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!"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a prayer for the closing year and the approaching one

supreme being, the origin of all things and all nations, you have bestowed upon us the freedom to fulfill our destinies and the values to overcome the challenges that we encounter as we pursue truth, goodness, and beauty.
in times of desperation, you have bestowed hope upon us in order to make us look beyond our current predicaments.
in times of discord, you have bestowed love upon us in order to calm us from divisiveness.
in times of anxiety, you have bestowed faith upon us in order to encourage us to hold on beyond the bleakness of our situation.
once again, we gather all these virtues to direct and trust ourselves in order to continue seeking freedom, peace and solidarity for the facilitation of human progress.
we appeal to you to fortify these values you blessed us with, in order for us to construct a humane and peaceful society.
in return, we commit ourselves to the pursuit of goodness and righteousness. may your will be done.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the nation and ninotchka rosca's state of war

When Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War (Mandaluyong City: National, 1988) was published in novel form, the University of the Philippines-bred activist girl best known for her Marxist short fictions has embarked on imagining a larger picture of the NATION, a recurring topic for most if not all of the Philippine novels in English. Ninotchka and other Filipino novelists, because they are in the most privileged position to tell stories (of the country, for instance), make use of the subject Filipinas or what Filipino critic Bienvenido Lumbera coined in 1972 as “The Growth of the Nation” because in doing so, they all resolve at some extent the question of the Filipino as an exile—someone who cannot accept or change his history due to his country’s colonization by Spain, the United States of America, Japan and, again, the U.S.A. This way, Ninotchka (who was a literal exile, having been banished as a result of her criticism’s incurring the ire of Martial Law dictator Ferdinand Marcos) confronts the bedeviling problem of self-search by imagining a country in all its amalgam of Western influences and Oriental cultures. State of War is one novel that depicts the Filipino identity through the consciousness lent by its author.
Philippine history as a whole has a hand in shaping the boundaries of the novel because of its integration into the text—a powerful means of illustrating the Philippines. The mention of Philippine-specific details from the Spanish conquest to Martial Law regime crystallizes the text as an authentic evidence of Philippine imagination as Ninotchka describes it. The country’s history provides a rich material for Filipino authors to mine, and Ninotchka was successful in producing a masterpiece that will help Filipino readers identify themselves and their nation in Anna, Eliza, and Adrian and these characters’ spatial setting, the Central Philippine island of K—. The Philippines, if one must be reminded, is one such country that is always in the state of war against colonialism: colonialism by foreign powers, colonialism by poverty, colonialism by feudal, patriarchal and ethnic oppression, and colonialism by capitalistic imperialism.
Then as now, Ninotchka (she was christened a Russian-sounding name by no less than the literary giant Nick Joaquin, since this UP activist writer was truly endeared to him) championed the cause of the oppressed, organizing a labor union strike in her first job at the desk, criticizing the human rights violations of the Martial Law up to now, when she speaks around the world in behalf of Purple Rose, a global network tasked at stopping sex trafficking of Filipinas the world over. Her activism is obviously infused in the novel in question as well as her other literary works. For a few months, Ninotchka was included among those held presumably because of sedition or rebellion at Camp Crame. She declared to having sketched her second story collection there, an anthology that was to be published in Australia ten years after. She saw to it that her half-life in Camp Crame detention was congruent with the larger prison of the nation in general.
State of War is similar to Ninotchka’s short fiction anthologies like Bitter Country and Other Stories (1970) and Monsoon Collection (Brisbane: University of Queensland, 1983) and her follow-up novel, Twice Blessed (Manila: St. Scholastica/Gabriela, 1988), in that all her fictions reflect her Marxist ideology (class struggle) largely informed by her radical upbringing in the State University, renowned for being a bastion of student activism. On one hand, she is being criticized for coming on too strong with her hard-fisted political fictions that intensely batter the Philippine macho ideology. On the other hand, she is said to interpret nationalist and feminist power in the context of the country’s colonial history through pessimistic protagonists who take risks in order to survive.
Ninotchka strategized a narration that spawns an analysis of palpable social conditions. Fittingly, this analysis maps out the subsequent tactics: the use of female sexuality to injure the totalizing patriarchal hegemony, the insight of power relations in terms of class struggle rather than the social equilibrium, and the establishment of these means of intrusion towards larger-than-life proportions to strengthen the faith and ardor which lead to liberation.
State of War ambitiously attempts to encompass centuries of Philippine history through the intertwined lives of Banyaga, Villaverde, and Batoyan families, and it is noteworthy for its familiarity through the development of vivid details, its flowery language, and its ironic worldview reminiscent of Filipinos’ comic perspective about tragic events. State of War signifies much about the Philippines as "a singular and a plural place."
Ninotchka employs history to imply the infiltration of foreign powers into the Filipino people’s lives. She weaves her time setting from the late era of Marcos’ dictatorship (who is simply referred the Commander), during The Festival (supposedly the Ati-Atihan) celebrated yearly on the Visayan Island of K—, to a narration of centuries of colonial paralysis of Philippine bloodlines, visible in the Banyagas, Villaverdes and Batoyans, with the ultimate comeback to The Festival as it gets reduced into a frenzied yet aborted assassination try. The purpose of this strategy is to suggest that Filipinos have been shackled in a recurrent state of war against military, economic and cultural conquests dating back to Magellan’s intervention in Lapu-lapu's tribal affairs and loss of his life in Mactan; henceforth, the author provides an indirect yet dramatic plea for a wholly nationalistic independence.
