Doing grocery in the time of Covid-19

Depending on one’s level of optimism there are many reasons one can be thankful about for having to go through the newly established daily rituals everyone is forced to have because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today, my younger sister messaged me at 8 in the morning to remind me of our planned trip to the grocery. Gulping half a box of milk, washing my face, brushing my teeth, and putting on an ill-fitting surgical mask I dragged myself to a nearby SM Hypermart only to discover that the path leading to it from my condominium was closed, so my sister and I had to go to the direction of EDSA to get to the grocery. Upon arriving, I half-expected but still couldn’t help myself but be amazed by the sight of a line of people waiting for the grocery to open slithering several meters from the main entrance to the back facing Main Ave.

Meanwhile, the sun has begun its relentless ascent, unmindful of whether its prickly rays hit someone who wants to get a nice tan in the city or a woman who has just survived her first chemotherapy session for skin melanoma. Nobody appeared visibly bothered, not even the woman I suspected to be suffering from a kind of cancer.

It’s equality in the flesh, but equality is a myth. Some brought with them foldable chairs, others a plastic chair that when folded a certain way functions as an umbrella, still others have plastic carts sturdy enough to be sat on. I quietly sat on the floor with my shopping bag as the only thing that separated my buttock from the concrete floor that for all I know harbored Covid-19-laden particles.

Various iterations of face masks spat at the face of the myth of equality most of us delude ourselves into believing. There were those made from small pieces of cloth that on a regular days may be used as rags, most wear the run-of-the-mill bought-from-pharmacy variety, still others reinforced their masks by placing a roof-like structure made from clear, semi-hard transparent plastic just below their eyes for the purpose of keeping droplets that may contain the viruses from getting straight into their medical-grade face mask.

The author and his younger sister at 8:43 in the morning waiting outside SM Hypermart in Cubao.

We arrived at 8:10, two hours later we’re already inside the building that looks like a giant warehouse but not yet on the actual floor of the grocery. This I refer to as the pandemic retail purgatory whose length of one’s stay will depend on how much anxiety those on the actual grocery floor feel and the level of leisure in the way they approach shopping for basic needs. My sister, I, and those lucky enough to arrive early were seated on plastic chairs whose ghastly green color added to the cheeriness SM wants to see among its captive customers. We remained seated for another hour and a half.

People resisted this state-sanctioned, industry-supported enforced cheeriness by keeping that glum face the entire time or make the boredom the subject of the spectacle they want everyone to be an audience of, or as in the case of the woman standing behind the cash registry of Goldilocks, closed the registry with so much force that 10-peso coins are mixed up with the 25-cents. Some played their favorite music, unaware of the fact that their taste in music is not something many shared.

I never felt a proximity this close with people before. Whereas before the pandemic I could choose to maintain my distance from anyone whose presence I have this unexplained aversion for, this time, whether I like it or not I have to be with them, though maintaining a radius purportedly enough to keep the virus from spreading, hence my pithy contribution in flattening the curve. I never felt this isolated yet this close to them. We felt an almost grotesque same level of anxiety, and it’s now more than ever do I feel more human, more connected, yet more separated from everyone else, except of course my cat.

Why Manny Pacquiao’s defeat wasn’t that painful

For a nation obsessively in need of a hero, Manny’s defeat yesterday, had it occurred two or three years ago would have been catastrophic and irreversibly traumatic for us whose national psyche is too fragile it rests on one man’s ability to throw punches and draw blood from an opponent whose background is as sorry as ours.

The fewer number of Facebook status expressing dismay, hopelessness, and bitterness due to Manny’s loss to Bradley (at least on my page), compared to what I imagined it would be, had been glaring (at least for me). Have we become less sore of a loser? I have proofs to say that as a nation we still are.

Have the Filipinos become less interested in the legend of Manny? Have the Filipinos thought Manny has already become too moneyed they failed to see their hungry faces reflected in his?

Has his story gone too magically realistic it was rendered unbelievable and felt too scripted in a country were people  eat magic realism for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Have we as a nation shifted our search for a hero to something else? Or have we realized we did not need a hero after all?

Have we thought maybe Manny is just too much of an outlier he can’t be a Filipino? Or has his career like the careers of our many local movie stars’, after having burst into a bright supernova, is now on a road to becoming nothing but a black hole, the star a has-been?

