Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Is Pain A Consequence Of Age?

Is anyone ever too old for heartaches?

I'm posing this question after a friend confided that she's had enough. I'm not at liberty to discuss the details here but suffice it to say that she's broken up with her beau. But you know how break-ups go.

"After this relationship, 'yoko na. I'm thirty already, I should be thinking about kids. Pang-twenty-somethings lang ang mga heartaches," she says.

The question is significant to me since I've broken up with my bf some five months ago (or so I think. I refuse to count.) and I had told a friend once too, that I wished hearts are like light bulbs that we can just turn on and off. Or an XDA, once it crashes it can no longer recall anything.

But let's break it down.

Again, is anyone ever too old for heartaches?

Affirmative Positions

1. Yes. Pain, or experiencing pain, is a rite of passage. You undergo that to learn the lessons of life. The rite of passage is for the young. When you're old already, you're supposed to have learned your lessons and there's no more room for mistakes. You're supposed to know better. You can decide wiser.

2. People get tired. There's a point of exhaustion where you can no longer feel anything, there's a certain numbness, a little disinterest in all these shit. Been there, done that.

3. Love, which is the common source of pain, is the past time of the young. When you're old, you should be bothering about career, family (immediate, in the absence of a family of your own), and world domination (or salvation, depending on your priorities and values). Wallowing over love seems to be a pretty mundane preoccupation.

4. Crying, which is a manifestation of pain (a generalization, of course), is silly sometimes. Didn't you feel stupid when you cried the night out alone in your bedroom when your significant other, or ex-significant other, is enjoying the time of his life with his new found love?

Negative Positions

1. Learning is a life-long process, therefore, there are no specific points in life where you can say, I should have learned this or that. There are no experiences specific to a certain period say, these experiences are for 10 year olds, or these for the elderly. Life circumstances are like the road network in Metro Manila, the street you are in right now is pure serendipity/pure fate. The next person may not pass by that street.

2. Without the trials, how can we be stronger to face other challenges?

3. People get tired, yes, but isn't life more colorful?

The long and short of it, I guess, is that there is no answer.

Forrest Gump once said: "Life is a box of chocolates, you'll never know what you're gonna get."

Sometimes, you don't even know why you got it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Time Does Not Heal

Time does not heal all wounds. It merely covers up the tracks of the past. If you're lucky, you'll walk on and forget the path. Otherwise, once a strong wind blows over, they will be revealed: the silly back and forth pacing of forgetting and remembering. The angry steps. The lonely pair of footsteps. There have been no progress. You are at the same spot, where the now is bound with the past, indistinguishable.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Love Letter for Us

The Beginning

A friend told me the mechanics of friendships and friends along these terms: "In the primordial Earth, they were part of one singular giant blob of an entity, and then something happened. The blob was destroyed, its parts scattered were everywhere. Some were blown away by the wind to neverland. Some, swept by the currents of the giant oceans and then carried away beyond continents, beyond vast seas and stretches of rivers, beyond boundaries of time and space. We are the parts, and our sole task on this Earth is to find, those, which have been a part of us. Sometimes, we are lucky and we do find them. After the rendezvous, a reunion, a communion. And that's how friendships begin."

So we shouldn't be surprised, if increasingly, uncannily, my life resemble yours: the names of the men of our fantasies; our seeming fascination with the more challenging prospects who are married when we could focus on single, available men; our disdain for the same set of people (this part, I'm not sure if I acquired it from you); and our fascination for dreaming.

Birds of the same feather flock together. True. Molecules of the same blob belong together.

When you think about it, instrinsic to this idea of being separated and then finding each other again is the corollary thought that we begin our lives alone. And our lives are journeys of search, of discovery, of finding those who have been severed from ourselves.

I'm lucky, (I would have written the pronoun "we" but I would be risking drawing an assumption. Hehehe) to have found you, discovered you. (You can say "ewwww" now).

And this also goes for Tina, Nelson, and Kara, or the fraternity (as in a group or association bound by a common interest) that is known as "Elida."

(more soon)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Growing Up

I am a twenty-five year old kid.

Last night, while I was rushing the accounting of my phone bills, it dawned on me that my responsibilities are catching up with me, finally. Responsibilities/obligations/tasks, in whatever form that I've been trying to avoid are coming to the fore, like an army, ready to slaughter me: nearly one-year worth of unaccounted phone bills deducted from my salary; four or five liquidations, which, left unsubmitted will also be deducted from my meager, I repeat meager, pay; resumes of friends that I need to submit to the office; a request by a cousin left undone; a room crying for some order.

My room is the metaphor to where I am right now: cluttered, in disarray. And such is my epiphany: for twenty-five years, I've been like careless kid thinking that things will take care of themselves and problems will find their own solution.

