Saturday, August 29, 2009


Various signs found in Ateneo de Davao University.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Between good and great

Because my Literatures of the World class is composed of young students in their late teens and early tweens, fantasy stories exerted a natural attraction for them. Fortunately, I had a little leeway with the selection, and so I decided to spice up the proceedings with a little Neil Gaiman. I asked some friends for freely-available short Gaiman prose recommendations, and almost unanimously, the answer was "Snow, Glass, Apples."

And, of course, the story was a hit with the students, who found it more accessible than the more usually dense classics. Some of them found the themes disturbing, yes, but on the whole, they said they enjoyed it.

Now, since our weekly class runs three hours, we usually take up two or three stories per session. I try to work around a common theme for the stories each session: feminist literature, Asian literature, African literature. In this case, I paired "Snow, Glass, Apples" off with Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings", in keeping with the fantasy element. Such a combination allowed me to compare the two works, and led me to some surprising conclusions.

On the whole, we found a lot more to discuss with "A Very Old Man" than we did "Snow." "A Very Old Man" held several meanings and symbolisms that were just ever so slightly out of reach. What did the old angel symbolize? The priest? The spider-girl? And despite the fact that the characters in "A Very Old Man" were not fully fleshed out, they still managed to convey enough depth for the archetypes whom they represented.

What's more, "A Very Old Man" raised interesting questions as to human nature. How do we react to the marvelous? How do our cultural background and dominant mores influence our reaction? What is the author trying to say? What, ultimately, is the meaning of the story? And to all these, there are no simple answers. We the readers have to bring our own experiences and imprint it into the story and in so doing produce our own interpretations. In a word, the story is rich.

In comparison, "Snow", while being immediately accessible, seems to rely simply on a gee-whiz gimmick of deconstruction. To be sure, the story still has appeal, but it seems to come from the familiarity with the fairy tale. While "Snow" is deft in execution, beyond the central what-if question, there's really nothing more.

None of this is meant to denigrate Gaiman (nor would he care, I think), and after all, "Snow" was written much, much earlier in his career; but in placing "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and "Snow, Glass, Apples" side-by-side, we get a comparison of a good story and a great story.

The other stories I've asked my students to read, many of them taken from "The Art of the Tale" have the same quality of just-slightly-out-of-reach inaccessibility, the kind which encourages questions more than answers (supported by my two latest readings: "Flowering Judas" by Katherine Ann Porter and "A Company of Laughing Faces" by Nadine Gordimer.)

I think that Chekhov, ever the astute master, had it right when he said that the writer is not supposed to give the right answers, but instead must frame the right questions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Uh-huh, uh-huh...again

Uh-huh, uh-huh...


Saw this with my Mom last night, and what can I say? We both liked it. If there's any movie that was genetically engineered to be charming and endearing, then it's got to be UP. Anyone who doesn't like it is probably trying too hard not to like it. Of course, that's just me.

Disney / Pixar continues with the 3D art style that it started with "The Incredibles" and refined with "Bolt." This time, though, it takes on a somewhat softer and more storybook-like tone, and that's perfect for the fanciful world of UP.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Masters of the Universe relaunched

While flipping through online catalogs today, what should I happen to have seen but...the new Masters of the Universe Classics line! Yep, He-Man, Skeletor, and all the other heroes and villains from Eternia are back, this time as adult collectible items, with adult collectible prices, to boot.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

My toy blog

My toy blog is online. Check it out.

Amazon stash

What's in the box, hmmm?

Why, it's Christmas in August!

Actually ordered these a while back, but they came via Balikbayan box.

Thankfully, we didn't have to pay DoF or BoC any fees. Point for smuggler me! Nya-ha ha ha!

"And I'm going to hug him, and kiss him, and love him, and call him George...."


I took this picture in a run-down-but-still-functional commercial area of Davao. Can you guess where this is?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trivializing Heroism

Today being August 21, we commemorate the death of Ninoy Aquino, a celebration made even more poignant and fresh by the recent passing of the beloved Cory Aquino. Spirit of EDSA reawakened? Yes, indeed, up to a point, and only up to a point. Following all the analyses and retrospectives, we lament how far we haven't come, as per the New York Times.

