Friday, October 06, 2006

Tanod ba 'yan?


Our favorite professor from the UP School of Economics won’t be. Neither would she fire off another fusillade of columns at the Tanodbayan which, by its label alone implies the nation’s sentry that bars the entry of corruption and shenanigans in government service.

Prof. Solita Collas Monsod who ought to have been elected as a lawmaker in Senate had forewarned us about the Tanodbayan training its gunsights on small fry rather than sizeable targets.

She had told us that all that bluster the Tanodbayan had mustered was merely talking the talk—not really walking the walk.

We didn’t fell off our chair nor were we seized by fits of hiccups. We’re enjoying bellyfuls, laughing ourselves hoarse at the prank the Tanodbayan pulled off on the Supreme Court and the Senate.

A Senate panel took the first crack at the shady P1.3-billion contract for of automated counting machines awarded by the Commission on Elections to Mega Pacific Consortium. That deal ran roughshod over Comelec’s own bidding rules. A series of public hearings carried out by the Senate nudged out facts from a battery of witnesses that pointed up anomalies in the Comelec-Mega Pacific deal. At the close of such hearings, aghast lawmakers called for the resignation of Comelec honchos tainted by the anomaly.

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the P1.3-billion contract as illegal. The High Court averred: “Truly, the pith and soul of democracy-- credible, orderly, and peaceful elections-- have been put in jeopardy by the illegal and abusive acts of the Comelec.”

That ought to have hammered the final nails on the coffin of a rotten deal.

Like a bizarre telenovela twist, Tanodbayan ignored Senate findings and the Supreme Court ruling.

Tanodbayan went a step further by overturning whatever the Senate and Supreme Court have established—why, everyone involved in that stinking deal came out smelling like roses.

Call that Tanodbayan move a practical joke, a gag’s punchline, whatever that can tickle the nation’s funny bones. Indeed, Tanodbayan has tremendous reserves of humor to keep us roaring with laughter.

Even so, our favorite UP School of Economics mentor would likely ply her witty parting shot to the Ombudsman: “Tanod ba ‘yan?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Deus irae

AFTER Howler Milenyo raked across the megalopolis leaving a trail of debris and death, well-meaning lawmakers summoned God in a closed-door hearing. Maybe grilling. Whatever reasons lie behind so-called “acts of God” have to be made clear.

Lawmakers turned dour and sour at the sight of fallen trees crushing cars and hurting people in them. Too, streets turned awash with retted tree leaves and broken boughs—eyesores and traffic hazards these. And a lot of woes for trash collectors. God got away with mayhem and murder when those God-made trees were erected.

Lawmakers have boned themselves on the National Building Code, more so on certain provisions that call for soundness and integrity of structures given permits to be erected in the megalopolis. Those culprit trees are more than usual suspects.

It was suspected that God must have bribed a lot of people or twisted a lot of arms in the permits and licensing offices of local government units. If not, how could He have been allowed to put up structures hereabouts with substandard materials?

The tell-tale signs are there and could be swallowed in any civil court as prima facie evidence. Those postcard-pretty fixtures called trees plopped down at the height of the howler.

Divine handiwork ought to comply with the strictest standards set forth in the existing building code. Pertinent provisions of the code have to be hammered into God’s brain, if He has any.

Say, trees have to withstand intensity 10 temblors on the Richter scale. Like bridges, tree boughs ought to bear both vertical and horizontal pressures of up to 30 tons before toppling like a giant billboard. And those leaves and branchlets need to be firmed up—so that gale-force winds of up to 200 kph would hardly stir ‘em tree parts.

In addition, allowable contraction and expansion of tree parts caused by extremes of heat and humidity should be at a millionth of a millimeter per 100 degrees Celsius drop or rise in temperature.

To err is human, yes. That ought to explain why a lot of those giant billboards infesting major thoroughfares were toppled by a howler’s 130 kph wind blasts. That should quash any argument why rain-soaked concrete walls can come crashing down.

Let’s credit such fiascoes and casualties resulting therefrom to a lapse in structural engineering. Indeed, to err is human and lapses in sound judgment in construction of eyesores, claptraps and death traps ought to be forgiven.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


A SPRINKLING of the country’s ScrabbleTM players have earned for Filipinos one of the three top ranks among the world’s best in the word game. That feat of a dozen or so board game competitors sent out to participate in the ScrabbleTM Olympics doesn’t mean we’re world-class in word power—75% of the country’s annual 400,000 college graduates have “sub-standard English skills.”

Achievement tests given to high school seniors in the 2004-2005 school year revealed that less than 7% could read, speak and grasp English well enough to enter college. And about 45% had no inkling of English.

Cebu lawmaker Eduardo Gullas is eyeing word games like ScrabbleTM and crossword puzzle books as tools to rev up learning of English. Indeed, the road to mastery of a global language is paved with desperation.

Sadly, acquiring a cache of stand-alone words—bled of context and content—but ready to be plunked down onto a ScrabbleTM board or tiled in on a crossword puzzle blank don’t inhere a grip on a foreign tongue.

People possess words. Words possess people who have delved into both the content and context of words at their command. So it is bruited that words one possess—or word power-- determines one’s role in civilization. A limited vocabulary will limit one’s potential role.

Researchers claim a 700-word vocabulary is the minimum to get along. It takes less than two years—get acquainted with a new word each day—to muster that minimum. It takes a 3,000-word arsenal—built up over eight years-- as minimum to land a job.

A stockpile of at least 10,000 words primes the individual for a social role. It may take over 27 years to own such a pile, learning a new word a day. Wordsmiths in the league of William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rabindranath Tagore or Kung Fu-tze are known to have nurtured a 60,000-word nursery that grew on them, in them.

We might as well pore over the workbooks and textbooks that Filipino schoolchildren use—most of ‘em books are as boring, dull, lousy and numb as their authors who rake in millions from such books.

We could use lively writing in ‘em books to inject life, maybe infect our schoolchildren with a love of learning—whether the subject is math, science, or English.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dogs of God

POPE Benedict XVI is of the Dominican order— from Domini canis, literally “dogs of God” to evoke canine loyalty and devotion and probably draws humorous inspiration from god spelled backwards.

