Thursday, December 6, 2012


He counted the men with powerful tools and concluded that they are almost as many as the thirty armed uniforms that came to assist them. The resonance of the beating and piercing instruments reminded him of the same sight five years ago – when ‘they’ demolished his make-shift home upon the court's order. The scars on his head are still throbbing.

His home is similar to the first house they beat with their metal claws; tearing the tin roof apart, kicking the wooden frames, flaking all the tin sheets which served as its cheap wall. In exactly five minutes, they’re done with it. A man with a plastic crown pointed towards his direction and for a moment he frost.

“Ket kasanu? Inya ngay garud ket saan yu nga kanya daytoy lote? Apay Ada TRO yu….?” they approached his home.

He didn’t really understood what TRO is, but, the sight of the gang with big metal tools clearly scared him. He understood that he has to go. “Sir, mabalin nga iparwar tayu pay dagitoy usar ko?”, he can only plead. The engineer batted his eye, he knew that the guy with a plastic crown hated his job. This job.

After pulling out his things, he reminisce the places where he found the bed sheets, the old plastic chair, the frying pan…even that old calendar with a pretty woman. He had felt joy on each event he picked those things because he can add them to his little kingdom. He was, after all,  born poor and had lived with his mother before she died. He didn't have a family since then. He came to the city years ago and managed to survive by doing any work that requires physical is the only thing that he can offer - his arms, his shoulder, his hips, his legs. These, he knew, won't last for a very long time.

The gang members with metal tools were laughing. It has something to do with one of them who joked about “squatters”. He is familiar with the term because he had heard it often, and have learned to shun it. However, he couldn't understand why one can laugh even on the sight of a grieving person. He only needed less than ten square meters for his life – a place to stay, a place to hide against the sun,  the chill, the rain. 

He heard that the owner already has a lot of houses. He only prayed for a box which he can run to. He wandered away and wept.

He asked God why some people have everything, and some have none; like his existence, his dirt-like existence. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica: 'God'

(I wrote this for my Educ1b subject when I was in college - hence, the poor organization of ideas. It may not reflect my present views of the metaphysical, but it does comfort me to know that I have thought of these before. :)

One of the greatest discussions and debates on the early cold centuries of humanity is the the existence of a god, or a transcendent being – the ultimate reality that rises above all other existences. Throughout civilization, loads of theologians and philosophers have come up with various propositions and philosophical ideas to disprove or approve the existence of a higher being. The debates never really ended as it was, at a point, not really understood – many modern thinkers have regarded it as if it was without a purpose, nor a meaning.

It was on the 11th up to the 15th century when much of the theologians used rationalization and reason to justify a higher being’s existence. It was called scholasticism, which was primarily employed by Thomas Aquinas – one of the great Christian theologians who used this mode of thinking at that time. He published the Summa Theologica in hopes to enlighten the world, and resolve the existential debates, but just like most discoveries and works of man, it faded – buried by tons of counter-prepositions and principles.

One primary flaw of Thomas’ Scholasticism is its very own design. Faith, in which the movement should protect, had been ironically made an option -- scholasticism created a world where reason and faith co-existed (perhaps a perfect excuse to cure its imperfections). However, faith can never be one with reason. The Judeao-Christian concept of faith is to believe without question, that is faith. It will be a great contradiction for Christianity to betray its own foundation by engaging itself to the same weapon which was mainly used by its enemies and critics – logic and reason. It is also very interesting to note that Aquinas used limited objectives on the complicated question of whether a god exists or not. He did not consider any  ‘other’ objectives that ‘may be’ present outside his own mind. Many philosophers, especially existentialists and atheists had come up with hundreds of objectives and questions which were challenging even for Aquinas to answer using his few objectives and propositions (the biggest is Science). In the later years after he died, numerous critique by modern day philosophers dug a pit for his work by citing a comical  cherry-picking on the application of faith and reason in interpreting the bible. From Noah's ark to Yahweh's 'favoritism'.

Thomas Aquinas’ main idea of a 'main mover' in his ‘God’ chapter actually encompasses his sum of five ways. Considering that he used the realm of logic to explain an illogical phenomenon is not just ironic but irresponsible on his part ("since everything that is moved has a mover" logic). The bible cannot explain the universe, at least logically; it cannot explain the event when a woman sprouted from a man’s rib, the  friendly co-existing animals in the garden of Eden, among others. In the realm of reason, the bible stories play like myths and fairy tales. It is also inconsistent to select which part of the bible uses logic, and which part uses faith. If we think that, say, an eternally burning bush is logical, then we are betraying our faith; if we use faith to validate such unusual experience, then we cannot be logical in its sense. See, no matter how impossible and illogical an existence can be, if a person has faith, then he or she must not need any explanation. That is faith, far from the logic used by Scholasticism. To use the Scripture to explain a universal existence damages the fact that other civilizations believe in their own god, outside the Jewish and Christian belief of ‘God’. Would it not constitute prejudice to the different civilizations on the corners of the world to assert a predisposition which intends to serve a selfish desire of personal salvation? Or the; “if you don’t join us, then burn in hell” mentality? Perhaps faith, is simply a belief taught by a society which one, in the sheer accident, belongs to - I, for instance, would've been a muslim if I was born in an Arab country.

Another of Thomas Aquinas’ greater flaw is to 'assume'. How could he be sure that all his reasons exist in such a very enlightened mind (such like his)? How could he assume that there should be an order and a mover? How could he use the system governing the inexplicable universe  in explaining the system that could explain a god’s existence? What made him rank his ways into a more obvious or not? If there is really a prime mover, how could he be sure that the prime mover was the Christian God? How could he say that ‘all man’ recognized the Christian God as their own god? What made him think that he can lay and post his own premise and answer it in his own theories alone?


