the gapanese invasion is nigh!

"pinakamaganda ka nga sa buong kapuluan, pero latina na naman ang magwawagi ng korona at sash sa miss world! racism ba ito? lupasay!"

Monday, June 30, 2008

black versus white: a critique of alan paton’s cry, the beloved country

A letter arrives, summoning Stephen Kumalo to see his sister Gertrude in Johannesburg. Upon his descent, the black pastor eventually finds out that his sister has resorted his prostitution for a profession and that his son Absolom is imprisoned for killing a white man. These two cases are a revelation of what is currently happening in South Africa’s urbane society: corruptible natives, being caught up by the socially unjust white man’s system, are led to do criminal acts. His hope of bringing his family home is shattered because his son is sentenced for execution by hanging. The murdered engineer’s father, although pleased with the court’s decision, gets inspired by his son’s essays and eventually helps transform his son’s killer’s impoverished Ndotsheni.
Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country is a powerful novel that resonates the situation of the Spanish Colonial Philippines. This novel manifests the sufferings of the natives who were treated unequally for the colonists’ fear of producing educated and rebellious inferiors. These sufferings continuously brought about by the white men are justified because to them, it is better to fear the natives’ attacks than fear the unknown.
All of the characters are protagonists in that they are doing their best to reform themselves. For example, although Absolom has been a changed man, he decides to return to robbery because he is being coerced by the situation he is into. Criminals like him turn to murdering white men in order to get even with those who instituted by the racist system. John Kumalo, meanwhile, holds on to corruptive power in order to advanced the natives’ welfare. In the long run, these hostilities are but natives’ challenges that aim to restructure a divided society.
The antagonist in the novel is the white man’s system that promotes inequality and social discrimination. With accordance to the system, the colonists get wealthier whereas the colonized become increasingly penniless. Natives are given unfair access to transportation, amenities, employment, to name a few. This antagonism by the established white man’s system causes the conflict involving the discriminated natives; they have resorted to evil ways in order to survive and at the same time, avenge their sufferings under the abusive colonists.
Among the novel’s characters, the pregnant wife of Absolom is the least developed because of the insufficient details about the reasons for her actuation. To cite an example: at age 16, she has had Absalom for a third husband. Is it her youth’s folly that pushed her into marrying at such a tender age or her dependence to men? Further scenes in which she is part of do not help establish this young girl’s character—the author does not lead us into understanding her purpose in life, in which case readers could have related more to her.
Cry, the Beloved Country is an inspirational story because here is a man of faith whose very beliefs are being shaken by the string of miseries that confronts him. Kumalo’s life is a journey of enlightenment because he is able to turn his fear, sorrow, and anxiety into a new spring of hope. In a land where natives like Kumalo are extremely oppressed, the blacks challenge the system founded by the whites, the race who breaks them apart. Here is a novel that makes use of a country as a living character in order to heighten the drama which Cry… wishes to express.
Alan Paton’s work provides encouragement to cry out one’s restrained feelings, with a voice that used to be silenced. It offers a proper roadmap for people struggling with today’s complexities. This lyrical composition is an effective instrument to awaken one’s love for his country, and appreciate and judge one’s culture rightly. Generations of whatever color should read it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the making of another myanmar

Indeed, Myanmar is a land of devastation literally and figuratively. The world has recognized one of its citizens as an icon of global peace, and yet she is in house arrest, virtually paralyzed in promoting the gains of her advocacy. Then, as if the frustration of the people over the military junta wielding a national cloak of terror is not enough, it suffers yet another blow with the natural disaster of a cyclone that caused the loss of lives and property. It will take a longer time than imagined when the country may reconstruct itself again.
The scenario is not too far from the Philippine picture owing to the natural calamities wreaking havoc year after another disastrous year. For the more superstitious Catholics among us, these catastrophes are divine wraths that we anguish from because of our spiritual wickedness. But surely the more modern of us will argue that these phenomena of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and the like present opportunities for us to explore in order to advance scientifically. Whether traditional or modern, every one of us must be wary that these disasters may further be exacerbated when the government finally succumbs to the susceptibility of turning into another martial Burma. Given the corruptive and exploitative nature of political power, the unceasing insurgency throughout the country, external pressures like global product crisis and neoimperialism, and the seeming orchestrated destabilization plots against the administration, we may find our plight being aggravated by the ominous reality of emergency rule. Should the country become another Myanmar, the country will suffer anew in political anachronism in which the people have endured Marcos’ horrifying regime, and then another regime is taking root in the current administration. It is baffling which is more preferable between that destruction and that brought by nature.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

i saw, i conquered, i came (yes, in that order)

the party...

top to bottom: reaching the big o, saying hello at chelu, early to bed...

the campy...

drag addicts

...and what's malate without the men?

period lips, ikaw ba 'yan? mas pogi naman si pangga. 'tsura lang. hmp.

jobben, henry, lewis and jernon

go, go-go boys!

Friday, June 27, 2008

pm's apology to canada's aborigines: a postmortem

The apology offered to the aborigines of Canada by that democratic nation’s prime minister is something that the Philippine government should emulate in order to return the dignity of the country’s indigenous peoples. I say this because these culturally minoritized tribes are admirable enough for having kept modernization at bay and have preserved their most ancient culture, laws and practices despite the onslaught of numerous social factors like cultural mainstreaming, poverty, banishment from their ancestral domain and neocolonization. Their tribal character’s closeness to that of the earliest inhabitants of the archipelago is now diminishing at an alarming rate because of the abovementioned reasons and yet, the very institutions that are supposed to protect the nation’s most uncontaminated identity are often the very perpetrators of these peoples’ oppression.
It is unthinkable to impose homogenization among the heterogeneous components of the Philippine society, as may be gleaned in the cases of Canada and Australia, two formerly Commonwealth countries that have been able to translate their economic development to social development. It is a telling fact that all citizens have rights enshrined in the constitution, indigenous peoples included. If these peoples are denied of their basic rights to, say, ancestral domain (an example that is very true in the context of the Mindanao crisis), a domino effect of cultural tyranny will ensue: they will find it difficult to get by economically, at least, and they will suffer from a classic case of ethnocide, at worst. They should let be, the way they live freely and idiosyncratically. They should be respected for their uniqueness instead of being forced to dissolve their difference if only to be integrated and identified with the mainstream society. In a hopeful pursuit of political maturity, the government and its bureaucratic agencies like hospitals, schools and the like must stop ethnic discrimination because by virtue of their heritage, they are truer Filipinos than the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

