Friday, February 25, 2011


Goodbye, dear Friend.

I remember the night you were born.

I was with my housekeeper that time and we watched as your mother, Sabrina, gave birth to all eleven of your siblings.  We were fascinated because your brothers and sisters came in three colors: some were deep black like your parents --- but two were chocolate brown and three were like you --- almost albino white.

I remember that you were the largest of the group: you were the strongest. There was no doubt that you were the Alpha in your brood.  I saw how you unconsciously pushed away all your brothers and sisters to get closer to your Sabrina who was doing the ceremonies that accompany giving birth. Your dear mother was tired but she tended each and every one of you with such great efficiency.

And I recalled how you were always the first to grab one of your mother's teats when you wanted to feed.  We had to buy baby bottles, special powdered milk and vitamins to feed all eleven of your brood. But right at that very moment when I saw you, I knew you were the one I was going to keep.  

I could not possibly keep all eleven of you.  After three months, I knew I had to give up all the rest.  And as each day passed, it even pained me some more because I was giving each and every pup their own names.  But I was certain about what I would call you. There was no doubt about that.  It was love at first sight: I knew your name the moment I set my eyes on you.

I remember carrying you as I fed you in a bottle.  You were like a baby.  When your eyes finally opened and gained sight, you were always the first to run to me whenever I approached the enormous make-shift crib we built for your mom and her litter. And as you grew bigger, you were always on my lap as I played with you and held you close to me.

You were always like that.  Even when you grew up to be too big to carry. Until the day came that I had to give up your brothers and sisters --- and gave them away to my friends.  No, I did not sell them as some said I should. You do not sell your friends. You give them to people who will take care of them and give them as much if not more love than I can possibly yield.  I remember how, after some time, you found yourself alone.  Left with only your mother and father.  I do not know how Sabrina felt when suddenly all her pups were gone.

I do not know if dogs have feelings. If they also feel a sense of loss. Or if they miss their children. Or they realize when their pups are gone.  

Sabrina died ahead of your father.  Linus left about a year after your mother passed on.

And you were all alone with me.

You never disappointed me.  You kept me company.  More than that, you and I would take long walks around the village.  You grew to be a such a strong friend.  You would literally attack me each time I came home: you would jump on me then lie on your back, asking me scratch your tummy, tickle your chin.  You would never cease to badger me until I gave you the bone-shaped biscuits you loved so much.

More than the long walks around the village, I remember the times when I was so alone and sad ... and decided to sit it out in the garden, hoping that all the sad thoughts would just be washed away by some moment of enlightenment. I recall the time I was so depressed ... and in tears ... and I felt something on my knee. It was your head: you were looking at me. You had such sad eyes too.  I hugged you and you did not leave my side as if to assure me that you were there and that you knew how I felt, how I needed company ... and how you would never leave me.

You never failed to give me love. You never questioned my love for you ... inasmuch as you never asked for anything in return except a hug, tickling your chin, or rubbing your tummy.

I did not realize that almost eleven years have passed since you were born.

I only saw how age was creeping in ... how you moved a little slower ... and how you did not jump on me when I approached you. Instead you would try your best to run and put your head on my knees and ask to be hugged.

Just last week we noticed how you were so much weaker.  But people in the house were still surprised to see how you tried your best to run when you saw me when I got home. Then you came to me ... lay on your back, ask your stomach to be scratched and waited for your hug.  You never showed me how much pain you were going through ... or how the years have taken their toll. 

You were always happy for me.

Today you left me.

I cry as I write this, my friend. I was at work, I could not leave ... when I got a message from the household that you were going. When I got home, you were already in your final sleep.  

I would wanted to hug you one more time and thank you.  Thank you for being such a beautiful and kind friend who gave me such unconditional love.  

I shamelessly cried when I realized you were gone.  There are those who will find this silly: you do not shed these tears for a dog. And there are many who will understand how I feel right this very moment.

You were not just a Labrador. You were my friend.  And you are irreplaceable. And perhaps you have given me much more genuine love than some who walk upright in twos ... or claim themselves to be humans.

Sleep well, my friend. I will miss you. I am missing you right now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I have this problem.  I am obsessed with punctuality.  And I am a Filipino.

I blame it on my father.

I remember my father would always brainwash me with words of wisdom that went: it is better to wait for someone than have someone do the waiting for you.  Worse, he would insist that tardiness is downright rudeness --- that time is precious and to waste somebody else's minutes is to show utmost disrespect.  He would go so far as saying that the best way to measure a man's discipline and integrity is by his ability to comply with his requirements without excuses and delay.

Yes, I learned a lot of things from my father.  Some of them may have been outmoded by the ever-changing values that shift with generations and time.  But once something has been so embedded in your system, there is absolutely no way you can purge this with sheer determination alone.  Somehow I know that in so many ways I have become like my Dad.

But how can I possibly tell my father that during his time, there was no traffic in Manila?  How can I clarify with him that during his generation, Filipino males went around Escolta wearing white de hilo suits with immaculate two-tone wing tip shoes and not t-shirts and jeans or shorts matched by Banana Peel flip-flops?  Or how can I even convince my father, if he were alive today, that punctuality --- together with precious delicadeza or even amor propio have become as useful as manual typewriters and Pocketbell pagers?  

I still try to imagine how my father would have reacted if he was still around to see the Senate investigations...or the mudslinging that has become regular fare in Philippine politics. I am not even sure if he could have handled it ... or simply said that indeed we are waltzing our way to some national apocalypse.