We can all introspect as to why this is so, but what comes foremost to my mind is how easily and quickly we trivialize heroism to its irrelevant and tangential details. And so in the end, all that remains is a diluted ideal quickly forgotten or corrupted.

Case in point: the days following Cory's funeral procession could have been spent in more reflective meditation on Philippine democracy. Instead, we got extensive coverage of the four honor guards and how gallantly they stood, without moving, for eight hours. Quite a feat, yes, and perhaps worthy of Guinness, but does it reflect the essence of the historic event that has transpired?

And plenty of other distractions followed: Willie Revillame's crass comments, Noynoy Aquino's political plans, Noynoy Aquino's girlfriend, declaration of Cory Aquino as saint, renaming EDSA as Cory Aquino Avenue, etc.

We all want to honor and remember Cory Aquino but what, I ask, do all these have to do with what she fought for?

Our present situation and attitudes finds echoes in past experiences, too. In the months following the EDSA Revolution, the burning question became: will the young Kris Aquino join showbiz? Will her mother let her? And thus, many years later, long after the EDSA heroes reverted into the fabric of mainstream traditional politics, long after abandoned Cory Aquino with our cynical sneers, we are left with the one enduring legacy of the post-EDSA period: Kris Aquino in showbiz.

Now we're on the verge of forgetting again, lost in quibbles of whether Cory Aquino should be declared a national hero. A great distinction? Indeed, but of what value, when you consider the proposal comes from people who know how to honor with honey words but are even better in spiting her principles with their deeds?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book blockade still in force after all

Last May, Filipino bibliophiles rejoiced at their seeming victory against the Great Book Blockade. But it turns out that the celebrations were premature. Found via kyu that the import taxes on books are still in place after all.

Affected this time are not the big bookstores and importers but everyday joes who receive books in small quantities. As per kyu's story, one hapless follow got slapped with over 100% taxes on the books that his girlfriend sent him (including the shipping charges, too.)

According to the NBDB, the individual book buyer must apply for duty exemption at the DOF. You get the exemption the same day you apply for it; you have to apply for an exemption every time you have books coming in. It’s just how it is right now.

An EO zero-rating books is in the works and it just might make our lives as individual book buyers much easier. But we still have to wait and see.

What the Philippine government can't win against its citizens by force, it will attempt to win by attrition and frustration.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Voltron in LEGO

Found, via Brothers Brick, this absolutely incredible Voltron figure done in LEGO. According to the creator, this work of art took a total of 71 hours to make, over a period of three months. And yes, it breaks up into the individual lions. Visit the Flickr site for more amazing pics.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Ballad of G.I. Joe

I quite enjoyed the G.I. Joe movie; sure, it was mindless slam-bang action with plot holes the likes of which you could drive a, er, submarine through, but it was fun. Besides, G.I. Joe to me has always been an over-the-top drama wrapped in a tongue-in-cheek military action parody. Also, the Baroness is hawt.

And now here comes a music video -- nothing to do with the movie, but in fact, closer in spirit to the cartoon that I knew as a kid. And you know what? I love love love love love love it!

P.S. See if you can recognize the big-name stars in the video.

Architecture of the Linux Kernel

A presentation I gave to my Operating Systems class.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pop Stories for Groovy Kids

I wrote this on the request of Tony Joaquin, nephew of Nick Joaquin. I still have to dig up the books again, so I'm piecing all this together from memory. But oh, yes! what memories!

While the rest of the world may know Nick Joaquin for his journalism, his novels, or his histories, I remember him best for a little-known collection called "Pop Stories for Groovy Kids." My sister and I received the set from an aunt who worked in UCPB (and as I recall, the books were published with a grant from the bank.) "Pop Stories" made for several readings and re-readings throughout that summer and several summers after that so much so that the covers fell off and the pages split apart.

