From Apprehension to Comprehension

When I was a little kid, there were two things that come to my mind whenever I hear the words AIDS and HIV. The first was Sarah Jane Salazar. Second, that it was a contagious, incurable, fatal disease, a death sentence of sort, and is something to be feared of.

Sarah Jane Salazar was a prominent figure during the late nineties. She was a Filipino AIDS activist and educator and the second Filipino with HIV to go public. She stirred controversy in 1997 when she was charged with child abuse for having sex with 16-year old Ritchie Atezado without protection. She later bore two children who were both tested negative for HIV. Her partner Rithchie, on the other hand, was later tested positive.

 

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I was raised watching the evening news and current affairs programs (like Brigada Siyete and Magandang Gabi Bayan) and the story of Sarah Jane was like a serye that was being followed during those years. I can still recall the story of a young Arnold Clavio on Brigada Siete that documented Sarah Jane’s life, health, and advocacy. (Arnold Clavio would later become her kumpare when she asked the latter to be her child’s godfather.) In June 11, 2000, Sarah Jane died of AIDS complications.

Watching the stories of Sarah Jane and other victims, I saw AIDS then as something to be feared of. Seeing the images of victims from Africa and Cambodia, who have lost their appetite, thin, very sick, and abandoned by their loved ones added my fright to the disease.

 

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Because of my fear of HIV/AIDS, I developed these beliefs. It has no cure. If you contacted it, then you must count your remaining days on this planet. You will be abandoned. You will be hated. You will be feared. It’s the modern-day leprosy wherein the victims must be isolated from the public.

But that was before I was educated on the disease. That was before I see things differently. That was before I expose myself to different stories of hope, survival, compassion, and love.

My first experience of awakening was when I watched one episode of Hirayamanawari (I’m not sure if it is that program or some other educational program during the last glorious days of quality local television programs)There was this boy (played by child actor Eman Abelada) who accidentally contacted HIV after undergoing a blood transfusion while undergoing an appendectomy. After being tested positive for HIV (and later, AIDS), his friends, due to their ignorance of the disease, started to isolate him for fear of contacting the same disease for they thought that mere physical contact can bring AIDS. The young boy died at the end of the story but thanks to the doctors and his parents’ help, his friends understand more what HIV and AIDS are.

With that simple presentation, the way I view the disease changed. It also thought me the importance of the support of the patient’s family and friends.

Fast forward to year 2000, I was in Grade 6 when we discussed HIV and AIDS in school. If my memory serves me right, it was included in our Science and Health subject. Our teacher, who happened to be one of my favorites, tackled the basics of the disease and on how it would be prevented. She even let us do a skit on how to avoid contacting the disease (infected needles, blood transfusion, etc.). Though included in our school textbook, for obvious reasons, we did not demonstrate how to practice safe sex then.

It has been more than a decade since I stopped fearing the disease. And in those years, I have encountered numerous movements, groups, and advocacy to raise the awareness to the disease.

In today’s world where sex can be as casual as a fist bump, various ways and movements to help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS have sprung up. Safe sex, condom, protection, you name it.

Safety. It’s as if it is stupid to go on a joust with another knight without your armor, it is also stupid to have sex without, er, protection.

Though some of the ways, beliefs and advocacy challenge my personal beliefs (and faith, if you may permit), I believe that we can all agree on a common ground wherein our similarities will help us fight together for a good cause:

Awareness. Education. Understanding. Empathy.

Awareness. In the course of history, battles are won primarily by acknowledging the peril, danger, and the possible aftermath of attacking the enemy. Before all the planning of military tactics and possibleattack, one must first acknowledge that there is an imminent threat or danger. The same thing goes with HIV and AIDS. they do exist. We may not have a cure yet for it but that doesn’t mean that we cannot do something about it.

Education. In my opinion, if there is one thing more fatal than the disease itself, it would be ignorance. HIV and AIDS have been here for quite sometime now and there are a lot of people who are willing to shed light on this feared disease. Know the disease. Know its symptoms. Know its cause. Know how to possibly avoid it. Your paranoia over the disease might be the cause of your early demise. Be educated. Call it a cliche but still, prevention is better than cure.

Understanding. Being aware and educated of the disease is not enough. There are HIV positive patients whose sufferings are doubled because of discrimination and the wrong and lack of understanding of the disease. I believe that there are bad things in this world which are brought primarily by misunderstanding. And we can be a part of changing these things.

Empathy. It is the capacity to recognize and share feelings that are being experienced by others. Unlike sympathy, empathy is like putting ourselves in the place of others. It is more personal. By putting ourselves into the mental shoes of another person, especially the victims of HIV and AIDS, we will know them better. It is only then that we can show wholeheartedly our love, support, and compassion.

I will not preach here about the different ways to prevent HIV and AIDS. I will just leave it to the experts. And I know that you are educated with the basic knowledge about the disease.

It doesn’t matter to me if you are a supporter or a critic of safe sex, condoms, and other protection. I believe that no matter how HIV and AIDS volunteers/counselors or your religious institutions teach you about how you use your personal and sexual freedom, the decision is still up to you.

An international group of scientists has traced the ancestry of the virus that caused AIDS back to strains found in African monkeys. If we will believe Charles Darwin’s theory, we humans are descendants of the earlier species of monkeys. But there are two things that differentiates us from this creatures aside from appendix – freedom and intellect.

We are creatures endowed with freedom and intellect. We are the ones who drive our own life. We have the control of our body. We are free to choose an option. We are intelligent creatures.

