Monday, May 30, 2005
While the movie itself does make some kind of statement for Asian-American filmmakers on the one hand, and a different love angle through the experience of lesbians (oh boy, I said it, I'm going to get a few webhits for this one), I was more intrigued because one of the lead actresses was a name I haven't heard for quite some time - that of Michelle's.
My buddy Des and I thought of a travel magazine during our down-and-out following our aborted careers as educators (the memories those times bring up ---!) and one of our inspirations was "Travelers" which aired from 1996-98 on the Discovery Channel. Michelle was my favorite regular on the show, though up until now her obvious Asian ancestry does not explain her last name, and until I read her short bio I had to assume her father was American.
I would have caught her earlier had I been a fan of "The Mind of the Married Man" on HBO (where she appeared as topless Japanese masseuse "Sachiko" - dang, now I have to find DVD copies of the show!)
I just liked the memory seeing Michelle's face and the associations it had with some part of my life - aside from the fact that I have always been partial to Chinese girls. Anyhow, one other thing that grips me is that there is so much talent out there in the Philippines that could use a break. Whether or not the current trend of reality-shows/talent searches would help in generating more talent, I really don't know. All I know is too much of a good thing (as matters stand right now) turns out bad in the end.
Anyway, back to Michelle, here is her website:
For more on the movie:
And, for those who don't want to waddle through the NY Times, I'm posting the article ---
May 29, 2005
Kissing Vivian ShingBy ED LEIBOWITZ
THE story behind Alice Wu's "Saving Face" - which is squeezing into theaters between commercial giants "Madagascar" and "The Longest Yard" this weekend - is almost as improbable as the film's plot. The first movie wholly about Chinese-Americans bankrolled by Hollywood since Disney released "The Joy Luck Club" in 1993, it is a romantic comedy about three generations of an immigrant family: a deeply traditional grandfather, his middle-aged daughter (widowed and mysteriously pregnant) and his lesbian doctor granddaughter, who happens to fall in love with a ballerina.
Even one of its producers, the superstar Will Smith, calls the movie "perfectly bizarre" in its twists, on-screen and off. Indeed, "Saving Face" owes its existence to the vagaries of business planning at Microsoft, to new assertiveness in the Chinese-American film world, and to a helicopter soaring above Manhattan for the $70 million Sony Pictures blockbuster "Hitch." More, it was born from Ms. Wu's unlikely success in refusing to make unwelcome concessions when she was asked for them by seasoned film executives.
In 1998, Ms. Wu, having earned her Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University, was the program manager at Cinemania and Music Central, Microsoft's CD-ROM entertainment offerings. Unfulfilled, though, was her long-held desire to become a writer - an option that she believed was closed to her as the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, who spoke only Mandarin until she entered the California public school system. "I certainly grew up knowing I was going to take care of my parents," Ms. Wu said in a recent interview. "And English majors generally don't make enough money to pay off their loans and take care of her parents."
At the time, Microsoft was betraying uncharacteristic indecision about how to retool its information services for the fast-emerging Internet. Suddenly, Ms. Wu's division didn't have much to do, and she began writing a novel inspired by her experience of coming out as a lesbian, along with her mother's difficulties in middle age. "You have to sit there for nine hours," Ms. Wu said, "so at least I always looked busy typing."
In the culture she was exploring, Ms. Wu found that many of her characters would say things they didn't mean. The chasm between their words and conflicting facial expressions, she thought, might come across better in a movie.
That insight led to a 12-week screenwriting class at the University of Seattle and a draft of "Saving Face" - which was hashed out in three nights after epic procrastination. Amazingly, she said, her instructor liked it. But he told Ms. Wu she could protect the integrity of the script only by directing it herself.
