Only from my mother

She will not approve of this picture. She would want more drama. But I’m placing it here anyway. She is, for me, the most beautiful woman who ever walked on the face of the Earth,

I am often complimented because of my writings and the way I write; criticisms on the contents of my articles, despite being negative with some even calling me stupid, are taken as compliments because these readers/critics reconsidered taking a longer look at what I wrote. They are a given of some sorts. They’re always there. And besides I do not look forward to being appreciated by other people so long as I am able to express myself clearly and I am satisfied with the result.

I am a selfish writer. But being selfish forces me to be disciplined, to write with utmost care making sure that whatever trace of my pen left on the paper is the exactitude of what is inside my mind, trying to perfect my art, although I know how futile the attempt is.

My mom, however, seldom reads the products of my thinking. I take her compliments as the only truthful appreciation of my talent.

Seriously.

This afternoon, I was touched by an SMS she sent me. She told me that she has read my articles and said, “You write well and sensibly. I’m proud of you.” The last sentence touched me deeply.

After all these times, I am still a child and a son of my mother.

Beside the red lamp post

“I’ll see you later beside the lamp post where we always used to meet. I’ll wear blue, your favorite color.”

“Just be there on time. I’m going to a friend’s party after you’re furnished telling me this thing that you’ve been wanting to tell me since the last time we met beside that lamppost.”

“I will, I’ve already got enough courage to…”

“Okay, okay, just be sure you keep it short. Bye.”

“…to say it.”

We accidentally met beside that lamp post three years ago. It was raining that day. I just finished with my work in the library when I saw her all wet and shivering standing beside the lamp post. Although I see the red lamp post everyday I go to work, that day it seemed that the crumbling red paint became the brightest red I’ve seen in my entire life. The light was turned on, prematurely, because of the dark sky. The dim yellow light, for me then, was almost enough to illumine the entire of my world.  What used to be a boring, ordinary-looking lamp post suddenly became the most beautiful object in my sight.

All of a sudden, my whole world warped into a ball that surrounded the lamp post. It became a miniscule planet revolving around a star. I felt within me that from that day on I knew that the lamp post and I are one.

I approached her beside the lamp post. I was shivering more because of the unknown emotion inside me than the cool wind and the heavy rain.

“It’s odd.”

“Do I know you?”

“I bet no, but you seemed not bothered by the rain and the wind.”

“Is that your stratagem for asking a woman’s number?”

“Not at all.”

“Then you’re getting in the way of my meditation.”

“Are you serious? Meditation. I’ve never seen you here before.”

The time I heard her speak I knew that the lamp post, me, and she became inter-connected by a universal force that almost too complicated for a librarian like me to explain. All of a sudden Foucault’s pendulum crushed Nietzsche’s Leviathan that caused my anomie as expounded by Emile Durkheim become less difficult to bear. I was happy.

“Can I accompany you home?”

After that first meeting, the second, third, fourth, and all other succeeding meetings we had were all beside the lamp post. Everything was so fast, so harrowing that three years have passed without me knowing her name and she asking for the identity behind my sullen look.

Only the lamppost knew what was inside our hearts.

“And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you,” said Nietzsche once.

For three years, the lamppost witnessed the love I gave to her which she willingly returned with all affection a female human being can muster. She was my life.

“Now what is it that you want to tell me?”

“I thought you will not come”

“I’m here already.”

“I miss you.”

“I’ve heard that before. Well, yeah, I also miss you.”

“I’m thinking if you can stay longer.”

“I cannot.”

“Then can I hold you, for a while.”

I held her hands, softly at first then the red paint of the lamp post looked laughing at me. I tightened my grip.

“I have to go.”

She was my life. I loved her, and the lamp post. Together they gave reason for my existence.

I banged her head onto the lamp post. It felt so light, in fact, feathery to the touch. The lamp post smiled at me. The chipping red paint became bright again, as bright as the day I first saw her beside that lamp post. Blood gave the lamp post its needed repainting.

I loved her, only beside the lamp post.

Brodkom Batch 2003 (University of the Philippines Visayas)

UP Visayas Broadcast Communication Batch '03
UP Visayas Broadcast Communication Batch 2003

Nagapanglakaton ako kagina sang aga sang kalit nga nag-ulan. Wala ako kabalo kung diin makadto, ukon madalagan pakadto sa lugar nga kung sa diin pakadto ang madamo nga tao, nga parehos sa akon ara sa sitwasyon kung sa diin ang pinakamalapit nga pwede masilungan lang gid ang pinakamayo nga paga-kadtuan.