Dominicans are incorrigible scholars of sorts. Hereabouts they founded the University of Sto. Tomas in the 16th century making it the oldest university in this part of the globe. Dominican friars were also responsible for introducing irrigation system in growing rice, thus doubling yields of the Filipino staple food plus paddy-grown vegetables in the 18th century.

Papa Ratzi is a typical Dominican. Dominicans are known to shun useless chatter. They do daily rapt labor in serene quietude. Or bury themselves in tome after tome of knowledge to keep their minds razor-sharp and agile. Why, such a mind once stretched by a tempest of ideas won’t return to its original dimension—the mind stretches out, reaches into vast frontiers, opens toward limitless horizons.

The current Prince of the Church typifies such a devout scholar. In a speech in Germany last week, he quoted 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. It was that emperor who claimed that everything Prophet Muhammad brought was evil, “such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

That was an ancient emperor’s opinion.

That wasn’t Papa Ratzi’s, make no mistake about that.

Sadly, ‘twas the pope that got the ire of Muslims worldwide. He had to reiterate that his use of medieval quotes critical of Islam did not reflect his own convictions. He was misunderstood.

“But for the careful reader of my text it is clear that I in no way wated to make mine the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor and that their polemical content does not reflect my personal conviction.

“My intention was very different. I wanted to explain that religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do,” he pointed out.

He said he hoped the whole furor could eventually serve to encourage “positive and even self-critical dialogue, both among religions as well as between modern reason and the faith of Christians.”

Papa Ratzi’s explanations would readily be understood by Sufi Muslims. In contrast to the prevailing Islamic view of the dog as a foul, vicious and unclean animal, Sufis held the poverty and wretchedness of the dog in special esteem, considering themselves to be dogs -- or less than dogs -- in the eyes of Allah.


MALACAÑANG’S shilly shallying whether to assign Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as government’s anti-gambling czar or consultant on national security need to be resolved pronto. It wouldn’t hurt to name a battle savvy guy like that as anti-gambling lord— every bettor in the street would wager on him taking on the role, playing it to the hilt.

People would love Palparan to ply the usual terminate-and-destroy tack. It ought ot be the same sort of war plan that seeks to extirpate the 8,000-strong New People’s Army in two years flat in which hundreds of civilian sympathizers and suspected Reds were turned into stiffs.

With Palparan at the reins of the government’s anti-gambling drive, we can expect fireworks. Lots of.

Plus a staggering body count—ready the body bags, no prisoners will be taken.

For starters, our idol may be tasked to neutralize coddlers and protectors of, say, jueteng. The illegal numbers game has plagued Luzon for centuries—quite more formidable a challenge to weed out than a 30-year old or so communist insurgency.

People expect lots and lots of jueteng coddlers and protectors done in and queuing up for their appointment with an embalmer.

It is now common knowledge: coddlers and protectors infest local and national government. They come in such guises as councilor, mayor, media practitioner, barangay chieftain, congressman, police or military official, maybe even kith and kin of Malacañg occupants. Self-confessed jueteng bagman Sandra Cam did implicate GMA's hubby and eldest son as among those who were fattened by jueteng protection payoffs, did she not?

That is a formidable array, a multi-tiered assembly of corruption that exploits the Filipino penchant for the get-rich-quick way via gambling.

People would wish for Palparan to take care of ‘em jueteng coddlers and protectors, apply the usual terminate and destroy tack on ‘em. It’ll be a massive cleansing campaign.

Dissidents and their sympathizers call our idol as “butcher.” Enough of such tacky epithets and cranky name-calling.

Once Palparan gets his marching orders as the nation’s anti-gambling czar, people should bequeath him a more appropriate sobriquet.

Say, “redeemer?”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Basta gasta kasta

LAMPAS na ng hatinggabi nang masumpungan sa bukakang bukana ng kalyeng patuhog sa Avenida ang babae. Humarang sa daanan.

Kainaman ang tindig. Makinis. Naghuhulagpos sa galit ang suso sa nakahakab na kamiseta. Kainaman ang ganda ng mukha. Gitara pa rin ang hugis ng balakang. Matindi pa rin ang asim.

Paanas na inialok ang kanyang natatanging paglilingkod. Sa kama.

Napansin siguro nang humugot ako ng ilang pirasong salaping papel. Pulos hilatsa ni dating pangulong Manuel Roxas ang nakabalatay. Binayaran ang napiling guayabano— hustong isang kilo—sa matandang nakapuwesto sa bangketa ‘di kalayuan sa babae. Masarap ligisin ang himaymay ng guayabano. Para lubusang kumatas. Maihahalo ang katas asim-tamis sa paboritong marka demonyo. Isa pa’y pansupil sa mga hindi kanais-nais na singaw at alimuom mula kapaligiran ang mga binhi ng guayabano.

Inulit ng babae ang paanyaya na subukan ang kanyang serbisyo. Pagbigyan ang bisyo.

Inginuso ko ang kuna ng sanggol na kalapit niya. Ilang buwan pa lang ang edad ng sanggol na naroon. Gising pa. Naglilikot. Nakangiti. Walang malay na pagngiti.

“Anak mo?” untag ko.

Tumango ang babae.

“Eh ang tatay nito?”

“Ako ho.”

Tumindig mula sa kinahihigang likmuan sa bangketa ang isang lalaki. Naglalaro siguro sa 20-25 ang edad. Putlain. Lawlaw ang tiyan. Bahagyang nakangisi sa pag-amin na siya ang ama ng sanggol sa kuna.

Iglap na natuos sa utak kung saan mauuwi ang turing na halaga ng upa sa katawan ng ina. Buy Filipino. Eat Filipina. P100 sa tatay na payag namang mapindeho. P100 sa sanggol. P100 sa mismong nagpaupa’t nagpaupak.

Napakamura talaga.

Tiim-bagang na napamura: Putang ina!

Biglang-bigla nanikip ang aking… Hindi dibdib.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Plugging leaks

WE’RE not buying the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo position—“no retake” for the batch of June 2006 nursing examinees. That sounds like pandering to the infamous batch. The leakage mess will hound them, not forever but for a long time.

