Hate is a Precondition for Freedom (or Mothers & Daughters)

fear of fifty

Erica Jong is a 1970’s author who invented the term “zipless fuck” — a passe concept that is not so popular now among the Y-gens and the millenials. What’s the big deal about zipless fucks when we have “friends-with-benefits”, “twerking”, and “Christian Grey”, right?

Erica has a daughter named Molly, with whom she had a love-hate relationship with.

Daughters will always have a love-hate relationship with their mothers. Unless that mother is dead and there is no point in hating her. When your mother is dead, the only way you can release yourself from her ghost is to forgive her for bringing you out into this world.

I think my mother would also have liked Erica’s books. I wouldn’t know now.

So, to mommy: thank you … I imagine that you are saying these to me from your grave ….

 

[Daughter], I want to release you.

If you hate me or want to reject me, I understand.

If you curse me, then want to atone, I also understand.

I expect to be your home plate: kicked, scuffed, but always returned to.

I expect to be the earth from which you spring.

But if I release you too much, what will you have to fight against?

You need my acceptance, but you may need my resistance more.

I promise to stand firm while you come and go.

I promise unwavering love while you experiment with hate. Hate is energy too — sometimes brighter-burning energy than love. Hate is often the precondition for freedom.

No matter how I try to disappear, I fear I cast too big a shadow. I would erase that shadow if I could. but if I erased it, how would you know your own shadow? And with no shadow, how would you ever fly?

I want to release you from the fears that bound me, yet I know you can only release yourself. I stand here wearing my catcher’s padding. I pray you won’t need me to catch you if you fall. But I’m here waiting anyway.

Freedom is full of fear. But fear isn’t the worst thing we face. Paralysis is.

(from the book “Fear of Fifty” by Erica Jong)

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

 

Sex and the RH Law

From slideshare. Dr. Darleen Estuart's slides: "Reproductive Health and Responsible Sexuality", presented at the Mindanao Young Women Leader's Congress, 2011

From slideshare. Dr. Darleen Estuart’s slides: “Reproductive Health and Responsible Sexuality”, presented at the Mindanao Young Women Leader’s Congress, 2011.

The wonderful thing about blogging is that after a draining day at work, you find a post that gets your blood pressure up again.

So Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda have made budget cuts against the Reproductive Health Law. Somehow I am not surprised.They will both claim “personal/religious convictions” and “prioritization of other more important matters” in their decision; but the truth is, they find it easy to undermine a law that would give more reproductive freedom for women because they have never been …

  1. A 35 year old multigravid with a pedicab driver for a partner who depends on free RH services at the health center to limit her pregnancies …
  2. A doctor/nurse/midwife who works as a frontliner in said health center who feels helpless when the multigravid comes to her and the only thing you can offer is “counselling on natural family planning” — which does not work, by the way; the 35-year-old-multigravid has tried it before ….
  3. A 16 year old teenager whose parents both have lover number 2; the teenager wants to leave the family house to live with her 18 year old “kargador” boyfriend who at least has a job ….
  4. A barangay health worker (BHW) who wants to help this teenager but is feeling very demoralized because the program for teenage pregnancy prevention will not take off because of lack of funds. Imagine, there has been a so-called Adolescent health program for years, but it’s all on paper. So BHW is embarrassed with the community because this program is just a bunch of crap …. because the policy makers wouldn’t put their money (which is actually not their money, but the people’s money) where their effing mouths are ….
  5. A 40 year old multigravid who wants a bilateral tubal ligation and (at the moment) can’t get it for free because the hospital says she has to buy this and that medication for the procedure. Ah yes, Philhealth did say BTLs are free — well Philhealth kindly have discussion with hospital regarding the definition of “free” ….
  6. A  nurse working for PopCom (Population Commission) who has just been told by the district health officer that no we are not offering  the very effective contraceptive implant at the moment because there are no supplies coming from the central office. Poor PopCom nurse, who has to explain this to the young mothers who just want to space their pregnancies and want to use a convenient way to do it.