Sang ara na ako nagasilong sa idalom sang puno nga indi ako kabalo sang ngalan nag-agi ang grupo ka mga estudyante nga gakirinadlaw sakay sang ila nga bisekleta.

Then all of a sudden I was hit by the truth that this attempt to use Hiligaynon is getting me nowhere. It’s been more than a year since the people in the picture above graduated from college. They’re the Broadcast Communication batch 2003 of the University of the Philippines Visayas. A bunch of hopefuls who thought of conquering the world but ended up doing a more difficult task–conquering themselves. Their struggles, that range from speaking the language some of them have difficulty understanding, the next outfit to wear, where to get the money for production, their production instructor (Prof. Amy Tanoy), dealing with each other, or finishing a thesis, made them nearer to that goal of one day seeing themselves becoming the person they’ve been dreaming to become.

I become part of this batch when I shifted in my second year from my first major BS Biology. Not that it will make me describe each of them more objectively, but being somebody who was from the outside, I was surprised how these people easily accepted somebody who is not originally part of the group. I will not try to be mushy here, but I saw how we supported each other during the times when we had to face personal problems, when we felt we are not good enough, when we’re destitute, or when we felt that life was too fast we cannot anymore cope with.

Bugtot was the batch’s unofficial name; there was no consensus to adopt it. I do not know where it came from, but sometimes we know it’s us whenever we hear the word being mentioned. We have no claim to fame, or sorts like that, although some of my batch mates might disagree with this. There is something special in this batch that I could not explain. Probably because none of us felt any competition against each other, or a very stiff one, that existed. Or probably because this batch is made up of very simple, down to earth people who didn’t always bother to dress up like all other batches of BroadComm students. We’re, however, proud with the fact that we all graduated on time.

But our batch was not without a glitch; there were petty quarrels and misunderstanding, of course. Some of these were never mended even after graduation, we’re only waiting for a proper timing (timing is everything according to Prof. Tanoy) but for everything else, we left the University with grudges set aside and forgotten.

The collection of the pictures below shows the faces behind BrodKom batch ’03.

