All five in this picture are from Mindanao – the three people on the left, which the sender of the picture referred to as Moros, the playwright Rogelio Braga who emailed me this picture and the blogger.

I do not know if this is the most politically correct term for the Muslims of Mindanao or if it is the name chosen by the politically articulate Muslims who are based in Manila to call themselves.

Unlike Rogelio and the other three in this picture, I am ignorant of the politics in Mindanao. My elementary Sibika at Kultura teacher told us that ‘moro’ is a derogatory term as in ‘Moro-moro’ which means a phony war. I do not know if this still holds true or things have changed since I finished elementary in 1999.

I do not know if the knowledge I have of this part of the Philippines still holds true a decade after.

John and my friends

Picture taken by Alberto Bainto during the 5th Virgin Labfest at the Bulwagang Huseng Batute, Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Jose Rizal and Filipino virility

I first knew about him when I was in my second grade in my Sibika at Kultura (Civics and Culture) class. Before that, the only place I saw him was on big one-peso coins measuring almost two inches in diameter until it went out of circulation. He is Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Realonda or simply Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero who died on the 30th of December 1896 in Bagumbayan, now known as Luneta in Manila.

He inspired awe in me during those impressionable years of my life. He was, according to our Sibika at Kultura book, a doctor, farmer, writer, sportsman, orator, poet, engineer, painter, sculptor, teacher and all other possible professions I already forgot. He must be very good, I thought, for of course he is the national hero of my country, the pride of the Malay race (although most Malays from Indonesia and Malaysia would sneer at this epithet).


In college, the Rizal I knew when I was eight years old was deconstructed to a point of irrecognizability. He was depicted as a person committing the same mistakes, same blunders, same indecisiveness as any living mortal. He was even rumored to be gay. The last one shocked me for I never thought of him having sex with any of the members of the propaganda.

However, just recently, I chanced upon an article entitled “Women First in Heart of First Filipino” which basically enumerated the love interests of Rizal. Based of the latest count, he had no less than ten women all scattered around Europe and in his hometown in Laguna. They were Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, Consuelo Ortiga, a certain girl named Julia whom he met when he was 15 years old in Laguna, O Sei San, Gertrude Beckette, Nelly Boustead, Suzanne Jacoby, and finally Josephine Bracken whom he met in Dapitan.

What even impressed me more was aside those professions he had that I learned in my second grade, the national hero was also a woman’s man, a Don Juan.

Not that I am being skeptical about the claim, nor I am questioning the historical proofs that strengthen the claim that Rizal, indeed, was a real man, virile, I think is the better word. However, despite all these relationships with women attributed to him, I wonder why he didn’t have a child, except for the case of miscarriage suffered by the Irish girl Josephine Bracken in Dapitan which purportedly was Rizal’s supposed progeny.

In the Philippine society, a man’s virility is primarily measured by the number of women he conquered and successfully slept with. Virility is a positive trait that will guarantee the continuation of a family name, honor, wealth and all other factors related. As much as Rizal is a representation of an ideal Filipino, his virility must therefore be emphasized. This explains the outrage of most people when Rizal was suspected to be a homosexual, for this allegation is not only an attack on Rizal but an assault to long-held values of manliness in the Philippines.

Unang Patak ng Niyebe (First Snow Fall)

I wrote this short story in Filipino two years ago as one of the writing requirements for the Democracy Summer Fest Creative Writing Module sponsored by the American Embassy held in Davao City, Philippines. I already lost the manuscripts; however, I tried my best to be as faithful to the original as I possibly can. I also provided a translation in English:


Patakbong lumabas mula sa tarangkahan ng paaralan si Mito. Ramdam ng kanyang talampakan ang mga maliliit at matutulis na batong hindi lubusang naikubli ng kanyang manipis na dilaw na tsinelas. Hindi niya maitago ang saya dahil ito ang una niyang pagkakataong makapunta sa aklatang bayan ng Cajidiocan, Romblon.

Masuyo niyang tinahak ang daan at nagpalinga-linga sa mga dumaraang traysikel. Bilin ng kanyang nanay na mag-iingat sa daan. Inayos niya ang nakalambiting bag sa kanyang likod na naglalaman ng kanyang walang lamang baunan, isang lapis, at aklat sa Sibika at Kultura at Ingles. Nakipagpalitan muna siya sa isa niyang kaklase na dala nama’y aklat sa Agham at Araling Pantahanan.

