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Kaleidoscope world

‘Sometimes, in order for us to be reawakened, inexplicable events have to transpire; for us to reevaluate our decisions, our steps, our mindset. And right there, in the mist of confusion, grief, and tears, is where we can only genuinely validate and conclude what we’re made of.’

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I STARED at it for about five minutes at one in the morning two Sundays ago. An untitled painting displayed on a private hospital’s wall on the third floor with a maelstrom of kaleidoscopic koi of divergent sizes swimming around an imaginary cylinder clockwise, it captured my attention while waiting for the doctor to come out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to check for an update on one of my brothers’ condition. He supposedly had a mild stroke while sharing a meal with his own family in their house in Cavite City, south of Manila.

The 4 feet by 3 artwork was strangely cut into half vertically and was hanging slightly slanted 15 degrees to the right. The others which boasted abstract flashes of the colours of the rainbow stationed at different sections of the corridor were not presented the same way. And yes, its peculiarity intrigued me. 

Should I fix it? I asked myself. I was all alone, wide awake, sitting on a brown, foamy bench outside the capacious visitors’ room just ten feet away from the ICU where my mom was sleeping along with my nephew, her aunt, and kuya ’s mother-in-law. Closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) were all over. The breeze was frigid. I hesitated at first but in the end with a medical face mask on, I convinced myself to stand in front of the canvas just like what one does in museums, art fairs, and galleries. It was a riveting moment, an immense gift to finally calm down. Because few hours earlier, it wasn’t the case. 

“Kuya Jun Jun is in the hospital” my youngest brother Ronnel said. “We have to check on him.”

“Why?” I uttered. “What happened?”

“High blood” he said. “He had seizure.”

In a heartbeat, my mother and I swiftly prepared our clothes and bags like soldiers about to infiltrate the enemy’s bulwark. Nobody’s available to commute from Makati City to go to the hospital on a Sunday in our family but us because of their work. Coincidentally, I was on a three-day vacation leave for my birthday. 

It must be very serious, I said to myself. I anticipated that we’ll have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. 

“To a hospital in General Trias, Cavite” I told the first cab driver who halted outside our small, white gate when he inquired where we’re headed at around ten in the evening.  “Please, it’s an emergency, sir.”

“I’m not going south” he answered. And just like that with one of the side windows still half-open, he hastily left.

How can a human being turn their back to another who’s evidently in a dire spot? Why do cab drivers intently violate a rule in their guidebook in selecting passengers? Don’t they know what an emergency is? 

With God’s help and mercy, a huge weight of our exasperation and distress vanished when the second cab driver accepted our pleas. He had brought us to a terminal in Pasay City where we instantly found a bus that could take us to our destination. 

While travelling, thoughts came rushing on my mind like bolts of lightning on a stormy sky; it’s kuya Jun Jun and our memories together. Yes, our late night conversations about religion, spirituality, wisdom, mysteries, science and technology, work. His brilliance and depth on a range of topics is impeccable. Tears abruptly rolled down my face while an old man sitting next to me at the far end of the bus was wreaking in alcohol. He was sleeping. 

When we arrived at the hospital, my mother and I were met with stories on what had transpired earlier that day. But Emergency Rooms, ICUs, Dialysis Centers, and others put everything in perspective. In those moments that you’re encapsulated by impenetrable brick structures painted white all over with nurses and doctors walking and running and talking to someone along the hall, everything boils down to that quiet conversation between you and God. The rest of the universe becomes irrelevant: traffic and violations on EDSA, inflation, MRT woes, possibilities with the person you admire most, child abuse, fake news, Duterte, war on drugs, Facebook and Instagram, poverty, corruption, politics, education, career aspirations, a taxicab’s plate number. 

We’ve all been there. You ask why and wonder why it all happened. Yes, why it had to be you or your family.

You know all the answers to these questions by heart, but still, there’s a strange, ineluctable sensation when you’re in the midst of it all – existing, breathing, and convincing yourself to be brave in the challenge given to you. You’re reminded that this life is just a fleeting illusion; that you’re a humble traveller; and that this may come to an end in a snap. Today, you’re a towering figure of physique and fitness; tomorrow could be a different story. It’s not promised. 

But you hope. You say your prayer without anybody noticing. You reach out to a higher being with all your flaws, shortcomings, and vulnerabilities. Because the situation is beyond the grasp of your hands, of your humanity, of everyone who knows you. 

Then, you pause. You can see the minute, fine details. Paths become clearer. Because you believe that everything happens for a reason. You try to make sense of the test you’re faced with. And when the doctor tells you that your brother or a loved one is no longer in the critical state, you fleetly send the heavens a sincere smiley, a million thanks.

With the waves of life from every direction, it’s facile to forget the essence of one’s existence. Sometimes, in order for us to be reawakened, inexplicable events have to transpire; for us to reevaluate our decisions, our steps, our mindset. And right there, in the mist of confusion, grief, and tears, is where we can only genuinely validate and conclude what we’re made of.

In the end, as I examined the painting and mildly fixed it in its place, I discovered that there were a total of twenty-eight kaleidoscopic koi swimming around the imaginary cylinder which is the same number of years I just turned to carry across my name that morning.

A coincidence? I don’t think so.

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Dear Kuya Manny: Please retire at 60

‘Sports breathes from hope and to engage in sports is a way to relieve the different forms of stress of life. However, if used the improper way, it can be lethal. A promise of solace can be turned into a nightmare that can haunt the minds of people. That’s exactly what you did, Kuya.’

Dear Kuya Manny,

In a true Filipino fashion, can I call you ‘Kuya’ since I’ve always seen you as an older brother? How are you? How are the bruises? I hope you’re recovering well.

I learned that you had another bout when my sister’s husband called and inquired about its result while we’re having lunch last Sunday.

“Have you watched the fight?” my sister asked while holding her smartphone. “Who won?”

“What fight?” I responded.

“The Pacquiao fight” she replied. “You don’t know?”

I paused for a moment not just because of cluelessness but also because every little reason why I stopped caring about any news about you all came back to me. The horror you single-handedly inflicted into my consciousness three years ago saw the light of the tunnel again. Piece by piece. Detail by detail. Pound for pound.

May 3, 2015. Sunday. “The Fight of the Century.” It’s you versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. SM Megamall Cinema 3. Pay per view. 2 tickets. I was sitting next to my younger brother Ronnel. The 12-round match has ended. Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the winner. Cheers were replaced by sighs. Nobody wanted to leave the theater. We were shocked. “Is that it?” the old man sitting across me shouted in exasperation. We waited for the climax of the movie pictured mentally by hundreds of millions of fans all over the world: Mayweather, the nemesis – blank-faced, defeated on the canvas after being hit by you in a barrage of uppercuts and right hooks. It never happened.

No, it’s not that we lost that made it unforgettable. It’s the difficult truth hidden behind the curtain that consumed me. You made me despise boxing. The sport died for me on that day.

During a post-fight interview, you revealed that you had entered that fight with a pre-existing shoulder injury and then further injured that area during the fourth round of the contest. When I heard this, my heart wanted to explode. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like I have been deceived with my two eyes wide open by you, the same man who had told in his pre-fight interview: “Don’t get nervous… I’m the one fighting, so relax.”

I watched every possible discussion that one can view online because of the hype everyone has poured for that momentous event. Boxing greats, analysts, and even superstars from other sports became involved and gave their take on who would emerge victorious. It was billed as the modern era’s Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali contest. But nobody saw it coming – the lie of the century.

Kuya, it was the first time in my entire life that I decided to buy tickets and watch a fight of yours on pay per view. I had watched all your previous fights on tv and on Youtube. To me and probably just like the million others around the world, it was an attempt to be part of history; to be able to tell myself decades later, if God will permit, that I was there with you in every blow, in every jab, in every hook. It was my humble way of supporting you. But again, I was wrong. You and your camp had a different view the entire time. The world expected a clash of titans with no injury report divulged to the public. Everyone assumed that you were at 100% or almost at the peak of your strength and so tickets have been sold out.

Kuya Manny, a few days after your Mayweather fight, I tried to convince myself that you had hidden the truth for the fight to not be postponed because the other camp might use it a reason to back out. I understand that you had been luring Mayweather for the fight to be realized for so many years. Is that more important than your integrity, reputation and dignity as a man? And just like that, you moved on from one fight to another as if nothing happened.

Sports breathes from hope and to engage in sports is a way to relieve the different forms of stress of life. However, if used the improper way, it can be lethal. A promise of solace can be turned into a nightmare that can haunt the minds of people. That’s exactly what you did, Kuya.

But who am I compared to your greatness? Why should I hold a grudge to you after everything that you’ve done? Is it too hard to forgive another human being and forget all the heartaches?

Whenever I see you in the news or whenever your name surfaces in my conversations with my colleagues and friends, I remember how you made me feel. You brought another exceptional dimension to the word “Filipino” in the international stage. You’re “The Filipino Pride” and “The People’s Champ” and you’ve shown the world what we’re made of.

Yours is a beautiful rags-to-riches story: a mighty warrior who became affluent because of his grit, passion, persistence, and determination. As a storyteller, I fell in love with it. Is it too much to ask for a story book ending in your part?

In his final NBA game, your good friend Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant astoundingly scored 60 points on 22 of 50 shooting against Utah Jazz in 2016. A number of spectators were standing and jumping in the Staples Center arena out of excitement. The mood was festive. Hollywood A-listers were in attendance. He was blessed with an epic ending which is rare for sports legends in history. He retired a winner. After bagging your 60th career win, you have the power to retire a champion.

At 2:43 of the 7th round, you convincingly showed the world what’s left in your tank after defeating the much younger Argentine boxer Lucas Matthysse by TKO and earned the WBA Welterweight title.

But just like a younger brother to his kuya, I hope you retire now from boxing and enjoy more time with your family and loved ones. I’m worried that you might seriously get hurt on your next fight and bid goodbye to the sport you’re passionate about because your mind and body have given up on you. I’m concerned about how your wife Jinkee, your kids, and mommy Dionisia would react if they’ll see you in an unspeakable state. You have nothing else to prove.

Also, please reach out to the LGBTQ+ community and all of those you have offended before. Embrace them with open arms and patiently search for the common ground for us to move forward. I believe you have the heart to spark a real change to the sufferings of our fellowmen. I pray that your health will be at its summit to battle against the more valuable, salient, and pressing issues and challenges that we face as a people in the future. Because your loss is our loss and your win is our win.

Finally, I hope you lend your ears this time.

Sincerely yours,

Ben

(Various versions of this piece appeared on The Sports Column, Read Boxing, Boxing Insider, and United States Sports Academy’s The Sport Digest in July 2018.)

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For Those Who Are Still Hurting, You Are Not Alone

NO, I’M not going to ask you to forget those who caused you pain; those who made you feel small; those who crumpled your person like a piece of paper with their declarations and actions. No, not now.

You know deep within you that you treated them fairly. You undressed your soul under the scorching heat of their presence even if little by little, you’re being burnt. When you smiled at them and whispered your dreams, all you were thinking was the future you’ll subtly paint together on a blank canvas; you were firmly holding your brush without knowing that they were about to let go of theirs.

You accepted them for their persistence. There was a radiant glow in your eyes. They cherished you more than anyone you crossed paths with. And for the first time, someone stared at you the same way you peer at the sunset. Heartfelt. Intimate. Poetic…

You remember everything like it happened yesterday: endless late-night conversations; surprises; secrets; passwords; contact numbers; favorite song, color, artist, coffee flavor, and travel destination; and yes, surreal moments.

You thought they were the one. You saw the signs you were looking for since childhood. You’ve been showered with sunrises. You sincerely whispered to the universe that if you’ll ever meet them, you’ll love them with all you have, with every cell of your body. You expected to set sail smoothly with them while holding their hands and you found yourself in a pit of desperation when you realized that you’ve mistaken; that everything was a fleeting illusion to your preconceived idea of romantic love.

Yes, doubts pierced through your heart. You shut off your closest friends and family and sought for an end to your sufferings. You imagined things you’ve never anticipated to ever invade your awareness.