I am not even sure if my father would have appreciated Facebook since he would have considered hours spent on social networking as a distraction to getting things done ... not unless befriending the universe is part of one's chosen trade.

But then we don't have to go that far to see just how the Filipinos have changed so much since the good old days that my father always used to refer to as Peace Time.

Peace time should cover the years after the Americans came over until the Second World War.  There was something idyllic and genteel about the country as my elders would reminisce.  It was not much about the gentrification of Manila ... but the sense of respect and decorum that was appropriated by one human being for one another.  

If I remember those long monologues my father would render about Manila society during that time, I could now surmise that those days were characterized by the importance of propriety conditioned by Spanish manners matched by the newfound urbanity introduced by the Americans.  

When we get a chance to see vintage newsreels of Manila before its devastation in the hands of the Japanese Imperial forces, we see a world completely different not only because of the distance of time ... but as if another species of Filipinos populated the streets and characterized that sense of nationhood. Life then was so much simpler. I mean how simple could simple get?  There were trees that used to line Taft Avenue. There was the trambiya or cable car that bisected Escolta.  

Life was slower. People could afford to be gentler. Politeness was a pre-requisite for decency. Not power. Not a craving for popularity. Not a distasteful display of wealth.  People still believed in the importance of self-respect and decency.  Not everything was measured by money or political clout. There was sensitivity as well as sensibility.

And Filipinos of that time were indeed Filipinos.  Now we have become...uhm, Pinoys. Even the terminology says it all.

And I can summarize all that with the simple virtue of punctuality that was meant to be a feather to my proverbial cap but has become a bane to my existence.  Because of what I merely consider as polite and civilized behavior, I feel that I belong to an extinct phylum no longer recognized as an operational specimen on the face of the PNoy republic. 

Following what I believe is part of the dogma of good conduct and right manners, I am now deemed as interesting as a dinosaur.  

I try hard to understand why this is so: am I always early or Filipinos are conditioned to be naturally late?  Have I turned into an Obsessive-Compulsive creature who really needs a shrink or even a good dosage of prescribed Prozac in order to deal with this ... or is it because we have reached that point in our racial evolution that we don't give a hoot about the time our watches announce to us if ever we look at them at all?

I cannot understand why I come on time but always appear to be earlier than everybody else.

I cannot understand why Filipinos come in late and do not even have the graciousness to apologize for making somebody wait and instead throws a very casual, "Kanina ka pa ba?" as if being late for almost thirty minutes is the most natural thing to do. What is worse is when they throw lines, "Bakit ang aga mo?" attesting to the fact that all timepieces in Manila are there for purely decorative purposes and not to remind Pinoys that, yes ... the rumors are true: the earth rotates on its axis as it revolves around the sun --- thus we have nights and days.

Of course we can go completely academic about all this and start blaming the Kastilaloys for this natural love for procrastination. Oh, we can point to the manana attitude, the need for siestas and all that ... but,uhm, please.  Despite the four hundred years of acquired taste for morcon and pastillas, I think there are limitations on how much we can blame Padre Damaso and his ilk for some screw-ups we have now.

The bottom line is that punctuality has ceased to be an issue. Filipinos have accepted the fact that being late is no big deal because it is a part of our culture.  Now being punctual ...or arriving early ... is something you do at your own risk but you shouldn't take that against the Pinoy if he takes his sweet time and makes you marinate on your own juices while waiting for him. That sort of insensitivity has become a norm.  

Maybe just like corruption.  Because everybody else does it, then it has ceased from being a big deal.  It has become a fact.  And if you are dealing with Filipinos ... you just deal with that too.

I think about it and ask myself, am I being such a fool being so time-conscious and almost neurotic about punctuality?  Then I remember my father.  And I remember what he said about the importance of one's sense of self which has got nothing to do with others but everything to do with your respect for the rights of your fellow men.

I think of how other nationalities and races regard punctuality and I assure myself that this national quirk of ours ceases to be cute and will soon graduate from irritating to fatal some time or another. Try being late with the Germans. Or the Japanese. Or even the much maligned Americans who believe that every hour of the day is important to keep up with a frenetic lifestyle. The Pinoy will certainly realize that his lack of regard for the time of others is anything but a norm but a racial aberration.

And I choose to be this O-C neurotic punctuality freak all over again.  I just choose to bring a book and my iPod to deal with the Filipinos' inability to acknowledge that there is indeed a price to pay in the waste of time.

Yes, stupid me. I would rather be early than be late. And it has got nothing to do with catching worms.  It has everything to do with my idea of being a polite, decent human being that my father can be proud of claiming as the product of proper upbringing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


You know, honestly I don't get it.

I don't get a lot of things.  That's because some of my friends say I overdo it. I fuss over problems that I have nothing do with and can not / will never be able to solve.  But it is good exercise to harass your mind. Like some mental cardiovascular activity.  Or a form of masochism.

But still I want some answers. Some opinions will do. Or explanations.

What I hate about all this is that at the back of my mind, I think I know the answers already. But I still ask the questions any way. I still ask the questions because they affect me. More than that, they affect people around me.  And I ask myself again if I am actually helpless and useless in bringing some sense of order to such beautiful chaos.

So let me just jot down the questions that I juggle in my brain ever so often like ...when I am caught in traffic or get too tired playing Scramble, Word Up or ... uh, Angry Birds on my iPad ... or right after I read the papers, watch the news or listen to the radio. 

I really do not expect some epiphany to take place ... some light from heaven to pierce through the clouds and have one of the Archangels tell me the absolute answer.

But it is still worth trying.

