Floody Friday

Monsoon in Vietnam supposed to have started around June and would’ve peaked in September. However, because of climate change and other environmental disturbances man has brought about, it did not anymore surprise me when rain came apouring without any sign of abetting starting in Monday of this week.

I failed to attend my class this afternoon because the way to my school was heavily flooded. Ba Dinh district in Hanoi is so susceptible to sudden rise in flood water because its low level with respect to other places in the city. Aside from that, it has numerous lakes that serve as catch basins for excess rainwater, and since raining has not stopped since Monday, all its small lakes overflowed submerging the entire place; and unfortunately for me, my university is located in the center of the district.

Seeing that the narrow street to my school was flooded, and not wanting to miss class, I tried to find alternative route. But this caused me more harm than good. Trying to avoid getting wet and wading in flood water, my search for a dry street leading to my school ended in vain, instead I got caught in a frenzy of motorists trying their best to cross the knee-deep, murky flood water. When I reached Daewoo Hotel, several hundred meters from my school, the roller chain of my bike get caught between the gears. Without any lever to remove the stuck chain it was just impossible. Then two boys approached me and volunteered to fix my bike for me. Business as usual, it’s just amazing to think that in adversities like this people will always think of earning money. They charged me 20,000 dongs, I said it was too much. Then I bargained for 10,000. They mistook me for a Singaporean and told me that I must be rich. I took my wallet, and concluded the awkward situation by offering them 15,000 dongs. Case closed.

I wasn’t able to attend class. I got wet. I got lost.

I’m scared I might have contracted leptospirosis because I took off my shoes when the flood was already capable of drowning me. I will not bear thinking that when people ask about the cause of my death, then the answer will be: “Ah, it’s because of the urine of rats in flood water. What a pity.”

I love rain but too much rain is just too much.

My 100th post – some nonsensicals written at the second floor of a fast food restaurant overlooking a crazy traffic jam on a rainy evening

Five months have gone by. If you ask me whether I’ve learned anything related to my purpose of coming here in Vietnam, I’ll unabashedly say not much. If you ask me whether it has done something good for my career, I’m not quite sure, probably it hasn’t. If you ask me what I feel now, it’s fear. Thinking about the things I will confront in the Philippines when I go back home occupies me, and in some days, eats up the entire of me. It’s a similar feeling during the last months of my stay in college. I remember waking up at three in the morning contemplating about the job I would be in after graduation. The feeling is almost the same, but this time the pressure is more daunting because I do not anymore have reasons to fail. I have to build up my career for my family and for myself. Failure is not part of the equation, but failure here is like those mathematical problems I encountered before which I barely understood how my teachers and classmates were able to come up with the answer. It’s like, if A did this and during that time B was sleeping and C was doing something pervert with D; who ate the cake in the cupboard six years ago? And then the teacher will make some assumptions, not part of the equation, which will be an important step in solving the problem. In my case now, failure is somewhat like that. The teacher (and my classmates, except me) knew that X did it, which left me baffled and scratching my nose.

Now, scratching one’s nose is not anymore fashionable for my age.

This blog has been in existence for around five months. Some articles were well-read, some were flops, but all of them are attempts to be truthful. I tried hard to capture with words my exact thoughts and to make them as close to reality as possible. Sometimes, when I reread some of them, I discovered mistakes, grammatical flaws, faulty logic, or I thought of rewriting them in a more fluid manner to make them easier for my readers. I often change them; or like any young people, I just let most of them as they are not because I am a sentimental writer but because I’m just lazy to do it with my staple reason of not having enough time to do it. I’ve made friends because of this blog, some thanked me because of the insights I shared, and few hated me even more than they hated me in real life. And through this blog, I had the closest encounter with a death threat. Somebody threatened me to hurt my family members because of a single article I wrote. That experience made me to reconsider the limit of what I write. But more than anything else, it was plain scary. And although I had to make that post private, I am thinking of having that published someday when I have already established myself as a professional writer. For now, I am shelving that somewhere; I also get scared, I’m only human.