They disrespected and betrayed you. They didn’t hear your pleas. They were self-absorbed. You convinced yourself that you’re supposed to suffer because that’s what the protagonists in some of the famed movies, novellas, and stories dictated the whole of humanity to be. Suddenly, you could no longer recognize who you are. Every snippet of your conviction, principle, and idealism was gone. And in your core, a burrow scored by their absence lurks like a fictional character who’s about to consume the remaining rays of hope you have. It was dark, murky, and leaden. But please, do not give in.

Let your pillows be witnesses to your grief. Cry and weep and wail until the river of tears dry up. Be consumed with the majestic beauty of literature and the arts. Courageously go on an adventure in other fields and dimensions you’ve never encountered before. Reinvigorate your to-do list. Do things at your own pace. Listen.

Listen to your friends and family when they attempt to comfort you. They’ve always been there for you at the glimpses of your best performances and achievements. Don’t deprive them to be with you at your worst. They saw you at the extent you can never visualize and translate into words in the past; they’ll surely accept you.

Listen to the one gazing at you from the future: the fiercer you. What is life if we get everything we want and prayed for at the moment we expected them to greet us? Where’s thrill, excitement, and pleasure in not challenging the maelstrom of hardships around us? Didn’t we question everything at one point, our decisions, our gifts, our value as a person?

Because today, I’m not asking you to forget the hurt and pain and trouble they inflicted on you; no, not even to show you the path and steps to forgiveness. Instead, may this remind you that there’s someone who believes in you; that in time, all wounds will be healed.

Meaning breathes from tales of triumphs, overcoming of odds, and facing life’s battles head-on. I hope you embrace the process and rediscover yourself all over again. And when the ashes of frustrations of the past subside on the horizon, may your desire to be a comeback story the same way millions of people on the face of this planet strive to do each day overwhelm your heart with interminable virility.

This is a gasping proof that you are not alone.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 3rd of May 2018.)

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When You Finally Find Her, Fight For Her

WHEN YOU at long last met her, don’t expect her to instantly reciprocate your smile, affection, and care. She’s been through a lot and she wouldn’t deftly bare the fountain of her being for you to quench your thirst for every imaginable speck of curiosity you have about her. She’s witnessed them all: the mundane, the humdrum, and the lackluster. The passing of time made her deeply understand the footnotes for every arrival and departure; that the goodbyes of some are inevitable and to be replaced in someone’s heart is a thriving possibility.

When you ultimately decided to solemnly know her, expect her to push you away. Prepare not to cruise on a newly furnished highway complete with post lights and signs but be introduced into a concrete jungle of questions and uncertainties. There will be bricks and tests and sobbing. She easily trusted some people before but they betrayed her and like the morning mist along the shores, no trace of them can be found anymore. Yes, they left without any explanation with all their vows and promises.

When your paths at length crossed, always remind yourself that you only have one chance to be with her. In a world clad with so many options and choices, it’s facile and tempting to believe that someone will come along after her; that there’s a better, more alluring, and more brilliant soul waiting for you; that beyond the horizon is somebody else who’s a better fit to your personality. The truth is, there will always be someone more quick-witted, funnier, and exquisite than her. But remember that she’s more than the generalizations you can imagine. She’s greater than every conceivable affirmative adjective that your mind can pinpoint and grasp.

When your hearts eventually encounter each other, do everything to keep her. Focus on the little things and then to the complex, the grandeur, the complicated differences in your beliefs, principles, and roots. There’s excitement in novelty, in the realization that after a long time of waiting, you’re in each other’s arms. The days and the nights will be unlike before. The sun will shine brighter, everything will feel lighter, and the moon and stars will be clothed with poetry and rhymes. The clouds will have rejuvenated meanings and symbolism and together, you’ll joyfully search for their formations rudderless flowing above. Suddenly, you’ll dance with her under the pouring rain with a kind of music not dictated by external devices but by the voices entangled within you to celebrate life, to forget for a moment all the worries and frustrations both of you should endure.

When you, at last, see her, you may sense discomfort, banishment, and dismissal on her part. Over time, she has convinced herself that she won’t be needing anybody else in her life. She’s strong and confident and equipped with her dreams and passions. Doubts will enter your consciousness on whether you’ll pursue her or not. Recognize that if she’s gone this far, why would she crave for someone to be with her? But no matter how strenuous she is, be there for her. Be courageous and determined. Show your sincerity. Cheer her up, support her, and open her mind to a world she’s never been to before. Prove to her that being alone can be a thing of the past; that you have arrived.

Because when you finally found her, no matter how thirsty and yearning and hankering you are to discover the reservoir of the fountain of her being, you have to be patient. Brace yourself. Stand next to her. Pitch your most cherished coin. Listen. Splatter…

And when you’re both ready, drink.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 19th of April 2018.)

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22. You saw her

And for a moment, everything made sense.

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If You Genuinely And Sincerely Love Her, You Will Love Her Like This

IF YOU love her without pretense, you will welcome the thick, towering walls she had built for herself even before you met her. You’ll not try to shatter or see them as adversaries you have to defeat to find her, to finally have a glimpse of the beguiling soul contently breathing in its innermost and deepest realm. Instead, you’ll embrace them as august fragments of her being. You’ll be patient until she greets you with her infectious laughter and beaming smile because you never deserted her.

If you really love her, you will not entertain the idea of dating anybody else who obviously showed their intent to be with you, to talk to you, to get to know you better. Just the idea of you being with someone else will haunt you. You’ll mightily close your eyes and shut your ears whenever a temptation knocks on your door and windows and imagination. Yes, she’s onerous to decipher but you’ll not stop and give her up just because you’re uncertain about how she feels about you. You’ll not make excuses to forget the words and promises you uttered while holding her hands when you were starting. You’ll hope and wait for her ‘Yes’. You’ll continue to court her even after she confessed that the feeling is mutual.

If you truly love her, you will not leave her hanging. You’ll be brave to tell her how you feel even if your whole body is trembling and the cup of coffee or hot lemon tea you’re holding is splattering brought by her presence. You’ll be honest with her even if you’re scared of being rejected because you know she’s worth it.

If you fervently love her, you will accept her flaws and imperfections. You’ll not use them as your reserved ammunitions and weapons in times of misunderstanding and quarrel. You’ll not bring up her past for you know it will hurt her. You’ll think about what’s best for her and treat her as a valuable vessel, a gift, an answered prayer. You’ll forgive her the same way you exonerate yourself when you commit mistakes and shortcomings.

If you earnestly love her, you will recognize her talents, dreams, and aspirations. You’ll not regard her as a blind, emotionless follower to all your wants and needs. You’ll honor and respect her all the time and view her as a partner in facing each morning’s challenges and surprises. You’ll celebrate her triumphs as yours and will be an unfailing shoulder to cry on in times of grief. You’ll support her in her own endeavors for you know that her success and yours are key ingredients for your connection to continue to flourish and bloom to a greater form.

If you authentically love her, you will set aside your ego and will listen to her thoughts and views. You’ll not degrade her person or abuse her confidence in you. You’ll be transparent in all your dealings and you’ll not hide critical information to her that has a direct effect on your relationship. You’ll safeguard her trust all days of your life.

If you seriously love her, you will shower her with your warmth, artistry, and poetry. With joy, you’ll write her essays and lyrics and letters not just on days or nights you feel like it. You’ll secretly take photographs of her or paint the minute details of her personage on a canvas. Yes, there will be times when you’re occupied, tired, and fed up with life’s expectations and demands, but you’ll make time to be with her even if she doesn’t ask for it. You’ll relentlessly remind her of her beauty, of her strengths, of her brilliance when you sense that she forgets them. You’ll vibrantly reminisce the moments in your past when she made you feel unsure whether she’ll accept you or not; how she single-handedly brought you into a peculiar world you’ve never been before. You’ll sing her songs and dance with her when she’s weary and frustrated and jaded; when failures unceasingly try to put her down and make her doubt the glaring possibilities of tomorrow.

And if you genuinely and sincerely love her, you will be faithful in her presence or absence; whether you hear her voice or not; whether she’s sitting next to you or hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

Because if the kind of love you have for her is pure and untainted, it will reveal itself over time and if you’re fated to be together, she will stay with you with all her thick, towering walls vanished forever.

(Thought Catalog published this piece on the 3rd of April 2018.)

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Running after a Big Bag Wolf

‘Some intellectuals claim that we are not a reading people, but I believe that’s inaccurate’

HAVE YOU ever been to a novel place where you felt like you want to stay there forever?

That is exactly what I experienced when I arrived at the World Trade Center in Pasay City more than a week ago to chase the first ever Big Bad Wolf event in the country.

It’s the brainchild of BookXcess leads Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng, whose main mission is to extend the doors of opportunity to book readers and book lovers who normally couldn’t afford to buy one.

As soon as I stepped foot on the entrance of the building at around one in the morning, a pleasant aroma greeted me which emanated from the smorgasbord of books stationed per category across the 2-hectare floor area of the venue. The chill in my body was something I’ve never experienced before from the throngs of book sales I had been to.

“This one is different,” I said to myself. “A glimpse of heaven.”

I can still recall how my eyes glowed like the sun when I saw the sea of people walking and running and pushing their carts with the same exhilaration I’ve been curbing inside for days leading to opening day. I even thought for a moment that I was in an airport when I saw that some of the shoppers were carrying large bags and boxes, as if they’re going to travel to a remote destination or roam around the world.

The mood was convivial. Pop songs encompassed the enclosed space. The ushers wore their best smiles and first-rate patience. A stranger handed me his own basket. I unhurriedly checked the piles of titles from the right wing of the entryway to the section close to the center.

I read the texts written on the back covers. I smelled them. Secretly. Memoirs. Novels. Non-fiction.

I bought a total of 8 books for about P1,800: Asne Seierstad’s One of Us, David J. Linden’s Touch, Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats, Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Scott Christianson’s 100 Documents that Changed the World, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of A LionDivisadero, and a winner of the Booker Prize, The English Patient.

While the books being sold at the Big Bad Wolf are “remaindered” and launched about 6 months or one year ago (which is why they are priced 60% to 80% lower than in regular bookstores), I still can’t help but feel sorry for the scarce presence of Filipino literature in this mammoth book sale.

As I was about to pay at the cashier, I thought: “Would it be possible to see Filipino authors’ works being sold and showcased at a colossal and noteworthy affair like this someday? Will they be received the same way as J.K. Rowling and R.R. Martin?”

Truth be told, most of the of books I currently have were written by foreign authors. While I read F.H. Batacan, Bob Ong, Laurel Fantauzzo, and Miguel Syjuco, my ignorance on the content, tone, voice and structure of the worlds created by National Artists for Literature F. Sionil Jose, Nick Joaquin, Cirilo F. Bautista and the others is undeniable. I was in high school when I first heard of their names because we were required to read snippets of their artistry in our Filipino class. But when we graduated, and with no quizzes to take, time passed by, and I forgot about them.

When you visit a branch of the Phlippines’ biggest bookstore these days, the themes of their top selling local books revolve around these 3: how to fall in love, how to move on, and how to be loved by your crush. These are the thin, self-help, mind-numbing books that can leave one to ask: “Hanggang dito na lang ba tayo (Is this all we’re capable of)?

The day after I watched his interview with Boy Abunda for National Arts Month, I swiftly searched for copies of National Artist Virgilio Almario’s poem collections in a luxurious mall just a couple of kilometers away from our home. I was appalled that I did not find any trace of his genius; instead I saw Leavs, Faudets, and Kaurs taking over the shelves.

In the face of globalization, English is considered as the most valuable means of communication. As Filipinos, we take pride in our level of proficiency in this language. But with it comes the growing practice of degrading our roots and creativity, and the maltreatment of Filipino poems, essays, and novels, labelling them as corny, subpar, and insignificant. We have so many writers and creators who are discouraged by the feedback they receive from the people around them. There’s no money in writing. It’s useless. You’ll just be a slave all your life. Don’t waste your time in nonsense. Art is dead.

Jose Rizal once said: “On this battlefield man has no better weapon than his intelligence, no other force but his heart.”