First: is he or isn't he a hero?  Was that an act of great sacrifice for the preservation of the honor of a revered institution? Or has that institution been so tarnished because of the scandal that the blood he shed was nothing more but the seal to certify the disgrace that has taken place and the magnitude of repair that is required?

Was his sacrifice an act of defiance, a means to show the world that his honor is far greater in importance than his life? Or is he a coward for his eternal silence was not meant to protect his integrity but to shield thieves?  

A group of friends of mine were so furious at the public reaction of officials and the likes because of the rites and rituals displayed on live coverage saying that everything was being misconstrued.  They felt that if there was a violation of any moral code, then it was the deification of dishonesty cleansed by suicide.

I remained quiet. And pained.  Death is painful ... especially of this sort. I looked at the sons and realized that what they were going through was far too intense and unfathomable even by my melodramatic imaginings. 

How quickly dignity, integrity and a reputation beyond reproach can be crushed to the ground, pulverized by scathing revelations ... from a close friend no less.  I would like to think that if there was one important reason why the bullet was aimed at his heart was because of the pain that one of your most trusted friends actually turned against you.  More so, because of your kumpare's words, the public grasped what was not only kept a secret but accepted as part of the system of a subculture.

So do went vent our anger on those who humiliated him? Should we condemn those who aimed verbal bullets at him by supposedly stripping down the myth to the core of reality and truth?

Second question: was it wrong for the senators to treat him that way? Did they overstep their duty or even their privileges by actually maltreating and deliberately embarrassing people invited to the august halls of the Senate?  After all, as someone pointed out, these people --- regardless of station in life or position in government or society --- were invited as resource people and not made to sit there to be grilled as suspects or criminals.

Moreover, the two senators in question are said to axes to grind against the guest.  

Uhm, yeah. That makes a lot of sense.  But did they say anything that unequivocally revealed their biases rather than remain in the path leading to the discovery of truth?  The highlights of the video pointing to the controversial Q and A have been looped a zillion times on news channels for everybody to see and analyze the body language of the people involved.

There was nothing wrong with the comments that clarified rather than passed judgment.  But there was harshness in one brush-off... in being dismissive rather than explanatory ... in expressing anger like missiles aimed directly at the beleaguered retired general.  But deep in my mind and heart, I am quite sure there was nothing wrong with the questioning.

What is the debatable is the fashion by which the questions were asked.

Third: after this, then what?

I guess that is the question asked over and over again by people who have seen one too many of these inquiries.  Yeah, right. For a while it rattles the nation, challenges our imagination ... and even provokes our utmost indignation.  But after all the sensational media coverages, the interest whittles down into a cloud of disinterested dust.  Like an overstretched soap opera, the audience wanes ... loses grasp and even perspective then eventually interest because a story cannot he stretched that long to sustain excitement.

Think Jun Lozada. Think of all the other cases that through the long and tedious task of due judicial process or whatever bureaucratic terminology considered appropriate end up being part of the political collective unconscious.  After all is said and done, it is still much ado about nada.

In this digital universe where consciousness and attention are diminished to the push button of a remote control, there is no time for dilly-dallying and unbearable delays. It is much easier to lose your audience than to gain them.  And God knows we get enough drama from prime time television for the audience to remain interested in its novelty.

Which leads to some other questions.

Fourth: for anything concrete to happen, what is required is a sense of direction, an unwavering determination --- impressive resolve.  But I am really, really bothered by this.  These pre-requisites come firm leadership.  The crop of problems that have surfaced because somebody opened Pandora's Box can only find viable solutions if there is an iron fist that clamps down on all the institutions to get their acts together and flush out all the vexations and toxins.  

Uhm, do we have that?  Do we have leadership with resolve?

Now I sincerely worry.  Now I join those who may be accused of prematurely judging a relatively young administration.  As one of the die-hard rah-rahs of the present dispensation yelped at me, "Can you give him a break?  He hasn't been around for a year, OK?" to which I replied, "I know. And then after that there will be five more years to count."

Let me go the next questions as well.

Fifth: So whatever happened to the campaign promises that sent the Yellow Army screaming and stomping their feet and literally carrying him on their shoulders to the portals of the Palace?  

Hey, wait a minute: let me clear myself lest I be accused of downright political bias here.  I appreciate the removal of the wang-wangs. Nowadays when I hear that all-too-familiar noise while going down some road, I am assured that it is either an ambulance answering an emergency or some community of informal settlers is burning to the ground somewhere. I am already certain that this is not just another KSP-sonofagun trying to weave his way through traffic with a lot of noise and helluva lot of nonsense. I appreciate that.

I even like his choice of songs when he obliges his constituents (including his relatives) with his vocal prowess in videoke.  After all, while Joey Lina and Bayani Fernando were paying tribute to the fallen third of their world famous singing trio, he was also singing at the birthday party of his baby sister. How is that for synergy? Or serendipity? 

But still ... despite all his melodious displays and contributions, I am still really pissed that he suddenly changed tunes about the Reproductive Health Bill.  (I heard somebody said that he was not exactly turning his back on his campaign promise because he never said that he would support the RH bill but he was one for Responsible Parenthood. Ahhh ... Ano yun?!) Whereas there was much courage in announcing the march following The Right Path, why do I suddenly feel that after all was said and done, it still boiled down to The Art of Compromise.

Well, yeah: the threat of excommunication can be quite intimidating if you have a prayerful family.  And when bishops announce the possibility of a revolution if the RH Bill is passed, any Chief Executive should get oh-so-scared.  Whatever.

