Category Archives: Personal

Stranger dreams

I’m not good at remembering dreams so I’m writing this here. This happened two weeks ago.

I slept at around 12 midnight. I got up at exactly at 3 AM. Yes, that’s three hours of sleep. This has been my routine for more than a year now. I start my day drinking brewed coffee and eating toasted sliced bread with butter. I’ve been doing freelance work for this same company for three years. So everything at this point, as far as my job is concerned, has been routine. I can do my tasks with my eyes closed.

After responding to important emails, I said “Hi” to my colleagues online. We have a chatroom where everything gets discussed. There were four online (three from the Dominican Republic one in the US). The boss, a New Yorker, was idle. That’s always good news (like his city, he wants things done fast). There were no immediate requests that needed to get handled.

Suddenly, I started having problems with my Internet. I remember having trouble opening websites. I decided to restart my computer. Got back in after five to eight minutes. I started back reading the conversation in our group chat, checking if I missed out on any updates. I noticed that the only words that came from me was “I’m back”. Weird, considering that I knew I had a few short conversations since I logged in earlier. To be certain, I started looking at logs and time stamps. There was nothing there. I then checked my email’s sent folder. For sure, the emails I responded to earlier had copies there. To my shock, nothing!

It dawned on me that everything that I thought I did never really happened. It all happened inside my head! I never had my coffee, no toasts with butter. My Internet never got disconnected. The chats, the emails, they never happened. It is clear now that I woke up from that hyper realistic dream of mine when I typed those words “I’m back.” This strange dream would not be the last. It had a shorter sequel a few days later…

I had this bad habit of catching a nap after a heavy meal. One day, I was woken up by my wife. She normally doesn’t disturb me unless it’s something really important. But this time she did. She said she only wanted to remind me that she and my son had eaten one of the mangoes (she bought three big ones the previous day). She remarked that they were nice and sweet. I said OK and then went back to sleep. The following day, to my surprise I found that the mangoes, all of them, were untouched! I confronted my wife and asked “didn’t you tell me last night you sampled one of the mangoes?” She gave me this puzzled look and said in her usual emphatic “suplada” tone “No”.

Of course she did not. Again, I dreamed all that!

Is it possible that we all could be living inside such dreams? When we see a person who acts strange, those who seem to talk to imaginary companions, are they really mad or are they living inside these prolonged lucid dreams? I’m not worried but perplexed because this hasn’t happened before.

And yet there’s another strange occurrence a few days ago. I don’t know how this one ties up with my two strange dreams earlier.

The other day, I labeled a few jars. The way I do this is with a packing tape and a pentel pen. I’m not really a stickler for order, but I like labeling things, even when the visible contents are already screaming what’s inside. After labeling a few jars. I had a short merienda (light snack). I took my stuff and placed it inside our cabinet. We have a dedicated area for hardware and tools. Then I slept afterwards.

Later that day my wife called my attention asked, “Why was the masking tape inside the ref?”.

Oh boy.

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On remembering

After my father passed away last year, I’ve been consumed by the question, “do we survive death”?

Growing up Catholic, I understand my religion’s conception of the afterlife. But there’s something about losing a person close to you that triggers questions about what you previously thought you comprehend.

Maybe it’s human nature to not want death to be the end. That they go on existing in a plane our limited earthbound mind would never even come close to understanding.

I wasn’t looking for advise on the matter but as Carl Jung once said, “synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see”.
The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, author of “Rizal According to Retana,” (http://tinyw.in/524l) wrote me an email last week (responding to the topic of her Lolo’s grave in Ilocos):

In the end, our physical bodies die, and we continue on. Where we have lived and acted consciously to express our being, in a way that impacts positively on others (with the conscious intention of helping, defending, protecting, educating, supporting), is the best way to leave a mark. It doesn’t even matter whether you leave a mark, or you don’t, but the mere fact of living a conscious life and expressing your humanizing intent means that you will link your existence to others’ futures.

Yes, my lolo’s grave will probably disappear but I found his memory and I wrote a book to rescue it. The book has reached some people’s consciousnesses (thank you for reading it), and it isn’t the fact that I’ve written it that has protected my lolo’s life from being erased. It’s the fact that he lived as he did that made it inevitable for a descendant of his to write a book about him. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Each of us changes the world, but especially if we become awakened to the meaning that we can give to our lives, consciously (yes, with love, with devotion).

Rizal’s bones were exhumed and those that had not returned to the earth are in that monument in Rizal Park. The remains of GomBurZa returned to the earth in Paco Cemetery. But those lives and deaths sacralized our land, for anyone who wants to feel it.

I believe finally in a greater Plan (Cosmic Intelligence) that doesn’t change even if individuals disappear from this material world. The Plan is beyond our capacity to grasp in its mechanisms, which are divine. Which are the laws of “life, energy and evolution”. And each of us is valuable for it, we come from it and we return to it.