Bulak Ausente
Maria Bulaklak Ausente is currently working as a field reporter at ABS-CBN Regional Network-Iloilo.
Grace Pausa
Grace Pausa has one of the smallest waist I've seen. Very sexy and a sensible conversationalist, to add to that.
Makoy Guda
Makoy Guda is also working as a field reporter at ABS-CBN Iloilo. He will be Barotac Nuevo's next mayor.
Rhoda Corda
Rhoda Corda loves reading books and would someday study film in China (or I'm not really sure where.)
John Ryan Recabar
John Ryan Recabar, hehehe. Myself. Still finding myself under the sun.
Joyce Clavecillas
Joyce Clavecillas also works as field reporter at ABS-CBN Iloilo. She had had a chance to do national reporting. Very conscientious and I must say that she has made use of Ethics in Journalism in all her reports.
Nuevelar Bonifacio
Nuevelar Bonifacio is based in Romblon. She can drink so much without getting drunk, can be war-freak at times, hehehe.
Fonz Rojas
Fonz Rojas is the captain of her football team in Tacloban which can be reached by boat (and airplane also, I think but not really sure. Kidding). Her voice will blow you away.
Korina Tendencia
Korina Tendencia is one of the most soft-spoken girl I've met. Currently in Manila enjoying the hustle and bustle of the life of a real Makati girl.
Prince Golez
Prince Golez taught in MSU Iligan Institute of Technology for both high school and college. I've read rave responses from his former students as to the way he taught. A true-blue Iloilo City boy. He smokes a lot and loves with as much gusto.
Gretchen Kawaguchi
Gretchen Kawaguchi worked in a radio station in Manila. She has a smile that rivals that of Julia Roberts
TJay Noveros
TJay Noveros currently works for Philippine Airlines. Have had asthma attacks before but is now busy with gym during his free hours.
Florence Cabunducan
Florence Cabunducan works as a writer at GMA Iloilo.
Emie Abano
I've never really known Emie Abano that much, since she transfered school during our second year, except that I know she is deeply beloved by us because of her humility.
Cherena Cordova
Cherena Cordova. This picture says it all. Sexy. She never allowed anyone to define her person, does whatever she likes without heeding other people's opinion.
Nelly Casabuena
Nelly Casabuena. The Rakista. Kidding. A very good daughter. My first team mate in a group work as a BrodKom student.
May Soteo
May Soteo, the chairperson of the college council. I heard she metamorphosed into a different kind of woman after college. Hehehe. She has the ability to persuade people without them being consciously aware of it.
Paulyn Umipig
Paulyn Umipig has the voice of a DJ. Hehehe. Sings so well especially with her karaoke buddies Grace and Prince. Manggaranon ni! Bangkera.
Ira Ayuste
Ira Ayuste she walks in a unique way. You can ask Makoy Guda to imitate it. She gives opinion with much sense. Tunay na an Waray.
Jonnaven Cambel
Jonnaven Cambel works for Bombo Radyo Iloilo. Very passionate with her work. Palaban ni ba.
Mary June Palomo
Mary June Palomo. the last time I heard was that she's going to Malaysia to work for a cruise company. Pinakadamo work. She's been through almost all kinds of jobs. Not to mention she's also a beauty queen. Miss Pintados de Passi 2006 (I think.)
Djonna Rikka Lapus
Djonna Rikka Lapus. The brat. Hehehe. I know she'll complain about this picture I used kesyo bagong gising siya dito o di pa siya nakapaghilamos. The batch's little girl.
Julia Monteposo
Julia Monteposo donned the best make-up during our time.
Alice Ledesma
Alice Ledesma is one of the wittiest, confident, and the most beautiful girl I've met in UP.
Christler
Christler (I forgot his family name). We've been classmates for a month, after that he was nowhere to be found. Big, deep voice, I remember.
Ruperto Quitag, the Manong
Ruperto Quitag, the Manong. Siyempre! One of the reasons why we survived production classes. Ask a BrodKom student and I assure you that they know Nong Rupert.
The ISBL shirt that redefined connection. Tee shirt design by Cherhena Cordova.
The ISBL shirt that redefined connection. Tee shirt design by Cherhena Cordova.
After BC 197 class. It was followed by our last Christmas Party; the simplest because we were to busy to hold it in OWL and the corresponding preparation of food (the batch's forte)
After BC 197 class. It was followed by our last Christmas Party; the simplest because we were to busy to hold it in OWL and the corresponding preparation of food (the batch's forte).
The Tuesday group inside the production booth.
The Tuesday group inside the production booth.
Have no idea why they are lining up. Probably waiting for their adviser or just trying to look cute. Both are conclusive.
Have no idea why they are lining up. Probably waiting for their adviser or just trying to look cute. Both are conclusive.
to seduce the instructor. Hehehe.
The classic Malalison Island picture. The class was there for one reason: to seduce the instructor. Hehehe.
Slow down.
Slow down.
At the CUB waiting for the next class.
At the CUB waiting for the next class.
Next in line.
Next in line.

All of us have already moved on, living separate lives, meeting new people, wondering what the next day will bring. We’ve aged a little, gained a little bit of confidence, growing mature little by little. I do not know what’s next for each one of us, I bet this is how things should be because there’ll be no point of living if everything is preempted. No matter how hard we try to make the production perfect still one thing will go wrong, a scratched CD, a skipped console, a late talent, or just fear of failure, but that something makes the production more like life. Makes it even more exciting.

Nagpadayon ako sang akon panglakaton sang magpundo ang ulan. Padayon.

Search for truth

I know it sounds so assuming for me to define truth at this age when I do not have anything near what I can call as a legitimate career, a stable life, or a fairly static emotion. I have nothing worthy to die or to live for. I’m like a prokaryotic bacterium with no defined identity, constantly in a flux, free-living. I swear that if I fail to wake up tomorrow no revolution will occur. Things will remain as they are if not for few tears my mother will shed, and the world will go on, not stopping even for a while to mourn for one soul lost.

We are all looking for something. Life ends when we already find that thing. In fact I think that life is a search. But what makes it more difficult is the fact that we do not know what we are looking for more so how to find that thing or where to look for it.

As for me I only want to find truth. A truth I am not certain exists. There’s no such thing as the truth, I know. What I look for is a truth I’ll have no second thoughts of believing in. This truth may already have been written in the stories I wrote or read or I may have inadvertently missed them while I was so preoccupied with nonsensical ideas. I think that sometimes, the entire creative process saps me of any strength to continue my search and just dwell on what is readily perceived by my senses. I seek not to be profound. In fact I believe that truth is a result of a careful distillation process with an end product of nothing but the fundamentals that I shall use to deduce meaning and explain my world with. But I have no intention to just settle with what my senses tell me. Because if that is how easy it is then we might as well have committed suicide because life will be nothing but satisfying carnal desires.