Then there is that whole thing with the Freedom of Information Act.  Suddenly the need to pass this as a Law (his words, not ours) has become lukewarm.  I can almost hear the Teka, teka muna whispered in the background.  True, before you chisel this on the rocks of the guide to the system, you have to clarify just how much information should be made free.

Uh, excuse me: didn't we agree on transparency?  Weren't we cursing the mode of governance of the immediate past because of all the escape routes, secret passages and tricks of illusion employed to deprive the nation of the real score, of what was happening and the due process to find out who the hell is screwing our posteriors? 

I guess it is not that easy to find answers to these questions.  These are such strange times.  Others would rather call it interesting.

But why do I feel that it is simply confusing. Disenchanting.

Yet I do not think it is textbook masochism that prods me to ask these questions again and again. It is a healthy exercise.  

And maybe it assures me that despite everything, I have not give up hope.

Note: When somebody was asked, "When do you think we will ever have a country that is truly free of corruption and enjoying the fruits of progress like other nations?"   Somebody replied: "Not in our lifetime, Honey." And I retorted, "Damn it. Why can't I have it in my lifetime?"  That exchange took place more than eight years ago.  

And I still insist that I want that change here and now. Because of my questions.


Saturday, February 12, 2011


I always hear that said to me: "You wouldn't understand because you don't have kids.   There are things that you will only grasp once you become a parent."

OK. But I think not.

Point considered: I do not have children. I have not followed the decree of evolution that I am here for pro-creative purposes. I did not even abide by the Biblical order that I be fruitful and help in the multiplication of the species.  But I also think so many people are already doing that for me.  As a matter of fact, the problem is not that I have failed to become a progenitor but rather the population is so vastly expanding that there should be a unified world decree on collective castration.

At this point in world history, we can certainly do a whole lot with a proliferation of eunuchs.

Anyway ... the point is not my infertile attitude.  The discussion centered around a friend who spent an entire afternoon boring me with her woes and lamentations.  And the subject matter was pretty much the same: How She Failed as a Mother.

My friend is suffer from a textbook style guilt trip that has actually made these afternoons of emotional abandonment and outpouring as something bordering on the boring.  In a nutshell, my friends feels that the perennial misbehavior of her two kids sprang from the fact that she is a working mother.  Of course we have all tried to explain to her that since she did not surrender her career to be Alabang's nominee for the Ulirang Ina Award of the Year does not mean that she has exclusive rights for self-flagellation as far as her kinds are concerned.

For one thing, we are at that point of human civilization when a working woman is out there pounding the pavements in order to be a ballbuster.  A woman works because she has to --- because the cost of living has become so high that a two-income household has become the most practical if not the only solution.  

I told my friend that maybe her son and daughter should know the exact amount they have to pay each semester to the university where they are studying. Maybe if they see the six-figure enrollment fees (which does not include books, miscellaneous expenditures, allowances, cell phone load and maintenance, etcetera, etcetera ...), then perhaps they could stop carping about Mummy leaving everything to Yaya to take care of their daily needs.

But that would not appease my friend. She would sigh and give me her classic Cherry Pie Picache look (who just happens to be her favorite actress --- of which I commended her taste) before blurting out those classic lines,"It's so hard to be a parent." I asked her if either her mother or father told her that in her younger days ... because my parents certainly did (which is probably why I have turned out to be like this).  Yet no amount of consolation can convince my friend that this is not her fault.

Well, yes: her son has practically gone through the gamut of all the courses offered and available in the university. The sad part is that he could never go beyond second year ... before he changes his mind because he wants to be something else.  Oh, another thing: if he is not changing his mind whether he wants to be a computer engineer or a entrepreneur or a graphics designer ... now he wants to take up music to be a rocker.  

Once upon a time we could have laughed at the thought.  After all, my friend's husband was also a child of the 70's like us. Those were the days we shared when I still had hair (and I mean long wavy hair) reaching up to my shoulders --- and her husband looked like he had cannabis for breakfast, lunch and dinner (which perhaps he did anyway).  I reminded my friend that she fell in love with her husband because she thought he sang the vocals of Stairway to Heaven so beautifully (and I am not referring to the Neil Sedaka song but that piece by the Led Zeppelin).

"What's the big deal?" I told her,"Wasn't your husband a pseudo-rocker who moonlighted dancing the Twelve Steps to the tune of Love's Theme by Barry White?"  She said it was all too different.  This is her son, you see. Her son! What will happen to him if he just keeps on fluttering from one course to another ---- not to mention the fact that he is dating this girl who actually has a butterfly tattooed below her shoulder blade?  I still couldn't see the cause of her panic.

"I don't think she is a virgin," my friend said, referring to the Tattoo Girl. 

I spent about three good seconds of silence before I retorted,"You weren't a virgin either when I met you. And that was in first year college ... "

"That's beside the point," she dismissed. Well, yeah: my friend didn't have a tattoo in any part of her anatomy.

But we still could not figure out all that fuss.  Let's get real here.

All the friends agreed that her son was not exactly the sharpest pencil in the box --- and that, by all accounts, he was not exactly going to be the summa cum laude or valedictorian of anything not unless it involves horticulture specializing in growing poppies and other profitable forms of potted vegetation. He was a nice, sweet young man who smiled a lot and really had very limited talents. That included music. 

(So we also figured out that he was not going to be a rocker even if he wanted to ...just like his father.)

And, for the record,  we never expected anything from her daughter either. What I meant was that ...whatever transpired with the young lady was something we somewhat already suspected. No, it was something we anticipated ... or feared.