…. etc etc

It can be very hard to empathize with women who want reproductive health services because hey, it wouldn’t kill them not to have sex, right? They would just have to abstain or use natural family planning methods or the withdrawal method. Yes I am being sarcastic. And by the way, the withdrawal method is not a reliable form of contraception, having a failure rate of more than 20%.

Seriously! Has Tito Sotto tried withdrawal before? Has Loren? Have they tried calendar, Billing’s, BBT;  and do they know how much commitment and effort is required of a couple who wants to use these methods?

I mean … is sex such a luxury in this country? If you are poor, better forego sex and be celibate if you don’t want to get pregnant?

I find it ironic: in a world where sex is so common (in television, in movies — commodities that we sell to poor women, and which they buy, because hey it is entertainment and some of us really need to be entertained to forget the drudgery of our lives), it is also a world that deprives women of opportunities to have freedom over their bodies.

If I am a girl ( oh fuck! I am one) I would like my government to help me achieve the maximum amount of freedom I can have with my body. A lot of people (mostly men) would not agree. They would say, reproductive health and all things related to sex are private that should not be meddled with by the government. But …. love and marriage are also private things, a compact between two people, but we all know the government has a lot to say about them.

 

A Defense for Euthanasia

(Jonas’s POV)

When I was five years old, my sister, Marianne drowned a lame one-legged chick in a drum-ful of water and pinned the blame on me.

For years, everybody in my family believed that I was the animal murderer who drowned that chick. It was almost a family legend. Told again and again to illustrate how “naughty” I was as a child.

I have believed it myself. Until 3 years ago when Marianne confessed, that, ehem, she was the one who committed the ghastly crime and turned her 5-year old brother into a fall guy.

Maybe I should have been angry at my sister. But when she told me the true story, she was then currently suffering from the throes of severe uterine contractions trying to bring out her first child into the world.

There is an evil part of me that felt gleeful that my baby sister had such a terrible 23-hour labor. Alright, gleeful is a strong word. Let’s use “vindicated” instead.

I think, however, that one should not fault a guy for feeling good that there is some justice in the world.

I am remembering this now, in light of what happened the past year. When I look back on that, an inevitable cloak of despair drapes over me blinding me to anything that is not darkness.

I have not … always been … this way. A rational part of me knows that. I look through stuff that I know I owned: clothes I have worn, the house I bought when I thought I was going to get married; papers and pictures that describe me … or the me that was. But I do not recognize that man. I know that he lived. I recognize his name, his face, his history. But I cannot feel empathy, or any connection to this person, this human being … I cannot claim him at all.

I got a stress debriefing after, it’s probably an SOP. And I have told what I know of what happened as much as I could. I could not confess what I cannot remember.

Forgetting is a relief. My best buddies, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo are a huge help as well. There are mornings that I can almost forget my name. Those are the good days.

What gets my craw is seeing her everyday; because she chose to live in my house of all places! Marianne said awkwardly, “She rented it kuya. You can’t throw her out. She has leased it for a year. It’s all legal.”

It has always been my fantasy to strangle my youngest sister. Of course, I couldn’t do that before out of respect for our mother; and I cannot do it now because her husband will kill me. On the other hand … maybe death courtesy of Anton will not be such a bad thing.

She is always straightening things out around the house. When I first showed it to her 5 years ago, what she said was: “I think this is a good investment.” Back then it was a bare one-story detached 2-bedroom bungalow in a sleepy town south of Manila. Now the town has woken up, mostly because of the industrial complex that has sprung up in the city just beside it. With the location and the fact that this house is barely new, I was sure that it wouldn’t be difficult to rent out. What I did not expect was it would be rented out by her.

According to Marianne, her (the tenant’s) job was located in Paranaque; less than 2-hour commute from my house. “Also,” said my sister. “She wanted to be near you. Or at least to your memory.”

My memory. In fairness to my family, for the better part of the last two years, they thought that is all they will have of me. Until I came back from the dead. In a manner of speaking.

My sisters have suggested that I can live in the family home in Quezon City. In my absence, my mother had died (another tragic story), and our house was taken over by my eldest sister, Tess, her husband, their 3 children, our aging yaya/maid/mayordoma Nana Azon and the children’s assorted collection of parakeets and goldfishes. I cannot possibly live in the Quezon City house.

