Invasion of the common man

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At first I thought it was just a coincidence that every time I write entries for this blog, usually between 10 in the evening to midnight, I would catch my youngest sister comfortably propping herself in front of the television watching Pinoy Big Brother, an ABS-CBN franchise of a Dutch original program concept of placing good-looking people inside a house where every sneeze and scratch they do is captured by cameras positioned in every nook and cranny. Until it occurred to me that this scene would be a regular fixture of our evenings—me writing while my sister makes witty commentaries about the senseless program she obviously enjoys.

Programs such as PBB and other ‘reality’ shows and talent searches, when they were initially introduced in Philippine TV, provided a kind of novelty that Filipinos snapped without question. When media executives found out that singing competitions that showcase not just the singing talent of contestants but also their private and intimate lives raise ratings to astronomical level, they started flooding all afternoon slot before primetime with singing contests of this format. When it proved easier and more financially rewarding to search for new stars through a reality show than the usual process that a hopeful has to go through if only to have his share of the limelight through painful trial-and-error, both ABS-CBN and GMA each allotted an hour of its primetime for Star Circle Quest and Starstruck, respectively.

And just recently, in their aim to make programs even more ‘democratized’ as far as the people seen in these shows are concerned, both stations lowered the bar even further to accommodate the not-so-good-looking and not-so-talented members of the hoi polloi and the used-to-be invisible proletariat all in the name of fun and all derivative definition of the word ‘entertainment’.

So now we see common people swallowing glowing and smoldering embers, a man walking on a thin wire while carrying a water buffalo on his head, or a woman dancing to a Lady Gaga tune while evading speeding arrows from her husband’s bow, all these done in front of judges who are shocked dead, or are simply feigning this natural human response of being shocked to heighten more the already glaring out-of-this-world nature of these stunts.

We also see an entire barrio doing some stupid, but definitely funny, things on themselves to impress judges who are more interested in saying nasty things or declaring words of praise for talent when it is absent.

And so the common man contents himself with watching these programs, unable to complain against the shit he is seeing on TV. Without much choice, he continues viewing these programs, unaware that his subconscious has already been enveloped by the stink of the shit he sees on a daily basis. Until one day, he found himself dreaming of one day also leaving his den, or if he is a little bit ambitions, conquering even for a day the spotlight in this very ephemeral industry we call show business.

Why getting drunk is the only escape of poor and working class men

After they are finished with their work constructing a house in the nearby village, they would ask the young boy Joshua, aged 9, to go to a sari-sari store three blocks away to buy two lapad (a thin bottle) of Tanduay. During pay days, however, Joshua would have to ask help from a playmate to carry two long-necked bottles of the same brand of rum, an additional lapad in case the two big bottles proved insufficient, and several bags of ice.


Before these alcoholic drinks from Manila inundated provincial sari-sari stores in Mindanao, local men would buy wholesale by the gallons coconut wine called tuba, more popularly called in Cebuano-speaking town bahalina. This kind of wine has a lower alcohol content compared to commercial alcoholic drinks such as brandy or rum. This means that a group of six to eight men needs a dozen of gallons to achieve the desired level of inebriation enough to make them forget, even for a night, all their problems concerning work, family, and some unanswered questions about the skewed sense of justice of the universe.

With or without money, they all spend their late afternoons drinking, drowning the bitterness of life in the equally bitter, cheap rum.

This drinking response was repeatedly used by Russian writers such as Chekov, Dostoyevsky, and Gorky, in their portrayal of hopelessness and resignation felt by working men who felt victimized by their fate and by the prevailing social condition of their time. But it is worth emphasizing that these novels by the great Russian authors were inspired by the events during the turn of the 20th century, more than a hundred years ago. In the Philippines, however, little has changed in the lives of the working class men. Most, after a day of hard labor, are still chained in the routine of early evening alcohol bout because it is the easiest and most potent in causing temporary amnesia, even for several hours, from the drudgery of the ordinary and the banal.