Even at the age of six, the friends (more or less) knew that this was not the sort of girl who will dedicate her life to Jesus.  There was something about the daughter, aside from the evident fact that she was smarter than her brother.  She had chutzpah whereas her brother merely possessed the license to exist. She talked a lot and giggled a lot and wanted to cuddle up a lot.  As she grew taller, her dresses did not grow bigger. That sort of thing. 

She was the sort of student in an exclusive school for Catholic girls that gave nuns very serious problems.  

Her daughter was a people person.  She had this thing about being charming and accessible.  Apparently, when puberty came in ... she also developed the uncanny quality to be immediately available to anybody who ... uh, wanted to avail.  Her daughter was only in the Seventh Grade when all sorts of stories floated about her --- and what she did while hanging around the Glorietta  area right after classes.  Then it went as far as Rockwell. And this involved boys in short white sleeve shirts, black pants with their school IDs still hanging from their necks.

"Ok lang yon," said one of the friends when the stories persisted until our friend's daughter reached high school."Honor student naman, eh. At least, di ba? Eh, yung Kuya?"

Another friend recalled, "Are you surprised? Remember that night after she got so drunk in Velvet Slum and ..."

We all went into a collective, "Ohhh ..."

"So why is she so pissed off with her daughter?"

To this I retorted, "Because she is no longer 19 ... she is actually 52. Somehow things change between the years."

My friend would have this bi-monthly breakdown because of her rather colorful confrontation scenes with her daughter.  

As  friends who have remained faithful and true through the years, we would always be ready to listen to the latest installment of the rather predictable plot that is to be their love-hate-mother-daughter relationship.  But what makes them still so interesting despite threats of redundancy and possibilities of violence is that my friend and her daughter are so much alike that they cannot stand each other.

Thus following the principles of the like poles in magnets, mother and daughter naturally repel each other. The repulsion is expressed in very creative (yet somewhat loud) discussions, accusations, vexations and even curses.  From what we heard, some of their vicious exchanges were lifted off verbatim from ABS-CBN prime time telenovelas.  So we greatly suspect that they are preempting the revival of these soap opera sin real life even before they are replicated on the small screen.

But their battles can be so ...uh, disturbing ... that one time the next door neighbor actually called the subdivision security  to check on what was happening.  

That was when I got somewhat pissed. I categorically warned my friend her assertion of maternal authority was already bordering on the baduy and that she should watch out because her neighbors were no longer amused by the noise pollution she was creating. After all, they were living in an exclusive corner of the earth which has been declared a bird sanctuary.

Besides, how was her husband responding to all this?  

"He has given up," she lamented.

I clarified that there is a substantial difference between someone giving up from somebody shutting up.  Just because her husband had chosen not to join the cacophony did not necessarily mean that he left the fate of his children to karma.

And of course to this , she mumbled: "It's so hard to be a parent."

Why?  She kept asking that. "What have I done so that my kids turned out that way ... especially my daughter? She is smart ... she is beautiful. We have protected her all her life ... we have given her the best ... then why ..." 

I gave it some thought: she was actually trying to figure out why her daughter turned out to be a slut.  So I said calmly, "Eh, what can you do? She really likes boys. Like you rin noon, di ba?"

But of course that did not appease her the least bit.  Now my friends and I feel that she actually enjoys all this angst because it gives further meaning to her life which her well-paying career apparently has not (except to pay for the various amortizations).  That is also why we have learned to live with and for this drama ... even if it has become suffocating ... and yes, to reiterate ... boring, boring, boring.

There were years before when she used to bore us with photos of her kids in little plastic flip-over albums.  Now she is boring us with this ordeal that will challenge the Mahabharata in length.

Once for all, how can we get it through her thick skull that a parent cannot be a hundred percent responsible for the turnout of her kids?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. As a good Mommy or Daddy, you do everything to provide the best for your child.  Remember that famous phrase?  A child enters this world not out of his choice but because a man and a woman had fun nine months earlier.  So indeed, it is the responsibility of the parent to make sure that the kid gets the damn best that they can possibly give. But ...

Never was it ever written that parents own their children.

Nope.  Parents merely facilitate the entry of a child to a world confused and confusing ---- and with their guidance, the kid manages to fend for his own survival.  

Parents who tend to overprotect their kids produce wimps and runts: their bones are weak because in their formative years they have never been given the opportunity to fall, to earn their wounds and scars ... and to learn the tricks for survival.  Parents will not be there forever.  There will come a time when parents leave their children on their own ... and they are left unprepared ... then what?

Parents love their children ... and part of righteous loving is giving your child the chance to make mistakes.  The chance to get dirtied and hurt. The chance to cry. And learn. That is what is most important --- that they learn on their own rather than rely on the stories and warnings of their parents about what life can truly be out there.  

And sometimes parents think that the ultimate proof of loving their children is by shielding them from all the monsters that lurk outside the safety of their homes.  

Unfortunately that is not possible: not unless you lock up your kid in his bedroom (and cut off the damn internet connection, television, radio, cell phone, landline and other forms of communication to the outside world), you cannot let your child grow in a contained and controlled environment. And it is as if that will do any good.

One thing I know from years not of raising children but teaching the kids of others is that sometimes parents are the last people to know who their kids really are. Ouch! But that's true.

Parents forget that once upon a time they were kids too.  And we know very well that we present ourselves as different people depending on who sits across us, who we speak to and what impression we want to leave.  Despite all attempts at openness with your family always leave something aside. You always keep some very private and personal corner that only your friends can gain access.  And sometimes you are a different person to your friends --- because your parents only choose to look at what they want to see in their kids.