Defying colossal odds, she quit Microsoft and set out to do exactly that, giving herself five years to succeed. Moving to Brooklyn, Ms. Wu enrolled in a course taught by Alan Oxman, editor of Todd Solondz's "Happiness" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse." She was in the first graduating class of what would become Mr. Oxman's Chelsea-based Edit Center. There, she learned what she calls "guerrilla filmmaking," but, for almost three years of her allotted five, left "Saving Face" untouched.
That changed in 2002, when, on a tip from her screenwriting teacher, she entered the script in a contest sponsored by a Hollywood advocacy and networking group called the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. And won.
"They had me meet with a lot of people in Hollywood, mostly Asian-American studio executives, which I hadn't honestly known existed," Ms. Wu said. She also hadn't anticipated just how often she would be asked to consider changes that struck at the very heart of the script everyone seemed to like so much: Couldn't Ms. Wu make her characters white, so maybe the young doctor could be played by, say, Reese Witherspoon, and Ellen Burstyn could be cast as her mother? How about making the love affair heterosexual? Did she have to direct as well as write it? It was advice Ms. Wu declined to take.
On a later trip back to Los Angeles, Ms. Wu met Teddy Zee, who, until last month, was the president of Overbrook Entertainment, Mr. Smith's production company. Before joining Overbrook, Mr. Zee had served as a longtime executive at Sony Pictures. He'd grown up in cultural isolation in the Catskills - his Shanghai-born father was a salad chef at Grossinger's; his mother had traditionally bound feet and didn't speak English - and he seized upon movies as his escape. And, after a career spent on studio films, he found Ms. Wu's story striking at his roots.
"I didn't pick this script; this script picked me," Mr. Zee said. "You don't set up to do something crazy like this." " 'Saving Face,' " Mr. Zee explained, was "an awakening for me about the Asian-American experience in Hollywood, because I was always such a part of the studio system. Every day there are actors coming in who are Chinese-American, who don't get an opportunity except to play prostitutes or waiters."
The aspiring filmmaker's obstinacy only reinforced his commitment to her. "Alice comes off as very accommodating," Mr. Zee said. "But when it comes to her vision, she's a killer."
For Mr. Smith, the great appeal in "Saving Face" was its unpredictability. "You just never heard a story like that one before," Mr. Smith said, "and it's half in Mandarin Chinese. I was completely out of my wheelhouse." Mr. Smith and James Lassiter, his longtime manager and partner at Overbrook, committed to produce with Mr. Zee, if the financing could be found.
In November 2002, Mr. Zee had lunch with Ben Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, who told him that he could greenlight certain genre movies at the right price. Even in the event those films never made it into theaters, his division had the wherewithal to market them directly to video.
Mr. Zee urged Ms. Wu to fly out a few days later for a dinner held by his Hollywood advocacy group. She went, despite her skepticism that anything would come of it. At the dinner, though, Mr. Zee buttonholed two of Mr. Feingold's executives - Fritz Friedman, his Filipino-American senior vice president of publicity and a co-founder of the group, and Lexine Wong, the division's Chinese- and Japanese-American executive vice president for worldwide marketing. "I introduced Alice to them, and I said: 'You know what, guys? Your boss says he can greenlight movies, and this is one of the best scripts I've ever read,' " Mr. Zee remembered saying. " 'You guys should champion this - the three of us should do this just based on the fact that we're Asian.' "
The next Monday, Mr. Feingold approved the project at a modest budget of $2.5 million. But the film's language barrier remained an issue at Overbrook. "Certainly, my producers said, 'Do they have to speak Mandarin?' " Ms. Wu recalled, "and I was just like, 'These things are nonnegotiable, and this is why.' " Mr. Zee had no better luck when he suggested she consider changing her ballerina's ethnicity. "He really thought the love interest should be white so that we could cast a star," Ms. Wu said. "I said, 'No.' The moment you make the love interest white, it becomes about race."