When the spirit of alcohol has already taken over their usually timid selves, they run amok, start a fist fight, and then sleep soaked in their viscous puke or stinking urine. The following day, they awake and go back to their work as if nothing happened.

This after-work ritual is the only time that these men are able to recover their lost control, their freedom from their constricting work. When they’re drunk, they have a valid excuse to be themselves, to be more truthful to their nature which they would not otherwise be able to do when they are in constant fear of being laid off from their below minimum-wage work. It is only during this time when they are under the control of alcohol do they feel their power over their lives and selves. Poverty, inequality, and unfair labor practices have long left them powerless.


In most western countries, drunkenness is a sign of a deep seated psychological problem, but in poor countries, such as the Philippines, inebriety is more a result of glaring social disparities. It is the poor man’s response to the inability of the society to let him become himself.


I got this image from a friend’s WordPress account. I am reposting this here just to remind all of us to “forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation” in trying times like now and to always remain true to what we fervently believe in.

Regina Escobar

Stars on the ceiling

Glow in the Dark stars

Every time before I sleep, I would stare at the phosphorescent stars and moons my youngest sister glued on the ceiling of her room. I am currently billeted in her room forcing her to transfer to the adjacent room which I used to occupy with my two younger brothers before we left for college. They look like real stars, so big that I could almost pluck them from the black space where they seemed suspended for eternity.

“Walyn (my sister’s name) ikaw ni nagdikit sang mga stars kag moon diri sa kisame?”

“Oo kuya”. Of all my younger siblings, she’s the only one who calls me kuya; the rest call me Yan-yan. She’s everyone’s favorite; the apple of our eyes.

“Din ka nagkuha sini? Ginbakal ni ni mama para sa imo?”

“Ako na nagbakal kuya, gina-save ko be ang balon ko.” I would like to believe that I am her favorite brother, but this is too presumptive to say as she is close to all of her other siblings.

“Nga-a gindikit mo ni sila diri haw? Mayo kay nalab-ot mo?”

“Ginbuligan ko ni papa eh.” She turned twelve two days ago.

My mother did not want to commit the same mistake she did by enrolling my two younger brothers too early in grade one, both were six when they started their elementary schooling, my youngest sister is still on her 5th grade although she should already be qualified as a sixth grader.

This doesn’t bother her. She’s as carefree as any fifth grader, and we would want her to have the same childhood as we all did – uncomplicated, happy, devoid of any pressure to excel and be on the top. Only that this time, she’s spending it alone, as all of us are either in college or already working. We only come home during Christmas holiday or in some rare visits like I’m having at the moment.

I was eleven years old when my mother gave birth to her. That time, another baby sister was the last thing I was asking. Our house was already crowded as it is with five children. I was in a conference in Davao when my mother labored for her. When I arrived home, for a fifth-grader’s rudimentary concept of what is beautiful, I thought of her as a hideous slob of brown, hairy flesh. Even so, I knew that time that I’ve already become a real big brother, and was left with no option but to love her although she seemed too wrinkled and brown. I gave my mother the 400 pesos I saved from the trip to buy milk for my newest sister. I smile whenever I remember that day.

“Ti Wa, nga-a ginpangdikit mo gid ni diri ang mga glow-in-the-dark mo nga mga stars haw?”

“Kuya, siling man gud ni mama, sang una daw, tong mga bata pa kamo, nagpadikit sad daw kamo ug mga glow-in-the-dark stars sa kisame sang pihak kwarto ba.”

One day, she showed me a photo of the two of us. I was around thirteen in the photo, thin, dark-skinned. She was seated on my lap. She was probably two years old that time. We were both smiling; she holding on to my arms tightly. I looked like a very proud kuya so protective of his cute, little sister.

She’s growing very fast. Possibly, the next time I come home, I may have a hard time recognizing her and connecting her to my image of my youngest sister that has frozen in time. Some moments in our lives are just too fleeting.

