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 in’s IMHO on February 24, 2018.)

Photo credit:


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 in IMHO, Rappler on February 3, 2018.)

Photograph: Acayan/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock


Grappling the Rapplers?

‘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. 



Europa Pebrero 1889


Nang aking sulatin ang Noli Me Tangere, tinanong kong laon, kung ang pusuang dalaga’y karaniwan kaya diyan sa ating bayan. Matay ko mang sinaliksik yaring alaala; matay ko mang pinagisa-ngisa ang lahat ñg dalagang makilala sapul sa pagkabatá, ay mañgisa-ñgisa lamang ang sumaguing larawang aking ninanasá. Tunay at labis ang matamis na loob, ang magandang ugalí, ang binibining anyó, ang mahinhing asal; ñgunit ang lahat na ito’y laguing nahahaluan ñg lubos na pagsuyó at pagsunod sa balang sabi ó hiling nang nagñgañgalang amang kalulua (tila baga ang kaluluwa’y may iba pang ama sa Dios,) dala ñg malabis na kabaitan, kababaan ñg loob ó kamangmañgan kayá: anaki’y mga lantang halaman, sibul at laki sa dilim; mamulaklak ma’y walang bañgo, magbuñga ma’y walang katas.

Ñguní at ñgayong dumating ang balitang sa inyong bayang Malolos, napagkilala kong ako’y namalí, at ang tuá ko’y labis. Dí sukat ako sisihin, dí ko kilala ang Malolos, ni ang mga dalaga,liban sa isang Emilia, at ito pa’y sa ñgalan lamang.

Ñgayong tumugon kayo sa uhaw naming sigaw ñg ikagagaling ñg bayan; ñgayong nagpakita kayo ñg mabuting halimbawa sa kapuá dalagang nagnanasang paris ninyong mamulat ang mata at mahañgo sa pagkalugamí, sumisigla ang aming pag-asa, inaaglahì ang sakuná, sa pagka at kayo’y katulong na namin, panatag ang loob sapagtatagumpay. Ang babaing tagalog ay di na payukó at luhod, buhay na ang pagasa sa panahong sasapit; walá na ang inang katulong sa pagbulag sa anak na palalakhin sa alipustá at pagayop. Di na unang karunuñgan ang patuñgó ñg ulo sa balang maling utos, dakilang kabaitan ang ñgisi sa pagmura, masayang pangaliw ang mababang luhá. Napagkilala din ninyo na ang utos ñg Dios ay iba sa utos ñg Parí, na ang kabanalan ay hindi ang matagal na luhod, mahabang dasal, malalaking kuentas, libaguing kalmin, kundí ang mabuting asal, malinis na loob at matuid na isip. Napagkilala din ninyo na dí kabaitan ang pagkamasunurin sa ano mang pita at hiling ñg nagdidiosdiosan, kundi ang pagsunod sa katampata’t matuid, sapagka’t ang bulag na pagsunod ay siyang pinagmumulan ñg likong paguutos, at sa bagay na ito’y pawang nagkakasala. Dí masasabi ñg punó ó parí na sila lamang ang mananagot ñg maling utos; binigyan ñg Dios ang bawat isa ñg sariling isip at sariling loob, upang ding mapagkilala ang likó at tapat; paraparang inianak ñg walang tanikalá, kundí malayá, at sa loob at kalulua’y walang makasusupil, bakit kayá ipaaalipin mo sa iba ang marañgal at malayang pagiisip? Duag at malí ang akalá na ang bulag na pagsunod ay kabanalan, at kapalaluan ang mag isipisip at magnilay nilay. Ang kamangmañgan’y, kamangmañgan at dí kabaita’t puri. Di hiling ñg Dios, punó ñg kataruñgan, na ang taong larawan niya’y paulol at pabulag; ang hiyas ñgisip, na ipinalamuti sa atin, paningniñgin at gamitin. Halimbawá baga ang isang amang nagbigay sa bawat isang anak ñg kanikanyang tanglaw sa paglakad sa dilim.

Paniñgasin nila ang liwanag ñg ilaw, alagaang kusá at huag patain, dala ñg pag-asa sa ilaw ñg iba, kundí magtulongtulong magsangunian, sa paghanap ñg daan. Ulol na di hamak at masisisi ang madapá sa pagsunod sa ilaw ñg iba, at masasabi ng ama: “bakit kita binigyan ng sarili mong ilaw?” Ñguni’t dí lubhang masisisi ang madapá sa sariling tanglaw, sapagka’t marahil ang ilaw ay madilim, ó kayá ay totoong masamá ang daan.