See, ‘truth can only be achieved when it survives numerous questions’. Throughout centuries, the existence of a god was mostly reduced from a debate to a choice – only the person can choose and decide what to believe in. In the 16th century, Agnosticism was developed for people who choose the middle ground. It proposes that we cannot talk of something that is beyond the facts that we know. That, our minds, which is capsuled in a mere piece of flesh, cannot grasp something that is really vast and transcendent. In the words of a philosopher; ‘how can a god, who has thoughts higher than us, expect us to think like him and know what is to be expected from us?’ Can we really prove or disprove the existence of a god? Whether it is just a concept created by mankind to justify their own existence, whether we created god, or God created us, may not be as important as it was before. A certain joke proposes that ‘debating whether a god exists or not is like lice or flea debating if there is a dog; debating who the real god is like those lice debating the name of the dog’. A drunk I overheard at a bar even shouted, ‘Yes, God can do everything except for one thing…to show himself to us!’. We have to wonder why, just like that drunk; why not show himself and command us lower beings? Why not show him once and for all to settle the minds of the skeptics?…but then, when all questions have been raised, all the faithful will comfort us with the same idea(excuse) that the god/s who can’t show himself/themselves only wanted us to have faith in him/them, even without seeing anything. Faith and reason may never blend.

Just like the tiny ant who will never know the name of the American president, or the dog who will never know the Diplomat of Iraq, our limited consciousness is only restricted by what we experience – far from the knowledge of the gods we want to covet to understand the world, and our existence. We are mere dust and this vast and limitless universe that we know or we wont ever know, and we are only sure of one thing – life. And, if there is that one good thing which can come up from these debates, it is humility and humanity. That, our short lives may be spent for the purpose of living and co-existing with other lives in this world of nations and institutions which pale in comparison with the size of the universe and vast ideas that we will never know. Perhaps, that is what matters most.

(Read Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica here

Monday, September 24, 2012

Using BLOG articles

I started blogging last summer when a friend encouraged me to attend the first Baguio Bloggers conference in the town. After about a dozen posts in the web, I observed that ‘blogging’ did not only become a trend for this generation’s youth, but also to numerous professionals including lawyers, doctors and other experts who wanted to share information to the world wide web. It became the new tool to inform, to influence, even to entertain. Among lawyer-bloggers are Atty. Harry Roque with his law and legal opinion blog, Atty. Fred Pamaos’ “AttyatWorkand Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.’s ‘Philippine Laws and Cases’. For most of them, ‘blogs’, or the social media in general, are the new vehicle to share ideas and communicate, aside from serving as a personal journal to things that are close to their hearts.

Just recently, Philippine netizens reacted over Senator  Sotto’s “plagiarism” of the work of an American Blogger named Sarah Pope. It was first denied by both Sotto and his chief of staff, Atty. Henry Villacorta. The Senator maintained that he did not plagiarize anything saying in the news that;

Itong blogger na sinasabi nila, eh pareho kami ng pinagkunan eh. Ang pinagkunan namin si Natasha Campbell-McBride. And in my speeches, even in my first speech and my second speech, I’ve always said, every now and then sinisingit ko, hindi po ako nagdudunong-dunungan ha. Hindi po galing sa akin ito.” (This blogger they’re mentioning, we got it from the same source. Our source is Natasha Campbell-McBride. And I’ve always said, I’m not pretending to be wise. This does not come from me.)

“Bakit ko naman iko-quote ang blogger? Blogger lang iyon. Ang kino-quote ko si Natasha Campbell-McBride.” (Why should I quote a blogger? She’s just a blogger. I’m quoting Natasha Campbell-McBride.)

In a surprising twist after, his chief of staff finally admitted that parts of the Senator’s speech against the RH bill indeed were copied from a blog by the foreign author who calls herself the “Healthy Home Economist”, to the dismay of the blogger. "Let me say that after asking my staff, indeed your blog was used but only in quoting also from the same book of Dr. Campbell-Mcbride." Atty. Villacorta maintained.

Sarah Pope responded to Villacorta in her blog's comments section saying, "I don't like the fact that my blog was used without my permission against the education of the women of the Philippines and their reproductive rights.” The blogger further explained that the issue in question is plagiarism.

“My blog was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my own words and you copied my words." Sarah Pope concluded.

As most bloggers were not amused by this ‘Sotto fiasco’, social media like facebook, twitter and blogs were bombarded with internet memes which made fun of the Senator and the plagiarism issue. Senator Sotto, in his defense, maintained that he did not plagiarize anything because Sarah Pope’s work was not copyrighted.

So are blog articles protected by copyright?

We think so.

A (literary, artistic, or scientific) work is protected by copyright at the moment of its creation. The Berne Convention, which the Philippines is a signatory of, also provides the principle of automatic protection. This principle emphasizes that a work is protected by copyright at the moment of its creation hence protection needs no formality. It means that one may not register a work in order to be copyrighted unlike patents or inventions.

Hence, as work is copyrighted the moment it is created, the author of such work is vested with rights which include, among others, “attribution rights”. This means that no one, not even a Senator, can just take a work or a piece of it and  use it for its own without asking permission or acknowledging the author (Fair Use of Copyrighted/Protected Materials).

So, was there a violation of copyright in this incident?

We also think so.

In determining copyright violation, Sec 185 and Sec 184 of the Intellectual Property Code must be considered;

(Sec 185 defines what "Fair Use" is, and Sec 184 creates the instances when no infringement can be claimed when using these "Fair Use" materials)

"184.1. Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter V, the following acts shall not constitute infringement of copyright:


(b) The making of quotations from a published work if they are compatible with fair use...... : PROVIDED, That the source and the name of the author, if appearing on the work, are mentioned".

The provisions of Sec.185 and the passage found in Sec. 184 guarantees “attribution rights” to the original author. Failing to attribute can still make one liable for copyright violation under Sec. 184, even if it complies with all the requisites of Fair use under Sec. 185.

In Habana vs Robles (310 scra 511, 1999), the Supreme Court said that it is not merely copying but 'copying which results to injurious effects', further pointing out that 'there can be injury even if "economic harm" is not proven'. The court said that, "Petitioners’ work as authors is the product of their long and assiduous research and for another to represent it as her own is injury enough." Clearly, Atty. Villacorta and Senator Sotto can not assert that there was no “harm” done.