reviewing the presidential form of philippine government

The presidential system of government is one in which the principle of the division of powers is strictly applied. An executive branch exists and presides independently from, is not accountable to, and cannot dismiss under certain context the legislative branch. This separation of powers is a guarantee of the independence and separate election of assemblies and executives. The congress, the president and the Supreme Court being independent institutions, overlapping of officials in these government branches is avoided although one another’s power may be constrained mutually. To illustrate: the Congress may legislate although the law may be vetoed by the president, which veto may in turn be superseded by a two-thirds majority of the bicameral house. Similarly, the president may render senior executive and judicial appointments, although these appointments will still have to be confirmed by the congress’ upper house, the senate. In his book The Spirit of the Laws (1748), The Baron de Montesquieu launched the doctrine of division of powers, the separation of authority among three branches of government called the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
All presidential systems across the globe have similar features like the president being incapable of proposing bills. The legislative branch takes care of the lawmaking although the president has the power to veto legislative acts. The president is supported by cabinet members who serve at his/her pleasure in implementing the policies of the other two branches. Before these presidentially-nominated cabinet members or government judges can serve, presidential systems require them to pass legislative approval. Relatedly, a president has the authority over cabinet members, military or anybody else consisting the executive branch, but has no capability to influence judges’ decisions. Also, there is a fixed term for the rule of the president, the election of whom is elected at scheduled occasions. This fixed term may be shortened in the president is removed for having violated the law. Finally, the president has the power to pardon and commute convicts since this head of state rules independently from the legislative branch.
Normative Effects or Results: As such, a network of checks and balances among the divided branches is embedded in such a system that ensures the prevention of the rise of the president into a monarch or a dictator. This check and balance, in practical terms, will be dependent on the fragile balance between the president’s authority and popularity on the first hand and the political composition of the assembly on the second hand.
As a result of separating law-making power from executive power, a presidential system provides inherent tensions that contribute to the protection of rights and liberties of the democracy. This strain of struggle between the executive and the legislative branches of government aggravate the possibilities of a presidential system’s ineffectiveness and unmanageability. Meanwhile, the proposition of one branch and the subsequent disposition of the other branch may be simplistically dismissed as institutional deadlock or power sharing, especially if the ruling administration belongs to the same party as that of the congress.
III. Actual present situation: government analysis (is it in line with what the outcome of having a presidential government should be)
History and background of the Philippines in terms of government
True to the definition of a presidential system of government, the Republic of the Philippines has a presidential structure of government, the branches of which—the executive, the legislative and the judiciary—are coequal. The Executive branch is composed of the President and the vice President, both of whom are elected to their office via direct popular voting and are eligible for a six-year service. In order to help administer various particular government functions, the President appoints cabinet members who stand as department secretaries. Meanwhile, the legislative branch that is accountable for drafting bills into laws is composed of a bicameral house, the upper house (which, again, is synonymously termed senate) and the lower house, or the house of representatives. The upper house is led by the senate president whereas the lower house, by the speaker. Finally, the judiciary branch is composed of the network of courts, the highest being the supreme court and led by the chief justice.
Problem points and areas of improvement
While more than half a century has passed since the presidential form of government took effect, the current system has failed to deliver to the Filipino people in terms of economic and social development. An international history canon, in fact, commented that “Although the Filipino constitution set up a democratic government, a wealthy elite controlled politics and the economy.” Filipino historian Renato Constantino noted that the failure was due to the fact that the current system is a colonial inheritance with an imperializing motive. “Some of the myths that were deeply ingrained in the Filipino consciousness were:…that the Americans came…to give the Filipinos democracy, …that they trained Filipinos in self-government to prepare them for independence, and that after granting the country its independence they allowed the Filipinos to enjoy special relations with the United States which were beneficial to the young Republic.” The failures’ reasons are as follows:
There is a venomous power struggle between the separated executive and the legislative branches of government. The upper-house senators are nationally elected like the president and as such, competition for power is intense, manifested in the consistent gridlock and conflict among them and far too numerous investigations in the congress. As a result, lawmaking and the necessary reforms are somehow delayed and thwarted. The centralization of power in the current system gives the Filipinos a hard time at addressing problems and responding to challenges effectively and efficiently due to the clashes between the two, other times among all three, branches of government. Such was the problem of centralization of power and the attendant difficulty that Constantino was compelled to say,
“But the establishment of local governments did not mean any great measure of local autonomy. The local government system remained under the close supervision and direction of the Executive Bureau, an office under the governor general. Administration was so highly centralized that the governor general’s authority reached into the smallest town by virtue of his power over the tenure of office of even the elected officials…The Americans retained the administrative units that the Spaniards had created, keeping them as before under the control of a strong central government and without much leeway for initiative in the solution of local problems.”
The impeachment of a president-gone-wrong is complicated, making the required change of an unjust government difficult to alter or abolish. This is obvious in the case of the current President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Relatedly, the government structure is unstable because without impeachment, the president may be booted out of office via people power and military participation in political affairs. This is best exemplified by Gloria’s predecessor, former President Joseph Estrada.
This system is also volatile because the president can maneuver an extension of his/her office by means of constitutional amendment, such as in the case of Manuel L. Quezon, or by martial rule, such as in the case of Ferdinand Marcos. Not only is the presidential system volatile but also is the set of political parties in it weak, unstable, and undemocratic. Due to this, the leaders elected from political parties cannot be held answerable to the democracy that voted for them and for whose welfare they exist. Power is diffused in the parties and leadership is not concentrated so there is a difficulty as to the responsibility of good governance.
Also, the candidates for President and the Senate get elected not for their political leadership but only because the influence of the media and film makes them popular and winnable. Moreover, national elections involving these two branches cost much, consequently corrupting the system because of the lack of automation which should have hastened the results of countrywide polls.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

sir, serbis?

Now it can be told: only intolerably violent acts of nature will prevent Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis from being mounted on Robinsons Malls’ (and, I gathered, Gateway’s) theaters today. I had to postpone writing this piece for quite a looooooong time since the unpredictability at which the film has been treading Philippine waters was spoiling the buzz it had generated overseas. As has been reported in multimedia, Serbis broke the drought of Pinoy competitors in the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival, but out of respect for Prof. Bing Lao and the youthful-looking Dante who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, respectively, I will leave the readers to search online just how controversial the film became in France. Then, by giving an X-rating to Serbis’ poster showing Coco Martin receiving a simulated fellatio from an unidentifiable man, the censors—in true obscurantist fashion—delayed a cinematic orgasm due as early as last week. The trailer also received an X-rating for Coco and Mercedes Cabral’s intimate scene, for Jacklyn Jose’s walk in the dark and for a cigarette smoking scene (check the 1:51st second of Serbis’ trailer here and tell me if the boy in blue looks unmistakably familiar). Ultimately, the film itself was X-ed, until the creators submitted altered versions of all X-rated articles for the reassessment and eventual approval of the MTRCB.
So far, during this gay pride month, only one film loomed in the horizon and that’s Hugot which, I was informed, will have its extended run in Robinsons IndieSine until July 1. Congratulations, my dear friend Joni! Here’s the crown; I won’t give the trophy in the manner of Jerome Ebreo toward the ill-fated beauconera in your movie. Serbis was supposed to have its commercial run on the day Hugot first saw light—something that Joni and I prophetically talked about when Hugot bagged the June 18 slot in the theater. We were camping it out that, June being the Pride Month, Hugot will be shown commercially along with classic and contemporary Pinoy gay films like Tubog sa Ginto, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, Macho Dancer, Burlesk King, Markova: Comfort Gay, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Duda/Doubt, Sikil, Ang Lalaki sa Parola, among others. Suddenly, as if thunderstruck, we realized that Serbis might strike while the iron is hot by hitting the theaters on June 18. That will practically upstage Hugot because by comparison, Dante’s sexy movie about a family running a gay-frequented cinema in Pampanga is celebrated all over the news, hard copy or otherwise. Ever the optimistic dark horse, Joni was hopeful that his film will be noticed when people went their way to check what makes Serbis stir a hullabaloo of international proportions.
Then again, our censors have done what had to be done and Joni’s digital film about three boylets’ blogged stories went solo flight last week, with Serbis attempting to sustain its media steam just so it will still be well-received beginning today. Hugot’s extended run means it joins Serbis in romping off the Pride Month’s final week. Will they slug it out in the tills? Will it be a thespian battle for internationally-awarded actresses Gina Pareño and Ana Capri? Will gays lust over Coco Martin or over Jerome Ebreo? Given the plus and minuses of both films, your guess is as good as mine. For good measure, let’s watch both films and help resuscitate the Philippine movie industry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

confession on a bed weather

As typhoon Frank exits our badly-battered archipelago, I have to make a confession. Put down your bolos, spears and torches; you are mistaken in thinking I am a sorcerer who made some evil incantation to brew a maelstrom that shall sweep away inutile politicians. I promised myself to tell an open secret only when another weather disturbance eclipses the cosmic fury of its predecessor.
Which was named Cosme, do you remember? Yes, it was named after the moniker invented for me by my best friend Shadow. Years before inhabitants from Luzon cursed typhoon Cosme for wreaking havoc in their lives and property, Cosme had already been born out of the ever-baptizing mouth of Irish. She is known for describing certain characters as looking like “Abu Sayyaf,” “aliens from ‘Mars Attacks,’” or whatever else, and then she called me Cosme for reminding her of a television comedian from down south. The nickname stuck ever since.
I had not objected to it, until it depressed me to share the name with a tropical depression.
Several people, among whom are our brightest, a writer friend, other friends, schoolmates and colleagues, texted me to point out the familiar meteorological label, seeming glad that the storm’s tag was to make my nick a temporary household name. Unknown to them, I was jittery because visiting storms spelled disaster of a national scale, and that means Cosme becoming “notorious,” not “famous.”
True enough, media news about typhoon Cosme lamented the loss of unharvested farm produce, the destruction of houses and infrastructures, the tearing down of telephone and electric lines, and, most sorrowfully, the lives of many people in the main island, notably Central and Northern Luzon. The silence of others who chose not to mention the obvious was something I secretly thanked for. This time, the Franks must suffer an atmospheric-linked destiny, what with the harrowing news of a ferry capsizing off the tempestuous waters of Romblon, toppling about 800 passengers on board. Mountain-like tidal waves, hungry sharks, you get the bleak survival picture.Not even Halle Berry’s African princess character in X-Men can persuade me into becoming a storm yet again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

