A new addition to my ‘hatest’ list:

Christmas carols sung by college students who never bothered to practice.

They sing stupid songs like Jingle Bells and Give Love on Christmas Day which they consider cute when they were nine and have not outgrown the liking for none sense songs like these. They accompany these atrocity with percussion instruments that sound charming if five-year-olds play them, but an entirely different case if shrieking college students tap and shake them.

And I cannot wait for the Holidays to be over if only to escape from these carolers who might have forgotten that the celebration of Christmas should never be imposed on anybody. And that Christmas songs should not be sung as to trigger a lethal heart attack.


There is only one thing that arouses animals more than pleasure, and that is pain. Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him. — Umberto Eco

This second one was done less dramatically; its meaning less metaphorical; nonetheless, this one was undeniably as painful if not more painful than the first one.

We were inside my younger sister’s small room she is renting in the city. Seated behind me was my younger brother who has just finished setting up all the equipment he would need, cleaning the needles, and establishing the appropriate ‘mood’ for the operation. My sister was in front of me asking irrelevant questions such as ‘Are you sure you want to go on with it?’

‘Hell, I am,’ was my response.

I commanded her to stop talking and from asking a lot of questions. I asked her to hand me a copy of the novel ‘Emma Who Saved My Life’ by Wilton Barnhardt and started reading the thick paperback to keep my attention from the biting pain. I paused and lost my way in the story of three twenty-somethings in the Big Apple and began feeling all my blood rising to my head when I heard the 12-volt dynamo running amok, sending the two-tip needle crazy for my skin. ‘The first few run is going to hurt,’ he said.

‘I know. I know. Just go on with it.’

Before he could say anything, he turned on the button of his improvised transformer and traced the sketch he has previously drawn on my skin. I should have already accustomed my body to the pain after having one before. But I was not; it was so painful. And considering my negative opinion on self-inflicted pain, and being a hedonist myself, doing something physically hurtful to my body is the last thing I’d probably think of, much less sanction. But having a tattoo is a totally different thing; having it on my skin, the ink becoming a part of me, and the pain being a medium for this merging, is for me an experience approaching the spiritual.

I did not look while my brother embroidered the skin of my left arm with three Chinese characters that roughly translate to ‘grassland’. Whether the meaning is correct or not, I could only care less. The three characters are beautiful and graceful, and that is more than enough. I went on re-wolfing the warped paperback which I already finished reading several years ago, ignoring the menacing humming of the dynamo and the spurting of ink all over the place. The sensation was nauseating, but I kept myself from telling my brother to stop, for my desire of seeing the Sino-characters boldly tattooed on my skin consumed me.

After almost an hour of grueling pain, the operation was completed. Blood started to ooze from the fresh wounds left by the needle which brought me undue fear. The first one I had on my right shoulder was not as bloody. I panicked a bit, but my brother assured me he has seen and done bloodier tattoos. It was not the reassurance I was waiting but I was not expecting anything clinical for an explanation either. To abate my fear, I took an over-the-counter antibiotic.

The bold, black lines enveloped by reddish contusions were my trophies after having endured the pain that seemed to go on forever. For the first time I saw the line separating pain and beauty blurring. And I know that this would not be the last tattoo I’ll have.

Another blessing on its way


She was a mother of five who owned a small library for children located beside the highway in Barangay Mambatad, Miagao, Iloilo. I could not forget her because of her library, something that is out of the ordinary in a place that ranks education somewhere below having to earn for a living. I used to join a Catholic organization in college that taught catechism to young boys in that area which we held every Thursday in their house. Back then, I was already questioning the wisdom behind having a lot of children in such impoverished area of Miagao. That time she was already pregnant with her sixth child. Her husband, a utility worker at the Division of Biological Sciences invited our group to that place as he saw the need of the children for the teachings of the Church.

Our group leader, a Public Health professor and a devout Catholic, did not give the mother a lecture on the use of artificial contraceptives to limit the size of their family, which I think is customary once a public health worker and a woman pregnant with her nth child come face to face. Neither was there a passing mention about family planning. I understood the professor’s dilemma. Can one be a faithful Roman Catholic and a pragmatist at the same time. The response, I gather, is in the negative.

I met her again this morning. After a short ‘how-have-yous’ she mentioned that she is pregnant for three months, ‘another blessing is on the way’ to translate what she said in the vernacular. Her seventh child.

I beggar understanding when it comes to issues such as this. When population issue is pitted against faith I am wont to take the side of the former. Not because I do not have faith but because I can see that rationality of limiting one’s family size to allow children to have maximum care and attention from their parents. To quote a friend and a regular reader of this blog who quoted this from someone else ‘not using condom (or contraception in our case) is so third world’. And indeed it is.

While the rest of the Catholic world is progressively combatting the ills mankind has inflicted on itself, the faithful Catholics in the Philippines remain enmeshed in the Medieval Age-like existence.

And I ask, what does ‘another blessing on its way’ mean?