So I moved back into this one, occupying the bigger of the two bedrooms. She insisted on vacating it, pointing out that I am the one who owns the house after all, which makes her my tenant. That was one way of looking at it. She transferred to the guest room out front, the one with the windows overlooking the garden.

Two years ago this house didn’t have a garden. I had to blink when I saw the profusion of sunflowers and gladiolas on the small plot beside my garage. Small pots of flowering shrubs (sampaguita, rosal and santan) scattered over a trimmed and well-maintained bed of carabao grass. The effect was simple but eclectic, cheerful and friendly; giving the impression that someone actually lived here. Before the thing that happened happened, I have used the property as storage area, halfway house, and I have twice rented it to two buddies of mine who have stayed for a year or so. Nobody bothered putting up a garden.

“I didn’t know that you are into gardening,” I told her.

“I wasn’t,” she said, laughing a little. “But I had a lot of free time. What do you think?”

“It’s okay.”

The truth is, I do not know what to make of the fact that she is here. In this house, this town, this part of my world.

Two years ago, when the concept of hope was still something I could understand, I had given up hoping that she will be back to this country. The last time we talked, she had made it clear that she considered it backward, inefficient, corrupt and doomed to failure.

I remember almost wanting to surrender to what she wanted, but goddamn it, I thought, I’m the guy here, and to acquiesce will be to consent in my own castration. I could not do it, I should not do it. So we said our goodbyes, the final one (or so I thought) that would conclude nine years of (seemingly) infinite goodbyes that precede the countless times we have returned again and again to where we started.

It was not very difficult settling down to a routine. I have been here for two months and I feel almost human again. Of course there are the nightmares but Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo help me deal with them. On most days, I rarely see her. She leaves early and comes back late. I don’t sleep much so I know that she arrives at 9 or 10 pm. I never go out to greet her. When it’s early, she would knock on my door; would ask if I had dinner already or make chit chat about her day. The truth is I can’t bring myself to care. But I still remember how to be polite, so I pretend to listen; go through the motions of normal human interaction and, sometimes, I can even manage to smile or laugh.

What perplexes me is that these days, I can’t feel anything. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. I can’t even feel worried that I feel nothing.

This morning, for example, she came out of the bathroom wearing a yellow towel on her head, an old white t-shirt and shorts (I have never remembered her to wear shorts). She was probably surprised to see me because she immediately crossed her arms over her chest and muttered a (somewhat shy?) good morning and excuse me. Two years ago, if I had seen her looking like that – wet hair, bare legs and nipples peeking out of a thin cotton shirt – and smelling like that, well … it would have elicited some reaction out of me.

But now, nada.

When Marianne told me the story of her drowning that chick, I asked her why she did it. She said that she thinks she did not do it to be cruel. Her four year old self felt so bad for that lame one-legged chick, hopping around unable to catch up with the other chickens, completely wasted. My sister decided to put an end to chick’s misery. Hence the crime.

There are some days (this one is a perfect example) when I wish that 4-year old Marianne is still around to put another animal out of its misery.

Queueing

I hate dealing with government agencies in this – my – country. The insensible queuing, the bureaucratic BS, the leech-minded mediocrity that makes up the majority of the staff of  most public offices. Efficiency is an unknown term where I come from; we seem to invent a thousand and one ways to make things constantly difficult for ourselves.

I was in the middle of another serpentine queue one fine day when I saw Helen. Apparently, she was married now, to a man she met in rehab; a politician’s son with his own political aspirations; and Helen was in the agency waiting for her husband who is in a higher-management meeting at “the top floor”.

She motioned  me to follow her with my papers and we went to an office where she introduced me to Willie, a balding young gentleman in a t-shirt printed with the face of Helen’s husband.  After small talk about his family, his work in the agency (Oh he has no plantilla even after 5 years of contractual work? That will not do! Helen will definitely inform Bong about this.), the project that Helen’s husband’s pork barrel has started.  After all that, she sweetly asked Willie if he could please facilitate my papers and we will just be in the canteen and that I am such an old friend she hasn’t seen in a long time. He can come to us when my documents are finished. Willie answers ok madam; and he was smiling but he looked tired.

