Monday, February 27, 2006


The demise of free speech -

This blog is starting to sound like a political treatise. My bad.

The issues of the Philippines are very personal to me. I did my bit for God and country, and for the bulk of my professional career, have been immersed front-and-center in national issues. While my decision to leave my job was very easy (my relationship with my erstwhile boss was such that it was a no-brainer), deciding to come here was very painful.

I have gone, but the issues back home remain embedded in my soul.

With all the hullaballoo happening these days, served up by no less than ABS-CBN (the paragon of objectivity, ha!), tempers have been stoked. No doubt derision and cynicism rule the day. It all boils down to this: I'm glad to be out of the Philippines, and a big "F*CK YOU" to the people (insert offending party of choice) causing this mess!"

It distresses me that my fellow OFWs have failed to put some sobriety and perspective to the events in the Philippines.

I am distressed that whatever integrity the prinicipals of the first Edsa ever had has been torn to shreds, and that they did the shredding themselves.

I am distressed that we have forgotten what it was to be under a dictatorship that we welcome its very application right here and now. While historically there were precedents for the eventual declaration of Martial Law, its imposition has resulted in the utter ruin of the country. How time and circumstances have dulled our vigilance!

I am distressed over the apathy and political hypocrisy of our middle class. Is it immaturity, or just plain laziness to learn?

What should sober us up is that we will be the ones picking up the pieces tomorrow. Not the politicians, not the oligarchs with their salted dollars, shell companies, and vast fortunes. Not the agents provacateur and the rabble-rousers.

It's you, you who prostitute yourself for the rallies for the grand sum of P500.

It's you, the petty bureaucrat, who sells your loyalty to the highest padrino bidder.

It's you, the idealist student, who rant and rave as if you know all the answers but don't work for a living.

It's you, the call center employee, who sip your capuccinos with pretended sophistication but have no idea where your career will go.

It's you, the small-time businessman, hemming and hawing away and turning a blind eye to corruption when you encounter it.

It's you, the OFW, stuck on the pipeline sipping on the flow of dollars. Especially you, since you have been blessed to leave the Philippines and learn from other cultures, and since you have been cursed to be parted from your land to earn such a blessing.

Let's take a collective deep breath and understand what is being laid on the line, shall we?

Sunday, February 26, 2006


The day after -

I find many things in the current situation back home tinged with so many ironies. Above all, I am still amazed by what many would term "middle-class sensibility" and "pragmatism" in dealing with the question of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration.

Some of Gloria's adherents would say "it's the economy, stupid!" and point out that whatever she is doing, has convinced investors to put money in the Philippines.

I say differently: the conditions in the Philippines are such that any investor who comes in has his/her eyes open and invests regardless of whoever is on top. All that needs to be done is to make an accommodation with the new host, and to make sure not to do many double deals. The Fraport/Piatco guys have been digesting the fruits of this better lesson for some time now. Learn from the oligarchs: pack one side with your partisans but make sure you have a backdoor by placing someone in the other camp, or at the very least, someone who has the credibility of being "neutral." The Cojuangcos, Laurels, Lopezes, and Aranetas have been doing it for years. Only the Ayalas stepped outside the fray, though only recently - during the latter part of the Marcos administration they had stalwart Enzo supporting the Marcoses, but they supplanted him with Jaime when the Aquino Yellow Fever galvanized the middle class.

Back to the economy:

When have the numbers superseded the intended effects? After all, regardless of the "benefit" of economic growth, does this mean improvement in the quality of life for our people? When has it become such an accountant's reckoning that people are happier because there is more money to be spent, when we don't know how they are spending it? When money passes through the hands of businesses, do more jobs and better lives really result?

Japan and Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong first, then Singapore and Malaysia, then Thailand and now all over our radar China --- why must it be a numbers game in terms of economics when we compare ourselves to them? Is it because they have impressive infrastructure and consistent double-digit growth? So now we go back, do the math, and go after achieving those numbers.

True, the numbers don't lie. But they don't tell the whole story. The functional side of "economic development" can only affect business processes. It's the philosophical side that matters.

Simply put, the economic model is easily duplicated. But first, you create the social conditions that make it easier for people to achieve their highest potential. There will be some shunts, doubtless, as witnessed in the outright racial/religious discrimination practiced in Malaysia, the iron-fisted rule in Singapore, the untold story of privation of workers in China. So yes, they sucked it up and did what they have to do. Rather, are doing what they think they must do.