the politically-correct filipina: feminism in jose rizal's noli me tangere

As a social record, Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere is faithful in its reflection of the events of the historical environment that chronicled it. Since the novel had been born when the national consciousness of the Spanish colonial Philippines was increasingly awakening, the ideologies that informed the National Hero’s literary masterpiece were true of that time and place. One such ideology, patriarchy, is more evident especially in the light of the generally unsympathetic portrayal of women in the novel by Dr. Rizal. Notwithstanding, could it be possible that Rizal was actually making a feminist statement with his depictions?
Possible. Since the positively portrayed female characters were spare, it is easier to point one out and discuss her characterization in order to justify that Rizal was a feminist ahead of his time. There is Salome, the unconventional sweetheart of the social rebel Elias. In Chapter 25, Salome figures as the lady by the edge of the lake whom Elias pays a visit to. As of the moment, she lives alone in her hut but is about to leave for Mindoro, supposedly with Elias. She may look traditional in her appearance and apparel, but her solitary residence makes the difference in that she lives independently, unlike the norm wherein women were supposed to be dependent on men. Salome’s independence is a feminist commentary because it is a telling fact that she can take care of herself and is self-sufficient, so much different from women who have to stick to men if only to create their own identities. Given the nature of small-town settings wherein everybody knows (and talks about) everyone else, she does not seem to mind if malicious tongues would wag as a result of a visit by a male in her lonesome hut in broad daylight. Since Elias begs off from joining her in her return to the old country, she decides to go ahead but not without speaking her mind in the process, proof that she is rather advanced for her time. She will reunite with her relatives through a journey alone so she decides to give her hut for Elias to live from that time on. Ordinary women would first consult men in doing that. Most importantly, Salome is unafraid to speak her mind about Elias’ becoming a part of her life, something that is unthinkable for conventional women. Women who confess how they feel towards men run the risk of being labeled sluts by the society, but Salome, in a manner so typical of ladylike Filipinas, all the same reveals to Elias how sad it is to live alone and how so much better her life has become when he happened along. All these occurred in the lone chapter in which Elias’ love life was brought to the fore, and it happens that the object of his love is a woman of stronger constitution than most: Salome. It is therefore ironic that the chapter was excluded by Rizal during the novel’s first printing for the purpose of saving publication costs. Its eventual inclusion in the succeeding printings is a cause for celebration because Salome may serve as a redeeming value after the many negative portrayals of women in Noli.
Meanwhile, Rizal’s depiction of other women like the martyr wife Sisa, the ridiculous Doñas Victorina and Consolacion, and the weakling Maria Clara may be feminist commentaries after all. Sisa was pictured as an extremely persevering wife of a good-for-nothing husband not merely for lack of sympathy but to warn Filipino women not to mimic the wretchedness of wrong martyrdom. Her eventual madness is also a manifestation of the archetypal wild woman who is in touch with her nature rather than the patriarchy-constructed social strictures on women. Meanwhile, Victorina’s social climbing use of bastardized Spanish may be interpreted as a female’s subversion of an imperial tongue that doubles as a patriarchal language, while Consolacion’s return strikes at her wife-beating husband of an alferez is a fresh take on women who were regularly shown as long-suffering martyrs. Finally, Maria Clara’s illustration as weak and other ill women representations in Noli as hypocrite church manangs, gossipers and the like are ways by which Rizal wanted to satirize women so their frustration at such descriptions would possibly give way to their assertion of the politically-correct ideal women that they are.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

a leader's loyalty

It is a given that there is just a thin line between one loyalty and another, say loyalty to one’s family and that to the community, loyalty to one’s beloved and that to one’s ambition, loyalty to one’s country and that to the self. Whatever loyalty one crosses to, the decision is bound to create a great impact because in prioritizing one, a person leaves the other behind. If only it were easy to have loyalty to both in order not to lose the best of both worlds, but it is clear that one cannot serve two masters at the same time.
Since a person becomes loyal to one and surrenders the other, what if the chosen one proves regrettable after all? It would be good if the loyalty invested on one bears the desired fruits, but what if not? Of course, it will occur to the person to assume “What if?” Indeed, what if the person chose to be loyal to the other? Would the loyalty have borne more desirable results? This is granting that in every decision, one seeks to get the best out of it in order to grow and, in the case of the virtue in question, to be constant, to be devoted, to be faithful. Only with one’s unwavering loyalty will one develop a distinct identity.
If one wants to be identified as a leader, does it matter what party one belongs to? Apparently yes, for a party is like a family or a group of friends, that affiliation to either will provide an insight into one’s being. If that family or clique of a party proves too destructive to be tolerated, why not leave? Should loyalty to a party outweigh the greater need to be loyal to a country? Only a true leader knows that the answer is no, because he doesn’t have to answer that in the first place. All he has to do is to make the great move of seeing beyond his personal benefits from the party and performing a self-sacrifice for a country that so long hungers for a real leader.

Friday, June 20, 2008

the pricelessness of sacrifice

I heard people comment on the blessedness of being rich. They say if one is rich, one has better opportunities. One can buy food, clothes, appliances; one can live in a nice house; one can travel extensively and be sent to exclusive schools. Indeed, to be rich is to be empowered, but for me, that is just to a certain degree. Not all can be bought by money, and not because one is rich one is already happy. Nonetheless, I have not heard of extreme cases in which one wealthy person is so willing to give up his or her possessions in order to live simply. That one may be called nuts, given the comfort that money can offer. I have the opposite thing in mind, however: I think that it’s a kind of a heroic act to surrender one’s riches to lead a simple life, the way Jesus did when He was sent on earth to live among us. After all, sacrifice is indeed difficult but ultimately rewarding for a true believer of Christ.
I have always thought it socially just if there were no poor people or, at least, if certain agencies are actually succeeding in upgrading the poor’s socio-economic status. It is not a sin to be rich especially for those who earned their money honestly; what is sinful is if one lives comfortably through one’s wealth but is blind to his poor neighbor’s life of severely limited means. That’s against the second greatest commandment. It pains me to enjoy a few luxuries while around me, people are going hungry or shelter-less or sick and uncared for. That is why I resolved that in some way, I will help my less privileged brethren in order to uplift them from their plight. Then, it struck me, how do I do it? It is not enough to take pity on these people; I understand that something must be done. That something, however, has to be done practically in order to see action emerge from a vision. Here is where the problem lies: how do I commit myself to my underprivileged brothers and sisters? This crisis reminds me of the early Jew converts who had to struggle changing from one religion to another. They all thought Christianity is no different from Judaism, until they realized these are two different beliefs altogether. Two thousand years later and the problem echoes: do I choose to believe or to ignore my spiritual responsibility? Becoming a Christian means following the footsteps of Christ as He walked His cross towards the end of His sacrificial act. Believing in Him means that my sacrifice will not be for nothing. That is the truth: Jesus will not leave me hanging sensitively without His help in my own leap of faith. I am giving up everything for with God as my Shepherd, I shall not want. Nobody can claim that it is going to be easy; after all, the comfort of my little luxuries distracts me from my real, greater need: to wait until the real comfort of God’s gift of everlasting life is given, right after my belief and acceptance and practice as a true Christian. Committing myself in the Christian spirituality means never having to doubt that God’s revelation of salvation for the believer is true. Committing myself is trying to imitate Christ in His self-sacrifice. It is hard, yes, but if the early Christians were able to endure the persecution, the difficulty of surrendering themselves to become martyrs, I can probably too. It is not easy, I know, but being able to reach out to my poorer brethren, by being able to share what little I have to them, these should cause my joy. Embracing the life the Christ led on earth is also embracing His very suffering that is essential for my identification with Christ’s sacrifice.
Modern life has offered me many choices to enjoy living, but on a deeper level, they are too material to match the greater idea of Christian salvation. These choices do not offer me real security; they can only satisfy my hunger, make me do less work, give me convenience. After their initial security, I’m hungry again, more difficult work comes up, and hardships are back again and often in a more complicated form. So how do I truly accept them as choices? They are, in fact, temptations for me to turn my back from Christ. It is good that I get to know Christ, whose security is far better than any convenient temptation of the modern times. Hence, if I happen to become rich or, at least, to live more comfortably than most people, I should not allow myself to drift away from the better comfort offered by God. I should find it easier to give up my material convenience if being Christ-like merits it; as I see it, this means not being ignorant to the needs of others. It means playing fair with workers who must be rewarded justly for the hard labor they perform. It means not exploiting them for my own benefits of personal enrichment. It means acting on my freedom to commit myself to their cause, because as a more privileged individual, I can be their voice in getting the concerned authorities to listen and improve the welfare of these people. I understand that as I relate to these brethren in Christ, I find my well-sought redemption by being one with them. I remember God saying that I and my Christian siblings should love one another as He has loved us, and my interpersonal relationship with my poorer siblings is the manifestation of this love. Difficult as these are, I will not grow afraid for God supports me as His disciple, and I believe that He will not abandon me when I have readily yielded myself to Him. The hardships I should see as challenges for me to continue my trust in God because if He is encouraging every Christian to follow His way, it means a Christian can do it with relative ease, especially with God assisting. Once I accept these challenges, I have to have faithfulness in this commitment. I must bear in mind that I am doing my version of sacrifice as an end in itself and not as a means to glorify myself. I will not permit myself to be tempted to neglect my undertaking because I want others to put their trust and faith in me, and to believe that I can deliver my Christian duty. In the end, I know that no amount of hard work will merit my salvation, but I see sacrificing myself to others as a necessary way of showing my acceptance and belief and trust in God, for in and through my brothers and sisters do I see and love Christ. I choose to love Christ and my brethren, and in the true name of love I am willing to submit absolutely to the life of a practicing Christian.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The unexpected took a sojourn in my modern life: I acquired a replacement to my lost phone. What’s more, it is far more coveted than my stolen camera phone. Apart from the usual perks of video, camera, radio and all that jazz, it also has mp3 and, wow, a television. That means never having to miss shows aired in Channel 2 and commercials that are worthy of parodying, as long as the phone battery, its longevity or some criminal minds won’t let me down.
It was our new PE instructor who brought the entire faculty’s attention to that phone. He owns a unit, and since everyone took interest, offered an extra TV phone for everybody to rave about. We scanned the free channels to check on their availability as well as the reception. Somebody pointed out that UNTV37 was miraculously picked up—we openly wish we could watch the showbiz talk show hosted by Natasha Ledesma and Pete Ampoloquio for some good laugh trip. Immediately a sign-up paper was doing the rounds for those who want to own a unit by Friday, and guess who was on top of the list.
I casually mentioned that just then, I might not be able to sleep until the day my hands triumphantly hold a stylus to perform some touch-screen texting. That proved to be crucial when our PE instructor called his Chinese friend to close some transactions regarding our phone orders. I was outside the office of my not-so-charismatic superior, waiting for colleagues to emerge dejected after a useless haggling for on-time payroll with that superior when our PE instructor approached me, asking if I already want to take home the available unit. Needless to say, my PS2 body bag was filled to bursting when I left for the Ipil Dorm to edit our brightest’s thesis proposal.
I was already exhausted when I got home that night so it was early the morning after that I got to test my new acquisition. Good news greeted me and the whole Philippines via the morning show which a cutie newscaster hosts: a high-profile journalist who had been kidnapped in the south was already freed. Then, a text interrupted my viewing. It said, “Panakaw mo uli ‘yan ha, mahal. Don’t bathe and tapis. Mwah.” Don't worry, Pangga. I'll keep my new phone in an inconspicuous place, bury it under loads of books, kitchen utensils, garments and whatnot, and finally place on top a post-it note that reads, "Walang TV phone dito, peksman, kahit halungkatin pa ang pinakailalim ng tabon."

