Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A week-long sex-and-song binge

All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil.

--William Butler Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisited

AFTER 17 years grubbing underground it emerges for a week of song and sex, dumps its next generation into the soil, then goes stiff, its God-given lifespan used up. That sums up a cicada’s life. Short but happy.

Hankering for earfuls of that cicada song, the beloved and I went back to that cheap bed-and-board that looks over an eyeful of Taal Lake. Cicadas haunted an adjacent lot grown with avocado and mango trees draped with sayote vines on their boughs—that lot cum trash dump is also an open-air chamber of sorts for a cicada chamber orchestra.

There was triangular planetary pattern in the heavens and a full moon that Friday night—‘twas supposed to signal a sad shake up in the media, why, a giveaway tabloid to MRT and LRT commuters turned in an obituary issue on May’s last day. A day when rural parishes turned festive with Santacruzan processions as homage to onset of rains and the monsoon season.

It was a perfect night: the lake surface was glass, dainty moon delicious like siopao bola-bola on heaven’s platter, unseen cicadas had burst like crotch-tight briefs into song, I was having a post-prandial drink and the beloved was having her period.

Now, these aren’t your usual cicadas, smaller shriller trillers called kulilis or kuliglig. These ones are as fat as a thumb with two pairs of transparent wings sheathing a body daubed in deep-hued-gold and emerald. They won’t be easy to spot once they hug a twig and blend in camouflage with freshly sprung buds and leaves. And they’re called paagang, so I was told decades back.

Maybe it’s the hankering for music elemental, airs and tunes that resonate deep down and within. Maybe I’ve caught some paagang ages back and wondered why such a thumb-size critter could sift the air, breathe through its spiracles while thrumming out sustained several notes at one throw.

Uh, that note is a call to sex. But there’s much more to it than an invitation to copulating frenzy.

Paagang sounds out a sustained shh:r-r-e-e-n-n-g-g in a 3- or 4-minute blast, ceases for a minute or two like a boxer between rounds then resumes the trill.

Earfuls of that can get on your nerves. But that’s the sort of sound that’s different from the brainless blabber that infects cramped neighborhoods in most cities.

That’s supposedly a sacred sound that belongs to Hindu faith systems—the paagang trill is a call to a goddess, a nudge to certain nerve centers in the body in which the goddess may dwell and unfold her blessings of beauty, persistence. and prosperity. Am I blessed?

That trill ought to kindle enthusiasm, uh, that comes from Greek en theos= “the gods within.”

So I join that fecund company, if only in the last few days of their song-and-sex binge, humming along like an infected human and nudging the gods within.

As Piero Ferruci would have it in Inevitable Grace: “The word humility (also human) is derived from the Latin humus, meaning "the soil." Perhaps this is not simply because it entails stooping and returning to earthly origins, but also because, as we are rooted in this earth of everyday life, we find in it all the vitality and fertility unnoticed by people who merely tramp on across the surface, drawn by distant landscapes.”

Blow job satisfaction

HINDI man naungkat ang antas ng suweldo at samut-saring kalagayan sa gawain, igiit na lang natin ang kawikaan na maaaring naging sangkap na ng matinong diskarte sa pamumuhay—a little integrity is better than any career.

Mga kapatid sa kayod ni cabalen Gov. Among Ed Panlilio ng Pampanga ang nangunguna sa mga may mataas na antas ng kasiyahan sa gawain o job satisfaction sa mahigit 27,000 naghahanapbuhay sa U.S. nitong 2006. Halos siyam bawat 10 kabilang sa hanay ng clergy ang nagsabi na nasisiyahan sila sa kanilang trabaho.

Pangalawa sa mga talagang nasisiyahan sa kanilang gawain ang mga bumbero—apat bawat lima ang ganado. At halos apat bawat limang physical therapists ang nagpahayag na ganado rin sila sa daloy ng kanilang gawain.

Ikaapat sa mga talagang nasisiyahan sa kanilang kayod ang mga manunulat—74% ang nagpahayag ng kasiyahan at pagiging kuntento sa kanilang ginagawa. Hindi nga pala lahat ng manunulat ay matatawag na editor at reporter.