But I've ran too many miles and have grown tired, and they're around the bend. Running away from them is no longer an option.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Survivor

I'm posting this article from the Manila Times. It was written by Mondax, whom I've met in Baguio when I was covering the meningococcemia scare there. I used to call Mondax's circle of journalists, "the council of the elders" because it's his group which the younger journalists of Baguio look up to.
I had a great time in Baguio because of the hospitality of my peers there and it reinforced my belief about one of the more beautiful things about this job: you build bridges of friendship, a fact that tells you, that it's not doing your job that is paramount, sometimes it's how you do it and how you affect the people you meet along the way.
Mondax's group gifted us with two straight nights of "tribute". "For the friendship and special sensitivity that you've shown to the people of Baguio, which we greatly appreciate," said Mondax.
The story below was about this survivor whom we met in the course of our coverage in January. Helen is a meek, thin, 14-year old. She looked younger for her age, maybe due to malnutrition. Her body may be weak but not her spirits.
When I heard about her story, her surviving the disease, I was inspired to do a story on her. At that time, we were wrapping up our coverage and thought that it'd be quite fitting to end the series of stories with an inspiring story of Helen.
Her story, I hoped destroyed certain misconceptions which were 1. menigococcemia was so deadly no one could survive it (she did) ; 2. even if you survive a disease such as that, it's impossible to get over the experience.
In another sense, her story ran parallel with Baguio's story. Baguio was, undoubtedly, severely affected by the scare brought by the disease: hotel occupancies were down to zero, there were cancellations of bookings, tourist arrivals went down. But what's sad was these reactions had no basis. Sure, it sounded dangerous when you hear of admissions. But when you qualify the figures, it was not that scary. (I'll give you examples soon, the number escapes me as of the moment).
So Helen's story was, in many ways, Baguio's story as well and it's lesson was this: disease may overcome the body but it cannot destroy the spirit.
Saturday, February 05, 2005

‘Meningo’ survivor wants to walk again
By Ramon Dacawi, Northern Luzon Bureau
BAGUIO CITY: Fourteen-year-old Helen Mapili, who lost her limbs owing to complications of meningococcal disease last Christmas, has began her slow, painful process of walking again and going back to school.
The fifth of seven children of a market porter and a house help, Helen was still in pain when Rodrigo, her 49-year-old father, carried her into the nurses home of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Wednesday.
There, specialists, led by Dr. Penny Bondoc, made the assessments and measurements on her amputated legs.
“Helen’s next checkup here will be on February 7 and we just hope that by that time, her wounds would have healed,” said Baguio city health officer, Dr. Florence Reyes who, together with social worker Cynthia
Langagan, accompanied the girl to the PGH.
Bondoc said Helen has been considered a beneficiary of artificial limbs under a support program for indigent patients sponsored by the Rotary clubs of India and Makati, through their joint “Libreng Palakad” program.
Reyes said Rebecca Domogan, wife of Rep. Mauricio Domogan of Baguio, had made arrangements for the PGH to see if Helen could be fitted with prosthesis.
In her social case report, Langagan said the girl had just arrived home from school on December 6 when she experienced high fever and noticed rashes on her body. She ignored the signs, thinking they would go away, and went to the city market to sell vegetables.
That night, her parents took her to the Baguio General Hospital where she was eventually diagnosed of having meningo­coccemia. Her condition worsened, with the rashes turning into sores. To prevent the spread of gangrene, surgeons decided to amputate both her legs and, except for an uninfected thumb, all her fingers.
Helen was discharged from the hospital on January 8. Her will to survive led to her public identification through media coverage that gave a human face to the efforts of health workers to contain the disease, cases of which were reported in December and early January.
Her father is a native of San Fabian, Pangasinan, and her mother hails from Bauko, Mountain Province. Forced to quit school because of poverty, Rodrigo moved up to Baguio and worked as a baggage boy at the city market. There, he met his wife Mary Ann, an ambulant vendor who now works as a stay-out house help earning P200 daily wage.
Some of the couple’s elder children also had to quit school and, like Helen, engaged in vending vegetables to make ends meet. Two of them are married and with children.
As Helen was being carried out of the PGH in the arms of her father after the initial checkup, television reporter Joseph Morong of GMA Channel 7 arrived.
Helen had met him while he was here covering the meningococcemia issue. She had been silent, grimacing in pain, but suddenly smiled when Morong gifted her with a T-shirt and advised, “Magpa­galing ka ha.”
After she shall have been fitted with a pair of prosthesis and learned to walk on crutches, Helen would like to go back to class. She was in Grade IV at the Doña Josefa Cariño Elementary School when the disease hit her.
Her school behind the Baguio city hall is three kilometers from their house, but within walking distance to the city market, which gave her time to sell before and after class hours.
Sen. Jamby Madrigal, who visited her, has made arrangements for Helen’s college scholarship. Other Samaritans who want to help Helen achieve her dream may visit the Mapili home at Middle Quirino Hill.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Healing