 

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The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, zero discrimination. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is praising the drop in new HIV cases throughout the world. Unfortunately, it is the opposite for the Philippines. You may have seen or read it on the news over the past weeks and months that the Philippines is one of the countries where the number of new HIV infections has increased by over 25%. While the threat of HIV and AIDS has been decreasing on the other parts of the globe, our country (together with 2 others in the SEA region) is now being categorized by UNAIDS and UNICEF as “having an expanding epidemic.” Isn’t it ironic?

Now what? Are we just letting the percentage of new infections increase? Of course not. We can all be a part of information dissemination and education about HIV and AIDS. What’s the use of our country being a social media capital of the world if we don’t use our power for a good cause? And with a beacon of hope manifested by the decrease of new infections in other parts of the globe, I think it’s a huge step to finally reverse the rate of new infections if not totally wipe out HIV and AIDS on the face of this planet. Just like small pox. eh?

As we commemorate today’s World AIDS Day, let us be aware of the disease, be educated on how to prevent it, understand the victims, and empathize to help them fight the disease. Together, we can defeat this. I hope this year’s celebration is one of the last ones.

Spread the love. Spread the word. Spread the knowledge. Not the virus.

Elsewhere:

  • Getting to Zero– Philippine STAR’s editorial about the World AIDS Day 2012.
  • I am no expert when it comes to AIDS and HIV but you can talk to my good old Tumblr buddy Gelo (@pananaghoy), an HIV counselor from the AIDS Society of the Philippines. You can also visit his blog and see the other important links on his page.
  • The AIDS Society of the Philippines – The AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP) is a leading association of individuals from the government, non-government agencies, and the private sector, with a common unifying interest in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.
  • Take the Test Project – they provide adequate information about HIV and AIDS and make HIV test more accessible to everyone.
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Two Years after the Bloodbath

Exactly two years ago, on the day after the bloodbath at the Quirino Grandstand, this was the headline of The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Yesterday marked the second year of the infamous Manila Hostage Tragedy where 8 Hong Kong tourists died when dismissed police officer Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus carrying 25 people in an attempt to get his job back.

Yesterday’s commemoration may have been overshadowed by other issues and events (Sen. Tito Sotto’s alleged plagiarism and his staff’s moronic defense and the sudden death of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, to name some) but this tragic event in our history is still fresh in my mind, as if it happened just recently.

I was then in between doing my editing works and procrastinating on Tumblr when the news broke out the morning of August 23, 2010. Having seen a similar situation years before when Jun Ducat held hostage preschool students in a bus, I told myself that this will also come to a peaceful end. I even exchanged some good laughs and ideas with an online buddy, Tita Marj, about the possibility of creating a biopic for Captain Mendoza and guessing who would be the best actor to portray him (I personally chose Efren Reyes Jr. and Spanky Manikan for the role).

The whole afternoon and early evening went by with me tweeting and posting some stuff on Tumblr about the hostage crisis, my opinion, my rant against Captain Mendoza, on how would it affect our image to the international community, and being glued on the evening news on television, monitoring the events.

And then the unexpected came. The whole country – and perhaps the whole world – was in shock.

Most of us, I think, were glued then on the television and have watched the events that lead to a bloodbath. Those who have no television during that time resorted to social media, blogging site Tumblr included, for updates. My dashboard became a news feed of sort, thanks to the Tumblristas who posted the events (and opinion) on the blogging platform. (There was even a pun created during that time on David Karp’s cyber empire. Tumblr became ‘Tumblr Patrol’ in reference to the blow by blow posting of events just like in the news program ‘TV Patrol’.)

After the tragic event, the eyes of the whole world were glued to our country and the then two-month old Aquino administration was put under the spotlight of local and international ridicule. The Pinoy culture of ‘mas magaling ang miron’, ‘sisihan’ and ‘turuan’ were seen days after the event. Memes about how pulpol our policemen were spread on various social media. Angry Facebook users stormed the Facebook page of President Aquino (that lead to its early demise and reconstruction). And to make things worse, photos of policemen and students who were taking pictures with the ill-fated bus spread on the internet (that added to the anger of the citizens of Hong Kong.)

It has been repeatedly said that no one wanted this to happen. Our country has repeatedly apologized to the victims. But is an apology enough? No. Is justice served to the victims? Apparently, even after two years, not yet.

Yesterday, the families of eight Hong Kong victims who were killed in the hostage crisis stormed our consulate in Hong Kong as they demand for an apology from our Government. And two years after the tragedy, Hong Kong has not lifted its ‘black’ travel warning that discourages its residents from travelling to the Philippines. (It was originally issued on the day of the hostage taking.)

I understand the grief of the victims’ kin. Two years after the event, only one among those who were recommended to be accountable was punished and sacked from office (the alleged extortionist ex-Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III who is one of the causes of captain Mendoza’s outrage). I personally read the recommendation of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) soon after the document was made public and I was disappointed to learn that some of their recommendations were not followed by the Palace. For instance, they did not follow the recommendation of the IIRC to sanction PNP Chief director General Jesus Versoza, Manila City Vice Mayor Isko Salvador, and DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno (the latter, allegedly, was saved because he was the President’s shooting buddy).

But to be fair, I commend the current administration in their efforts in their drive against corruption. We do not want to make another Captain Mendoza among the civilians and our servicemen. It will be remembered that one of the reasons why Captain Mendoza hijacked the bus was the alleged corruption (and bribery for his pending case) on the Office of the Ombudsman.

Two years have passed and although justice is yet to be fully served on the victims, we can see some changes on the system. There’s already a new Ombudsman in the person of Conchita Carpio-Morales. With the sudden death of Sec. Jesse Robredo, the clamor of the public for a clean and honest governance has increased. With the appointment of the new Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, hopefully, there is a drastic change in our judiciary. And with the active participation of the people through social media, I think, we are getting closer to the dream of having a clean system.