But unless we start from the basic (honoring our ancestors/forebears, expressing it in actions, experiencing a change in our awareness, a deepening, an appreciation that was not there before), the questioning life about the deeper themes, the things not said, we can’t advance to the subtle. We can’t redeem ourselves, so to speak. They don’t tell you anything about this in school, or even at home. Life seems to be nothing but a survival machine and it’s a bit depressing and meaningless, mechanical, with some highs interspersed, some magical moments, and then back to the doldrums. When everything is meaningful and magical and new and talking to us all the time, but we are deaf blind and dumb. So my lolo Emilio as who he was, your father as who he was, when we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us. I don’t miss Filipinas, she is in me. She always was. It’s wonderful to go home and eat lumpia Shanghai, discover Mount Banahaw. But if I can be there in the body, it is in me, in my spirit.

We do what we can in the material realm, and within our poor limitations, but the important thing is what happens in our mind, in our awareness, in our emotion joined to our intellection, and to the body. This is about us. It isn’t about them. It’s about the communion between them and us, that goes beyond dying or dates. Or if the bad people won and the good people lost. We are the continuing story, What we are doing, feeling, thinking today and how we work with the past, present and future, in the direction we choose.

So really, I am in peace. I am glad I wrote and published Sampaguitas and made it available in English as well. I have no idea if it has reached a lot of people or not. I did it for me, for lolo Emilio, my father, my kids. You know, around 5 years ago a young woman contacted me here in Chile. She was really emotional about having read Sampaguitas, because her mother (Chilean) had her with a Filipino who was in the merchant marine and he abandoned them, typically, and she had never known anything about him or the Philippines, and when she came across the book, she felt she had connected with her father. I lost contact with her almost immediately, but I could feel how moved she was.

The ”Sampaguitas” mentioned here is her book, “Sampaguitas en la cordillera” (2006). Its English version, “Sampaguitas in the Andes” she made available for gratis in her website (http://www.elizabethmedina.cl).

Now, do I believe all that?

Yes, I do.

I remember this one moment, standing in front of my father’s remains, feeling that he’s not there. I was looking at him but I was looking for him. Then it hits me. Before me was merely the vessel that carried his spirit. I was comforted by this thought.

“When we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us.”

Amen.

Love you Pa.

 

 


You can’t make this stuff up!

 

ctto: “Feast of La Naval de Manila” https://news.mb.com.ph/

I recently started posting short blogs across all my social media. The first one was about Gen. Henry Lawton. He died in San Mateo in 1899. The only US general to perish during the Philippine-American war. The coincidence relating to his death is worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode:

 

“We all know Lawton (Manila), the plaza named after US General Henry Lawton. As army captain, he led the expedition that captured the legendary Indian chief Geronimo (Apache wars), a feat that had been attached to his name. Years later, he finds himself in San Mateo (Rizal), now a general, pursuing Filipino fighters. He died on December 19, 1899, from a gunshot wound. Ironically, the Filipino General he fought against that day was a man named Gerónimo (Licerio).”

The other miniature story is about the “80 years war” between Spain and the Netherlands. Our involvement and how its culmination bequeathed us with a lasting religious tradition.

“One of the longest war in human history, the “80 years wars” (9th longest) between Spain & Netherlands, reached our shores in the 1600s. There were several battles that took place from March to October 1646, from Lingayen to Corregidor. It culminated with the Spanish colony crushing the attacking Dutch forces who had 19 ships against their 4 fitted civilian ships (Dutch suffered 500 casualties; the Hispano-Filipinos 15). Staggering was the victory over the massive Dutch armada that most attributed it to heavenly intercession (popular accounts of the Virgin Mary appearing with flag in hand). This epic confrontation produced one of our greatest and enduring Catholic tradition, the “La Naval” of Manila (the Dominican Church is now in Sta. Mesa Hts. QC).”

This post is partly inspired by my wife who had known of La Naval since she was a child. She studied in UST from grade school to college. However, she knows little of its past aside from the basic information Priests had told them. This is my gripe against our clerics today. There’s no emphasis on apologetics and local Church history in schools and churches. Droves of Catholics are parting with their religion of birth and there’s very little that’s being done to win them back in. The bishops, for example, has decided to preoccupy themselves with local politics these days. Last time the Church got embroiled in running the government it flared up a revolution.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”


Remembering Fr. Gerry Tapiador

While searching for news about Filipino Catholicism online, I inadvertently discovered that the great Catholic apologist, Fr. Gerardo “Gerry” Tapiador, passed away five years ago. Fr. Gerry made regular TV guestings on shows where Catholic viewpoints were needed. The last time I saw him was on GMA Network with broadcast journalist Howie Severino. They were discussing the beatification of Pope John Pall II. Fr. Gerry also had a radio show in the 90’s that I listened to intermittently. He had that distinct unhurried and mild voice that listeners could easily distinguish and appreciate despite the gravity of his expertise which is Catholic Apologetics.