There's something about beaches that heals.It's 3:27 a.m. in Boracay but I'm still unbelievably sane (not drunk, or wasted drunk) which is insane when you think about it because how could not drink yourself to death in this paradise island.
Yesterday, I nearly reached that nirvana when I vomitted on the beachfront of this bar called 'Summer Place'. But that's a different story.
Let's go back to the subject of healing. Ever since I was small, a trip to the beach has been very special. I remember my cousins and I would wake up at 4 a.m. to go to Dalahican Beach resort in the province. There, we'd swim to our hearts' content, enjoy sumptous homemade food and when we're dark enough, we’d go home which was usually after more than a half day at the beach.
As I got older and had a seaman for a boyfriend, my fascination with the beach grew stronger. When he was abroad (when we were still together), I went to this beach in San Juan, Batangas. I felt nearer to him that time thinking that that wide ocean was our link; that a slight tap on that sea would send ripples to his sea. On the sand, I wrote, 'luv u, b', took a photo and emailed it. That time, the beach was the company in my solitude. I stared at him and he would speak to me in waves. His salty air embraced me and his stillness resonated with mine.
After we broke up in October 2004, I went to Puerto Galera. I felt like a child coming home. For hours I'd just stare at the sea and he seemed to understand why I was back. To his breaking waves I would surrender my tears and he would collect them on the shore,then recede, taking away and hiding forever, the reminders of my pain.
And now I'm back at his footsteps, though entirely for a different reason: evaluation of my progress with regard to forgetting.
If you ask the sea he will tell you that I'm making little progress. There's something about Boracay that
amplifies my loneliness. "This place is a couple place," I told a friend. "It's beauty is best enjoyed by two peope basking in the glory of love."
I didn't have that option so I'm trying to make the best out of my situation. But I fail sometimes and I find myself swimming alone trying to drown his memories. At night, the longing grows. "Once you come home we'll go to the beach. Y'know for some alone time. We'll make up for lost time," I remember emailing him before.
He has since come back and I'm on the beach, alone. So I confront the fact that I am and there are two things I can do about it: submit to it or overcome it.
The default mode that I'm in is the former so I'll try overcoming it for a change.
It's a struggle. I can't even date, afraid that I'll be using my prospect as an emotional balm. I want to be honest, to both myself and my prospect. I'm scarred and I will not find my healing from another person but myself.
To me that is the first step, to recognise that I need time to heal. And I'm projecting it's going to be a long
process -- of forgetting, of erasing his memories and living my life without him, like it used to be.
And what was life before him?
Sleeping late by my lonesome. Taking out only a packet of lunch/dinner instead of two. Watching a lot of movies at home (I usually just dozed off when we watch DVDs). Going to the movies alone. Eating nachos (our favorite) alone. Taking the cab alone (Geesh, I miss him sleeping on my lap when we go home from a gimik).
A lot of it has something to do with enjoying my independence. "Enjoying" is the operative word here and I'm not.
So when I've had enough of myself (even I get tired of me), I go out with friends. Like I do here in Boracay.
Happy hours, when you can buy two beers for the price of one, start very early here, like 5 p.m. which fits our schedule to a T. For the past three days my friends and I have been waking up at around 11 a.m, after a little brunch we head to the beach and sunbathe 'til around 3 p.m. or so, shower and then off we go to the nearest bar. We end our day the next day. And repeat the cycle, without protest.
It seems to me that since I cannot get over the break-up which, quite ironically, it was me who initiated, diversion seems to be working for now. Getting over him completely will take a long process and I don't want to predict if I ever will.
So, like a banca on the shore, I shift from the past and the present bouyed by memories past and hopes for the future.
I sit still, sometimes on the beach and gaze at the vast horizon; overwhelmed by the vision of red-blood
sunsets and beautiful strangers.
Sitting still, I am overwhelmed by my own loneliness.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fate

The gods have spoken. I should listen. Hehehe.

LIBRA (Sept. 23–Oct. 22): You've heard about horse whisperers, people who have a deeply intuitive, almost psychic rapport with horses. You may have also heard about baby whisperers, those who specialize in reading the body language and secret thoughts of infants. Well you, my dear Libra, currently seem to have the skills of a dove whisperer. If you like, you could probably achieve a mind-meld with those birds in the coming weeks. Perhaps more importantly, you will also possess the unusual blend of powers that doves have symbolized throughout history: to bring peace, to cultivate tender intimacy, and to bless lust.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Heart Which Slips ....

