Saturday, February 25, 2012


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


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.