I attended a public school frequented by born again Christians. They conducted regular Bible studies. We also had Catechism, but the Born Again Christians were far more vigorous. They brought snacks and toys to entice us children to join them. We also happen to have relatives who left the Church and became active in this Christian sect. It is during this time that my curiosity was stirred about certain Catholic practices. I started reading about what other religions were saying.

Many, many years ago, Kabayan Noli de Castro’s defunct “Magandang Gabi Bayan” showed a religious debate among different religious sects. Fr. Gerry represented the Catholic Church. De Castro inquired about the Bible versions his guests were using; everyone had their own modern and translated versions of it, but Fr. Gerry had the Septuagint (LXX) version. The earliest existing Greek translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew. He was fluent in Greek and Hebrew. There was no doubt who was the real Bible authority among the panelists.

 

One of his books for Catholics who wants to understand their faith better. Published by St. Paul Publication. He would be remembered for his contribution in Catholic Apologetics and as for me, planting that mysterious seed that grew my faith over the years.

 

I was probably 13 years old when I met Fr. Gerry in person. It happened at St Paul’s Library in Makati. We lived next door to it. In fact, the bookstore’s raised parking space was our play area. Our eldest brother attended the adjacent Saint Paul Seminary (SPS). During that meeting, I asked him what book would best answer inquiries other religions make about the Church. Upon hearing my inquiry, I could then tell that he was a bit perplexed, perhaps because of my young age. He suggested this booklet, “The Catholic Church Has The Answer,” by Paul Whitcomb. After having acquired a copy of my own, I had read it repeatedly from cover to cover. It kept me Catholic. In fact, I never owned any other books on Catholic apologetics after that. I no longer have the original yellow booklet that I bought that day. It was lost when we moved out of Makati (a copy of it in digital form is now available in EWTN’s website).

Part of his introduction in the Diocese of Novaliches’ website reads, “Fr. Gerry was born in Rome, Italy. He graduated at San Carlos Seminary (Batch 1981) and was sent to Rome and Jerusalem for further biblical studies. He was the first Filipino to deliver a valedictory speech in Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… a devoted lover and servant of the Word of God, he served as Regional Director of the National Capital Region for the Episcopal Commission on the Biblical Apostolate in the Philippines. He is also an active member of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) whose Bible Museum at its Headquarters in U.N. Avenue, Manila is embellished by his contributions. He has also published several materials to aid people in appreciating and studying the Word of God; they include among others The Mysterious Seed: A Simplified Manual on the Tools and the Principles of Interpreting the Bible (1993), The Roman Catholic Faith and the Bible, Hark the Herald: How the Bible Tells Us When Jesus Was Born (2005).”

The last time I met Fr. Gerry was during the wake of a love one, Doña Amparo Keyser, in Súcat, Parañaque. After the requiem Mass, I approached him and retold the story I shared here. How did it turn out?, he asked. I’m still Catholic, I said. We both laughed. We had a very brief exchange, but I doubt he remembered that boy from some 20 years before, knowing him as a busy man. I thanked him for what he did and his work in general. I felt that was important. There are no longer a lot of priests around like Fr. Gerry.

Descanse en paz, Padre Gerardo.


So long Andrade!

Feeling a bit under the weather I thought of staying home yesterday. But I was informed by the family of the eminent Chemist and historian Pio Andrade Jr. that Wednesday is the last and only day of his internment. He passed away last December 26. They decided to cremate his remains the next day and bring him home to his beloved Paracale.

Before heading to Kamuning (where Andrade is interred) I dropped by Sampaloc to see popular historian Benito Legarda Jr. This is the only second time I’m meeting him. I brought two books he authored and had them signed. We spoke briefly about WWII (more on this on future post).

During our chat he asked if I’ve read his Rizal book (Eight Rizalian Miniatures, 2011). I told him that I’ve heard about it but I’ve never seen one for sale. He sold and signed me a copy. We weren’t talking about Rizal or anything related to him. The offer came out of the blue.

Before leaving I told him that I’m visiting Andrade. I asked if he knew him well. “Yes, where is he now?,” he inquired. He was surprised to hear that he has passed away. “That’s sad,” he said.

Your company up there for sure would enjoy your wonderful stories!

I arrived at the Chapel in Kamuning pass 6PM. I spent a couple of hours with Andrade’s family exchanging stories. In the times we met we talked for hours and hours. So, I had my fair share of Uncle Junior stories to tell.

One of my favorite story was when he was quizzed by the US Secret Service. He actively wrote against the martial law during his time in University of Florida. Marcos had an upcoming US state visit. They were trying to assess if Andrade was a threat. Asked if he knows how to use firearms, “No, only firecrackers!”

Not many knows that Andrade has a great sense of humor. Maybe the way he writes (in his own words “accusatory” and “angry”) sends that vibe that he’s a difficult person. But he’s a great guy to hang with, look, I’m 38, our age are decades apart but we get along.