Monday, June 16, 2008

confession: self-disclosure in pinoy big brother teen edition plus

In true Orwellian fashion, the omniscient and omnipotent Big Brother resorts to certain techniques in an effort to influence his boarders, the teen housemates, to disclose themselves. It must be remembered that the housemates’ tendency toward self-disclosure is congruent with the program’s general tagline which is “Ang teleserye ng totoong buhay” and, most importantly, is the show’s closest attempt at Reality TV, the current crowd-drawing phenomenon in contemporary mass media. After all, the truer the housemates are to their own selves, the more secure they get in dealing with other people.
Hence, Big Brother’s setting of parameters in his house naturally creates a conflict among his subjects, who had been plucked from their free world and suddenly placed in an environment where they come to terms with everything as they show their true colors. One such rule is that if a teen housemate gets evicted, the guardian gets evicted, too, and vice-versa. This rule is controversial because one can be eliminated from the program whether one likes it or not, and it is all because of someone else’s doing. It somehow goes against the logic of being responsible for one’s own action. For example, Josef’s guardian Anna expressed her intentions of voluntary exiting because of her frequent disagreements with fellow guardian, John, thus affecting her ward. Anna was being sarcastically referred to by John as “Anna Queen of the Filipinos” whereas John, acting very demanding, is faulted by Anna for “making a commotion.” While the housemates have equal opportunities and risks of staying inside the house and being evicted from it, respectively, Josef’s chances are significantly lowered and his dangers, heightened as his guardian renounces her status as a housemate guardian. It is understandable that Anna should decide to leave if only to avoid further clashes with Kevin’s father; her decision must have been informed by the social requirement to be civil at all times at any cost. However, the cost happens to be unfair to her own ward because Josef himself will have to follow Anna’s suit even as the decision to exit is not his. It should be noted that the two generated conflicts are related in different ways to the act of self-disclosure. The conflict with John had Anna deciding not only what she really thinks of and feels at the moment—leaving—but also, how her very self is different from John in terms of gender, cultural and class upbringing. Meanwhile, the conflict of Anna’s dragging Josef along with her exit is also associated with self-disclosure because her decision of voluntary leaving serves as an access to what she thinks and feels within.
It is also significant to point out that while Anna is already a guardian to whom her ward may disclose himself, Anna herself makes her self-disclosure to Big Brother, who acts like a guardian to the rest of the housemates, including the guardians. With her self-disclosure, she is not simply providing information about herself to Big Brother, but she is giving access to information that do not necessarily get revealed to anyone of her same status i.e. fellow guardians, much less to her ward or to the entire audience of Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Plus. The private talk with Big Brother creates an air of confidentiality since it is done in a private area called confession room, so the element of trust is being established as she or any other housemate for that matter attempts a connection to Big Brother. In such a case, Big Brother is all-knowing not only to the physical manifestations of one’s thoughts or feelings but also to their internal counterparts, accessible through the verbal confessions.
One time, John and Anna had another argument because of an ice cream making challenge, once again affecting Josef. While the challenge may have served as the trigger to the argument, it is really the opposing psychological makeup that engaged John and Anna in that conflict. John thinks and feels differently from Anna and vice versa because John is a male who is more given to rationalizing than females like Anna while Anna is a female who is more given to pouring out her emotions than males like John. Hence, the two’s respective self-disclosures would come out differently and, most likely, will run head-on against each other.
Another time, John got angry because of Josef’s actions while he stayed in the guardians’ base, which resulted to another shouting match between John and Anna. While it would have been easier for John and Josef to relate with each other owing to the similarity in gender, the conflict lies in the generational gap. John is chronologically more mature than the adolescent Josef. Due to the relative immaturity of Josef, John thinks it is Anna’s duty as Josef’s guardian to look over her wayward ward. While Josef is the one who created the misdeed of punching the door of the confession room because of anger, John shouts at Anna because he thinks and feels that the aunt is responsible for the way the nephew is misbehaving. Josef may have been sent back to the teen housemates’ base because of his erratic action, but this did not stop the male guardian from revealing what is on his mind, triggering the female guardian to respond with what is on hers.
One other technique that Big Brother has produced to achieve the program’s self-disclosing goal is the creation of special twists to persuade further the housemates to shed the hoods off their selves. Normal situations indeed normalize behavior among humans, but given situational gaps or abrupt changes in the norm, humans are susceptible to behave in such a way that manifests their true thoughts and feelings at the moment. This is because circumstances merit the revelation of one’s real state of mind and emotion; it is no time for putting on a show when extraordinary situations are unfolding.
For one, Big Brother instructed the teen housemates to explain why they nominated their choice in front of everyone. A housemate chooses a nominee for either eviction or extension; in the case of eviction, the nominator will have been psychologically inconsistent if he or she decides against the extension of his or her nominee and yet explains something contrary to his or her true thoughts and feelings. For example, nominees are thought of as “playing safe,” “treating others like maids,” “tamad (lazy),” “mapag-utos (bossy),” “pare-pareho ang sinasamahan kaya hindi nakikilala ng iba (do not mingle with others)” by their nominators, who reveal everything to Big Brother. Their basis for their assessment of their nominated housemate is their relationship with them while inside the self-contained house. Since all of them live in an externally uncontaminated community, their happenings are limited to a very close interaction to a handful of fellow human beings. Their participation is compelled in the do’s and don’ts of the very community, and have no hand at what tasks should be assigned for them to perform. In effect, their interaction with one another reveals a substantial recognition of the culture they have absorbed from their respective communal origins as well as other factors that inform their personality like media, social class and social interactions. Hence, the nominators give their judgment based on what the nominees consciously or unconsciously self-disclose while dealing with one another. In return, what self-disclosures the nominees had created a dent on the nominators are revealed to Big Brother before the Nomination Nights, when everybody will know if he or she gets nominated for eviction, and why. Nominators take their pick before the invisible Big Brother, and explain why the choice must go. In the case of the Third Nomination Night, the housemates were clustered according to their geographical origin, overseas and Visayas region, from which housemates Kevin and Nicole, respectively, hail. It is not where they came from that caused their nomination but the personalities they revealed in the course of a few weeks: Kevin for his physical jokes and Nicole for her shyness. The rest of the housemates were informed of the reason for their nomination, if any: one was chosen for her strong personality that comes on too overbearing for others, one was chosen for his negligence at contributing in household chores, and another was chosen for his misinterpreted coolness. Another nominee, Josef, was chosen by the guardians but it was mainly for what her guardian Anna shows to her fellow guardians. The information of their nomination becomes a means through which nominees see themselves in the context of their cohabitation with their housemates. They learn from the explanation that this or that character is being shown by them, a manifestation of their self-disclosure. On the other hand, nominators’ revelation of their nominees and their reason for doing so also provide an access to what they have in mind regarding the nominated housemates they live with. As they confess to Big Brother within the four walls of the confession room, they already entrust their revelation to him. As they unload their secrets to the authority figure in the house, they also reevaluate their relationships with their housemates. Because they are made to believe that everything is not unconcealed to Big Brother, it becomes pointless to keep whatever bothers their minds without this being eventually manifested in their behavior. This ultimately gives way to their self-disclosure.