So instead of a Scarlett Johansson, Ms. Wu cast a retired ballerina and aspiring actress, Lynn Chen, in the pivotal role of Vivian Shing. Playing opposite her as the medical student is Michelle Krusiec, who had supporting parts in "Dumb and Dumberer" and "Daddy Day Care." Mr. Zee also advised Ms. Wu to cut out what he first regarded as a false ending to the film, but, predictably, she demurred.
Ms. Wu sees nothing strange in her disregard of virtually every story change suggested by her producers. "It's not like I'm out there hiring script consultants," Ms. Wu said. "I'm hiring producers. I need them to find financing. They did, you know, and then they were really supportive."
Filming began in fall 2003, with a Buddhist prayer ceremony and burning incense. Despite her enormous confidence in her story, Ms. Wu delivered a warning. "I said to my producers: 'God, I need to tell you that I might be terrible at this. I know I really love the writing, but I've never done a feature.' "
Many of the scenes would be shot in Brooklyn and the Chinese-American enclave of Flushing, Queens. Not long into production, Ms. Wu realized that the date was Oct. 10, and that, while the film had a few more weeks to more to shoot, she had made good on her five-year plan.
Ms. Wu's film entered a slow postproduction as Overbrook geared up for "Hitch," the comedy featuring Mr. Smith and the "King of Queens" star Kevin James, a bit of synchronicity that solved yet another problem for "Saving Face."
Ms. Wu had about exhausted what money was available to her, but she still insisted that her picture have exterior scenes to situate her story in the larger landscape of New York City. "Alice had always been adamant that we needed to have some second-unit shots," Mr. Zee said, "and I was never a supporter of doing more shooting until absolutely the movie was locked in."
As it happened, when a helicopter lifted off above Manhattan to film aerial shots for "Hitch," Mr. Zee arranged to have a "Saving Face" shadow unit pile into the cabin for a sharply reduced fee. While the "Hitch" crew captured city views of Madison Square Garden, Ms. Wu was getting the sequence that established her entire film - her heroine's D train making its way over the Manhattan Bridge, with the camera veering up to capture the New York skyline for the credits.
"Saving Face" was an official selection at the most recent Sundance and Toronto film festivals. In Toronto, Ms. Wu learned that Sony Pictures Classics would handle its distribution.
Pleased as he is to see the picture finally in theaters, Mr. Zee admits to a certain wistfulness now that the filmmaking family around Ms. Wu is about to break up. "We go to the various festivals and screenings, we all get together and we have reunions," Mr. Zee said. "So it's sad to see the movie actually come out because it means it's going to be the end of our run together."
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
A nice piece by Randy David (eminently quotable, for all that I disagree with some of his politics). One thing this generation of young Filipino professionals has always heard is to prepare the next generation. One can count the spin on songs of "The Greatest Love of All" and poems like Rizal's "To the Filipino Youth."
Last time I checked the lines are still blaring this refrain. Ironically the generation that was being referred to when we first heard that catchphrase was us. Now, when we listen to it, some may ask: where is our youth going to? Where, indeed, as we who were once younger?
In a world where we are striving for economic balance in our lives and for many of us who are coping with the challenges of raising families, quo vadis the agenda for making the Philippines better?
What agenda do we hold when we head our own companies, as invariably some of us do right now, or begin making names for ourselves in the corridors of power? What would be tragic is that, as we were growing up and finding the state of affairs wanting, find that when we reach our own personal aspirations, we have turned into the very things we were dissatisfied with.
Just a few things to think about... I don't mean to be one of those Cassandras but once in a while (when I'm sober, as I am right now), some things cause one to think.
It's nice to have a future to fight for. But all fights must be fought in the present for them to be worthwhile.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
I'd like to believe what Desmond Morris said about orgasms: they are a psychological response to support the development of the pair-bond among humans. A solid pair-bond would mean a man wouldn't have to worry about his chosen mate going to another man who is bigger and stronger. So, in the course of the hunt, he needn't feel insecure that the stronger and better hunter would not only get the spoils of the hunt, but also the spoils of sex.
