Two days after Christmas, I received a message on Viber from my sister Bem that Nanay, my mother’s eldest sister, was rushed to the ICU; a few seconds later, my sister declared she has died.

I don’t recall the reason we called her Nanay, perhaps because we wanted to avoid confusing her with our mother whom we call mama. She married last among the four sisters because she was sent early in her life to Mindanao to be employed as a factory worker for Dole Philippines and had to support her younger siblings to school back in Iloilo. My mother also attempted to work for Dole, with Nanay’s invitation,  but lasted only a day. My mother cried, from her recollection, when she saw her older sister waving at her from the production floor removing crowns of pineapples, peeling their heads, and removing their eyes. That day she wore for the first and the last time that pair of soccer shoes Nanay gave my mother as gift to celebrate her first day working at the pineapple canning factory.

My mother married first, at 23, that’s why among us cousins, we’re considered the kuyas and the ates, although they never attach those before our names as the tradition in our family. The other two sisters also started their families very early. This fact made my Nanay bitter, that she worked hard to support her sisters and they ended up marrying or getting pregnant at such an early age. She got married when she was in her 30s, and the only one among the four sisters who had a wedding that looked like a “real” wedding, as far as I can remember — white wedding gown, flower girls, a wedding cake, and trinkets for souvenirs.

She was a very gentle soul. I don’t remember she ever scolded us when we were young. Before she had her own children, we received all the love she could give meant for her children. Maybe that explains why we called her Nanay. When I was in the university, whenever I went home for the holidays, she’d give me a small amount to help me with my studies. And I don’t know why, but my memory of this is always my saying good bye to her while she’s doing the laundry of her family by hand after arriving from her night shift peeling pineapple at the cannery.

Aging ravages us and renders us little by little unrecognizable. This was what happened to her as it would to all of us. Three months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her decline was too fast, I did not have time to see her before she went. We spoke on the phone, but it was a voice that sounded tired and fed up with life. My mother was with her the whole time, sitting by the sickbed of her elder sister whom looked forward to spending their old age together.

Two days after Christmas, Nanay left. She was survived by her four children and her husband.


For President of the Republic of the Philippines: Rodelo Pidoy*

Picture of Rodelo Pidoy taken this afternoon, January 6, 2010 at the parking lot adjacent to the College Union Building University of the Philippines Visayas, Miagao, Iloilo, Philippines.

Profile of the 51st Presidential Candidate and the would-be 15th President

Full name: Rodelo Suyom Pidoy

Nickname: Ugong

Place of Birth: Bugasong, Antique

Date of Birth: March 8, 1984

Present Address: Netura Street, Ubos Ilaya, Miagao, Iloilo

Home Address: Sitio Hines, Tagudtud South, Bugasong, Antique

Highest Educational Attainment: BS Biology UP Visayas

Parents’ Livelihood: Selling vegetables, firewood, and bamboo shoots

What he already did:

-Written more than 1000 poems

-First used cell phone in November 2008

-Sold more than 50 cell phone units as of November 2009

-Has bought and destroyed more than 50 units of AM-FM radio

-Repaired, modified, and sold electronic equipment after that

-Avoided using computers unless so necessary from 2000-2008. But as of May-June 2009 repaired, set-up, and sold computers already without using manuals (used electricity from relatives as own house has none).

-Was able to cure any kind of diseases (stroke, asthma, hypersensitivity reaction, colds, fever, insomnia, kidney trouble, stomach pain, canker, cancer, hemorrhoids, enlarged heart, toothache, goiter, eyestrain, migraine, skin allergy, chronic cramps, irregular menstrual cycle, child-bearing problems, depression, nervous breakdown, ulcers, bone fractures, and many more even those not biologic in origin – or that which are not caused by food or water taken.

-Did the healing without the aid of western medicine.

-Invented 50 inventions/gadgets; once made one invention a day for 30 days.

-Developed a technique for planting several millions of trees in one day.

-Planted 2000 trees in less than a minute.

-Made a device that can turn off neighboring FM radios

-Made a device that can control rains, typhoons, earthquakes, ice and hailstorms.

-Made a device that can pinpoint the part of the body that is weak and uses it as a diagnostic tool in treating patients.

What he can do and still needs to do:

-Intends to study at Harvard. He likes to take medicine.

-Will try to patent his inventions and mass produce some.

-Intends to sell his weather controlling device for a price enough to cover all the debts of the Philippines and with enough money for him to launch a national campaign; however, he thinks it is better to keep it into himself and use it for the country to develop for it might go to wrong hands and we will be victims. To utilize its potential, however, he needs to be the President.

-Likes to experience true democracy and not a false one.

-Can make the country be united as one and develop.

-Likes to create a million jobs the first month he sits in office.

-Likes the next generation of Filipinos see the Philippines as their paradise.

Before these happens, however, he needs to qualify as a candidate. He is only 26 by the time of the election and so he is disqualified. He needs to change the Constitution. He can do it alone. However there is not enough time. He needs the cooperation of everybody and the help of everyone who needs to experience true democracy and true freedom. How could we have true freedom to participate when one of the requirements for President is “at least forty years old at the time of election” while also having “be able to read and write as a criterion”? Most grade one pupils know how to read and write and so a forty year-old who has finished grade one only is allowed while a twenty year-old college graduate cannot?