A professional puts a prime value on integrity, why, even a true statesman would call for snap elections to shoo away any miasma of a sham mandate. It is expected of those examinees to hew to a similar conduct— yeah, pearls will remain pearls even if they’re strewn among pebbles.

It’s not a matter of plugging a small leak, as a Dutch folktale would have it. Remember: An innocent boy spent the whole night, missed dinner, suffered body numbness. He had to hush his fears of the dark and endured biting cold. But he stood his ground plugging a small leak in the dike with his puny finger. If it were not for that act, the small leak might have grown large. That would break the dike that holds back the sea from engulfing that boy’s community. It was a boy’s courage that held the floodwaters in check. He also saw beyond a mere leak that could touch off tragic consequences for his community.

Indeed, a little leak can sink a great ship—even a multi-ton tanker like Solar I that has spawned a massive bunker fuel spill off Guimaras island. The price to pay for tragedies proves to be more costly.

For decades, our policymakers have merely sat on their fat butts as the nation leaked out its best and brightest health care workers, nurses including. The erstwhile wee leak has widened into a floodgush rushing overseas.

So, who plugs a leak that has grown gargantuan?

Admittedly, as a health professional point out, the demand for nurses in the US, UK and elsewhere has turned into the motive force shaping the crass commercialization of nursing education and the profession.

Whatever fuels the huge demand for a nursing diploma and license to ply the profession has given ground for motley scams that victimize students, their parents, and future patients.

Dump the Hippocratic Oath or whatever oath they swear to. We’re pursuing dollars and have been in pursuit of that myopic policy of exporting skills. Why, over eight million of them skilled workers turn in some $10 billion yearly to prop up an economy in crutches.

Over here, we’re warming up to a shortage of health care professionals and the inevitable crisis of the nation’s health care system.

He's a beauty!

HE’S an oddball alright, the sort of chap infected with child-like enthusiasm and spread the contagion any which way he could. Ain’t he a beauty, that crikey character Steve Irwin?

He couldn’t skeedaddle off into the Great Beyond just like that, we’d cry buckets.

We didn’t mind the thick curious accent as he spouted tidbits of facts. We hardly noticed his khaki outfit that spoke of a fashion sense much close to a carabao’s than to a gadabout mall rat. Irwin didn’t make any fashion statements. He made sense.

Neither did he gab about lazing around in spas for body toning or consultations with a dermatologist to correct skin flaws—he wasn’t that self-absorbed or too indulged about the appearance he gave out to audiences.

He wasn’t cast in the mould of sought-after celebrities puttering about the vacuity and howling emptiness of their lives—we’ll be doubly glad if they just drop dead like flies, let their fans and followers follow suit.

Irwin wasn’t the type “cropped, hedged and distorted by outward, trivial forms, fads and fancies.”

He wasn’t at all squeamish toddling after those slithering critters, handling ‘em with as much care and wonder with a wee bit of whimsy. He was making a pitch for all of ‘em creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful.

Do we have anybody like him around?

Nah, they all want to be our next idols, plying out song-and-dance acts or going through the motions of acting— terrible phonies all.

Oozing with energy, Irwin gawked and squawked about Nature. He sang to it paeans and praises. Adults these days, especially those soaked through in glamor and marinated in the mediocre don’t come any close to that.

And he could do mud-wrestling with crocodiles, fill in notebooks with sketches of reptiles, plop himself down on mud pies, celebrate life of the wild kind with nary a care.

That must have been a wonderful life!

Now showing

IN Con-Air a crew of death row inmates took over a plane. They crashlanded it smack at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. That was a bit of help in the landmark’s scheduled demolition with lots of money and debris flying. Most memorable quote off this 1997 movie: “Just so’s ya know… there’s now three people I trust.”

Con-Ass is something else that we’ve got to see. Could be an outright rip-off from Con-Air. Yeah, we’re copycats. And proud of it.

It might be about a different crew of inmates aboard a huge ass. They may be out to butcher the poor beast, do lots of mumbo-jumbo to transform the carcass into sumptous morsels called pork barrel.

Or the plot could vary. It could be a houseful of asses out to con us, then, leave us high and dry in the desert sand. A circle of vultures and buzzards ought to see our predicament, move in for the feast—and that ought to be a horror-packed film that could scare the living daylights out of viewers.

We’ve seen a trailer before the main feature—something that had the title Murder by the Numbers. Sheer quantity of numbers mustered by Palace minions steamrollered a quixotic attempt to impeach the current top tenant in Malacañang. The tragic try was squashed. That left the antagonists and villains to partake the victuals called pork barrel.

Playing a film critic of sorts, Sen. Loi Estrada views Con-Ass as a disaster movie, citing such “shameless and unconstitutional" attempt by pro-administration congressmen to rush the convening of the lower chamber into a constituent assembly is the "clearest proof why the people should thumb down Charter change."

According to her, under the present condition, a shift to parliament would only entrench the tyranny of numbers that Malacañang and its allies have already welded into a powerful weapon in frustrating the truth from coming out and in disregarding the true will of the people on vital issues affecting them such as the legitimacy of this government.

Far from bringing the country into a new "economic paradise" and bridging the political division now plaguing the country, the opposition lawmaker noted that Cha-cha and its creation, the unicameral parliament, is principally meant to "paint over and constitutionally put to rest" the legitimacy issue hounding the administration.

We expect something of a memorable quote off Con-Ass. Something similar to that plied in Con-Air.

“Just so’s ya know. We can’t trust asses out to con us.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lucky text maniacs

TEXT MANIACS are a lucky lot. They do eviscerate both English and Tagalog-based Filipino tongues as they ply communication sans added value. In doing such atrocity, they rack up huge profits for telecommunication firms.

Luck’s on the side of text maniacs. Even the alleged Numero Uno of these islas de ladrones en oficina alta y entre vidas bajas had recently mustered rage to wage war against cellphone filchers, snatchers and thieves.