Since Sen. Sotto refused to attribute the materials he appropriated for his Turno en Contra, he cannot clearly hide under Fair Use because attribution is still one of the requirements in that principle. Similarly, non-commercial use of copyrighted work does not automatically remove any chance for copyright violation.

For what it's worth, simple acknowledgement would have sufficed considering that, after all, the literary pieces were used while in the exercise of legislative privileges.

(sources: Star Publications, ABS-CBN, Filipinolosophy, Philippine laws and cases )

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another teacher's day

My student headed immediately to her seat with that stiff and noticeable heaviness. I gave her an 80 and I sensed that I have to do the ‘drill’ again. “Class..”, I waited for them to tone down, “…if you think that you deserved more than what I’ve given, please talk to me…”. This is just one of the ‘teacher’s drill’ that I try to avoid as much as possible; giving grades comes next to grading their papers. “If we have to adjust them because your scholarship depends on it…perhaps you can talk to me so we can come up with a way to adjust it…although, you have to invest extra hours on it”. I was consciously searching for a loophole in teaching ethics to justify what I just said, to no avail. “I’m so kind..”, I whispered to myself -  I wish that I was my instructor in college. I encountered heartless teachers; teachers who will fail you because you were unlucky enough to be 'targeted' in their 'dart-grading system', or because your haircut simply irritates them, and I came to the conclusion that indeed, I am still ‘nice’.

What happened with being contented with 75? I recalled that I even failed my Statistics subject, dropped two other subjects because the teachers are "mean" (plus my college-rock-and roll-habits and absences), and 80 is a depressing grade? Back in our days, we celebrate 75 like how we celebrate birthdays. So what is it today? I decided to finish giving the rest of my class their good/bad news before I resume my ‘lecture’.

“Grades are just numbers”, I continued, trying to recall random lines in drunken debates I had with college friends. “You know,  I can give you 98 or even 99, but can you justify it?” For three seconds, I let them absorb what I said. Their puzzled looks hinted me to continue, “Let us say you apply for work and they are impressed with your grades. They call you for an interview, a demo of some sort. Can you do it with the standards of a student who gets 99 as a grade? Most heads finally nodded to my relief; I don’t know if I can continue with the lecture anymore. It is time for another ‘life-story’ telling (which may be inspiring to some, and annoying to...many). I can show you my transcript tomorrow and you’ll laugh at it. It is not really a good sight to see…But, I am surprisingly here as your teacher…why? Not because of the grades, but experience, and not merely experience, but the skills you gain from it. Before we graduate, most of us are tutoring already. It means that when we graduate, may edge na kami. We get excited in job hunting and before we know it, madami na pala kaming napagdaanan. I realized that I am already 25 years old.

“Sino ba kasi mga working students dito? I’ll give plus…direct to the grade”. Their eyes finally gleamed and six proudly raised their hands. “I want certifications before I give it, and don’t ever think of faking one because I’ll call your boss.” Who am I to talk that way anyway? With all my past mistakes, I realized that it is all by duty as a mentor to encourage righteousness even if I am far from being righteous.

We have yet to dismiss our class after ten minutes but I decided to call it a day. I rushed to the faculty room avoiding eyes to hide my suspicious ‘early arrival’. I turned my laptop on, pulled my drawer and grabbed the thick yellow papers I failed to grade a week ago. Being a teacher really demands most hours of your life, especially the grading part. Two hours to prepare lessons, Five hours to draw X-marks and ‘check’ marks, another hour to advice students – I let out the usual sigh. Add your graduate school requirements and it usually and mysteriously forces one to go 'sleeping' or go 'facebooking' instead. I was heading out of the school when I realized that irony. "Kamusta ka naman buhay-teacher hehe" , I reflected as I walked away from the building.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Money, Politics, Death and 'Simple Jesse'

When I ran for a Barangay Councilman position two years ago, after a short contract at UC, I expected a lot of criticisms – that I was ‘too young’, ‘too inexperienced’…just another restless kid armed with inapplicable idealism to the ‘real’ world. “Just who is this young guy who opted for an elective office? ‘Why not work abroad?’ ‘Why not join big corporations?”  There are a lot of questions, and why would I not, if everything is about money. But then, it is never all about money. The death of our heroes, or even our very own Sec. Jesse Robredo shows that it’s not all about the money. It will not always be the money.

When my father died about a year ago, I was suddenly confronted with a big challenge. Certainly, I’m not a brat anymore; I am already an adult and I have a degree haven’t I? My friend, Howard, made it to the top of the class and yet he did it with working his ass off to pay his tuition fees, so why can’t I do it too? There should not be a problem, “my dad already left me a tool to live”, I told myself. Then, it hit me; I did really need the money. I needed money to finish my law school, to continue my Masters, to help in the house, to sustain my personal allowance, to maintain my damn car which is still being paid through a salary deduction in the first place. I now face the inevitable, without the help of someone, no one to call and ask for a little extra money, no more, “Pa, agdawatak man ti pangnayon ti kastoy”.  In short, I am really my own man now… I choked, admittedly,  but then surprisingly after, I  can only grin.

I am not that scared because I have a plan.

They often say that, “Education is one of the things that they can’t take away from you” , and indeed, it is true. Equipped with my teaching license and some significant experience, I returned to teaching with a growing college in La Trinidad. It is near my home, my workplace, and my graduate school. I am starting to learn how to save some money by cutting my choice of travel. This is logical since I do have an alternative and I have to finish at least three degrees more. However, what complicates it is the position that I am still holding;  although the law provides that local elective public officers (legislative in nature like sanggunians) can engage in other profession provided that it doesn’t interfere with its sessions and meetings, there are still a lot of times in which I have to literally split myself to the demands of two professions. Fortunately, I was able to manage it. What I detest however, is when some persons decided to use 'these'  as ammunitions to their political mudslinging against my poor self.