Back to GMA, then. I admire her as a great politician. Doubtless she has already earned her place in history. As Machiavelli would point out, any means, fair or foul, to perpetuate oneself in power needs must be done. So for those people who laud her and say, "Good job! Do what needs to be done to strengthen the economy! Preserve law and order! Scatter those paid rallyists!" I am no longer debating the "economic figures" and the "no alternative" scenarios. There, we can agree to disagree since neither of us have powers of precognition. We can only see the indicators, and true, one can put any spin on the aftermath of an administration change.

We do, however, have powers of reflection and introspection. I urge you to look back at the historic parallels. If you don't discover the ironies in our current situation (naturally I won't tell you), or if you do and don't find yourself morally repelled by this administration, there you have it.

I don't question GMA's values anymore, I question yours.



May dahilan ako para ngumiti ngayon.

Bahala ka na Panginoon.

(at sana sipagin din akong magsulat, pero sa dami ng trabaho, saka na lang...)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories -- Edsa 20/20: Jose S. Concepcion Jr.

It's really hard not to love the man. But it's freakish near-impossible if one is working for him on a daily basis.

The dream is still alive. Let not its value be tainted with venality, for all of us still remain human beings striving for perfection.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "To give light, one must endure burning."

I'm sure somewhere out there someone is doing his or her part. May their numbers increase.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Para sa Lahat ng Nagpapanggap sa Pagtulong

Nagugutom ako
at bumuo ka ng samahang pantao
at tinalakay ang aking pagkagutom.

Nakakulong ako
at dahan-dahan kang lumakad
sa iyong kapilya sa silong
at ipinagdasal ang pagpapalaya sa akin.

Hubad ako,
at sa iyong isipan
ay nagtalo ka pa sa moralidad ng aking hitsura.

Mayroon akong sakit
at lumuhod ka at nagpasalamat sa Diyos
para sa iyong kalusugan.

Wala akong matitirhan
at sinermonan mo ako tungkol sa
silong-pangkaluluwa ng pag-ibig ng Diyos.

Nangungulila ako at iniwan mo akong nag-iisa
upang manalangin para sa akin.

Mukhang kang napakabanal,
at napakalapit sa Diyos.
Subalit gutom na gutom pa rin ako,
at nangungulila,
at nilalamig.
Saan napunta ang lahat ng iyong mga dasal?

Ano ang nagawa nila?
Ano ang ikabubuti sa isang tao
na buklatin ang kanyang aklat ng pagdarasal
kung ang buong daigdig
ay dumadaing ng saklolo sa kanya?

This was inspired by a piece that was one of our staples during my time with the Peer Counseling Organization in high school, called "Listen Christian." Dedicated to all those hypocrites who hog airtime and waste taxpayers' money without offering any true help, and sometimes (as in the case of illegal loggers, opportunistic realtors and abusive mining company owners) even being part of the problem itself.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Edsa didn't fail us, we failed ourselves -

Ayan na nga. Sige na.

Still some positives occuring in some part of the world, I believe. Mahirap nga lang hanapin because of all of this overload of negative information.

Yup, serve up a whole load of negativity so that people will feel better about themselves. Amazing negative reinforcement, isn't it?

Going back to the piece - I remember Frank Herbert's quote about how a little greatness and success can ruin a man. So far, Edsa's success has not yet made a great nation out of the Philippines.

I still have hopes. It's free to keep on wanting something, anyhow.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Crests and Troughs

Hundreds feared dead in Leyte landslide -

I was huddled in front of a sound mixer, watching and waiting for the next cue, to turn the sound up, to move it down, to make sure the lapel microphones wouldn't generate feedback or static. 35 million things were firing up the synapses in my brain - what to do with the after-show, what to do with the financial report of the production, what to do with the ever-increasing pile of work that says "has to be done at home..."

At that time your existence was surgically obliterated, as a rampaging wall of mud and boulders came down from Can-abag, like a unwelcome lover coming to visit, only that you were powerless to resist...

It was hard not to feel triumphant at the end of the show, where even minor glitches could not take away the forceful, mesmerizing effect of the acting weaving through the simple message of the material: love and honor do still matter in this day and age, even if we have to live them vicariously through a stage production.

I wouldn't even have the slightest idea how you reacted with the onrush of impending doom coming at you. Were you supine, resting from your labors, allowing the rain to caress you to sleep like a lullaby forgotten long ago? Or were you brutally awakened, denuded of your defenses as the Reaper came crashing down upon you? What thoughts were in your mind then --- was it numb from shock, caught up in mundane issues as to how you will recover (not knowing if you'll survive)? Or were you calling for mercies then, whatever mercies could be handed you? For there was no mercy when your fellow man cut down the trees and laid waste the protection that nature could have afforded you.