We’re tempted to recommend one Major General Jovito Palparan to see to the conduct of war to instill terror in those riff-raff who steal cellphones. Uh, wasn’t it Yahweh or plain yawa who commanded humanity not to steal? Cellphones, trifling trinkets like a base in baseball, a turn-over ball in basketball, a chaste maiden’s heart? We hesitate to add to such list “elections” or “mandate”-- rules, like hymen, are made to be broken.

Text maniacs have the powers-that-be on their side. For instance, their tool for sending messages isn’t looked at warily as a suspect in terrorist bombings. As the global fad that began in Great Britain would have it, liquids—read: nitroglycerine-- are the more likely tools with which terrorists would blow up a jetliner, a public utility bus, a rail car or seagoing vessel.

Liquid explosives are the rage of terrorists the world over-- better believe that—from London to New York, and Metro Manila should go gaga doing gaya-gaya so as not to be left out in the conduct of security screening. Maybe, those terrorists out to blow US-bound jetliners in mid-air have sent some of those deadly liquids to their local counterparts.

Thus, a tight watch on liquids is now in effect in Metro Manila. Liquids in whatever containers—cans, bottles, jars, include a full bladder which ought to be discharged--shouldn’t be allowed aboard any public conveyance.

We’re not left being behind in the current fashion. We’re keeping in step with security measures plied in the US and UK. Yeah, we’re not fashion victims. We’re not third-rate trying hard copycats.

We dare not look back in dread at the December 30, 2002 bombing of Metro Manila’s Light Rail Transit system and several buses—22 dead, more than a hundred injured. We dare not remember that in one bus, a cellphone packed with explosives—C-4, Semtex or plastique—was detonated using another cellphone. Those horrible text maniacs…

Meanwhile, psychologists from Asia and the West are gathering in Bali, Indonesia to turn up more Asian perspectives of the science to understand terrorism in the region. It was noted that Western theories dominate psychology but aren’t exactly applicable in the East to figure out the mind of local terror-mongers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Death penalty here to stay

TWO years isn’t too long a time to blast away off this planet some 8,000 armed regulars of the New People’s Army.

The job is as easy as finding needles in a haystack—those Reds, their cohorts, allies and sympathizers are quite loud and too showy about their beliefs. They will stick out like heinous warts. They’ll stick it out, come what may.

Forget those sound bites and usual excuses trotted out in defense of killing the death penalty—a humane and compassionate society despises taking away the lives of criminals, no matter how loathsome or abominable their crimes. Capital punishment has no place in a—gasp, choke, belch-- decent society.

Now what about those up in arms against, aim to wrest power from duly constipated, ehek, we mean, constituted powers that be?

Yes, we’re pointing accusing and dirty fingers at those virulent NPAs. We’re fingering ‘em—those frigid faggots who allow gay marriages among their regulars. They have opted to wield political power through the barrels of their assault rifles, not through greasy pork barrels. Is there a felony more heinously hideous than that?

Those NPAs exact revolutionary taxes or in plain terms kotong money from both politicos and businessmen operating in NPA territories like scalawag cops do. They bushwhack small-time felons and cops—that’s aping the ways of kidnap-for-ransom gangs, warlords and drug lords. Their spokesman Gregorio Rosal filch unpaid airtime on radio broadcasts to badmouth the government. And they have the gumption to send batches of press releases to news media—without the usual fat envelopes!

Such cretinous charlatans and their creepy collaborators deserve no whit of mercy.

They deserve a fate worse than roasting forever in hell, those NPAs!

In the ensuing two-year campaign against these insurgents, let it be said that our troops intend to truly extirpate ‘em.

No prisoners will be taken—imprisonment will mean we have to treat them like rapists, drug traffickers, murderers, kidnap-for-ransom gangsters, corrupt-to-the-core officials and similar Christians who have committed heinous crimes but won’t be meted capital punishment.

As for those who get caught in the crossfire, we’ll tab ‘em as collateral damage in this two-year campaign.

Sure the death penalty stays—only for NPAs plus some collateral damage.

Time flies, you’re the pilot

“TIME” topped the list of the most common nouns used by English speakers. “Year” took third, “day” in fifth, and “week” turned at the 17th slot in a list drawn by Oxford University Press—it’s the outfit that puts out the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, deemed as the definitive guide to the twists and turns in an evolving tongue.

“Life” turned up at 9th on the list, “work” on the 16th rung.

The researchers noted that gunshot words—those of single syllables— comprise 90 percent of the top 100 words listed. The noun list was compiled for a more interesting view of the English language.

“Money” logged in at 65th—which implies its not so superior importance in the scheme of things we desire and aspire. How did Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat point up what it takes to fill the human well of longing? “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, (and thou, and thou…) with me in the wilderness, ah, wilderness were Paradise enow!”

Pressing out fruit juices and fermenting ‘em to turn up a decent drink takes time. After a thorough kneading, yeasted dough is allowed a rest for sometime. It rises, is kneaded some more, then, cut up into suitable morsels—baking ‘em takes time. And thou getting with me into a wilderness of sweets, that can take a lot of time. A two-bit Eden or any throwback to Paradise? That takes a lot of tilling, spreading manure into soil, and growing a melange of flowers and foliage, ah, seed to full-grown pechay takes 45 days— such painstaking tasks chomp up huge chunks of time.

Ah, it took a 40-day fast in the barren wilderness before Satan turned up to ply the greatest temptations to the Son of Man. First test—hush all-too immediate hunger pangs of an empty tummy, quick, splurge. The tested stuck to His fast. Second test—all the world’s material possessions plus political and military power to boot, just obey the devil. Pelf and power were refused. Third test—give in to folly, say, do a pratfall into a cliff just to see if angels would come to the rescue. Satan was rebuffed. Every test was passed. Those same tests pester humanity up to our present time— and we fail each one every time.

Okay, we’re obsessed with time. We afford it paramount importance. So it’s sounded out oftenest in workaday talk, probably in inane chatter or brainless blabber. Maybe in sweet nothings and endearments poured in feverish stream into a beloved’s earlobes. Why, the world’s best pick-up line— divulged recently by a gaggle of Japanese researchers— packs no hint of sex. It’s worded this way: “This time next year, let’s laugh together and have a great time.”