What I mean is; when my father died, I have to face this war by myself – a newbie against a legion of old timers who felt that I am in the wrong place. Ordinances I forwarded were junked into the piles of 'unstudied' documents in the municipal committee on laws without any action because I guess, they think that I’m just a kid ( and for what he really is; the councilor who heads the Committee on Laws is a piece of sh*t) . Although some were approved, the unapproved solid waste management ordinance of Pico, or even the Boarding House ordinance lay there unattended by councilors contribute to our waste problems and municipal offenses. Resolutions are ignored by higher offices. Example, the road repairs and drainage at the Bayabas road we personally made to both the provincial representative and governor lay there untouched, although it is obviously a priority project. I’ve exhausted the powers and responsibilities we can utilize for goals like these, but sadly…I can only do so much, especially with my current schedule. I’m not making an excuse, but it does sound that I am and I hate it. These situations are just to give you a glimpse of my life. .

Why am I suddenly writing this? Is it to lift some guilt that I feel from a few of my absences in the community because I have to attend to my students? Is it because I felt that I have not done so much? Is it to criticize the game of politics? I don’t know. Nope, on the second thought,  I want to outline how money shaped my decisions. In this case, I refused to quit school hence I have to teach, which may prejudice my other job BUT not for a long time. I believe that when all of these extra baggage are done, I’ll be more qualified to take on tasks which are heavier than what I am presently holding. These are simply prerequisites to becoming the real men which are expected of us. Hopefully, when this time comes, we have already rid ourselves of the self-indulgent vices we frequent, like overgrowing the toys we had in our childhood.

Or I guess, I just dream of following the Robredo Legacy. How could a man have lived more than how he died? As a co-cabinet member said “Nakakahiya kung hindi ganito ung burol natin…”. Our mayors would only dream of the awesomeness of ‘Simple Jesse’. What if people only attend your funeral because of the free biscuit and coffee, the ‘chismis’ and the simple noise? Perhaps that would be the real tragedy. Now, if anything good can come out of this heartbreak, it would be his legacy to current and would-be public servants. Sec. Robredo Legacy is not a ‘trapo’, he does not own mansions (have you seen his unfinished house?), he does not employ bodyguards, he detested putting names on government projects, he is not used to putting his face on tarpaulins just to indirectly launch a campaign ( I know a councilor who has the habit of always putting his not so handsome face in tarpaulins on almost every occasion). Further, he knows his priorities; where money and luxury matters and where it is not - he died in his way NOT to a trip to a casino or another sin city, but a trip to attend to her daughter and family. Money is not always everything.

So how do I relate my topic about money on Robredo’s legacy? It makes the difference. When he took the post as Secretary of DILG which has control over LGUs, he introduced policies and measures which will avoid red tape, corruption, and delay of service. His goals are intended to fair and responsive governance…without the ‘money-making stop-overs’ in the government bureaucracy. He introduced a lifestyle of slippers and bicycles, far from the Porsche and Fortuners of many politicians, hence, the name ‘Simple Jesse’. All of the good things I must say will not render this blog sufficient. I decided that he is my hero.

When my father was dying, he gave me an advice which I plan to hold on until I die. ‘Okay en dayta nga biag; teacher ken public service tapos asideg pay ti balay ken ilim, mayaten dayta’ he told me in a convincing tone. What he meant that time is that I be contented, if not happy...for there is joy in simplicity and in living in a community where your existence is valued.

Certainly, not everything is all about the money.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Remembering my Father

A week from now will mark the first year since my father lost his battle against cancer. It was an afternoon of tears and heartbreak – I can still remember my two siblings holding his arms, my mom watching us as she was being comforted by friends and relatives – and we can only cry on the sight of him, weakened…dying. I remember his pale yellow skin as he shivered even with some heavy blankets, and the memories of our childhood as he carried us in his mighty shoulders flashed in my mind clearly.  I remember how I rebelled against him as a confused teen, and arguing with him endlessly to claim that I am smarter than him. I was an arrogant fool, and the time to show him how sorry I am had ran out. For the hundredth time, I asked myself if I  did something that made him happy, something that made my existence worthwhile for him. Sadly, I can only concede that most of the time, I was a pain in the neck. Regrets can pierce your heart so deep, especially in the face of loss, of death.

My father belongs to the traditional ‘Mt. Province family’ discipline although he was half Ibaloi. It can mean that he belongs to the school of warriors where the head of the family cannot really express emotions of connection. You can distinguish this by observing the ‘lambingan’ culture of the people from the lowlands, and comparing it to the family setting of the highlands. For most of us, hugging and kissing our family members becomes an awkward sight at a certain point of maturity, even though we actually love and care for them – most cannot even verbalize what they feel to their love ones. Such upbringing had put an invisible barrier in expression and communication in our family, but that afternoon was different. We told him that we love him, that, we will always do. We want him to understand that he will always be special and important to us. We assert forgiveness for any indiscretion, misunderstandings, from him, and from us, and even with grief…we told him that we will be okay. As he nodded in understanding, he gasped for his last breath – to say goodbye to this world – we gathered around him; his family, and his friends, then... he was gone.

I heard from many people that we can only realize the value of a person when that person is already gone. Indeed, it is true, and many times I cursed myself for not giving him more of my time when he was in his death bed. I was a selfish asshole, and I truly regret it – if only there is a rewind, a time machine of some sort, I could’ve changed things for him. Since his death, I’ve always dreamed of him, and no matter how logical I want myself to appear, I want to believe that he is visiting me, even in sleep.

This event in my life changed everything; my views, my ideologies, my tendencies. I don’t have a father to run to anymore. No dad who saves me from the bullies as a fat kid. No dad to bail me out on difficult situations. No dad to save me from trouble. No dad to give me a different perspective. No dad whom I can turn to for advice. I will be on my own from now on…and it is hard.