Literature and the arts are the soul and heart of a country. They help us unravel some of the unspoken, subdued, and hidden truths around us so that we may understand ourselves better and be introduced to the richness of our history, which will fuel us to act, reevaluate our views, or change our course if the situation demands for it.

If we do not embrace our own gifts and treasures, and if we forget who we are, we may end up cruising on a highway with no direction or maps as references, and unknowingly get into a collision with our fellow travellers.

Some intellectuals claim that we are not a reading people, but I believe that’s inaccurate. I am convinced that we’re still searching for that spark of transcendence, of the drive to take another sound, earnest look at our dying local publishing industry.

We have to change our mindset that the works of foreign authors are innately superior and finer and more magnificent than what we can produce. We have to debunk the colonial mentality that’s deeply ingrained in our culture, or else we’ll live in an endless search for our identity.

Not everyone can declare that they ran after a Big Bad Wolf at one in the morning on a Saturday. With all the courage I have, I did, and I hope you do, too. Forever.

(This piece has been published on Rappler.com’s IMHO on February 24, 2018.)

Photo credit: http://www.bigbadwolfbooks.com

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Mayon volcano and its remains in memory

‘As I held a cup of chili-pili ice cream with the Cagsawa Ruins as my backdrop, I glanced at Kuya. The unfamiliarity and awkwardness forged by his long absence vanished instantaneously.’

WHENEVER I see Mayon volcano in the news these days because of its eruption, I don’t just see ashes and smoke compulsively kissing the sky or lava flowing down its slope. I don’t just sense the fear, pain, or panic of its surrounding residents. It also reminds me of my eldest brother.

In May of last year, the day after one of my sisters got married in Daet, Camarines Norte, I, together with my eldest brother Kuya Oni, his wife and two kids, and my youngest brother Ronnel went on a journey to transform the Google images in our heads into a real one of Mayon, one of the nominees for 2008 New 7 Wonders of Nature located in Albay in the Bicol region about 500 kilometers south of Manila.

I can still clearly remember how I jumped from one humongous rock to another in my attempt to capture the quintessential shot of its perfect cone as Kazuo Ishiguro’s captivating words in his book, The Remains of the Day, flashed in my memory: “What is pertinent is the calmness of beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”

It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision but a planned adventure to witness with our own eyes Mayon’s grandiosity. Spending time with our kuya – an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Qatar – is unpredictable. Sometimes, it would take two or 3 years before we see each other again.

“Who would like to join us tomorrow?” Kuya Oni asked the other members of my family. “Let’s finalize it tonight.”

“Where are we going?” I asked him with excitement.

“To Mayon, Ben,” he answered. “Prepare your things, we’ll leave early in the morning.”

“At last, we’ll see the ‘perfect cone’!” I said.

This conversation may just be a mundane for you. But not for us.

When my father died about a couple of decades ago, Kuya had to mature fast and help my mother in taking care of the family. He was still in college then and I was 9. I was oblivious to the encumbrance that had been swiftly heaped on his shoulders. I thought my father would return someday, that he just had to rest for a while. But after months passed by, little by little, the reality of his death dawned on me.

Kuya was a force of nature, a stratovolcano like Mayon if you will, with his periodic eruptions. In his attempt to discipline us, he imposed his own version of martial law at home. Don’t play outside when it’s already dark or when it’s raining. Take a nap in the afternoon after school. Don’t get into a fight with your siblings. No noise or chitchat. Buy me this and that. When I call out your name, run and stand in front of me.

When you’re a child and you’re forced to stay inside the house while your playmates are enjoying basketball or you hear them giggling and shouting at the top of their lungs under the pouring rain, you question everything even though you’re frightened. Why is he doing this to us?

We didn’t talk that much. He was preoccupied with a lot of things: work, relationship, friends. Looking back, I couldn’t recall a time he divulged his true self or his softer side to me. Rather, there was a wall I couldn’t get through. But as I grew older, I understood why he was like that.

He had to project a strong image for us or else we could have broken down. We needed a source of inspiration, courage, and strength and he provided all that. He finished his degree on time and he is continuously developing himself as a professional in a foreign land. In college, he was considered as one of the outstanding students in his electrical engineering class. The back cover of his thesis is scribbled with praises on how well he handled himself with his peers, professors, and yes, even admirers. He achieved a lot despite the financial challenges he had to face.

During our trip to Mayon, while driving, he made jokes about the distinct smell which emanated from the rows of carabao poop at the side of the road. Like a TV announcer, he gave a blow-by-blow update on the remaining time before we reached our destination. We screamed when we had a first look of the cone-shaped land formation at the right side of our car as we cruised the highway. But seconds later, to our dismay, the vision disappeared as clouds devoured the volcano.

As I held a cup of chili-pili ice cream with the Cagsawa Ruins as my backdrop, I glanced at Kuya. The unfamiliarity and awkwardness forged by his long absence vanished instantaneously. I saw him smile while he carried his daughter and I smiled back at them. It was then that it occurred to me how much he has changed in his ways, actions, and temper. I sensed calmness, peace, and serenity in his eyes. Time and distance indubitably help us transform ourselves for the better.

While Mayon continues to spew multi-storey plumes of smoke and ash and hurl pyroclastic material down its slopes, I don’t just see its wrath. What it reminds me more than anything is that one crisp afternoon in May of last year. It was that peculiar, tranquil moment when I, together with my eldest kuya, stared at Mayon with a sense of hope that someday, if given a chance, we’ll go on another adventure together, share stories of triumphs and failures, and invigorate the sleeping strands between us hanging above the vast ocean or the incalculable, free-flowing molten lava.

(This piece has been published on Rappler.com’s IMHO on February 3, 2018.)

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Grappling Rappler

‘The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services?’

IT’S FRIDAY and the company where I was working was on dress down. I chose to wear a pair of jeans and a black shirt. But as I was riding the northbound MRT-3 train, I looked around and wondered if there were other passengers wearing the same colour of shirt as I do. There were few of them and I sensed that they were also curious. Yes, curious if my wearing black is a form of support on the Black Friday Protest for Freedom action organised by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). The NUJP earlier severely criticized the Securites and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision revoking the registration of the leading news website Rappler. 

In their website, it’s indicated that Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) and “ripple” (to make waves). Without a doubt, they are making waves these days not of stories of various personalities they cover, or of news reports about other entities, but the legality of their existence. When the SEC and Rappler issue broke, I sulked. I couldn’t believe that such incident can happen to one of the media organisations I look up to. Some of the most respected, prominent, and award-winning journalists and writers I know work for or are connected with Rappler. Maria Ressa. Marites Vitug. Chay Hofileña. Glenda Gloria. Patricia Evangelista. 

The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services? 

While the SEC decision was not final and executory, with the political climate the Philippines has, the possibility for the case to reach the halls of the Supreme Court is not startling. But online forums and the comments section have been filled with opinions. For them, Rappler has reached its final destination.

“Maria Ressa is wearing a victim’s cloak” a netizen commented. “In need of attention just like the previous president.” Some of my Facebook friends also despised Rappler for their alleged violation. Suddenly, constitutional experts rose on the occasion. They are doomed, one added. But did they first read the 21-page decision of the SEC before expressing their thoughts online? Did they examine the facts before judging those who side and believe in Rappler as ‘Yellowtards’ and fools?

I’ve seen it before and I am seeing it again. In our attempt to simplify things, we resort to one-liners, labels, and generalizations. These do not accomplish anything but create more divisions. 

In his book Blink, renowned journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

When Rappler published my opinion piece about the subpar MRT-3 train services, some of the commenters were quick to assume that I was a paid writer whose objective was to discredit the actions of the government in addressing the transport system issue. They even judged me as just another Rappler writer who doesn’t see the good in the current administration, its achievements. Without conducting a simple Google search or patiently reading the whole piece, they came up with their own conclusions. These are classic examples of false and uninformed accusations online. 

Because the truth is I care about my country. We write because we believe that something can be done, that there’s still hope, and that those in power didn’t fully shut their ears to listen to another point of view, to fresh perspectives. For a democracy to work, there should be checks and balances and the media play a valuable role in guarding and being the platform for people to practice their right to speech and expression. Yes, they put their lives, their principles on the line. 

With everything’s that’s going on, it’s easy to be swayed by the popular, the majority opinion. Some choose to stay silent because of fear and inconvenience. If indeed Rappler intentionally committed grave contraventions against the provisions of the constitution and that they should be held liable, let the courts decide about it. If they published malicious articles beyond the ethical standards of journalism, which are meant to degrade or disparage a public official and put him or her in bad light, file cases. Let’s recognise the proper forums backed by existing laws and give emphasis on due process. 

Opposing opinions can coexist without us losing our humanity in the process with respect. It can be done without grappling the pens and the mouths of our fellowmen who cry for truth, freedom and justice whether we agree with them or not. Because in the end, while we are busy figuring out how others are different from us with all their ideals and perspectives, we forget to listen, to read, to research, and ultimately, to convince ourselves that in times like this, it’s best to pause and pray for our country with a black shirt on or whatever colour we believe we represent. 

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World leader in porn watching

‘We read news reports like this without blinking an eye. But do we ever ask ourselves where our values have gone?’

WE WERE high school freshmen then. The day before summer vacation was to start, my seat mate Sam handed me a small, thin package. “It’s for you, Ben,” he said. “Open it when you get home.” Wrapped in intermediate paper and placed inside a red plastic bag, it was evidently a video compact disc.

An animated film, like “Toy Story,” maybe? I asked him.

“Just watch it when nobody’s around,” he said. But why? I wondered to myself.

Nonplussed, I ran to the lone room on the second floor as soon as I got home. I took the VCD out of my bag, removed its wrap, and noted that it had some scratches and had no title or picture on either side. I inserted it in the player and saw that it was working. I was all by myself and was thrilled at the prospect of seeing Buzz Lightyear in action.

But it was not “Toy Story” or any other film of the same genre. I saw foreigners. Man. Woman. Naked. Loud sound. Moaning. Sex act…

I turned off the VCD player as quickly as I could, guilt overwhelming my consciousness. What did I just see? I asked myself. I couldn’t move for a few minutes. While blankly staring at the ceiling, I placed my right hand over my heart. It was beating rapidly, as if I were in a marathon. I thought of my parents, my brothers, my sisters.

In our household, as in most other Filipino households, talk about sex, sexuality, and pornography is taboo. It seems to be embedded in our culture to not mention or discuss these topics in the open. They are deemed dirty and dark, unfit for discussion. But isn’t there a disconnect between what we think we believe and what we do?

Go to any commercial area these days in Metro Manila and you will see a different kind of commodity being sold. Yes, you will see fish, pork, or beef presented in a fashion to attract customers in the wet market, but you will also see pornographic DVDs arranged by category on wooden tables stationed in front of fast-food outlets and restaurants: Asian, American, Latin.

In some instances, the trade in such DVDs occurs just a few meters away from a police station. It’s as if this trade is an accepted part of reality, and police authorities have no business hindering this dark business from prospering. But more than what we witness in the real world, there are porn sites galore in the internet, not to mention the occasional pair of naked breasts popping up out of nowhere.

According to Pornhub’s 2017 data, the Philippines leads the world in time spent watching porn, at 13 minutes and 28 seconds on the average. And yes, the Philippines has been acing this category for a number of years now.

We read news reports like this without blinking an eye. But do we ever ask ourselves where our values have gone?

David Segal wrote in “Does Porn Hurt Children?” (New York Times, March 2014): “‘One of our recommendations is that children should be taught about relationships and sex at a young age,’ Professor Horvath continued. ‘If we start teaching kids about equality and respect when they are 5 or 6 years old, by the time they encounter porn in their teens, they will be able to pick out and see the lack of respect and emotion that porn gives us. They’ll be better equipped to deal with what they are being presented with.’”

This recommendation is of a piece with what’s written in Proverbs 22:6 (King James version): “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

About a year ago, then Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial announced a plan of action to block pornographic websites in the country as part of efforts to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS, especially among the youth. This move could have reduced the risk to Filipino adults and children posed by unsafe sexual activities resulting from exposure to porn. But it did not push through.