Dion Boucicault: “Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”

Henry David Thoreau: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”

Time heals all wounds, wounds all heels— why, History can be an all-too patient assassin waiting, lurking in sun or shadow, taking its own sweet time before unleashing a flurry of killing blows before sweeping culprits into the dustbin. Yes, ambuscades take careful planning—that takes a lot of time. The execution can be swift, in too little or no time at all, hah!

Remember Parkinson’s Law? Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Fact is, there are no expansions. Only dilations or a bloating often characteristic of corpses going through decay. Same volume of bureaucratic work-- that can be done in a jiffy— is stretched out into ages to allow for more salary payments for very little accomplishments.

By our reckoning, time is the most precious commodity. So there’s time management. There’s quality time devoted to kindling or stoking the fires of hearth.

So I spend most times with my Beloved—the missus, my children, our home. The expenditure is worth the bountiful returns, I guess. There are ties that have to bound with a lot of patience, a lot of quantity time.

Do I need the approval or acceptance of others who have so much time on their hands but are frittering it away? Ah, how they’d putter and do running commentary about small tasks I complete or choose not to. They just stand in the way—and in due time, I’ll get to ‘em. Meanwhile I don’t have to waste my time. It’s a sane option. We’d rather not injure eternity, it’s much fun slashing a carotid artery or a femoral vein in just a flick of time.

Or let time quietly kill ‘em, bit by bit by bit. Time wounds all heels.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hungry eyes

A RECENT US study found that some orientals take in all the details in a picture, a detail at a time with sights rampaging throughout the picture. Their eyes do a thorough sweep. Their opposite numbers in western countries merely latch their sights on a picture’s focal point, skipping on tidbits, nuggets and wee morsels that hungry eyes slurp up and chew as cud.

Paying persnickety attention to details can pay ample rewards. Sights are made for seeing. Go peer. Gaze and eyeful. Look out for signs and wondrous sights that are often wee—not too grandiose nor too spectacular.

Only a Moses got that rare chance to set sights on a burning bush that went on burning and wasn’t consumed by fire. Keep the lights burning, please: peer at the splayed open thighs of one’s beloved and behold her bush emitting light and delight.

Only an Arjuna was given a chance to behold the entire universe that was mere kernel of an incarnate divinity. We’ve been told to grasp earth’s entirety in a grain of sand, see and take to licking heaven in a maiden’s flower.

A well-honed sight imparts a keen edge to slice through or flay whatever’s offered before it. A steady diet of sights can be chewed down, their nutrients and essences absorbed to gain lean insights. Behold, verily, then, hold.

Author Anais Nin avers “we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” So I’ll never have any part in that putative holier than thou anti-pornography group that latch their sights on obscenity and lewdness.

My, oh, my I ought to be those ornate wrought ironwork hand-me-downs from another era—enduring details of the Bautista-Nakpil ancestral home in Quiapo, flaked remnants on the flank of the Monte de Piedad building in Sta. Cruz that I fondly set eyes on on my way to work. That means, and with fingers crossed in wish-craft, I dare say I could endure and be pliant enough to take on geometry and beauty like ‘em.

I remember Friedrich Nietszche stating “look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” By extension, quantum physics has it that looker and looked at become one. They swap information in that intimate process. Quantum physics has a quaint word for it. Interface. Information and intimacy accrues both to the parties involved in that meeting of sights.

It’s no longer a transaction or workaday deal pursued for its own sake. Interface leads to transformation.

That implies I am in union with a blur of bright plumage in movement —starlings and sparrows in quick flight are a staple sight my eyes snatch as visual snack. Relish those swish/swirl of feathers light as a heart without a care. And those quick-as-a-wink ambush of reptiles, ah, some magnificence of lizards and skinks and serpents as they catch their prey. Include the dart of wasps and bees unleashed like arrows upon foliage and flowering.

What about author Paolo Coelho’s uptake on the mythical character Narcissus? The pond on which Narcissus saw his mirror image missed the man—it was through his limpid eyes that the pond saw its own beauty. The beholder and the beheld are equally blessed.

Those stand of trees and sweep of grass on a hillside in Ciudad Real in Bulacan, why, they’re a sight for tired eyes, a soothing wash of green, tangled branches and blades and all. I haven’t bothered to ask ‘em though if they also deem me as a wonderful sight.

All I ever get to chat with are the plants that I grow in my garden. That wonderful horticulture wizard Luther Burbank once said a plant has 20 sense organs in it. I haven’t figured out any of such but, hey, a plant can communicate and respond to doting thoughts. Umm, let’s just say a head of cabbage packs more sense than most empty-headed louts inflicting inane chatter on us via TV broadcast networks.

No, I still don’t wear eyeglasses—my sight hasn’t dimmed yet. It has probably adjusted, refitted, maybe retooled itself through the years from the normal 20/20 vision to the more recent 36-24-36.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A few miles in my shoes

AN erstwhile boardmate who played classical guitar actually stepped into my shoes. He coaxed out heavenly strains off Antonio Molina’s Hatinggabi, Fernando Sor’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart plus a clutch of other pieces to a full house at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Little Theater. The shoes were duly returned. Odd it was he had to borrow mine—he had a pair of soft leather loafers he could wear for that performance.

Making a defense of his thesis before a panel of academic honchos plus a gaggle of senior students, my eldest kid borrowed and stepped into my shoes. He pulled that defense with bravura. Plus some applause from student peers. An economic feasibility study plus down-to-nitty-gritty architect’s design of an international airport including construction costs for such is something tough to broach before a crowd.

He didn’t need my shoes as platform of sorts to deliver his defense. He has been repeatedly told that he can stand on his own, rise to his true height.

He repeated that oddity—borrowing, stepping into my shoes—at the graduation rites, showing off a fetching nursing student as his 30th conquest. Does one don confidence, gusto, gumption and two-bit tango rhythm on your feet for such a social do? Uh, I attended that occasion on a pair of well-worn sneakers, wont to every-other-day jaunts that starts out at Quiapo straight to Divisoria and winding up at the Jones Bridge in Sta. Cruz.