Ugaling panagot ng mga may ibig mang ulol, ay: palaló ang katiwalá sa sariling bait; sa akalá ko ay lalong palaló ang ibig sumupil ng bait ng iba, at papanatilihin sa lahat ang sarili. Lalong palaló ang nagdidiosdiosan, ang ibig tumarok ng balang kilos ng isip ng DIOS; at sakdal kapalaluan ó kataksilan ang walang gawá kundí pagbintañgan ang Dios ng balang bukang bibig at ilipat sa kanya ang balá niyang nasá, at ang sariling kaaway ay gawing kaaway ng Dios. Dí dapat naman tayong umasa sa sarili lamang; kundí magtanong,makinig sa iba, at saka gawain ang inaakalang lalong matuid; ang habito ó sutana’y walang naidaragdag sa dunong ng tao; magsapinsapin man ang habito ng huli sa bundok, ay bulubundukin din at walang nadadayá kungdí ang mangmang at mahinang loob. Nang ito’y lalong maranasan, ay bumili kayo ng isang habito sa S. Francisco at isoot ninyo sa isang kalabao. Kapalaran na kung pagka pag habito ay hindí magtamad. Lisanin ko ito at dalhin ang salitá sa iba.

Sa kadalagahang punlaan ng bulaklak na mamumuñga’y dapat ang babai’y magtipon ng yamang maipamamana sa lalaking anak. Ano kaya ang magiging supling ng babaing walang kabanalan kundí ang magbubulong ng dasal, walang karunuñgan kungdí awit, novena at milagrong pangulol sa tao, walang libañgang iba sa panguingue ó magkumpisal kayá ng malimit ng muli’t muling kasalanan? Ano ang magiging anak kundí sakristan, bataan ng cura ó magsasabong? Gawá ng mga ina ang kalugamian ngayon ng ating mga kababayan, sa lubos na paniniwalá ng kanilang masintahing pusó, at sa malaking pagkaibig na ang kanilang mga anak ay mapakagaling. Ang kagulañga’y buñga ñg pagkabatá at ang pagkabata’y nasa kanduñgan ñg ina. Ang inang walang maituturó kundí ang lumuhod humalik ñg kamay, huwag magantay ng anak ng iba sa duñgó ó alipustang alipin. Kahoy na laki sa burak, daluro ó pagatpat ó pangatong lamang; at kung sakalí’t may batang may pusong pangahas, ang kapangahasa’y tagó at gagamitin sa samá, paris ng silaw na kabag na dí makapakita kundí pag tatakip silim. Karaniwang panagot ang una’y kabanalan at pagsinta sa Dios. Ñguní at ano ang kabanalang itinuró sa atin? Magdasal at lumuhod ng matagal, humalik ng kamay sa parí, ubusin ang salapí sa simbahan at paniwalaan ang balang masumpuñgang sabihin sa atin? Tabil ng bibig, lipak ng tuhod, kiskis ng ilong….. bagay sa limos sa simbahan, sangkalan ang Dios, may bagay baga sa mundong ito na dí arí at likhá ng Maykapal? Ano ang inyong sasabihin sa isang alilang maglimos sa kayang panginoon ng isang basahang hiram sa nasabing mayaman? Sino ang taong dí palaló at ulol, na mag lilimos sa Dios at magaakalang ang salantá niyang kaya ay makabibihis sa lumikhá ng lahat ñg bagay? Pagpalain ang maglimos sa kapus, tumulong sa mayhirap, magpakain sa gutom; ñguní at mapulaan at sumpain, ang biñgi sa taghoy ng mahirap, at walang binubusog kundí ang sandat, at inubos ang salapí sa mga frontal na pilak, limos sa simbahan ó sa frayleng lumalañgoy sa yaman, sa misa de gracia ng may tugtugan at paputok, samantalang ang salaping ito’y pinipigá sa buto ñg mahirap at iniaalay sa pañginoon ñg maibili ng tanikalang pangapus, maibayad ng verdugong panghampas. Ó kabulagan at kahiklian ng isip!

