Fallen Heroes

The fallen men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force. They died because they went after a terrorist bombmaker in Maguindanao. I hope they have not died in vain. (Photo from Rappler.com)

The fallen men of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force. They died because they went after a terrorist bombmaker in Maguindanao. I hope they have not died in vain. (Photo from Rappler)

My country has never lacked for heroes.

There are the oversees Filipino workers or OFWs who, as a group, has propped up this country’s economy for years.

One can rattle off names from forgotten Philippine history books

… Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Gregorio de Pilar, Diego Silang, Macario Sakay

… and the lesser known names that have yet to appear in textbooks … Macling Dulag, Bobby dela Paz, Edgar Jopson, Eman Lacaba …

Why does it seem like, as a definition, being a hero means “to die”?

… and in this country anyway, being a hero, seems to mean “to be forgotten”?

A few days ago, 44 men, Filipino soldiers all, died in a godforsaken place called Mamasapano which is in the south of this country. A place where “peace” is a theoretical concept that is not grounded in reality.


These men were soldiers. They went there to extract a terrorist. And in the course of doing their duty, they died.

Soldiers die. That’s probably a fact. Or an occupational hazard.

But what I can’t get my head around  is that yesterday, the bodies of these men arrived in Manila and their President was nowhere to be found.

What the fuck!!!! Not even a “hello, thank you for laying your life for this country” Mr. President?

How unfeeling can you get?

How can you choose going to a factory inauguration over honoring your soldiers? Men who have died for you, and me, all ungrateful bunch of us?

Whose death are now causing me to sob like a baby, emotional nitwit that I am. I do not know these men personally and I cry for them … YOU ARE THEIR EFFING PRESIDENT FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! And all you could muster was to deliver a stilted report about the Maguindanao encounter on national TV?!!

Barack Obama is probably an imperialistic asshole American (I doubt that, though; I love him because he let Michelle wear a nice blue dress and with no head scarf in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s wake), but at least he knew how to honor his soldiers.

A salute to my brave soldiers. I do not know you, but you died for me, so the least I can do is not to forget this great sacrifice.

A salute to my brave soldiers. I do not know you, but you died for me, so the least I can do is not to forget this great sacrifice.









The Price of Peace (or The Price of War)

There is nothing like reading a book about war to make one contemplate about the definition of a certain 5-letter word.

Around 70 years ago, my country went through a war, which is the main reason a lot of wonderful buildings in Manila got razed to the ground.

My grandmother remembers World War II as that point in her young life when she and her family had to evacuate into the mountains to avoid being in the cross fires while the Japs, American GIs and Filipino guerillas had to play a wargame where real blood was involved.

the father of us all

l am not so naive (even if I am a girl) not to think that sometimes the only way to resolve a problem is to man up and then punch the other person’s nose. With all due respect to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ (who are cute enough to claim self-righteousness, in my opinion) — sometimes, there should be a statute of limitations as far as turning the other cheek is concerned.


So now, once again, a flaming issue in my country involve a certain province in the south where more than 40 Filipino policemen were killed to apprehend a certain Malaysian bomb maker (ha! one would say “terrorist” if one were not so afraid to offend Malaysia who is currently brokering a Peace Treaty between Filipino Muslims and Filipino Christians).

My mother’s brother, Rolly, was a soldier who had to risk life and limb to fight a war in a city called Zamboanga (and in another one called Cotabato) oh so many years ago. He had to do that because that was the only way he could earn a decent pay to help my mom and my aunt go to college.

Now Rolly has been retired from active military service. But the situation in the so-called Muslim Mindanao is not so different from what he had probably experienced 40 years ago.

Dapitan's gorgeous sunsets.

Dapitan’s gorgeous sunsets.

I have been to several areas in Mindanao for short visits. I found Dapitan to have one of the most wonderful sunsets I have ever seen. Lanao del Norte was quaint and exotic at the same time. I have never been to Sulu; but one of my friends, who sometimes live there, claim that that they have the most beautiful, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring beaches that will just kick Boracay’s ass.

It pains me to realize that parts of my country are so broken that my government (or some war-freak guys in it) may be contemplating another all-out-war to keep them in order.


I am fed up to the ears of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.  — George McGovern (some guy who could have been, but was not, an American President)

A Case of Puppy Love

Alice stares at Gaia’s receding back, the long Revlon-fair hair, the swaying hips, the arching curve of her spine. She is not a lesbian; but Alice can understand Gaia’s appeal.

“So she was your first love,” she tries to sound as non-chalant as possible

“Are you jealous?”

“Definitely not. My boobs are bigger and my ass don’t sag.”