For a job interview, my third kid also set foot into my leather shoes. He brimmed with confidence, spoke a tad flawless English. He got hired. I ought to get used to my frayed sneakers.

Now, there’s a lot of mileage in those faded pair of rubber-and-canvass affair. I’ve walked the walk in ‘em.

Those same sneakers had chafed through the most recent aborted Gridiron skit of the National Press Club. Say, the hour-long presentation is both fun and punishment, made up of sequences in which we howl out tunes while erupting in some fast dance steps. The physical exertions leave us in sweat. Sometimes in cramps, panting for air as newsdesk-induced stress thaws out of our bodies. It’s a daily rehearsal at off-hours with stage thespian-director Bart Guingona calling the shots.

Suspicion: that ex-boardmate and my two kids might be equally superstitious. Why, they probably believe a person imparts more than zillions of fungal spores from mildew to athlete’s foot, dead rat smell and callused soles into one’s shoes. Maybe something of a wearer’s spirit rubs in and lingers in ‘em shoes. Perhaps, the inner map of his electric body is sole-stamped into the shoes-- the electricity becomes palpable memory imparted to the wearer.

They probably believe that each shoe bears the hallmarks of the shaman, the showman, the shoe filling up the man. The reason may be beyond explanation but, hey, sole rhymes with soul.

There’s this half-remembered phrase from Sunday school about Christians walking with their faith. Maybe the word was fate. Or I must have misheard—we’re not really used to walk on tiptoes, just on one’s feet, bare or shod. One’s feet can be graceful carriage—not in a plod, a trudge, a limp, a shoddy plough, a swagger or stagger.

It took a year for me to wear out a pair of Polo and G. H. Bass, their sturdy soles flayed and flaked smooth to a thin ply by that silly habit of hiking from Quiapo to Divisoria then Binondo to Sta. Cruz before heading off to my work station. Yeah, yeah, I’m a streetwalker soaking all the details along the way not unlike that "Sublime Paralytic of Batangas" and "Brains of the Revolution," Apolinario Mabini. In his schoolboy days, he walked daily from his hometown Talaga to the school he attended in Lipa City. It must have been a day-to-day ordeal for him in pursuit of learning.

The soles wear thin, the legs turn sturdy, takes on an infectious two-tone rhythm of reggae with a plague of salsa and tango plus a whit of rock and roll beat. Sure, there ought to be music oozing off shuffling foot movements to coax the slow wash of endorphin in one’s brain to clear the cobwebs. Say, that same happy hormone is also released in relaxed lovemaking and causes the skin to glow, induces a sense of euphoria and a silly feel-good grin.

So I covered miles and smiles in ‘em shoes in the belief that the quality of one’s movement determines the quality of one’s life.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lapsus linguae

EITHER a lack of pies or pack of lies—that’s what critics and detractors heard from the current Malacañang top resident. We need to get a disappointment with an ear specialist quick. If not, we’ll likely hear verbiage as garbage.

Take that outburst, “I am the best president.” That wasn’t an exercise of bragging rights. It wasn’t cold appraisal of one’s competence. It wasn’t a shriek off a delirious imagination. It’s either one of those sound bites or bound sights that ghostwriters fed her. That could also be heard as a ruefully honest confession, “I am the pest resident.”

Remember that spoony admission? “I am sorry.” Some people with hearing problems heard that as “I am rosy.”

Face it, most Filipinos are growing hungrier these days, not even the P30 billion – give or take a few billions – earmarked, no pun intended, as subsidy for rice and instant noodles can curb widespread starvation. So fill our souls with hope or fill our holes with soap and be quick with the screwing. Ease our tears or tease our ears.

Experts point out that hungry people are often hard of hearing.There’s a persistent often pernicious ringing in the ears of a hungry man, the ringing even sounding like a ring tone followed by a too-familiar salutation: “Hello Garci…”

Nobody would dare tell to a hungry nation, “Fiends, romance and infantry men, lend me your ears.” So we must forgive ourselves for gasps in catchment, lumps in judgment, maybe jumps in budget management, why, the Palace top resident stands to get some chunky P800 billion pork barrel this year—no mad bunny, no bad money eh?

Aside from a merry mix-up of minced words in official pronouncements, hunger can also breed hideous behavior. A hunger-prone tribe in Africa, as reported by The Economist, lives in selfishness and conflict, each family member competing with others for food.

The same report notes: “In China, a proverb, ‘Swap child, make food,’ referred to the practice in periods of extreme famine of swapping a daughter’s corpse with that of a neighbor’s and boiling it into soup.”

Whether the pronouncements plied off Malacañang are plain lapsus linguae or painful lapses in judgment, we need not strain our collective ears to hear ‘em loud and clear. We’ve heard those same old tunes before, have we not?

A lack of pies, a pack of lies—they sound the same to the hungry.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Don't bother non-readers

FILM critics and viewers alike roundly bashed the movie version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code—‘twas a big letdown, mostly for those who didn’t bother to soak themselves between the book’s pages as a lover buries himself between a beloved’s thighs.

It was a lousy movie, hyped up by incomprehensible calls to ban both movie and the book it was based from. Admittedly, the book version is largely uninspired and proffers nothing much than so-so turns of phrase. Our very own Greg Brillantes, Nick Joaquin, Wilfrido Nolledo, and Juan Gatbonton can ply out much polished prose.

Hear out Mark Twain whose novels were among those banned by censors of the Vatican for reasons laymen won’t understand: “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

Adds another pundit: “Quick, read the book before filmmakers ruin it into a movie.”

We can let out a sigh. To the Journal Online editor’s hush-hush offer to provide net-surfing readers with an HTML version of the Dan Brown bestseller plus other worthwhile reads—and save some P500 in acquisition cost—only a fetching lady from Cebu responded. She was given a free copy via electronic mail. She was thankful for it:” I greatly appreciate the time and effort you took just to email me Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Also, thank you so much for leading me to that web site.”

Writers and their ilk are an endangered species in these parts, taking in gunfire from ambuscades or taking in the arrant apathy of most folks whose idea of reading is through text messages that can eat up a few thousand pesos monthly.