In the case of the Fourth Nomination Night, Robi got the highest number of votes from the guardians whereas Jolas, Josef and Rona were nominated by their fellow housemates. Reasons range from Robi’s “mayaman naman (economic capacity, which means he can afford not to win the cash prize)” to the rest’ “hindi tumutulong sa gawaing bahay (laziness),” “puro reklamo (whining),” “puro ratata-tata-tata (loquaciousness)” and mayabang (conceitedness).” The nominees’ and the nominators’ self-disclosure still plays a part in the happenings within the Fourth Nomination; however, seeming like a defense, the nominees are asked rather unusually to tell what character they possess that should serve as their pass for house residence extension. One said that he should not be evicted because he has fortitude whereas one said she has gained no upper hand over other housemates, making them all equal in their privilege to stay in Big Brother house. The latter is yet again a means for self-disclosure on the part of the nominees; since their act is camera-recorded and projected worldwide via satellite, it is not only to Big Brother that they reveal their inner thoughts and feelings but also to the entire globe. The artificial world in which the housemates cohabitate is constantly under watch by Big Brother and those subscribed to the program, so whatever self-disclosure these nominees say during nomination nights may be appraised through their behavioral and psychological revelations caught on-cam.
Both the confidential and the live nominations put the housemates’ character to the test. What the nominators say about the nominees become the latter’s vantage point at assessing their own personalities; if they are perceived to be lazy, loud-mouthed or arrogant, they can now begin to check if indeed, they are whom nominees thought them to be. The period from the nomination night up to the eviction night becomes a time when they become conscious of their self-disclosure that becomes evident to their fellow housemates prior to the nomination. Others who fail to make an assessment of their personality may be said to have fortified the character in question within themselves, making it really hard for them to improve their personality within a very constricted period of time. Also, both nominators and nominees use the self-disclosures as vantage points at assessing their relationships with one another. What they know from one another serves as the means through which they deal with people who might have taken their character for or against them. Nominees might be friends to those who did not nominate them at all, while they may either take their nomination for or against their nominator. If they take the nomination positively, they will try to improve their manner of relating to their housemates, especially to those whom they think they have shown the negatively-perceived character so that their attempt at improvement may serve as a redeeming value on their part. If they take the nomination negatively, they might not change at all, stubbornly justifying that that is how their character has been molded since pre-PBBTE+ days. They may even rationalize that they show that character precisely because that is what Reality TV is about: to reveal who you really are without any pretense, coercion or acting script. However a housemate reacts after the nomination night, the self-disclosures during that night creates an impact on his or her personal and social psychology.
In the case of the confidential nominations, Big Brother has housemates come to the confession room to pick a picture of their chosen nominee for eviction and confess why they think their choice merits nomination. One by one, housemates speak what is on their minds, basing their divulged secrets on the way they were dealt with by their choice in the immediate past. Most of their disclosures have to do with negative characters being the reason for the nomination; there are instances wherein economic status is considered why one should go, since that one does not need the money anyway. It is a rare instance in which a non-character becomes the basis for nomination, another being culture. Character, on the other hand, is mainly the reason for one’s nomination. If one possesses a character that is not suitable for cohabiting with other people, that character may prove as one’s liability. Arguably, some characters clash directly with the cultural context of the Philippines, so housemates with independent character influenced by their upbringing in Western countries may not stand a chance with homegrown housemates who have generally imbibed such Filipino virtues as pakikisama (togetherness) and family-orientedness. Whatever the case, the character that becomes the subject of contention is recognized primarily through its manifestation within the tiny community of Big Brother’s house. The housemates, by choice marooned inside that artificial community, are strangers who become acquaintances at most at the onset. Their day-to-day interaction as time goes along becomes everybody’s slow, engaging point of self-disclosure. It is only a matter of time when they become friends or enemies depending on whether their revealed characters fit well with those of the other housemates. If these do not harmonize with others’ characters, housemates may get chosen for eviction in yet another manner of self-disclosure: a nomination before the unseen Big Brother inside the confession room.
Not all nominations are done in the privacy of the confession room; there are cases of live nomination wherein housemates are chosen for eviction in a face-to-face manner. The self-disclosure here is more intense because Big Brother or the program hosts ask the housemates one by one to identify their choice for eviction and the reason for it. On the one hand, the nominees know right away how they are being perceived by their nominators based on the former’s revelation of their own characters inside the house and, especially, who perceive them as such. On the other hand, the nominators tell live who their choices are and for what cause they are chosen. This real-time self-disclosure becomes the nominees’ instant access into the way perceptions are formed from their mutual interactions. Hence, friends and non-friends alike are being disclosed to, affecting relationships going on among teen housemates.
In another instance, Big Brother tested the selflessness of the teen housemates by asking them to burn their fellow housemates’ clothes. The punishment came after the teens failed to complete the task of bead making which they must have finished before leaving for Palawan. The test was to have all clothes collected—from their laundry to underwear to necktie—and piled for burning in the yard, with Nicole being the first to be asked to set their clothes aflame. The housemates followed Big Brother’s order of cleaning the entire house of their clothes but grudgingly did so. It took Nicole a while before she took the gasoline from the storage room but defied Big Brother by returning to the confession room to tell him she cannot do the job. The rest of the housemates consecutively told Big Brother they burn the clothes, until Alex agreed to have his clothes burned.
What the housemates did—the defiance of an authority figure—is far outweighed by the disclosed concern of the housemates for one another, that they are not willing to have all their basic necessity turn to ashes even if it means getting an automatic nomination for disobeying Big Brother. The order serves as a test if they can sacrifice their basic belongings as an obligation to follow their authority. Their defiance is less their willingness to be selfless but more their concern for others who will be affected by one housemate’s act. If any one of them pours the gasoline on the clothes and sets the pile afire, then not only the perpetrator but all of them will have to suffer from a lack of clothing.
Meanwhile, Alex’ willingness to have his clothes burned if only to save the rest of the housemates’ clothes is that redeeming value of self-sacrifice that Big Brother is hinting at in his seemingly cruel command. His choice to save the rest by having his own clothes sacrificed is a fine example of selflessness, because he is willing to suffer the lack for the sake of his housemates. It is a manifestation of how his housemates figure in him: as objects of concern. Taking the objects’ side, their resistance to burn everyone’s clothes is a self-disclosure of concern for one another.
The abovementioned details from the PBBTE+ program are appropriate samples of how self-disclosure works as a window into humans’ perception toward one another’s personality, and as an extent to which they are willing to connect with one another in the face of ever-shifting social bonds. This willingness to let others know who one really is in the desire to be liked and to build relationships is grounded on the revelation of secret information, shared interests, even deepest fears and hopes. Some housemates have become off-putting when they reveal too much about themselves, there are others who become so because of the exact opposite, but by being a housemate in the program is a revealing act in itself because the self-disclosure goes beyond the house and into the entire global village.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