The lead characters Eliza and Anna, sun and moon deities respectively, infuse color from and shower color to The Festival. They are an alluring duo. Both aged 27, Anna Villaverde is the depiction of vengeful widowhood while Eliza Hansen is the depiction of frivolous independence. Meanwhile, Adrian at 23 is sketched as a rich scion who discovers Anna as his employee who would be his love object. Eliza’s feelings for Anna appear sometimes to be shared consciousness, other times sentimental sisterhood, or even latent lesbianism, yet never quite acknowledgment of their kinship as cousins. The nuns have discoursed Mayang to be sexually docile even with her husband; however, it is lust at first sight with Hans. When Manolo tries to slay Rafael, his wife Anna stabs her knife into his head’s back. Eliza dies in the melee in a melodramatic manner. Later, Anna listens to her husband, amazed at his tapes and whether this decision rendered him heroic or not. Anna does not think about such queries and, yes, will sire a son to her. Here is a son in a literary production where women seem more invulnerable than the opposite sex.
Anna and Eliza are beautiful representations of 20th century women, but holistically for prospective extents sadly left shapeless. There are other things presented but not discussed which might have permitted Ninotchka a way out of her characters' or culture's matrix. Anna listens to Guevarra say, "We begin as accidents and end as the sum of accidents. The rites of this land seize us by the hair ad force us into a design begun a long long time ago." Anna fails to reflect in that text or is incapacitated to do such. How is Anna able to digest Guevarra’s words? How is her interpretation parallel with the notion that her forthcoming son will become "the first of the Capuchin monk's descendants to be born innocent, without fate?" Her statement is simply one more romantic dream, timely in the heel of tiredness after so many lives lost in The Festival. It is deemed only the compulsory solitary silent note, like skylark atop the forest after an earth-shaking sound play.
In both the Monsoon Collection and State of War, to juxtapose two of her works, her protagonists seem incapable of finding love and loyalty compatible and, under pressure, are ready to sacrifice the beloved to a generalized ideal. This penchant of supplementing to natural double-bladedness by cutting characters short is evident in the short fiction anthology, while the abandonment of the alleged beloved for some undefined principle pictures the central development in the novel in question. The ideal in its elusiveness may crumble into a justification for self-congratulation. If persons are instantly disposable (Guevarra's wife and son, for example), then why exclude characters? It does not matter if sympathies become artificial or transferable at own volition, for as long as the author remains to be perceived as sympathetic in her portrayal of the characters.
Ninotchka never misses a beat in the course of her fluid narrative as she profiles the lives of leads Anna Villaverde, Adrian Banyaga and Eliza Hansen, molding a concoction of plots and subplots, of libido betrayed through history, how the names and faces get altered but never the circumstances. Finally, the state of war being manifested here is the isolation ubiquitous in life, however intertwined people’s lives may look.
The author is most sympathetic to the character of Anna, whom one might consider as Ninotchka's alter-ego. Anna is an underground person on the island of K—, requested to help implement a conspiracy to bomb the stage where some political stalwarts are about to explode into bombastic speeches. She is the daughter of the last foot-bound Chinese woman and Luis Carlos Villaverde, a man obsessed with a saxophone. She survived the sexual molestations of her military captors while detained, as well as the electrocution on her nipples. Anna's presentation is that of survivor.
Eliza Hansen is a lady who defies pigeonholing: she is gorgeous, yet elusive as ever. She traipses about with transvestites in the town square doing the hala-bira rhythm, and acts as buffer to the "stormy relationship" of Anna and Adrian. She has this liaison with a high-ranking military officer, whom she uses to cover the tracks of Anna. In more ways than one, she is the other woman, and her frailty is the cause of her doom: she ends up as the festival's sacrifice to the sea, representing the only deliverance from her chained existence.
There is no lack of humor, either, as in the oft-repeated phrase about how “Magellan, crazy old coot, took some ships and circumcised the globe.” There is the ever-present image of the cock, the protruding symbol in a patriarchal society such as ours where, ironically, a woman is the central figure. There are the sexual interludes that Ninotchka seems to revel in, relationships based on equal parts caring and suspicion.
Anna is irresistibly lured into the festival mob dancing around the village plaza-"her feet found their niche in the drumbeats...the intricate pattern they wove on the asphalt, a pattern of small steps and halts"—and through her mind occurs "the disquieting thought [that] she was dancing the pattern of her life." Dance is translated into a metaphor for the process of one's life or, since this is inside a novel, narrative.
Ninotchka stitches together the novel's three movements by the use of an ostinato, a recurring popular song “Skyboats” which describes “a boat in the sky bearing a woman who said no, she'd rather not, thanks but no.” This image initially refers to Anna's grandmother Mayang, who becomes emotionally estranged from her husband, but later refers to Anna herself, as she joins the anti-government resistance and then endures police torture.
Ninotchka is relentlessly postmodern: her characters are assailed on all sides by the crushing forces of society, the schizoid montage of late-twentieth-century life, the haunting, double-edged beauty of an endangered world. Against such a tangled backdrop, the drama of State of War is embodied in questions of individual physical survival and, by extension, moral revival—questions which revolve around the person as well as the body politic, the singular as well as the plural.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