Kabilang ang mga editor at reporter—sila ang tinatawag na peryodista-- sa hanay ng mga pulis, detective, registered nurse, at accountant na 50% lang ang nagsasabing nasisiyahan sa kanilang trabaho. Ibig sabihin: bawat 2 sa kanila, isa ang ganado’t kuntento—isa ang hindi.

Work occupies a large part of each worker’s day, is one’s main source of social standing, helps to define who a person is and affects one’s health both physically and mentally. Because of work’s central role in many people’s lives, satisfaction with one’s job is an important component in overall well-being,” paliwanag ni Tom Smith, direktor sa isinagawang general social survey ng National Opinion Research Center ng University of Chicago.

Panlima sa mga kuntento’t masaya sa gawain ang special education teachers— maaaring mga nagtuturo ng pagluluto, yoga, bonsai, topiary, pottery, handicrafts, painting, martial arts, canine toilet training, Kama Sutra techniques, astrology at samut-saring dagdag na kaalaman na karaniwang panlibangan o pansariling kalinangan ang pakay. Ganado ang pito bawat 10 sa kanila.

Nasa ika-anim ang mga guro—69% o halos pito bawat 10. Ikapito ang education administrators na gaya ng gawain ng katotong Panfilo O. Domingo, ganado ang 68%.

Mahirap maungkat ang mga sanhi kung bakit kuntento’t humahango ng kasiyahan sa kanilang gawain ang mga taong ito. Pero may matingkad na katangian ang mga hanapbuhay na nagbibigay ng kasiyahan, ayon kay Tom Smith: “The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching and protecting others and creative pursuits.”

Teka, nakakalito ‘to. Iginiit na kasiya-siya ang professions—nangunguna sa mga ganado’t nasisiyahan sa gawain ang mga nasa clergy. Na karaniwang tumatanggap ng sangkatutak na confessions. Say, the most satisfying professions take confessions?

Wala kaming nabungkal na nurses na talagang limpak-limpak ang tinatabo. Pero wala sila sa listahan ng mga kuntento’t nasisiyahan sa kanilang ginagawa—pero nasa healthcare profession ang physical therapists na ikatlo sa mga talagang ganado sa kanilang gawain. Tila musmos sa kanilang pangangalaga ang mga matanda na nabiktima ng brain attack o stroke at mga sakuna—tuturuan muli ng paglalakad, gagabayan sa bawat hakbang, pangungunahan sa calisthenics at mga payak na pagkilos ng mga bahagi ng katawan. Meron bang tinatawag na intrinsic pay o walang katumbas na bayad sa ganoong gawain?

Baka meron naman.

Teka, physical therapists. The rapists? Baka kaya sila ganado’t kuntento.

Isangkalan muli ang naibandilang sanhi: A little integrity is better than any career. Walang isang katagang katumbas ng integrity sa ating wika. I’d hazard that where such gunshot word that codifies an idea is missing in a language, the idea is likely to be missing in the people using such a language. So we’re rather clueless on what integrity is. Or privacy. After all, basic patterns of our mind emerge from the structure of our speech, the workaday language we use.

So let’s hazard a guess to integrate integrity into our way of thinking as Filipinos. Integrity = kabuuan ng pagkatao. Paano ba bumuo ng pagkatao? ‘Tangna hindi ‘yung infantry o pagputok sa matris ng tarugo bata ang nabubuo.

May pamantayang sinusundan sa pagbuo ng pagkatao. How to make whole the Tao in you? Mauungkat na natin si Lao Tse, isa ring Asyano pati na ang kung ilang salinlahi ng tao na sumunod sa mga panuntunan niya. Paano nga mabubuo ang pagkatao? Payak ang tuntunin. Mauungkat sa mga lipunan ng Asia. Code of honor. Do. Tao. Tahaking landas. Na umiiral ang panuntunan para itanghal at ingatan ang dangal.

Do? Say, scandal-hounded farm minister of Japan commits suicide, that’s honest-to-goodness bushido. A P1.2-billion fertilizer scam hounds one Joc-joc Bolante who makes himself scarce, that’s hindot na tarantado.