popular revolutions as threats to oligarchic democracy

Revolutions pave the way for a radical shift in power or organizational structures within a relatively brief span of time. Three such revolutions happened in the Philippines, all of which are deemed popular by nature. These people power revolutions—the 1896 Revolution, and the EDSA 1 and 2 Revolutions—play a significant role in political exercises, that is, the abrupt change in the Philippine political institutions. In the turn-of-the-century revolution sponsored by the Katipunan movement, the political alteration was the colonial independence of the country from Spain. In the more recent revolutions, the political alteration was the overthrow of morally decadent presidents. In all revolutions, however, it became apparent that the abrupt change in political power structures gave way to an oligarchic rule, one in which the elites are swept up by the very people at the end of the socio-economic strata. The inequality preserving the interest of the elite shows that there is little of political maturity hereabouts. The patterns of elite domination are sustained even in contemporary times due to the efforts of democratization wherein an elite democracy rules the country today. If before, these caciques controlled only their respective local political fiefdoms, now they enjoyed national-level access and exposure. This is most apparent with the emergence of political dynasties throughout the country, with family members holding major political positions in their areas of responsibility. Thinking of their relative predecessors’ electoral posts as political inheritance, they deepen their consciousness as a ruling class. The consolidation of a national oligarchy in the government continues to create a perfect adaptation of the ambitions of the mestizo nouveau riche in the legislative and executive systems. Hence, there seems to be a permanent crisis in the Philippines wherein the political powerplay is manipulated in such a way that the bourgeoisie will further entrench themselves up the socio-economic-political ladder, to the detriment of the masses who largely compose the revolutions in an attempt to bring about large-scale progressive change in the socio-political landscape.
Arguments seeking to provide a solution to such a permanent crisis in the country include uprooting all the weak socio-political institutions and supplanting them with new ones as well as charter change. However, issues like addressing the problems of the very constituents of revolutions get obscured because the bourgeoisie, for one, may have a hand at influencing the abovementioned solutions and maneuvering such political upheavals, all to the upper class’ selfish advantage and at the expense of the lower class. Therefore, I believe that it must be accepted that conflicts are inherent in liberal politics because a threat of crisis will render caciques aware of their ever imminent deposition by the masses in a true democratic fashion. The tiring people power revolutions may have lost their magic over time and after their exploitation by the elites, but a threat of popular revolt will worry the rich that their socio-economic benefits under a turbulent regime have chances of being jeopardized, especially when the united masses successfully stage a popular revolt in which communism will scrap the face of oligarchic democracy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

faith, man, god: a comparative analysis of three philosophical treatises

Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism and Human Emotions” tackles the existentialist notion that one exists first before one generates essence. In other words, this existentialism makes the person exist but only the person can define his character, life’s goals and the like. He emerges into the world until such time he crystallizes his essence. He is born into a vacuous universe as nothing but he constructs his being by the choices he freely creates. Gleaning from this idea, a person has no predetermined fate because he is the one responsible for weaving his won fate. Owing to this realization that a person is responsible for all his actions, one feels the emotions of anger and angst. Since there is no God to account for help in creating one’s destiny, one feels the loneliness called forlornness that is associated with despair and angst. As the choices a person makes build his essence, he affirms his choices’ values (granted that he will never choose evil). His choices are manifestations of his will to be free from false and outside power, which humanizes by virtue of willing this freedom toward others. If a choice is good for him, it can be good for all of mankind.
Meanwhile, Gabriel Marcel’s “From Opinion to Faith” differentiates opinion from faith in that the former is a belief which stakes a claim on something while the latter is a belief in something. In other words, having faith is believing in while having an opinion is believing that. On the one hand, opinion is that which man never knows or is unfamiliar with, and has the tendency to possess false basis. Because of their externality, opinions are just claims that lack reflection. On the other hand, opinion’s opposite has deeper reflection in it because there is an action of a decision to sustain constancy of believing in a certain object no matter what. Hence, faith may be a belief in a mysterious, transcendental reality. It is the placement of one’s faith in that reality so that this change will change him and his sense of being.
Finally, Quentin Lauer’s “The Problem of Unbelief” discusses the idea of faith as something that exists beyond logical certainty so, therefore, must not be something used for a person’s security purposes. Faith is different from belief, for the former can still make a person generate morality unlike the latter which exists only to make God as a means rather than as an end to morality. Also, this commitment to God becomes meaningless it is the same commitment to mankind. Committing oneself to man is not about loving being God’s moral command or a tantamount reason for loving God but about becoming a human when a fellow man is loved. Even if it takes going against the divine law which man’s general belief has engendered, the rights of man should be protected. Likewise, if man is just after his personal redemption, then he interprets a supposedly worthy God inaccurately. Finally, if God cannot be logically ascertained, it is because God is a mystery, bringing to the fore that unbelief need not be a problem even if believers themselves experience this.
What is striking with these three different articles is that they are parallel in terms of the idea of faith as action. In Sartre’s, faith is action because one cannot rely on an immobile belief in God; since this universe is godless, one has to have faith in oneself in order to determine one’s essence. If one so much as have faith in a nonexistent God, he will just exist but he will not fully realize his destiny. His faith in being able to go beyond existence to essence always rides on the exercise of free will so that his acted choices will produce who he is and who he can become. In Marcel’s, faith is action in that it is reflected, constant and directed unto a mysterious entity. It is beyond opinion which may easily crumble because no action supports the claim; faith is action because one’s destiny will unfurl only when the act of placing belief in the object is chosen in an effort to transcend. In Lauer’s, faith is action because one believes even if the object may be invisible. This implies doing an action that may have risks because of the inherent mystery of the object of faith but is believed to bring about change: that it can secure notwithstanding the obvious uncertainty.
While the three have certain parallels, they also have differences. In Sartre’s and Lauer’s, faith must be somewhat directed toward the good of other people. Sartre says that one’s free actions which will define himself is essentially for his own good and, being good for himself, must be good for the rest of mankind. Thus, in creating one’s essence, one will to be free so others may emulate his attempt at freedom. Lauer corroborates by saying that faith in God is at work when one is committed with others. Men are after the salvation of one another because God is beyond their reach, so they look after themselves mutually. Marcel departs because his distinction between opinion to faith does not entail having a person change in order to change the being of others. He changes through his faith for the sole purpose of transcending himself. Also, they differ in the state of the great mystery’s transcendent reality. For Sartre, there is no God so man can only fend for himself regarding the determination of his being’s essence. Meanwhile, Lauer contemplates the possibility of the absence of God, which does not entirely rule out the possibility of God’s presence. God may even exist as a moral reality through man’s imaginary pursuit. Lastly, Marcel believes in a transcendent reality, which is the equivalent of the mysterious God.

Friday, June 13, 2008

a young gay man with blue seraph wings (for gabriel garcia marquez)

Disclaimer: this is a fictional work; any similarity to actual people, places or events is purely coincidental, for everything here exists solely in the author’s imagination, or so it seems…