“Oo no. May ara pa gani wala natanggal nga marks sang scotch tape didto. Ti Wa, na-miss mo man kami?”

“Miss mo lang!”

The population issue in the Philippines must be addressed now

He stayed with us for more than five years, cooked dinner for us, washed our clothes, and took care of my siblings and me during those times when our parents were out working. After several years, he decided to leave out house, found a small house for rent in the nearby village, and married the daughter of the owner of the sari-sari store located at the corner of a block perpendicular to ours.

Twelve years later, he now has a 12-year-old daughter, two sons – a third grader and a five-year-old boy, and just recently, his wife gave birth to another baby boy. With his job as a casual carpenter and his wife being unemployed, I wonder where he shall get the money to support his children, how he shall send them to school at least until high school and provide for their daily needs.

NYT, After her first three children, Gina Judilla tried to induce an abortion, but failed. Birth control is largely unavailable in the mostly Roman Catholic country.

The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is vehemently opposing the passing of a bill in the lower house of the of the Congress called Reproductive Health and Population Development Act which would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services, including condoms, birth control pills, tubal ligation and vasectomies. The bill, in case it becomes a law, would also mandate sex education in all schools, public and private, from fifth grade through high school.

Supporters of the bill cite urgent public health needs. A 2006 government survey, which interviewed 46,000 women, found that between 2000 and 2006, only half of Filipino women of reproductive age used birth control of any kind. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization based in the United States that researches reproductive health policy, 54 percent of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2008 were unintended.

Most of those unintended pregnancies — 92 percent — resulted from not using birth control, the institute said, and the rest from birth control that failed. Those unintended pregnancies, the institute says, contributed to an estimated half-million abortions that year, despite a ban on the procedure. Most of the abortions are done clandestinely and in unsanitary conditions leading to deaths of mothers.

Birth control and related health services have long been available to those who can afford to pay for them through the private medical system, but 70 percent of the population is too poor and depends on heavily subsidized care. In 1991, prime responsibility for delivering public health services shifted from the central government to the local authorities, who have broad discretion over which services are dispensed.

But since the task of distributing these contraceptives to their intended beneficiaries, primarily the poor, is already devolved to the local government, pressure from the Roman Catholic Church stalled the distribution. Many communities responded by making birth control unavailable.

The population issue in the Philippines is a political one. The main opposition has come from the church and affiliated lay organizations, which say the proposed law would legalize abortion. And local politicians, adept at bootlicking, will do anything to get the support of the church especially now that the elections are fast approaching.

The population issue in the Philippines must be addressed now. The need to check on population is a national concern. The Philippine population, estimated to be at 98 million is one of the biggest Asia, growing at more than 2 percent annually, one of the highest rates in Asia.

That is 98 million Filipinos! More than half of that go hungry before they sleep, do not have access to social services like clean water, safe dwelling, and basic education.

I denounce these politically invertebrate politicians who give in to the pressure of the church. Their lack of political will is the reason why this country remains impoverished.

I denounce the Catholic Church in the Philippines for its dogmatism and bigotry. While the rest of the world is moving toward a progressive mode of thinking, the church in the Philippines has successfully framed the Filipino thinking inside its century-old, irrelevant teachings on population reminiscent of the Dark Ages.

I am aware that our country’s demographic issue does not only concern the church but also the education of the populace regarding sex and responsible parenthood, that providing the people good education and equal opportunities will eventually lead to lower population growth rate as seen in western countries. We can all agree that this has to be addressed now. And if only the Catholic Church can leave the rein of government to the state.

Source: Conde, C. Bill to Increase Access to Contraception Is Dividing Filipinos, The New York Times. October 25, 2009.

Defense of a ‘self-patronizing’ blogger

blogging requires passion and authority

I jst fnd ur blog too patrnzng of urslf (I just find your blog too patronizing of yourself).