But before all of these good things to materialize, let us not forget that there are grieving relatives of the victims, there are accountable persons who are yet to be sanctioned, and there is still an elusive justice that is yet to be served.

And I hope this would never happen again. Never again.

Elsewhere:

Handog

Parang kailan lang ang mga pangarap ko’y kay hirap abutin. Dahil sa inyo napunta ako sa nais marating. Nais ko kayong pasalamatan kahit man lang sa isang awitin.

Parang kailan lang halos ako ay magpalimos sa lansangan. Dahil sa inyo ang aking tiyan at ang bulsa’y nagkalaman. Kaya’t itong awiting aking inaawit nais ko’y kayo ang handugan.

Tatanda at lilipas din ako nguni’t mayroong awiting iiwanan sa inyong alaala dahil, minsan, tayo’y nagkasama.

Parang kailan lang ang mga awitin ko ay ayaw pakinggan. Dahil sa inyo, narinig ang isip ko at naintindihan. Dahil dito ibig ko kayong ituring na matalik kong kaibigan.

I first heard and learned this song when I was in grade two (mid-nineties). It was the celebration of teacher’s day in our school and we were asked to sing this song during the program. As what most of the students that age would do, whether we liked it or not, we sung in unison, swaying our heads and our bodies, because the teacher told us to do so. Never mind if some aren’t actually singing (and just a mere chuwariwap on the background). Never mind if some are out of tune. Never mind if some are horsing and laughing during the presentation. We learned the song, we performed it on stage in front of the teachers, and we went back to our usual activities.

There are some who would say that kids that age would never truly understand the meaning of the song. It is the period of early childhood where thet usually devote more time on playing above any other else. Yes, it may be touching to see them singing this heart-warming song but from their perspective, it may appear as just a mere presentation, some activity forced by the elders to do.

I may have not appreciated the whole meaning of the song when I was in grade two but I haven’t forgotten it. And growing up, I had other different encounters with this masterpiece. I came across an old movie on Pinoy Blockbusters (pre-Cinema One channel) with Subas Herrero and other famous actors and actresses of that time. I forgot the title but on the end part, they sung Handogand Subas adressed the viewers about the dedication and legacy of the artists, movie makers, and workers. (I tried searchig the internet for the title of the movie but I don’t know where to start. Please drop me a message if you know the title.) During the ‘band explosion’ of 2006, the group Join The club made their own version of the song and it was included in the The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn compilation. And in 2008, Kenyo used the chorus of the song in the mash-up of their carrier single Sana in their debut album Radiosurfing.

Handog was composed and popularized by folk rock singer Florante de Leon (who is popularly known as Florante). He was one of the pioneers and exponents of Pinoy folk rock during the musical boom of the 1970’s. His songs are part of the famous musical genre of that time called Manila Sound. Such was the beauty of the song that other artists and groups revived it and used it in movies and other productions.

There is something with the Filipino songs of that time that puts a smile in our faces aside from nostalgia. They are simple yet full of meaning; subtle yet they touch the hearts even of the simplest Filipinos; gentle without trying to be mushy; and you can easily grasp its soul and pass it to the next generation. What’s the evident proof? Those songs are being revived by solo singers and artists of today (even just for the sake of releasing their own record – of covers).

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On the evening of July 10, the Philippine cyber space exploded with a shocking news: the Comedy King, our national treasure, Dolphy Quizon, passed away. Almost all of us, even our parents and grandparents, grew up watching and laughing with Mang Dolphy. The whole nation wept and grieved on the loss of one of our (if not the) finest jester and painkiller. If laughter is indeed the best medicine, then we have lost the pill that cured millions of Filipinos.

It wasn’t until then that I found out that he also has his own version of Handog. Almost all TV stations played the song in remembrance of the man’s legacy which spanned for almost six decades. Or thirteen Philippine Presidents (fourteen if you will include Fernando Poe, Jr.)

Suddenly, the song has another meaning, impact, and spirit. The song’s poetry fits Mang Dolphy. Perhaps because of all the features on the news programs, we are now familiar with Mang Dolphy’s journey from humble beginnings to being the Comedy King that we know today.

But personally, there is more than this song. Listening to the song, I remember the old days when we are singing this song in front of our teachers. I may have not understood its real meaning then but what struck me is the age when I sung it. It was the age of innocence and carelessness. It is also the good old days when the whole family, and perhaps the whole nation, laughed and cried with the Cosme family in Home Along Da Riles. It is good to remember those days once in a while to remind us of our innocence, dreams, purity, and happiness. It serves as a reminder or a pensieve whenever we are down and weary with life’s hardships.

Some would say that comedy is just an opium, a temporary escapism from the realities of this life. But it is with the laughter that we get our strength, our positivism, and good memories.

Perhaps it is Mang Dolphy’s eternal handog to all of us: That from time to time, we must laugh, forget our problems, and face this life with an uplifted spirit. His death is not the end because he has already been immortalized by his legacy to the Filipino people. He even left us a line that pertains to his immortality and I quote: “Hinding-hindi ako mahihiwalay sa inyo. Pindutin niyo lang ang play at siguradong magkakasama-sama tayo.”

Maraming maraming salamat sa inyong handog at paalam, Mang Dolphy.

Elsewhere:

Sino si Pepe?

Sino ka ba, Pepe?