It's been close to thirty years since I last read any of "Pop Stories" but the characters are as vivid to me as if I read them yesterday. Without peeking at the books -- the set, minus one volume, still lies somewhere in our shelves -- I can still rattle off the names of some, so memorable are their names: Ellang Uling, Lilit Bulilit, Johnny Tinoso, Juan Tamad, and of course, Mariang Makiling. But the ones that stayed with me best were the three monkeys in Nick Joaquin's rollicking riff on Ibong Adarna; none moreso than the monkey who was deaf, blind, and dumb. Who would have thought that handicaps would turn out to be advantages?

Just why has "Pop Stories" persistently lodged in my memory? On the one hand, the frameworks of the stories themselves are nothing new: they're a retelling of old fairy tale classics and Filipino folklore, and hence so much more deeply ingrained in my story consciousness. But on the other, Nick Joaquin and his artistic co-creators took these stories and made it their own unique dreamscape.

Nick Joaquin, apart from injecting humor into the stories, also invested in them pathos mixed with an unflinching view of humanity. I found hardest to read, for example, his take on the Prince and the Pauper because I couldn't bear to follow the sufferings of the prince-now-pauper (a reflection, perhaps, of my own fears?) Nick Joaquin did not dumb down his stories; and he didn't pull any punches.

Add to all that the fantastic artwork that complemented the words, each and every one of them a painting in their own right, full of whimsy, wonder, and yes, terror. Nick Joaquin and his co-creators put together a veritable dreamscape of stories, one which would sometimes brush against my nightmares.

At a time when we're seeing a resurgence in Filipino speculative fiction and children's literature, I have yet to find any local work which could equal the quality that I remember in "Pop Stories." Perhaps the fault lies with my nostalgia, but I would even go further a-limb to say that "Pop Stories" in many ways preceded and still stands superior to the Gaimanesque fantasies in vogue today.

What's more, I don't think I ever made any overt distinction with "Pop Stories" as Filipino fiction, except perhaps briefly when I first broke them out of their cover. Yes, they were written by a Filipino, and yes, the stories carried Filipino themes or happened in Filipino settings; that I would tell anyone who asked. But to me they had gone beyond that; they had become, for want of a better term, Stories.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Toy Collection

To relax after a stressful day, I've taken to photographing my toy collection and putting it up online. Pretty slow going as I only do four or five per day; I also have to clean up the pictures a bit. Eventually these should make their way into a new blog.

In the meantime, you can view the few that I've shot in my Facebook album.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Statement from Dr. Edith Tiempo on the National Artist Controversy

The head of a country or state who is truly enlightened provides the populace with the exercise of freedom not just for the government’s considerations but, most important, freedom as every individual’s right and privilege. To be aware of freedom as the individual’s possession requires the respect for his personality, for his considered actions, for his beliefs and decisions. A favorite American saying goes this way: “Your freedom ends where my nose begins;” this saying stresses how personal this requirement for freedom goes, with the specific anatomy as the limit that one’s freedom can go.

What is meant by a country’s head being enlightened? By this enlightenment is meant the awareness that at the very primary root of freedom is the human presence, humanity that demands respect – because without this respect one might as well be dealing with the most fearful and undomesticated of animals.

A well-run government’s decisions are based of course on respect for rules and regulations, and the respect always is rooted in the awareness of the acknowledged group’s right and well-considered performance of its duty.

Dr. Edith L. Tiempo
National Artist for Literature
August 6, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

"Bagay 'to sa akin!"

While not nearly as vociferous an objector to the recent National Artist selections, I nevertheless had to turn in to last night's "Media in Focus," which featured Butch Dalisay, Alexis Tioseco (film critic of Philippine Free Press), and, of course, Carlo J. Caparas. I felt certain I would capture a lot of memorable sound bites. I did, and the most memorable line, uttered very early in the show, now graces the title of this post. And as if that could not possibly be emphasized enough, this morning again, on "Punto for Punto", Caparas repeats:

"Wala akong balak isoli! Alam kong bagay sa akin!"