How I wish that publishers took a second look at his book ideas. I feel that the “Fooling of America” was too controversial that many thought it risky to work with Andrade.

The last time we spoke he told me that he’s got three books lined up. He was already wrapping up editing his Paracale book (Romancing the Gold) and was working on two other: “Que Barbaridad” (vignettes on Spanish cultural and historical contributions) and a Rizal book which tackles inaccuracies and fabrications about the national hero.

I proposed to the family that they donate all his completed and unfinished work to the Ateneo. I remember him telling Guillermo Gomez Rivera to do the same for his huge library in his Calle Mola. The historian Fernando Zialcita, who came earlier to the chapel, suggested the same.

Whether or not the books (or what can be recovered) gets published is entirely up to the family. There were at least a couple of his young nieces that are interested in his work (one in particular is Ariel who I believe writes).

I reached home at around 10 PM. I had a few pending work that I wanted to complete in the morning so I went straight to bed. I pulled Legarda Jr.’s “Eight Rizalian Miniatures,” from my backpack (the book I just acquired earlier). Reading relaxes and puts me to sleep.

I opened it and landed on page 15, there it was, an article (Sidelights on Rizal) Legarda wrote in 2008-09. “Self-professed iconoclast and historical gadfly Pio Andrade delivered a lecture at the Instituto Cervantes… in which he view erroneous impressions about Rizal’s life.”

This was the event where I first met Andrade. He must be kidding around—pulling a prank of sorts!

One more reminder that his work would stay with us for as long as we exist.

Thank you my friend.


Our Leader of the Band…

Last April, before I left for Singapore my father told me in jest that what’s left of his time he considers “bonus”. He’s too fatalistic at times. Turns out, he said the same to my wife. He was all smiles the last day we were with him. He kissed, hugged and carried my son.

Papa passed away in his sleep last August 17, a week away from his 81st birthday. My brother (his junior) and mother was with him.

Knowing him, I kept this post as short as possible. I left out details but I wanted to share a few things about him (I had to write about you here Paps, sorry!).

Papa’s a reserved person. Not shy but he dislikes attention. He’s the kinda guy that leaves the house without saying goodbye. Comes home without announcing it.

We love his unique sarcastic sense of humor. Something that I think all his children inherited. He always have a smile on—this I miss everyday.

Papa’s family was almost wiped out during WWII. But the experience had an inverse effect—it made him tough as nails. Nothing rattles him. I never saw him tear up, get anxious or down.

I remember when we (along with a number of families) were evicted from our homes in Makati. Everybody was angry and panicked. But not him. He was serious and composed—a picture of stoicism.

I know simple is a common description most children use to characterize their parents. Papa’s a notch higher than normal simple.

I had to trick him so I could get him to a mall. I’d ask him to bring his senior ID so we can use the express lane to pay our bills. Then before heading home I’d treat him with his favorite Chowking siopao or halu-halo.

Papa never developed a taste for fanciful leisure. He derives delight from the simplest of things. He’s happier with coffee, teas and biscuits for gifts; buy him an expensive watch and he’d scoff at it. We complain shirts we bought are left unused. Nanay ends up giving them away.

On weekends, he enjoys sabong. We encourage him to get active—we’re OK with it. After all he’s got his jeepney business and pension, it’s his money and cockfighting is in his DNA—he’s an old timer Negrense—it’s sports to them.

Papa’s consistent in everything he does. It’s hard to make him do something because he’s by nature a skeptic but once he commits, he gets it done.

I pleaded to him once for a small pigeon cage. He objected at first. But I insisted and he built me one. It was literally as big as a chicken coop!

I think at times he says no to lower your expectations, but he intends to do it and surprise you.

When he was in Saudi in the 80’s, my mother said that I asked him for the biggest robot toy for Christmas. I can’t remember making that request but I recall having that grey weird looking robot. It had a cool remote control base and a body that can be inflated to human size.

Once I asked him that we to go to a beach. My friend’s families had gone swimming somewhere north. It was lent and I thought that’s what people do.

He agreed and took me for a dip—in Manila bay!

I remember the cuts and blisters I got from the sharp shells embedded on the rocks. We never said a word of this mini excursion to Nanay.

In my brief eulogy I shared the story below:

He used to assist Nanay to the market and help her carry foodstuffs. As years past, he tires easily and could only chaperon her up to the market steps.

His health took a dive around four years ago, but still like clock work, he wakes up at dawn to accompany Nanay where she takes the jeep. Approximately a 300-400 meter walk to-and-fro.

The last two years walking really became an issue. I see him force himself up to escort Nanay to the tricycle queue—two blocks from our home.

Then came the time that he could barely walk. His steps were slow and labored. He refused using cane. He could only manage to accompany Nanay up to our gate at this point.

About three months after our visit he started having problems standing up. I was told he insisted but fell several times. He probably couldn’t believe he’s ambulant no more—for the first time in his life he was forced to stay in bed.