Ang unang kabanalan ay ang pagsunod sa matuid, anoman ang mangyari. “Gawá at hindí salitá ang hiling ko sa inyo” ani Cristo; “hindí anak ni ama ang nagsasabing ulit-ulit ama ko, ama ko, kundí ang nabubuhay alinsunod sa hiling ñg aking ama.” Ang kabanalan ay walá sa pulpol na ilong, at ang kahalili ni Cristo’y di kilala sa halikang kamay. Si Cristo’y dí humalik sa mga Fariseo, hindi nagpahalik kailan pa man; hindí niya pinatabá ang may yaman at palalong escribas; walá siyang binangit na kalmen, walang pinapagcuintas, hiningan ng pamisa, at di nagbayad sa kanyang panalangin. Di napaupa si San Juan sa Ilog ng Jordan, gayon din si Cristo sa kanyang pangangaral. Bakit ngayo’y ang mga pari’y walang bigong kilos na di may hinihinging upa? At gutom pa halos nagbibili ng mga kalmen, cuentas, correa at ibapa, pang dayá ng salapi, pampasamá sa kalulua; sa pagkat kalminin mo man ang lahat ng basahan sa lupá, cuintasin mo man ang lahat ng kahoy sa bundok ibilibid mo man sa iyong bayawang ang lahat ng balat ng hayop, at ang lahat na ito’y pagkapaguran mang pagkuruskurusan at pagbulongbulongan ng lahat ng pari sa sangdaigdigan, at iwisik man ang lahat ng tubig sa dagat, ay di mapalilinis ang maruming loob, di mapatatawad ang walang pagsisisi. Gayon din sa kasakiman sa salapi’y maraming ipinagbawal, na matutubos kapag ikaw ay nagbayad, alin na ngá sa huag sa pagkain ng karne, pagaasawa sa pinsan, kumpari, at iba pa, na ipinahihintulot kapag ikaw ay sumuhol. Bakit, nabibili baga ang Dios at nasisilaw sa salaping paris ng mga pari? Ang magnanakaw na tumubos ng bula de composicion, ay makaaasa sa tahimik, na siya’y pinatawad; samakatuid ay ibig ng Dios na makikain ng nakaw? Totoo bagang hirap na ang Maykapal, na nakikigaya sa mga guarda, carabineros ó guardia civil? Kung ito ang Dios na sinasamba ñg Frayle, ay tumalikod ako sa ganyang Dios.

Maghunos dilí ngá tayo at imulat natin ang mata, lalong laló na kayong mga babai, sa pagka’t kayo ang nagbubukas ng loob ng tao. Isipin na ang mabuting ina ay iba, sa inang linalang ng fraile; dapat palakhin ang anak na malapit baga sa larawan ng tunay na Dios, Dios na dí nasusuhulan, Dios na dí masakim sa salapí, Dios na ama ng lahat, na walang kinikilingan, Dios na dí tumatabá sa dugó ng mahirap, na dí nagsasaya sa daing ng naruruhagi, at nangbubulag ng matalinong isip. Gisingin at ihandá ang loob ng anak sa balang mabuti at mahusay na akalá: pagmamahal sa puri, matapat at timtimang loob, maliwanag na pagiisip, malinis na asal, maginoong kilos, pagibig sa kapuá, at pagpipitagan sa Maykapal, ito ang ituró sa anak. At dahil ang buhay ay punó ng pighatí at sakuná, patibayin ang loob sa ano mang hirap, patapañgin ang pusó sa ano mang pañganib. Huag mag antay ang bayan ng puri at ginhawa, samantalang likó ang pagpapalaki sa batá, samantalang lugamí at mangmang ang babaing magpapalaki ñg anak. Walang maiinom sa labó at mapait na bukal; walang matamis na buñga sa punlang maasim. Malaki ngang hindí bahagyá ang katungkulang gaganapin ng babai sa pagkabihis ng hirap ng bayan, nguni at ang lahat na ito’y dí hihigit sa lakas at loob ng babaing Tagalog. Talastas ng lahat ang kapanyarihan at galing ng babayi sa Filipinas, kayá ñgá kanilang binulag, iginapus, at iniyukó ang loob, panatag sila’t habang ang iba’y alipin, ay ma-aalipin din naman ang lahat ng mga anak. Ito ang dahilan ng pagkalugamí ng Asia; ang babayi sa Asia’y mangmang at alipin. Makapangyarihan ang Europa at Amerika dahil duo’y ang mga babai’y malaya’t marunong, dilat ang isip at malakas ang loob.