A real class act, that Carlo J. Caparas.

As I understand it from Butch Dalisay's explanation, Caparas' name came up first in the screening committee for Literature. The committee rejected Caparas and passed him on to the Visual Arts, which also rejected him on the first pass. Since he could not pass in either category, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made him...(wait for it)...

National Artist for Visual Arts in Comics AND Film!

Caparas claimed that he's as good an artist as any, even better than most. As proof, he brought his drawings (on loose sheets of brown paper, unfortunately never shown clearly on screen) to show to Ma'am Cheche Lazaro.

"Ito yung kaya kong gawin na hindi kaya ng ibang pintor!"

Despite his, ah, drawing abilities, Caparas apparently forwent illustration duties for economic reasons. "Kung ako ang magdo-drowing, tatlong araw ko bago matapos ang isang serye. Kung magsusulat ako, nakakagawa ako ng 22 scripts in one sitting!"

It didn't take long for Caparas to rationalize the objections.

To Butch Dalisay: "Nandyan kasi kayo sa akademiya!"

To F. Sionil Jose: "Habang lumalabas siya sa sinehan, pinapanood ang pelikula ko ng apat na milyong Pilipino!"

To the youthful Alexis Tioseco: "Bata ka pa lang...."

Caparas was not all venom, as he reserved ebullient praise for a select few.

Of Willie Revillame: "Nagpapasaya siya sa maraming tao! Ang dami niyang nabibigyan ng trabaho!"

Of GMA: "Napakahusay at napakasipag na presidente natin..."

And of his efforts in his art: "Pinag-ubusan namin ng dugo!"

In gratitude to GMA for elevating him to the rank of National Artist, I feel that the only sufficient thanks Carlo Caparas could give in return is to direct her life story. Really, it should not be long until "I...Am...Sorry: The GMA Life Story" screens in theaters all over the country (although a friend contends he is more eager to see "Tiyanak sa Palasyo.") Indeed, GMA should star as herself because, well, bagay sila.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A bumper sticker

I posted this before, but out of respect for the day of Cory's funeral, I took it down. I wondered whether I should put it up again, and I did. I meant what I wrote when I wrote it, and I am quite certain that many other would agree, double entendre or otherwise.

Cory raised the dignity of the presidency with her virtue, while GMA....

Let me put it this way: what sort of dignity is it of when flunkies insist that it is her right and obligation as chief executive (and only because she is chief executive) to visit the wake of a former president as a matter of protocol; and that notwithstanding she has to slink into church at 4 AM and abscond seven minutes later for fear of being hissed and booed by the crowd?

My, my, what demands protocol makes of high government officials.

GMA's flunkies may spin it any way they want, but in the end, nothing can change the fact that she slunk into church at 4 AM and absconded seven minutes later for fear of being hissed and booed by the crowd.

NCCA commissioners speak out

And really, on a more serious note, even the commissioners of the NCCA have seen fit to speak out.

Of Truth, Honor and Delicadeza or How to Bake Your Cake and Eat It, Too
By Elmar Beltran Ingles,
NCCA Commissioner for Cultural Dissemination

“The leak did it. Whoever leaked the results of the deliberations is a criminal.“

This was the observation of a government agency official who sits as ex-officio member of the NCCA Board. His statement was concurred to by another cultural agency ex-officio Board member who was attending the meeting for the first time.