My eyes were teary-eyed that night watching as a young wife and mother mourned over the loss of her stillborn child - unwanted by her husband because it was the diseased seed of a raping interloper, for she was doomed to love the fruit of her womb regardless. My heart soared with the quiet heroism of simple people, struggling against fate and working to better their lives even against formidable circumstances.

Back in the homeland these same simple people perished as man's greed and his arrogance came together and created another tragedy. What happens to these people who have passed? Will there be a grave for them if ever their bodies are recovered? Will they ever be mourned, or have all their likely mourners perished along with them? How many Ormocs and Gabaldons do we have to witness before we realize the depth of our folly?

A nuclear Iran, the trial of Saddam Hussein, the fragile peace of Palestine --- athletes waltz against the klieg lights and the sparkle of the snow at the Olympics.

Where was I when you have fallen? What hope could I hold for you?

Who would remember you and your shattered dreams?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bound for Where?

2005 overseas workers remittances $10.7B, up 25%

Enough said. For all the wanderers over there, here's an apt song for you.

No black thoughts for today, God willing.

I’m sittin’ in the railway station
Got a ticket for my destination
On a tour of one night stands
My suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned
For a poet and a one man band

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

Everyday’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me
The movies and the factories
And every stranger’s face I see
Reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
I’ll play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound
Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me
Silently for me
Silently for me

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


In the years before my departure for Saudi Arabia, at most times I viewed Valentine's Day with a clinical interest. Even during those times I was in a relationship, the event was little more than choreography. Of course my significant other at the time would be caught up with the event, so needs must I pay the piper and do the rollicking dance of romance on V-Day.

Hey, that didn't mean I was the proverbial Scrooge. There were tiny glitches along the way, and I'd wager my fortune that were it not for those cooties that gnawed at my brain and rendered me a blubbering mess, I would have gotten along without a Valentine's Day at all just fine.

I was chatting online with one of my friends one day (maybe last month) and I was sharing how it was difficult sometimes to get by WITHOUT some of the benefits of a relationship, and those benefits need not include sex.

It's for those moments when I'm low and there is someone I can call. She doesn't have to at her best, and it would be foolish for me to expect her that she'd love me back the way I'd like her to, so long as she loves me with all that she has.

It's for those moments when I experience personal triumph and she would be the first one with whom I'd like to share it first. Because she inspires me all the time, I would never lose the touch of her good sense (or wackiness, however it applies) in whatever I do.

It's for those moments when I'm playful/serious, and all I need is acceptance.

It's for those moments when I would receive unsolicited (and sometimes unwelcome) advice and I know I should have the good sense to follow it. It doesn't have to be the logical thing, but because it works for both of us.

It's for those moments when I need to be needed, because at times I feel my heart will overflow with what I have to give.

And most especially, it's for those moments when I need someone to hold, because that human contact gives me the courage to go through with this life, that somehow everything else makes sense, and that tomorrow will always mean a good thing.

Yet, ironically, those moments, outside of what I experienced and sometimes experience with my immediate family and closest friends, make up less than 15% of my life. Still, like gold, those are precious memories to be hoarded, and I even cling to the phantom ones where the passion was from a distance and completely unrequited.

I'm not altogether certain whether I've crossed the line of "aspiring" to "totally pathetic." It's all a matter of perspective (and you, dear Reader, however disloyal, can be the judge).

I wrote last year in an e-mail that graduated to this post that the business of loving is a 24/7 thing. Those thoughts remain to be true.

I'd like to think that there is still enough for me to share with a particular someone, though right now I could only love that way in my dreams. Still, there is the work, there is the grand passion of words and expression, and there is the giving without expecting anything back.

It should be enough. How I pray that she has already walked into my life and all that I have to do is trace her steps, and God willing, she'd allow me to walk her home. Or maybe there is just someone out there waiting for our lives to be joined by some essential accident.


Until then, I'm still here, breathing.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Do You Believe?

Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.
--Erich Fromm

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Place in this World

In honor of Valentine's Day, a holiday I have been dreading for the past few years, I am posting a few notes on some outstanding relationships.

I wrote about SHARE in my previous post. Those days have gone, and time does move on. I read somewhere that the purpose of life has in its own way, great mercy and great judgment. The great mercy is that: you can change your life to what you would like it to be. The great judgment is this: You will get exactly what you deserve.

Sounds like karma? We-ell, it does have its own basis in Zoroastrian philosophy, Newtonian laws of motion, and even Druidic precepts.