Humans are not designed to lust after porn models or actors online or in porn DVDs; we are designed to fall in love with one individual with respect and sincerity under God’s guidance. Our body structure and emotions support this. While scientific evidence on the gruesome effects of porn continue to be studied, the safest step to take by young people is to shy away from it to prevent possible addiction to it. If Filipinos take pride in calling ourselves a Christian nation, let’s live by its standards. We should not patronize porn and treat it as part of our lives. Let us make a stand.

Up to this day, I wonder what my seat mate Sam’s intentions were that afternoon when he handed me the porn VCD. If I would be given a chance to talk to him again, I’d tell him how I momentarily froze in shock at what I was seeing. I’d ask him why. But with all the questions, one thing is certain: It’s not supposed to be like this. Because we are not born this way.

(This piece had first appeared in Young Blood, Opinion, Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 14, 2018. Two days later, Thailand’s “The Nation” republished it.)

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Finding Ica and the search for online delicadeza

‘Can I tell these to him or her in person?’

AS THE missing posters of 17-year-old Ica Policarpio with the hashtag #FindIca went viral on social media sites, speculations ruled the public’s consciousness. Sympathy poured for Ica’s family, which has been magnified and deemed serious with the participation of some celebrities in search of a teenager they do not know personally. But with it were excruciating judgments.

She surely eloped with her boyfriend, one declared. Worse, another one added, she’s been kidnapped, raped, killed and then dumped in a creek or river somewhere just like the others. 

When I read these pronouncements, I sulked. I linked my hands at the back of my head with disgust and my appetite to finish reading Miguel Syjuco’s book titled Ilustrado during the holidays has been halted. I went into a familiar state nowadays of those who consume social media for entertainment, news, and expression. It’s the state of puzzlement with the current condition of human behavior, motivations, and values tainted by indifference, insensitivity and lack of natural affection that we witness online. And then, questions arose out of nowhere. 

How did some of us become this harsh online? When did some of us start fashioning careless, lethargic comments to our fellowmen without having full knowledge of the context, the background, and the facts of the trending topic? Why didn’t we consider the subject herself, of her possible reaction after the smoke vanished and the stream of emotions died down? Why did we forget the cinch fact that Ica is a minor and must be given special care and treatment? 

Days after interviews with some of the members of her family have been conducted and the online world still starving with answers, a netizen’s tweet helped find her. 

It’s the 23rd of December. A selfie captured her sitting behind a group of girls while reading a book just outside a coffee shop in a mall. She was all by herself and was later found crying at a carinderia in San Pablo City. Evidently, she’s lost and was going through a “deep emotional distress”.

It was a sweet, mirthful news which ended her more than 60-kilometer journey from Muntinlupa City to Laguna province. Her father immediately asked for understanding and appealed for privacy. But it wasn’t a fairy tale that saw its conclusion with a simple “happily ever after.” No, not when your sympathizers at one point have been fed with fake news and lies in the past. 

Reactions surfaced on my feed. Triumph. Empathy. Tears. Smileys. Doubt. Demands. Closure. 

From a beloved figure, some people described Ica as “papansin,” “bratinella,” and “spoiled brat” among others. Her name has been ridiculed and dragged to the pit of shame online. We deserve an explanation, one of my Facebook friends posted with a hint that Ica probably had taken on a dare called ‘Game of 72’ which involves challenging a friend to go missing for 72 hours without providing any information or update to the family and make certain they panic. 

Have you ever wondered about it? 

As we welcomed the new year based on Gregorian calendar, an opinion poll conducted by Gallup International ranked the Philippines as the third-happiest country in the world. This reaffirmed our optimism and belief that there are still millions of reasons to cheer for. But this is being overshadowed by those moments when we find ourselves actively bullying and ridiculing an individual online. 

Yes, there are hardships all around us. Yes, we face multisectoral challenges that can never be solved by the strongman in Malacañang alone. Yes, our patience is on the brink of exploding brought by the inefficient services we experience everyday of our lives. Yes, we’re tired. But these do not give us the license to be rude to a stranger online. These do not warrant us to be unfair, to be blinded to reason and justice. 

The comments section and our “What’s on your mind” space became our modern day diaries: personal yet at times destructive. We saw avenues for our frustrations, rants, and uninformed opinions to exist. We freely share, post, and treat them as mere constellation of “words” which do not have the capacity to kill someone. But no, we unknowingly commit an unspeakable heinous crime every time we forget that behind each name or photo or poster is a person who just like us has dreams, aspirations, and identity; that similarly, that person has vulnerabilities and is facing battles deep within him or her. 

In every interaction, online or not, politeness, respect and delicadeza are valuable. Before we post or comment, we should first pause and ask ourselves: Can I tell these to him or her in person?

Ica made us realize how limited our grasp is of the reality, of our understanding of the mental health in our country, and how some of us lose ourselves believing that we are entitled for a clamant, elaborate, and intricate explanation on what really had transpired on a trending topic even if the party we cared for asked for space and privacy.

In the future, God willing, when she’s ready and the pain no longer rests in her heart and soul, Ica may go back and choose to have a glimpse at the news reports, the articles, and the posts with hashtag #FindIca on her disappearance. And on that day, at that moment, I would like to tell her that even if I’m a stranger to her, I would like her to remember that she’s not alone. ‘Every teenager is both a hero and a failure,’ Syjuco said in Ilustrado. ‘When we become adults we have to choose where in the middle we’ll be.’ No matter what, she should never give up. Instead, she should be a hero to herself and those around her. I’m glad she found her way back home. Every time, she should remind herself that with God’s help and mercy, she can. 

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Waiting for and praying to Santa

‘In a chaotic time rife with hypocrisy, deceit, and insincerity, there is no better currency to give to another soul, more importantly to the youth and our children, than the truth about spirituality and faith.’

WHEN I was little, there was one night my childhood friends and I have always waited for. Each year, on Christmas eve, we would hang a sock outside our windows before we go to sleep. I thought that if I’ll pray hard enough to Santa Claus, I would wake up on Christmas morning with my wishes and my dreams granted. And if I was good enough and if the hanging sock won’t be enough to contain all the candies and chocolates and toys that he’ll give out of his good heart, he would replace it with a magical bag with remarkable presents. It never happened. Worse, I thought that he was unfair.

After learning that one of my friends had received way better and more special gifts, such as Playstation and bicycle, than I did, I doubted his love and compassion. Shouldn’t he be considerate to everyone?

And then on the third year of patiently waiting to finally see him, to talk to him, and wondering why he made those decisions in the past, I discovered he doesn’t exist.

Covered in bedding, I stayed up until 3 AM. I stared outside the window in the lone room at the second floor of our house with my eyes partially open. It’s the 25th of December. And little by little my mother, who I thought was soundly sleeping next to me, moved closer to the window and slowly put something in the sock. In a cold Christmas morning, I have met my Santa. No, we did not talk and she did not notice me looking at her. I went to sleep and she embraced me.

This truth came to me as a surprise. But don’t we give Santa Claus, a portly, blithesome, white-bearded imaginary character – sometimes with spectacles – clothed with scarlet coat, too much credit?

Some of us tell our children that they should behave themselves if they want Santa to reward them with gifts on Christmas. While this motivates them to be more cautious and responsible about their actions, we lie to them. We make them believe on something that isn’t true, to a fictional man, who they thought has the capacity to know everything they did all year round to judge whether they are worthy or not. Why do we do this?

As a Catholic nation, we have been exposed to a culture copious with questionable teachings and traditions. From the true date of the birth of Jesus Christ to the manner by which we request saints to pray for our sins and transgressions, we’re deemed clueless. In a Catholic prayer titled Hail Mary, it said: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Again, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Doesn’t it mean that we ask Mary, the mother of the flesh of Jesus Christ, to pray for us? Isn’t there a disconnect between asking a dead person do something for the living? Can the saints help to alleviate our sins and intercede for us? Should we call on other names for us to be forgiven from the unrighteous acts we had committed?

Shielding kids from some truths they can’t process is one thing. But when it comes to matters of the spirit, of faith, and of God, it’s a deprivation of a valuable fact if we’re not going to teach them to directly offer their prayers and thanksgiving to the almighty Father in heaven and not to anybody else. In Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version), it says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Santa Claus with his sleigh lead by eight reindeers does not have the capacity to know what we’re doing but God does for His eyes are everywhere. In Proverbs 15:3 (NIV), it says: “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

If we’re to take God’s place for a moment, won’t we get jealous? Because instead of praising Him, the world, in vicious normalcy, replaced Him in the children’s young minds and hearts with an invented figure, a different name. Deuteronomy 5:7-9 (NIV) says: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…”

Neither Paul nor Mary let another human being pray to them. The angels Gabriel and Michael also followed such principle in the Bible. How then can Santa hear our children’s prayers? Aren’t we observing centuries-old traditions for enjoyment, entertainment, and convenience even if we have no idea on their historical and factual background?

In a chaotic time rife with hypocrisy, deceit, and insincerity, there is no better currency to give to another soul, more importantly to the youth and our children, than the truth about spirituality and faith. Gone are the days of being prisoners of the past. If we, the adults, the parents, and the grown-ups are not going to start this revolution deep within us and not stop ourselves from just following the flow without raising questions, who would?

And the recognition of that truth and path is going to be so much more significant to me than what any Santa can present whether he came down from a chimney or not on a cold December morning.

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‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’: Circling back, looking closer

‘But years later, can’t we see the almost similar plot and subplots reverberating in our time?’

AFTER RECEIVING a confirmation email from the cinema manager of a posh mall in the metro that they will be showing the much-awaited film adaptation of F.H. Batacan’s novel Smaller and Smaller Circles for two consecutive weeks, I rushed to check my schedule to buy a ticket on its nationwide release the next day. 

I arrived at the cinema early, and got my ticket for the 6:20 pm showing. With no smartphone to utilize the free WI-FI while waiting, I decided to have a look at the latest book titles at the bookstore adjacent to the cinema. I saw Murakamis, Ishiguros, Gladwells, Leavs, Kaurs on the shelves while I was languidly gliding along the rows and rows of books. Then, I was greeted by Smaller.

It has been over a month now since I last finished reading the book the second time. Yes, that was not our first encounter.

In my attempt to start a conversation with Pat – who would turn out to be my senior high school best friend – while we’re waiting for our next class one crisp afternoon, I asked for the theme of the intriguing book she was holding. I was then sitting on the aisle seat behind her, on the second row. While our other classmates were busy throwing crumpled papers in the air, or talking about their treasured online computer game, or reviewing our lessons for the exam the coming week, I was hooked on the book’s front cover showing a face of a strange man in black background. Published in 2002 by the University of the Philippines Press, it’s the UP Jubilee Student Edition of Batacan’s novella.

“It’s about a serial killer in the slums of Payatas” she said. “The poor victims are pre-teen boys. Do you want to have a look?” Thrilled, I responded, “Sure, thanks!”

I flipped through the pages, glimpsed at the texts written on the back cover, and started reading the book.

Pile of trash. Small, pale, unmoving hand. Mangled corpse. Genitals removed. Peeled face. Mutilated beyond recognition.

It was as if I was taken to a familiar place in cinematic details that I couldn’t move. I froze for a moment. My classmates vanished. The noise transformed into silence. The walls of the classroom have been silently destroyed by the maggots coming out of the boy’s body. And just like that, my heart and my mind were in unison.

Equipped with a two-volume dictionary at home, I intently read each sentence. The author used words I’ve never encountered before. It was a struggle. It was new to me. It was gripping.

Transfixed, I still remember how I intensely tried to hide my emotions. I wanted to cry. Again and again, I reminded myself that it’s fiction, that there’s no way it’s happening; there’s no chance.

But years later, can’t we see the almost similar plot and subplots reverberating in our time?

A pattern on the killings involving teenage boys which was allegedly done to sabotage the current administration’s war on drugs surfaced on the news. Some government officials, who because of the pressure to deliver and exhibit results to their bosses and to the public, purportedly plant evidence and falsely declare innocent, powerless individuals as the murderer, the perpetrator, the killer by conducting brutal tortures and wreak death threats. Some priests and authorities of the Catholic Church, who tell themselves that they carry the truth and that they serve as the guardians of the moral fiber of the society up to this day, ostensibly conceal their unrighteous acts, abuse minors and the weak, and improperly use their influence and power for their advantage.