There's something oddly inspiring about the love story of Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Bowles. Their story debunked some of my beliefs about love and relationship.

I did not believe that true love endures. If you loved someone, broke up with that person and then entered into a relationship with another person, your love for your ex is negated by your present love. In that single act of committing to the next person, your past is extinguished. No residue. No lingering feelings.

With Prince Charles and Camilla, I realised that yes, perhaps, love lingers, and if there is an opportunity it will blossom.

There's a poem which the British laureate Andrew Motion wrote to commemorate the wedding. I'm posting it below. Again, this is not exactly what I need considering my context but for the others out there, believe when someone tells you to hang on to that love. I wish I did.

Spring Wedding

I took your news outdoors, and strolled a while
In silence on my square of garden-ground
Where I could dim the roar of arguments,
Ignore the scandal-flywheel whirring round,

And hear instead the green fuse in the flower
Ignite, the breeze stretch out a shadow-hand

To ruffle blossom on its sticking points,
The blackbirds sing, and singing take their stand.

I took your news outdoors, and found the Spring
Had honoured all its promises to start
Disclosing how the principles of earth
Can make a common purpose with the heart.

The heart which slips and sidles like a stream
Weighed down by winter-wreckage near its source -
But given time, and come the clearing rain,
Breaks loose to revel in its proper course.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Shades

When I don't want to see the world, I wear my shades.

Sure I can still everything behind the tinted glasses but to the world I am a man without the eyes.

It affords me a little freedom to be ambivalent, to be disinterested, to be lost in the chaos.

I shut my vision to the incomprehensible. And I am safe, quite strangely, in my being lost.

I'm transparent. My face cannot camouflage my feelings. If I'm pissed, you can see it in my face, ditto with being sad, angry, angsty, bitchy. My face is a palette by which I paint my emotions and I cannot hide them. Especially with my eyes.

So I hide them much the same way that you use curtains to block the stark sunlight when you wake up. My lips couldn't show so much as my eyes except perhaps when I curl them to punctuate a sad recollection, or stiffen them up when I don't want to speak or break into a smile when something pleases me. Same goes for my eyebrows. But these two, I can control but not my eyes.

Isn't it that the eyes are the windows to the soul?

When I don't want to see the world, I wear my shades. I hide my soul behind the tinted glasses of my disinterest.

Moving Forward, Looking Back

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"The Messenger has arrived!"

Today I was late for work. Slept late because of this HBO-film which I watched.

"Angels in America" was outstanding, very complex yet very simple in its objective to urge its viewers to do some introspection (at least that's how I received it). But it spoke to me in a very specific way, and considering where I am right now, the statement rang true. Not necessarily what I need considering I'm trying to move on, but relevant nonetheless because it spoke of hope.

"Nothing is lost forever. In this world, there's a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we left behind, and dreaming ahead."

True.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Legacy of Deceit

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(published in the Philippine Collegian's special edition, "Dekada '90." Published I think in 1999, it's a summing up of what the 90's has been for the country and the University. It included the top 10 personalities and top 10 issues. This is about the STFAP. For the complete edition visit: http://www.peyups.com/dekada90/index.khtml )

More than ten years ago, student protesters had warned of the dangers of the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), President Jose Abueva's brainchild. They had sensed that something was amiss since its implementation. But the creature survived,
nonetheless, despite the protests that have attempted to slay it.

Abueva had a grand mission for the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), a legacy that has come to be identified with his administration. It would democratize access to UP, he had said. This, while declaring in a tyrant-like manner, in a student protest rally in July 1989, that "negotiations are only for labor and management."

But student protesters at the opposite side of the fence saw it differently. Then USC Chair Teddy Rigoroso denounced the STFAP as "a manifestation of the state's abandonment of education." Various student protests warned of commercialization and privatization of education.

And what they had been saying was proven true all along.

This November, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) revealed that the government, under the Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997 (HEMA), was slowly going the path of commercialization as it encouraged state universities and colleges (SCUs) to enter into joint ventures with private companies. Coupled with this was the implementation of an income-generating scheme patterned after UP's STFAP. This, in effect would, virtually free the government from its obligation to provide education and make SCUs self-sufficient.

No other proof could be more convincing than the recent decision of the Senate to cut the UP budget. Sen. John Osmeña, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, slashed the budget of SCUs from P18.16B in 1999 down to P17.5B in the year 2000. For UP, this would mean a P258M reduction in its Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and capital outlays.

Asked whether the income generated from the STFAP had influenced the Senate to cut UP's budget, Nemenzo flatly denied that there were any income from the STFAP. "Ibinabalik din 'yan sa mga estudyante," Nemenzo said. He conceded, however, that there are indeed savings from the UP budget but declined to disclose the figure. From where the savings came from, he answered with a vague "sa operations ng university."

Still STFAP's role in the budget cut could not be discounted. He was already talking of income when he said last September that he would create a special fund where the net income from the STFAP would be used for improving the facilities instead of using it to augment the university's operating funds.

From UP's experience, it has been gleaned that there are indeed several risks in the program, intrinsic flaws that have not yet been resolved. And those who would be lured into adopting the STFAP risk walking through dangerous paths.

One flaw is the ambiguity in classifying applicants, something which STFAP officials themselves admit. Aside from this, there is also the static re-bracketing system and table of stipends. These two have resulted in the steady decrease of recipients in brackets 1-4, where there are greater subsidies and benefits. In 1989, there was only about 32%, or 4,691 beneficiaries out of the 14,593 students in UP Diliman. Ten years after, this figure has dramatically gone down to a measly 4% of the 43,837 students in 1998-99, while the number of students in bracket 9 has steadily increased.

But despite all these, Nemenzo had an even loftier goal for the STFAP. "The [philosophy] now is no one who passes the UPCAT shall be denied a UP education just because of financial constraints. Kung kailangan niya ng pamasahe from his home province to UP, we should be able to provide him that," he said.

But this remains too good to be true and unless these issues are addressed, the STFAP has yet to prove its worth. For instead of serving the students, it has functioned for the benefit of the government against the backdrop of decreasing number of beneficiaries and valueless stipends.

One can safely say, now, with hindsight, that the danger student leaders before had cautioned us against has its justification.

Beautiful Stranger

(contributed to www.peyups.com. Back in 2003. Whoah, that's a long time already. As an indicator of time, there's so much I've been through since this experience. The point that I want to remind myself, however, is that things improve. Can I say, yaaaaak now? Hehehe).

You were, from the very beginning, a fantasy.

So much so that when I finally came face to face with you I couldn't speak. It was almost like having someone from a dream materialize before my eyes I couldn't tell if I was still dreaming or not.

I was stupid that night. I was uncharacteristically quiet. Pondering on the possible reasons why, I came up with some explanations: one, it was my first time to meet up with a guy for a "romantic" date. That made me uneasy about it -- that's why I brought "Matilda". Second, I didn't know if I liked you or not the moment I saw you. I looked at you from Matilda's back when you were busy texting, taking in as much detail as I could about this "sweet stranger".
I remember how your cheeks glowed in the light, and how your chinky eyes would, at times, grow big as though in glee. Your hair wasn't so bad as you said it was (because you were wearing gel?). Though we were of the same height, you were much bulkier; you have "fatter" fingers, mine were slimmer.

As I was doing this, I remember asking myself if you were worth a shot. And I think I said, "Probably." I didn't get physically attracted to you (no hard-ons, bloodrush, heart thumping) but thought you were okay nevertheless ("nice to look at" was how Matilda described you).

My resolve was no matter how you looked it didn't really matter because I liked your personality already. So I was imagining things would "probably" be all right.

But alas, you had another thing in mind.

I want to apologize (for the last time -- I don't want to act stupid again) for behaving the way I did the morning after.

Truth be told, I was hoping you'd text the moment we parted, because then that would mean something beautiful. But you didn't and that meant something else. That started my paranoia -- so I texted and texted and called. Turns out, I hadreason to be paranoid.

I have this penchant for turning my own fears into reality. Never fails. So far.

"We'll be better off as friends," you texted. If you really meant that, I hope so too. Pardon me if I said I had too many friends already -- that didn't mean anything, much less make any sense, because the truth is, I enjoyed your company and I think there's room for a new friend.

Hence, the invitation for coffee. And two other reasons for such: one is, that would help me bring the level (at least in my mind) of the "relationship" from "hopefully romantic" (which was the past) to "friendship". Second, I want to make up for my silence on the 20th. There is so much I want to ask you but I never got to asking. I want to listen to you tell me stories. Basically, hear you talk.

However, you declined my invitation. I still hope that you would reconsider.

Right now, reality is sinking in. It's like breaking up, I think. Eventually, after all this mourning, I have to move on.

I remember there was this sentence in the Christmas card I sent you: something like, "you showed me how i like to be loved," and you did, if only briefly.

I'm trying to think less of you. I practice putting on my contact lenses. The tiny pain is something tangible. It's as though it represents what i feel inside.

I'm half-awake.

You will stay as an idea both in my heart and in my mind; you are safe there; you are wonderful there. And forever, as you began, you will remain, a fantasy. Such wonderful fantasy, sweetest stranger (there is no other stranger I allow that close to me).

Though I (or we) might awaken from it, I am forever changed.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bored

Still at the office. This is like my third or fourth post for the day and really, I couldn't help it. Aside from asnwering some calls and taking some summaries, the day has been practically spent surfing the net (and maybe a couple of puffs outside the office), which is to say, I'm quite bored. It's a Saturday and usually, it's a slow news day.

I've thought about a hundred things that I should do: liquidate, write the application for this course, file my overtime, clean up my room. But I've thought about a hundred things why I couldn't: I'd rather listen to music, browse the Net, sneak a bite, smoke.

I've read somewhere, that Librans are creatures of comfort. That we're lazy? Hehehehehe. I think that holds true.

Well, I'd like to say, we just like to take things easy. But that doesn't mean we're not serious. That's how we balance our life.

Oh, such lame justifications. But I like it.

Moving On

I'm taking
careful steps
tiny careful steps
blindfolded

I don't recognise
the terrain,
thought, it had been
yours and mine

i hold my own hand
in the darkness,
a silent communion
with my own sadness

- April 9, 2005

Desk

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Back where I started five years ago. At the GMA-7 newdesk, pinchhitting. After a couple of years I'm back. The desk people had a seminar on judicial process, they needed someone to fill in, so I'm here.


It was a wonderful homecoming to the desk where I started five years ago. After graduating in college back in 2000, I was hired as a desk assistant in GMA7.

Now, I'm back to answering phone calls, receiving faxes, taking summaries, reading the papers, monitoring the radio, making some calls, ironing out deployment.

Some things don't change. But it's wonderful because in this life, some things remain as they were and gives you a sense of your past.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope and the Filipinos

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Miles away, Filipinos join the rest of the world in burying a well-loved Pope. Here, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos raise lighted candles while singing "Hindi Kita Malilimutan" at the Luneta Grandstand where Pope John Paul II had held mass in 1995 during the World Youth Day Celebration.

It was a tremendous outpouring of love for a dearly loved Pope. Thousands of miles away, Filipinos today joined the rest of the world in burying the Pope. Watching live feeds from Vatican on videowalls set-up at the Luneta Grandstand, people on all walks of life reminisced the life of Pope John Paul II. Some were seen crying, as if mourning a dear loved one's passing. Most of them has only seen the Pope on T.V. Some might have been blessed by "close encounters" with the Pope when he visited the Philippines, first in 1981 during the beatification of San Lorenzo Ruiz and second, during the World Youth Day in 1995.

But what could explain this tremendous outpouring of grief? Perhaps, Philippine Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide has the answer. During the special mass held for the Pope at the Manila Cathedral on Wednesday, April 6, he said in reaction to this fascination of Filipinos about the Pope: "The Pope is loved because he has shown us what love is."

Perhaps. Perhaps.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Reporter's Notebook

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(At the Edwin Andrews Airbase in Zamboanga City en route to Basilan. Behind me is the Philippine equivalent of the US' Air Force One which is President Arroyo's presidential plane)


We had a little premiere of my first ever segment for Reporter's Notebook at Osang's place last night. My segment was third on the line-up after reports from Maki Pulido and Hannah Alcoseba.

Maki dealt with the emerging trend of kids becoming pushers in Cebu. Hannah on Zipper Fishing. And my topic was the peace process and the "Bangsamoro Problem". Hohum. Hehehehehe.

Well, the topic was cerebral and the challenge was to bring it down to the level of understanding of well, the public. It's a complex problem that spans nearly three decades. And my worry was the time alloted would be an injustice to the topic. The objective was to flesh out the issue: the Bangsamoro Problem and the peace process and then in practical terms, see if peace agreements (the Philippine government inked one in 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front of Nur Misuari).

~~~~~~~~~~~ 00000000~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My team (Elmer Barcelon, segment producer; and Stephen Sales, cameraman) went to Basilan, a province which is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The ARMM was a product of the peace agreement, through which the MNLF would be given some autonomy for self-government.

Basilan has a special significance to my career since it was my first out of town assignment (not to mention, where I had my first primetime live report). I went there in 2001 when I was still a cub reporter. I covered the release of some local Abu Sayyaf Group and follow ups on military operations in the province.

It's been three years and I thought it would be nice to go back to Basilan to see if things have changed.

We went there with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and toured some non-government organization's project. The ones we went to were those of the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) which gets donation from agencies such as the USAID. Eliza del Puerto, CCF's manager in Basilan showed us some newly built houses in some barangays in Basilan and some cooperatives in the province.

While there we got to talk with some military officials as well as some MNLF and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders.

But what struck me was a conversation with the 103rd Brigade Commander Col. Raymund Ferrer and an ex-MNLF commander who now runs a health clinic in Sumisip, Basilan.

"Ang rebelde kapag nakatikim na tahimik, hindi na 'yan babalik sa rebelyon," said Col. Ferrer.

While the statement, at best, sounded logical, it was proven true by the story of Commander Damsalon.

Cmdr. Damsalon joined the MNLF when he was 18, due to his father's wishes.

"'Pag bata ka, kung ano iutos ng tatay mo gagawin mo, di ba?" he said.

So he joined. His father was eventually killed and he never got out of it. And then the peace agreement came.

To him it was a chance to try peace as an option. Then he met Eliza who eventually got him to run the health clinic.

"May mga anak na ako. May konti na ako kabuhayan, kayamanan. Mahirap na sigurong bumalik sa dati kong pinanggalingan," he told me.

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There were so many stories during my "homecoming" but the ones above were some of the outstanding ones because of some epiphanies.

It seems to me that what political analysts say that poverty being the root of rebellion may be true.

During one of the informal dialogues which Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles had with MILF commanders in Tipo-Tipo, MILF District Commander Boni Sali frankly told Deles: "Kami lagi kaming sinsero sa peace process, kayo lang siguro. Dito naman sa Mindanao, apat lang ang problema ...."

I was anticipating: political cessation, assertion of our Muslim identity, religious freedom but he enumerated: "...tubig, kuryente, kabuhayan, kalsada."

You know, when you think about peace, it sounds abstract and therefore hard to reach. But when you break it down to its definition then it becomes more manageable.

Of course, there's a political dimension to the struggle for peace but it's nice to know that there are inroads to achieving that goal.

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The ratings by the way: Reporters' Notebook 10.3 vs Pipol's 5.2. Wohooooooo!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Eulogy

On Wednesday, March 30, 2005, I shut the doors of my being to you. That was the last and final goodbye.

I don't know if you went there by choice or by circumstance. Did you, because you had to get your things or you wanted to see me for the last time? I don't know. I don't want to know.

You were thinner from the last time I saw you. You wore a new wristwatch (a gift from your beau perhaps?) And you still smoke.

Did you know that I picked up smoking because of you. Back then when you were abroad (when we were still together) I felt nearer to you every time I smoke. Maybe that's one of the few things we did together. And it reminded me of you. To a certain degree, it's still is the reason why I can't quit.

We didn't talk much. There was so much unspoken between us but I felt that time I have no reason to bring them up. What for?

And so, again, the inevitable has happened.

Before you boarded the cab, you walked towards me, staring at me deeply, like you did when I first met you. You leaned towards me. I held your arm, squeezed it gently and said goodbye. Were you leaning for a kiss? Or was it just my imagination?

Some things are best left unanswered. And forgotten unanswered.

For the memories, this song. I hope you got to listen to the CD I gave you as a send off gift.

Now That You're Gone

If only you could have stayed a little longer
If I had known this feeling then I could've been much stronger
And the hurt I feel right now would be so far away
Now all the memories tell me I should've made you stay

You said we'll make it last forever
Maybe you could've been a little stronger too
Now I know that sometimes promises just fade away
I need you here beside me, it's just no good to feel this way

Now that you're gone
I wish you never had to go
Now that you're gone
This pain I feel inside me just goes on and on
Now I know I need you
An I never should have let you go

I never should have let you go

(For P* and all the things that could have been and should not).

Valentine's Day

Originally posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The News

His death could not be any more charateristically discreet.On Valentine's Day, he slipped from this world to the great beyond leaving us all in shock, in disbelief, or just plain numb depending on who we're talking about.

On that morning, February 2005, as my Mom would later recall, she woke up like any other mornings. Got up and fixed my Dad his breakfast. She had thought that my Dad was just sleeping although it had been his habit to wake up hours ahead of Mom. She called him to breakfast. No reply. And then another. Still no reply. Mom rushed to their room, tried to awaken him, shook him wildly but to no avail. She held his hands, they were still warm but when she listened to his heartbeat, she knew that she has lost her partner for 25 years. Just like that, with nary a notice of his passing or a foreboding. My Mom would later tell us that if there was one regret, it was that she wasn't able to talk to him.

I was in Quezon City when it happened. A cousin broke the news via SMS: "'toy, wag kang mabibigla. wala na ang daddy mo. indi na cia nagising."I was dumbfounded, overwhelmed by a surge of emotions.

For minutes, I just sat on my bed motionless. I lit a cigarrette hoping it would help me absorb the intensity of the news."Ano'ng oras ko uuwi?" a second text came.I decided to call Ate Teena."Kumusta d'yan?" I asked. "Sino kasama ni Mommy?""Andun na sina Ate Glo, Ate Mila sa bahay n'yo," she informed me.I called home. Maila, a cousin answered."Si Mommy?" I inquired."Eto ... sandali," she said."JT, wala na si Daddy ...." Mom said in between anguished sobs.I couldn' t bear hearing my Mom's sorrow so I hung up. "Uuwi na ako."

The Long Journey Home

For minutes, I couldn't bring myself to get up from bed. I sat there motionless sifting through the emotions. I knew this was going to happen. But not this soon. I hated him when I was a kid so I should be okay. How about my mom? Ano kaya nangyari? What did she feel when she discovered that he was dead? Si Jonjie? Does he know already? Again, I tried to find solace in my cigarettes. I had wanted to sleep, hoping it was a dream. I did not want to go home. I didn't want to find out that it was, indeed, real.

I received the news at around 7 am. It wasn't until after 12 nn that I decided that I have to go home. Death is inevitable. My father's time has come. There's no use suspending the reality of his death.

My Father and the Pope

I caught one of my father's rarest indications of humanity, once, in 1995. Behind the facade, I didn't know it existed.

Pope John Paul II was in Manila for the World Youth Day. I was in my third year in high school. We were watching the live telecast of his visit at home. We eagerly awaited, for various different reasons, his coming. I was curious.

And then the moment came. A throng of jubilant crowds filled the streets, at a distance, the popemobile appeared. The crowds waved flags, placards, handkerchieves shouting: "Viva Il Papa!"

Moments after, there he was and the chanting grew louder. The camera zoomed. Pope John Paul II was amongst us. A divine energy swept through the crowd as they went hysteric; waving more wildly whatever it was they held in their hands: posters of the image of the Pope, handkies, placards. Fathers lifted their sons for them to get a better view of the man. Women wept in utter joy. Strangely, I felt the same vibe.

What was it with this man to cause this effect?

Then I saw my father, weeping. It was as though someone familiar has arrived for a homecoming. Someone who was dearly missed.

I still remember that instance: my father, in sheer submission. These kinds of memory are very few.

My father has passed on to the great beyond in February this year. And the Pope has gifted me with that memory.

The Pope passed away this Saturday (Sunday in Manila, April 3, 2005). I am forever thankful.

Obsession

You have become an obsession.

Today, on my way back to the office, I caught a glimpse of you. At the stop light, your car appeared and whizzed pass me. I thought the driver looked familiar and I was right. It was you. And how could I not know? The stud earring on your left ear. Your short hair. Your eyebrows.

What are the chances that I would see you today? And in that kind of circumstances.

Serendipity? I scoff at such a Hollywood cliche. But then again, it wouldn't hurt, if it is.

Like today, you appeared into my life accidentally. You are a stranger as much as I am to you.

Who knows where it will lead, or if something will really come out of this.

But right now I'm just happy, quite strangely to have you. To have you, not actually, but love you, actually.

Bora 2005

The sun is shy on my last day in Boracay.He descends amidst a curtain of clouds, peeking. A shy golden god. Amidst the endless stream of beautiful unfamiliar places, I hold his stare. It is just me and him. He beams his gold rays upon my sun-kissed skin. And I close my eyes to feel it.

It is a beautiful communion.

I thought it would be quite fitting to end my nearly a week stay upon his feet, I, alone on the beach; as a form of gratitude. Five days past and I know I am forever changed. There's is something in traveling alone that makes you better. Without the usual trappings of every conveniences, you are stripped to the basics. Usually left with your thoughts, you learn to discern which is important and not.

I had more than quite a few moments like that, here -- memories crashing in like waves upon a helpless shore. They begin: quiet, discreet, creeping into the present and then recede only to come back much stronger; and I am reduced to helplessness. That's why discernment becomes a requirement.

On the beach, today, I fight back. The old memories: Paul and all what-could-have-beens now belong to the sea, never to return again. Hopefully they will not haunt me. Hopefully, this is the last time I'll think about them.Today is the day I'll move on. I owe it to myself.

I tell my sun-god that as he settles in the horizon, leaving in his footsteps a cloud of rich deep orange and red. It is the end of another day. And for every thing that ends, something will start again.

(Written on March 25, 2005, in Casa Pilar, Station 3, Boracay)

Cross

When I woke up this morning, I felt light, like one would feel after a deep sleep, a long rest, after a fight has been resolved, after something has been resolved.

I told this to Aiz. "Peace?" she suggested.

"I'm not sure. Did I feel light because I'm empty?" I asked.

It's been bittersweet, his leaving both literally and figuratively from home and from me. Out of curiousity I opened his email and checked his "sent folders". There I found an email he sent to his bf. Said he was in Hong Kong now and that he misses him so much.

Fuck!

Why did I even have to open his goddamn email?!Makes me wonder, if I could find courage to do such crazy things, plunge into things that I knew would ultimately hurt me, why couldn't I find the courage to forget?

I am the cross that I bear.