***

When I first met Helen, I have never thought that she will be the wife of anybody, much less a politician. I was under the impression that she would die before reaching thirty-five in a motel room amidst ecstacy tablets and shabu paraphernalia strewn all around; a very six-o’clock- news way to go. She was very pretty even when she was an addict, pale-skinned, small build, east Asian eyes, pearly white and even teeth – she could have been a soap opera star from South Korea. She was smaller than me and exuded a very effective damsel-in-distress aura that even I who was – well – a girl, would have wanted to turn butch and kill dragons for her.

Oh, and she was Jonas’s ex-girlfriend.

Seriously! I don’t know how Jonas managed to find  these girls. (And what kind of fate makes me bump into them without meaning to, or even wanting to).  There’s  Gaia — knocked up at 17 and now married to a half-Brazilian half-American venture capitalist. When Jonas and I saw her in Washington DC, she looked like Kim Kardashian; spangly earrings,  tight halter top, tanned all over. She talked to me in Tagalog with an American slang and  told me that her great dream is to return to the Philippines and put up a home for teen mothers.

And now,  Helen.

Looking back, I realize that I liked Helen when I first met her, a decade or so ago. I went with Jonas to the basement of a very expensive hospital in Makati where they  kept the psychiatric ward. Helen had just gone through  a tweaking stage. When I first saw her, she was very calm, sweet and heavily sedated.

Jonas was Helen’s “Person In Case of Emergency” which was very puzzling to me since they had broken up years ago. That time, I didn’t know him very well yet. Jonas is the kind of boyfriend, the rare kind of man, that manages to be real friends with ex-girlfriends.

(I spent 3 months of internship  in that hospital and I was friends with the Training Director of the Substance Abuse division, Dr. Risa Mendoza. Risa gave me a funny smile when I introduced her to Jonas, those long years ago. She was giggling when she told me that she was under the impression that I would die an old maid. But then, she said with a wink,  miracles have happened.)

What I liked about Helen was that she was a very good liar. A charming babble-mouth. A very good storyteller. I could tell immediately that she was even a better liar than I am. I had to respect that. Or … the person I was had to.

They discharged her from the hospital and she went directly to a rehabilitation facility south of Manila, where the air was cool, traffic was rare and where Helen met her future husband.

***

Now here she is (ten years hence) bubbly, sprightly, and seemed  very pleased to have seen me. We are friends on Facebook, but I rarely make status updates so she thought I was still in Connecticut.

“I got back 2 years ago,” I told her. “No more visa, dissertation finished.”

“I have always thought you will settle in America. You are just too disciplined, too smart and bright to you know, stay here.”

“You and your husband stayed here,” I reminded her, bemused at her reaction.

“Yes, but Bong and his family are in politics.” She nodded and did not expound, as if that was explanation enough. “I invited you and Jonas to my wedding,” she said reproachfully. “Neither of you came.”

“I am sorry,” I tried to sound contrite. “I don’t know about Jonas but at that time, I couldn’t get away from the university.”

“Alice, I really feel bad about what happened to Jonas.”

“Yes, well that makes the two of us.”

“What kind of world is it  that horrible things can happen to such good people?” she exclaims.

“A totally crappy world?” I said.

It is a crappy world alright. It is a world where an ordinary citizen like me has to get into a 3-hour-long queue in a government agency just for one fucking crappy piece of paper. It is a world where politicians like Bong and other pretentiously “respectable” goons in the echelons of power lord it over meek/apathetic/frustrated (take your poison) citizens who have long been used to this  feeling of learned helplessness. It is a world where a person I love — a do-gooder tree-hugger of the highest order, who only wanted the best for this country that I couldn’t care less about – now has a PTSD so profound that even I, a psychologist by training, can’t get through to him.

I live in a fucking crazy country … which now (goodbye America) constitutes the sum total of my totally crappy world.

***

I stare at  Helen. Once upon a time I really liked her.

Now I say: “Fuck you, Helen.  Fuck you and Bong and all fucking Filipinos like you. And fuck me because I need your help and I don’t want to spend another hour in a queue and I need this fucking paper.”