Pinanganak June 19, 1861 Calamba Laguna Namatay December 30, 1896 sa Bagong Bayan na ngayon ay Luneta Dito nanumpa ang maraming mga pangulo at binabaril minsan ang mga turista Ang dami mong sinulat pero sino ba ang nagbabasa? Kabayanihan mo’y nasa aming ugat pero tunay ka ba naming kilala? Mula kapanganakan hanggang kamatayan kasama namin ang iyong pangalan Nalimutan na namin kung sino ka talaga

Sino ka ba, Pepe? 

Pero naku, ang dami naming tanong. Talaga bang ikaw ay para sa rebolusyon o assimilasyon? Talaga bang binawi mo ang mga sinulat at sinabi mo noon? O ikaw ba’y isang dakilang ilusyon ng panahon? Sabi mo noon gusto mo ang libingan ay simpleng hukay. Isang bato, isang krus sa paanan ng bundok. Walang anibersaryo, walang seremonias, walang palabok. Pero Pepe, wala kang magagawa, paminsan-minsan masabi lang namin, may kalahi kaming dakila.

Sino ka ba, Pepe? 

Pero tignan mo naman ngayon, Pepe.
Hindi ka lang pinag-aaralan, dinadakila, Ikaw rin ay dinadasalan, sinasamba na parang Jesus Christ lang. Kaya idol talaga kita Pepe. Kahit ano pang sabihin nila hindi na bale. Dahil wala kang katulad. The first Filipino. The great Malayan. The Pride of the Malay Race. Tagalog Christ. National Hero. Sobresaliente. Kahit ang mukha mo ay nakikita lang namin sa piso na nawawala na nang halaga.

Sino ka ba, Pepe? Sino ka ba talaga, Pepe?

Who is Pepe? Who is Jose Rizal?

I was then a cute and talented grade one student in my former school (the adjectives may be unnecessary but trust me, it’s essential for this article). You know how things go along on schools during the celebration of its foundation. there were programs, parties, field demonstrations, and other things that our teachers forced us to do. I was the candidate of our class in the usual mister and miss pageant/talent show/whatever you call those contests. During the question and answer portion, the host asked me what will I do if ever I got the chance to meet Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Now most of the kids my age would probably ask the God about material things, blessings, and other kiddie stuff (you know, he’s omnipotent) but did you know what I answered? I told the host that if ever I got to meet Jesus, I will ask him to tell me a story. Not the usual stories or parables of Jesus but the life story of Dr. Jose Rizal.

Guess what? I lost the competition and did not even place. I think I got one special award but it was too unessential to have a place in my memory.

Do I have any regrets answering that way? Maybe a little. Because my parents – with their high expectations for the said competition – repeatedly taunt the way I answered. (But for the record, I did not hate them for that. It’s actually funny to remember those things after all these years.)

As I grew up, I had other chances to meet Dr. Jose Rizal. I was in grade three when I first visited his house in Calamba, Laguna. I was in grade four when the biopic Jose Rizal starring Cesar Montano came out at the Metro Manila Film Fest. I was in High School when I studied his life and two novels – Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. And in college, I took the required Rizal subject and looked at him in a deeper perspective. I studied his life, works, his escapades, his women, and the controversies surrounding his life.

I thought I already knew Jose Rizal. I was wrong. It turned out that I would learn more about him after finishing college.

This may sound ridiculous but although my favorite subject in school history, I had a tough time dealing with bookish teachers who seem to know nothing about the subject. I suffered from poor teachers teaching bad history and apathetic classmates (i.e. “Huwag ka nang magtanong. Aanhin mo ba yang history sa trabaho?”). So I resorted to my own effort to know the subject more.

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Of course, we learned who Dr. Jose Rizal is, his achievements, (some of) his works, the number of women whom he allegedly went to bed with, the number of places he’s been to, and the number of languages that he can speak. But are those enough? Is that the way Pepe wants us to remember him?

I think knowing and understanding who Pepe is is a continuing work (or a struggle, if you may permit). We live in the world where everybody seems to be speaking in behalf of a great person; where history can be manipulated; and the stories heard are from those with a loud voice.

I am no expert when it comes to history nor have a sufficient knowledge about Dr. Jose Rizal but let me share with you the things that I have learned after graduating  from school: Do not be contented with your teacher’s history. Read other books. Compare. Ask questions. And do not be gullible.

As we celebrate and commemorate Pepe’s 151st birthday today, I hope we all make an effort to know him more and to really understand his legacy and message. Let us not let the man’s noble efforts and sacrifice die in vain.

Ikaw? Ano ang pagkakakilala mo kay Jose Rizal?

Elsewhere:

  • Rock Rizal – The song above is Sino si Pepe? by Radioactive Sago Project. It is included in last year’s Rock Rizal compilation featuring original songs inspired by Jose Rizal’s life and works. Check out the other tracks from Ely Buendia, Gloc-9, Ebe Dancel, Jett Pangan, Peryodiko, Aiza Seguerra and many more. 
  • Reflections on Rizal-Three Thoughts – Sir Nik’s piece about how we Filipinos view Jose Rizal, how he grew up with him, and how we should view his works. This is a must-read. 

Yes, this is the Front Page of the Inquirer Today

 

Yesterday was no ordinary Sunday. It was a great day for sports fans. There was the much-anticipated fight between Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (with a dash of 50 Cent and Justin Bieber) and the do-or-die PBA Championship match between Tim Cone’s B-Meg and Chot Reyes’ Talk N’ Text. It was also a great day for geeks and astronomy enthusiasts with the ‘super moon’, where the moon is at its closest approach to the earth.