My father gave his last breath because we promised that we will be fine in this life. Hence, it will be wrong to give up because we weren’t raised as losers who give up. My father succumbed to the fight because he knew that we can manage to continue living – that, something will live on…that it is okay to die already.

I have seen his struggle with cancer; how he stayed awake for nights because of the pain, how he deliberately took more painkillers just for relief, how he became frail, how he lost his strength…how he died. Dying at 50 is almost unacceptable, especially when things have started to get better for the family. He could’ve been more, he could’ve done more.

It’s easy to say that; ‘life is short’, that ‘there is no permanence in this world’, that ‘everything is temporary’. However, it is hard not to be attached to the beautiful existences in this world. How can I not long for my father again? How can I not wish for that simple joy of his rare approval no matter how imperfect our relationship was? How can I not wish to see my father again?

I miss my dad…

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blues of June (Fiction)

It was in the rainy evening of June. He parked his car beside the gasoline station not too far away from the bar where he consumed his fifth beer. He turned the engine off but decided to keep the stereo on – he needed the DJ’s voice, at least the rare hit on good jokes to kill the boredom. After damaging his car in five identical occasions, he had learned to always give himself a few minutes to sober up before going home. The rain and that non-cooperating shield-wiper convinced him all the more that he needed every ounce of alertness to survive the road. At least, just for that night.

The DJ started to dedicate a love song; somehow, she was already finished with her last caller. “Another Chicago song”, he thought on the few opening notes he recognized from high school. He was not aware that he was smiling on the thought of it. Those memories of his high school life had succeeded in tempting him into playing with them again – it was already almost twenty years ago. He saw flashbacks of his few friends, his teachers, some events, and of course, the memorable people with it. They were good memories – the recurring image of his awkward self with a guitar, his club activities, his classmates, his stressed teachers…and of course, Myra.

 That thought of her almost drained the alcohol inside of him. He needed another drink, but he decided against it – it was still Tuesday, and he has yet to complete three designs for a client. At 33, he was a junior architect for ECO-house designs, a young company which specializes in ‘green-designing’. He was not sure if there is a bright future with it, but he was contented – he will own his little home after twelve years of salary deductions, and perhaps start saving for his old Pajero’s replacement. He remembered that his boss will have his chemotherapy next month, and the thought of a possible retirement that will advance his career made him feel guilty – ‘a man’s loss, will always be another man’s gain’. He sighed - again, the stress of it made him thought that high school will always be one of the best parts of his life.

The song switched to another ballad after another love quote from DJ Hillary Johnson - the best Side A classic, and he smiled. Old songs, bring back old memories indeed. He was ready to sing along with it.

“There are times, when I just want to look at your face, with the stars in the night…there are times, when I just want to feel your embrace, in the cold night…I just can’t believe that you are mine now…You were just a dream that I once know..I never thought I would -” he paused to check his phone, and continued,  “ …anything in this world, you’re all I need to be with forevermore..”

Slowly, he deliberately relived the memories of the first woman he truly loved. Myra was his classmate in high school, although she was first stricken by her endearing laugh in his first year. She was his team mate in scrabble, where he intentionally delayed their games just to spend more time with her. From there, a certain kind of friendship blossomed – he started a routine of visiting her in her mother’s clothing-store for years. She was the first girl whom he had truly loved. Too bad, Myra only considered him as a friend. Friend-zoned, you can say. She was the first girl to have given him the drowning feeling of hurt, of pain.

This event in his life changed him. His fear of the same kind of rejection forced him to reinvent himself; changing his awkward appearance with the cooperative stage of puberty and maturity, and developing an image that was easily acceptable for his new friends.  Eventually, he became the playboy he abhorred in highschool. A disguise he made to project desirability, or perhaps for Myra to notice him.

They met again in college and they dated. He guessed that somehow, his transformation helped. As young hearts then were easily swayed with doubts, they did not become an official couple until after they graduated from college. It was easy and difficult at the same time. Easy, because they have known each other since highschool. Difficult, because both are convinced that they are entitled to new things in their lives. More difficult for him because Myra was his first love, actually his only love.

Eventually, Myra went abroad leaving him the promise that if they are meant to be together, then they will always end up in each other’s arms – yes, that overly-used quote again. For a couple of years he submerged himself with work. It is the only way to make him forget that he actually misses someone. It did not take any longer for him to receive the news that she is already back in the country.

It was unbelievable for him when they spent many days together again. He thought of proposing to her after he will earn some money, perhaps in a year or two. Yes, he actually thought of marriage – she will be 26 or 27 when that will happen, which is perfect for her expectations. It was that easy for him to imagine, until Myra told him about ‘it’. She told him of what happened to her and her friend, or lover, abroad. And after the rush of tears, the words "I'm sorry, I don't love you anymore" sunk him deeper into the void.

He remembered that moment well, and he felt the pang again – he never truly moved on. “Why? .... Why?” Is it loneliness from being away? He did not really ask. “You promised…” is all he can mumble. Funny, how he expected too much. “I know,  I didn’t have a choice…” Choice? He pondered on what it really meant that day. It was not something that is not forgiven overnight, not after the feeling of betrayal, not after broken promises.

But, It was about three thousand nights since then, and they never talked again– not after he banned her name on his Facebook account, or after Myra went back to her work abroad. There were many nights like this, when he ponders on what could have been if he had forgiven her that time. However, that wasn’t the first time she did that – there was highschool, there was college, and even when they’re already working. He was just scared on what he will feel if she will hurt him again. It is not easy to let go of things - memorable things, beautiful things - but he worries on what will happen to his world. He cannot afford another heartbreak, especially from her, that is why he decided to let her go. He concluded, actually convinced himself, that some things are not really meant to be.

Just like his failures and inabilities, his desperation and loneliness...just like the rain which will always be there to drench him, he will always be haunted by the memories which he, ironically, holds dear.

He can't move on.

There were many nights like this, especially in June.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sagada Love Story (Fiction)

 Would it be something that you would want to feel? Even if it’s this late? We could have had it all.