Helen gave a screech, shocked that I can muster so many f-words in one statement.

That very second, Willie (bless his soul, government bureaucrat that he is), came with my precious paper, a government-issued certificate.

I mumbled a half-embarrassed, half-insincere apology to Helen. And without waiting for her reply, I left.

I know (just like I know that Jonas will still shut me out tomorrow) that Helen will unfriend me on Facebook and that I will probably never see her (nor benefit from her connections) again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intergenerational Discord or Creative Destructions

 

It is a rite of passage to hate (at some point in one’s life) the people who brought oneself into this world:

Kids will hate their parents. 

And here are the examples:

….. Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and Capulets being the “malaking hadlang” (great barrier) keeping them from enjoying their teenage romance,

…. Luke Skywalker (being a Jedi, he did try to manage to channel his hatred to more productive pursuits — like mastering his lightsaber),

…. Tony Stark, we all know Iron Man had a typical love/hate relationship with Howard, which proves that the law of physics saying that two similar electric charges will repel each other, is true

…. even Harry Potter, at some point in book 6, did not like his daddy, having found out that James used to be a toerag bully to Snape.

Knowing that our kids will hate us someday does not keep us off from procreating … and populating this already over-populated world with our minions, our genetic progenies, our shots at immortality.

This human propensity towards masochism (I mean how else can you describe a person who will willingly bring forth the seed of its own destruction?), a masochism that is tolerated because of vanity and narcissism (hello! parents, like god, want to create creatures in their own image!), does make the world more interesting.

As Joseph Schumpeter has so insightfully put it: capitalism is an exercise on creative destruction. Parenthood (I would imagine) is even more so.

****

So, going back to my initial insight and the reason I wrote this post:  I have this  feeling that the American people will vote for Donald Trump; and the Filipino people will vote for Rodrigo Duterte for the same reason that a teenager keeps doing the things his/her parents advise him not to.

****

Readings Lists:

http://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828086/donald-trump-

mediahttp://www.interaksyon.com/article/120949/editorial–tangina-this

http://archives.newsbreak-knowledge.ph/2005/12/05/guns-and-gold/

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Joel-Brillantes/189440967

http://lumadsatagum.blogspot.com/2005/03/way-kurat-implicated-in-plot-to-kill.html

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/300423

https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/06/philippines-dismantle-davao-death-squad

The Kind of Story I Would Like to Write

Your Life Under The Next Dictator

You still believe that it’s only the ‘bad guys’ that will be hurt and somehow that is miraculously determined by vigilantes with guns

It’s Monday morning and you are late for work because your kid’s yaya didn’t make it to your house in time. Her son disappeared over the weekend while out with his friends, and she doesn’t know where he is.

You’re not worried, he’s always been a troublemaker anyway. Rumor has it he even smokes outside his house.

You are rushing because you’ll miss the mass transit bus that replaced the cars in major thoroughfares. You have a car but you can only use it around your neighborhood. You have to be careful because of the traffic enforcers you heard are very strict. You’ve seen by the look on their faces that they really don’t mess around.

You’ll be fine. The streets aren’t congested after the president eliminated traffic by his strict regulation of vehicles. The public transport systems are affordable, and they are clean – thanks to the no littering, no smoking, and no gum-chewing ordinances in all public places.

Foreign investments are up because peace and order is evident. The crime rate is close to zero. All employees are versed in business math. Economic progress is unprecedented, and the president has made the Philippines great again, as he promised. At least that’s how it’s portrayed by media, whose positivity has been so refreshing, right?

You expected this. You voted for him. Despite his detractors who accused him of becoming another violent dictator, you knew he would follow through. He would clean up the Philippines’ act.

A cleaned up act

One look at the city shows it. There are no street children, no vendors, no panhandlers, not even smokers. The streets are tidy enough for you to eat off them. There isn’t even a blaring horn to startle you, not even a misplaced signal light.

On your ride you pass the statue of Ferdinand Marcos who was declared a hero by presidential decree. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now the president’s advisor. Bongbong Marcos is the vice president. It makes sense. The culture of this administration is in his blood.