of sainthood and humanity

Francis, Ignatius, Therese, John Paul and Mother Teresa were able to show the humanity of the Church through their relationship with family, friends, and the society. When they felt the calling to serve God through their service to the poor, most of them became in conflict with their human relations. For example, Francis’ family ties sagged when his parents thought that he was not only wasting his time but also throwing away the money for which they labored hard in order to amass. He also became in conflict with his friends who stoned and threw mud at him for doing charity works and for reducing himself to being a beggar. Francis seemed a disappointment to his parents and friends since they expected him to do anything other than distribute clothes, goods and money to the poor. Meanwhile, Ignatius suffered persecution for converting young people into the Christian fold. He courageously took up his jail term when he was accused of harboring beliefs that were not of the Church. On the other hand, Therese had a mild human conflict when she was not allowed to become a novitiate because she was still underage. She already felt the calling at a tender age, but was not permitted to join her sisters in the convent until the pope interceded in her behalf. Meanwhile, John Paul had a contradiction with his Polish society since his Christian beliefs were not necessarily compatible with his country’s Communist stance. Besides that, his threatened deportation to Germany during the war could have spoiled his chance of becoming a priest. Even when he became a pope, some nonbelievers attempted to assassinate him, a proof that no matter what good Christian relationship he wanted to build with the society, some did not share the same advocacy. The same was true with Mother Teresa, whose country of destination, India, is a study in contrast. While she helped many poor and sick Indians, the social neglect continued. Even her venture into the outside world took time, since she was bound within the four walls of the convent and she had to face the Church’s refusal to establish new religious communities. It was a difficult process for her to gain approval to leave the cloistered community to join the poorest of the poor in the streets and trade her habits into the less inconvenient sari and sandals she wore while ministering in Calcutta.
On the other hand, all five showed the divinity of the Church by enduring the mockery, rebukes, the discomforts and all sorts of contradictions made by the people they loved since they had the noble tasks of following the ways of Christ and doing charitable acts to the poor. Francis departed from his free-wheeling ways in order to renew himself and to adapt more to the Christian way of being a man for the poor and the needy. By being spiritually inspired to be resilient, he sanctified himself with all the meditations and fasting he had undergone to suit the sacrifice that entails becoming one with the poor, the sick and the hungry. The same was true with Ignatius, who turned away from a life of privileges and turning to extreme poverty and fasting in order to become one with the social outcasts. He renewed himself by embarking on pilgrimages that will proclaim the gospel. He bounced back despite being persecuted for his missions because he believed that bearing the anguish that resembled that of the persecuted Christ was part of the spiritual heritage. Meanwhile, Therese had a renewal each time she produced her testimonies of God’s goodness despite suffering from a terrible illness. While bedridden, she went on and on about writing the miraculous ways through which her life was being blessed by the Lord. On the other hand, John Paul did not waver in his papal duties although the world becomes increasingly negligent of its Christian duties. Instead, he continued to fulfill his duties by always turning his country visits, his book publications and issuance of holy documents as opportunities for Church renewal. Finally, Mother Teresa found spiritual renewal in the company of the poor, the ill and the starving whom she served in her parallel service to God. She became increasingly selfless in her mission of helping the neglected people.