My desire to find truth started when I learned to read and when I eventually learned how to write down my thoughts on paper. Reading magnifies and deepens the emptiness we feel inside. This search for truth fills in the void. You notice that reading is a double-edged sword. It opens up and fills in at the same time. That’s one of the paradoxes when one’s life is dedicated to nothing but that instinctual search for truth.

Some search truth in their faith, their belief to a being unfathomable. Some travel the world even go as far as the outer space just to see themselves against a vast perspective. Others are just too tired to find their truths.

As for me, I’m like anybody else, journeying, trying hard to define, breathing and looking forward to a new day to find my own truth.

A love letter

Sa pinakamamahal ko (sa bilog nga world),

Alam kong matatawa ka habang binabasa mo ang sulat ko. Matagal-tagal na ring hindi ako nakakasulat sa Filipino. Ang sarap ng pakiramdam habang sinusulat ko ito sapagkat alam kong bawat salitang bumubuo sa liham na ito ay ang buod ng aking kaluluwa, walang bahid ng pagpapanggap–tulad ng pagmamahal ko para sa iyo.

Kamusta na?

Salamat sa palaging pagpaparamdam sa akin na mahal mo ako. Nasasabik ako sa iyo. Nagdadalawang isip pa ako kung gagamitin ko ang salitang “nasasabik” dahil lubhang malalim ang kahulugan ng salita, matayog ang nilalaman. Anupaman, hayaan mong sabihin kong nasasabik ako sa pinakamamahal ko: sa iyo.

Dalawang buwan na tayong magkalayo, dalawang buwan na nating hindi nahahawakan ang mga kamay ng isa’t isa. Ang hirap.

Kaninang umaga, habang sakay ako ng aking pulang bisekleta papuntang eskwela naisip kong wala na sigurong sasarap pa sa pakiramdam na sakay tayo ng bisekleta ko papunta sa kung saan man natin gustong pumunta, oo, kahit sa buwan pa. Hindi ako mapapagod sa pagpedal hanggang matakasan nating ang gravitational pull ng mundo at makalipad tayo. Hahayaan kong ikaw ang pipili ng planetang pupuntahan natin. Kahit na gustung-gusto kong pumunta sa Saturn at magpagulong-gulong sa mga rings nito sasama pa rin ako sa iyo papuntang Venus dahil alam kong ito ang paborito mong planeta.

Alam mo, walang McDonald’s dito, pero hindi ako nababahala dahil may KFC. Naaalala ko pa ang unang date natin sa KFC. Wala nang sasarap pa sa French fries, orange chicken at hamburger at ang gravy na paborito mo. Natikman ko na ang specialty of the house ng Hilton, Metropole, at Intercon, pero babalik-balikan ko pa rin ang pamilyar na KFC at ang alaala ng ating unang pagkikita.

Higit isang taon na tayo. Di ako makapaniwala na tatagal tayo at tatawanan na lamang natin ang pinagdaanang pagsubok. Marami akong nagawang pagkakamali at maka-ilang beses mo akong pinatawad. Salamat at hindi natin binibilang ang mga pagkakamaling nagawa ng isa’t isa.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit naisipan kong sumulat sa iyo. Naisip lang kitang bigla.

Siguro, kahit magsawa na ang mundo sa mga sinusulat ko, alam kong sa isang bahagi nito sa isa sa mga isla sa Pacific Ocean ay may isang taong patuloy na magbabasa sa mga sanaysay ko, mga tula, daing, at mga ideyang nabuo sa isipan ko.

Gaya ng anumang bagay, tayo’y nabubuhay na walang kasiguruhan. Nakakatakot dahil maaaring bukas ay hindi na ako makapagsusulat. Subalit alam kong patuloy akong magmamahal.

Mananatiling sa iyo,

John

p.s.

Huwag kang magkakasakit.

Iloilo City, 21-06-2008

It was supposed to be one of those cloudy days. The sky was dark, not unusual especially that the rainy season has already begun several weeks ago. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) raised a signal number one for Bicol Region and the rest of the Metropolitan Manila. The agency forecast that the eye of the typhoon with a sustained wind speed of 74kph will pass the town of Tayabas, Quezon sometime during the midday.

And things started to change.

Since PAGASA releases its forecast every six hours, the typhoon, which is as idiosyncratic as the rest of us, suddenly started to redirect its course and instead moved toward central Philippines. It battered the coast of Romblon and capsized the 23,824-ton Sulpicio Lines ferry, M/V Princess of Stars imperiling the lives of its eight hundred plus passengers. Official reports feared hundreds of dead as the scant number of survivors were rescued.

The province of Iloilo was worst hit and suffered 101 deaths; the death toll, however, will still increase dramatically as there are reported missing cases. As of press time, there is a total of 229 dead persons not counting the victims of the capsized ferry.