The occasion was the July 31 regular meeting of the NCCA Board of Commissioners. The statements were made in response to the expression of anger and disappointment aired by Commissioner Ricardo De Ungria, of the Subcommission on the Arts, on the manner by which Malacanang decided, confirmed and announced the results of the 2009 National Artist Awards. Commissioner de Ungria was merely conveying the initial reactions of artists and cultural workers to the presidential proclamation.
Now, in honor of Cory, I've resolved to be more temperate in my comments about this administration, but I can't help but think: it's so like GMA's henchmen to confront an issue by reacting first and only to the leakage of the news. But there you go.
As an elected sitting NCCA Commissioner and Board Member, I would have just let the remarks pass as the confidentiality of the results was really agreed upon by the joint panel of CCP and NCCA after the May 6 deliberations. I was not guilty of the insinuations because I never spoke about the results until my own Subcommission on Cultural Dissemination met in mid-June, way past the expected date of announcement on June
12. But the next statement from Department of Education Undersecretary and NCCA Chairman Vilma Labrador was something I could not let pass. She said that we should respect the President as she was within her legal bounds to do whatever she pleases with the Awards – or words to that effect.

While the Chair was extolling the virtues of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the wise words of a truly extra-ordinary woman leader – President Corazon Aquino, she of unquestionable integrity – kept bugging me. “We do everything not only according to the law but we do what is right and honest.” True enough, it was only during the Cory presidency when the awards process was truly respected without intervention from Malacanang, To my mind, if GMA is really that virtuous, respectable and legal as her appointed minions want us to believe, why did the Hello Garci, Jocjoc Bolante, and NBN-ZTE scandals came about? Why should we be bothered by the breach of silence and confidentiality pact when the final result was the exact reversal of truth despite the leak? Nasaan ang lohika, katotohanan at hustisya sa pangangatuwirang mas mahalaga ang tiwala (trust) kaysa pagiging lantad (transparency)?

I felt I was being taken for a ride destined to bring me away from the truth and integrity of my sworn duties. And I was being led away by the very leaders entrusted – make that forced upon us – to protect the sanctity of the Filipino soul and creative expressions.

So I took the floor and minced no words. I related to everyone present how my mobile phone died twice on me because it could no longer manage the 516 angry text messages I received the day before the meeting. I questioned the need for the Malacanang Honors Committee which was said to have advised the President on this matter. I pressed to know who they are, what their qualifications are, and if they are, indeed, honorable. The last question was premised on the simple fact that they omitted the eminent musicologist and composer Dr. Ramon Santos from the list who, I said, I personally consider as the most qualified and brilliant in the list of final nominees and even after it was manipulated. I went on to state that we are not here to be compelled to respect GMA. That while most of us – particularly the presidential appointees to the Board – serve at the pleasure of the President, our loyalty and service should be dedicated to the Filipino people and the arts and culture sector, and that we should disabuse ourselves of the notion of political patronage.

I also personally appealed on record to the NCCA Executive Director, being concurrently the Presidential Adviser for Culture, to do her job of advising the president on the divisiveness of the presidential decision to alter the decision of the real experts in the arts and culture sector.

I concluded that the president is NOT an expert on arts and culture and that she should stick to matters where she is supposed to excel i.e., the national economy etc.

I said all that with voice quivering and butterflies in my stomach – but in no uncertain terms. All I got from the Chair and her co-factotums from government were icy stares.
I could almost hear their thoughts: “the nerve of this boy to lecture us on public service!” And, boy, that was exactly how she referred to me at NCCA!

But I stood my ground. I knew I hit sensitive nerves. I was daring them to contradict what I said but all I got were perfunctory words to the effect that the points raised will be considered part of the legislative agenda to review the policies on the National Artist Award. The Chair even assured the Executive Director of the Board’s support to her victory. “You deserve it.” Case closed, at least as far as they were concerned. They got what they wanted. Never mind that ABS-CBN was waiting outside for the Chair’s statement – which was passed off as the NCCA official statement. They must be congratulating themselves on how the joke was on the rest of us. The NCCA Secretariat would later tell us how they were compelled to be present at a meeting a day before the Board Meeting to congratulate the Executive Director. Congratulatory tarpaulin banners were immediately posted at the NCCA building’s fa├žade and lobby to express the greetings to Mrs. Alvarez “from your NCCA Family and Chairman Vilma Labrador.” Commissioner de Ungria has wisely said that the arts sector should desist from participating in future selection processes until a clearer rules of engagement is set. He feels we are just being used to justify and legitimize the selection of the SNAGs, or the Singit National Artists ni Gloria. Bakit ka nga naman mag-aabalang igalang ang proseso kung mas mamamayani ang mga letters of appeals mula raw sa mga ambassadors at iba pang functionaries na nag-endorse kay Cecile Guidote Alvarez at sa tatlo pang SNAGs? Mas pinaniniwalaan pala ng Pangulo ang mga nasa posisyong di naman mga alagad ng sining – at mas ignorante pa keysa sa kanya sa larangan ng sining – kabilang ang mga matrona, pulitiko at iba pang kwestyonable ang kaalaman sa sining. At ang masaklap, ito pa ang ipagtatanggol na desisyon ng pamunuan ng NCCA kaysa mahigit na isang taong proseso ng pagpili na nilahukan ng ;pinagsama-samang henyo ng mahigit isang daang alagad ng sining at manggagawang pangkultura sa buong bansa.