My intention for writing Going Against the Current is for it to be just a plain, personal blog, but this didn’t keep me from writing commentaries on Philippine politics, media, student life, activism, and other social realities in my country and around me. They are purely my opinions based on what I think is rational. In rare occasions, when the knack of being literary bugs me, I’ve also made some shaky attempts to write short stories, but I know they were of inferior value because I simply am not cut to be a literati.

Just now, while looking outside, the world seemed to be too difficult to conquer, impossible is the more suitable world, but I won’t allow this feeling of awe to make me lackadaisical. I’m too young to give up now; too young to say I cannot do it, too young to stop dreaming. You see, I do not advise you to write while it’s raining outside. Rain has the tendency to make your writings overly melodramatic.

Information, rights, life as commodities: ABS-CBN interview with Commander Bravo

Below is an interview by Jorge Cariño of ABS-CBN with Abdurahman Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo, the leader of a break-away group of (Moro Islamic Liberation Front MILF). The MILF leader has a bounty of 10 million pesos for his whereabouts:

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez however is set to file a complaint against ABS-CBN’s airing of an exclusive interview with wanted Moro rebel leader Kumander Bravo before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) to determine if the interview, aired on October 20 and 21, 2008, violated the 2007 Broadcast Code.

Gonzales left it to the KBP to determine if there’s a violation, adding that ABS-CBN could be sanctioned for airing the interview with Bravo without editing its propaganda content against the government.

Gonzalez said Bravo, who has a P10-million bounty on his head, clearly used the Lopez-owned television network to disparage the government and to encourage subversive acts, which he said is a stark violation of Article 21 of the Broadcast Code.

According to Article 21 of the Code:

“broadcast facilities shall not be used or be allowed to be used for advocating the overthrow of government by force of violence. Broadcast materials that tend to incite, treason, sedition, rebellion, or create civil disturbance is prohibited.”

The Justice chief said the interview shows Bravo as “actually challenging the President.” He added that speeches or any actions that will incite any person to violence or anti-social behavior is prohibited. The interview, according to him only made Bravo “greater than life.”

Gonzalez said one of the sanctions that can be meted on ABS-CBN is a possible review of its franchise to operate. He also said that news reporter, Jorge Cariño, who went to Central Mindanao to interview Bravo, may be invited for questioning.

The Philippine Constitution defines sedition as covert conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Put simply, sedition is the stirring up of rebellion against the government in power.

Here we are faced with a tough choice whether the public’s right to know is to be given more weight than national security. Although it is still yet to be determined whether the interview was seditious in nature, the pressing question now is Was it necessary for the interview to be aired or for the statements of Kumander Bravo such as “magkaubusan tayo ng lahi,” “sa amin ang Mindanao, wala kayong karapatan sa Mindanao” be retained?

In the Philippines where there is a very competitive environment for media to operate, exclusive scoops differentiate and keep one media company ahead of its competitors. This explains why some reporters got kidnapped, caught between crossfire, or have their lives imperiled – all in the name of exclusivity.

And this interview with Kumander Bravo is nothing peculiar. No matter how Maria Ressa, Head of News of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Department, defends the station’s ground by saying that it’s all because of the network’s responsibility to report only the truth, the truth is, it’s not just about truth.

For ABS-CBN, the profile of Kumander Bravo, an exclusive interview with him, and the corresponding high ratings for its prime time news program TV Patrol World are all it takes to sacrifice the country’s national security.

Although there was no direct part of the interview that calls for the people to rebel against the government, the statement made by Bravo gave the public an idea of the vulnerability of the events in Mindanao and the military’s inability to contain the rebellion. Moreover these statements made by Bravo, aided by ABS-CBN, only strengthen the resolve of other other insurgent groups to take arms against the current administration thereby endangering the national security. Insurgent groups will can anytime use media to their advantage. These media, after all, will do anything just to be the first, the fastest, the one with an exclusive scoop.

