain rice to fill gigantic warehouses to feed an army to fight the people’s war that will not fail like they did in in Russia and China. Perhaps, he will grow potatoes as big as Bernardo Carpio.
Perhaps, a different way of telling lies can transform them into truths to light his way out of dark tunnels.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Missing Gizzards

In times like these, I dream of Sheilfa, angrier than usual, complaining how some particular guy had attempted to steal her eyes and ears, had she not been too careful and alert. “Don’t trust anyone with your eye,” I warned her, vehemently, in the language of women trying to deal with typhoons and earthquakes every other day or of people on alert for those tropical storms that usually caused the swelling of the river Pangi.
When I woke up, I discovered I was already robbed of my gizzards. I looked for them under the pillows, under the bed, inside the shoeboxes, cabinet drawers, even in the freezer of the refrigerator where I stored my lipstick, but they were nowhere to be found.
I had a funny feeling from the start who the culprit was; and it grew even more stronger the more I confirmed my missing gizzards—the one who stole them was the father of my son!
But it was still in the early morning, when like all the others, I was still breaking my nose over the breaking news, there was no time for me to stop, take the gizzards and fight back. I thought I would find time late in the evening when the air was cooler and everything was written and done with, though, I thought, I would already be too tired and exhausted at those hours.
In the afternoon, I discovered my liver gone; and so were my small and big intestines, the entire 12-meter length of them, gone without a trace; and so were some parts of my brain. I declared it the greatest monstrosity to ever happen in my life! Somewhere deep in me, in some parts I could not locate yet, rumbles a slow burning rage strong enough to break the nose of the of the guy who robbed me of my gizzards, liver, intestines and brain; a rage so slow and protracted it could fuel a long running feminist revolution that would surpass all other world revolutions in time and scale.
So, in the midst of my cluttered room in Nova Tierra, and with the help of a rusty old laptop bought from a Korean junk shop in 2008, I began to track down the gizzard thief. A sneak into his Facebook profile showed a plump man with a potbelly, with partly greying hair and a receding hairline. Hah! So, do you consider that a vindication of years?! Going over some of the comments posted on his wall, I noted how almost everybody called him ‘Sir,’ in such a stupidly patronizing manner that makes me say, Yuck! Nothing about the man gives off an air of intelligence at all. All you can sense, when you take a closer look at his picture, was the sheer stupidity of the eyes and the awkward way in which he held the bottle of beer in his hands to show to the world he was a man. In fact, someone with a discerning nose would notice outright that the stupid guy was holding the bottle as a prop to cover from the eyes of the world the rotten dullness of his life.
Okay, I'm mean. But I'm just getting back here. That guy stole my life!

Monday, February 06, 2012

On the Road to Buluan

Buluan is one of those places I consider so near I could almost touch it; and yet, so far and out of reach.
It sat very close to my hometown, only two or three towns away; and yet, I never heard of Buluan until after three decades I was born. This won’t explain the whole story.
I first discovered Buluan in 2003, when I was part of the team tasked to document the proceedings of the Mindanao Peace Institute (MPI) workshops, where participants from conflict areas around the world spent a week or two learning about peace in Mindanao.
Those workshops culminated on a trip to the conflict areas of Mindanao. On the road, we passed by the Maguindanao town of Buluan.
The ceasefire with Moro fighters were on the papers when organizers boarded the participants in vans that travelled in a convoy to see, among others, the zone of peace in the conflict areas of Pikit, Cotabato and to interview people in Muslim and Christian communities affected by the raging war between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and even before it, the Moro National Liberation Front.
I sat next to a bunch of South Koreans, a Canadian and an American who kept talking about how they could never understand why Filipinos could elect Imelda Marcos and her children back to power; [[Are we short on memory or IQ? I was tempted to challenge them but refrained]]; and a young German woman who kept so quiet for most of the trip.
When the van left the Davao-Cotabato highway in Makilala to follow the road leading to the towns of M’lang, Tulunan and Buluan, I was aghast to realize that like the foreigners next to me, I was also traveling that part of Mindanao for the first time.
As soon as we reached Buluan, the first things that caught my eyes were women and men in the midst of a harvest, their clothes flapping like tiny bright specks in the distance; the nipa-thatched huts huddled close to the ground and a beautiful mosque in the midst of the green fields.
Later, in a town of Sultan sa Barongis, I saw egrets feasting in the swamp; and realized that like them, I, too, was a stranger there.
I would hear of Buluan again on November 23, 2009, when a group of journalists left and met their death on the way to Shariff Aguak. But this was another story.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Letter to Kathmandu