Just when most of us thought it would be a fun and action-filled Sunday, it turned out to be action-filled in a violent way. A brawl erupted at NAIA Terminal 3 when Raymart Santiago with six other men ganged up on Philippine Daily Inquirer Columnist and one quarter of the balls-incarnated Tulfo Brothers, Ramon, for taking photos of the former’s wife, Claudine Barreto. According to Ramon, he noticed a woman giving a stewardess a dressing down over an off-loaded luggage. He also said that he did not recognized the woman, whom he described as matronly-looking with a pretty face, as actress Claudine Barreto.

Minutes after the incident, as expected, the internet through various forms of social media erupts with taunts and jeers. In a country where these fights are considered ‘entertainment’, especially if it involves known personalities, it is but expected to be the instant talk of the town. And to spice things up, the footage of the actual brawl spread on the internet and is considered far better than the defunct MTV show, Celebrity Deathmatch.

The fiasco is far from over as both parties are threatening to sue each other in court. And I expect this to be the content of tabloids and showbiz-oriented shows for weeks to come.

But I did not expect what I saw this morning.

In today’s issue my favorite broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer, the banner story came to me as a shocker. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they put yesterday’s airport brouhaha in the front page as the main headline. At first, I was disgusted and I felt a little disrespect for the broadsheet but things eventually came down on me. 1. Ramon Tulfo is one of theirs. He is a columnist and and announcer for Radyo Inquirer. 2. Maybe because it was a slow news day yesterday? Over the past days, the headlines are all about the recently-concluded ADB Governor’s meeting (which, I believe, millions of Filipinos, including me, don’t know what that is all about). And the event was the biggest news yesterday? 3. Or is just an ice breaker for the bloody return of the impeachment trial. Or not. Whatever.

I have no idea why the editors chose this as their banner story, which, in my opinion, appears to be tabloid-ish. Well, in the country where there are no clear boundaries politics, showbiz, and whatnots, what would you expect?

And to add insult to the injury, here at Juan Republic, let us dig further into the issue. Screw the impeachment trial! This is more exciting. The following items are satirical and should be taken with a grain of salt:

  • Moonsanity. Let us blame the moon’s gravitational pull. Maybe, in yesterday’s super moon, the moon approached the earth too close and its gravity sucked the fluids and loosen a few sanity screws and temper bolts of these individuals. Yes, the moon is that powerful.
  • Camera Obscura. According to NAIA General Manager Angel Honrado,there were no CCTVs at the carousel area of the NAIA Terminal 3. Congratulations and good luck to your luggage. Now the criminal minds know where the airport’s vulnerability is. Wait, how much again is the terminal fee at our world-class airport? Is it worth the price?
  • Airport Security. Have you seen the video of the brawl? If you were keen enough to observe, you will see helpless airport security guards who were no match to break off the power of action star Raymart Santiago and former mermaid Claudine Barreto. Wow. It seems like security can be a factor to put NAIA at the list of the world’s worst airport again. Again, congratulations.
  • Matrona+Hulk=Clash of the Titans. According to Mon Tulfo’s version of the story, he did not immediately recognized the woman as Claudine Barreto. He described her to members of the Press in an interview as “tumaba at mukhang matrona”. What a deadly combo! I expect a monster worse than the Hulk in the days to come. (Speaking of which, I wonder if Hulk’s character is a woman, how worse could she get with all the stress and PMS. Damn. I cannot fathom. But that’s another story.)
  • Mythbusters. It has been a long-time tsismis that Claudine and Raymart’s marriage is on the rocks and the two are already separated. Well, here it is, the proof of their happy and action-filled bond as husband and wife. I’m sorry showbiz writers, the myth has been busted this time.
  • In Character. Aside from being an action star, I remember Raymart most with the TV shows Kool Ka Lang, Bantatay, and Futbolilit. Apparently, Raymart lost his Kool Ka Lang attitude when he saw his wife being being aggravated, that’s why he showed his Bantatay instinct and futbolilit-edMon Tulfo’s helpless face. Boom! And as for Claudine, I only remember her as Via from Mula sa Puso and as the mermaid Marina. Other than that, nada. Wait, what’s her latest known character anyway?
  • Band of Brothers. Most of us know that the Tulfo Brothers (Mon, Ben, Raffy, and Erwin) are known for being maangas, walang inuurungan, and being authoritative. In other words, bayag-incarnated. Now, it seems that one of them, the eldest, has met his match with the Mr. and Mrs. Santiago. what would be the next episode of this fiasco? Earlier this morning, Erwin Tulfo in his radio program, invited Raymart Santiago et al for a coffee. Yes, coffee. I just hope that there are no biscuits, sandwiches, candies, korniks, and a bangka ng sakla with this invitation. If you know what I mean.

After making sawsaw and dissecting some parts of this issue, let us look at the bigger picture: airline services, privacy, and respect.

The problem started with an off-loaded (missing) luggage of the Barreto’s by carrier Cebu Pacific. Barreto, in her anger, scolded and threw hurtful words to the helpless stewardess. Tulfo, being a journalist, seeing the helpless attendant, tried to document the whole incident.

The problem of Cebu Pacific’s handling of the passenger’s luggage has been repeatedly criticized by Mon Tulfo (in his column) and other passengers. Maybe, this incident will be an eye-opener and a lesson for the company to fix the mess of their services. Maybe, the Santiagos and Tulfo are the shameful sacrificial lambs (pardon me for those words) to fix the service of this carrier.

The second thing is respect. Just because you are well-known and may kaya, do you really have to put this helpless flight attendants into shame by throwing harsh words to them? Yes, it is a fact that there are lapses with their services but that doesn’t mean you have the right to treat these persons as shits. The customer is not always right.