Another thing I want to shove down the throat of my friend: her kids have their own minds. They are in college. Even when they were in Grade School, they already had their own minds: their manner of thinking may be wobbly and inexperienced, but these kinds have operational brains to have a sense of choice.  The choice is whether to follow what is said to be good or take the alternative path to what they feel or think is better. And that is their choice.

I know it is very difficult for parents to accept the fact that kids --- despite all the love and care given to them --- still choose to move the opposite direction from where their parents want them to go. But then again ... as I said: that is their choice. I remember what my grandmother used to say to encapsulate all this: Buntot mo, hila mo.  

Parents should not flatter themselves by taking all the blame for all the faults and failures of their kids. At a certain point in their lives, children graduate from being somebody's son or daughter: they come on their own. They have their own definitions of happiness and fulfillment, failure and misery ... and even family and parenthood.

In the meantime, we console our friend.  We tell her that whatever will be ... will be.  And that despite all that she deemed of her life, she was and is a good mother.  We all believe that. Drama and all, histrionics and monologues ... she is a good mother. Because despite all that she has gone through, she has not given up.

She has not stopped loving her all good parents know they can never ever do.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Hmmm ...

I am not quite sure how to write this without sounding cynical. Or jaded. Or simply bitter.  But let me give it a try anyway.

The opening salvo: Valentine's Day really sucks.  There, I said it.

Why? One might simply conclude that such a beautiful day of lollipops and roses, of candies and sweet music can only suck for someone who has to spend it alone in front of a television watching Willing Willie rather than to be out somewhere planning the next move leading to foreplay.  

For how can Valentine's Day suck when love makes the world go around and all that sort of greeting card stuff you've heard even before Elvis rocked his pelvis?

Well, it still sucks even if you have a partner ... That is, if you ask me.

Why?  Well, for one thing --- in a culture like ours that seeks to find any reason to celebrate, Valentine sounds like a hangover pill you take right after Christmas season. 

Pinoys are said to have the longest Yuletide celebration.  As early as September they are playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town in malls together with plastic garlands and mistletoes sold at your friendly bookstores. 

Filipinos love to find every excuse to celebrate ... and spend. And being natural suckers for anniversaries, month-saries (which I will write about in a more appropriate time) and even adversaries --- Valentine is the perfect trap to give us a reason to go out, buy a gift and spend, spend, spend. We equate celebrating with spending kasi. 

If it keeps the wheels of commerce turning, then fine with me. I am sure Cesar Purisima is endorsing Valentine's Day together with his Big Boss (who I am sure will find his appropriate date ... who I am sure his Little Sister will announce to the public with a cloud of mystery for that right touch of intrigue). 

If it is a reason to bring back middle-aged post-menopausal pop artists who were very much a part of my growing-up years, then that's really, really great! I mean ... hey! Don MacLean! Stephen Bishop! Dan Hill! And ... Yvonne Elliman! Singing all their pop tunes that I keep like sacred mantras in my iPod! Sige lang! 'Tara na sa Araneta!

But then to say that Valentine's Day is that special day of the year when you can express and profess the breadth and depth of your love for he or she who has become the very fulcrum of your existence .... that, my dear, is a lot of crap.  

And if you think I'm being crappy for saying that, then you have become a Stepford Wife who has been so conditioned by commercialism to even think that right this very moment Mister and Missus Santa Claus are giving assignments to their faithful elves for the next back of toys to be delivered this coming Christmas. Valentine's Day is big business. Along the same vein as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Your Favorite Pet Day, Teacher's Day or Whatever-Day-It-Is-Today.

Hey, there is nothing wrong with romance. Or celebrating. Don't get me wrong.  Age does not diminish romance. On the contrary, age refines one's concept of love ... and loving.

As the decades teach you lessons both sweet and merciless, you realize that passion may be one big roller coaster ride --- but love is ironic. It is an ever-changing constant.  And I didn't write that for the sake of a quotable-quote or to have it land on a greeting card to accompany a bouquet.  

It is ever-changing because it must grow and evolve and assume various shapes and shades if you want love to last through the years.  People change. Partners change. And this is necessary.  I have always believed that you cannot be the same person for more than a year.  You should get bored of yourself before others get bored of you.  

What more of your partner?  I do not believe in even bigger crap like love so unconditional that your devotion will remain the same even if you have reached that eternal plateau when you can no longer stand each other. Why? Because you are so bored out of your wits with each other's company.  And that can only happen when you get addicted or fixated on your comfort zone.

Partners must change. They must grow ... separately and together. And Valentine's Day has got nothing to do with that.  

Annual assurances are cute but they are like breath mints -- sweet, but not exactly necessary -- not unless you are trying to hide or sugarcoat something you would rather not let anyone else know.  And one thing time teaches you is that the real magic of love is not in the flowers, the music or the chocolates --- but the wonderment of the changes that happen each year, each month, each day.  It is the endless and constant process of rediscovery that cannot be marked by any single day, any appointed anniversary.

If you really think about it, that battered and overused saying really holds greater truth: every day should be Valentine's Day ... because every day should find a casual and natural expression of affirming one's love ... for anyone or anything.  You may not even be together ... but the thought and the feelings that bind are the very fibers that hold your hearts together.

No, I am not going to be a party-pooper.  So go out and enjoy the Day of Hearts. Go buy the suddenly-oh-so-expensive-flowers that would cost over a thousand a bouquet.  Go get the chocolate truffles. Go have that expensive dinner date, devouring delicious Wagyu steak seated on volcanic stone.  Go murmur sweet nothings.