The network should have at least edited some portions of the interview showing Kumander Bravo challenging the government. For after all it was just about informing the public about the rebels’ reaction to the government’s action of doing away with an agreement with the rebels those direct statements by Bravo mentioned above were unnecessary. These heated statements added nothing to the debate but sheer drama. Drama that ordinary viewing public looks for. Networks in the Philippines see to it that their primetime news wet the viewers’ appetite for the melodrama of their soap operas. I call that profit maximization.

A leader of the a rebel group with a bounty of 10 million pesos still at large being interviewed by a national broadcast company challenging the government on an all out war is bound to be seditious.

This issue of not granting Muslim Mindanao their ancestral domain, the government’s backing out from the MOA in a very un-gentlemanly manner, the media’s way of coverage all have created a dangerous bouillabaisse just waiting to spew poison that this country might have a hard time swallowing. The media, instead of forwarding their agenda, must be more responsible in their reportage. They should be covering the news conscientiously, trying to look into whether an absolutley free press will work in a situation such as in the Philippines. It’s not about the Philippine press succumbing to a totalitarian doctrine, it is understanding that sometimes truth is not end in itself. Truth is simply a means to create a better end.

Maria Ressa in an interview said that it is the responsibility of journalists to report on people and events that affect public interest because, she reasoned out, the public has the right to know.

However, will the interview benefit the public? In what way? It’s not clear to me on what assumptions did Maria Ressa base her statement. What is clear is that the interview is nothing but a media in a market economy attempting to use the public’s right to information as an excuse to stay ahead in the ratings war.

Everything is a commodity after all: information, rights, life.

KBP Broadcast Code of 2007

Questions from a notebook I bought five months ago:

Five months ago, before I left for my scholarship, I bought a notebook that is supposed to be my journal where I would write my daily expenses, my problems, the new words I would learn, the people I meet along, and so many other things. On its cover are witty questions about human’s idiosyncrasies. I’ve written them down here.

I remember asking these curious questions when I was younger, but as I grew older and became more assimilated in the adult world; I simply surrendered and stop asking questions like these. I stopped not for fear of being ridiculed for asking such childish questions but because of the suspicion that that adult world will not have answers for them. I simply distrust adults. They are not as smart as a five-year-old to ask similar questions and give corresponding intelligent answers.

So here they are:

How can there be self-help GROUPS?

Why is it good to be a Daddy’s girl, but bad to be a Mommy’s boy?

Where in the nursery rhyme does it say that Humpty Dumpty is an egg?

Why do they call it taking a dump? Shouldn’t it be leaving a dump?

Why doesn’t the hair on your arms grow as fast as the hair on your head?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

If love is blind, how do we believe in love at first sight?

Why are toe nail clippers bigger than finger nail clippers when toe nails are smaller than our finger nails?

Why are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes?

Why do we wash bath towels? Aren’t we clean when we use them?

Why do crackers have holes, not cracks?

Why are boxing rings square?

Why do water bottles have a “best if used by” date?

Why do we have to pay a toll on “freeways”?

If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

If hardware overheats, does it turn into software?

Why is it called rush hour when you don’t move?

Why do mattresses have designs on them when they’re always covered with sheets?

If 4 out of 5 people suffer from diarrhea…does that mean the fifth person enjoys it?

If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren’t people from Holland called Holes?

Would a fly without wings be called a “walk”?

Doesn’t expecting the unexpected make the unexpected become the expected?

How come they call them buildings if they’ve already been built?

If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?

Is there another word for synonym?

Why are they called “stands” when they’re made for sitting?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2?

Why is it, whether you sit up or sit down, the result is still the same?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are dead?

Why does your nose run and your feet smell?

What on earth is a “free gift”? Aren’t all gifts free?

Why does flammable and inflammable mean the same?

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness.
Think of your three best friends, if they’re okay, then it’s you.

Why do “overlook” and “oversee” mean opposite?

Why doesn’t “onomatopoeia” sound like what it is?

Why is it called a TV “set” when you only get one?

Why is it that if someone tells you that there are billions of stars in the universe you will believe them, but if they tell you the wall has wet paint on it you still touch it to be sure?

Why is it so hard to remember how to spell “mnemonic”?

Why do people order double cheese burger, large fries, and a Diet Coke?