With all these lurking on our plate, when are we going to wake up?

Frustrated that not so many people showed up in the opening day of the movie adaptation of Smaller, I searched for the Instagram account of award-winning director Brillante Mendoza for consolation. On that same day, he posted: “Film is an art and you cannot expect everyone to appreciate art. You just have to accept that this is the audience that you have. We cannot do anything about it.”

Literature and the arts bring us to places we’ve never been before. They show us perspectives that can shed light to some of the subtle, the hidden, and the unspoken ideas around us; that we may pause to look closer and circle back to the abhorrent fragments of our past to keep them from happening again.

We still have a long way to go but I hope that we’ll someday give time and investment to our quality locally produced films no matter how long or short or wherever the line is.

(This piece has been published in Rappler.com. Opinion, IMHO on the 11th of December 2017.)

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The buried giant embodied in our trains

‘Another point to consider is the psychological impact of witnessing a suicide attempt or a gory accident. What if there are children on the scene? What if they become traumatized? There is also the concern that such suicide attempts or accidents would happen too often that they become considered as part of the normal… We’ve gone through a lot to be deprived of quality services from the government. We have all felt defeated at one point.’

IT WAS a blistering hot afternoon when my northbound Metro Rail Transit (MRT3) train stopped at the Santolan station longer than usual. It’s around 2:40 pm. I was on my way to work. The crowd was not that thick.

After 6 minutes, an announcement was made. I did not understand the message because of the static noise coming out of the speaker. Anxious, I closed the book I was reading. It was a holiday because of the ASEAN Summit 2017.

The train doors remained open. I looked outside to know what’s going on. Not again, I said. A few seconds later, the train’s door closed but I still wondered what had happened.

Accident

Later that day, I heard two of my colleagues talk about news on MRT3. After hearing the details, to my horror, I realized that the delay of the train operations earlier that day was not because of another glitch or a technical problem, but because of a serious accident at the MRT3 Ayala station.

Around 2:30 pm. Woman. 24. Fainted. Fell on the railway tracks. Severed right arm. Cut near her armpit.

I was shocked. I couldn’t utter a word.

At that moment, I remembered another appalling MRT3 incident that occurred in March this year. I was also on my way to work and about to get into the entrance to buy a ticket when I observed that the train was not moving. It was stuck. The entrance had been blocked. Lines of passengers were nowhere to be found. Confusion and chaos were evident.

Out of curiosity, I asked one of the passengers who was forced to get off the train earlier that afternoon, “Sir, what happened?” He responded, “A man jumped onto the rails.”

Why do such incidents keep on happening?

In a 2013 ABS-CBN report, Pinky Webb wrote: “MRT general manager Al Vitangcol said they initially planned to put up screen doors only in 3 MRT stations, namely Taft Avenue, Shaw Boulevard, and North Avenue, by the end of the year…However, because of the recent incident, they will eventually construct the platform screen doors in all 13 stations of the MRT.”

Four years later, not a single station has been installed with a protective barrier.

How many lives have to be lost for the MRT management and the government to seriously act on this? How many more limbs or arms should be injured for those in power to act on commuters’ safety?

Another point to consider is the psychological impact of witnessing a suicide attempt or a gory accident. What if there are children on the scene? What if they become traumatized? There is also the concern that such suicide attempts or accidents would happen too often that they become considered as part of the normal.

We’ve gone through a lot to be deprived of quality services from the government. We have all felt defeated at one point.

The buried giant

I understand that there’s no shortcut in getting funds for platform screen doors or other security and safety upgrades for our trains. But, isn’t it just a matter of prioritization, political will, and accountability?

It has been said that the transport system of a country is a reliable barometer of its advancement, growth, and prosperity. We should aim to be a model of efficient and safe transport systems and services like our other neighbors in Southeast Asia.

But while waiting for that time to come, I hope that we don’t forget our frustrations and challenge those in power to make a difference for the future of our country and for the prevention of suicide attempts and accidents involving our trains.

As what Kazuo Ishiguro write in The Buried Giant, which I was holding inside the train at the Santolan station: “For in this community the past was rarely discussed. I do not mean that it was taboo. I mean that it had somehow faded into a mist as dense as that which hung over the marshes. It simply did not occur to these villagers to think about the past – even the recent one.”

Let’s all recognize and courageously face our society’s buried giants one mist at a time.

(This piece has been published on Rappler.com, IMHO, Opinion, on the 16th of November, 2017.)

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Spirited Away

“It was always an emotional ride from the entrance of the cemetery to his grave close to the center. Spirited away, I succumbed to flashes of memory: his laughter while watching a Dolphy show, his chicken tinola, his low, manly voice, our weekend afternoon sessions of counting the number of white, curly hairs I could pluck from his head, which was directly proportional to the number of pesos I would earn to buy my favorite orange drink and biscuits.”

WEEKS AFTER my father passed away when I was in grade school, I raised a question to our catechist, Ms. Y: “Where does a spirit go after a person dies?” My classmates and I were then sitting on the steps in front of a Catholic church in the financial capital. Ms. Y responded: “Ben, he’s in heaven with God. He’s watching over you. Pray to him every time.” Still baffled, I followed up with more questions: “But will he be bothered if he sees me getting low scores or failing grades, or unable to submit projects on time because of his absence? Does that mean that the dead still think about us, the living? Do they still have problems in heaven, a supposed worry-free paradise?”

At a loss for answers, she moved on with her discussion. But I did not.

In this Catholic nation, it’s instilled in the majority that we should observe Undas, a holiday where families visit cemeteries to lay flowers and light candles on the graves of their loved ones, to honor them.

I still vividly remember how every year after my father’s death, I took on the task of repainting his grave a week before the holiday at the Manila South Cemetery. With a small towel covering my nose to avoid inhaling the vapors from the white paint, I gleefully sang to my father some Fernando Poe Jr. songs, to bond with him, to reminisce on the old days, to feel his presence. FPJ, known as “the King of Philippine Cinema,” was his favorite actor.

After painstakingly removing the wild grass that had grown around his grave, I talked to him, whispered my dreams that I hoped he’d help me realize, and asked him to guard and guide us, especially my mom who had to take on the gargantuan role of being father and mother of the family after he left.

It was always an emotional ride from the entrance of the cemetery to his grave close to the center. Spirited away, I succumbed to flashes of memory: his laughter while watching a Dolphy show, his chicken tinola, his low, manly voice, our weekend afternoon sessions of counting the number of white, curly hairs I could pluck from his head, which was directly proportional to the number of pesos I would earn to buy my favorite orange drink and biscuits.

Years later, I questioned everything.

As a once devoted and proud Catholic, I became more inquisitive about things of the spirit, religion, faith, and the Bible when I entered college. After rereading Jose Rizal’s novels, “El Filibusterismo” and “Noli Me Tangere,” confusion plagued my mind. Rizal is our national hero but I wondered why most of us don’t heed his words. We even have “Rizal” as a required subject in tertiary education, to delve deeper and study his life and works, to learn from him, to inculcate in us the virtues of an exemplar of Filipino brilliance and excellence. But do we understand him? Have we realized the principal reason he was banished, with all his might and courage, from the face of the earth, which we commemorate every Dec. 30? Are we blind to historical facts?

On page 72 of the “Noli,” Rizal wrote: “But now, let’s see how the idea of Purgatory, which is absent from both the Old and the New Testaments, became Catholic doctrine. Neither Moses nor Jesus Christ make the slightest mention of Purgatory…” Yes, purgatory is never mentioned in the Bible. A quick search in your electronic Bible can prove this to you. The question then is: Where did the doctrine of purgatory come from?

What about the scrapping of the doctrine of limbo by then Pope Benedict XVI when he authorized the Catholic Church’s International Theological Commission on April 22, 2007, to publish a 41-page document titled “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized”? In an article written in Rome for Telegraph.co.uk, Nick Pisa reported: “Babies who die before being baptized will no longer be trapped in Limbo following a decision by the Pope to abolish the concept from Roman Catholic teaching.”

Why do we have to light some candles, thick and thin, big and small, during Undas? Why do some Catholics steal and disrespectfully recycle the very candles of their fellow Catholics that are believed to illuminate the path for their deceased? Why are we made to believe that our departed loved ones are guarding and guiding us from heaven? Isn’t it true that the dead know nothing, as what’s written in Ecclesiastes 9:5 (New International Version), “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten”?

For hundreds of years people have been made to believe in doctrines that have no basis in the Bible. Worse, these are just invented teachings that go against the principles of truth and justice. But to no surprise, when I brought this up to the other members of my Catholic family, they were caught uninformed. Because of fear for our souls to be condemned, we grew up following our leaders without testing or asking them, and, like a sail in a vast ocean with no map, GPS tracker, or a virtuoso captain to follow, we’re clueless on why we practice or celebrate centuries-old traditions.

While it is true that we’re a democracy and that our Constitution protects our freedom to choose and practice a religion, it is time to rethink our stand and course. We’re living in a world where access to information is encouraged—something nonexistent when the greatest Filipino who ever lived challenged those in authority in his time using his proverbial pen as his sword. Yes, there’s fake news. Yes, deception is rampant. Yes, it’s an uphill battle to get to the bottom of things. But today, more than ever, we have a duty to get to the truth, for veracity to shine, not just for other people but for our own sake—for our souls.

The choice is in our hands.

And with God’s grace and mercy, someday I hope to talk to my father again. No, not in this world, not next to his grave, or while sitting in front of another Ms. Y, but with the almighty Father in heaven, in his paradise.

(This piece has been published in Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Op-Ed section – Young Blood – on the 31st of October, 2017.)

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A comeback story

Somewhere along the way you’ll get hurt.
Broken promises.
Failed relationships.
Frustrations from all angles.
To face these is inevitable.
But take heart.
What’s life if we get everything we want
and prayed for at the moment we
expected them to greet us?
Where’s excitement in not challenging
our limitations and weaknesses?
We’ve all questioned everything at one
point in our lives – our decisions,
our gifts, our value as a person.
But look at the one gazing at you from
the future – the stronger you.
You’ve gone through this before;
you can do it again.
Meaning breathes from tales of triumphs
and overcoming of odds.
Be a comeback story.

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Sleepless

I rejoice whenever it rains. But everything changed when one night, on my way home from work, I saw how children and women and men sleep next to each other. Their beds? None. They slept on soft drink boxes with no roof to cover them on the sidewalk while public and private vehicles passed by. Headlights exposed their fine details. Stray dogs and cats searched for food on the pile of garbage just few feet away while they’re dreaming. I then asked myself: Where are they going to stay if it started to rain? The Catholic church near their neighborhood’s closed. It haunted me inside out.

I rejoice whenever it rains until last night.

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The Protest

It’s perfectly legal to get angry, to raise your clenched fist, to shout and to have your thoughts made known to those holding the highest positions in the government. With everything that’s going on, it is a natural reaction, a civilized attempt to express. But it’s scarier I believe if the voices of those who care have been shut, the doors and windows to understanding closed, and hope gone. I wonder if the Philippines will one day wake up on an atmosphere of pure hate, hurt, and heresy. Yes, I still wonder because at 4 A.M. my mind wanted to believe that we can get over these humps. I hope that fear will never triumph against the truth… I hope.

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Madness

Challenge me in ways that I’ve
never been challenged
before

Show me things – grand and minute,
subtle and bold, and let’s get drunk
on each other’s fascinations

Let’s not be mediocre, forever
threading what the men and women
before us built for themselves

Be mad at me, really mad,
to the extreme extent not
brought by hatred but
of love

Love me, show me, tell
me every day, every
hour, every time
the sun’s rays
visit your lips

Stay while the storm
displays its wrath, the
noise around us, all the doubts –
be with me still

For you’re my hiding place,
my refuge, the light in
a world that has gone crazy –
sit next to me.