(In other words, I've read enough stuff to see enough examples, but I'll stick to my own thoughts on it.)

My Indian colleague (wearing the white shirt) seen in this photo made a decision to leave the company. I have my own ideas about his departure and most of them are immature, and reflecting on life and transience here in the Middle East I do hope that his new start can be attributed to the great mercy. One would wish, for anyone in this life, that this mercy would eventually outweigh judgment.

As for me, I am under no illusions that this place is the ideal environment for me. Ironically, the further I go from what I used to be, the closer I get there eventually. In the beginning I wanted to shed weight but I've gained that back and more. I wanted to focus on the job. I did that, but somehow some other concerns came in the way. I wanted to serve the Lord; it ended up my serving went the other way.

Is there any wisdom here? Two things stand out for me. The first is: you always stay the same person. It's only the way you view your world that changes.

Second: Never fear the onset of judgment. Justice has its own way of setting the balance. What one should fear is the prospect of atonement.

Someone always pays for the good or bad that happens in this world, whether it's you directly or someone else. Some may think they can go and do what they must - forsaking truth for convenience.

Yet their evil also teaches others how to be good, and the results of their evil also helps others reach epiphany.

Good, on the other hand, keeps up with you and the more good you claim, the more it is that you have to lose; conversely, the better person you are, the bigger void you will leave when you depart this earth.

I look at the faces in this photograph and I earnestly wish that each of us will do find our own place in the world, eventually.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Remembering Some of the Good Old Days

This was one of the last few pictures we took with Bro. Vic Franco, FSC.

It was his birthday, and he was bound for Rome for a seven-year stint with the Generalate of the Brothers. Was this '98 or '97? Probably earlier - my memory fails me right now.

You can see me trying to be funny. I was flanked by John and he was flanked by Robert, which probably to that date included three of the heaviest people in SHARE (literally, in weight.) John's married now, and I surmise he is happy with his new state, while Robert, well, I haven't heard from him since I left the Philippines last April.

Bro. Vic remains to me one of the greatest inspirations for doing well in this life, or in any life for that matter. He was one of those people who didn't make things so complicated, even though at times we all know decisions contain so many consequences. It was easy to believe that the Spirit will guide us and continue to breathe in us because he told us so. And he believed it was so.

Sometimes I can't help but feel disappointed over how SHARE has been inactive in those last two years (1999, 2000) and practically dead since 2002. I'm sure Bro. Vic will not be negative about it, and say that the milieu of SHARE was something we have outgrown. Or, in my thinking, I think we have failed to breed the conditions for SHARE to continue growing within us.

New Views...

I finally got to post some improvements to the site, mainly through Flicker, and I'm adding one of the cool pictures I saw from among those posting.

@plays Eraserheads' "Alapaap" cover by Six Cycle Mind

I also read an entry from the so-called Princess of Pop Culture, and after her post (and some of the ignoramus posts on her forum that such post generated), I can say the following:

1) The "Ugly American" stereotype is pretty much alive and well.

2) That stereotype is born of ignorance, and an overweening sense of importance. The world does not revolve around America, though many would like to believe it.

3.) As for Pamie and her friends, her remorse for her behavior more than made up for what she did, though her lack of restraint (trying to be funny at the expense of someone else) in her post after the fact is another thing, of course.

3) Filipinos can just be as stupid, ignorant, and self-important if they want to. Overcompensation from years of oppression.

4.) Who gives a shit what people think if I like Jollibee? I don't take a look when you buy your hotdogs from a sidewalk vendor in New York, don't I. To each person, the choice of his own poison or pleasure, or to take both, at the same time, apparently.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


These few lines are just works in progress. I can't call them "thoughts" because they are part of bigger ideas that are percolating in my mind. So I call them "thunks." Maybe I will come up with bigger ideas based on them -

Dakilang tagapagkalinga
Saan man ika'y mapunta
Hirap iyong binabata
Pangarap mo'y ginhawa
Lahat na'y nilimot
Pati ligaya

I am thinking of writing an agit piece (where did that part of me go?), this time reflecting on the state of the Filipina - caregiver to the world. Not only does she have to struggle with less opportunities (families always giving preference to the boys), but along the way, she has to cope with privation, loneliness, and even death either as a contract worker or a contract worker's dependent. Then there is the usual double standard.

Of course, I also have a small cautionary statement in the end - something that goes like this:

Sa kabila ng iyong sakripisyo
'Wag sanang masilaw
Para lang maging banyaga
Ang iyong apelyido...