Why is it that when you transport something by car it is called a shipment, but when you transport something buy ship, it’s called cargo?

Isn’t it a little bit unnerving when doctors call what they do “practice”?

Just asking.

A high school love story

After having weathered several romantic relationships, trying to figure out what went wrong, what happened along the course of the journey, or what has prodded each of the parties to leave, my previous romantic affairs concluded in un-extraordinary fashion. I loved, lost, loved again, just like anyone of us. Their ends were never preempted by the happiness brought by their beginnings. There was nothing spectacular about their endings, no spark, or anything near magical.

I wrote love letters before. Some I sent and was read by the intended recipient; some were sent but were read by other people other than to whom it was supposed to be sent to. And a few were never sent at all either because of fear to be rejected or for the fear that the person who will receive them will laugh at the cheesy lines I carefully concocted or I simply was not confident that my letters were free of any grammatical blunders.

Youthful insecurities kept me from fully expressing love, too young to understand the complications and complexities of baring my emotion for people to trample it, crush it, or simply ignore it. But I knew I tried to love. That for me was enough no matter how the adult world tried to underrate my ability to feel and to express what I feel in a way I deemed appropriate.

I was so young then, barely 14, when I felt so sure that I was starting to fall in love with a very beautiful girl of my age. We were high school classmates. For reasons of privacy, I will not mention her name here. We both have already moved on. Now she is living a happy life with somebody she loves and loves her in return. She is also running after her dreams like what I am doing.

Then, life was simpler. We were too innocent to care about the future. What is to become of us after a year, a month, or even the following week was the least of our concern. For us then the present was the only thing that mattered.

She was from another elementary school in the poblacion; and being first year high school students then, we were too shy to approach anyone we think a stranger. She caught everyone’s attention, including mine, because she’s beautiful. In that public high school where I graduated from, it was rare to see a beautiful girl who dresses so well and modest all at the same time. You either see a pretty girl who looks drab, a well-dressed one but just too provincial, or both good-looking and nicely-dressed but an epitome of egotism and pride.

She was simply the most beautiful girl, the kindest, and the most intelligent in class (second to me, hahaha): everything a thirteen-year-old boy was looking for in the girl of his life. We were competitors in class; she graduated with the highest honor when she was in elementary; I, in the other hand, was the valedictorian of my class. But we were friends. I tried hard to make her laugh at my jokes or impress her with my scientific knowledge and love for literature. I won competitions outside the school because I wanted her to notice me.

I started formally courting her during our third year in high school. I sent her love letters through a close friend of us both. Sometimes I deliberately borrowed books from her, although I never read then, to insert my love letter inside. She never replied any of my letters, but I know she felt something for me because I noticed a difference in the way she smiled at me. I felt it.

I joined the CAT (Citizen Army Training) program to become an officer so that in our fourth year I could ask her to be my sponsor during the induction of officers and presentation of sponsors. I faced pain, fatigue, and hard work while in the program. She taught me to think of the future and make my self better so that my life in the future will be far better from what my current life.

I started walking with her from our school to the town plaza every afternoon during the last months of our third year in high school.  I took those walks as confirmations that she also felt something for me. Although that time they had a new red car, which was her family’s transportation during that time, she chose not to go with her mother who is a teacher in our school, and walk with her friends, and me to the plaza and wait for the tricycle to transport her to their house four kilometers away in the town. I reasoned that any intelligent girl would not choose to walk on dusty roads surrounded by pineapples with a guy if she’s not interested with him.

Even though I was not a practicing Catholic, I would always accompany her every Wednesday to attend mass after class. One time we were both asked to carry the bread and wine; we did that while we were wearing our high school uniforms. Days following that afternoon we were our classmates’ object of teasing; I secretly liked it, though. I just smile every time I remember that ordinary Wednesday afternoon in the Parish of the Good Shepherd.

This continued until our fourth year, and on September 1st 2002 she said to me that she also loved me, the day we were officially romantically attached. It was however odd. That time, cell phones were just starting to be introduced in our place and so we were sending SMS to each other. I was ironing my school uniform while texting her using my mother’s Nokia 5110i phone (in case you forget, it’s a very fat and heavy Nokia model with an equally big antenna; this model was already not fashionable during that time) when she became my girlfriend. It was anticlimactic.