We seem to have cared less now because we realized it is not wise to gamble our national sanity on a champion who, vicissitude they call, will sooner or later face defeat, and that it is far wiser to gamble on our institutions, on our future together as one nation, on a shared belief that this nation is on its road to greatness.

Maybe having a hero was important. But as in all epics, it’s the members of the army who carry out and win the war.


To remind me if in the future this historic fact escapes me:

Senate votes 20-3 to convict Corona

Maila Ager

5:55 pm | Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Twenty senators, including Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, on Tuesday found Chief

Justice Renato Corona guilty of Article 2 of the impeachment complaint filed against him pertaining to his failure to disclose to the public is statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.

Only three voted to acquit Corona and they were Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr.

“The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Renato C. Corona Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…have found him guilty of the charge under Article 2 of the said articles of impeachment,” Enrile said.

Enrile then directed the Senate Secretary acting as the clerk of court to give the respondent a copy of the resolution, as well as the Speaker of the House, the Supreme Court, the

Judicial Bar Council and President Benigno Aquino III.

Aside from Enrile, the 19 senators who convicted Corona were the following:

  1. Senator Edgardo Angara
  2. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano
  3. Senator Pia Cayetano
  4. Senator Franklin Drilon
  5. Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada
  6. Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero
  7. Senator Teofisto Guingona III
  8. Senator Gregorio Honasan II
  9. Senator Panfilo Lacson
  10. Senator Manuel Lapid
  11. Senator Loren Legarda
  12. Senator Sergio Osmeña III
  13. Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
  14. Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
  15. Senator Ralph Recto
  16. Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
  17. Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
  18. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
  19. Senate Manuel Villar

Corona is considered barred from public office after senators voted to convict him on charges of betraying public trust and violating the constitution.

He testified last week that it wasn’t only him who is on trial and challenged all 188 lawmakers who impeached him to disclose their dollar accounts – but there were few takers.

The nationally televised 5-month-long proceedings gripped the nation like a soap opera with emotional testimonies, political grandstanding and a sideshow family drama.

Prosecutors, most of whom are Aquino’s allies from the House of Representatives, argued that Corona concealed his wealth and offered “lame excuses” to avoid public accountability.

Corona said that he had accumulated his wealth from foreign exchange when he was still a student. Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, one of the prosecutors, ridiculed the 63-year-old justice, saying he “wants us to believe that when he was in grade four in 1959 he was such a visionary that he already started buying dollars.”

“It is clear that these were excuses and lies made before the Senate and the entire world,” Farinas said in Monday’s closing arguments, adding that Corona had declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth less than 2 percent of what he actually owned.

Addressing not only the senators but a public hungry for transparency in a country where corruption is endemic, the rich and powerful rarely prosecuted and a third of the population of 94 million lives on $1 a day, prosecutors sought to discredit Corona’s defense with references to a lifestyle beyond the means of most of the people. With a report from AP

Originally posted at 05:07 pm | Tuesday, May 29,  2012

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Is the world any better after 25 years?

No one can claim a more privileged spot under the sun anymore. Each of us is assigned a unique number that corresponds to nothing but happenstance, devoid of any divine plan we all are wont in deluding our pathetic selves that we have. And this interesting thing  I found in, by now has long lost its novelty, only shows how insignificant we all are.

I’m the 4,914,589,331st alive person on the planet, this number changes depending on the number of mortality and births at the moment. Not very special I must say.

I was told that I could expect to live up to a not so ripe age of 64 years and six months. My heartfelt thanks go to BBC for reminding me of my inevitable demise and conditioning my mind into thinking that it’s 64.5 years and tata. And more thanks, this time to fate, because I happened to be born to poor Filipino parents. Had I been a Japanese I could have expected to live up to 82.7 years, too senile for me (I am not an ageist!), but not too young as in the Central African Republic (45.9 years); I still want to get a PhD. before I reach that age and have those initials affixed to my name on my tombstone (or not anymore because it’s tasteless).

I expect to stand before my God, at most, when I’m in my 50s, though. Extending my life after those years, for me, is already overstaying my welcome.