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Tanaw

Pilit niyakap ang katahimikan
sa pagitan, sa kawalan ng
salita na nag-uugnay sa
mga kaluluwa

Naglaho ang dating pagsinta,
ang galak sa puso sa tuwing
naririnig ang tinig, ang
tuwa na hindi maisaysay
ng bibig

Dumarating ang araw na
gaya ng magnanakaw –
pino ang kilos, tumakas ang
kaluskos, ‘di mabanaag na
pagbabadya

Dito natatapos ang lahat –
sa paggapos sa idinidikta
ng puso, sa pagkitil sa pagasa
ng pagsasama, sa pagtitig sa mata
nang ilang sandali pa at ang pagtalikod
sa mga pangarap na hinabi ng panahon

Nagtatalo ang isip kung saan nagkamali,
kung anong dapat baguhin, ang dapat ibawas
at idagdag sa sarili, bagama’t nalalaman na
wala nang iba sapagka’t iniisip na ang pagdating
ay dulot ng taimtim na paghihintay,
sa pagiwas, sa kusang pagtalima

Nguni’t ipakikilala ng araw ang
nakatakda, ang nararapat maganap, ang
hindi maabot ng tanaw, ang nasa
malayo – ang hiling
sa dalangin.

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Be patient.

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Mirror

SOMEDAY, YOU’LL forget about him. You’ll forget about how he made you laugh, yes, even how he made you feel special and appreciated; how he encouraged you to reach your dreams; how he dared you to challenge your own standards and principles; how days seemed to pass by faster than how they should be; how each morning greeted you with hope that you’ll wake up next to him. Someday, all that will be left of him in your memory is the hurt he caused, the sadness he inflicted on you for days or weeks or months, and that moment when you looked at the mirror and saw yourself small. You doubted yourself because of him. But choose to forgive for the future – your future.

Time will pass by and you may forget some details. But he never will – both the smile and the sorrow.

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The Rain

He’s the rain thundering
your entire
rooftop

The tiny drop gently
sliding down
your window

He escapes from the glow
coming out of
your lamp

A sensation, a warmth as you
press your fingertips on
the glass

He’s clinging into
it, holding on a
little longer

Losing grasp,
he leaves
quietly.

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21. Carbonated Fruit Drinks

AS SOMEONE who doesn’t find joy in consuming alcoholic drinks, being an attendee at a party where carbonated fruit drinks have been made available is a gift, a sweet gesture to avoid being out of place. Let’s toast!

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Resistance

Peace will smile at her someday and she’ll try to resist how she feels. But she’ll smile back anyway.

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‘Consistency’ not ‘Intensity’

IF YOU know deep within you that you love someone, don’t settle for anybody else. Don’t call or text or entertain those who express their intent to know you, to be with you. Don’t waste time and energy by giving others hope for your affection. Be courageous enough to tell them how you feel. Choose the one that you love despite all the mysteries, the uncertainties. Be loyal, sincere, and faithful even if all that’s in between you is silence. Relationships, the genuine ones, do not exist because of intensity. They don’t happen overnight or by pouring all the emotions in one sitting. They come into being through consistency. To be willing to listen, to give in, and to put the other person first; to be committed all the time. And nothing is more satisfying than being stared at by someone you waited for because you did not settle with all the tempting, enticing, and riveting roadblocks along the way.

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Fire and Water

He’s fire.
She’s water.
When she tries to be with him, pieces of her turn into vapors. The wind takes them away; they are nowhere to be found. But she craves to be consumed. To sense his warmth. To forget for a moment the cold feeling inside. To decide on her own. Because only then, she’s reminded on how to be alive. She’s still searching for the missing pieces. Yes, up to this day to feel his touch all over again. And he’s waiting for her.

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So you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.

if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

– Charles Bukowski, 1920-1994

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Selfless

YOU DESERVE someone selfless.
Every day.
Every hour.
No, not just on your first two years together when everything’s perfect, smooth, and light.
When you seem to own the world as your eyes meet.
When the outside noise is irrelevant; their opinions, their voices in the background.
You deserve someone who doesn’t put you down but strives for you to reach your full potential.
You deserve someone who stands up for you, who fights for you and who will never give up on you no matter how difficult you can be sometimes.
You deserve someone who chooses you every time.
Keep that someone and be selfless as well.

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Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

– W. H. Auden, January 1939

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20. Elon Musk

“Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.”

I ADMIRE the man for his conviction, for standing up for his principles, for not listening to his idols and mentors on what he has to do, for having deaf ears on their never-ending opinions for him to stop innovating, to back out and forget the idea of challenging this world’s perspectives.

He makes it seem like his bourgeois status is irrelevant whenever he speaks, when he tries to explain things. His eyes glitter like the stars in space. 

But aren’t we tired of the congestion, of inhaling toxic gases everyday from petroleum-fueled cars? 

We are all witnesses on the rising effects of pollution to humanity caused by petroleum-fueled cars. There’s tons of health problems and issues that the governments of the world have to deal with for its citizens. Global warming is happening not because of the of nature’s processes, or the imbalance in the ecosystem. It exists because of our own actions. 

And so, he built Tesla, Inc..

It takes guts to build a company out of nowhere and get over the hump of the financial crisis in 2008. 

Wikipedia described Tesla Inc. as an “American automaker, energy storage company, and solar panel manufacturer based in Palo Alto, California. Founded in 2003, the company specializes in electric cars, lithium-ion battery energy storage, and, through their SolarCity subsidiary, residential solar panels.” 

When I first heard that company name years ago when I was still studying electrical engineering in the university, I remembered right away the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla, who I look up to because of his genius and passion for science. As someone who wanted to work in one of the hardest and most challenging fields ever, he inspired me. There I was, imagining who I could become someday. I also once told myself that it’s so fitting that Elon named his company after Nikola Tesla because of his contributions. It’s a form of respect. 

All creatives works, all novel ideas come from those pioneers and thinkers who are courageous enough to question everything, to take the status quo head-on. They are those who do not dwell too much on the “now” but on what the future holds. We are where we are today because of the continued search of humanity for advancement and progress. But sometimes, we hinder each other, demotivate those who oppose us, those who are different from us, and tell ourselves that we are right without conducting objective examinations. Sometimes, we unknowingly victimize the creative genius in all of us. 

While it is true that owning an electric-powered Tesla car will cost you a fortune, still we should appreciate the attempt to turn this world upside down. 

I hope to meet Elon Musk someday. I hope to have coffee with him. I hope to finish reading all of the books that influenced him. And I hope to personally tell him: “Thank you for your efforts on building a better planet despite all the criticisms, despite all odds. Thank you for weathering the storms. Thank you for being brave.” 

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You

“With your presence, your warmth, I believe I can do great things; that I can reach my dreams with your help. I can’t imagine my existence without You.”

I CAN’T imagine life without You. I can’t imagine doing things just because I want to, or just because of my desires. I can’t imagine waking up each day without giving You thanks or remembering your goodness. With your presence, your warmth, I believe I can do great things; that I can reach my dreams with your help. I can’t imagine my existence without You.

Please talk to me every time, every second of my life. Please be patient with my shortcomings and mistakes. Please listen to my prayers, spoken or not. Please guide me always.

I hope to see You someday, to offer You everything that I have, my whole being. I hope to sing You songs and offer You thanksgiving in your paradise, in eternity.

I hope because you are God and I am not going to ask for anything else.

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Dear words, ideas, and letters

Dear words, ideas, and letters,

Let me sleep tonight. I’ll listen to you as soon as I wake up. You can bug me the whole day all over again if you want to. Or if you get tired, find someone else. You’re free to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Your writer

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Escape

“When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives?”

IF YOU want to start a war and destroy a territory of your adversary, you don’t divulge your plans. You just do it. No threats. No clamor for the world’s attention. No senseless imaginary epistles to the media.

The North Korea’s leadership in its desire to infiltrate the world over the past few years have been doing unspeakable things. Labeled as a rebel to a world where the international police is the United States, they continuously terrorize the psych of those who wanted to keep the current order.

Can you imagine being one of the more than 160,000 people living and working in Guam with a looming threat for you to be vanished on the surface of the Earth? Can you imagine attempting to sleep at night before the deadline thinking that you might no longer see tomorrow with all its beauty and grace? I can’t.

I still wonder what’s really going on in North Korea. There were reports of starvation, deprivation, and abuse towards its citizens. When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives? I pity those people: brainwashed, ignorant of the outside world, walled literally by the selfishness of those who call themselves leaders of the new world.

The coming days will be interesting. The hype is here.

North Korea succeeded in getting the attention of all of us. The next question is, what now? According to the latest report, they delayed the launch of the missiles to pulverize Guam as an ally, a forward fortress of the United States in Asia-Pacific. But for how long? Is it just a stunt, a publicity, a tiring move of North Korea for it to test its presence in the political arena?

I hope that no war will emerge in the coming decades between countries. We’ve all seen and read how destructive and pointless wars are to those involved: lost lives, gone dreams, and endless call and cry for help.

We are all different. We are diverse. We all want to move forward, to be in a better position, to be great. But again and again, we have two options on how we can achieve these: to promote life and peace or to be catalysts for destruction.

They say that history dictates who the heroes and villains are; books marvel the real ones and forget the pretenders.

But today, all we can do is to keep believing. To believe that the threat to our lives will no longer be there; that they managed to escape from us.

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19. Passing the interview

“In a one-click-please-answer-me-now world where Google is at the top of the food chain in technology, it is expected that one can easily answer the questions cited. But no, it’s not the case.”

NOBODY LIKES to be rejected. It is an innate need for us to be accepted, appreciated, and valued by other people. It’s one of the reasons why there’s awarding ceremonies, recognition days, and ‘best’ and ‘most outstanding’ titles that the world societies give to deserving individuals.

But we’ve all gone through it or faced it. A simple job interview maybe weeks or months after school or college graduation. By then, with all the might that we have, we faced men and women in suits, ties, and leather shoes. It’s no longer a joke. Everything’s real and we’ve got to cope or else we’ll be left behind in life.

Come to think of it. For more than a decade, we’ve unconsciously prepared for this momentous event. Yes, we want to be successful, to earn money, to buy everything that we want. We want to enjoy, be in a more comfortable position, and sip hot green tea in an island in the Pacific. We crave for meaning among the millions of things around us. But nobody told us the Dos and Don’ts in an interview.

Hearts pumping. Sweats everywhere. Minds juggling.

What are your weaknesses? How about your strengths? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What is your greatest achievement? Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you?

In a one-click-please-answer-me-now world where Google is at the top of the food chain in technology, it is expected that one can easily answer the questions cited. But no, it’s not the case. Because some of us memorize what we’ve got to say for the Big Day, we forget the essentials why managers and executives sit down to talk to us (some do it over Skype or through a telephone call). One can easily sense if the provided was based on a script in a computer or smartphone somewhere. The interviewers are not dumb to fail in measuring you up. Interviews happen to gauge you, your values, your virtues, your principles, your outlook, and you, the whole package. Accepting you means saying yes to a future that they cannot foresee with your talents and capabilities. It’s a form of investment.

Failing an interview happens. It happens to those who are not qualified or to those who did not prepare: being oblivious, not following the dress code, being impolite, unorganized resume, missing documents, wandering mind. To be accepted and appreciated and valued is something that we all long for. But first, we should ask: Do I really want this? Did I make the necessary preparations? Can I imagine myself working in this corporation, company, or entity?

It is not easy to pass an interview. But if you’re chosen and if you’re deserving of a nod, of a yes, of the opportunity, expect that you’ll exit the door with a smile on your face or you’ll wave goodbye at the person on the other side of the screen with gratitude in your heart.

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18. One train ride, two weathers

“I find it fascinating how the train’s doors can be one’s windows on this journey.”

EVERYDAY, I ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) to go to work. Most of the time it’s crowded. But sometimes, seats are empty, the existence of air conditioning units can be felt because of the cold breeze coming out of them, and the passengers vibrantly chatting to each other; men and women and children, all collected in a closed, moving machine.

But in a rare occasion, while cruising through the highway, I observed how weather changed. At the Guadalupe station, it’s raining so hard that you can imagine yourself enveloped in your white, comfy bed sheet in your room. The vehicles on the street are stuck and wet. Small and large, private and public, they have the same fate. But four stations later and after few kilometers, the concrete road below seems untouched by a raindrop. It’s like you’re looking at a different world. And with wonder, you realize that you became a link to two dimensions.