“We better hurry home,” my colleagues suggested, visibly irritated at the gay filmfest’s closing movie that seemed anti-climactic for its radical departure from the roster of pink-themed films and documentaries. I readily acquiesced, convinced that the event’s swan song did not give justice to the simultaneous occasion of the country’s 100th-something year of independence. The film, a terrible conflation of AIDS and homosexuality featuring English-speaking mestizos, was obviously stuck within the colonial trappings.
“Let’s dance the conga,” said Jonison, our night’s host, once the taxi disgorged all the gay passengers it had crammed. His partner Edwin made the entire compound tremble with the blaring sound of the component. The gay visitors were shaking their bodies like malarial patients, oblivious to the shrieks of neighbors who complained that their midnight sleep was going to be a real nightmare.
Jonison pulled me from stupor so I would accompany him in buying 1.5-liter soft drinks. He explained to me that their area of residence becomes a modern-day version of Sodom and Gomorrah at the cloak of night time, so I sobered up at the hint. We headed toward the 24-hour bakery, which pasted all over its walls an announcement that the shop will close tomorrow—perhaps for renovation? “No, sir,” clarified the chatty saleslady, handing us the recyclable bottles we bought. “Half of the bakery workers were sent home after their demand for minimum wage fell on deaf ears. We won’t be open in the morning so those who stayed behind can rest after three sleepless working days.” That provided us with an insight into the attendants’ zombie-like pace.
As we turned to go back to Jonison’s place, a man in white tank top and crystal blue beach shorts arrived, intending to buy a mobile phone prepaid card. He looked familiar to me, until I realized that he resembled that handsome hardcore reporter who got elected as house representative. Only, this one boasted of a fairer complexion and a torso whose regular wrestling with gym equipment was paying off. On my third second of gazing, he caught me so I looked away, pretending he did not exist. Jonison was quick to pick up my gaydar transmission, so he dashed ahead as I took steps like a footbound Chinese woman.
I found myself seated next to the man in the bench of a carinderia that was adjacent to my host’s compound. He was silent as he pressed his phone keypad to send an SMS to an invisible textmate. Glancing askance, I confirmed that my eyes had not deceived me. His boyish looks despite his mid-20s body would leave the term “gorgeous” wanting for a truer meaning. The midnight air was chilly, but I felt like sweating bullets. I received a text message that said, “Good luck, Belinda Bright!” I initially wondered if the allusion to the sexy starlet was a pun on my cruising strategy. It took me two seconds to realize that the man was a perfect reminder of Belinda’s movies entitled She Walks by Night…Sshhh!!! and Ang Kapitbahay.
As if to check on my progress, my colleagues interrupted their booties from shaking and, searching for me and my possible lay, crabwalked their way to and fro. At their third time of performing some kibitzing, I was seriously praying that some rain of fire and brimstone would drive them screaming toward the compound. I could not afford to lose this man, I thought. By some miraculous event, the dark side of the street gave shape to the barangay tanods who immediately shooed the gays away, invoking the police’ capacity to arrest the cruisers for vagrancy. I was alarmed when the man himself vacated his place and proceeded inside the tiny lawn of the neighboring house. I played my last card by standing at his gate, acting as if waiting for a tricycle ride. Seeming concerned that I might be picked up by the roving mobile or by some other cruiser, he whispered from inside the gated yard: “papasok ka ba talaga, o hindi?”
I followed him through the labyrinth of chiaroscuro until we reached the lavatory which was flooded by fluorescent light emitting from his open room. He leaned provocatively against the lit wall, but his cosmopolitan James Dean pose was betrayed by his naïve countenance. He was, at best, a wingless angel, a Renaissance painting come-to-life. I touched his gelled hair, his rosy cheeks. “God…” I murmured. “Almost, but not quite,” he smirked. We laughed. When I attempted to duck into his face, he rotated his neck aside in such a way that my kiss landed on his earlobe. His masculine scent wafted in the still air, and I was drawn inexorably.
My hands were quick in feeling him under his tank top. His pectorals were strewn with smooth hairs, while his back contoured like a shifting desert dune. His bated breathing threw me in wild abandon. Lifting his white cover, I sucked on his pinkish nipples alternately.
My desire was running so ecstatically that I did not mind much the mounting muscle in his back. I thought his body was just reacting to the racy sensation that my lips were producing as they brushed against his skin. When something flapped softly behind him, it was then that I discovered his fully-grown wings, glowing blue. They were not of a manananggal’s, so I did not fear for my blood-rich vena cava being embedded with shiny fangs. I continued pleasuring him, until he slowly took flight, taking me into the firmament of stars.
He soared effortlessly, while I wrapped my arms around his waist. Momentarily I looked at the city we had just left behind, and I saw it being dotted with yellow lights as when a benighted tree gets canopied by a dancing multitude of fireflies. We were approaching the farthest strips of clouds, upon touching which my angel knew he had completely taken my breath away. Bathed in the radiance of the golden moon, we flew back to earth, his blue wings luminescent in the velvety darkness.
We returned to the lavatory, delirious from the brief ascension to the heavens. I heard the crowing of cocks, so I bade him goodbye. He did not offer to exchange contact numbers with me, so I believed the tryst would be the first and last. Which was just fine, I came to think. My intimate moment with a blue-winged seraph was bound to be the most unforgettable in the annals of my personal history. I motioned to kiss him in the cheek and said, “Thanks.” He broke into a smile, squeezed my left shoulder and replied, “Thanks, too.”
On my way out, I tumbled upon an unseen sunflower pot which promptly fragmented into splinters of hardened brown clay. Giggling, I flirted with the idea of having to leave a replacement at the man’s door first chance I would return in the area. For now, I must rejoin my colleagues at my host’s compound for the coronation of the most beautiful.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

independence day crisis

Time and again, June 12 arrives and the commemoration of the Philippines’ colonial independence becomes somewhat obtrusive, what with the sudden appearance of red, star-studded white and blue flags everywhere, among other tangible yet suspiciously intentioned ways of showing one’s Filipino-ness. The depressing state of affairs hereabouts—the fare hike, the mounting inaccessibility of food, the rising criminality that sometimes victimizes me, the lack of conscience of corrupt officials—becomes all the more devastating, driving me into contemplation if my own personal attempt to remain Filipino no matter what is but a grim and determined chauvinism of sort, an empty pride, a reckless idealism. The disenchantment is increasingly taking its toll with my greater association of June 12 as the fateful day I did a version of Belinda Bright’s Ang Kapitbahay than that historic moment when the unfurling of the Philippine flag in Kawit, Cavite proclaimed the natives’ break from Spanish bondage. This becomes even more perverted when the presidential decree of holiday economics perplexes me on what date to celebrate my people’s freedom from the colonizers: on the extra weekend, or on the original calendar mark? In times like this, I cannot just chew some fruit gum to ease the crisis away; instead, I subject myself under an identity grilling in order to check myself if I still suit the definition of what’s Filipino. The following are not local beauty pageant questions, so stop me from mouthing sugarcoated answers after each interrogative punctuation mark:
1. Do I wish to stay in my country even under the most distressing points?
2. Do I support my country by patronizing local products, from toothpaste to food to books to television shows to films?
3. Do I communicate using my national language?
4. Do I identify with my poor masses?
5. Do I sincerely write about postcolonial stuff?
6. Do I pursue the virtues of my national heroes?
7. Do I abide by my country’s constitution?
8. Do I support my country’s government?
9. Do I perform my job well in order to contribute to nation-building?
10. Do I practice Filipino customs/norms/traditions/rituals?
The list, of course, can get kilometric, and I hope in all of these, my answer is that resounding response from an excited bride being wedded to a Nobel-nominated Jon Avila deadringer. But let me give myself a cliffhanger to further my confusion despite my undoubtedly Filipino blood, physical features, citizenship, and geographical location: define Filipino.
P.S. Mukhang Latina na naman ang mananalo…

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

of death and immortality

When I received a text message from Jel that actor Rudy Fernandez has “returned to his Maker,” I felt sad. This sadness, however, is not the variety that will send me wailing and tearing my hair and thrashing about. I’m not an avid fan of the action star, basically because action movies are not exactly my favorite, but I’m a human who realizes anew how death is that one certain destination of every living human.
Last I saw him was in the music room of his friend Jinggoy’s house. I and Jel were tutoring then, when he quietly crept in and kissed Jel. I did not expect to be kissed, of course, so I just greeted him “Good evening.” He returned the greeting and smiled. Now that music room will never be seen in the same way again, for every time I will visit Jel to study with her, the image of Rudy will inevitably conjure up in the place not so much as a frightening phantom as a lingering memory.
Rudy will always be remembered as a great actor in the Philippine movie-dom. In short, he will be immortalized like other great actors before him whom he, in more ways than one, already joined the eternal ranks of. Hopefully, all of us get to follow suit; I mean, not in our sudden demise—to quote Pangga, “Together in life and death, pero huwag muna ngayon.” I mean to hope that everyone becomes immortal in one’s own little way—through literature, through good deeds, through Godliness—so that one’s fleeting life will outrun its own course.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