Earlier that day, as the Corps Commander, I lead my high school’s CAT Battalion  in the town parade so she asked me if I was okay because she heard from her mother that I was sick. The conversation went on further until I asked her if she cared for me. She said “a lot”. I asked her if it was because she loved me. And then she replied a very short answer: “yes”.

That was one of my most memorable high school experience. Looking back now that I am 22 and definitely more mature and experienced with life and how it is to love, that day remained too difficult to surpass. My young heart during that time, for the first time, knew how it was to love and to find out that somebody was also loving me back.

We lasted for seven months. On the 8th of April 2003, I remember it was in a park, I broke up with her. I gave her many reasons why our relationship cannot go on. I told her that I would be studying in a far place; we would not be able to maintain communication; and that I don’t believe in long distance relationships. She said nothing at first just cried. That was the first time I saw her cry. It almost made me regret saying those things and take back what I said telling her I was just kidding. But my resolve was final. She tried to negotiate, telling me that she could wait and that she loved me so much. I said I loved her too, but I could not anymore go on. I gave her reasons why I was ending the relationship but it’s only now that I accepted the fact that it was because of my insecurities. Insecurities about the future, about our fragile relationship, and about myself and who I really am.

We seldom communicated after that, and in the second year of my college she told me that she already has a boyfriend. I was devastated, but I had no choice but to accept it. She had moved on. I hadn’t. I tried my best to divert my attention to my academics just to forget about her. A lot of things happened to our individual lives after that. When we both finished college, we met again, and finally put and end to our love story. She told me her story which made me to fully I understand her.

“You hurt me so much,” she said.

“I’m sorry. It’s not only you who was hurt,” I said.

“I’m with somebody now. I know he loves me so much. He makes me happy.”

“Really? That’s good. I also wanted you to be happy.”

“By leaving me? I suffered a lot because of what you did. Two years after we separated, I still couldn’t move on. I compared every man who tried to love me with you. ‘Ah this man is not as good a conversationalist as Fev.’ ‘This man is too stupid, not like Fev.'”

“I’m sorry.”

“Is that all you can say? Yeah, but I’m so happy this man came. He loves me more than anyone did.”

“It was not only you who was hurt. I was only thinking of what was to become of us in the future.”

“I hope it made you happy.”


Our story ended in silence.

Her story, however, will remain to be her story. I will not include it here because for me it is sacred and only she can tell it. I know I will never give full justice to the pains she went through because of a love story that began one Monday morning of June 1999.

Subok lang (Just an attempt)

Eksena sa isang lansangan sa Maynila
Eksena sa isang lansangan sa Maynila

Matagal ko nang hindi nasusubukang sumulat gamit ang Filipino. Ang mga manunulat ay may tinatawag na “pandinig”; ang mga bagay na naririnig ay hindi ang pisikal na pagsagap ng mga tunog kundi ang ritmo ng mga salita na ginagamit at kung paano ito nakakabuo ng mga diwang nais ipahayag. Sadyang hindi lang siguro magandang pakinggan ang Filipino lalo na sa tulad kong isang probinsiyano na lumaki sa lugar na pinalibutan ng mga taong nagsasalita ng Cebuano at nagtapos ng kurso sa lugar ng mga Ilonggo kung saan ang gamit na wika ay Hiligaynon.

Isa rin sa mga dahilan ay ang pagnanais kong maging internasyunal ang blog na ito. Kung panay Filipino ang gamit ko, malilimita ang saklaw ng aking mga panulat. Magkagayon man, hindi rin ito ang pinakamabigat na dahilan kung bakit Ingles ang ginagamit ko.

Nakakahiya mang aminin pero hindi ko masasabing sapat ang mga salita sa aking talasalitaan sa Filipino upang magbigay buhay sa mga bagay na nais kong sabihin. Ang patlang na ito ay napunan nang simulan kong gamiting ang Ingles.