I am blogging on this incident not to humiliate certain personalities. (I believe they can do a better job at it.) I am prompted by my sworn duty as an NCCA Committee Member and elected Commissioner to uphold the sector’s interest and protect the honor and integrity of Filipino artists and cultural workers who were primarily responsible for institutionalizing the concept of people power in the bureaucracy. As the sweetest flower of the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the NCCA must be protected from the withering effect of forces not true to our interests and ideals.

And another letter from my friend and Guild president:

by Ricardo M. De Ungria, NCCA Commissioner for the Arts

Simply put: As long as the power to make the final decision on the choice of supreme exemplars of the arts—in the persons of National Artists—does not lie in the arts community through their own members chosen for such task, but in a President who can exercise it as executive privilege—as it is now—, then the arts community will not always get the heroes of their art that they deserve, and they will always be burdened with the choice of according or withdrawing recognition and respect to those merely imposed on them by presidential prerogative. The Presidential Proclamation on the National Artist simply must be changed.

On a personal note: I was witness to the selection process from beginning to end, observing and studying it, and eventually submitting a list of recommendations to both the NCCA and CCP Boards that should help iron out kinks and improve it. Like everybody else, I was hoping against hope that the integrity of the process will be preserved and that good sense and discretion will prevail in the one who will confirm the recommendation and make the final decision. But it was not to be. When the announcement of new National Artists was made, I knew that my worst fears had come to pass. I was surprised, angry, disappointed, and hurting. I was party to a carefully guarded process that proved eventually futile because scorned and trashed. I felt like a fool, a willing cow led to the slaughter. What made it more bitter was the knowledge that I had it coming. The truth was that good intentions to keep things above board and under control were not enough—someone else who had the power (or someone close to the one who had the power) was in control and had seen it fit to flout the rules mindlessly, disdainfully, and unconscionably. This situation speaks ill of the mode of valuation of artistic achievements in this country.

If most of us feel outraged and disgusted by this show of might, it is because we trusted too much—to fate and to the powers that be—and thought that a modicum of morality was still possible or recoverable in the small corner of the arts. We were proven wrong, dead wrong, again, like many times before. We have never learned our lessons well, it seems, because we have not addressed the root of the problem, which is the deleterious and obnoxious Presidential Proclamation itself that gives the president ownership of and power over the award. There was not much outcry about this same situation the last few times it happened when the President added names to the official list submitted by the two Boards. And so now we were slammed with a caboodle of National Artists, four of whom—the biggest number ever to befall us—were presidential choices. Once again, we are suddenly burdened with four personalities who we did not choose but who shall anyway be conferred the most coveted and prestigious title in our field simply because it was not in our power to prevent their proclamation. Once again, the notorious tribe of National Artists who are only presidential choices has increased. What to do with this ilk in our midst and their unenviable kind of victimage worse than death? For whether they deserve the title or not, the scorn and rejection coming to them from the artistic community simply for being backdoor men will be rightfully earned. In the end, nobody wins—the rightful ones get to stand with the less rightful (and probably more righteous)
ones, the arts community becomes divided, and the integrity of the award becomes all the more doubtful and tarnished.