Alam na kapus kayong totoo ñg mga librong sukat pagaralan; talastas na walang isinisilid araw araw sa inyong pagiisip kundí ang sadyang pang bulag sa inyong bukal na liwanag; tantó ang lahat na ito, kayá pinagsisikapan naming makaabot sa inyo ang ilaw na sumisilang sa kapuá ninyo babayi; dito sa Europa kung hindí kayamutan itong ilang sabi, at pagdamutang basahin, marahil ay makapal man ang ulap na nakakubkob sa ating bayan, ay pipilitin ding mataos ñg masantin na sikat ñg araw, at sisikat kahit banaag lamang… Dí kami manglulumo kapag kayo’y katulong namin; tutulong ang Dios sa pagpawí ñg ulap, palibhasa’y siya ang Dios ñg katotohanan; at isasaulí sa dati ang dilag ñg babaying Tagalog, na walang kakulañgan kundí isang malayang sariling isip, sapagka’t sa kabaita’y labis. Ito ang nasang lagì sa panimdim, na napapanaginip, ang karañgalan ñg babaying kabiak ñg pusó at karamay sa tuá ó hirap ñg buhay: kung dalaga, ay sintahin ñg binatá, di lamang dahilan sa ganda ó tamis ñg asal, kundí naman sa tibay ñg pusó, taas ñg loob, na makabuhay baga at makapanghinapang sa mahiná ó maruruwagang lalaki, ó makapukaw kayá ñg madidilag na pagiisip, pag isang dalaga bagang sukat ipagmalaki ñg bayan, pagpitaganan ñg iba, sapagka at karaniwang sabi sabi ñg mga kastilá at pari na nangagaling diyan ang karupukan at kamangmañgan ñg babaying tagalog, na tila baga ang mali ñg ilan ay malí na nang lahat, at anaki’y sa ibang lupá ay walá, ñg babaing marupok ang loob, at kung sabagay maraming maisusurot sa mata ñg ibang babai ang babaying tagalog…. Gayon ma’y dala marahil ñg kagaanan ñg labí ó galaw ñg dilá, ang mga kastilá, at parí pagbalik sa Espanya’y walang unang ipinamamalabad, ipinalilimbag at ipinagsisigawan halos, sabay ang halakhak, alipustá at tawa, kundí ang babaing si gayon, ay gayon sa convento, gayon sa kastilang pinatuloy, sa iba’t iba pang nakapagñgañgalit; sa tuing maiisip, na ang karamihan ng malí ay gawá ñg kamusmusan, labis na kabaitan, kababaan ñg loob ó kabulagan kayang kalalañgan din nila…. May isang kastilang nagayo’y mataas na tao na, pinakai’t pinatuloy natin sa habang panahong siya’y lumiguyliguy sa Filipinas… pagdating sa Espanya, ipinalimbag agad, na siya raw ay nanuluyang minsan sa Kapangpañgan, kumai’t natulog, at ang maginoong babaying nagpatuloy ay gumayon at gumayon sa kanya: ito ang iginanti sa napakatamis na loob ng babayi… Gayon din ang unang pahili ng pari sa nadalaw na kastila, ay ang kanyang mga masusunuring dalagang tagahalik ng kamay, at iba pang kahalo ang ñgiti at makahulugang kindat… Sa librong ipinalimbag ni Dn. Sinibaldo de Mas, at sa, iba pang sinulat ng mga pari, ay nalathala ang mga kasalanang ikinumpisal ng babai na di ilinilihim ng mga pari sa mga dumadalaw na Kastila, at kung magkaminsan pa’y dinadagdagan ng mga kayabañgan at karumihang hindi mapaniniwalaan… Di ko maulit dito ang mga di ikinahiyang sinabi ng isang fraile kay Mas na di nito mapaniwalaan… Sa tuing maririnig ó mababasa ang mga bagay na ito’y itinatanong namin kung Santa Maria kaya ang lahat ng babaying kastila, at makasalanan na kaya baga ang lahat ng babaying tagalog; ñguni kong sakali’t magsumbatan at maglatlatan ng puri’y… Datapua’t lisanin ko ang bagay na ito, sapagka’t dí ako paring confesor, ó manunuluyang kastilá, na makapaninirá ñg puri ng iba. Itabi ko ito at ituloy sambitin ang katungkulan ñg babai.