Nanay said that even when he was bedridden, he wakes up to see her leave. Must be a force of habit I thought. But no, that’s how he expresses his love, never in words, but in his actions.


An Unpublished Book and some Throwback “Thank Yous…”

I took part in writing a biography a few years ago. It was about the longest serving town mayor of San Pedro Laguna, Calixto Cataquiz, an unpretentious local politician who became a friend during the course of the project.

I would have not agreed to write the bio if my friend, Pepe Alas, was not on board. I was a supervisor at a BPO in Alabang; Pepe, a Spanish speaking agent under my program. I assumed the writing task would be easier working with someone I knew personally. We often times wrote while we’re both in the office.

We had a great time writing. Of course, there were a few bumps and misses but nothing we couldn’t handle. The only frustration was that the book remained unpublished.

The last time I caught up with Mayor Cataquiz was during Pepe’s wedding. He told me of a few political issues that made him decide to shelve the project. The Mayor was abruptly disqualified a week before the last election—his wife took over and won.

So, that’s that for me writing for politicians. I’ll stick writing here—for now.

Pepe still believes that the book would get published. He’s still working at it, putting the finishing touches. He became a close supporter of the Cataquizs. The latter aided him during the perilous and costly medical emergency brought about by his wife’s pregnancy.

Often time’s failure gives us more than success.

During our time writing, we met several cultural workers in San Pedro. Like this friendly chap, Sonny Ordonez, author of a book dedicated to San Pedro’s miraculous Lolo Uweng, a Santo Sepulcro enshrined in Landayan. He cheered us to continue, gave helpful tips on how to write.

And there were other strangers whom we have never personally known but did us favors. Like Gemma Cruz Araneta who wrote about our small book project in her Manila Bulletin column. I never got to thank her personally but I appreciate what she did for us.

You don’t always get what you want—but you’re getting something. That’s for sure. You’ll just have to learn to appreciate the little things, the friends you make, the invisible hands that comes out of nowhere to help.


With Don Pio Andrade de Paracale!

I visited chemist Pio Andrade in Arellano University (Legarda) to ask him a few questions about his history growing up, as a chemist and as a historian. He’s a personal hero of mine. One of those guys that got me reading deep into Philippine history. He’s an iconoclast, a man whose obsession with methodical research in chemistry and history, challenged the established notions in both field of studies. Even with his accomplishments he remains humble and surprisingly approachable. I’ve met so many academics and so called experts, none could be more genuine and generous than Andrade.

One of these days his story must be told in detail. Even in writing history, he’s driven by this insatiable thirst to correct the manipulations in our text books. I find it interesting how he ended up writing that controversial book about Carlos Romulo, “The Fooling of America,” an investigative book exposing the true character of the former UN president. He was at that time a student in the University of Florida when he heard Romulo, then President Marcos’ foreign secretary, proclaim that the election that president had just bagged was the cleanest of all elections. “When I heard that, I told myself that I have to write about this man and expose him,” Andrade recalls. His  writing against Marcos also landed him an audience with Americas Secret Service.

I first met this brilliant chemist in a seminar about Philippine history in Instituto Cervantes. Immediately, I was impressed with the data he presented. His lecture was about friar contributions. Not surprising that his topic aroused negative reactions among the audience. I remember F. Sionil Jose standing up and shouting at him when the latter discussed the issue of ‘Calamba estate”. Calm and collected, Andrade offered his folders to the national artist telling him “it’s all here.”

With Chemist, Filipino historian and writer Don Pio Andrade.

Presently, Andrade is writing research papers and articles. His upcoming book about the history of the gold town of Paracale will be publish this year. Another book which I can’t wait to get my hands on is his Rizal book. Unlike other works about the hero, Andrade intends to expose the lies and manipulation behind some of what we’ve accepted to be gospel truths about the man.

I remember a conversation I had with one of Andrade’s friend who I interviewed a couple of years ago, Ernie de Pedro, an English educated man who’s known for his work as film archivist and historian. He said that he often wonders why Andrade gravitates towards controversial subjects that ends up putting him in disadvantageous positions. “He’s driven by his principle and passion and emotion,” de Pedro said to me. Another common friend, Liz Medina, a Filipino writer based in Chile describes Andrade as “Bonifaci0-like” in his uncompromising writing.

I asked Andrade why he returned here in our corrupted country when he could have opted to get employed in the US where he could have made millions. He answered me with just one word, “patriotism”. I think that pretty much sums up the kind of man he is.

I would try to put the transcript of my interview with Andrade on this site. I just need to find time to do this. Also, he handed me some papers containing his lectures. I have to put these here too.

One thing that I need to learn from this man is his methodical research. He’s so organized when it comes to research. He’s a master at this, even Ambeth Ocampo (who vouched for Andrade to replace him in Inquirer when he joined the Benedectine) is a follower of Andrade’s work.