The text message above was sent to me by a reader of this blog. In all honesty, I do not clearly understand what he meant because it is syntactically and grammatically perplexing. But I suspect that he is commenting on the very personal tone of this blog, a fact that I do not deny. This blog might have gone too personal that this avid reader (he would not have noticed this if he has not been regularly following the posts in this blog) feels it went beyond the bounds of a comfortable limit of story-telling where despite the importance afforded to honesty, a certain level of detachment must still be maintained, at least retaining a certain measure of objectivity. To bluntly put it, this reader is of the opinion that I am over-sharing what should have been private matters or thoughts.

Will all due respect to this reader and his opinion, I acknowledge the validity of his observation, and I appreciate his concern that this (Going against the current) site becoming a diary worthy of being read by nobody but myself. However, he is missing the point of this enterprise we call blogging. Blogging is meant to be personal and its purpose, barring other motherhood and sweeping statement, is meant for the promotion of the owner of the site. Plain and simple.

In relating a story, aside from telling a truthful story, objectivity is paramount, and the use of the definitive inverted pyramid structure will guarantee that the article will sustain readers’ interest by presenting the most important information first. But these are already observed and done, expertly and impeccably, by other forms of media. These values are the lifeblood of journalism except, of course, in the editorial section of the paper.

Blogging, a relatively recent development, on the other hand, is an anomaly. Anyone, as long as he has access to the internet, can start blogging and, if he writes fairly decently, will eventually capture certain groups of regular readers. Blogging is democratizing; it gives voice to what used to be voiceless groups who rely entirely on mainstream media for information.

Orthodox demands exacted from traditional media are drastically slackened. With the emergence of the individual as an important stakeholder, objectivity is not anymore as important as it used to be. Storytelling is contextualized in the experience of the blogger; it’s always vis-à-vis the blogger’s universe. Never has the role of individual in the event been as important as in blogging.


Like all other media, blogging is also governed by some sort of a check and balance. A blogger will lose his readers in the event he loses his integrity as a writer. That is why in spite of its subjective nature, truthfulness is still highly regarded in this media; however, I must say that the requirement for it is not as strong as in the traditional media. The blogger’s creativity, writing style, humor, sensitivity, and his ability to empathize and relate with his readers’ experience are even more important this time.

Every article in a blog post must bear the signature voice of the writer; the more personal, the better as these are the defining characteristics of a blog. These differentiate it from traditional form of media. Without this distinctive voice, without this ‘self-patronage’, without this glaring self promotion, blogging loses it essence.

On this whole business they call “having a family”

20-week Fetus

Seeing a former classmate in the latter part of the second trimester of her pregnancy feels a little bit icky. Accuse me of being a bigot who holds on too tightly to the image of the past and whose idea of treachery is tampering with my memory of the good ol’ days when all the girls are flat-chested and the guys are shrill-voiced. These boys and girls, myself including, I reason, are too green to be parents.

Whenever I hear of a former classmate who got pregnant, has gotten somebody pregnant, or has gotten married too early, I feel being left out in the grand exodus of the people of my age from an age of carefree abandon to something mired with big and real responsibilities. Although I do not deny that I pity them a bit for letting go of this precious time when they’re supposed to think about running after their dreams and trying their luck. Being with somebody and being connected with that somebody by virtue of a marital vow or a child, accidental or intentional, can be rather tempting.

I cannot see myself being enmeshed in this difficult undertaking of having my own family anytime soon. I fear the entire endeavor, but I think of it almost all the time. If I follow my parents’ example, I would already have a child in his 20s by the time I reach my mid-forties.

How can I possibly support a child this time when I am hardly able to support myself and my lifestyle? Or are there people who are genetically more suitable to mate and bring up offspring, therefore ensuring the continuation of the species; and those, like me, who are meant to seek worldly pleasures and to allow the species to experiment on the limits of intellectual growth but are destined to be evolutionary dead-ends?

Da Vinci Fetus