“I was so young when I knew her.”

“Young, like fourteen?”

Jonas nods.

“Wow! You were like Juliet. As in Romeo’s girlfriend, Juliet.”

“Thank you, darling, for comparing me to a girl.”

“Juliet was 14 when she lost her head over Shakespeare’s fictional rendition of a boy,” Alice points out. The truth is, she cannot bring herself to even feign jealousy as it is pretty obvious that whatever Jonas had felt for Gaia is as dead as the two star-crossed lovers. She cannot keep herself from baiting him, though, because it’s so much fun. “So was she like in love with you too?”

“No, she was in love with a jock from school.”


“I guess because I was fourteen and pimply and she was three years older than me.”

“But she didn’t end up with the jock.”

“Nope. She got pregnant. He left her and went to the US. And I thought that was my chance to win her.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No. She migrated to Canada with her little boy.”

“You must have been devastated.”

“Not really. But she taught me lessons about women that I will never forget.”

Now Alice is jealous. She has always believed (in her vanity) that that woman is her. “So she left and you just gave up.”

“I wrote her for a year, actually. Snail mail, 300 of them I think. She didn’t write back.”

“Like ever?” Alice is really jealous now. Three hundred effing letters for Gaia-with-the-sagging-ass? And Jonas couldn’t even bring himself to email Alice without  prompting!

“Well there was this mail I received from her just before I graduated from college. It was a wedding invitation.”

“She did that?” Alice exclaims. “That’s horrible. That must have been the worst thing a woman has done to you.”

Jonas stares at her, half smiling. “Actually, the worst was when I asked a woman to marry me and she chose to go to Connecticut instead.”

Alice felt her face take on the red shade of the sunset behind them.

alice could never stop while she was still ahead. Which is why she was now as red as this sunset. Needless to say, Jonas hasn't been this amused for a long time; he is surprised that he can still enjoy seeing Alice get embarrassed .

Alice could never stop while she was still ahead. Which is why she was now as red as this sunset. Needless to say, Jonas hasn’t been this amused for a long time; he is surprised that he can still enjoy seeing Alice get embarrassed .


Just Because I was Touched so I’m Posting This

Meeting with the Youth
University of Santo Tomas
18 January 2015
(Delivered originally in both Spanish and English)

Dear Young Friends,

When I speak spontaneously I do it in Spanish, because I don’t know the English language. May I do it? Thank you very much. This Fr Mark, a good translator.

First of all, a sad piece of news. Yesterday, as Mass was about to start, a piece of scaffolding fell and, upon falling, hit a young woman who was working in the area and she died. Her name is Kristel. She worked for the organisation preparing for that Mass. She was 27 years old, young like yourselves. She worked for Catholic Relief Services as a volunteer. I would like all of you who are young like her to pray for a moment in silence with me and then we will pray to Our Mother in Heaven. Let us pray.

(Prays) Hail Mary…

Let us also pray for her parents. She was an only child. Her mother is coming from Hong Kong and her father is here in Manila.

(Prays) Our Father…

It is a joy for me to be with you this morning. I greet each of you from the heart, and I thank all those who made this meeting possible. During my visit to the Philippines, I wanted in a particular way to meet with young people, to listen to you and to talk with you. I want to express the love and the hopes of the Church for you. And I want to encourage you, as Christian citizens of this country, to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world.

In a special way, I thank the young people who have offered words of welcome to me.

To Jun and Leandro Santos II and to Rikki, thank you very much. There’s only a very small representation of girls among you. Too little. Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we are too “machistas” and we don’t allow enough space to women. But women can see things from a different angle to us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand. Look out for this fact: she is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears. So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.

I thank you Jun for talking about your experience so bravely. As I said, the heart of your question has no reply. Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question. Why do children suffer so much? Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something. There is a worldly compassion which is useless. You expressed something like this. It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives. Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The marginated people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.

This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.

In the Gospel, Jesus cried for his dead friend, he cried in his heart for the family who lost its child, for the poor widow who had to bury her son. He was moved to tears and compassion whe n he saw the crowds without a pastor. If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian. This is a challenge. When they posed this question to us, why children suffer, why this or that tragedy occurs in life – our response must be either silence or a word that is born of our tears. Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry.

Then came Leandro Santos II and his question. He also posed a good question: the world of information. Today, with so many means of communication we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? No. It is good and can help. But there is a real danger of living in a  way that we accumulate information. We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. So we run the risk of becoming museums of young people who have everything but not knowing what to do with it. We don’t need young museums but we do need holy young people. You may ask me: Father, how do we become saints? This is another challenge. It is the challenge of love. What is the most important subject you have to learn at university? What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn bow to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through that love let that information bear fruit.