16 December 2013


The Traveling Bunch. The Alas’ as La Familia Viajera

They’re a travelin’ family

Just when I thought two blog’s too much for this corporate slave friend of mine, he decided to add another.

He calls it LA FAMILIA VIAJERA.

While he claims it’s the first and only family travel theme blog, what I know with certainty is that Pepe Alas is going to provide a lot of good historical info in his new site. The guy’s a great writer and researcher. A true historian out to defend our authentic Filipinoness. And the wife, I’m pretty sure she’ll add style—quite a fashionista that kumare of mine.

Here’s hoping that Mr. Alas gets to maintain the blog regularly because I can’t wait to read, read, read.

By the way, It also excites me to know that my inaanak, Jefe, will get to see some of the historical sites that I know would make him a better person. I could still remember the days when my mother would bring me to the churches of Quiapo, Ermita. Sta. Ana and Baclaran. Seeing these old churches had a profound effect on me. I learned to appreciate our past at such a young age. So these children, all four of ’em, would grow up with something most people never had. I commend my friends, Pepe and Yeyette, for this wonderful idea!


Ain’t that a beaut…

ain’t that a beaut…

I just had to post this. Only nature could give us such splendid vivid colors!

This was taken around 0530 in the morning. It was a short three hour flight from Singapore, the plane here is already moving towards the terminal.

In this flight, I was sitting behind a group of seamen who were obviously excited to go home. “I could see our house from here!”, a younger man whose skin manifest the harsh sea condition they probably worked in for years. And now they’re home. There was also this woman who had difficulty breathing, so the crew made an announcement to call on individuals with knowledge in dealing with such an emergency–two nurses responded. There, faith restored in humanity–and fellow Pinoys.

This dawn scene also reminds me of my time working with an IT firm in Alabang. Our office is located on the 25th floor. I go home around 6 or 7 in the morning, around the time when the sun is slowly sloping up the mountains of Morong. Some colleagues would regularly see me taking photos. I’m sure this bothered some of them but I can;t just help it. This went on for two years. Just imagine how many shots I took!


With Manong Frankie Sionil Jose

How do you give an introduction for someone like F. Sionil José? Anything that I’ll say was probably said better by others. So let me skip the introduction.

While I differ from his view on many toipcs in Philippine history, my appreciation for his cultural, social and historical writings remained.

The man has never abandoned his quest for social justice. His criticism of the country’s irresponsible elites and the locals passiveness has become the theme of his impassioned writings. I admire that he never tire of bearing the desire to change his nation after all these years. Most people would have given up–but not Manong.

I like this picture. FSJ looks disinterested (I’m not sure if he was). That’s a great profile of the man. We kept banging our knees. We took turns seating side ways. The novelist is a hefty, tall guy, almost the same height as I am. His office is cramped with books, there’s a type writer. No laptop. He slouches on his seat like a little boy. Favors wearing crocs over shoes around his office. He readily admits that he tire easily these days. (Special thanks to César for taking photos).

To quote him, “my generation failed; it made all this mess and I am, myself, culpable. Looking back, I should have shouted more loudly, longer, too, even perhaps to the point of getting hoarse. For that is what Bertolt Brecht said — “Shouting about injustice hoarsens the voice” — and the artist whose voice is hoarse will not be understood, will not even be listened to.” His egalitarian ethos for the common Filipino has never diminished.

It was easier for him to rest on his laurels, write commissioned biographies, get rich doing what so many gifted minds has done but he prefers to toil and tug along that rough road.

He runs a bookstore where he still writes.  He’s now 88.

This is not a formal interview, more like a chit chat between an obscure blogger and one of the country’s literary greats, Manong Frankie.

F. Sionil José: Teka, are you related to the the pilot — that made the trip from Manila to Spain?

Arnaldo: Yes. I heard from older relatives. But I don’t know how he’s related to me.

F. Sionil José: You see, that was in the, what 20’s or 30’s?

Arnaldo: Early 1900’s Manong, not sure when.

F. Sionil José: See I have good memory. I remember. Matagal na yon ha!

Arnaldo: Let me shake your hand.

F. Sionil José: Oh. [Laughs]

Arnaldo: I’m shaking the hands of one of the greats!

F. Sionil José: Oh, narinig mo yun Cesar? [Laughs]

F. Sionil José: Oh ano? ano ba interest mo?

Arnaldo: How are you? kamusta po ang buhay?

F. Sionil José: Oh sige salamat, it’s humdrum

F. Sionil José: Do you write?

Arnaldo: I blog…

F. Sionil José: Ok yan. May blogger dito nun’ kamakailan lang.

Arnaldo: Is it true that you’re a snub, I don’t think so, but why do people…

F. Sionil José: [laughs] Ganito yan’ ah kung minsan I’m so busy I don’t want visitors. Kung minsan naman, kagaya mo, suddenly you just drop by out of the blue… otherwise naman I could spare time with anyone who wants to see me.