Five, no, about six hours.  Do you remember? The bumpy trail, your head on my right shoulder to show you proudly all the 'views' - an Ibaloi girl with an Ibontoc boy who is proudly showing Mountain Province? A young guy introducing his world, or perhaps attempting to confirm a part of his life to that woman who won his heart?

We arrived on a rainy day, on a stop to Sagada to see the place, particularly, the famous coffins and caves. We walked casually down to a road looking for an Inn. We finally settled with George’ s Inn. It must be the computer shop below it. Do you remember? I hope you do. We never even got to close that penthouse door. We were so in love. We can’t even get enough of each other. Do you remember? The kisses? The hugs? The warmth of our bodies. The passion we can only let go off when we fall asleep. Did we even leave our bed to see the attractions of the place?

Remember when we pulled the pillows and blankets outside to see the stars? We were lucky that before closing hours, we have bought a bottle of gin, and your favorite chips; that black Tortillos along with some vinegar. You really loved that then… I know, because I have come to love it too…

Remember when we walked in the rain. Those are what we saw in the movies, and we never really cared. We laughed about it. You called me “noisy slippers”, because of the way I walk with them. Do you remember when he had coffee on that little shop when we were dripping wet? Tell me that you do.

Do you remember the words that were supposed to be said when one wakes up first? “Good Morning beautiful..” if it was me who does. I never cared any of your words, because I always feel your kiss on my forehead, my cheeks…my lips. Do you remember our mornings? Our nights? Do you remember?

I know you remember when we painfully argued at Bontoc, the way I was jealous back then. When we never talked for two hours and thirty minutes in the van but finally made peace at Bauko, and started kissing again. When we reached Mt. Data and number 114 will be etched in our lives forever? When we (or I) got drunk at the fireplace and you dragged us to our room. Do you remember how happy we were? Do you remember any of  it?

Today, you stood there with that glorious wedding gown...and you are not waiting for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Glory of the By-Line

It was a couple of years ago when I first passed an article for a local newspaper. As a college student back then, it has brought a different feeling of joy - greater than being a contributor of an article or poetry for our campus paper. The feeling that my ideas will reach hundreds or thousands of people is, in a way, fulfilling, and yet, scary – I’m fully aware that by writing something “against call-centers”, I have barred myself on working in one, that by writing on the evils of “capitalism”; of criticizing the “culture industry” that it promotes, the marketing strategies which dehumanizes our population, and of writing about existential thoughts, I have boldly burned some of the bridges to having a decent career. Even with all of these costs however, I have already decided that if I ever write, it should contain ideas and critiques that will seek to educate or enlighten.

It was startling though, that after passing more articles, I found myself being tempted to write something about myself. I suspect that there is something about finding your name in the “by line” that gives you an illusion of brilliance, almost to the point of arrogance. But alas, this sickening tendency has become more common to veteran writers and columnists. Every newspaper issue, we find our columnists writing more and more about themselves rather than discussing issues that are much significant to our society, or even to our community. Every Sunday, we are being fed with articles about their social lives; how they spent their weekends, about their eating habits, about their aging self, and almost every mundane thing which they recognize as significant. Sometimes, some of them write critiques which are evidently encouraged by mere bursts of emotions and not out of logical and fair analysis - they emphasize that we have a lot of problems; garbage problems, dirty politics, decline of moral values, violence on streets, etc., but never suggested any proposals on “how” to solve them.

A writer once told me that much of these dispositions  of turning a column into a personal diary and a personal rant section, are usually supported by their status in their society; having a good name, being a lawyer, or a veteran journalist. Maybe it is these qualities that give one the license and authority to write about almost anything, and anything, whether it be sensible or not. Maybe, I and many of the writers of the next generation, have yet to learn a lot of things before we are given that ‘right’ (marami pang kakaining bigas).  Nevertheless, how I wish that we have more public intellectuals like Randy David, or Conrado Dequiros, how I wish that our columnists would write more about philosophy, political analysis, or even social studies for this new generation – of facebook and youtube and its social dilemma, of the Indigenous communities’ response to the global changes, of culture industry and its environmental effects, of ethnocentrism and discrimination, and those other topics which are needed by the readers in this society.

Our changing world is constantly given the challenge of coping. Somehow, I think that those who hold the pen and paper should serve the public in educating and enlightening them on issues that will really matter.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Art of 'Multi-tasking'

They say that we have to live as many lives as possible in order to understand life better. That we have to look at things from different eyes, different perspectives in order to come up with  better opinions, better ideas, or better analysis. Since, however, we are only limited by a certain mortal age; ‘multi-tasking’ becomes the next best alternative for this particular aspiration.

For whatever reason why people end up as multi-taskers, whether it is because of financial needs, for learning, or even for the mere sake of being busy, multi-tasking becomes a skill for most – the mother, who is a teacher and a store-owner at the same time, or the taxi driver who is also a college student and an artist. Perhaps it is in this mode where they can express the many individuals inside them – living multiple lives, and tasting bits of those different worlds.

I started multi-tasking when I was in highschool, joining as many clubs and learning different things from them, while actually being an active member of our church’s choir. It is that insatiable hunger to know more, to learn more, and to try different things. I wanted to expand my world. Today, I have developed that tendency to grab everything within, and sometimes, without my reach – As a college instructor, community official, graduate-school student, and from time to time, a wannabe writer/blogger.

Now, you might be asking ‘how?’ .Hence, the reason I wrote this article. I would like to share tips on how to become your very own ‘multi-tasking’ machine. Hoping that this would help;

1.     Decide that you want to become one. When you multi-task, you are not guaranteed ‘excellence’ in those things that you do. You lose time, concentration, and energy with specific tasks/jobs, and there will always be that danger of arriving into ‘mediocrity’.  It will be a choice of many things which are merely ‘good’, or a single thing, which may be the ‘best’. Choose.