imagining the fifth-and-a-half bolgia

Further down the bolgia where grafters drown in a river of brewing pitch and tar and resuscitated only to drown yet again, I and the poet Virgil are stopped from our shadowy tracks by the evil-clawed horde of demons, ready to use to us the barbed clubs with which escaping extortionists, blackmailers and unprincipled tradesmen are torn to bits.
“Pray tell your purpose for coming hereabouts,” warns the leader of the Malebranche, his hooked weapon dangerously poised for action.  Terror spins a web around my heart, for I cannot imagine being thrown into the repulsive company of swimming sinners who amassed corrupted wealth.  My wise guide is quick to dispel the anger of the mistaken tormentors with his disarming clarification.
“We are bound for the noble Chiron, the nurse of Achilles,” replies the poet, adding, “It is to him we are answerable.  Kindly withdraw your arms, for my ward here with me gets frightened to his bones.”  The demons comply, clearing the smoking hot path leading to the fifth-and-a-half bolgia.  The poet’s and my feet carefully step, for our limbs’ very motions cause the edges on either side of the ravine trail to break off, sending rocky debris down the swirling liquid heavy with boiling tar and pitch.  Shrieking grafters swim agonizingly toward the plunged soil, swallowing them teary-eyed because they are the only available alternative to their eternal meal of tarry soup.
And lo, the fifth-and-a-half ditch is an eyesore to behold, a place where previously living mortals belatedly promise never to commit again their karmic sin.  Virgil steels himself from the urges of horror and weeping and proceeds to tell me: “These sinners here were guilty of opportunism while still walking the earth where you actually belong.  They shamelessly abandon their principles once opportunities of whatever sort happen along.”  With the eerie light of the dancing flames, whenever smog clears up to reveal the hidden torture, I witness the sufferers scrambling in a river of dismembered bodies. 
The penalized opportunists try to piece themselves together after having been mutilated by demons who are sickened by their misdeeds in their wasted lifetimes.  Someone who in his lifetime installed cronies in his government as an official reciprocation fumbles for his wristbanded left hand under the pile of plucked eyes, cut-off ears, bloody entrails and chopped off limbs.  Another who danced like a harlot after an incriminating evidence against the wristbanded opportunist and appeared only years later on her previously opposed side of the political fence gropes for her screaming head beneath mounds of gory arteries, bony fingers, torsos that are bloating in fats fed by greed.  Yet another who was infamous for using her husband president’s power to quench her poor childhood’s insecurities tearfully frisks for her lost foot wearing one of her thousands of fancy shoes underneath pools of saliva, mucus, fecal matter, urine and blood.  Finally, I see my generation’s most notorious opportunist who was unashamed in practicing a powerplay by providing offices to those who secured her position.  Below the heap of missing noses, scattered brains, numb elbows and broken ribs, she is ceaselessly searching for her moled cheek.  There are other opportunists coming from my country, as there are others of various races, genders and colors from different states, but I lose count of them because they are too numerous.  When alive, they must have been senators, representatives, governors, mayors, some other officials or they are related to government offices in one way or another.  What is common to them despite their dissimilar backgrounds is their sin on earth for which they pay a price in hell at present: opportunism.  Their selfish goal then was to widen their political influence no matter what the cost and to seize any opportunity to wield this political influence whenever these opportunities present themselves.  They capitalized much from these opportunities during their lifetimes, enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of the impoverished, marginalized people they were suspiciously elected and officially sworn to improve the lives of.  Their current residence in hell is the opportunity for payback time.  Hence, I see all of them stitching their jigsaw puzzle of bodies after painstakingly finding them in the dizzying mass of corporal pieces, only to be seized again by their punishing demons in order to hack anew, bits after bloody bits, and thrown back into that river of disfigured body parts we see from above the narrow strip of earth leading to the circle of lead-robed hypocrites.  Seeing the billions of disgusting skins, muscles, bones and hairs, I feel nauseated and almost throw up.
Virgil assists me, afraid that I make a fatal mistake of plummeting into that afterlife destination of political sinners.  He taps me in my shoulder, prodding me to move on and grieve this time over the castigated opportunists of the religious sort.

Monday, June 09, 2008

anarchy and international order

The presence of anarchy does not automatically mean the absence of international order. There still is an international order; only, there is no central authority to rule above independent states that, while anarchic by character, do not necessarily experience chaos, disputes, or disorder.
Take the state of global affairs today: our world system is without a leader because technically speaking, there is no universal government ruling over independent sovereignties. The United Nations or even the self-proclaimed worldwide police that’s the USA cannot be considered to possess a superior power to solve conflicts among warring states, for example. Whether or not there is war, there is no worldwide hierarchy among all free states in the world, but there is order among nations when they generate a particular social order (in the case of the current world, independent states).
The abovementioned justifies the presence of international order despite the presence of anarchy. It also means that the presence of anarchy may even be necessary in completing the system of international order because it contributes to the existence of status quo.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

rebolusyon at reporma

Sa nobelang Noli Me Tangere ni Jose Rizal, matatagpuan sa kabanatang “Tinig ng mga Pinag-uusig” sina Ibarra at Elias na may diskusyon tungkol sa repormang panggobyernong mahigpit na kailangan ng bansa, samantalang ang dalawa ay nagsasagwan sa gitna ng lawa. Si Elias na pumapanig sa mga inaapi ng mga prayle at guardia sibil ay nagpatulong kay Ibarra na magpanukala sa pamahalaang Espanya ng paglilimita sa kapangyarihan ng mga mapang-usig upang mabawasan ang biktima ng kawalang-katarungang panlipunan. Kahit naman dakila ang hangaring ito ni Elias para umayos ang pamumuhay ng mga Pilipino, halos patanggi ang tugon ni Ibarra sa pagpapatulong na ito ni Elias dahil ayon kay Ibarra, ang mga prayle at mga guardia sibil ay “masamang kailangan,” samakatuwid ay salik sila upang ang mga mamamayan mismo ang lumikha ng pagbabago sa kanilang bansa.
Ang kaibahan sa paniniwala nina Elias at Ibarra ukol sa reporma sa sistemang pampamahalaan ng Pilipinas ay dulot ng lawak ng pagtitimpi ng dalawang tauhang nabanggit. Si Ibarra, na mas malawak ang pasensya sa dalawa, ay nakikitang may ipagtitiis pa ang mga mamamayan kaya puwede pang manatili sa ilalim ng Espanya ang kolonya bilang isang probinsya. Si Elias, na mas maiksi ang pagtitimpi sa pang-aabuso ng mga nasa kapangyarihan, ay gustong matigil na ang paghihirap sa pamamagitan ng paglaya mula sa pagiging kolonya.
Bagama’t matagal na tayong nakakalaya sa mapang-usig na kalagayang kolonyal, nananatili tayong nakalubog sa sistema ng kahirapan gaya ng malawakang korupsyon. Sa pagitan ng magkaibang paniniwala ni Elias at Ibarra, sa palagay ko ay dapat masugpo na ang kahirapang ito sa pinakamabilis na paraan. Mahigit isang daang taon na tayong nasa sariling pamamahala at hindi lubusang natatanggal ang mga katiwalian na siyang bagong taga-usig ng mga Pilipino. Para sa akin, mas magiging mabisa ang paglimita o tuluyang pagkitil sa kapangyarihan ng mga tiwaling tao, sinuman sila, kung nasa kamay ng bayan ang kapangyarihan—samakatuwid, nasa demokrasya. Ang panukalang rebolusyon ni Elias, ayon sa pagkakaintindi ko sa kabanata, ang totoong magsusulong ng reporma sa Pilipinas dahil sa isang malawakan at mapuwersang pagkilos ng mga Pilipino ay mapapalaya natin ang ating mga sarili at makapagpapaugat ng panibagong sistemang panlipunan.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

a question on bribe

Q: You are rushing your guardian to the airport. You beat the red light. The traffic officer stops you. Will you bribe?
A: I will not bribe a traffic enforcer for the sake of being released from my red light violation. Even if my own reason for such a violation is valid for me, i.e. rushing my guardian to the airport, this personal reason does not merit the gravity of the idea of bribe. Bribing is a manifestation of buying one’s principles and granted that the person declines the offer, the very attempt is an insight into the lack of morality on my part, that I do not consider the person dignified. If the person, on the other hand, accepts the offer, it provides an insight into the lack of his own morality, so there’s already the two of us having amoral complicity. Whichever of the two scenarios gets realized, it does not outweigh the relatively more complicated yet less morally taxing decision to resort to contingency plans. In order to make it to the airport, my guardian can take a public vehicle, probably a taxi to bail her out of unnecessary burdens. Also, we can call somebody else to transport her. There are other ways besides, but it does not have to be as criminally liable as corrupting authorities.
Seeming insignificant decisions like bribing actually gets magnified once the idea is linked to the corruption not only of money but also of the soul. Since the greed for money is the root of all evils, a susceptible traffic officer transforms into an evil and I become an active participant to this transformation. Resorting to bribing, meanwhile, makes me amoral because apart from acquiring the idea that I can get away with many things with money, I likewise do not consider the corruptive consequences of my action. This is the height of moral decadence. A susceptible officer might further explore his reaction’s possibilities, and as long as he does not get caught and eventually reprimanded, he might continue with the setup until there is not enough remorse to save him from corruption’s consumptive power. Corollarily, as long as I can explore my action’s possibilities, I will continue with my setup until I become deaf to the screams of my wounded conscience. The persons I will corrupt, and the persons my bribed officer will extort from will be inextricable in the web of this moral degradation.
There is so much evil in the world now and I figure that these must have just been the gradual accumulation of tiny sins that seem trivial and, hence, uncorrected. Even as traffic regulations in the Philippines appear as if they are mere suggestions instead of laws, they and their enforcers should be taken seriously for once so that they won’t cause cumulative destruction of the human soul.