For a long time, Iloilo has not experienced a calamity of such enormity. According to a friend of mine, flood water rose in a unexpectedly fast rate forcing families to seek refuge on their rooftops or climb trees.

An arial view of Jaro, Iloilo City after being ravaged by Frank (Fengshen)

I lived in Iloilo City for five years of my life. One of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to where one can experience a rare coming in together of cultural dynamism, urban atmosphere, and a relaxed lifestyle. For me, it was a city that could rival Salzburg, Munich, or even Paris. Its people are one of the most intelligent, open-minded, and optimistic group I know.

While watching in Youtube.com the aftermath of the typhoon, I was wondering if Iloilo can still recover from this mess. Not surprisingly, amid the cars eaten up by flood I saw people who continued to remain hopeful. I saw smiling faces while they unload a speed boat from a truck to be used for rescue operations; I saw kids bathing under the downpours; I saw hope at its purest form. I saw ordinary Filipino who do not easily surrender from life’s adversities.

“John, are you okay there?” Asked my friend who is in Iloilo right now. “Don’t worry about us here, nagsaka na lang kami sa second floor with our things kay grabe ang baha (We placed all our things on the second floor because the water is too deep). Maski wala kami tubi kag kuryente, diri ayos lang, ginsugo ko nila kagina to buy water,hehehe, nakalab-ot ko sa Molo (Even if we don’t have water and electricity, do not worry about us here. They asked me to buy water this morning, I reached Molo). My friend stays in Jaro, a district in Iloilo which suffered worst because of its low elevation.

One thing, this experience taught man never to take his position complacently. While I was still in Iloilo, life was so good and so comfortable that in a way it’s making the people believe in false security as if nothing bad could happen. But this was proved untrue by the events these past days.

I still would want to see an Iloilo City that is as vibrant as when I left it, although maybe it will have changed by that time, but I just want to go back to that city and be infected with the hopeful disposition of the Ilonggos.

Imagining the Filipino Nation

Filipino children

Imagination is giving life to a possibility inside one’s mind. Imagination is the foundation of creative thinking, empirical supposition, scenario building process, and even the simple process of decision-making that we all have to go through each day.

Imagination may appear unstable at first, but as the number of entities, say members of the society, who believes in the existence even the tangibility of something increases, then that product of communal imagination becomes more than just a conception. It will eventually have a life of its own, not totally independent from the its source, but will have characteristics that are distantly-related to the entities that first imagined it. That is the power of man’s imagination. Dr. Shaharil Talib, dean of the Institute of European Studies at the Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, paraphrasing the works of Benedict Anderson, said “My nation i my imagination.” This simple statement captured the complexity that characterizes the concept of a nation.

Although there are states without a nation, such as Singapore, or nations without a state such as the Kurds in Central Asia or the Bangsa Moro People in Mindanao, Philippines (by the way, the Polish nation preceded the existence of Poland), it is important that they go together. A state, if it is to be truly sovereign should have a nation base where the people believe in their communal history and heritage, that they are connected by an invisible cord that bonds them as one group of people.

Looking at the Philippine setting, this seems to be absent. What is our concept of a Filipino nation? A friend pointed out that the local Filipino word for nation is “bayan”, which in English will roughly translate to a smaller political unit that of a municipality. The same is true in Hiligaynon (the language spoken in the majority of Panay and eastern Negros) the word “banwa”, also the word for nation which when translated to English will yield that smaller political unit. If you ask an Ilonggo, “Sa diin ang banwa mo?”, he would say Miagao or Iloilo, but never the Philippines.

This maybe a simple observation on the use of language as regards the word nation (bayan or banwa) or language per se but it has repercussions on our imagination of what comprises the Filipino nation. If we see our bayan as Miagao, Polomolok, Calamba, etc., and not the Philippines then we shall never see ourselves in context more so using the larger more complex community of Filipino people as a vantage point.

This can prove dangerous. The nation is already becoming obsolete, out-dated, and stale as the emergence of supra-national organizations such as the European Union, Mercosur, or ASEAN is becoming the menu for the day and homogeneity the hors’ oeuvre. We can just as easily fall into this trend, after-all the whole world is moving into it. But that is going to be a sad thing. These countries have established their national identities and have worked hard to maintain it. We are a people mired with multiple personality disorder, or worse have gone amnesiac and forgot who we really are.

Corruption, poverty, slow national development, diaspora of our people, these are just but some of the few result of our inability to imagine a Filipino nation.