Dear Pratish. I tried to find the Nepali writer again; our Nepali writer, remember?
But going over my copy of “New Nepal, New Voices: An Anthology of Short Stories,” I felt lost, somewhat overwhelmed by all the strange sounds of the Nepali names; I could no longer recognize our writer among them.
But how could I forget? We have a much stronger claim over her than her father, or husband, or maybe even her lover! We were her sisters in life and struggle; her victories were our victories (or so, we’d like to think!) even if she never knew us, she never knew me, she never will. We were her readers; and that’s the most important thing of all, isn’t it?
The first time you showed her to me, and I read the first lines of her rapturous writing, I had gasped with delight. I tucked her name to memory; in a special place nobody could enter. I promised to read her again until she will become part of my body. We both promised to return to her over and over again, when reality is hard to bear; or when we were half dead struggling against the yoke of our daily coverages: the fightings, the wars, the politics. She would be our refuge, a sanctuary, a place so deep, so safe, no one could probably touch or harm us there; a place where our exhaustions vanish; a place where we start to forgive ourselves and we can be friends with the world again. But two summers afterwards, I have forgotten her name. Wasn’t she the daughter of a royalty who had once outraged her father by joining the street protests against the monarchy? Was she a recluse, who once retreated to the forest to write her first novel? Or were we just making up stories, turning up fictions to escape the tyranny of facts in our lives? I know that our link to our writer is made of a more lasting stuff. Even if I can’t remember her name, I still can still find her in her writings.

Sleepless at Esteban Abada!

EXCERPT FROM A JOURNAL
May 13, 2009—

We just entered our room at half past midnight after Pratish and I listened to Kevin, a young Tsinoy from Davao’s Juna Subdivision, discussing Heidegger. He’s taking up Philosophy at ADMU and staying up all night to do some paper.
“Are you, in any way, planning to be a priest?” I asked, just curious, when we first learned about his course.
“That’s the problem with Philosophy,” Kevin began, obviously flustered by my question. “People think that if you’re taking Philosophy…”
“She used to love Philosophy,” Pratish quickly said, turning to me, coming to my rescue.
“Yes, I used to love Philosophy,” I said, thinking only of Literary Criticism and Deconstruction during my Silliman University days.
Kevin nodded, surprised.
“She wanted to be a Priestess,” Pratish added.
Kevin’s eyes widened.
“Yes, I wanted to be a High Priestess, that’s why I asked.”
I did not say I wanted to be a Witch. And a witch doesn’t need Philosophy to be a High Priestess, anyway. All she needs is a pure heart, and that will serve as her compass; her ephemeris, and a blanket of goodness that will protect her against evil and will enable her to read everything—the present, the past and the future—! Pratish knew how often I struggle to keep a pure heart every day because my mind is always up to some particular mischief. I could never be a witch.
Kevin said, “Ahhhh!” nodding even more vigorously.
Finally, he welcomed our friendship and began discussing Heidegger. It was our turn to nod. Pratish and I couldn’t seem to fall asleep that night. We took iced tea with milk for dinner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Walk in the Park

While we were talking in a bamboo shed, a drizzle began and just as suddenly, the sky over the Philippine Eagle camp in Malagos grew dim. "Don't worry," Rolly assures me, "It's still early and it's still pure sun down there," he says, his lips, pouting towards the town of Calinan below. "It's just this way up here, the precipitation is high."
Just as he speaks, we feel the coldness of the jungle beginning to penetrate our bones. The chill reminds me of what I once felt in the forests of Makilala, Cotabato, a long, long time ago. The memory curiously mingled with the smell of damp clothes and bath soaps of a certain fragrance. I remember the feel of soft mahlong beneath my feet, I remember the sight of wet earth and the shivering frames of our companions as they rushed to join us, leaving their slippers at the door. I remember a particular look on a boy's face.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

For years, I've been living beyond the fetters of Time. Maybe, this explains why I could never keep dates. I can only remember the "before" and the "after" of an event, never the actual event, itself. But this year, at least, I'll make a real effort to remember. I'll take note of beginnings and endings; of the ebb and flow of the tide, of the rising and the setting of the sun, of the appearance and disappearance of the moon, of the time for planting and the time for harvesting.
I'll try to follow the seasons.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cubicle

I’m inside my favourite internet café in my favourite cubicle: an empty wooden desk near the glass wall looking out to one side of the JS Gaisano mall.
I used to love it here because the sight of the empty desk the color of maples reminds me of the cubicles of some libraries I used to love: the cubicles on the third-floor window of Silliman U Lib looking down into the acacia-lined green oval of the soccer field in Dumaguete city; or, the reading cubicles of the Rizal Library looking out into the dark limbs of acacia inside the ADMU campus in Quezon city. I used to think the mere sight of this empty desk at the internet café could inspire the deepest of my thoughts to come out of the dark dungeons where they lay imprisoned; could perhaps help break my fettered spirit free!
Until the guys next to me started their transactions on the phone; all with their booming voices and their tripping egos, announcing to the world they are certain-so-and-so's, berating someone in a merchandising department of some Tagum city mall, complaining why their dicer cannot get through.
I wonder what a dicer is. I’m sure she’s not someone who throws the dice, the way I used to see people playing dominoes. But the guy is very mad. His voice fills the entire internet cafe as he scolds the woman—I imagine someone on the other end of the line as a woman because of the way the guy talks; I couldn’t imagine him talking that way to a man!
I came here in my favorite cubicle, thinking I could be alone with my thoughts. Now somebody else is stealing my focus!