And the last thing is privacy. In today’s age of digital cameras, smart phones, and internet, it seems that the notion of privacy is nothing but an abstract concept. Take this as an example: As long as you have a camera and a decent internet connection, you can easily shoot a video of a person (even without their consent) and upload it online. Let’s say that it is for the purpose of news and evidence but what are the parameters? What are the things that you can or cannot share online? Do we have the liberty, for the sake of freedom of information, to share these stuff online? This is still a subject to debate and legislation. Mahaba-habang inuman pa ‘to.

Some people would say that this is just nothing but a cheap fight between two prominent personalities. Some would enjoy this just as much as they enjoy watching Tiyang Amy’s Face to Face. But there is bigger picture here.

It just sucks to realize that while all the attention of the public is focused on this incident, some important issues are neglected – poverty, corruption, land reform, freedom of information, and impunity.

Welcome to the Philippines!

Diyos Ko! Bakit Mo Ako Pinabayaan?

“Nang mag-aalas tres na ng hapon, sumigaw si Hesus, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani?’ na ang ibig sabihin ay, ‘Diyos ko, bakit mo ako pinabayaan?’ “ – Mateo 27: 46

 

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Marahil, karamihan sa atin ay nakapagtanong na minsan sa ating buhay ng mga katagang “Diyos ko? Diyos ko? Bakit mo ako pinabayaan?”

Sa mga puntong iyon ng ating buhay ay para bang nararamdaman nating wala ng Diyos o kung meron man, siya ay natutulog at nagpapabaya sa atin. O isang sadistang hinahayaan na lang ang kanyang mga nilikha na maghirap, magkagulo, at lamunin ng problema.

Totoo nga bang may Diyos? Totoo nga bang hindi natutulog ang diyos? Pero kung totoong nandiyan siya, bakit niya tayo pinababayaan?

Hindi kaila sa atin na sadyang mapagbiro ang tadhana. Dumadating ang mga pagkakataong para bang tayo na ang pinaka-abang tao sa mukha ng lupa. Na kahit ano mang bagay ang ating gawin para ito ay masolusyonan ay tila baga wala pa ring kahihinatnang malinaw na solusyon sa ating mga problema.

Dito pumapasok ang buhay at kaisipan ng kawalang pag-asa. Naiisip nating“Diyos nga ay walang pakialam sa akin at hindi ako tinutulungan, ako pa kayang hamak na tao ang makagawa?” Dito pumapasok ang buhay sa kadiliman. Ang buhay pagpapabaya. Ang buhay na malayo sa Diyos. Ilang beses na nating inakusahan ang diyos ng pagpapabaya sa atin? Kawawa naman si Lord, kahit walang sawang nagmamahal, lagi na lamang sinisisi sa mga hindi magagandang nangyayari sa buhay ng tao.

Ito ang isang klasikong halimbawa. May mga taong nasa banig ng karamdaman na halos isumpa na ang langit at lupa at ang Manlilikha. “Diyos ko! Bakit niyo naman ako binigyan ng ganitong sakit?”, marahil ang ilan sa mga linyang kanyang bibitawan. Ngunit naitanong na ba niya sa kanyang sarili, ano ang aking ginawa kaya ako nagkasakit? Ano ang aking naging lifestyle kaya ako nagkakaganito ngayon? May mga taong sinisisi ang Diyos sa lung cancer, chain smoker naman ng halos 40 taon; may mga sinisisi ang Diyos sa sakit sa puso, walang preno naman kung kumain at hindi nag-eehersisyo; sinisisi ang Diyos dahil sa karamdamang kung minsan – o madalas – bunga din naman ng sariling pagpapabaya.

Dahil sa mentalidad na “wala namang diyos” (kahit meron naman talaga) ay nabubuhay tayo sa isang buhay na walang direksyon at walang kaliwanagan. Sa pagtahak natin sa ganoong klase ng “trip” sa buhay, hindi maiiwasang may mga tao tayong isasama at hahatakin doon sa “kakaibang trip” na iyon. Imbes na maging tagapagdala ng liwanag at pag-asa, dahil nga tayo ay nabubuhay ng malayo sa Diyos, tayo ay nagiging instrumento pa upang mapariwara ng landas ng iba. Imbes na tayo lang ang nakakaramdam ng “pagpapabaya ng diyos” (kahit hindi naman talaga), ipinaparamdam pa natin ito sa iba. Ilang beses na ba tayong naging instrumento para ang ating kapwa ay “mabuhay sa kadiliman?”

Bakit nga ba kapag tayo ay malayo sa Diyos, tayo ay nabubuhay sa kadiliman? Ito ay sa kadahilanang Diyos ang siyang nagbibigay ng liwanag. Diyos ang talagang nagbibigay ng ilaw dahil ang Diyos ang ilaw, ang Diyos ang liwanag (1 Juan 1:5). Mas maliwanag pa ang diyos kumpara sa ilaw na ibinibigay ng Meralco. Mas Masaya, mas maganda, kapag may liwanag ang buhay. At ang liwanag ng buhay ay atin lamang makakamit sa diyos. Walang ibang nilalang ang makakapagbigay ng ganap na kaliwanagan bukod sa diyos (katunayan nga, ang Diyos ay hindi isang nilalang dahil wala naming lumalang sa kanya). Kung kaliwanagan ng buhay ang kailangan mo para sa madilim mong buhay, Diyos ang kailangan mo.