For this the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands – and to use them in harmony. What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put  it into practice. Harmoniously.  What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel. The three languages…

Can you repeat this? To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony… 

The fisherman and the sea 12-2014.

The fisherman and his sea. Reality is superior to ideas (Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 2015 in Manila)


Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to let yourself be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect love of God. We can love Him but we must let ourselves be loved by Him. Real love is being open to the love that comes to you. The love that surprises us. If you only have information you are not surprised. Love surprises because it opens a dialogue of loving and being loved. God is a God of surprise because He loved us first. God awaits us to surprise us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let us not have a computer psychology that makes us think we know it all. All answers on computers – but no surprises. The challenge of love. God reveals himself through surprises.

Think of St Matthew. He was a good banker. But he let people down because he imposed taxes against his own people to give to the Romans. He was full of money. Jesus passed by, looked at him and said: “Follow me”. He couldn’t believe it. If you have the opportunity, see Caravaggio’s picture of him. Jesus calls him and those around say: “Him? He betrayed us! He is no good! He hoards money!” But the surprise of being loved overcomes him. The day when Matthew left home for work, saying goodbye to his wife, he couldn’t imagine he would come home without money and have to prepare a feast for the one who loved him first. God surprised Matthew more than the money he had. Allow yourselves to be surprised by God. Don’t be afraid of surprises. They shake the ground beneath our feet and make us insecure, but they move us forward in the right direction.

Real love allows you to spend yourselves, to leave your pockets empty. Think of St Francis who died with empty hands and empty pockets but with a full heart. Remember: no young museums, and wise young people. To be wise use three languages: think well, feel well and do well. And to be wise allow yourselves to be surprised by the love of God. That will guarantee a good life.

Rikki came up with a good plan for what we can do in life with all young people’s activities.

Thank you, Rikki, for what you and your friends do. I’d like to ask you a question: you and your friends help others but do you allow yourselves to receive? Answer in your heart.

In the Gospel we just heard, there was a beautiful phrase, for me the most important of all: Jesus looked at the young man and he loved him. When you see Rikki and his friends you love them because they do good things. Jesus says something very important: you lack one thing. Let us listen to this word in silence: you lack only one thing. (Repeats)

What is it that I lack? To all of you who Jesus loves so much, I ask you: do you allow others to give you from their riches to you who have not? The Sadducees, Doctors of the Law, in the time of Jesus, gave much to the people, they taught the people the law, but they never allowed the people to give them something. Jesus had to come to allow himself to feel compassion and to be loved.

How many young people among you are like this? You know how to give and yet you have ever learned how to receive. You still lack one thing. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us. Have I learned how to beg? Or am I self-sufficient? Do I think I need nothing? Do you know you too are poor? Do you know your own poverty and your need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelised by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.

There are some points I have prepared. The first, I already told you: to learn how to love and to learn how to be loved. There is a challenge  which is a challenge of you. This is not only because your country more than many others is likely to be seriously affected by climate change. There is the challenge, the concern for the environment. And finally, there is the challenge for the poor, to love the poor, with your bishops. Do you think of the poor? Do you feel with the poor? Do you do something  for the poor? Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?

This is what I wish to tell you all today. Sorry if I haven’t read what I prepared for you but there is a phrase that consoles me: that reality is superior to ideas. The reality that you have is superior to the paper I have in front of me. Thank you very much. Pray for me! (Source: Radio Vatican)

Transcript from:  http://globalnation.inquirer.net/117611/message-of-pope-francis-to-filipino-youth-at-ust/#ixzz3PDp75df1

Deflowered But Not Devalued*

(*with all gratitude to Shoshanna Shapiro of “Girls” from whom this line was lifted)


Alice contemplates. She doesn’t want to; but she can’t help it. Sex does not really mean anything, supposedly, ideally.

So why does it feel like it does?

She googles when she contemplates, so her laptop currently has several tabs opened from enlighteningly esoteric websites, such as the Journal of Adolescent Health and UNFPA and Family Planning International. She should  start doing her lecture, and really that’s what she meant to do. For some reason, she got sidetracked and she now has to remind herself that her lecture is about general cognitive psychology and not Adolescent Counseling.

Drats! She is not an adolescent anymore. But she feels like an adolescent right now. Thinking about it, she acknowledges that she had never really been given a chance to be an adolescent. For one, she can’t remember having a rebellious phase … until now.

Truth be told, going all the way with him (god she can’t even think of it as “having sex”) has an element of … activism? Or, liberation maybe?