(Come to think of it, times haven't changed in that respect.)
In a really intimate pair-bond, a man and a woman understand each other's needs and sex is not only a necessity but also very pleasurable. My thinking, an orgasm is Nature's way of saying to a woman that sex is good despite the fact that briniging a child to term in those evolutionary days was dangerous. Or that seeking multiple partners would destroy the cohesion of the tribe.
One train of thought leads me to posit that when agricultural societies started, "the thrill of the hunt" still became a regular way to add notches to masculinity but was no longer essential to security, and thus a different track - that of polygamy - started. It didn't help, I would think, that agricultural societies would demand territory for farming - and the wars that were part of such societies would decimate the male population.
So polygamy now becomes socially acceptable - it is no surprise that the nomadic society of the Hebrews found the sexual mores of the tribes inhabiting Canaan scandalous.
I believe the obsession with orgasm exists primarily because it is so rare - and that males are using this way to keep score "who is better in the sack," and at the same time keep women chained to subservience by telling them they're inadequate if they do not derive pleasure from the physical act of sex. How typical. There are, certainly, other factors involved in sex than the techniques or choreography.
What would be interesting to see is if men lose the drive for sex if an orgasm is not involved. Hmm...
May 17, 2005
A Critic Takes On the Logic of Female Orgasm
By DINITIA SMITH
Evolutionary scientists have never had difficulty explaining the male orgasm, closely tied as it is to reproduction.
But the Darwinian logic behind the female orgasm has remained elusive. Women can have sexual intercourse and even become pregnant - doing their part for the perpetuation of the species - without experiencing orgasm. So what is its evolutionary purpose?
Over the last four decades, scientists have come up with a variety of theories, arguing, for example, that orgasm encourages women to have sex and, therefore, reproduce or that it leads women to favor stronger and healthier men, maximizing their offspring's chances of survival.
But in a new book, Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science and professor of biology at Indiana University, takes on 20 leading theories and finds them wanting. The female orgasm, she argues in the book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," has no evolutionary function at all.
Rather, Dr. Lloyd says the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist.
That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.
In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.
In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while "females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan."
Nipples in men are similarly vestigial, Dr. Lloyd pointed out.
While nipples in woman serve a purpose, male nipples appear to be simply left over from the initial stage of embryonic development.
The female orgasm, she said, "is for fun."
Dr. Lloyd said scientists had insisted on finding an evolutionary function for female orgasm in humans either because they were invested in believing that women's sexuality must exactly parallel that of men or because they were convinced that all traits had to be "adaptations," that is, serve an evolutionary function.
Theories of female orgasm are significant, she added, because "men's expectations about women's normal sexuality, about how women should perform, are built around these notions."
"And men are the ones who reflect back immediately to the woman whether or not she is adequate sexually," Dr. Lloyd continued.
Central to her thesis is the fact that women do not routinely have orgasms during sexual intercourse.
She analyzed 32 studies, conducted over 74 years, of the frequency of female orgasm during intercourse.
When intercourse was "unassisted," that is not accompanied by stimulation of the clitoris, just a quarter of the women studied experienced orgasms often or very often during intercourse, she found.
Five to 10 percent never had orgasms. Yet many of the women became pregnant.
Dr. Lloyd's figures are lower than those of Dr. Alfred A. Kinsey, who in his 1953 book "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" found that 39 to 47 percent of women reported that they always, or almost always, had orgasm during intercourse.
But Kinsey, Dr. Lloyd said, included orgasms assisted by clitoral stimulation.
Dr. Lloyd said there was no doubt in her mind that the clitoris was an evolutionary adaptation, selected to create excitement, leading to sexual intercourse and then reproduction.
But, "without a link to fertility or reproduction," Dr. Lloyd said, "orgasm cannot be an adaptation."