2.      Pick things that you love to do, or you want to do. There is no point in multi-tasking when you hate doing most of the things in your plate. However, do not be hasty in dismissing things because of first impressions – give it a chance, and learn how to love them because sometimes, you really have to. (Also, avoid procrastination - even if you love doing it hehe)

3.      It’s not about the money, money, money. Money is only a tool to living a life of contentment, not necessarily happiness. However, the things that you choose to do must also be worth it; there are expenses to consider – the bills, food, transportation, and even those time to time ‘breathers’, thus, you must be smart to know if the things you are doing can financially support the other, and also value things not for its profit, or money generating capacity. If it ‘breaks even’ but you are happy, then you are fine.

4.      Know your limitations. Consider everything, and I mean everything. If you want to work and study at the same time – then your workplace and school must be very near (or better, those that are near your home). Consider not only the distance, but also the ‘shifts’ the time element, and consider your health. It would be pointless to drown yourself in many things at the expense of your health – for you might be earning much only to spend it at the hospital. This comes with the rationality of eliminating a task/job, which compromises and/or endangers your other tasks/jobs.

5.      Exploit technology. Use your cellphones’ sound recorder to review your lessons while at the jeepney (and also while resting your eyes a bit – just don’t fall asleep – baka manakawan ka pa hehe). A friend also made use of a loan to buy his car so he can instantaneously go from point A, to point B, or the location of his different tasks/jobs. The point is, there are tools at your disposal, just use them.

6.      Have a goal. As Bruce Lee said, ‘they may not necessarily be there to be reached or achieved, but, just to aim at’. It is a guide; in that very cycle which may encourage stress and boredom, we need a picture to inspire us – a more comfortable life perhaps, our very own home, a trip abroad, an academic degree or a career. That would be one’s personal choice.

7.      Confidence. No one will believe us when we ourselves do not believe in ourselves. This quality will be very visible not just to our workmates, classmates, co-members of our group, but also to our employers, and business partners. This quality will open many doors. 

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Monday, June 25, 2012

"Amu da...Igorot Ka"

“…amoy Igorot!”

“…Ang pangit ng mga Igorot!”

“Mamumugot ng tao ang mga Igorot!”

“Para kang Igorot…so barbaric!”

“Asan yung buntot mo? Buti alam mong gumamit ng computer?”

This will sound familiar to us mountain people, and also to those who have been here in the social media for quite some time.  Such irresponsible and ignorant comments have surfaced, and resurfaced almost every quarter in Facebook and in blogs. Unsurprisingly coupled with such expressed thoughts are the comments and replies containing more or less the following:

“..Pugutan ka ti ulo nu Makita ka!”

“ Pangit ka, Magaganda at Gwapo ang mga Igorot”

“Matay ka koma!”

“Awan ti amamum ignorante nga bitch/pangit/gago (insert any demeaning noun)”

“Haan mi nga padpada dakau…educated ken mestizo/mestiza ti igorots…haan nga kasla kanyau!”

We can also acknowledge that we have the tendency to give any of these reactions. It is perhaps a natural backlash from offending a person, or in this case a whole group. It is grounded on a very ancient philosophy of “reaping what you sow”, or “pain begetting pain, and goodness begetting good things”.

However, this cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on. 

In my Sociology 1 class, one of my essay questions for my students’ is; “ Do you believe that Igorots are better than other ethnic groups?” As I am confident that I have taught them the dangers of Ethnocentrism and highlighted how it built Hitler and the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or the White Supremacists, and even the Chinese leader’s world view that they are the center of the world, I asked it anyway as a give-away question. To my surprise, only 2 out of the class of 32 were able to answer in the negative – a student from Manila, and one from La Trinidad.  Almost everyone answered, “Yes, Igorots are BETTER than other ethnic groups”.

Their reasoning is further revealing to the tendency leaning to discrimination. Say, the following:

“ Igorots are better because it is where I belong to…”

“Igorots are not just better but the best in the world because we are unique…”

See what I mean?

I am not saying that such simple answers to an essay question to a smallest population of a group is conclusive to criticizing the whole Igorot population’s tendency towards discrimination. However, it can neither be underestimated as a mere natural reaction. It is actually a testimony to one disturbing inquiry: “….Do we deserve every bit of prejudice and hate when we practice the same bigotry and discrimination that we 'hypocritically' want to prevent?

To further understand my point, let me be the devil’s advocate (again). Let me ask the following:

1.    If we say that Igorots are good looking, fair skinned (mestizas/mestizas) etc., then does it mean that those who are not good looking, or not fair skinned, are not Igorots? (adi pay haanak nga igorot ta haanak nga mestizo?)

2.    If we say that Igorots are “stronger and better’ (as, ‘awan makin kaya ti igorot’ , lampa ti taga-baba etc.) are we not also discriminating other groups? What if, for instance, one lowlander or “taga-baba” is stronger than an Igorot in a physical sport, will the Igorot lose its identity because all Igorots are supposed to be strong?

3.    If we say “pugutak tupay ulom!!”, are we not suggesting that we are, indeed ‘barbarbaric’. Or, when you say discriminatory slurs against other groups, will you also accept curses as retaliation on your person?

Yes, to decipher our backlash includes the simplest study of our reaction’s logic. In this case, first, in our frequent use of illogical connections, or worse, absent logic itself. How can we say ‘Igorots are better because it is where I belong’ and believe it to be true in itself. Second, why are we replacing argument with personal attacks and expect people to be enlightened. True, it is easier to say ‘patayen ka koma nga ignorante ka!”, but will it support your clarification that ‘igorots are civilized’?

There were many times when an ethnic-discriminatory remark slipped,  and soon, 'over-reacting' kakailyans swarmed that person, or institution - declaring war against the world, even in the internet - challenging people from different ethnicity, race, and tribes. When was the last time? KC Concepcion's photo with Aetas in an Igorot costume? As we imply, or even boast that we are better looking than our dark-skinned friends? Because Igorots are supposedly light-complexioned and more handsome? Was that our basis of beauty? Or was it that poor girl who was bullied in the internet; some even threatened to cut her head off? Hundred messages and write-ups verbally mauled her, because we think that we are better “people”? Or that highschool who must have missed history class? Have we not said some comments about other tribes or groups as well? 