Rizal’s El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere won’t foment a revolt if our populace in the here and now were sent back in time to the 1890s.

Reports the New York Times: “From the days of Sumerian clay tablets till now, humans have ‘published’ at least 32 million books, 750 million articles and essays, 25 million songs, 500 million images, 500,000 movies, 3 million videos, TV shows and short films and 100 billion public Web pages.

“With tomorrow's technology, it will all fit onto your iPod. When that happens, the library of all libraries will ride in your purse or wallet — if it doesn't plug directly into your brain with thin white cords.”

That could be information overload, a lot of know-how and skills and secrets waiting for eager learners who’ll read ‘em. Savor that word “read” and go back.

“In the beginning was the Word…”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stomachs in rebellion

MORE and more Filipinos are joining the ranks of rebels—but they’re not exactly up in arms. It’s their stomachs that are causing too much furor and clamor, growling in emptiness.

As of March 2006, it was reported that an unprecedented 2.8 million families confessed that they’ve gone hungry with nothing to eat.

No, they’re not angry which rhymes with hungry. They’re just hungry. That’s no cause for alarm, pumped up apprehensions and the usual Palace spin about massive destabilization in the works that could topple the Palace resident and her minions. Rest assured that growling hunger pangs ought to topple those who can’t afford foodstuffs.

Unlike Malacañang denizens, the hungry hordes may not likely survive through 2010—make no mistake about that.

Three possible reasons for the incessant wreckage of Filipino digestive systems: (1) food production can’t keep pace with the growing population, (2) by the time farm-produced foodstuffs get to the consumer, the retail price is way beyond the consumer’s means, and (3) too little income or whatever income is devoured by inflation.

National Statistics Office figures in 2000 point out that each person needed at least P21 worth of food daily to survive—that sum fetches four packs of instant noodles which has become the pambansang pagkain ng Pilipino. Such less than filling ballast to hush hunger pains may give the hungry hordes some ideas— death row inmates are allotted P30 daily for their meals. Say, all it takes is commission of heinous crimes like plunder, kidnap for ransom, mass murder or such as a ticket to free secure accommodation and quite ample food.

As of March 2006, the peso purchasing power has shrunk to 73 centavos, each peso chewed up by 7.6 percent inflation. That means the real value of the P325 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is only P233.48—workers lose over 28 percent of their earnings to inflation.

Reports plied by the Social Weather Stations claim the hunger trend has been rising since late 2003,after dipping to 5.1 percent in September that year, and has remained at double-digit levels since the second quarter of 2004.

That means the rebellion is fully under way.

No problem here. Those rebellious stomachs can howl all they want until they croak dead.

Orgasm Day today

ESPERANTINA, a town in Brazil’s conservative northeastern section celebrates today (May 9) as Orgasm Day—not exactly a toss-up between gray and groin matters.

Esperantina’s mayor endorsed the holiday which is aimed at improving relationships between married couples: “We’re celebrating orgasm in all its senses. There’s even a panel discussion on premature ejaculation. But from what I’ve seen, women have more trouble achieving orgasm than men, especially in marriage.

There won’t be much local people involved in the feast of the senses—the remote town 1,300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro has 38,000 people, most are poor. They’re known not exactly for achieving multiple orgasms—from the shallow clitoral climax to the more satisfying vaginal whoop-it-up-- or fits of priapism among menfolk. Esperantina throbs with religious zeal but the townsfolk have been unofficially celebrating Orgasm Day for years.

Across Brazil, Orgasm Day celebrations include panel discussions by sexologists plus a mounting of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

Claims Esperantina Mayor Felipe Santolia: “I’ve seen scientific studies that show when a women is loved, when her husband can bring to orgasm, it affects all aspects of her life, her relationships with her children, at home, with the city and at work.”

Yes, copious amounts of endorphin—the so-called “happy hormone”-- released in the body systems during orgasm bring a sense of peace and well-being.

It’s unlikely that we can bring this enlightened holiday to this neck of the woods. We have hordes of religious zealots that delight in infecting people with a mistrust of their bodies’ natural urges. As we have written time and again: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa lunggang pinanggalingan, tiyak na may sexual dysfunction.”

On the other hand, the advertising and entertainment industries are ramming down our throats absurd notions about the glamor of being in a constant state of titillation sans satisfaction.

Yes, orgasm is more than a physical sensation of release and freedom. It’s much more than physical union—the intercourse takes on a panoply of dimensions from the carnal to the spiritual.

Tongue-tied as we are with the import of this day, today we’re wishing couples a blissful and meaningful celebration of Orgasm Day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Life sucks

PSYCHIATRISTS suggest that smoking is a childish habit.

To make a clean breast of it: a grown-up hasn’t eased off the warmth of bonding with mom as she allows the milk of human kindness to be suckled, providing nourishment and a steady rhythm of her heartbeat thrumming like a gentle lullaby that hushes her beloved child to sleep. Simply divine.

Maybe that can explain why the world’s top-selling brand of smokes is tipped with the color of a woman’s teats. That evokes the sheer sensuality of mom-and-child bonding. Hear out U2’s Bono: “Time won’t leave me as I am but time can’t take away the boy in this man!”

So easy a return to the carefree time of childhood via a smoke. That may explain why history professor Thomas W. Laqeur averred for an aversion: “Smoking is a ritual, and it has all the numinous force of a ritual.”

Local health authorities say that only 16 percent of Filipino mothers breast-feed their children for the first six months of their lives despite the numerous benefits from breastfeeding.

Studies show that breast-fed babies are more resistant to disease and infection than formula-fed children. Too, they are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15.

Too, recent studies have shown that children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood. Formula feeding is linked to about a 20 to 30 percent greater likelihood that the child will become obese.

People who were breast-fed as infants have lower blood pressure on average than those who were formula-fed, it was added. Not surprising that other studies have shown that heart disease is less likely to develop in adults who were breast-fed in infancy.

Breast-feeding is a cheap mode of birth control. When a woman gives birth, nurses her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon—the mode is found to be 98 percent effective.

A total of 3,738 nursing mothers recently took part in a mass breast-feeding in Manila to make it to the record books, maybe wean mothers away from using formula feed.

As our old folks used to say: “Ang gatas ng tao para sa tao, gatas ng hayup para sa hayup.”

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Murderous to your health

LIKE a pack of our favorite menthol smokes—Philip Morris 100s-- the Filipino journalist’s profession comes now with a label. Government warning: Writing is murderous for your health.

Journalists can live with that advice. Or die, which isn’t exactly an acquired habit writers have to adapt to.

Ekeing a decent living as a writer isn’t easy hereabouts. Easier is dying with one’s boots on or preferably a hard-on. The daily grub and strain to churn out news isn’t exactly safe as one Voltaire would have it—“To write is to be at war.”

So our writers trudge through a battleground. Maybe a combat zone in the world’s deadliest patch of earth—next to war-torn Iraq—for pen slingers on a usual tour of duty. We’re here to break the news, bad or worse. And not unlike that runner in the first-ever marathon, we can fall dead peppered with bullets as we deliver.

Local writers celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with a grim punctuation: Nicolas Cervantes, 65 year-old doting lolo, insurance code author and business writer was felled by four hitmen as he was waiting for a cab outside his apartment in Mandaluyong. Deadball at 1:30 p.m. after moaning “Uuwi na ako… ‘yung apo ko.”

The slain journalist’s family are now deathly afraid it’s their turn in the line of fire.

Family members claim the killers may be after files of classified information that Cervantes had gathered on alleged anomalies involving Bureau of Internal Revenue personnel and tax evaders.

The killing could also have been touched off by the journalist’s claims of up to P100 million in “commission” or reward as BIR informer on big-time tax evaders.

So another writer bit the dust. Another blot of blood on this accursed battleground.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reports that since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986, at least 76 journalists have been murdered, including 39 during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term, making her administration the deadliest for Filipino journalists.

"As if the toll in the lives of journalists has not been enough, the Arroyo administration has distinguished itself as the only one since the Marcos dictatorship to have attempted ... a wholesale clampdown on media," the NUJP lamented.

Indeed, to write is to be at war.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

La Mesa damned

IMAGINE 1,141 households of an average six family members each plunked upon a 58-hectare spread of land right inside the La Mesa Dam watershed area. There’ll be an initial 7,000 people generating trash and an array of refuse that may not exactly leach into the dam that supplies water for Metro Manila’s teeming population.

Give a decade or two and the initial numbers shall have trebled, quadrupled. Predictably, the once-unspoiled topography goes to seed—we’ve seen that deterioration happen again and again in low-cost housing projects and homesites for middle-class families. The tons of garbage, sewage, filth and all that trash generated by the community ought to be hitting less than tenable proportions. An erstwhile watershed area ought to be groaning if it only could.

Never mind the groans. Grin and bear it.

But Metro Manila won’t take offense at the contamination of its potable water source. Masasanay din tayo sa kababuyan, sa salaula.

Metro Manilans might cheer zillions of Escherichia coli-- the bacterium type that thrives in fecal matter-- swimming in every glass of tap water they’ll love to drink. A few zillion colonies of Clostridium botulinum – a spoiled type of microorganism that despoils food and is often used to decimate populations-- ought to add zap to the water supply. Did anyone mention Bacillus anthracis? Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone, huh?

C’mon. Metro Manila should get used to the pestilence generously wrought at the dam and piped into their homes, drop by lethal drop.

Why, we could use the La Mesa Dam as an outdoor type laboratory to do colossal experiments in microbiology, maybe some two-bit epidemiology with a view to cranking out effective biochemical weapons to thin out the ranks of the unemployed, the teeming riff-raff, and the excess populace.

With a lab like that, as the Beatles once howled: “You know we should be glad… Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

We ought to allow human nature to take its curse, ehek, we mean, of course.

What the hell do we care about the environment, hah!?!

Let’s break ground pronto at the La Mesa Damned.

Let the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride out.

We could use some pestilence. Honest.

How come this billionaire lives modestly?

ONE terse report datelined Beijing that saw print yesterday reads: “China’s richest man lives in a small apartment and shuns high life and expensive hobbies.”

That chap has reportedly amassed a fortune of about $2 billion.

That’s well over P100 billion equivalent in these parts. Having millions in the bank hereabouts is equated with (1) having a string of paramours and plush lovenests to exercise usual legal tenderness, (2) a fleet of flashy cars each worth a four- or five-year take-home pay of an average wage earner, (3) a retinue of uniformed maids at one’s beck and call, (4) memberships in exclusive clubs—usually golf, yacth, and night clubs, (5) yearly trips abroad, (6) extensive landholdings plus ritzy rest houses in Baguio, Tagaytay, Boracay or Davao, (7) a jeweltry collection worth millions, plus (8) a standing army of hired thugs as insurance against kidnap-for-ransom attempts or outright ambuscades.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it—that’s the mantra in this neck of the woods. Show money speaks too loud, gains respect hereabouts. Why, every mien in our money bills wear long, glum faces—each a sorry hero ruing how we put value over money. That speaks volumes about the Filipino’s cherished values in pesos and centavos.

We may be dead-wrong in judging character but that Chinese multi-billionaire must be a miser. How can he not wallow in the affluence he so deserves while a gentleman from our god-forsaken islands can muster the gall to whoop it up in a $20,000 a night hotel suite prior to watching a Manny Pacquiao fight?

Why, the report has it that Chinaman has raked up his billions since he arrived in Beijing 20 years ago as a dirt-broke 16-year old. But he was an enterprising young man, the report duly noted.

He took the same route every Chinaman does in Divisoria. He got his start peddling electronic appliances from a stall.

A senior analyst for a Beijing-based research group is stumped at the ways and wiles of such working rich folks: “We have so many mysterious rich people. Others admire their money but they question the morality of it.”

Adds he in chagrin: “You’ve got to be rich silently.”

How come that billionaire still follows the teaching of Kung Fu-tse, that 5th century Chinese thinker who advocated modesty as a virtue?