Arnaldo: I’ve read the things you’ve wrote about Singapore, I worked there but recently had to quit…

F. Sionil José: Ha? Teka muna, what’s your work in Singapore?

Arnaldo: I was working with a software company. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that they’re trying to localize the workforce there?

F. Sionil José: They can’t do that. They don’t have enough people.

Arnaldo: But they’re trying to develop their locals…

F. Sionil José: Kahit na. At saka, no matter what they do, they’ll always need people that knows more. I know Singapore well. Simple lang yan. I was there when it was like Binondo. Curious ako, “ano kaya yan Singapore na yan?,” it was a small town surrounded by rubber plantation. Mostly, rubber plantation. I’ve been traveling around the region, from the late 40’s onwards.

Arnaldo: A few weeks ago, I was reading an old article of yours about your grandson in Illinois.

F. Sionil José: Ah, that. It was a short story. It was very autobiographical.

Arnaldo: Do you still write?

F. Sionil José: Feet of Juan Bacnang. César kailan ba lumabas itong Juan Bacnang? ah yes, February last year. This could very well be my last.

Arnaldo: No, no, no.

F. Sionil José: I’m not well. Marami akong sakit. Salamat na lang that this [pointing to his head] is not yet demented. I know younger people who suffers from memory sickness.

Arnaldo: Are you aware how you inspired young people, like, to look at social and cultural issues in a…

F. Sionil José: Yes, yes. But I don’t really think of it.

Arnaldo: Did you really told Ramos to hold on to power and reform the government?

F. Sionil José: Yeah, to stage a coup. It’s just articulating the obvious.

Arnaldo: Do you think someone would come along and lead us, correct the wrongs, heal the ills?

F. Sionil José: Maybe.

Arnaldo: Never thought of running for public office?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] No, but I was in government for two years. I was in the Foreign Service, I went to Sri Lanka. I have experience in the bureaucracy, the Department of Foreign Affairs, thank God, it was led by someone I admire, knew very well, si Manny Pelaez. So it wasn’t too bad. I had direct communication, all the suggestions I gave were followed. Those kind of things. Because there’s nothing more frustrating than when you have something good which you think should be accepted but gets rejected.

Arnaldo: Do you think artists can be good at running things? like government?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] We’re rooted on reality. It’s the imagination, the dream that sustains us, that takes us off to the cosmos.

F. Sionil José: Paano ngayon di ka na babalik sa Singapore?

Arnaldo: I don’t know. I’ll look around and see what are opportunities I could take. The economy, they say, is doing well. So, let’s see.

F. Sionil José: Maraming opportunities dito. But sometimes, it’s difficult even for the skilled. Ganyan naman dito sa atin. How are your ties here?

Arnaldo: My network is good. I’m very positive, upbeat po tayo!

F. Sionil José: Alam mo that’s the advantage of open societies. You can fit in anytime because you have the talent needed. Dito, what’s wasted dito sa ating bayan is not the talents that go out but the talents here that are not utilized! Hindi ginagamit, ang daming marunong, you know, but somehow they could not get into [inaudible] positions.

Arnaldo: So these talents, ends up poor, desperate?

F. Sionil José: Basahin mo yun Star last Sunday. I’m writing something about poverty. Again. Kailan ka ba dumating?

Arnaldo: A couple of weeks ago.

F. Sionil José: Ah so you don’t…

Arnaldo: I download all your articles and put then all on my e-book.

F. Sionil José: Ah [laughs] you’re, what’s that, a techy. I can’t even use the computer.

Arnaldo: I’ll never forget that Cervantes seminar where you shouted at Pío Andrade, why were you so upset?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ah na dun ka ba?

F. Sionil Jose: I can’t stand it.

Arnaldo: You scared a lot of people there!

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ah oo na dun ka pala. Madami, daming audience, tao. Hindi daw kasi totoo yun kay Rizal ano? [Laughs] I can’t stand it, I’m incense by such things.

Arnaldo: I know that man, met him, Pío Andrade, he wrote “The Fooling of America”, I personally find his works formidable

F. Sionil José: His book is good. That one demystifying Romulo. Which is not completely true, I know Romulo. But there’s more than a kernel of truth in that book!

Arnaldo: So you read him also?

F. Sionil José: Ah yeah. Di naman ako basta basta nagsasalita.

Arnaldo: Tell me about Ninoy, Cory…

F. Sionil José: I would select the books and Cory would bring it to Ninoy in prison. I know them both very well.

Arnaldo: What about Robert Frost?

F. Sionil José: What about him?

Arnaldo: You’ve met him, right?

F. Sionil José: Ah yes, he was 80, and healthy when I interviewed him!

Arnaldo: Wasn’t he senile?

F. Sionil José: No! not at all. He was healthier than me kasi his cabin, di naman hills, but there were inclinations. We walked. He was walking faster than I! And I was just 30 years old.