Let me repeat: “This cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on.”

What do I mean by moving on?

In social sciences, a tendency to discriminate by a once discriminated group is a natural consequence in an effort to heal a tragic past. However, dwelling to it can also resurrect a bygone era. It is likened to opening up a wound in an effort to heal it. The danger of internalizing it as people, will make it permanent. For instance, a white person who, even innocently, mentions “black guy” may be regarded by an African American as a racist. That is the effect of internalizing the tragic past for too long. Such group will always feel wronged and prejudiced to an extent that they become  exceedingly reactive. We must move on.

The first step is acceptance. We accept that history may not have been good to us. I will not dwell on the past Philippine law that banned Igorots from getting drunk (hehe). Similarly, I will accept that our warrior tribes, who practiced mutilation both us punishment and as an act of war, may have been viewed as ‘barbaric’, by other cultures. And that we were once exhibited in a foreign country to press such image.

The second step is changing our mindset or our world view. There is only one race, and that is the human race. There is a danger in priding ourselves with a name that may seek to alienate, insult, or degrade other groups. I’m not saying that it is wrong to be proud that we are Igorot People, Kankana-ey People, Ibaloy, or what have you, but false pride promotes discrimination, especially when we do not understand our culture, and the essence of it in our lives. Let the term remain and be defined by how we show the world who we are.

Related to this is relinquishing our tendency of entitlement if we really want to promote equality and harmonious co-existence. Igorot hero Jose Dulnuan had stated it perfectly: "I am an Igorot. Let me be treated as I deserve—with respect if I am good, with contempt if I am no good, irrespective of the name I carry. Let the term, Igorot, remain, and the world will use it with the correct meaning attached to it."

Last is, living and practicing our ideal impression of an Igorot –Educated, Humble, Peaceful and Honest Citizen. That is the only way which can show and educate the world of what we are as people and, in a manner which we can really be proud of. I bet that we will not be proud of a ‘kailyan’ who is a criminal; a swindler, drug pusher, kidnapper, robber, murderer etc. Inherent to it is the preservation of the positive values and culture as people. In doing so, we must be reminded that “Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” (Chavez).

The following are just proposed steps from an observer. Amuk Igorot ka. Igorotak met. That is why I wish for us to move on.

Note: Should you find my conclusions offensive, please understand that I really am an Igorot: Part Ibaloi, Bontok, Kankana-ey, ( and even drops of Ifugao), among others.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

La Trinidad’s Garbage woes

This is a concerned citizen’s reply on the inquiry raised by Mr. Atsou Nashitama of Kanagawa, Japan regarding the ‘garbage decomposer machine’ or that ‘black-hole’ machine bought by La Trinidad, Benguet through its municipal officials. I personally wrote this because there was no reply from any official or gov't representative regarding the machine ever since the inquiry was brought up by Mr. Nashitama weeks ago.

The operation of the machine is below our expectation. It does NOT decompose 30 cubic meters of garbage in a day (or the claim of even 10 tons of garbage) but only about 1 or 2, perhaps even less. It is NOT effective and efficient, it is NOT revolutionary. Mr. Nashitama must personally come to the site to see it for himself. It requires a horde of workers to manually transfer the garbage from the truck to the machine and guess what; the end-products are not decomposed wastes nor garbage which were turned into ashes, but were only compressed wastes covered with a slimy fluid (which almost look like dark and muddy matters). It was a waste of money. I don’t know what our officials saw in their visit to Japan (if it was the same machine), but it was clearly not what it was expected of the machine.

The garbage woes will only get louder because it seems that there is no political will on the part of officials to effectively implement related laws, coupled with the ignorance and the non-compliance of its citizens to  waste ordinances (awan disiplina tayo!). Waste segregation can be observed, however, the problem on where to dump biodegradable wastes, especially in urbanized areas, is still a dilemma – commercial centers including boarding houses or apartments, have yet to find a site where they can decompose their biodegradable-wastes. This results to those biodegradable garbage left on the streets, or worse; the willful disregard of citizens in managing their wastes because of the local government’s perceived ineffectivity. The barangays, just the same, have to be firm in solving this humongous task.

La Trinidad, even though not a city, faces the same problem which urbanized towns face – garbage, among others. We must admit that Alno dumpsite will not stay there for long, and soon, other barangays will refuse to let their place become a dumping site. Thus, La Trinidad should also plan for this future problem, perhaps invest on the idea of ‘land-banking’ – buy isolated lands of nearby towns for future use, unless we want to pay millions just to dump our garbage in Tarlac like Baguio City. Perhaps, officials can also be more imaginative; what is the use of millions of pesos which are being spent in “Lakbay-aral” activities, when none of them can adopt or replicate an idea from the places where they visit? Palawan’s waste-free culture, or even Bantayan, Cebu’s “garbage to bricks” technology?

To my delight, a councilor has recently proposed an ordinance which seeks to manage and regulate the use of plastic bags. We support this move, but we also expect that it will be implemented – not just another ‘sleeping ordinance’. Anyway, this is also to remind every people in La Trinidad, including myself, to do our part – reduce our consumerist tendencies, manage our wastes, educate others, and support ordinances that will benefit us and our community. This problem can be solved when both government and its people will actually fulfill their own responsibilities to the community.

* All of the readers comments (Almost 200) for this post are now hidden due to emotional and misinformed readers who found their ways in sending me threats in my Facebook account. Although it was only part of my intention to stir the issue so it will merit attention, I never imagined that it will bring out hideous, albeit separate issues of 'politicos' from different sides. Before I be accused of favoring political candidates, or that I am using my blog for any propaganda, I decided to hide the readers' comments. My apologies to the followers of the thread.