But do it out of love, for Christ's sake ... and not out of expectation...or obligation ... or tradition ... or just to say you had reasons to celebrate.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Forgive and forget.

Filipinos are such a compassionate people that for us it is important to forgive.  More so, forgiveness is not enough. One must also learn to forget.

It has been inculcated in our systems that as a true child of God, you must have a heart so open and generous that he who wrongs you deserves a chance if there is remorse exhibited, there is contrition attributed.  I remember my elders consistently repeating that trite line about harboring anger and seeking vengeance: that was tantamount to a sin greater than the wrongdoing done unto you.

Forgiveness is not sufficient: you must also forget.

If you keep a log book of all the bad things people have done to you, then forgiving them becomes irrelevant.  It also becomes insincere.  What is that line again? If God can forgive those who have tortured and crucified Him, who are you to begrudge anybody?  Well, yes: I have never been nailed to a cross and I think it takes such a greatness of heart and capacity for love to be able to forgive those who have inflicted such harm on my person.

But I am not God.  And I do not think --- despite how hard I try --- that I can be Christ-like to that extent.

I will confess: I can forgive. But I can forget --- only to a certain extent.

My best friend, Manny, was quite adamant about what he thought of Filipinos and their insatiable capacity for forgiveness --- more so, their very, very short memory.  Manny said that tracing Philippine history --- especially contemporary developments --- point to the same source of all problems.  We never learn.  Let me qualify that: we don't learn because we forgive and forget too easily.

Manny was so correct in citing that Philippine history like a vicious cycle. Perhaps much like Sisyphus punished for all eternity for pushing a rock up a hill only to have it roll all over him. And why? Because Sisyphus never learned that he can never get that goddamn rock over the top any way.

The same holds true for Filipinos.

Boy, oh, boy!  Have we had our share of historical blunders, huh? Just on the latter part of the twentieth century, we were under a dictatorial rule for almost two and a half decades, we marched down EDSA and had a fiesta of a revolution --- stunning the world with our sea of yellow and our capacity to topple a Iron Man by singing and dancing "Mambo Mambo Magsaysay" and "Rico Mambo" on the streets ... and then what?

We welcomed the twenty-first century by having another EDSA.  Looking back, it was always the revolt of the middle class --- the collective disgruntlement of the shopping mall crowds bursting into a tsunami of political assertion.  We unseated a president who we accused of ineptitude, indolence and corruption ... only to replace him with who?  Better yet ... with what?

Now we are in the midst of yet another scandalous explosion. No, more of an implosion.  An eruption of disgusting revelations about institutionalized graft and corruption that has become so embedded in the system that it has become the system.  Right at the heart of the shocking expositions comes a dramatic twist that shatters us into realizing that ... my God! Blood has been spilled because layer by layer, we are approaching the truth.

Then we stop. We pause. We rethink.  We feel guilty. We feel downright shitty. Is the search for the ultimate truth really worth all this ... blockbuster drama?

And after all has been said and done ... shall we choose to forgive?

Shall our conscience compel us to ...forget?

Manny and I were absolutely stunned by the personalities who populate the local political and social arena.  Filipinos have this thing for embracing those they castigate with a sense of warped guilt.  The whole idea of not bearing a grudge and giving somebody a chance is so important --- to the extent of ignoring what was the lesson that should have been learned from such an experience.

We go out of our way to create excuses for sins. And we don't seen to learn. Nothing changes. It is more of the same.

It is not that Pinoys are incapable of learning --- it is because they just too hung-up on guilt.  

We are just too obsessed with being good --- worse, we give so much importance to looking good in the eyes of others even to the extent of dispensing of principle, disregarding foresight --- and worse, aborting all tenets of logic.  

We are more concerned about how we are perceived by others rather than who we truly are ... or should become.

So are we still surprised we are still in such a screwed-up rut? We are so susceptible to emotional blackmail because of our obsession with guilt --- that we never learn from our mistakes.  

This whole pusong mamon culture has deprived us of the faculties for objectivity.  Eh, sa Pinoy ba naman is there anything really objective?  Ours is a culture entrapped by practices like pakiramdaman, pakikisama, pakitang-tao and worse -- pagmamalinis.

Yes, Manny was so correct.  We forgive too easily, we even forget faster. Maantig mo lang ang puso, mapakonsiyensiya mo lang ang Pilipino ... he will forgive ... and feel that it is an obligation to forget.

Does that serve as a virtue for a compassionate people?

I think not.

There is definitely a dividing line between compassion and confusion as there is a demarcation between nobility and stupidity.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Dear Mister President:

Happy birthday po.

Kainis lang that what should have been a day of national celebration was just so overwhelmed by the nakakaloka events happening all over.  If you ask me po, I was talagang nainis. I mean, why naman of all the days did he decide to kill himself today?  

It is bad enough that yesterday ... some military officers with bad haircuts and ill-fitting barongs were the talk of the town as they were being interrogated and literally eaten alive by such impeccably dressed senators. 

(Sir, magkaaminan na tayo po. Ang guwapo ngayon ni Senator Jinggoy.  Ang ganda ng buhok, ang ganda ng katawan kaya ang ganda ng dating ng kanyang Paul Cabral shirt. You should really consider doing more than token biking around the Palace grounds or pa-jogging-jogging diyan.  Unfortunately, driving around a Porsche does not burn calories.)

Now naman they have this thing in the Lower House with Heidi and Rebusa --- who have really become such sensations that they have literally overshadowed the news that Piolo and KC are on na pala or that the new Regine/Dingdong telenovela premiered last night ... or that TV5 has its own version of "Mano Po" set in Payatas.