Not everyone agrees. For example, Dr. John Alcock, a professor of biology at Arizona State University, criticized an earlier version of Dr. Lloyd's thesis, discussed in in a 1987 article by Stephen Jay Gould in the magazine Natural History.
In a phone interview, Dr. Alcock said that he had not read her new book, but that he still maintained the hypothesis that the fact that "orgasm doesn't occur every time a woman has intercourse is not evidence that it's not adaptive."
"I'm flabbergasted by the notion that orgasm has to happen every time to be adaptive," he added.
Dr. Alcock theorized that a woman might use orgasm "as an unconscious way to evaluate the quality of the male," his genetic fitness and, thus, how suitable he would be as a father for her offspring.
"Under those circumstances, you wouldn't expect her to have it every time," Dr. Alcock said.
Among the theories that Dr. Lloyd addresses in her book is one proposed in 1993, by Dr. R. Robin Baker and Dr. Mark A. Bellis, at Manchester University in England. In two papers published in the journal Animal Behaviour, they argued that female orgasm was a way of manipulating the retention of sperm by creating suction in the uterus. When a woman has an orgasm from one minute before the man ejaculates to 45 minutes after, she retains more sperm, they said.
Furthermore, they asserted, when a woman has intercourse with a man other than her regular sexual partner, she is more likely to have an orgasm in that prime time span and thus retain more sperm, presumably making conception more likely. They postulated that women seek other partners in an effort to obtain better genes for their offspring.
Dr. Lloyd said the Baker-Bellis argument was "fatally flawed because their sample size is too small."
"In one table," she said, "73 percent of the data is based on the experience of one person."
In an e-mail message recently, Dr. Baker wrote that his and Dr. Bellis's manuscript had "received intense peer review appraisal" before publication. Statisticians were among the reviewers, he said, and they noted that some sample sizes were small, "but considered that none of these were fatal to our paper."
Dr. Lloyd said that studies called into question the logic of such theories. Research by Dr. Ludwig Wildt and his colleagues at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany in 1998, for example, found that in a healthy woman the uterus undergoes peristaltic contractions throughout the day in the absence of sexual intercourse or orgasm. This casts doubt, Dr. Lloyd argues, on the idea that the contractions of orgasm somehow affect sperm retention.
Another hypothesis, proposed in 1995 by Dr. Randy Thornhill, a professor of biology at the University of New Mexico and two colleagues, held that women were more likely to have orgasms during intercourse with men with symmetrical physical features. On the basis of earlier studies of physical attraction, Dr. Thornhill argued that symmetry might be an indicator of genetic fitness.
Dr. Lloyd, however, said those conclusions were not viable because "they only cover a minority of women, 45 percent, who say they sometimes do, and sometimes don't, have orgasm during intercourse."
"It excludes women on either end of the spectrum," she said. "The 25 percent who say they almost always have orgasm in intercourse and the 30 percent who say they rarely or never do. And that last 30 percent includes the 10 percent who say they never have orgasm under any circumstances."
In a phone interview, Dr. Thornhill said that he had not read Dr. Lloyd's book but the fact that not all women have orgasms during intercourse supports his theory.
"There will be patterns in orgasm with preferred and not preferred men," he said.
Dr. Lloyd also criticized work by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis, who studies primate behavior and female reproductive strategies.
Scientists have documented that orgasm occurs in some female primates; for other mammals, whether orgasm occurs remains an open question.
In the 1981 book "The Woman That Never Evolved" and in her other work, Dr. Hrdy argues that orgasm evolved in nonhuman primates as a way for the female to protect her offspring from the depredation of males.
She points out that langur monkeys have a high infant mortality rate, with 30 percent of deaths a result of babies' being killed by males who are not the fathers. Male langurs, she says, will not kill the babies of females they have mated with.
In macaques and chimpanzees, she said, females are conditioned by the pleasurable sensations of clitoral stimulation to keep copulating with multiple partners until they have an orgasm. Thus, males do not know which infants are theirs and which are not and do not attack them.