Nitong hapon, nakausap ko sa telepono ang isang kaibigan na taga-Manila. Natural, Inggles ang gamit ko sa pakikipag-usap sa halip na Tagalog. Kahit na alam ko na papasa ang pananagalog ko, hindi ako kumportableng gumamit ng wikang ito. Kung baga sa Cebuano “giluod ko” na kung isasalin sa Ingles ay mangangahulugang to feel like vomiting. Siguro’y dala na rin ito ng umiiral na pagtanggi ng mga taga-timog na tanggapin ang Tagalog bilang basehan ng Pambansang Wika. Hindi ko sisimulang ang argumentong ito ng hegemony o tunggalian ng taga-hilaga laban sa timog. Subalit sa Pilipinas, ang paggamit ng wika ay malaking isyu. Ang mga salitang lumalabas sa bibig ng isang tao ay repleksyon ng kanyang katayuan. Alam ng kausap mo ang pinagmulan mo, laman ng pitaka mo, pamantasang pinagtapusan mo sa oras na marinig niya ang pagsasalita mo, ang tono, o kahit na ang paraan ng pagkasunod-sunod ng mga salita mo (syntax ang tawag ng mga linguists dito.)

Sa isang tulad ko na lumaki sa isang multi-kultural na pamayanan, masasabi kong ang wikang ginagamit ko ay amalgamasyon ng iba’s ibang wikang naririnig kong ginagamit ng mga tao sa palibot ko na hindi ko namamalayang sinasalita ko na rin. Noong nasa kolehiyo pa ako, napagkakamalang nanggaling ako sa Maynila ng mga kaibigan kong taal na taga-Iloilo dahil sa tono ko. Subalit palasak na Cebuano ang alam kong indayog ng mga pangungusap ko.

Nagsimula akong mag-eksperimento sa paggamit ng Filipino sa pagsulat noong mga unang taon ko sa kolehiyo subalit ng mga sumunod na taon, naisip kong hindi ko mabibigyan ng hustisya ang mga bagay na nasa loob ng isipan ko kung magsusulat ako sa paraang hindi ko nakasanayan. Tinanggap ko ang pagakatalong ito sa pamamagitan ng muling pagsulat sa Inggles.

Sa pagkakataong ito, sisikapin kong muling gamitin ang wikang ito ay bigyang buhay ang mga ideya ko gamit ang kung ano mang natitira sa aking bukabularyo.

Natutuwa akong isipin na nakakapagsalita ako at nakakaintindi ng anim na wika: Hiligaynon, Cebuano (Sugbuanon), Kiniray-a, Filipino, English, Tieng Viet (Vietnamese). Hindi ako titigil dito. Balak kong sunod na aralin ang Aleman (German) o dili kaya’y Ruso (Russian).

Sa ngayon, sumusubok lang sa Filipino.

Questions of a twenty-something who feels life has reached its end

I was in the middle of my lecture when it dawned on me that I have so many suppressed resentments inside me. I am stuck in this humdrum of pedantry set in the context of futile existence. In my subconscious, I cannot anymore remember how many times I asked this question: “will there be somebody who will shed tears for me in case I die right at this moment?”

We all think that what we are doing is indispensable, and that as a person we are indispensable, but how many times have we been proved wrong? That the world will remain as it is even after we die? That our family will grieve, yes, for a while, but live their own lives (and forget about us) after we die?

Why am I doing all these things? Before I thought that the best answer to this question is that these make me a better person. But after I have proved to myself that I have indeed become a better person, what is next? Being the best person is the logical next step, I know. Although it is impossible to achieve, for the sake of argument, let’s say it is possible. The lingering “so what?” remains.

Questions that reminded me of the philosopher in Ecclesiastes.

I was almost in a trance. Philosophical realizations are like this – they occur in the middle of a very mundane task, something that I don’t think as inspiring enough to cause me to ask questions that I know I will not have any concrete answer now or anytime soon. My student laughed at the joke I just told. This reaction is too seldom when you teach something in English to foreigners whose mother language is world apart from English.

A glimmer of hope, I thought.