Even the newspapers have no crimes to report. Everything seems fine and dandy thanks to a presidential memo to media on “positive” news. You ignore the rumors that defiant news reporters are being detained somewhere outside Manila, same with emergency room doctors who report violent crimes. Serves them right for creating trouble, you think. Things are really better when only the good things are publicized.

“Puro kriminal lang yung mga nakakulong (Only criminals are jailed),” say your like-minded friends. You agree. After all, your chosen candidate said he will eliminate crime no matter what, and not to expect him to follow the rules. He’s just keeping his promise and you can’t fault him for that.

You forget that this already happened 40 years ago, because you only heard stories and never studied martial law.

“Kailangan nating ng disiplina (We need discipline),” you insisted to those who disagreed with you in 2016, even if they all warned that this “disciplinarian” president would cause citizens doom.

There is no doom as far as you’re concerned. The birth rate and unplanned pregnancies are down due to the president’s aggressive population control initiatives. The church first opposed this, until the cardinal disappeared when he spoke up about the immorality of contraception and armed guards watched the content of homilies during mass.

Proud of your decision

You’re proud of your decision to vote for a brave and proactive man. He’s developed initiatives his opponents and former incumbents could only dream of. You were right all along that an iron fist is what the Philippines needed. People follow a strong leader. Citizens are disciplined if there are consequences. You are glad that petty thieves are removed from the streets. You don’t really care where they end up, much less if they’re alive.

After a day of work you get back home without traffic to be able to spend time with your son – something unheard of before this administration when city traffic made it impossible to get home in time. The boy talks about the day’s school civic lesson about the president’s “Citizen Justice System,” where civilians are allowed to arrest, detain, and turn over offenders for community leaders to punish as they wish. You remind your boy how important it is to be good or else suffer the consequences of misbehaving. You warn him that “bad guys” are killed like the president wanted, and it doesn’t matter how and why.

You fall asleep quickly and without worry of locking your doors or activating your security alarm. It’s so quiet outside and you don’t remember the last time anyone reported any break-ins or other crimes. You’ve slept soundly like this for a couple of years, without worry for yourself or your family night after night.

But this time, at 1:30 am, you are shaken from your sleep because your brother was arrested for breaking the curfew. Your mother is hysterical and wants you to find him, but forbids you to leave the house before morning lest you be arrested as well.

You insist on leaving because you’re only looking for your brother and not doing anything wrong. There are cops patrolling everywhere, and soldiers man checkpoints. You get stopped by a plainclothes man with an AK-47, and you think that’s a good thing. You can ask for help finding your brother – a teenager who was probably just late coming home from studying in a classmate’s house – and maybe explain his side.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he says.

“I’m looking for my brother who was just arrested for breaking the curfew,” you say. A simple explanation should lead you to him in no time.

“So you’re breaking the curfew as well?” he responds, sizing you up, nodding at his fellow enforcers in some kind of code they’ve developed doing this night after night.

“No, I just–”

“Get in the van,” he says, pointing his gun barrel at a police vehicle nearby. You turn your head to find more armed men behind you. Lacking alternatives, you oblige.

The van is filled with street kids, homeless people, and those like you who were out after dark. The ones who are quiet are resigned. The ones who were angry have been beaten up. A guard silences anyone who makes a stir.

“You can’t do this, you can’t arrest me for nothing,” you say.

“President’s orders,” he says, making room for one more by his side.

You look in the corner where a teenage boy lies lifeless on the floor. You take a seat and calm yourself, confident this will all be cleared up in no time. You’re not a criminal. You’re a good citizen. You’ve never even so much as littered or passed a red light.

You believe someone will eventually listen to your explanation, lead you to your brother, and you’ll both have a good laugh.

But what if that doesn’t happen? Who will look for you? Will anyone even know where you’ve been taken? Will anyone be brave enough to report your abduction or death? Is there a newspaper that will question your arrest, or a lawyer who will fight for your rights?

Due process?