The “be able to read and write” gives us a false feeling of freedom for it includes almost all of us. The “at least forty years old” however gives us a restriction. Therefore we think we are free but actually we are not. Age limit for Presidents then must be lowered. It must be lowered to at least twenty years old. If not, he will wait until he is old enough to be corrupted by the corrupt society he is in and become a corrupt president later on. The choice is yours. Now is the time to make history. Let us make democracy the rule of the masses – the poorer class – because we are the majority.

We are not having oligarchy as our type of government so at least one from our ranks needs to be the President. In that way elite rule will not continue. If it does continue at least we are not disenfranchised citizens. I did this because I was called. I have come upon your calling. And so recognize that I am the one whom you are waiting. Cooperate with my cause and I will cooperate with you. Together we can fight Global Warming, and warming here in our country due to much politicking. I myself if I will not contribute my help, this nation will be ravaged not only by war but by violent typhoons and strong earthquakes.

We need to participate in politics. I know you do not want to be dominated by evil men. Let me quote what Plato – one of the great Greek philosophers – “It is the price of good men who hesitate to involve in politics ruled by evil men”. Allow me to be your voice and your representative. This country needs only one man for it to change – I.

Say this also and together we will be united by the same belief. Only then will we be one.

Wish anything reasonable from me and it shall be done.

*The text in this post was taken verbatim from the campaign materials being distributed by Rodelo Pidoy. I am here to help a friend who needs to establish some presence in the internet.

Woman: A classic of Survival*

Skimmers’ Oratorical Piece delivered during Prima Facie 2008 at Pidlaoan Hall, University of the Philippines Visayas Miagao, Iloilo, September 9

After finishing a class in my Philippine History subject, I admiringly stared at my professor in awe of the breadth of her knowledge and the depth of her insights on Philippine affairs. She’s a motherly figure that can inspire both terror and love, both power and wisdom – a woman of tireless energy that will make one appreciate the past and see its implication on the present and the times to come. A woman of indomitable spirit. A cancer survivor.

She survived the disease and proved once more that not even the dreaded breast cancer will keep her from becoming the best in her field. She, like all other women I know, has proven her worth as a survivor. They do it with grace, beauty, and confidence-something only a woman can do. A classic, if you allow me to say.

Women in this hall, who constantly and successfully prove to the world that nature has made them the wonders of survival; the men as well, who are witnesses to what these daring women can do; board of judges; friends; ladies and gentlemen: a pleasant afternoon.

Behold a classic of survival.

As we all struggle for existence and for survival, to put it, the precondition is not for an individual to be big, to be strong; neither is brute force a prerequisite. Cunning and adaptation are the rules of the game. Two characteristics generously endowed by nature on the female of the species.

Survival is the ability to adapt and to embrace the curves and falls of the meandering idiosyncrasies of life. It is for the same reason why the brainy tiny mouse inherited the world and the dim-witted mighty T-rex failed.

Women are the masters of survival for instead of using violence, force, and overt showcase and spectacle of power they preferred the less obvious means – love, beauty, intelligence, and grace.

Cloaked by the meek and innocent look is a woman of seething power poised to rule the world.

Hidden behind the sweet smile is an intelligent woman that will make your heart beat furiously, shake it; but love in a manner only she can do.

Camouflaged by the seemingly weak and fragile body is a woman of strength that can hold the world on her finger tips.

Mimicking silence and an unassuming character are intelligence and erudition that allow us to see the world in a different light, giving us perspective that the otherwise male-biased science is utterly unsuccessful in doing.

Such and so much more celebrate women’s mastery of the evolutionary track humankind has trod and will continue to do, so long as it remains the most dominant species in the face of the world.

My Philippine History professor is defined by her intelligence, her job as a member of the academe, and yes, by the disease she fought and successfully won, but more than all these, she is defined by her womanhood, an identity that made her a classic of survival.

As a woman, I eschew society’s definition of my person; I refuse to be measured against biased yard stick that is concerned with nothing but delegating me to a secondary status. I demand to be viewed equal because I see myself as an intelligent, sensitive, virtuous, and beautiful survivor who will not only survive this life but will eventually conquer it.

Millennia of humanity’s existence have proven once and again that women have mastered survival, its complexities, intricacies, its arts and sciences. From enduring the pangs of child birth to recovering from all hardships, but still being able to afford to look almost unscathed from the challenges faced, women have given this world an enduring legacy of survival and taught a very simple lesson of existence: that surviving is not fighting against the conditions posed by nature but to use these conditions to one’s advantage, something that women learned by heart and made use of in myriad of ways.

I myself would also want to leave something as my legacy to humanity, something that will inspire mankind and other women like me to not just experience this life but to survive it, transcend it, and go beyond what is expected of me as a woman.

Surviving it with intelligence, passion, grace, and of course, beauty.

Behold before you a classic of survival.

A woman.

*An oratorical piece inspired by Prof. Tita Torio, a teacher, mentor, second mother, and friend of the author.