Unless we work in the next three years to have the offending Presidential Proclamation amended to give the power of final choice to the boards of the CCP and the NCCA, and unless we enjoy (outside of our ordinary lives) going through this knot of frustration and anger and disgust and helplessness every three years over this recurring issue of presidential prerogative and national artists, we might as well stand clear of the selection process and let the President decide his or her own national artist of a kind.

So who's fault is all this? Who decided to drop a nominee of the NCCA and insert two of her own choices? Well, you you know.

Thanks again to Gerry for these letters. And watch Media in Focus tonight on ANC, which tackles this issue.

A few words on the National Artist brouhaha

Recent choices for National Artist have left me speechless: I'll leave it to up to two fine videos to articulate all that needs to be said.

First, from Gerry Alanguilan:

Tumpak! Pero tanong ko lang: why so serious, Gerry?

And another one from Lourd de Veyra:

Spot on, Lourd! But...what if GMA takes you seriously? Alam mo naman, walang sense of humor ang babaeng iyon.

Voter Registration Verification

The COMELEC's Voter registration verification is now online. Admittedly, I found myself somewhat skeptical of the system, and when it couldn't find my name, the results seemed to bear those suspicions out. It turns out that the input should all be in upper case.

After correcting my entry...voila!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Paalam, Tita Cory

This is how I choose to remember you.

Remembering Cory in Davao

Ours wasn't as star-studded a memorial as they had at the Manila Cathedral, but I'd like to think that it was no less heartfelt. We had two memorial Masses for Cory Aquino: one yesterday, and another one today. Despite the holiday, the Ateneo chapel was still full. Almost everyone was in yellow.

Not many people may know this but Ateneo de Davao is part of Cory's history. It was at the university where she gave her first policy speech back when she was campaigning against Marcos.

In remembrance of Cory, we also tied yellow ribbons everywhere. The shot above was taken in front of our store.

Yellow ribbons also adorned the palm trees of the university.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

People Power

Regrettably, it's only with Cory Aquino's death that the spirit of People Power comes alive once again; and yet, perhaps it need this great woman's passing for us to realize what People Power actually is.

For too long, we've thought of People Power as a mere exercise in crowds and numbers. Just because some people decide to come together and take their cause to the streets, we assume that that is enough to bring about a change. But apparently that isn't so. That's not what People Power is.

Easy enough for us to have been fooled. We thought we replicated People Power when we brought down Joseph Estrada in EDSA 2; how wrong we were! Apparently EDSA Dos was no more than a coup engineered under the cover of the people's indignation. And then came EDSA Tres, itself more pathetic than the last.

"People Power fatigue," they called it. "We don't want to mass to the streets any more because, well, what's the point?"

And yet, as we've seen these past two days, People Power isn't dead at all. People Power can still mobilize crowds. And not just any crowd but a fervent, believing, and hopeful crowd; not an angry crowd but a serene crowd. In fact, it would be a mistake to call it a crowd; call it a people instead, because unlike an aimless crowd as you would find in a market, they have a common and orderly purpose.

This common purpose cannot simply an abstract aspiration; this common purpose has to have a face, and for People Power, that focal point could only have been Cory Aquino. No other Filipino, living or dead, could have attracted the same amount of faith and devotion as she. It was not because of what she did or said, but simply because of who she was.

When we stood up in 1985-1986, it was because we could finally find someone to believe in. To be sure, we despised Marcos; but Cory Aquino was much more than a mere counterbalance to the dictator: Cory was someone we knew we could trust.

If People Power lost its luster in the years that followed, it was because we thought of it as mere political exercise. We put our trust in numbers instead of what was right. In so doing, we lost our faith in Cory; and worse still, we lost our faith.

That loss proved disastrous, because more than anything else, People Power was an exercise in Faith. You just have to remember the events and scenes of the 1986 EDSA Revolution to see that: it was a Cardinal who sounded out the call, and amidst those linked arms were cassocks and habits and rosaries. Not a red banner to be seen, not a slogan to be heard. You have to have faith in order to stare down guns and tanks. Could we honestly say that we can do any of that now?