In the back of your mind you hear the warnings of those who mentioned terms you ignored when you pledged your full support for your president: due process, summary execution, death squad. You shrug it off, still believing those were all exaggerations. A noble leader cannot possibly allow injustice under his administration. Surely, like God, the president is all-knowing and has eyes on every single “law enforcer” of the hundred thousand he has appointed to maintain order on the ground. Of course they’re all good, conscientious, and not corrupt. Of course they are specialists on wrong and right. The president said so. He is always right.

You relent and believe for a second that you’ll be fine.

“Excuse me, sir–” you say one last time.

“Shut up or I’ll shut you up,” he says, cocking his gun.

You don’t understand. You fully supported rounding up the undesirables in society and dumping them in Manila Bay. When your president bragged about the thousands he killed to eliminate criminality, you believed it was hyperbole and that he didn’t really kill anyone. He was just so convincing that he scared people into behaving. Those were just rumors that hundreds disappeared because of the anti-crime initiatives in his hometown.

You appreciated the cleaned up streets and the visible peace that your idol has created. It’s a system that works in favor of those who follow the law, like you do. As long as you were good, you believed, you would never be harmed.

Surely there’s another way around this misunderstanding. This cannot be happening. Abducting an upright citizen like you cannot be in your idol’s plans.

You want to speak up, but who will listen? You did approve of the rounding up of journalists who portrayed your beloved president in a negative light.

You didn’t realize that giving power to anyone to arrest, detain and execute without due process means that any person may be taken on a whim. There is no paper trail to track their whereabouts, what crime they committed and what punishment is suitable for them. There is no accountability for the loss of life or serious injury. There is no press to report wrongdoings. There are no lawyers and judges brave enough to go against an administration that has abolished Congress to ensure power for as long as they want.

You keep your fingers crossed as the children in your van of “criminals” start crying. “Inosente rin po kami (We’re innocent too),” they say to you, but the guard tells them all to shut up.

“Lahat kayo kriminal (You’re all criminals),” he says, giving you a special glance. You know you’re not a criminal and you have done nothing wrong, so you want to say it out loud. You scout the streets for anyone you can yell at who will listen to you, to hear what you say and help get you out of the danger of being a wrongly accused passenger in this van.

Peace and order

But alas, the streets are empty due to the curfew. It is quiet, crimeless, and very peaceful. No undesirables. No lowlifes. No troublemakers. No whistleblowers. No one could hear you even if you screamed or if you were shot in the head in plain sight.

The van speeds up to take you to your final destination. You still believe that it’s only the “bad guys” that will be hurt and that somehow this is miraculously determined by vigilantes with guns without need for investigations or trials. Your beloved president cannot possibly allow injustice, and determining the fairness of executions is solely a divine act.

You voted for this, so you should be proud. This is how the president made the Philippines “great” again, and you fully supported it. Now it’s your turn to pay the price that others have paid before you when you claimed this is what we needed. You didn’t care about the lives previously snuffed because you were content in thinking that they were guilty and deserved death because they’ve been “bad.”

Congratulations on being part and product of making the Philippines great again. Don’t even say you were not warned. 

 ***
Yep … I have shamelessly cut and pasted Shakira Sison’s Rappler article in my blog.
She is an award-winning Filipino writer and I greatly admire her works.
As of this time, this story has garnered 111 comments in the Rappler website. The tone of the comments range from throught-ful to defensive to stupid to outright bitchy.
But hey, freedom-of-expression and all that jazz, right? Something we so take for granted in this messy “democracy” of ours :)

Teaching a Debt Perspective to 12-Year-Olds

Cool stuff! :)

No More Harvard Debt

A few weeks ago, my buddy and former HBS classmate, Allan, asked me if I’d like to give a talk about my debt pay-off to the youth group that he leads at his church. I was intrigued and asked who the audience would be. “About a dozen young men, ages 12 to 18.” I became both very interested and very intimidated at the same time. What a great time to talk to them about debt! Young people should hear this message sooner rather than later. But also, what a difficult time to talk to them about debt! Will they listen and pay attention? Can they relate? How the heck do I effectively talk to them about debt without getting too simplistic and general?

Well, I literally just got back from giving the talk, and I couldn’t be happier with how it went. The group of guys was extremely engaged and…

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