Dr. Hrdy also argues against the idea that female orgasm is an artifact of the early parallel development of male and female embryos.
"I'm convinced," she said, "that the selection of the clitoris is quite separate from that of the penis in males."
In critiquing Dr. Hrdy's view, Dr. Lloyd disputes the idea that longer periods of sexual intercourse lead to a higher incidence of orgasm, something that if it is true, may provide an evolutionary rationale for female orgasm.
But Dr. Hrdy said her work did not speak one way or another to the issue of female orgasm in humans. "My hypothesis is silent," she said.
One possibility, Dr. Hrdy said, is that orgasm in women may have been an adaptive trait in our prehuman ancestors.
"But we separated from our common primate ancestors about seven million years ago," she said.
"Perhaps the reason orgasm is so erratic is that it's phasing out," Dr. Hrdy said. "Our descendants on the starships may well wonder what all the fuss was about."
Western culture is suffused with images of women's sexuality, of women in the throes of orgasm during intercourse and seeming to reach heights of pleasure that are rare, if not impossible, for most women in everyday life.
"Accounts of our evolutionary past tell us how the various parts of our body should function," Dr. Lloyd said.
If women, she said, are told that it is "natural" to have orgasms every time they have intercourse and that orgasms will help make them pregnant, then they feel inadequate or inferior or abnormal when they do not achieve it.
"Getting the evolutionary story straight has potentially very large social and personal consequences for all women," Dr. Lloyd said. "And indirectly for men, as well."
Friday, May 20, 2005
And then, the hurting began.
I have not loved since.
Life continues so.
Whatever form it must be
But not enough for me.
Hating has its charms
A feeling so bittersweet
A grudge to hold on.
Lying is so simple
It’s telling the truth that’s hard
Caught in a web of one’s lies
Despair often mounts
Dramas are so easily loved
With boredom for life.
Play music of choice!
Feast your senses on excess:
Better than empty.
When the bill does come
No worries for tomorrow
There's always escape.
Freedom’s just a word
A state to want but not reached
A trick of the mind
Prison is still fun
Inmates all for your choosing
When you’re the warden.
Don't give up the lie you've built
Truth is agony.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Your government taxes you a portion of your salary and in addition, taxes you for everything that you consume; taxes you for every transaction that you make, from birth 'til death.
Your government is duty-bound to protect your life and property and in exchange, taxes you to perform this duty.
However, there is a catch: do you really trust that government is doing its job? Who takes responsibility for you and your children when you are in trouble? Do you feel safe with the police force that your taxes pay for? Will government take care of you when your children get sick?
And finally: do you trust this government will spend your taxes wisely?
The answer, most probably, is NO.
It is now time to take control over what you have responsibly worked for and earned. You pay for your family's needs in education, health, and sometimes, even for security.
Many of us citizens have demonstrated that at many times, we have succeeded DESPITE government.
So why pay more taxes when we don't rely on government to take care of the things we do take care of? Why allow ourselves to be a taxed a third of our income for working harder and making informed decisions on our lives?
We need a simple flat tax of no more than 10% for government services that we cannot handle by ourselves. With a bigger consumption tax being levied, this will give all of us citizens more flexibility in managing our money.
By lowering taxes, Filipinos have more opportunities to spend, save, and even invest in our economy and create jobs.
A simple rate means simplified administration – easier to calculate, easier to collect, and easier to SPOT CHEATING. A simple rate means people have even less incentive to cheat. No exceptions, no loopholes.
A simple rate creates an impetus for government to regulate spending and to become more efficient, and to get out of areas where government involvement is not needed. Simple taxes, in the end, would lead to simpler and more efficient government.
We need a simple FLAT TAX RATE NOW, not in the future.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
My brain is not in the best shape right now so I'm unloading and blabbing on a bit.
Just a few things to share.