Worse is that ... nobody remembered it is your birthday! Kainis!

I mean if there was anyone who was sweet enough to put a red mark around the calendar and remind everybody that today is a very special day for the country ... then it was your baby sister.   

Di ba she just announced that you were exclusively dating again?  Oh, that will really send the kilig meter exploding ... although honestly I heard a lot of people say that they couldn't give a hoot about your love life, but who cares?  It really helps to add that romantic angle to your public image ... para you sound and look human to the madlang people.  

If there is anyone who is so good at that ... at being able to charm the people through media, then it is your baby sister, di ba?  She is better than any one in your communications group because her career spanned from the time when she was Queen of the Disaster Movies until she became Queen of All Media.  And no one can dare question that galing in media. So you better listen to Josh's Mumsy when she advises you not only on how to dress ( Sir, the slacks waistline above the bellybutton is so mid-1980s pa. That used to go so well with outfits made by Kirei) but also on how to present yourself on television and in print.  It has got something to do with ooomph!  It has everything to do with remaining interesting. 

Or even assuring everyone that you are there.

I mean look at what you have done for Shalani Soledad! She now has a top-rating show that air six times a week on prime time. That is really cool, di ba?  There is no doubt that she is really out there! And she is not even in a show entitled Happy, Yipee, Yehey!

Which brings me to my next point, Sir.

OK, I know it is your birthday and parang it is not polite naman to go ngek-ngek-ngeking or something like that.

No, it is not about the Lexus.  I think a lot of people misunderstood you about that.  

O sige na. Pati na rin the Porsche. 

As the saying goes: The rich are different from you and me. You were born rich.  Your fans keep reminding everyone that. You were not only born with a silver spoon in your mouth --- you had the entire silverware.  My goodness, will you please remind everybody that you are a scion of a haciendero.  Tell them to read your lips: Ha-cien-da Lu-i-si-ta. 

So these big toys for the big boys are really nothing but second nature to your species, di ba? So what's the big deal ba? You like cars! Fine! Some presidents like expensive wine. Others like crooked deals. But at least ... you spend for your own bisyo! As your cheerleaders noted, you don't make pakialam the kaban ng bayan just so that you can have your joyrides, no? 

So what's my problem? Ok, like this ...

I guess what I am more concerned about is not what you are doing but rather what you seem not to be doing at all.

Sir naman, at the start we thought you were so rah-rah-rah with the RH Bill.  

Di ba you were so up front pa saying that this bill must pass and that the country needs this, etcetera, etcetera.  Even if the men of the robe were wagging their staffs and invoking the heavens to send everything from thunder, lightning, fire, brimstone down to a partridge in a pear tree, you looked and sounded so undaunted.

Sir, sa totoo lang ... for the first time, napabilib mo ako.

Whereas all the previous Chief Executives always play footsies with churches and the agents of the afterlife, you sounded so determined. You sounded so sure that you wanted this Bill to pass. And naiyak ako. For once I said to myself, "OK, I may be wrong. He's got the gumption. He is not going to buckle down to threats of ex-communication or the attack of exorcists!"

And then a day before your birthday, we hear that you said raw that the RH Bill will no longer be a priority.  


Ano yun? Your spokesman said that the Palace raw will meet the Men in Cloaks and discuss the matter before making a decision and that there are other pressing matters that demand immediate attention. Teka, teka ... Sir, I think the fact that we have reached the point of actually exporting people to turn into laborers and call them New Heroes says a lot about just how many Pinoys there are out there that we are treating them like Guimaras mangoes. 

Then another thing.

Today was such a confusing day.  Somebody big killed himself.  There was the next installment of that harassing telenovela ng tunay na buhay ng kurakutan at pagnanakaw taking place at the Lower House ... then there was the whole issue about the rising electric bills, the price of oil, etcetera, etcetera.  Of course naman we do not expect you to provide an answer to all these problems.  I think not anyone in this country even knows all the questions.

Pero naman,Sir ... sana naman you are there.  I know you said you are not publicity-hungry pero you didn't tell us naman that you were shy. Or reclusive. Hindi naman siguro anti-social.

No, we do not expect you to give speeches ... for God knows how sick and tired we are of politicians giving privilege speeches at the slightest provocation.  We do not even expect you to recite poems like Invictus like Nelson Mandela ... or crack a joke ... or tell another anecdote about your mother.

In moments like these, we need the presence of a President. Kasi we want to feel that this country has a leader. Like that lang.

We know it is your birthday today. We know it was such a hassle that all these protesters decided not to bring spaghetti, lumpiang shanghai and balloons to Malacanang and instead waved their placards and sang their protest songs or hollered their chants in Mendiola.  Party poopers, no?  But still ... the only time we saw you today ... while the country was dizzy with confusion because of events happening all at the same time ... was when you were lining up to renew your license at the LTO.  Because it is your birthday, after all.  Baka you wanted to drive around your Porsche.

No, Sir. I do not believe you spend your free time playing video games with Josh. I think that's a mean and nasty rumor.

I think Porsches are cool ... and if you can afford a Lexus, bakit hindi? Manigas sila sa inggit.

And I think you can date anybody you want.  They can even report in with live stream video ... and Kuya Boy can even give sweet commentaries about your clandestine dates in Da Buzz. Pakialam ba nila?

But we need a president. In a Lexus. In a Porsche. With or without a girlfriend.  Even playing video games.

And when the chance permits, Sir ... I will challenge you to a best out of ten game of Angry Birds. It shall be an honor, Sir.

Happy birthday po.