Nasa ika-apat na baitang si Mito, subalit maliban sa apat na aklat na palagi niyang dala na kapalitan niya sa kanyang kamag-aral, hindi pa siya nakakita ng aklat na puno ng larawan gaya ng ikinwento ng kanyang nakatatandang kapatid na babae.

At dahil bukod-tangi ang araw na ito, nilakad niya mula sa kanilang mababang paaralan patungong bayan, humigit-kumulang 5 kilometro, upang basahin at mapagmasdan ang mga dahon ng aklat na puno ng makukulay na larawan at mga tanawan mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo.

Pinigil niya ang kanyang paghinga nang matanaw niya ang “Cajidiocan, Romblon Public Library”.

Binati niya ang tagapamahala ng aklatan at inilapag sa mesa ang kanyang palatandaan. Pinagmasdan siya ng babae at nginitian niya si Mito. Ipinatong ni Mito ang kanyang bag sa kanyang paa upang takpan ang kanyang manipis na dilaw na tsinelas. Pagkatpos niyang itala ang kayang pangalan, tumuloy na siya sa loob.

Bagama’t maliit ang aklatan, nagmistula itong palasyo sa mga mata ng batang si Mito. Nagpalipat-lipat siya sa mga estante at binaybay ng kanyang mga daliri ang mga hanay ng mga aklat. Sa di kalayuan, natanaw niya ang isang aklat ng mga kwento. Binuksan niya ang mga pahina at sinimulang basahin ang isang kwentong nagsimula isang gabing umuulan ng niyebe. Nanginginig ang talukap ng kanyang mga mata habang binabaklay ang mga pahina ng kwento.
Sa puso niya, hiniling niya sa Diyos na dinadasalan ng kanyang ina ang pag-ulan ng niyebe.

Masid ang langit mula sa giwang ng bintanang nilisan ng mga kabibeng Capiz, nagdasal si Mito ng mataimtim.

Pagkalipas ng mahabang sandali, itiniklop niya ang aklat at ibinalik sa estante. Tinungo niya ang mesa ng tagapamahala, kinuha ang kanyang palatandaan at bag; patakbo siyang lumabas gaya ng patakbong niyang pagtungo sa aklatan.

Umihip ang malamig na hangin. Binuksan niya ang kanyang palad paharap sa himpapawid. Isang gabutil na niyebe and dumapo sa kanyang maliliit na daliri.

Kinabahan si Mito.


First Snow Fall

Mito came running out from the gates of his school. The sole of his feet felt the small and sharp stones that were not entirely dulled by his thinning yellow slippers. He couldn’t hide the happiness he felt because it was his first time to visit the municipal library of Cajidiocan, Romblon.

He carefully traced the way and look around once in a while for approaching tricycles. His mother told him to be very careful. He fixed his bag on his back which contained an empty lunch box, a pencil, and his two books in Civics and English. He just had them after he swapped his Science and Home Economics with a classmate.

Mito was already in his fourth grade. However, aside from the four books he always carried with him and which he exchanged with his other classmates, he had never seen a book full of pictures before like what his older sister told him.

And because this day is a special day, he walked from his elementary school to town, roughly five kilometers, to read and see the illustrations on the books full of pictures of sites from different places in the world.

He held his breath when he saw “Cajidiocan, Romblon Public Library”.

He greeted the librarian and placed on her table his school identification card. He looked at the woman, and she smiled back at Mito. He placed his bag on top of his feet to cover his thin, yellow slippers. After he wrote his name on the list, he then went inside.

Although the library is small, in young Mito’s eyes it was palatial. He shifted from shelf to shelf, and his fingers treaded the rows of books. From a not very far distance, he saw a book of stories. He opened the pages and started reading a story that started one snowy evening. His eyelashes shivered while they ambled through the pages. In his heart, he prayed to the God whom his parents pray to for snow.

Seeing the sky from the holes abandoned by what used to have been covered by capiz shells, Mito prayed with all sincerity.

After a long while, he closed the book and returned it in the shelf. He approached the table of the librarian, took his identification card and bag; he went out running like he did when he left his school.

The cold breeze blew. He opened his palm facing the sky. A grain of snow fell on his small outstretched fingers.

It frightened him.