- My weight has ballooned to 107 kgs., which makes me just as heavy as San Antonio Spurs forward Robert Horry, only he is about a foot-and-a-half taller than I am. Yikes! That was my arrival weight last year, too, but I think this one is more legit since I was weighed down by adjustment last time. Scary.
- I am now a lone wolf in the apartment (at least for a week) - my officemate went on a training trip while his wife and two kids are still in the Philippines. Being in an empty space like this one is more depressing than I thought - I actually sat through "A Countess from Hong Kong" with Marlon Brando/Sophia Loren (Sophia put the "S" in sizzle in this movie), "The Apartment" with Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine (in my opinion, the best Billy Wilder movie, though "Some Like It Hot" is a real good one), and "Little Man Tate" with Jodie Foster starring and directing ALL in one sitting. We have a great movie channel by the way, but sometimes the commercials can be a drag.
- We went to meet with the Dammam Toastmasters Club since the Company Head Cheeses said to us we must do it. To illustrate the phrase "dragged while kicking and screaming" would be an understatement. For those in the know, we had a Table Topics session and incidentally, I won that one over my boss, who was also dragged into the fray. As if I needed another goad... Crud! Still, I came out of that session hall learning something useful.
- I started my walking regimen on Thursday and boy oh boy, was that a real bad move. I got up at 5:30 am, joined my buddies at 6 and came back to eat breakfast at 8. It was a torrid pace, for me, at least, cutting my walking time for the same distance by about 30%. Result: when I showed up in the office to do additional work, I actually fell asleep. My ankles still hurt. That, however, does not make me Shaquille O'Neal.
- Our mandate to do really good things becomes even tougher with our Chief Banana getting bumped to position as Director, Administration and Human Resources. I predicted that six months ago and even without my crystal ball there will be tough times ahead.
It was just one year ago people voted for President...now people want another change. Bombs go off in Iraq, but somehow the sense of outrage is deadening. That, I think, is a greater tragedy...
I never did get to share what happened with me the day Pope John Paul II passed away. I was playing an endless rote game on my PC back home in the Philippines when I logged on and read that the Pope had died 30 minutes past.
It was like the crumbling of another pillar of our lives, like the world had lost another reason for being relevant. I wrote so many years back that the late Holiness was, in many senses, head and shoulders above the normal human throng, and I am glad that HE SAW ME that day when the PopeMobile meandered its way through Intramuros.
I write this because I have always calendared my good buddy Robert's birthday alongside that of His Holiness (since they were both born on May 18). I reminded my friends not to forget Robert on his birthday. He always has surprises or treats for everyone.
So now, it's crud since it's freaking HOT in the Philippines. Crud that I sit behind this desk and soon will be booted out in the name of progress (hope the new cubicle is better). Crud because of work. Crud because I'm not up to doing work.
And most of all, crud because I'm missing the NBA Playoffs on TV. Go Pacers!
Sunday, May 08, 2005
It does make good reading. It doesn't make me feel bad to say that I'm a Mama's boy. I strive to be my late father's man, but I always remain that boy to my mother.
Happy Mother's Day! … for the mothers now and the mothers-to-be, and for all of the mothers in our lives, living and dead.
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one that compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.
On to the article:
Men and their mothers
AS they sat on a bench in the crowded courtroom, she began to wipe the sweat on his face with a crumpled handkerchief. He lowered his head and leaned slightly toward his mother. She hadn't seen him in a while, and now he was back in her arms, her son, her little one. It was 1954. The man was Luis Taruc, the 41-year-old dreaded Huk Supremo, who was being tried for rebellion. His mother, Roberta, kept him company every single day of the trial.
It was an image that stayed a long time with my father, Pedro David, then a young assistant provincial fiscal assigned to prosecute the legendary hero of Central Luzon's peasantry. He remembered being transfixed by that scene. At that moment, my father said, he knew in his heart he was prosecuting a good man. In the evening, over supper, he shared with my mother his misgivings about the Taruc case. My father had a deep sense of social justice.