All these saints have influenced the history and life of the faithful by showing that their lives can pursue Christian perfection despite hardships, trials and sufferings. Francis, Ignatius, Therese, John Paul and Teresa had varying degrees of setbacks throughout their respective missions but these did not stop them from fulfilling their duties however daunting these problems may appear. They endured through them all and did not surrender even in the face of the devil’s temptation or of social persecution. They transformed the problems into opportunities to grow more as Christians. They produced permanent legacies in the forms of books, meditations, movements and foundations which can attest an undying Christian devotion despite their brief, earthly lives. These, along with their very lives, leave an impression of the infinite possibilities of serving Christ and humanity in the face of persecutions or other such obstacles. For the faithful who are aware of how fellow humans before them had achieved saintly status through sheer faith in God and courage of spirit, the impact of these saints’ lives will inspire them into taking up their own crosses and into becoming active participants in the quest for salvation. The saints had made it possible, so the faithful can also create history by drawing the Christ-like out of their very lives with the greater consciousness for emulating God’s humility, compassion and love for the community, and helping the Christian brethren.
All five saints reflect the identity and mission of Jesus Christ by turning their lives into replicas of Christ for others. Dismissing human and circumstantial limitations, Francis took Christ’s humility, became one with the poor, and taught and shared with them the blessings coming from God. It did not matter that his own close relations shunned him for Francis pursued his love for the brethren and other living things the way God loves all. Ignatius imitated Christ’s endurance during trying times for he did not surrender his faith even though authorities have imprisoned him for supposedly corrupting his newly-converted Christian brothers. He bore his persecution with the dignity of Christ, believing this was insignificant next to the greatness of spreading God’s love. Meanwhile, Therese had to die young and had to endure bodily suffering but these did not matter in terms of her mission of living a life in the approval of God. Her disease did not stop her from continuing her call to God’s service, up to the day she died. On the other hand, John Paul had a relatively long life replete with the mission of sustaining the flock of God. Like Christ, he served as a shepherd of this Church community so that the latter continued to mature despite the challenges of the modern times. Even in sickness and old age, he went on to spread the Word of God so that his duty can fulfill the objective of providing humanity with salvation. Finally, Mother Teresa took on the mission of helping the poor and the needy because Christ Himself cares for them more than the privileged ones. She mimicked Christ’s humanitarian ways in fulfillment of His second greatest commandment that’s love for others. She could have chosen to stay within the convent but she ventured out into the world to suffer other’s suffering, and to save the neglected. All these saints lived their lives the way real Christians ought to be: compassionate, enduring, redeeming.

Friday, December 04, 2009

the life of saint ignatius of loyola in a nutshell

Born in Loyola , Spain in 1491, Ignatius worked in the king’s court until he was 30. A cannonball injury almost cost Ignatius his life, but a miracle of dreaming about St. Peter touching his wound made him well. While recuperating after three operations, he discovered the books The Life of Christ and Lives and of the Saints, which inspired him to devote his life to God. Like Francis before him, Ignatius cared for the sick, practiced austerity measures, fasted, and became prayerful. One night, after witnessing a Marian apparition, he went on a pilgrimage to Montserrat wearing a long habit and a sandal for his limping leg. While on the journey, he tended the ill, fasted with the bread and water given him as alms and knelt for hours in complete meditation. He himself fell ill, so he bolted out of his great penance and regained his peace. It was during this time that he produced his Spiritual Exercises for those on retreat. He attempted to go on a mission to the Holy Land but was obliged to return to Europe by the Provincial of the Franciscans. He continued to convert Spanish people to the faith, to teach catechism, and to reform juveniles in Alcala. He also got to study in Paris in extreme poverty, joining the poor in their meals at the hospital. He and six of his young disciples established the Society of Jesus, which aimed at serving the Church and saving lost souls. They continued to live in dire poverty while following Christ’s Passion and suffering persecution from nonbelievers. He landed in prison in Salamanca on suspicion of heresy but until his life full of love for Jesus Christ was taken away from him, Ignatius confronted the persecutions with Christian courage, which became the quality of the Company of Jesus that he founded.