Sa mga bayang gumagalang sa babaing para ñg Filipinas, dapat nilang kilanlin ang tunay na lagay upang ding maganapan ang sa kanila’y inia-asa. Ugaling dati’y kapag nanliligaw ang nagaaral na binata ay ipinañgañganyayang lahat, dunong, puri’t salapi, na tila baga ang dalaga’y walang maisasabog kundi ang kasamaan. Ang katapang-tapañga’y kapag napakasal ay nagiging duag, ang duag na datihan ay nagwawalanghiya,na tila walang ina-antay kundi ang magasawa para maipahayag ang sariling kaduagan. Ang anak ay walang pangtakip sa hina ñg loob kundi ang alaala sa ina, at dahilan dito, nalunok na apdo, nagtitiis ñg tampal, nasunod sa lalong hunghang na utos, at tumutulong sa kataksilan ñg iba sa pagka’t kung walang natakbo’y walang manghahagad; kung walang isdang munti’y walang isdang malaki. Bakit kaya baga di humiling ang dalaga sa iibigín, ñg isang marañgal at mapuring ñgalan, isang pusong lalaking makapag- ampon sa kahinaan ng babai, isang marangal na loob na di papayag magka anak ng alipin? Pukawin sa loob ang sigla at sipag, maginoong asal, mahal na pakiramdam, at huwag isuko ang pagkadalaga sa isang mahina at kuyuming puso. Kung maging asawa na, ay dapat tumulong sa lahat ng hírap, palakasin ang loob ng lalaki, humati sa pañganib, aliwin ang dusa, at aglahiin ang hinagpis, at alalahaning lagi na walang hirap na di mababata ñg bayaning puso, at walang papait pang pamana, sa pamanang kaalipustaan at kaalipinan. Mulatin ang mata ñg anak sa pagiiñgat at pagmamahal sa puri, pagibig sa kapua sa tinubuang bayan, at sa pagtupad ñg ukol. Ulituliting matamisin ang mapuring kamatayan saalipustang buhay. Ang mga babai sa Esparta’y (=Sparta) sukat kunang uliran at dito’y ilalagda ko ang aking halimbawa: Nang iniaabot ñg isang ina ang kalasag sa papasahukbong anak, ay ito lamang ang sinabi: “ibalik mo ó ibalik ka,” ito ñga umuwi kang manalo ó mamatay ka, sapagkat ugaling iwaksi ang kalasag ñg talong natakbo ó inuwi kaya ang bangkay sa ibabaw ñg kalasag. Nabalitaan ñg isang ina na namatay sa laban ang kanyang anak, at ang hukbo ay natalo. Hindi umiimik kundi nagpasalamat dahil ang kanyang anak ay maligtas sa pulá, ñguni at ang anak ay bumalik na buhay; nagluksa ang ina ñg siya’y makita. Sa isang sumasalubong na ina sa mga umuwing galing sa laban, ay ibinalita ñg isa na namatay daw sa pagbabaka ang tatlong anak niya,—”hindi iyan ang tanong ko ang sagot ñg ina, kundi nanalo ó natalo tayó?—Nanalo ang sagot ñg bayani. Kung ganoo’y magpasalamat tayo sa Dios!” ang wika at napa sa simbahan.

Minsa’y nagtagó sa simbahan ang isang napatalong harí nila, sa takot sa galit sa bayan; pinagkaisahang kuluñgin siya doon at patain ñg gutum. Ñg papaderan na ang pinto’y ang ina ang unang nag hakot ñg bato. Ang mga ugaling ito’y karaniwan sa kanila, kayá ñga’t iginalang ng buong Grecia (=Greece) ang babaing Esparta. Sa lahat ñg babai, ang pulá ñg isa ay kayo lamang na taga Esparta ang nakapangyayari sa lalaki. Mangyari pa, ang sagot ñg babai, ay kami lamang ang nagaanak ñg lalaki. Ang tao, ñg mga Esparta ay hindí inianak para mabuhay sa sarili, kungdi para sa kanyang bayan. Habang nanatili ang ganitong mga isipan at ganitong mga babai ay walang kaaway na nakatungtong ñg lupang Esparta, at walang babaing taga Esparta na nakatanaw ñg hukbo ng kaaway. Dí ko inaasahang paniwalaan ako alang-alang lamang sa aking sabi: maraming taong dí natingin sa katuiran at tunay, kundí sa habito, sa putí ñg buhok ó kakulangan kayá ng ngipin. Ñguní at kung ang tanda’y magalang sa pinagdaanang hirap, ang pinagdaan kong buhay hain sa ikagagaling ng bayan, ay makapagbibigay ñg tandá sa akin, kahit maiklí man. Malayó ako sa, pagpapasampalataya, pag didiosdiosan, paghalili kayá sa Dios, paghahangad na paniwalaa’t pakingang pikit-mata, yukó ang ulo at halukipkip ang kamay; ñguni’t ang hiling ko’y magisip, mag mulaymulay ang lahat, usigin at salain kung sakalí sa ngalan ng katuiran itong pinaninindigang mga sabi:

Ang una-una. “Ang ipinagiging taksil ñg ilan ay nasa kaduagan at kapabayaan ñg iba.”