Sa isang panlipunang kaayusan na nagpapahalaga sa pakikisama’t pakikigaya sa nakararami kaysa pagpapahalaga sa karangalan ng sarili, tiyak na wala ngang katuturan at hindi mauunawa ang kabuluhan ng dangal.

So we’re a career-driven people, we turn our backs on this neck of the backwoods; we’ll find a career everywhere in the world. We equate career with job security and cash rewards, do we not?

And we’re not exactly an integrity-driven people. So let’s not look for integrity in the people who install as our leaders because the masses where we drew them from are similarly lacking in integrity.

Being busy is one of the basic necessities to be content.

But a little integrity is better than any career.

The real score on the Ylmas-Ruffa break-up (Warning: weak language!)

BUT what’s strong language? Probably a lot of sound and fury adding up to zilch.

Maybe something like the bundle of seed words in a tigalpo, not even pronounced above a whisper—merely muttered under the breath to induce slow dehydration of body fluids on the intended victim. Ghastly death follows.

But it takes summoning the body’s reserves of intrinsic energies to pronounce such a death sentence on the deserving. Before such pronouncements can be made, an initiate often goes through a back-wracking regimen in the military arts, even pursues a monastic life—something like plain down-to-earth living, opulent grab-at-the-heavens thinking.

In the 1990s, doctor of alternative medicine Masaru Emoto found out that water has the ability to retain information, be influenced by thoughts, music, especially prayers. In an experiment, he asked a Buddhist monk to say blessings to a Petri dish of toxic water taken from a highly polluted lake. The blessed water turned up purified—the Buddhist monk’s blessing was a likely culprit to the transformation.

More than two-thirds of the human body is water. Water which—as the Masaru Emoto tests show-- turns out to be quite gullible at keeping choicest chunks of filth and tripe dumped into it, say, the real score behind an Ylmas Bektas-Ruffa Gutierrez break-up, the falling out of a Gladys what’s-her-surname from Eat Bulaga, or the coming out in the open of an Ogie Alcasid-Regine Velasquez romance… ugh nauseam.

It’s likely idle chatter works out the same toxic effect on the body fluids.

And if you’re a Sufi wont to the prescribed daily regimen of calling on a name of the Almighty corresponding to “Taker of Life”— or “killer” in plain Arabic—the aqueous biochemistry somehow follows the invocation. You become.

Or you’re probably into mantra yoga sowing the daily cycle of seed words into your systems; you’ve even picked out a most beautiful aspect of the Divine, the bloodthirsty Durga whose myriad arms bear motley weapons of mass destruction and obliteration. You’re cool. Aum namaste!

You could be into Zen, dumping tons and tons of invocations to serenity in the eye of tornadoes and cyclones in your biochemical make-up. Let peace in the eyesight of tropic howlers be in you, bro.

Now, it should DAWN on our good old physician comrades-in-the-healing-arts Net Billones and George Abordo why this writer is inexplicably choosy when it comes to people he’d chat up with in earnest. Why, stupidity is a water-borne disease. It’s virulently contagious.

Hey, something called tigalpo was cited earlier. A bundle of seed words, probably gibberish or too arcane to decipher, enunciated sans pomp and pomposity of a court of justice. A quaint packet of seed words for sowing not unlike the pesky Gmelina tree species whose invasive roots suck dry every droplet of water.

Those aren’t words that heal. They cause the contrary. Anyway, a shriveled corpse can be pumped up to decent plumpness with a few gallons of formaldehyde solution—any decent embalmer can do that.

Those are the most likely candidates for pretty strong language.

Ah, I’ve grown fond of talking to the plants that I’ve often kept company—they don’t indulge much in idle chatter or brainless banter.

Too, plants are wont to use weak language.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

...kung matinik ay malalim

LIKAS ang liksi pero hindi nagmamadali. Ganoon yata ang napulot na gawi sa sangkaterba naming pusa. Malalim at matining na tubig na umaagos ang lamyos ng karaniwang galaw. Mula sa mahinahong pagmamatyag na halos hindi kumikislot pati himaymay ng laman, kisap-matang lintik na iigkas ang buong katawan kapag sumagpang sa tinambangan.