I find it fascinating how the train’s doors can be one’s windows on this journey. They say that the MRT reveals who we really are. But I think it also reveals the variations in different places, the weather, the people, the clouds above. It reveals the complexities of the things around us, that what’s happening to one place can’t be expected to unfold to another. Nothing is really the same or equal. We can choose to think of all the complaints that we wanted to address to its management whenever we’re informed that a defective train causes the delay or we can choose to just enjoy the ride.

And at the end of the day, it all boils down to our perception, to our eyes, to us.

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17. The sun’s up

“We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.”

WHEN DID you last look up at the sky to appreciate the heat and light coming out from the sun? When did you last pause to see the finer details of life?

We’re all busy doing a lot of stuffs. There’s a mountain of responsibilities and deadlines that have to be met and sometimes, these things exhaust us. I know the feeling. I understand. But because of all these things, we sometimes forget to give ourselves a break; to reflect and once and for all determine to ourselves the essentials of everyday existence, the reason behind everything, our ends.

While we understand that everything that we see is fleeting, we’re consumed by our own doing. We are spirited away from the meaning of everything because of all the noise, news, frenzy, trends, and flash reports.

Today is a start to do otherwise.

Give thanks and smile at the Starbucks crew who prepared your drink and wrote your name on its container. Help that old woman at the stairs on her way to the train station’s ticket booth. Press that up or down button when you see a hopeful passenger rushing to get inside the elevator when you got off. Yes, even if she’s few meters away; sacrifice a lit bit.

If you have spare time, remind yourself of the joy you had when one afternoon you just stared at how nature moves: the ants as they transport their food or tirelessly search for one, the waves of the ocean that bring peace inside, the wind that caresses you every time, and the sun as she continuously glows with your appreciation or not.

And say, “There’s more to life than this.”

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16. Published

“I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about.”

WHEN I first held a copy of Philippine Daily Inquirer years ago (the largest and greatest of Philippine broadsheets) and realized that they accept column article submissions, I told myself that someday, I should get published there. I fell in love with its opinion column ‘Young Blood’ where the twenty-something and below gets featured. It was then that I dreamt of being a writer.

I’m still a work in progress, every aspiring writer will tell you that. But after getting published, it kindled hope in me to be a regular contributor. It became a catalyst for me to be a better observer, a finer listener, and to pause more. A lot of things are going on and it is our job to translate them into words. Sometimes I sulk after learning that an unexpected thing happened which is natural.

I can say that being idealistic is an important element to be able to write. You have to hope that there’s a better world ahead and you have to be part of the public discourse, a contributor, to get it. You may fail miserably, you can get rejected multiple times but these are all part of the process. I can’t think of a successful writer today who never experienced rejection.

To understand that there’s a gatekeeper who filters all of the submissions makes it beautiful. To understand that millions of people wanted to write but die dreaming about it places writing at a whole new level. I believe that everyone’s a storyteller but the challenge is to have a grasp on what’s worth writing about. We have our own gift, our own passion when it comes to creativity. We all have our own point of view which surely differs from others; different opinions on an issue or an idea. different mindsets.

But isn’t it true that every published work humbles you? It is not easy to generate ideas. You have to keep moving, keep believing, keep working. Yes, it’s work because you spend time, energy, and intellect to accomplish it. But since you enjoy doing it, time flies by without you knowing it.

I still have a lot of dreams but I hope that this will remind me every now and then that they are attainable. And I hope that it will do the same to you.

To just keep going. To write.

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15. Pluviophiles

“It’s when raining that everything makes sense.”

I LOVE it whenever it rains. I like the cold weather, the bed weather, the suspension of classes (when I was still at school) because of the heavy rain. I like listening to the sound of every drop, the tiny and huge ones; the roof asking for mercy on its never-ending greetings.

They call us Pluviophiles, those who find joy and peace of mind during rainy days. For a number of times, I bicycled while it was raining, played basketball with my friends during a downpour, finished reading a book in one sitting while there’s a typhoon, and challenged myself to a 10K road run while everyone’s inside their houses watching programs on tv or savoring their hot, flavorful soup.

Rain cleanses our roads and reveals our inability to follow simple rules like throwing our garbage at the right place. Whenever it rains continuously, some areas become flooded. You can see plastic bottles and plastic bags floating; street kids diving into the murky water as if it’s a swimming pool.

Rain transforms us. More likely, traffic’s everywhere. People are on the rush to escape, to get off the road, to reach their destinations. But if you’re stuck, moods change, conversations become lighter, and we get to see and observe the little things around us.

It’s when raining that everything makes sense.

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An Open Letter To ‘Kita Kita’ (I See You)

“We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people.”

Dear you,

At a time when we grew tired of being bombarded with films with worn out formulas and endless sequels, you came as a delightful surprise. We felt helpless when the news broke that the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) changed its format all over again and chose to revert to its old self which saw the return of familiar staples in the annual showcase. But being pulled out of last year’s roll of MMFF movies with all the controversy that surrounded it is the best thing that happened to you. 

You are an unexpected visitor in our consciousness and so, I would like you to have this that we may not forget each other as time passes by. Let me reminisce the memories we had the same way Tonyo and Lea (played by comedian Empoy Marquez and award-winning actress Alessanda de Rossi respectively) did. It’s about an hour and a half of a roller coaster ride that you and I experienced together. Let me start counting: 

One. One bicycle ride of Lea in the introduction and it hit me. I remembered a scene in the 2000 South Korean romantic television drama Autumn in My Heart where the main characters were biking on their way home from school. The background music was captivating. Lea’s vibrant face greeted us with a smile. Her eyes were magical. 

Two. Two questions popped inside my head: Firstly, did Alessandra and Empoy really act?  And secondly, is it true that they’re not friends before? It’s as if cameras were positioned in front of them and everything just unfolded, like in a reality show. It’s as if they’ve known each other so well that we felt the comfort in every pat on the shoulder, hands, and sometimes on the face. We saw ourselves in them, on how we deal with our friends and loved ones.

Three. Three elements made you outstanding: unconventional love team, cinematography, sincerity. Infested with ‘pabebe’ love teams around, the pairing of Empoy and Alessandra is something that we’ve never seen before. The visual texture of the film, the pacing, the overall mood are remarkable. As a country that has gone crazy with South Korean dramas, you captured us with pleasing imagery all shot in a foreign land: a garden with various types of flowers, plain green fields, rain. But more than these, you’ve shown us sincerity. Yes, sincerity that we’ve not felt in Filipino movies in a long time. I sensed it in every line, in every laughter whenever a joke is delivered.

Four. Four producers gambled on you. Piolo Pascual, film director Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo and Suzanne Shayne Sarte made it possible for you to exist. It’s a difficult time for producing films. How many film studios have gone bankrupt in the Philippines? How many creatives and writers tried but failed? But they saw something in you. They saw your potential and cleaved to that. They’ve displayed courage all throughout the process which is a great example to us. 

Five. Five times I tried to stop myself from crying. Five times I saw those sitting at my left shed tears because of you. 

Six, seven.  Six or seven times I reminded my mother who’s in her sixties to refrain from giving her comments to some scenes for it might distract the other audience members. In the past, we would humorously tell her to not sleep inside the theater or she’ll miss the flow of events. But for the first time since she got her senior citizen I.D. card which gives her the privilege to watch movies in all theaters in our city for free, she did not fall asleep watching you. You got that hook. 

Eight. Yes, for eight instances I watched your trailers. It is also the number of times I hoped that you’ll be a blockbuster. I felt how your writer and director, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, attempted to offer us a novel recipe that we can enjoy and be proud of. And she succeeded. No pretensions. No awful chemistry. No forced twists in the story. 

Nine. You left me with nine trademarks that will forever stay with me: cabbage, teddy bear, banana, heart, bell, bowls of ramen, Sapporo beer cans, paper cranes, and baby dragonfly. You gave each of them a different meaning that has never entered our imagination before. You thought us how to look at the minute details, the small things, and know how to value them. 

Ten. Ten million pesos was the amount of money that has been spent to bring you to life. But you know what? Because of that amount, we got to see ourselves better. We realized what we’ve been missing, what we’ve been waiting for, what it takes for us to willingly go to a theater and spend a little amount to treat film as an art form, an experience, and arm ourselves with so much respect to our culture and our gifts as a people. 

They say that your success banked on word of mouth. But I believe, it is because of word of heart. Our hearts finally spoke after a long time of silence and we just listened to them. You are a relief, a refreshing reminder of who we are as Filipinos. You made us believe again on our creative capacity, on our genius when it comes to storytelling, and on our distinct voice deep within us; that we may see and love even with our eyes closed.

Thank you for everything.

Sincerely yours,

Kabayan

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14. Having a mentor

“A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst.”

CAN YOU consider your boss a caring mentor? How about your teacher at school? Or does your trainer constantly motivate you to reach your full potential?

We all need honest and sincere people in our lives. They are those who are willing to take the risk to divulge to us the areas where we can improve on, the part of our work where we miserably break, the shortcomings that we overlook. We need another set of eyes from those who truly want us to progress and not be stuck. Not for anything else, not for their personal gains, not for their biases, but because they feel that it’s the right thing to do and because jealousy and selfishness are not in their vocabulary. We receive absolution from them whenever we feel like we committed mistakes that we’re guilty of or whenever we fail them.

While it is true that there are times when we suffer just seeing our mentors, those moments that they share with us their lives is more important. They are supposed to inspire us. We listen to their feedback and adhere to their advice after careful analysis in our head.

Various books have been published about leadership, mentorship, and success. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers said that those who succeed in life do not just have talents. There are a lot of people who are talented but are not successful. He discussed the value of timing, influence, culture, and environment for one to stand out and reach their peak. And in the environment, our mentors are included.

Their presence in our lives is a game changer. Mentors pave the way for us to have a glimpse of another point of view. Another point of view means comparison. One gets to have the choice on what path to take, when to pull the trigger, and better understand the consequences of every decision.

A great mentor does not just point to you the negatives but also the positives. They should meet you at your best and remind you that there’s still tomorrow even at your worst. They’ve been there and done that. Their experiences are unquestionable only if you know each other very well. Trust is vital for any relationship to work.

If you have a mentor that you look up to, be grateful. Not everyone is given a chance to have one. They help us create things and with grit, make a difference.

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13. Family dogs

“It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.”

I USED to hate dogs. I used to cringe every time I see one wandering on the streets under the open sky, near our house, or even inside my room. They’ll bark at you unceasingly if you’re a stranger to them. Some will bite you without any notice or voluntarily and confidently share their saliva by licking your feet, your hands or sometimes your toes.

I can still remember how I told myself that I will never touch a dog again. In my childhood, one afternoon, our family dog bit me on my right cheek while I was eating a crispy fried chicken leg. My mom immediately approached me and tried to disinfect the wound with soap and running water. Her grip of the nozzle is still vivid in my memory. I couldn’t understand the gravity of what happened and the possible consequences of being bitten by our dog then. I didn’t know that it has to be taken seriously.

After going through careful examinations in the hospital, my mom told me to be brave because I had to be injected with Rabies vaccine just to make sure. I took more than five shots. All the doctors were fond of saying the same thing every time they held my arms: “Be a man… It’s just like a bite of an ant.” 

But one day that fear vanished inside. Everything changed when my younger brother bought an apple head Chihuahua in a pet store in the neighboring city. My family named him Chua and he greets me whenever I get home. He runs so fast that those sleeping in our living room have no choice but to be awakened. No, it’s not because of his short, loud cry but because he runs over them. He’s a consistent and amenable welcome committee member.

Wagging tail. Tiny paws. Hanging tongue.

I would play with him as he nuzzles my leg and my anxieties would temporarily exit my mind. My initial distaste for him transformed into delight. It was in his second month with us that the answer to why some owners sleep next to their dogs came to me.

With the right fit and timing, fun will show itself naturally. Give it some time.

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12. Discovering that you are a creator, an artist

“Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary.”