Sa katunayan, kapag dumadating ang mga “kadiliman” sa ating buhay, hindi naman ito talagang ganap na kadiliman. Sabihin na nating, isa lamang itong “kulimlim” ng buhay. Kung atin itong ikukumpara sa ating buhay at Diyos ang “araw”, hindi naman talaga nawawala o nagpapabaya ang Diyos, “nakakubli” lamang siya sa likod ng mga ulap ngunit hindi siya nawawala. Kung inaakala nating nawawala ang araw, o nawawala ang Diyos sa ating buhay, iyon ay isang pagkakamali. Tayo ang nawawala, hindi ang araw. Tayo ang lumalayo sa Diyos, hindi Diyos ang lumalayo sa atin.

 

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Hindi naman kaila sa atin na may mga taong hindi naniniwala sa Diyos. At may mga taong walang pakialam kung may Diyos ba o wala, basta’t mabubuhay sila ayon sa kanilang kagustuha at kaginhawahan.

Minsan ay naitanong ko sa isang kakilala kung bakit hindi siya naniniwala sa Diyos. Sinagot niya akong, kung may Diyos, bakit may paghihirap? Bakit may nagugutom? Bakit may sakit? Bakit may namamatay nang hindi ma lang nakatikim ng hustisya at kaginhawahan sa buhay.

Kasama sa pag-aaral ko sa Pilosopiya noong Kolehiyo ang pag-aaral tungkol sa katotohanang may Diyos at ang problema ng imperpeksyon at kasamaan sa mundo. Madali sa aking intindihin kung bakit nangyayari ang mga ganoong bagay. Hindi naman kasi kayang ‘kontrolin’ ng Diyos ang kalayaan ng tao. Binigyan niya tayo ng kalayaan – o free will – bilang mga nilalang. Malaya ang tao na gawin ang gusto niya. Ika nga, maituturing na free will ang ‘kahinaan’ ng Diyos.

Ang mga paghihirap, pagkakasakit, at mga trahedya ay hindi dahil ito ay ginusto ng Diyos. O dahil walang pakialam ang Diyos. O dahil wala naman talagang Diyos. Ito ay dahil tayo ay may kalayaan ang tao. Maaaaring ang paghihirap ng isang tao ay bunga na din ng kapabayaan at pagsasamantala ng kapwa niya tao.

 

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E bakit pa kinakailangang magkaroon ng mga “kulimlim” na parte ng ating buhay?

Ang buhay ng tao ay hindi palaging puno ng kasiyahan. Natural sa buhay ng tao na dumadating ang mga problema at pagsubok ng buhay. Ang mga pagsubok na ito ang nagdadagdag ng “kulay” at ganda ng buhay. Masyadong “patay” ang isang buhay kung pare-pareho na lamang ang kulay at lasa nito.

Paano nating masasabing masaya ang ating buhay kung wala tayong punto ng pagkukumparahan nito (point of comparison)? Nakakasawa ang isang buhay na punong-puno ng kasiyahan at walang halong kalungkutan. Perfection is boring. Masasabi kasi nating mas nagiging ganap ang kasiyahan ng buhay kung ang kasiyahang iyon ay ang pakiramdam ng tagumpay ng paglampas sa pagsubok ng buhay. Nakakaumay ang palaging matamis na buhay. Paminsan-minsan, kailangan din nating makatikim ng maalat, mapakla, at mapait na lasa ng buhay.

Ang buhay ay parang tiklada ng piano. Hindi lamang puro puting tiklada ang ating pinipindot, kinakailangan din nating daanan ang mga itim na tiklada. At alam ng mga musikero na ang kombinasyon ng mga itim at putting tiklada – na parang kombinasyon ng kaligayahan at kalungkutan ng buhay – ang siyang mas nakagagawa ng kaaya-aya at de kalidad na tunog.

Bukod sa pagbibigay ng lasa at kulay ng buhay, bakit kinakailangan pa nating maghirap? Bakit pa kinakailangang magbigay ni Lord ng mga pagsubok ng buhay?

Ang diyos ay diyos na kahit wala ang mga nilalang. Hindi dagdag o kabawasan sa pagiging Diyos niya ang mga nilalang. Kung tutuusin nga, hindi na niya kinakailangan pang lumikha dahil diyos na siya. Ngunit dahil sa kanyang pagmamahal ay nilikha niya tayo. Nilikha tayo ng Diyos dahil sa pagmamahal niya sa sanilibutan. Bilang mga nlalang, natural lamang na ibalik natin ang pagmamahal na iyon sa diyos na siyang unang nagmahal at lumikha sa atin.

May mga pagkakataon kasi na sa kadahilanang masyado na tayong nagiging makasarili bunga ng ating tagumpay, nakakalimutan na nating magpasalamat sa diyos. Paminsan-minsan, kinakailangan tayong “kalugin” ng diyos upang magising tayo sa katotohanang mayroong diyos na pinagmumulan ng lahat ng tagumpay at ganap na kaligayahan.

Gayundin naman, ang Diyos ay umaakto bilang mga “traffic signs” sa “highway ng paglalakbay natin sa buhay.” Huwag natin itong ituring bilang mga balakid sa paglalakbay sa buhay, bagkus, ituring natin ang diyos bilang isang gabay upang makarating tayo sa ating paroroonan ng ligtas. Dahil sa bandang huli, Diyos din naman ang patutunguhan nating lahat. Ang diyos ang simula at katapusan ng lahat ng mga bagay. Siya ang Alpha at Omega ng sanlibutan at ng ating mga buhay.

Ang plano ng diyos para sa kanyang mga nilalang ay palaging “happy ending.” Kung sa istorya ng buhay natin ay para bang gusto na nating sumuko dahil sa mga pagsubok at problema nating hinaharap, alalahanin na nating hindi pa iyon ang “happy ending” na itinakda ng Diyos para sa atin. Iyong mga iyon ay ituring nating “pampagana at pampaganda” ng istorya ng ating buhay.