Truth of this matter is, some Filipinas pay back their sacrifices by considering themselves successful when they marry foreign husbands. I don't mean to generalize, as I do know very nice Fil-Foreign couples. But sometimes the highest aspirations of many of our countrywomen is to become foreign chattel (witness the growth of the mail-order bride industry in Mindanao and in the Visayas). An old oppression for a foreign one. Yes, at least one will be comfortable doing it. A monumental roll of the dice, and all things considered, values do get skewed in the face of really hard times.

Still, I am hard-pressed to believe that desperation overtakes plain, simple greed.

More on this, Insh'Allah, assuming I finish it.

* * * * *

Must you be bad so that you can be cool?

I had a recent rant on this and it goes back to my thoughts on life and relationships. People with more anima normally have this edge about them, this kind of knowing of having gotten through difficult times and survived. So our society goes about with its means of algesis, integrated into formal or informal rites of passage. You have the hazing rites for the Greek-letter organizations, the so-called "hell week" to break in froshes into the system, the collective oppression in ROTC.

Funny, but I always thought of these in moral terms. This moral "breaking" is more important than the physical one.

So back to my first statement - do you really have to bad to be cool?

Is it really cool to know the ins and outs of sex only to find that you have been jaded as to its purpose and its emotional content?

Is it really cool to get high on the latest drug and say, in the most bored manner, "I've done that, I've had better?"

Is it really cool to be on the opposite side of the law, or of authority?

Life IS really stacked with rules. I can understand why people would want to break free of them, just as Harry Haller talks about the decay resultant of the mediocrity of bourgeois society in Hermann Hesse's "Steppenwolf." So yeah, get rid of middle-class sensibility, let's all go to live as our more primal selves, primal being more true, and thus leading to the next stage.

Once, I thought like this. There comes a point, though, when all the rebellion can be so tiring.

Is being cool so desirable, then? Many people look at each individual, and oftentimes the mass dismisses those who conveys sensibility, preferring to recognize "the free, the savage, the untamable, the dangerous and strong." So, being bad can be cool. No matter that the progress that we have been accomplished along the principles of order, refinement, restraint, and logic.

My only fear is that many of today's youth, particularly in Western societies, feel a pressure to make something of themselves, and find no compass to guide the way. There is no challenge to be overcome, and all the ghosts have been dispersed by special effects and gimmickry.

So, instead of the edge being the means, gaining it becomes the end - a road that leads eventually to self-hate and mutilation. This mutilation does not have to be physical - sometimes the moral ones are even more deep-seated. I fear, many of our youth in the Philippines, even desperate to climb out of poverty, see the veneer of wealth first rather than the value of earning it. Privilege and status before probity and responsibility.

Hence, star-search reality shows and the "Wowowee" debacle. It was bound to happen, anyway, sooner or later.

"Rebel without a cause" does ring a damning accusation for our society. In this vacuum, the extremist, the rabble-rouser, the demagogue, the spin doctor will prey on us and leech from us our very lifeblood. Bush, bin Laden, Hamas, the Iranians, the ranks ranged with and against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are all faces and manifestations of this problem.

Without a cause, we are driven by the next person who dares to drive the bus, no matter that he be blind or does not know the way. Still we survive. Only God knows how long the host will last and eventually languish and die.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

World Moves On...

Lance and Sheryl call it quits, scores die at a stampede while lining up for "Wowowee," and the peso hits P51:$1 (the government calls this a victory; I say let's be guarded with either criticism or praise after things settle down).

Good week or bad week? Well, if you're a romance fan, it's bad. Call it anything you want, but given a fingernail of a chance, it would be great to hook up with Sheryl Crow. Sweet music, indeed.

Nothing of course, will replace all the dead people who perished in the stampede, but surely tri-media, the columnists, and the politicians will have enough fodder to talk about. Such is life in the Philippines.

As an OFW, realisitically, I'm glad of any sign that the Philippine economy is improving. I'm just a little skeptical of the pronouncements of this particular administration. In any case, it's always healthy to be skeptical of ANY administration.

On to more personal things: my random pick for today is "Music from Another Room" from 1998, featuring Jude Law and Gretchen Mol, with Jennifer Tilly backing them up.

"You know how when you're listening to music playing from another room? And you're singing along because it's a tune that you really love?

When a door closes or a train passes so you can't hear the music anymore, but you sing along anyway... then, no matter how much time passes, when you hear the music again you're still in exact same time with it. That's what it's like."

Yup, sounds just about right to me. Tell you what, let's flip a coin, you call it, and if you win you can call the last week good or bad as you like. It's just par for the course, and the world moves on.