F. Sionil José: Ah, you brought up Robert Frost. The woman that introduced me to him, I learned afterwards that she was the mistress! [laughs]
Was she Filipina?

F. Sionil Jose: No, Americano. Her husband was a good friend of Frost. Works in Harvard.

Arnaldo: Para palang si Hemingway to’?

F. Sionil Jose: [Laughs] but yun ano, yun persona ni Robert Frost, was old and gentle. I read in his biographies that he was cranky, one of the children committed suicide, but I didn’t saw these, iba s’ya sa personal.

Arnaldo: Was he cocky at all?

F. Sionil José: No, he was very nice. Very nice.

Arnaldo: These are the Americans intellegencia that was against the American empire

F. Sionil José: Oh yes. Ok, let me get back to work. Next time don’t show up unannounced!

Arnaldo: I will. Thank you Sir. I really appreciate this. Agnamayak!

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ok, ok.

May 2013


Great! but Grossly Over Priced Books!

I found two good books earlier. The first one,”Puentes de España en las Filipinas”, a coffee table bookloaded with picturesque images of stone arched bridges from the Spanish era. The pictures in Manila shows old bridges that amazingly survived countless conflicts and natural disasters. Some of them obscured by plant life, some by the constant reckless concrete repairs courtesy of our stupid public works department.

The other book is “Isabelo’s Archive”, from one of my favorite historian, Cebuano Resil Mojares. (For sampling of an excerpt click here). Mojares is a gifted scholar–he weaves historical stories and accounts that captivate the Filipino reader. His works are interesting and informative–only problem is that most of his books are high-priced. To be fair, it’s not only his books but most Filipiniana titles. I find it strange that when the subject is Philippine history, the more expensive it gets!

Cover of Puentes de España en las Filipinas

I don’t know why we have expensive books. For a nation that does not read the pricing does not make sense. This book by Mojares shares the same price with that dry, controversial book from Dan Brown!

Those who write romance novel and novelty books gets it.They sell their books nickle-and-dime. And it’s proving to be a great marketing tactic. Of course, history books would be harder to sell even if prices drop. Ambeth Ocampo and F. Sionil Jose are doing what I think is the right thing here. Find ways, creative ways to bring the price down–and the readers will come–they’re not only making good profit but also advancing their advocacy.

I don;t know if these historians are even aware how their works ends up being priced. If you’re a scholar don’t you want more people to discover your work. Why price it beyond their reach then?


The Last Bote

A day after the election, I came across eight guys drinking on the sidewalk not far from our home. On top of their makeshift table is a plastic pitcher, a glass, a plate with crushed ice and another plate with some salted peanuts. My father who knows everyone in this village told me that these men worked all day as volunteers for the former mayor who just unseated the current progressive young mayor– the reason for the drunken celebration. It would be safe to assume that the money they used to procure their alcohol supply was their poll watcher allowance. Not the wises thing to do but hey, these ‘estambays’ religiously follow the creed ‘let tomorrow worry about itself’.

The following morning, about three or four of these half naked men lay wasted inside a jeepney parked on the side of the road. When I went home that day, I saw some of them, now dressed and smoking cigarettes,  standing in front of the neighborhood sari-sari store seemingly waiting for nothing.

That’s a clear eight to one advantage. I realized that my vote isn’t going to tip the polls balance. So why try?

This would be the third time I’m going to the polls. And this could very well be the last.

I voted for four senatorial candidate, a mayor, a vice mayor and a couple of councilmen (both offers free ‘notario’ and legal assistance). Why vote for 12 senators when you know there’s only a few that deserves to be in the senate. The quality of those running for public office has gone down to the bottom of the imburnal.

Voting these days feels like picking rotting fruits. It’s just a matter of choosing which ones are not as bad as the bad ones.

What’s with these old corrupt dinosaurs and their venal relatives all running for office? These showbiz personalities trying to find their second careers in politics?

The scary part is that these people are being voted in–proof that we haven’t learned anything. Just when I thought that the likes of Erap would have a hard time getting elected, they and their family are back–if this is not a sign of a self destructing society then tell me what is?

Our political structures keeps the best and brightest out of contention. These political dynasties and their filthy rich patrons, accomplished building a political machinery so formidable no common man, no matter how qualified, could challenge it. Occasionally, you’ll have the likes of Grace Padaca winning against these political dynasties but this happening is as a rare as seeing a white cockroach. And when these deserving men and women manage to sneak in the back door, how long do they last? Most of these standouts had already lose their reelection bids! Power has gone back to the political dynasties in the provinces–this is our sickening political reality.

People are not going to vote for progressives in this country–only those who could guarantee more hand outs. And traditional politicians, with their vile ways are quick to exploit the masses appalling desperation. That’s their bread basket right there. More poor, more power.

Why would they educate the poor when it is this condition that guarantees exploitation? Keep them dumb and hungry. This guarantees perpetuity in Filipino politics.


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