Kaya kibit-balikat lang sa nahapyawang ulat kamakailan na pinakamabilis daw sa buong mundo ang mga taga-Singapore sa paglalakad. Sa loob ng 10.55 segundo, mahigit 18 metro o 60 talampakan ang layo ng nilakad ng karaniwang taga-Singapore.

Nakabuntot sa bilis ang mga taga-Copenhagen (10.82 segundo). Pangatlo ang mga nasa Madrid—10.89 segundo sa layong 18 metro o 60 talampakan. Ah, marami tayong ginaya sa mga taga-EspaƱa pero hindi tayo nahawa sa liksi nila.

Sinukat ang bilis-hakbang ng tao sa 35 siyudad sa daigdig. Lumitaw: mga taga-Singapore ang pinakamatulin. Salpak sa nangungunang 20 ang mga nasa lungsod sa Europe, kasama ang Guangzhou sa China na pumasok sa ikaapat, ika-19 lang ang Tokyo.

Huwag ungkatin kung bakit hindi kabilang sa ginawang pagsusuri ang Metro Manila.

Sa mga lungsod na may malapad na bangketa na malalakaran ng tao isinagawa ang pagsusuri. Santambak ang sagabal na puwesto ng mga tindera’t tindero pati na mga tambay o nakatunganga sa halos alinmang lansangan ng Metro Manila. Sasablay lang ang pagsusuri sa tulin ng lakad-Pinoy na kailangang dumaan sa obstacle course.

Idagdag din na limang tonelada yata ang bigat ng bayag o sinlapad ng palanggana ang hinaharap ng mga nasa Metro Manila. Kaya hindi talaga naglalakad. Parang kuhol na umuusad lang. Pahilahod kung humakbang. Kukutuban na may talamak nang arthritis o osteoporosis.

Saka sa abot-hiningang layo na 18 metro, tiyak na sasakay na lang sa bus, jeepney o de padyak para makarating doon.

Huwag nang isangkalan ang sawikain. “Ang naglalakad nang matulin kung matinik ay malalim.” Hindi angkop sa usapin. Nasusukat kasi ang bilis ng pagsulong ng pamumuhay sa mismong lungsod—damay pati na ang buong bansa—sa bilis ng lakad ng mga tagaroon. (Hindot: hindi pala ako gumagamit ng kupal na katagang “residente.”)

Nakagisnan na ngang makupad sa lakad sa Pilipinas, nahawa na sa ganoong umiiral na kapansanan ang bagal ng lakarin sa bansa—santambak din ang mga asal tindera, tindero’t tambay at sampay-bakod saanmang tanggapan na pawang maglalatag ng santambak na hadlang. Obstacle course. Red tape.

Iniugnay nga pala ang pagsusuri sa bilis-lakad sa 35 siyudad sa daigdag sa pag-angat ng antas ng sakit sa puso o coronary heart disease ng mga naroon. (Hindot talaga: itinakwil ang kumag na katagang “residente.”)

Pero hindi naman inungkat ni inihayag sa pagsusuri ang incidence level of coronary heart disease sa Singapore, Copenhagen o Madrid. Para talagang matiyak na nakabuntot ang sakit sa puso sa nagkukumahog na lakad.

Mauungkat naman sa Department of Health na numero uno ngang killer disease sa Pilipinas ang sakit sa puso—kahit pa matumal ang usad ng kabuhayan ng taumbayan, kahit na usad-kuhol ang paglalakad ng karaniwang tao saanmang nagsisikip na sulok ng Metro Manila.

Isang paraan sa moving meditation o malalim na pagliliming kumikilos ang paglalakad, ayon sa aming matanda—na ilang igpaw lang yata’t hindi aabot sa 10 segundo ang layong 18 metro sa kanya.