Ang ikalawa. Ang iniaalipustá ng isa ay nasa kulang ñg pagmamahal sa sarili at nasa labis ñg pagkasilaw sa umaalipustá.

Ang ikatlo. Ang kamangmañga’y kaalipinan, sapagkat kung ano ang isip ay ganoon ang tao: taong walang sariling isip, ay taong walang pagkatao; ang bulag na taga sunod sa isip ng iba, ay parang hayop na susunod-sunod sa talí.

Ang ikaapat. Ang ibig magtagó ñg sarili, ay tumulong sa ibang magtagó ñg kanila, sapagkat kung pabayaan mo ang inyong kapuá ay pababayaan ka rin naman; ang isa isang tingting ay madaling baliin, ñguní at mahirap baliin ang isang bigkis na walis.

Ang ika-lima. Kung ang babaing tagalog ay dí magbabago, ay hindí dapat magpalaki ñg anak, kungdí gawing pasibulan lamang; dapat alisin sa kanya ang kapangyarihan sa bahay, sapagka’t kung dili’y ipag kakanulong walang malay, asawa, anak, bayan at lahat.

Ang ika-anim. Ang tao’y inianak na paris-paris hubad at walang talí. Dí nilalang ñg Dios upang maalipin, dí binigyan ñg isip para pabulag, at dí hiniyasan ñg katuiran at ñg maulol ñg iba. Hindí kapalaluan ang dí pagsamba sa kapuá tao, ang pagpapaliwanag ñg isip at paggamit ñg matuid sa anomang bagay. Ang palalo’y ang napasasamba, ang bumubulag sa iba, at ang ibig paniigin ang kanyang ibig sa matuid at katampatan.

Ang ika-pito. Liniñgin ninyong magaling kung ano ang religiong itinuturó sa atin. Tingnan ninyong mabuti kung iyan ang utos ng Dios ó ang pangaral ni Cristong panglunas sa hirap ñg mahirap, pangaliw sa dusa ñg nagdudusa. Alalahanin ninyo ang lahat ñg sa inyo’y itinuturó, ang pinapatuñguhan ñg lahat ng sermon, ang nasa ilalim ng lahat ng misa, novena, kuintas, kalmen, larawan, milagro, kandilá, corea at iba’t iba pang iginigiit, inihihiyaw at isinusurot araw-araw sa inyong loob, taiñga, at mata, at hanapin ninyo ang puno at dulo at saka iparis ninyo ang religiong sa malinis na religion ni Cristo, at tingnan kung hindí ang inyong pagkakristiano ay paris ng inaalagang gatasang hayop, ó paris ng pinatatabang baboy kayá, na dí pinatatabá alang alang sa pagmamahal sa kaniya, kundí maipagbili ng lalong mahal at ng lalong masalapian.

Magbulay-bulay tayo, malasin ang ating kalagayan, at tayo’y mag isip isip. Kung itong ilang buhaghag na sabi’y makatutulong sa ibinigay sa inyong bait, upang ding maituloy ang nasimulan ninyong paglakad.

“Tubó ko’y dakilá sa puhunang pagod” at mamatamisin ang ano mang mangyari, ugaling upa sa sino mang mañgahas sa ating bayan magsabi ng tunay. Matupad nawá ang inyong nasang matuto at harí na ñgang sa halaman ñg karunuñgan ay huwag makapitas ñg buñgang bubut, kundí ang kikitili’y piliin, pagisipin muná, lasapin bago lunukin, sapagka’t sa balat ñg lupá lahat ay haluan, at di bihirang magtanim ang kaaway ng damong pansirá, kasama sa binhí sa gitná ñg linang.

Ito ang matindin nasá ñg inyong kababayang si…


Europa, 1889.


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.


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, IMHO, Opinion, on the 16th of November, 2017.)


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, 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.)



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 sleep on soft drink boxes with no roof to cover them on the sidewalk while public and private vehicles pass by. Headlights expose their fine details. Stray dogs and cats search 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.