IF YOU see yourself as a creative, do not give up. If you believe that you are an artist, embrace and nurture your craft. If you think that every cell of your body directs you to do more, to work on your passion, to reach the farthest limits of your imagination, try. And if an idea pops up in your head out nowhere, while you’re brushing your teeth, while taking a bath, while pouring tomato sauce on your plate to make your special dish, while walking, jogging, or sprinting, while waiting for the one that you love in a cafe, Japanese restaurant, or on a bench somewhere, while reading a book, or while riding a bicycle, a car, or a seesaw in a park, listen.

The world is filled with people who call themselves artists and poets and writers but do not know when to listen and be brave enough to spend their time to give their art its own form, life, and space. They do not want to feed themselves with new perspectives. Everyone is born a creator but not all of us are courageous enough to face its inexplicable faces, its inescapable enigma.

Fail. Stand up. Discover the creator, the artist in you even if sometimes it’s scary. I know because it frightened me to write this.

But we both know that there’s no other way.

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11. Finally owning a copy of the book you love

“Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we?”

TRUTH BE told, being a book hoarder or a book lover is not easy. You plot your calendar with nearby book sales, you ask your friends if they want to donate their books to you or you carry a basket around a bookstore and try to limit yourself with the budget for that month. Most of the time you fail. You just don’t know why.

But there are just some books that even if you wanted to own them and embrace them and smell them the first time you saw them, you just couldn’t. You wait for the right timing, the perfect opportunity. Sometimes, they are the hardbound books with glossy pages, full of pictures and texts that can blow your mind away. You crave for them. They are the type that you prepare for, think about, and not just settle for if you don’t want to go home empty-handed after going for a hunt in the mall.

Yes, it’s a blasphemy to treat a book as more special than its neighbors by just the cover, or the author, or the summary at the back cover. But we’re all guilty of this crime, aren’t we? We have our favorites. We fell in love in the author’s way of thinking, their perspective, their choice of words; the structure, the voice, and the characters they created.

Tonight, I am going to open the pages of a coffee table book by Kuya Daniel Razon. The title of the book is Get It Straight with Daniel Razon. Tonight, I am going to revisit the interviews the award-winning journalist had, the issues that have been tackled, the truth at every turn of the page. Tonight is the night that I’ve been waiting for. I was not present during the book launch more than a month ago but to understand that there’s more to the book than meets the eye is a treat itself.

Stephen King, Malcolm Gladwell, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Adam Grant are some of the greatest authors today and I own a copy of almost all of their books. But that one purchase, that one black coffee table book by Kuya will always be in a league of its own.

So at this point, think about that one author that you admire most. Think about the things that you realized after reading one of his or her works. What did you feel when you first held it in your hands? What were your thoughts?

Of the mountains of books that a book hoarder or a book lover has in any part of the world, there will always be that book that will stand out the most. And that book, whether hardbound or not, whether made of glossy pages or not, is what they’ve long waited for.

It’s all worth it, isn’t it?

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Na-‘Kita Kita’

“Siyam na beses din akong aasa na hudyat ito sa muling pagtitiwala nating mga Filipino na kaya nating makagawa ng quality films na tatangkilikin at pararangalan maging sa international stage.”

HAYAAN MONG gaya nina Tonyo at Lea, magbibilang ako:

Isa. Isa kang rebelasyon, Empoy. Pinahanga mo kami. Matagal ko nang naisip na higit ka pa sa pagiging komedyante, isa kang artista. Naramdaman ko ‘yon noon dahil ‘ika nga nila, kapag komedyante ka, marami kang hugot, maraming pinagdaanan. Salamat pinatawa mo ‘ko sa sinehan kasama ang pamilya ko ng ilang beses. Maraming pinaiyak ang sulat mo.

Dalawa. Dalawang tanong ang nabuo sa isip ko habang pinapanood kita, Alex: una, umarte ka ba?; pangalawa, bakit parang ang tagal n’yo nang magkasama ni Empoy? Parang ang nangyari eh tinapatan ka ng camera, kinilig at lumabas ang dimple nang natural, at ayun! pelikula. Salamat sa mga patak ng luha mo sa dulo ng obra. Hanggang ngayon, hindi makamove-on yung ate ko sa napanood niya.

Tatlo. Tatlong elemento ang kapansin-pansing angat ang pelikula: unexpected love team, cinematography, at pacing. Pang-international yung dating. Salamat direk Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. Isa kang alamat! Hinangaan ko ang bawat eksena at anggulo. Nakagawa ka ng isang produkto na may kombinasyon ng lahat ng mga nabanggit na kinunan sa ibang bayan.

Apat. Apat ang producers ng pelikula: Piolo Pascual, Direk Joyce Bernal, Erickson Raymundo at Suzanne Shayne Sarte. Maraming salamat sa pagtaya. Sa panahon na nilalangaw ang industriya ng pelikulang Filipino eh naglakas-loob kayong gumawa, magisip, at magpuyat. Salamat sa pagpapanumbalik ng tiwala sa talento natin bilang mga storytellers at creators. Salamat sa respetong ibinigay ninyo sa aming mga manonood. Nabusog kami sa halakhak, lungkot, musika, saging, puso, at tunog ng kampana.

Lima, Anim, Pito. Naglalaro dito ang dami ng beses na pinaalalahanan ko ang nanay ko sa pagbibigay niya ng komento sa mga eksena. Madilim ang sinehan, maraming tao, at oo libre ang senior citizen sa sine sa Makati area.

Walo. Walong minuto bago mag-umpisa, ang haba ng pila para makabili ng cheese popcorn. Sa pagmamasid sa paligid, ilang dipa lang ang layo ng ilang tv personalities na nagaabang: Julius Babao, Bubbles Paraiso, Raymond Gutierrez. Physically fit na nga si Raymond gaya ng nabalita.

Siyam. Siyam na beses kong pinanood ang trailer. Siyam na beses din akong umasa na sana maging blockbuster movie ito ngayong taon matapos ipull-out last minute sa MMFF 2016. Siyam na beses din akong maniniwala na hudyat ito sa muling pagtitiwala nating mga Filipino na kaya nating makagawa ng quality films na tatangkilikin at pararangalan maging sa international stage.

Sampu. Sampung milyong piso ang budget ng pelikula. Inasahan ng mga producers na kikita ito ng 50 hanggang 60 milyong piso. Sa huling ulat, umabot na ito sa 200 milyong piso. Samantalang hindi ang takilya ang sukatan ng value ng isang work of art, gaya ng pangunahing karakter nito sa una, may higit pa sa nakikita ng mga mata. May ipinaramdam ang ‘Kita Kita’ sa mga manonood na matagal nilang hindi naramdaman sa ipinalabas na mga pelikula sa Pilipinas.

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Dear Boy who’s named after Superman

Dear Boy who’s named after Superman,

From the moment
We laid our eyes on you
We imagined the great things
We’ll do together and we
Knew something was real:

You got us with your smile, Kent.

Every time we held you
Your warmth ruled us with
Pure, unpretentious love
A feeling that God has
Reserved for us.

You travelled with us, talked to us
In a language that at first we
Couldn’t understand
But the joy in between us
Bridged the gap.

We were given two years to enjoy
Each other’s company
It was a short time
We will surely miss you.

We’ll miss how you stare at us
How you tried to mimic how we speak
How you embraced us with
Your soft, tiny arms
How we held hands when
You had your first walk.

We’ll miss how an icing
Covered your face on
Your birthday and your
Dimples made our day.

We’ll miss your sincerity
Your voice, your peace
Your laughter in times of
Chaos and celebration.

We’ll remember you for all these
For the adventures that
We shared together.

And everyday we thank God
For meeting you
For witnessing your
Extraordinary journey.

You will always be our Superman
Our little boy with an imaginary
Cape made from heaven.

Love you always,
Your family

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Fallin’

On this day, he gave her a flower as one should,

With a poem unlike no other because he could,

She loved its scent like a lively butterfly in a garden,

And in a sea of strangers, she whispered, “I’m fallin’.”

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Wally

Napangiti ako nang makita kang muli,

Itinaon sa kaarawan ng kaibigang matalik,

Sa harap ng TV, nakayukong nag-sorry,

Bakas lungkot sa mukha, humihibik.

 

‘Di ko naisip na may pangalawang pagkakataon,

Sa iyo’y igagawad sa susunod pang mga taon,

Nguni’t pinatunayan, may higanteng kaloob,

Sa sibat ng manguusig, ‘di nagpakubkob.

 

Sa unang Kalyeserye, inaabangan ka,

Sampu ng milyun-milyong tao na umaasa sa komedya,

Himala ngang tunay, ang kalimutan ng madla,

Iskandalong bumalot, anino ng mala-payasong karera.

 

Traffic sa EDSA, nawawalang parang bula,

Tindahan nagsasara, taxi at trike tigil-pasada,

Nando’n sila nakatunghay, naguumpukan,

Animo’y mga langgam, bago pumatak ang ulan.

 

“Lola Nidora” ang trending mong ngalan,

Sa Wikipedia entry, mababasa kung bubuksan,

Nacurious ako sa pinanggalingang bayan,

Bikolano ka rin pala, gaya ng aking mga magulang.

 

Nais kong malaman mo – nagagalak kami para sa’yo,

Kahit alam naming sa loob mo, puso’y nagdurugo,

Dahil pagkatapos ng palabas, papasok ang katotohanan,

Isa sa mga anak – nasa pagamutan, malubha ang kalagayan.

 

‘Di lang ako natuwa nang iyong hadlangan,

Pagkikita ng Albub, ‘di na lang split screen ang pagtitinginan,

Acting ni Maine Mendoza, mukhang totoo na!

Akala ko ba dapat mahinhin, gaya ng isang dalagang Filipina?

 

Naisip na pamagitan – plywood lang naman,

Maigting na pagyakap, hindi pa pinagbigyan,

Ilang dipa na lang ang agwat, ‘di pa nag-atubili,

Ano ka ba Alden? Nag-moment pa kasi!

 

Iyong mga kasama, todo ang suporta,

TVJ pangunahin na, si Michael V nag-post pa nga,

Commendation, wika niya, sa’yo ay nararapat!

Nakabangon ka na nga, sa pagpapala ‘di salat.

 

Inyong programa, may dalang aral sa tuwina,

Pagtupad sa pangako at salita, walang kasinghalaga,

“Patawad mga kababayan,” ilang beses nang nasambit,

Panghahawakang mahigpit, pagbabagong pilit.

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Ulan, Tren, at Gabi

Naramdaman mo ba ‘yung hangin, tila malamig?

Parang may sinasabi, sa una’y malabo ang himig,

Ngunit habang tumatagal, lumilinaw, nauunawa,

Hindi ko alam kung dahil sa ulan, o dala ng awa.

  

Napansin mo ba na tuwing gabi, madalas,

Naglalakbay ang diwa, hindi mo namamalas,

Gaya ng ibon sa himpapawid, isip mo’y laya,

Nagbabago kang bigla, nagiging makata. 

 

Noo’y iniisip ko, lahat ng tao ganito,

Ngunit nagunita na mali ang akala ko,

Hindi lahat may ganitong pagkakataon,

Ang ila’y nagsasabi na walang kabuluhan, dapat itapon.

  

Pinilit kong itago ang pag-ibig sa letra at salita,

Dahil ang inhinyero, sabi nila, ay marapat na hilig ay agham at matematika,

Hindi ba’t marami pang higit sa numero?

O dahil makitid ang daluyan ng dugo sa kanilang ulo?

 

Magsulat ka hanggang kaya mo,

Gaya ng ginawa ni Rizal para sa’yo,

Hindi siya nagpapigil sa armas ng kalaban,

Dala niya’y may kapangyarihang humiwa, tagos kalamnan.

 

Naramdaman mo ba ‘yung hangin, tila may ibinubulong?

Sa tuwina na lang habang nasa tren, jeep o naghihintay sa kakanlong?

May mga namumuong ideya, pangungusap, kumakatok, naghahanap ng masisilungan,

Mapalad ka, kasapi sa lahing tagapag-ingat ng kanilang pahingahan.