Dapat daw manuot sa himaymay ng laman sa buong katawan ang bawat lapat ng hakbang. Dapat namnamin mula talampakan hanggang ulunan ang suyuan ng lupa at sariling yapak—upang maisalin ng lupa ang mga katangian nito sa naglalakad.

As the old man would have it: It’s all about being at home with one’s body that is nourished fully by the earth beneath, in equipoise between tension and relaxation. Mapupulot din daw ang ganoong halimbawa sa aming mga pusa.

Out of memories and awareness

WITH two kids barely out of their toddling years in tow, I paid a visit to that house a sneeze off a military camp that you and your Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan comrades-in-arms were set to assault sometime back in the 1950s, ah, how time flies, Ka Takyo.

With their rangy leanness and steel-taut wiry physique so rare in these days of the obesity epidemic, my kids could have been your grandsons had I sired them off your daughter Shelley—no, that wasn’t her name but that’s what I called her. That’s after an author who wrote Frankenstein. The novel somehow told me that grand dreams patched out of corpses’ carcass can come to life, but don’t expect such dreams to smell like roses.

Shelley and I, we had then fire in our loins and a blaze of suns in our eyes. We got away with arson, oh, ‘twas her that I had in mind for the lyrics I had wedged in that three-act gangster musical I wrote in the early 1980s. Something called Ang Pangalan Niya ay Bien Aligtad. Sampay-Bakod na Mamamayan ng San Roque. Katulad Natin. The first few verses went like this:

Kalabitin ang gatilyo ng damdamin
Ako’y sa ‘yo, gitara mo, kalabitin.

Katawan kong gapok
Dalhin mo sa rurok
Sa liyab ng apoy
Nais kong matupok…

Hamog na may himig
Sa akin idilig
Ang buong magdamag
Sa akin itigis.

Near dusk as the dying rays of the sun laps at Shelley’s mien, her cheeks effuse a spread of rose petals as she gazes at me with shy longing with her doe eyes. Effusions like that lead to fusion. Tinder lips and flint crotches are struck. Make that stuck. Sparks fly between partners in crime. Tender arson ensues.

I’ve learned from neighbors that the entire family moved to Canada. Shelley found a job there. You died there. Your remains lie there. In Canadian soil which is quite quaint, there’s not much earthworms to be dug up in Canadian soil. There must be oodles and oodles of earthworm predators in that foreign land.

During that visit, I had espied something wonderful that entwined its spindly arms like tender tendrils on a tar-dark lamp post a few steps off what was once your home, Ka Takyo. ‘Twas a cultivar of Jasminum sambac or sampaguita. Sumpa kita, wasn’t that the tender phrase from which our national flower got its name? It’s a pledge of love, I guess.

That particular cultivar whose embrace blotted out the charnel color of the lamp post, Southern Tagalogs call that sampaguitang lalaki. The flowers resemble a maiden’s nipples chockfull of milk. And that sampaguitang lalaki was in showy flowering. It made a Milky Way set off in lush green out of that pitch-black lamp post.

I construe the sight as a sigil of sorts. A national symbol struggling out of impoverished soil toward a stun of flowering. My eyes ached at the sight.

So we proceed out of painful memory and aching awareness. Jasminum sambac our national flower came from India and Indians have been flocking to this neck of the woods for God knows how long. They have been thriving. They’ve plunked down hereabouts their talents—ah that parable Jesus Christ told to multitudes about talents being taken away from the individual who wouldn’t make use of such a talent.

Aside from Indians, there is now a steady influx of Taiwanese, mainland Chinese and South Koreans to the homeland that you have left, Ka Takyo.

I’ve talked to some of ‘em. I even made horizontal diplomatic ties with a South Korean damsel. Talaga palang masarap ding lantakan ang kikim chee. I’m having sekantots, oops, second thoughts about what they’re telling me. They’re telling me that they love our homeland and there are a lot of opportunities here. They assure me our homeland is something short of paradise. Some piece of prime real estate worth regaining. Uh, have we lost it or we’re about to?

I do believe them. I miss Shelley though. More than memory, there’s this awareness that that grand dreams patched out of corpses’ carcass can come to life. We can’t expect such a quilt work of dreams to smell like roses.