The Facebook monster

While almost everyone, those individuals who wanted to be seen as erudite, passionate, un-apathetic, a rebel-with-a-definite-cause, or those who are genuinely involved and are wanting to voice their opinions out on this divisive debate, rants about the perceived lack of insight the Catholic Church in the Philippines is making rather too obvious as regards its stand on the RH Bill, although not a few are inundating the site with remarks that border from the harmlessly banausic to the noxiously annoying.

But all of us being, members of this free virtual site, are left with no option but to ignore the refuse some people mindlessly spew on the walls, or because we have relations with these people that is beyond the virtual, connections that bleed to the real, we obligate ourselves to click ‘like’ button even though we know in our greenest gut that this is an act as horrendous as devouring somebody’s puke.

While these social networking sites, facebook and its countless copies are giving us ‘choices’, these are as artificial as artificial can be, a consolation for our being subject to their surreptitious manipulation, artificial choices that they can easily take a way at a whim. And we, being too accustomed to their presence, would rather make do with what they provide than to wallow haplessly like heroin addicts deprived of its paradisaical kick.

First, it was television that I slowly, steadily, and successfully eliminated from my routine, but with some symptoms of difficult withdrawal syndrome. Now, this facebook thing, an entity that initially presented itself as a benign diversion, is now turning into a malevolent monster eating anyone it has lodged itself in from the inside out, including me.

Tell me, how do I get out of here?

Because you want me to write a longer post here


These past few days, I had been peppering this blogsite with hints of you. It started with a pesto right after new year, then an account of my crazed repeat playing of a song I would otherwise consider moronic had I been my usual hateful self, and a declaration of your ability to put a semi-permanent horizontal groove between my lips which romantics often dryly call ‘smile’ [a manifestation of a bodily response men of science describe as hormonal over-secretion of the hypothalamus, which I find very prosaic and insulting]. But these are inadequate if I factor in the given that my thoughts in a single day are preoccupied by nothing but images of you.

I am in love with you. Not in the idealist’s sense of a sublime, unconditional love that rivals that of God’s nor is it an abstraction that does not lend itself to corporeal ideals of feeling and sensation, however. But while I keep myself from intellectualizing it, I also avoid myself from reducing it to the level of the carnal and the base. Admittedly, though, the temptation of doing so is rather difficult to resist as touching you and being touched by you have been a decadent addiction that I simply do not have courage to withdraw from.

I do not know how ‘I am in love with you’ differs from ‘I love you’, but I guess their difference matters less now that I am already in love with you and loving you at the same time.

I was told that love does not require reasons nor logic to justify its presence. If it did, it could be because of any of the following, but love: that it is a mere image in the mind of somebody with delusional tendencies, that it’s pure and unadulterated lust, or, the most painful, that it’s all unexpelled gas that terribly needs expulsion. Experience taught me, however, that responding in the line of ‘I do not know’ to the question ‘Why do you love me?’ is naive. Nothing is more logical than finally choosing to fall [in love] despite the knowledge that the risk entailed of falling is uncalculated and that it can mean losing one’s self in the process. Still we went on, dove without any preconditions, and held our breaths while we’re free falling. It is the most logical because we were both fully aware that the sensation of flying, or free falling, is worth the risk of confronting the unknown. Jumping head on despite full knowledge of not knowing what will be can only be a result of careful contemplation.

Free falling by myself was an exhilarating experience; now that the experience is shared, I know it is going to be more exciting than it used to be.

You’ve bugged me for reasons why I love you; my responses and how I said them were less serious than I would have wanted to. But I have always been serious.

January 13, 2011, Rm 202 Media Center, UP Diliman

Framed: the Fox News Journalism

The early years of the 21st century is marked with a sense of insecurity both by the individual and the state. No one feels safe because of the threat of terrorism that is perpetrated by groups who fight for reasons of ideology, religion, or for plain criminal intent. The state, however, also made use of terrorism to maintain its own interest which it cloaks surreptitiously using legitimate justification such as the utilization of war to preserve national security and protection of its citizens but by putting in peril lives of people in places where it conducts operations to fight the supposed terrorists.

A discussion on terrorism and how it influences the consciousness of the people who live in this period in history is incomplete without the inclusion of the media in the formula. Terrorism should then be discussed on a broader discourse platform. This can only be done if the role of media in depicting real-time news scenes and the constant replaying of these scenes before billions of media consumers all over the world is thoroughly considered and rigorously peered into.