But one person in all these years never lost that faith: Cory Aquino. Hers was a faith expressed simply, humbly, consistently, and without fanfare. In moments of crisis, the TV camera would catch a glimpse of rosary beads in her hand, or see her linking hands during the Our Father at Mass. Yet for all this, she was never showy or preachy; it all flowed naturally. Her faith was extraordinary because it was so ordinary.

Neither, I think, was this Faith compartmentalized. As we're seeing now, only at her death, this Faith permeated and touched many other aspects of her life, leading to faith in the Filipino, faith in the common man, and faith in the triumph of goodness.

It is this faith that comes once more at the forefront at this time of her death. It is this faith that we ought to recognize and remember as essential to People Power. Only with this faith is People Power possible.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Yellow Weekend

All through the weekend, the home TV showed almost nothing but Cory Aquino: live coverage would shift to retrospectives to interviews. Strangely enough, I didn't get tired of it at all. It seemed like 1986 all over again, a time when we actually felt good about ourselves, when we felt guided by a moral compass, when optimism and not cynicism ruled the day.

Of all the reruns, none touched me more than her address before the US Congress and the February 2006 Viewpoint special that featured Cory, Kris, and Noynoy.

The US Congress address, showing a much younger Cory Aquino, best sums up the challenges that the country faced as we came out of the darkness of the Marcos years. Given the perspective of time -- this Cory was not that much older than I am now -- I finally realize what a tremendous burden Cory had to bear.

It also shows us how far we've fallen from the ideal. Ninoy Aquino's treatment under the Marcos, sadly, finds too many echoes in our country today. Torture and summary executions are far too common, politicians are mired in corruption, and we quibble over the letter of the law far more than its spirit. Perhaps we've improved economically, but at the great expense of our moral direction.

Which is why I feel doubly sad. First, we've lost a great woman; and second, in the twenty years that have passed, we have not lived up to what she represented.

What's worse, we've all become blinded by what political power can achieve. Does anyone remember 2006, when we were up in arms about the Garci scandal? When Cory finally spoke out, what did we do? Did we flock to her side as the "icon of democracy?" Did we take up the rosary as she did? Or did we laugh her off, saying that the time of her political clout had passed? How did that go again: "People power was a spent force?"

Politics never was Cory's strength. No, she drew from reserves much stronger and much more potent than that.

Of all the praise accorded to Cory, none came to everyone's lips more often than the fact that "she did not cling to power." Only the most obstinately blind and deaf would fail to see that this praise of Cory also serves as a rebuke to GMA. In many ways, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo comes across as a pretender to Cory Aquino -- a woman swept to power in a popular revolt, only, it turns out, a coup that she and her husband engineered with the collusion of military generals. People Power Two was only a cover; ginamit lang pala tayo.

The timing of Cory's passing could not have been more perfect because it gives us the chance to draw comparisons between the two women. Just last Monday, we had GMA on the podium of the Philippine congress; instead of cementing her legacy with a firm goodbye, she used the occasion to throw veiled brickbats at her critics. Contrast this with Cory's quiet and dignified delivery before the US congress. Cory restored democracy; GMA tells us to be thankful she did not declare martial law. Years from now, we will still review Cory's address when we need to draw inspiration; who will remember GMA's meeting with what's-his-face?

Next to Cory, GMA falls short. Very short indeed.

The 2006 Viewpoint interview shows a much older Cory Aquino -- older, yes, but still smiling, still dignified, and despite all that she's gone through in her life, very much at peace with herself and with the world. She shows us how we should all hope to go: quietly, with dignity, and with much love.

It's what all of us should aim for.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cory makes front page on BBC News

Thanks, Tita Cory...

...for showing us the way. We never did show you the appreciation you truly deserved; it would never have been enough. We'll miss you.

I look forward to the day when they open the cause for your beatification.