But he had a job to do, and it wasn't an easy one. Pampanga in the 1950s was a hotbed of rebellion. Cane fields were being torched daily by landless peasants. So-called "civilian guards" funded by the landlords roamed the barrios in search of Huk rebels. We were not a landed family, but being a government lawyer, my father found himself upholding the laws of a government that took the side of the landlords. I was in grade school. I remember sharing our home with soldiers who had been sent to provide us security for the duration of the trial. My father won his spurs in that celebrated case. Luis Taruc was convicted for the crime of rebellion complex, under a law that, if I recall correctly, was later declared unconstitutional. He spent 16 years in prison. Marcos freed him so he could parade him as a symbol of his commitment to agrarian reform.
Many years later, I met Ka Luis at a function in the University of the Philippines. I introduced myself as the son of Fiscal Pedro David. The name quickly rang a bell. He looked at me as if searching for the face of the young man who had sent him to jail. Then he smiled warmly and shook my hand. "Your father was a good lawyer, and he was always fair," he told me. "I hold no grudge against him whatsoever; he was doing his duty." "But," he added with a chuckle, "I am glad his son and I are now on the same side."
It was the beginning of a long friendship. I invited him a few times to my TV program. He would ask me to accompany him on his visits to remote barrios in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, where communities of Hukvets revered him as a hero. Two years ago, he came to our home in Betis. He met my brothers and sisters and regaled them with stories of the Huk years. Even in his late years, Ka Luis never lost his fire. He was articulate in three languages.
Ka Luis died this week. He would have been 92. At his wake the other night, I saw a picture of his mother beside the coffin. It was a photo taken in 1953, when he met his mother for the first time after he came down from the hills. In my mind's eye, I had imagined his mother, Roberta Mangalus Taruc, to have the same build and appearance as my father's own mother, Epifania. She did look like her. And I am certain it was exactly how my father had pictured her in that crowded courtroom in Pampanga more than 50 years ago. He saw his own mother in her.
Men are lambs in the presence of their mothers. They lose their hardness, and their public stature becomes irrelevant. Think of Jose Rizal and Ninoy Aquino. Think of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. They are children all over again in front of Mama. Before their fathers, they are achievers. But before their mothers, they are nothing but human beings longing to be loved. For all their gentleness, it is mothers who loom as the tough figures in men's lives.
The Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez opens his autobiographical work, "Living to tell the tale," with tender recollections of his no-nonsense mother. Every son will easily recognize his own mother in these lines: "Her most conspicuous virtues had been a sense of humor and an iron good health that the sneak attacks of diversity would never defeat over the course of her long life. But her most surprising trait, and also since that time the least likely to be suspected, was the exquisite skill with which she hid her tremendous strength of character: a perfect Leo. This had allowed her to establish a matriarchal power whose domain extended to the most distant relatives in the most unexpected places, like a planetary system that she controlled from her kitchen with a subdued voice and almost without blinking, while the pot of beans was simmering."
My mother was very much like that. She had spent more than half of her life carrying 13 pregnancies, and the other half looking after the myriad needs of her large brood. Yet she found time to regularly visit her relatives and to be active in the local barrio council. And if she had not been ill, I believe she would have gone back to school to finish a degree. My mother had good survival instincts, and her dependable inventiveness saw us through very hard times.
Nature is wise; she blesses women with longer lives. My father was barely 60 when he died. My mother outlived him by a good 20 years. I cannot imagine what kind of life he would have had if it had been the other way around. He would not have known what to do with himself. I can feel my mother's strong influence in our lives especially when I am with my brothers and sisters. Her spirit continues to guide our relations to one another and the way we conduct ourselves in the world.
I've always suspected that perhaps, at the peak of their powers, men think themselves to be ultimately answerable to no one else but their mothers.
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