In the Philippines, the people’s conception and opinion of terrorism is shaped mostly by the far-reaching and intensely democratized television. It is interesting to note that Filipinos, at least in general, empathize with the United States and are supportive of the actions made by the US against Iraq, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. These international terrorist groups turned out to have strong connection with other terrorist organizations in the country, specifically the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.  Despite the unpopularity of American intervention in Iraq among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines remains a loyal ally of the US in this fight. Opinion polls conducted during the height of the war against terror declared by the Bush administration also indicates that most Filipinos are supportive of the deployment of American troop in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This popular opinion during the time came about, although direct causality is difficult to establish, when local media started using film clips syndicated from their media partners in the United States, specifically Fox News Channel, which provided local TV networks with videos that were taken directly from the war zone. In fact, the country’s biggest network, ABS-CBN, got most of its video from the Channel.

Because media outfits in the Philippines syndicated film clips gathered by the American news channel, these clips which replayed infinitely quenched the thirst of the people for information about the place where their loved ones are employed as contract workers. But this did not come without a price—the Filipino nation became an avid supporter of the Bush administration’s rabid war against terror. The nation accepted without question the prevailing idea at the time: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorist.” No one question the assumption and the possibility of the existence of other perspectives.  And the people, at least the public in general, swallowed the agenda that the rightist Fox Channel advocated—that is, the perpetuation of the war waged in Iraq.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a documentary film by the director Robert Greenwald, criticizes the type of journalism espoused by the Fox News Channel headed by the media mogul who owns the network, Rupert Murdoch. The documentary asserts that Fox is biased toward extreme right lines in Washington that strongly support the war waged in Iraq. This predisposed leaning of the network conspicuously runs in opposition to the channel’s claim of fairness and balance.

The one-hour-and-a-half film, which was unfortunately not released in cinemas, examines the expansion of Murdoch clout in the American and global media industry, and how this strong presence eventually led to a concentration of media ownership in his hands thereby leading to the infringement of press freedom and curtailment of objectivity—values people in the industry hold with utmost value.

It will be helpful to use a framework in understanding the role of Fox News Channel in creating the shared consciousness of the audience and how the use of these clips that were syndicated by different media outfits all over the world, the Philippines including, also affected the prevailing popular opinion about the war in those countries.

The idea of ‘news frames’ refers to the interpretive structures that journalist use to set particular events within their broader context (Norris et al 10). The essence of framing is selection that will give priority to some facts, images, or development over others, thereby promoting one particular interpretation of events (11).

Through frames, apparently scattered and diverse events are understood within regular patterns. Without knowing much, if anything, about the particular people, groups, issues, or even places involved, the terrorist and anti-terrorist frame allows us to quickly sort out, interpret, categorize, and evaluate these conflicts. In international affairs, framing serves several functions by highlighting certain events as international problems that affect American interests, identifying and explaining the source of any security threat, and offering recommendations for particular policy solutions designed to overcome these problems.

The use of terrorism frame serves several functions by linking together disparate, almost unrelated facts, events and leaders and also by naming perpetrators, identifying victims, and attributing blame. On the other hand, it can also function to forward an agenda that serve the interest of the people who control the media organization.

Outfoxed fully captured, although in a rather prejudiced fashion, this blatant use of framing by the Fox News Channel through Greenwald’s careful utilization of the different ‘news frames’ that have been a result of careful documentation resulting in a film that is as telling as it is harrowing and that would pin the channel firmly to the ground for its lack of independence and obvious bias.

However, the film also erred in one, major aspect. It failed to get the side of the Channel as well as that of Murdoch. It would have been more effective had it attempted to erase any feel of propaganda that enmeshed it all throughout. It is a victim of the very problematique it aimed to critique. This lack of balance in reporting diminishes it into a card-stacking propaganda material aimed at discrediting the already discreditable Fox News Channel.


Framing Terrorism the News Media, the Government and the Public. Pipa Norris, Montague Kern, and Marion Just, eds. New York: Routledge 2003. 10-11

Hammond, Philip. Media, War, and Postmodernity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2007. 46

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Robert Greenwald director. Film documentary. Brave New Films.