Sa bandang huli, nais kong sabihing hindi naman talaga nagpapabaya ang Diyos. Kung sa tingin nating parang “nilalayasan” tayo ng diyos sa ating buhay, sana ay sumagi sa ating isipan na “nagtatago” lamang ang Diyos ngunit palagi pa rin siyang nagmamasid at gumagabay sa atin.

Nawa, ang ating isigaw sa buhay ay hindi ang “pagpapabaya ng diyos” kundi“DIYOS KO! DIYOS KO! SALAMAT AT HINDI MO AKO PINABAYAAN!”

Ano pa mang mga pagsubok ang dumating sa atin, kakayanin natin ito dahil alam nating may plano ang Diyos sa atin.

Pag-ibig, pagkakaisa, at pagmamahalan ang nawa’y sumaating lahat. Padayon!

This was originally written in 2009 but I tweaked it this year to tackle the issues of today. I decided to repost this one to reach wider audience. Have a blessed Good Friday everyone!

Francis Magalona, Filipino

It was Friday, March 6, 2009.  I was still drained from a week-long written revalida/ comprehensive examinations in Philosophy. Our superiors allowed us to unwind outside the Seminary’s confines, take a breath of fresh air, and forget the hardships of the week. We still have an oral revalida on the Monday to come, but that would be easy. I can ace it, I told myself.

I went to Robinsons Place Lipa with some of my classmates. We dined out, ate like a pig, and laughed off the hardships of studying Philosophy. After that, I excused myself and went to Netopia to surf the net and to relax. It was the heydays of Multiply, Friendster, and Yahoo! Messenger. Just like a warrior who survived the hardships of battle, I updated my friends and contacts that I surpassed the first, and the harder part of the Revalida (I could have just tweeted it then but Twitter was not yet known that time). When I logged out my Yahoo! account, I immediately saw an image of the Master Rapper, Francis Magalona, on the news box. (Believe it or not) I just saw the photo, but I did not dare read the headline because I was in a hurry to go back to the Seminary on time. I thought that Francis is going well on his battle against the Big C.

I went back to the Seminary later that afternoon, did my usual stuff, and followed the usual Seminary schedule. After dinner, we went straight to the TV Room for our scheduled TV Viewing and recreation. We tuned in on 24 Orasand were all shocked to learn the news that Francis Magalona passed away. Almost of all of us fell silent, stunned by his sudden demise.

After our compline, I went to my room and turn my radio transistor on. Almost all the radio stations are playing Francis Magalona’s songs as a tribute to the beloved Man from Manila.  In silence, I said my prayer for the eternal repose of his soul, and expressed my regret for losing another Filipino legend.

 

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I first met Francis when I was about four years old. My kuya, an artist, was busy then painting a portrait of Francis Magalona in a one-eighth illustration board at our old kubo. The face was familiar. He’s the man behind the infectious patriotic song Mga Kababayan Ko. And I have watched him on the movie Mama’s Boys with Ogie Alcasid, Michael V., and Anjo Yllana.

I saw Francis as a revolutionary young face that will achieve great heights. He challenged the conventional music style of his age. His music paved way for the unification of the then-opposing sides of Pinoy hip-hop and rock by experimenting on the merging of rap with rock music. After all, music is the language that should unite us, not divide us.

But more importantly, I saw Francis as a young man, whose heart is united with his beloved land. He redefined patriotism. He made it easier for the youth of this generation to appreciate and understand. And he showed us how great a race and nation we are.

Pride. Identity. Meaning. Perhaps, he saw that before we can shout to the world that we love our country, we must first know what it really means to be a Filipino.

I saw Mga Kababayan Ko then as an anthem which promotes Pinoy pride and identity along with the songs Ako’y Isang Pinoy by Florante and Tayo’y mga Pinoy by Heber Bartolome (and later recorded and reinvented by the Man from Manila himself). These three songs, together with our regular Monday school anthem Ako ay Pilipino, were my first inspirations to love my country, to appreciate my Pinoy identity, and to be proud of my ancestry. And this was long before Pinoy Ako by Orange and Lemons.

 

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But he was gone too soon. Had he not died on that fateful Friday noon of March 6, 2009, he may have personally done greater things for our country and to our countrymen.

But as in all war and tragedy, life continues. He may have gone too soon but his spirit, music, and legacy still continue. Thanks to her wife Pia and the rest of the Magalonas, the Francis Magalona Foundation was born.

The Francis Magalona Foundation was established to realize in each Filipino a true sense of Filipino pride, personal integrity and a commitment to positive change through awareness campaigns and personal development and skills building programs. Its tagline, Finding a Meaning in every Filipino, is an invitation to every Filipino to ask themselves the significance of their identities as a Filipino. How is it to be a Filipino? How do I promote my pride and identity to the whole world?

Up to this day, I still shed a tear whenever I see the videos of Francis Magalona’s death on YouTube. I may not know him personally but his patriotism was one of my influences. He is somehow responsible for what I am right now.

He may have gone at a young age but what is more important is that he had lived his life with meaning. He has influenced a whole generation. He has inspired many with his music. And with that, he is already immortal.

On the third anniversary of his death, let us remember The Man from Manila who have inspired many by his great music, who have been a good father to his children, who have been a good husband to his wife, and who have been a modern example of Filipino Patriotism.

You may have gone Francis but your legacy of music and patriotism will remain in our minds and hearts forever.

Mabuhay ka at maraming salamat Kiko!

Kickass photo courtesy of scarypet.deviantart.com