Okay, it’s not as if being a virgin is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. Not anymore.

Alice wonders: what's the big deal about virginity when it can so easily be commoditized like this?

Alice wonders: what’s the big deal about virginity when it can so easily be commoditized like this?

She is not living in the 19th century. This is the 21st … the third millennium. In  a few years people will be going to the moon and set up lunar settlements; or colonizing Mars. Sex and the City and Ally McBeal and Friends say it’s totally cool to be out there and  just … do it. Because it feels good, it’s feminist, and it’s liberating and it’s …

Why is she so bothered?

Due to years of social conditioning, probably.

And the fact that he immediately went  to Mindanao after what happened and now (despite the daily texts and that one time he called her cel) … and now … she misses him.

It is a novel feeling for Alice to miss a man. Come to think of it, she didn’t even miss her father when he went and became a TNT** in the US.  She missed her mom when she died. She misses her grandmother and her aunts when she doesn’t see them for weeks. But a guy? No, never a guy. This  is a totally new thing.

She was reading an article in a journal about Turkish girls who undergo surgery to have their hymen restored. And  Alice’s reaction is: give me a fucking break!

So this is what a hymen looks like. Imagine all the stress women have to undergo for this measly insignificant  piece of  tissue!

Alice: So this is what a hymen looks like. Imagine all the stress that women (for centuries) have to undergo for this measly insignificant piece of tissue!

She totally sympathizes with the Turkish girls, though; can completely understand how important physical virginity is in a society of male chauvinist religious fundamentalists.  If she was born in Turkey, she would probably be lining up in a gynecologist’s clinic right now.

She wonders what virginity feels like for guys. Do they acknowledge that concept for themselves? She wanted to ask Jonas what it felt like when he lost it. But she’s, well, embarrassed — liberated outspoken girl that she is. Until now she still cannot think about the details of what happened without wanting to bury her head under Kim’s futon.


(TNT – Tagalog “tago nang tago”, term used for illegal aliens in the US

Wondering on What Ifs

After a million years, Ana’s friend (finally!!) answered an email.

Caryn and Ana spent 7 years of school and 1 year of postgraduate work before Caryn left to follow the love-of-her-life-who was living in another country.

Being the romantic that she was, Ana completely understood. What she misses most about Caryn are:

1. Having someone who is as crazy about books as her

2. Scouring flea market sales for that once-in-a-lifetime deal

3. Eating a KFC fried chicken wing using spoon and fork

4. Coming up with crazy ideas like having a Vagina Monologues performed in front of crusty conservative bunch of god-wannabes

5. Walking into the bookstore of a great local writer (who considers Caryn as friend, or so Ana thought) and eating in a Japanese restaurant wondering who will pay

6. Gossiping about former classmates and friends that they haven’t been in contact with for a long time

7. Ana misses having someone eat a cake she baked; and lie so convincingly that it’s delicious that Ana would believe her. Christian also used to be a wonderful liar about Ana’s cooking; but these days, he had become like her Siamese twin that despite his best efforts, Ana still feels that she could read his mind and the truth behind his words.

8. Wondering  about what ifs

Right now, sitting idly in front of her computer at work, Ana is wondering about “what ifs”. She can’t help missing Caryn, who used to be her favorite person as far as wondering on what ifs is concerned.

Schrödinger's cat is a favorite thought experiment of boys. Boys cannot understand how a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. Girls are all too familiar with such a predicament. Picture from Wikipedia.

Schrödinger’s cat is a favorite thought experiment of boys. Boys cannot understand how a cat can be both dead and alive at the same time. Girls are all too familiar with such a predicament. Picture from Wikipedia.

A hot shot scientist like Albert Einstein would have called what they were  doing Gedankenexperiment or “thought experiment”. But Ana would prefer to call it “wondering about what ifs” (WAWI is a nice acronym). In general, Ana believes that the “what ifs” of girls are quite different from the “what ifs” of boys (of which Einstein is one).

Girls tend to be more inclusive and non-clinical about their what ifs. Their what ifs have nothing to do about their current reality even if the two are parallel universes containing the same phenomena. Girls can wonder about what ifs and still be perfectly content about “what’s real”.


Today Ana was wondering: what if she had never met Christian? What if he didn’t ask her out that far-off time when they were students? What if she stood him up or what if she did one of her disappearing routines and didn’t bother to respond to his overtures after that first date? What if her mother didn’t die and so Ana wouldn’t have had a reason to go back to her so-called “career”? What if she and Caryn changed places?


Apart from Caryn’s email, these are the articles that inspired the above post: