If This is A Filipino

Jose Rizal is the Philippines’ national hero. Some say he is an American-invented hero, but I still believe that the honors accorded to him are well-deserved. He died for love of country — which is probably a hell of a lot more that I can muster. He is a nationalist and a polymath and his work and whole life is something that a lot of  of his countrymen can emulate. Sad to say, they do not. (photo from Wikipedia)

 

Jewish writer and concentration camp survivor, Primo Levi once wrote a book called “If This is A Man”. The title came from this poem:

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

 

It is a heartbreaking poem, for it compares a free person from someone who is locked up in a concentration camp. The most powerful words in this piece are these: “meditate that these came about”.

***

Why am I writing about concentration camps and that archaic event called holocaust (which is being denied by a lot of people who disagree with Israel’s occupation of Palestine — holocaust did happen, my dears, which is not to say Palestinian occupation is a fiction, those two are not mutually exclusive; it is heartbreaking when victims close their eyes to the humanity of others) ?

The Philippine president once said that it’s okay to kill drug addicts and criminals because they are not humans. It is an outrageous thing to say; but which Filipinos (or at least the 16 million who voted for Duterte; note: there are currently over 100 million Filipinos) totally love.

They love the president, despite his bad mouth, shoddy accomplishments, crooked and squabbling deputies, and his very vocal support for violence to solve the country’s problems (number one of which is drugs — according to him, whether that is supported by facts is another matter).

Filipinos love him — the recent survey shows over 80% approves of his presidency.

They love him and his policies enough to wish other fellow Filipinos who disagree  total ill will. For example, the social media is replete with Duterte supporters who will post statements that you deserve to be raped or killed or your family massacred if you point  out how morally wrong the president’s pronouncements are.

***

Which brings me to the title of this post: If this a Filipino …

…. would I want to be one?

…. would I be proud to call a country that produces such people as my own?

…. would I want to go back?

****

What is frustrating, what makes me feel more sadness than anger towards fellow Filipinos who voted for Duterte is how willing they are to dig their own graves.

Talking to them is like talking to an addict who consciously knows that it is ingesting poison — i.e. Duterte supporters’ willingness to sacrifice innocent lives for this so-called war against drugs — when someone loses one’s moral fiber by supporting a policy that reduces innocent human lives to collateral damage, that is poison. (And please, they are aware that not all who are killed in OPLAN Tokhang are drug pushers,  just like not all who were killed in the Marawi airstrikes were terrorists.)

Despite this, they are willing to ingest poison because the option of stopping (for them) would be more painful.

Oh well,  I know I have the alternative of leaving the Philippines if (when?) it gets fucked up; a lot of the 16 million Filipinos won’t.

And that probably makes me sound unpatriotic but, fuck, I am beginning to  disbelieve Jose Rizal and all those heroes that think our country is worth fighting for — 16 million Filipinos just showed that I am probably not one of them (insert sad emoji here).

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A Story in Tagalog

Sorry for the lack of translation.

This is something I have written about 2 years ago. The characters have different names but they are really Alice and Jonas … and my obsession with things that are lost. 

The infinite times and ways we say goodbye to something (or someone) and yet return to it (or them) over and over.

 It is also maybe about hope — the  hoping that, really, someone can come home again … maybe …

 

Mga Iniisip Ni Gemma Habang Nakasakay sa Eroplano (o Para sa mga Nawawala)

 

“I do not delude myself that what I am doing is something revolutionary. But it is the best thing I can think of at the moment.” Ibarra Gutierrez, 2005. http://archives.newsbreak-knowledge.ph/2005/01/03/ibarra-gutierrez-jr-his-e-mail-blew-cynics-away

***

image from httpweheartit.com

image from httpweheartit.com

Minsan naiisip ko. Sa mga panahon na may oras ako para mag-isip. Kung ano kaya kung hindi ko siya nakilala. Kung nagpatuloy lang ang buhay ko nang wala siya.

O kung nagkakilala nga kami pero hindi ko siya pinapasok sa puso ko. O kung nangyari na wala siyang interes na pumasok dito. At  sa  iba’t-ibang parte ng katawan at pagkatao ko.

Umalis ako pero alam ko na meron akong babalikan.  Na kahit nagpakalayo-layo ako ay hindi ako mawawala dahil nandiyan siya  na parang tanikalang palaging humihila, pumipilit, nag-aanyaya, kahit sa mga panahon na pagod o suya na ako sa paulit-ulit na pagbalik, pagpasok, pagsakop  niya sa buhay ko.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit ko siya mahal. O maaari na ang tanong ay: sapat na ba na mabait siya, at hinahanap-hanap ko ang yakap niya kapag wala ito, kaya ko siya mahal? Tama bang dahilan na kaya ko siya mahal ay dahil hinahangaan ko ang kanyang paninindigan (kahit hindi ako naniniwala dito)? Sapat bang dahilan na kaya ko siya mahal ay dahil mahal niya rin ako?

Umalis ako at ngayon ay bumabalik. Sa paniniwala na sa pagbalik ko, sana naman (Diyos ko) ay ibabalik din siya sa akin.

Wala, wala akong pinanghahawakan sa kanya. Walang pirasong papel, walang kasulatan, walang pananagutan. Liban sa mga alaala at sa mga salitang binitiwan namin, sa paminsan-minsan at maikling mga panahong magkasama kami.

May minsan na ang pinakamahalaga para sa akin ay kalayaan; o mas partikular, ay ang kalayaan ko. Isa itong abstraktong konsepto at maraming maaaring kahulugan. Pero importante siya sa akin, sa kahulugan niya bilang pagpapahalaga sa integridad ko bilang indibidwal. Ang mapatunayan sa sarili ko na ako ay ako, na hindi kinikubabawan ng kahit sino, mapa-lalake man o babae.

***

Sabi ni Henry, meron daw akong “daddy issues.” Sa maligoy at intelektwal niyang Ingles (American English na produkto ng Yale University), ang konklusyon niya ay hindi ako lubusang makapagtiwala sa sinumang ibigin ko dahil sa murang edad ay umalis ang aking ama, kasunod  ang kamatayan ng aking ina.

Sabi ni Henry, sa kanyang boses na buo, malinis ang diction tugma sa isang WASP: “You mistrust commitment Gemma. You are afraid to love even while wanting it with all your heart. You step back and push away people who want to love you; then you use rationalization to keep yourself away. But you are dying baby. You are dying, and you won’t even admit it to yourself.”

At ngayon naiisip ko: Henry putangina ka, ang sakit mong magsalita. Pwede sana kitang mahalin. Pero hindi ako masokista. May daddy-issue man ako, mas matindi ang superiority complex mo.

Nakilala ko si Henry habang nagsasaliksik para sa aking doctorate degree sa isang Ivy League na pamantasan sa East Coast. Research fellow siya sa departamento kung saan ay postgraduate student ako. Magandang lalaki si Henry, Caucasian ang kaputian, reddish brown ang buhok, parang Alex Petyfer ang mata. At matangkad. Pag pinagtabi kami, mukhang akong dwende kahit sa taas ko na 5’2”.

kung-saan-natapos-ng-postgrad-si-gemma

Noon ay ika-dalawang taon ko na sa Amerika. Wala akong bakasyon sa Pilipinas. Hindi dahil hindi pwede kundi dahil ayoko. Iniisip ko kung mas mabuti kaya na maghanap ng trabaho pagkatapos ng aking dissertation at nang mabigyan ng H1B. Ano naman ang dahilan kung aalis pa ako ng US? Narito ang oportunidad, ang growth, ang career at life advancement. Narito si Oprah, si Rob Schneider at si Amy Tan, pawang mga kasama sa grupong minoridad. Hindi sila puti pero sa kanilang pagsusumikap, ay nagawang mamayagpag sa “land of the free” at “home of the brave.”

Isa pa, paborito ko ang “Sex and the City” at nakikita ko ang sarili ko matapos ang aking pag-aaral na parang Carrie Bradshaw at makakahanap ng kanyang career sa New York.

Hindi ako kasing ganda ni Sarah Jessica Parker (no way, seriously!). Siguro ka-level ako ng itsura ni  Jasmine Trias (pero mas maganda siyang kumanta kaysa sa akin).  Pero nang sumapit ako sa university kung saan ako nag-aral, nalaman ko na maraming American guys ang tinatablan ng beauty ko. Sa umpisa, hindi ko alam yon, pero nang makilala ko si Henry, siya ang nagsabi sa akin.

Progresibo sa unibersidad na iyon sa New England. Vibrant ang student activities. Maganda ang kampus. Masaya, masigla ang palitan ng kuru-kuro sa mga postgraduate seminars na pinapasukan ko.

Sa unang taon ko doon ay lungkot na lungkot ako.  Hindi ko nga maintindihan. Maarte lang siguro ako. Katulad ng maraming taong walang kasiyahan, marami na ang biyaya ay hindi pa sapat.

Sa kalaunan, nagustuhan ko na rin ang rigor ng university life, ang pagiging aktibo at engaged ng mga estudyante. Ang malalaki at  kumpletong gusaling pang-aklatan. Ang kalinisan, pagmimintina ng mga pasilidad katulad ng silid-aralan, banyo at mga laboratory. Ang university grounds na pang-postcard ang dating.

At naaliw ako kay Henry, gaya ng pagkaaliw ko (sa kalaunan) sa unibersidad na pinasukan ko. Madudunong ang mga propesor ko na pawang may mga PhD. Ang marami sa kanila ay nakapaglimbag ng kanilang mga libro tungkol sa disiplinang kanilang itinuturo. Ang isa nga, si Prof. Percival Framing, ay ang sumulat ng textbook tungkol sa cognitive psychology na “bibliya” naming noong undergrad. Nakakatuwa na naging estudyante niya ako.

Nagustuhan niya ang ginawa kong paper kung saan ni-relate ko ang Stanford Prison Experiment sa mga isiping kolonyal o colonial mentality ng mga dating satellite states ng US (kasama na ang Pilipinas).

Binigyan nga ako ng gradong 4.0 (ang pinakamataas na maaring makuha ng isang masteral student) at nilagyan pa niya ng komento na “very thought provoking, your insights  on history and individual psyches are fresh and original”. Siyempre, humaba ang hair ko.

Si Prof. Framing, actually, ang nag-imbita sa akin na magtrabaho sa isang prestihiyosong NGO na naka-base sa New York. Ginawan  pa nga niya ako ng recommendation letter. At hindi ako gaga; kaya’t nag-apply ako at natanggap naman. Yehey!

Tatanungin ninyo: ano itong katangahan na ngayon ay bumabalik ako sa Pilipinas?

Ang pinaka-tangang dahilan sa mundo …

O sige na. Babanggitin ko na ang pangalan niya. Matapos ang 1000 na word count sa maligoy na istoryang ito.

Si Tristan.

Sabi nila (kung sinuman ang “sila”), first love never dies. Shet, totoo nga yata yon.

***

Una  ko siyang nakita 9 years ago, sa isang conference na pinilit-pilit akong isama ng kaibigan at noon ay roommate ko na si Kate. Kagagaling ko lang sa trabaho at pupungas-pungas na dumating sa 32-square- meter naming apartment sa Malate.

Sabi ni Kate, kailangan ko siyang samahan dahil mas techie ako kaysa sa kanya, wala siyang alam sa Macintosh na siyang gamit ng kanyang boss. Desperado ang gaga. Pinangako niya sa akin na siya ang maglilinis ng apartment namin (kasama ang banyo) sa loob ng limang buwan (gusto ko sana isang taon pero tumawad siya) kung gagawin ko iyon.

Ang totoong dahilan  kung bakit ako pinapasama ni Kate ay dahil gagawin niya akong pananggalang sa mga diskarte ng consultant niya na si Dr. Juban na noon ay puspusan ang panliligaw sa maganda kong kaibigan.

Sa  Shangri-la Makati ginanap ang conference at aantok-antok akong paumpog-umpog ang ulo sa bintana ng minamaneho niyang Toyota Corolla. “Gem, gising … nandito na tayo. Favor naman, paki check kung compatible itong powerpoint ni Sir sa LCD na gagamitin. Alam mo naman ang Mac, minsan may mga hindi katugma na LCD. At nag text si Jubes, nagpa-park na daw. Kailangan ko tulungan sa mga visual aids niya.”

laptop

Kinuha ko sa kanya ang USB at Macbook; pagkatapos ay tumungo ako sa mesa kung saan nagse-set up ang noon ay inakala kong miyembro ng technical committee ng conference, o janitor.

Isa siyang lalaking mahaba ang buhok, lagpas-kuwelyo sa suot niyang brown na polo. Naka-itim na jacket na medyo kupas na; naka-jeans din, katulad ko.  “A manong, pakitulungan naman po ako na ayusin itong presentation ng kasama ko.”

Sa totoo lang, hate ko ang nai-ignore at kinailangan ko pa na lakasan ang boses ko bago siya mag-angat ng mata. “Miss?” blangko niyang tanong.

“Itong powerpoint po kasi ng kasama ko, kailangan naming masiguro na compatible sya sa LCD.” Inabot ko sa kanya ang connecting cable ng laptop. Ang slow ng reaction time ng mga staff ng kumperensyang ito, sa loob-loob ko na medyo naiinis na. Parang tuod lang si manong na nakatingin sa akin. Nagpaliwanag ako, “Sa Mac niya kasi ginawa e minsan hindi siya nagwo-work sa ilang klase ng LCD.”

“Okay. So  ano ang gagawin ko?” May kalituhan sa mata ni manong.

Malapit na akong maimbyerna; inaantok na ako at sa totoo lang, hindi ko naman talaga type na maging parte ng kumperensyang ito.  May talim at suya na ang boses ko. “Pwede mo ba akong tulungan? Technical committee ka diba?”

“Actually …”

Naputol ang susunod nyang sasabihin dahil sa boses ni Kate. “Dr. Endriga, hi! Ang aga mo naman dumating.”

Dr. Endriga? Paano magiging Dr.  Endriga ang lalaking ito e magkasing-tanda lang yata kami. Ano siya, Doogie Howser?

“Gemma … si Dr. Endriga. PhD sya, hindi MD. Isa sya sa mga local experts natin on environmental health. May tatlong lectures nga sya mamaya e. I’m Kate Lecciones, doc, intern ako ni Dr. Juban. Doc gusto mo ba tulungan ka na namin mag-set up ng presentation mo?”  helpful na tanong ni Kim.

Tutulungan? Namin? Sya? Parang gusto kong ilibing ang sarili ko sa marmol na sahig ng hotel.

“Ah Kate,” sabi ko. “Alis muna ako.” Tumuloy ako sa CR at hinamig ang sarili. Napagkamalan ko bang manong ang kaibigan ng boss ni Kate?

Sabi sa programme, graduate si Dr. Tristan M. Endriga sa kaparehong unibersidad na pinagtapusan ko. Pitong batch ang tanda nya sa akin. BS Geology major in Mining, may masteral degree at esoteric sa pandinig ko ang thesis nya. Nag doctorate sa University of Michigan. Isa ngayong associate professor sa alma mater namin at affiliated sa isang environmental NGO.

Sa luncheon, magkatabi kami sa bilugang mesa at tinanong nya ako kung nagme-medicine din ako na kagaya ni Kate. Psychology major ako, sagot ko, college instructor sa araw, call center agent sa gabi.

Ngumiti siya sa akin. Ang sipag ko naman daw.

***

Hindi ko inaasahan na makikita pa  ulit si Dr. Endriga kung hindi dahil sa pesteng si Kate.

“Hoy Gemma,” mga isang buwan matapos ang conference ay sinabi nya sa akin, “gusto mo bang mamatay na old maid?”

Isang umaga iyon na alas-sais ulit ang uwi ko. Tutuloy sana ako sa kuwarto para matulog na nang kulitin ako ni Kate.

“Anong klaseng tanong yan?” tanong ko.

“May ise-set up ako sa yo.”

“Set up, as in date?”

“Oo.”

“Bakit?”

“Dahil natutuyot ka na ‘day. Trabaho, eskwela, bahay na lang ang buhay mo. At ilang taon ka lang? 23?”

Yada yada yada, hyper  na naman si Kate, naisip ko. “Ano na naman ang tinira mo?”

Hindi nya pinansin ang tanong. “So okay lang sa ‘yo makipag date ha? Ise-send ko na sa kanya number mo. Siguro tatawagan ka nya mamaya. Or ite-text. Be nice ha. Hwag mataray. Mabait at matalino itong lalaking ito, magkakasundo kayo.”

“Whatever,” ang muffled na sabi ko bago nawalan ng ulirat.

***

“Hi .… uhmm …” Ano na nga ba ang pangalan nya?

“Tristan.”

“A yes, Dr.  Endriga.”

Ang pangalawang pagkikita namin ni Tristan ay halos katulad ng nauna – walang spark. Sa loob-loob ko, isang pagpapaalala: Be nice, at least may manlilibre sa ‘yo ng hapunan.

Isang Miyerkules yun ng gabi, Valentines. Yuck talaga! Nasabi ko na ba na hatest ko ang Valentines lalo na kung kaliwa’t kanan ang PDA ng mga magkasintahan, o kahit hindi magkasintahan, at nagnanaknak sa kapulahan at ka-rosasan ng paligid?

“Igi-greet sana kita ng happy valentines, kaya lang sabi ni Kate na allergic ka daw dito.” Nakangiti ang mata ni Tristan, inabot nya sa akin ang isang papel na rosas. Obviously, nasabi rin sa kanya ng roommate ko na may allergies ako sa bulaklak.

“Biodegradable,” nasabi kong tatangu-tangu.

“Recycled yan, actually. Naglilinis kanina ng bahay ang sister ko at itatapon na sana niya… pero naalala kita.”

“I see. Dapat ba akong ma-flatter?”

“Isipin mo na lang na nakakatulong ka sa environment.”

Corny ang linya nya ha, may pagka-nerd nga kung iisipin. Pero hindi ko napigilan ang mapatawa. Ewan kung bakit.

***

Ano nga ba ang ginagawa sa isang “date”?

Sa totoong lang, wala akong malay dito. Hindi ako nagpunta sa high school JS Prom namin at noong graduation ball naman ay ang mga bestfriend ko na si Kate at Maya ang kasama ko; wala kaming kapareha. Hindi ako pangit at presentable naman ang personality ko (nagbuhat daw ba ng bangko!), pero kung tatanungin niyo ako kung sa edad ko na 23 ay nakailang date na ako …

Hmmm, siguro ½? Mayroon kasi yung isang  beses na inaya akong mag-ice cream ng kapitbahay namin na si Howie (2nd year high school kami) sa bagong bukas na Dairy Queen. Magpapatulong daw siya ng assignment sa English. Pag-uwi namin, inaabot nya ang kamay ko (baka pakikipag-holding hands ang pakay); ang akala ko ay yung apa ng ice cream ang gusto nya. Naghulas sa kamay ni Howie ang double scoop na chocolate marble at hindi na niya ako ulit inayang mag-ice cream pagkatapos noon.

“Meron ka bang gustong puntahan?” tanong ngayon ng ka-date ko.

“Wala naman. Saan mo ba balak pumunta?” Pa-pilosopo kong sagot.

Naglalakad kami, baku-bako ang daan sa parteng iyon ng Malate (road repair na  iniwan na naman na nakatiwangwang ng DPWH) at malamig pa rin ang gabi, kahit kung tutuusin isang buwan na lang ay summer na.

“Magandang pumunta sa lugar na hindi mo pa napupuntahan,” sabi niya.

“Okay … so kailangan ko pa ngayon na mag-isip kung saan tayo pupunta? Teka sino ba ang nagyaya sa atin?”

“Bad mood ka na naman?” malumanay na tanong ni Tristan. “Baka lang may gusto kang puntahan. Kung wala, eh di mag-dinner na lang tayo.”

Actually may isang lugar sa Maynila ang hindi ko pa napupuntahan. Ang Star City ay isang lugar na hindi magandang puntahan nang mag-isa.

So ferris wheel, roller coaster, caterpillar, octopus, bump car … corny sya, pambata. Sa kung anong dahilan, mukhang nag-enjoy naman kaming dalawa.

***

Syempre, date yun kaya may portion na “tell me about yourself.”

Nag-iisang lalaki daw si Tristan sa limang magkakapatid. Dati binu-bully siya ng mga ate nya. Sabi ko, buti ka pa may mga kapatid ka kahit bully; mas malungkot ang nag-iisa.  Sabi niya, kung gusto ko magpalit na lang kami ng pwesto, palit na lang kami ng pamilya. Sabi ko, sige ba. At tumawa sya. Cute ang loko pag nakatawa; meron siyang dimple sa kaliwang pisngi.

Noong araw, parte ng dagat itong tinatayuan natin, kuwento nya. Yung dating first lady natin na maraming sapatos, siya ang nagpasimuno para   i-reclaim at i-beautify ang parteng ito ng Maynila.

Mas gusto mo na pag-aari pa rin sya ng dagat ano? naitanong ko, pabiro.

Hindi naman, kaya lang ang gusto noon ni Imelda ay matulad sa mga lugar na katulad ng Miami, Florida ang lugar na ito. Gusto niyang yung mga arkitektura na itatayo ay naka-base sa kanluraning oryentasyon.

So yang CCP hindi ka bilib dyan?

Hindi, sagot nya,

Oo nga e. Ako rin. Ang laki-laki at ang lawak-lawak pero hindi napapasok ng karaniwang Pilipino. Ako nga hindi pa nakakapasok sa CCP.

Talaga?

Oo.

Sige, minsan manood tayo dyan ng play.

Ano yun, second date? Yan ang tanong na gusto kong tanungin pero hindi ko nagawa.

***

couple-holding-hands

First base (or no base?).                                   Image from http://drawingimage.com

 

Usually (pero hindi palagi) ang second date ay sinusundan ng third date at fourth date, etc etc. At syempre, hindi madalas (pero minsan), sa isa sa mga date na iyon ay  pupunta kayo sa first base. Na susundan ng second base. At third base. At (maaaring sa malaon o madali, depende sa personalidad ng nagde-date) home run.

Matagal bago kami nakarating sa first base; siguro nine months. Kasing-tagal ng isang pagbubuntis. Yun yung panahon na parang nasa limbo ang relasyon namin na hindi kami magkaibigan pero hindi rin magkasintahan. Gagamitin ko sana ang term na MU (mutual understanding) pero napaka-old fashioned at corny nun kaya hwag na.

Tulad ko, teacher din siya. Lecturer ako;  associate professor sya. May PhD kasi sya at ako ay Bachelor lang (pero magna cum laude ako ha). Parehong state universities ang pinagtuturuan namin – pero mas jolog yung napasukan kong eskuwelahan na nasa university belt. Maraming extra-curricular activities si Tristan, madalas kinakailangan niyang pumunta sa mga liblib na lugar sa Pilipinas.

Naitanong ko sa kanya minsan, “Geo major ka. Mas maraming pera kung sa mining industry ka magta-trabaho. Pero mas pinili mong magturo.”

“Gems,” yan ang tawag niya sa akin. Siya lang ang tumatawag sa akin nyan, ewan kung bakit. “Nasubukan ko na ang mining industry. Nung kakatapos ko pa lang ng MS ko. Yun ang first job ko. Hindi ko siya nagustuhan.”

Malalang eksploytasyon daw sa kapaligiran at korapsyon ang norm ng mining industry sa Pilipinas sa kasalukuyan. “Hindi nababalita dito Gems pero alam mo ba na may mga lugar sa Pilipinas na nagpapatayan dahil lang sa ginto?   Yung dating trabaho ko, sa isang multi-national company. I-expect mo sana, may mataas silang standard diba. Pero pera pa rin ang bottomline; pera na ang kapalit ay buhay.”

Napapanganga ako sa kanya pag ganito na magsalita si Tristan. Never kasi akong naging advocate ng social issues. Para sa akin, we all do what we do to get by. Kung magkakaroon ng mas magandang oportunidad, kukunin ko (hwag lang illegal). Pero si Tristan. Sya yung klase ng taong iniiwasan ko noong college: yung tipong sumisigaw ng slogan at nagsusunog ng effigy.

“Hindi naman ako ganon,” natatawa nyang denial nang banggitin ko yun sa kanya. “Ang sa akin lang, may mga bagay tayong pinaniniwalaan at mga prinsipyong pinaninindigan. Masarap magkaroon ng maraming pera; pero mas masarap matulog nang mahimbing sa gabi.”

Okay, may kasunod pa ang statement nyang yan. Pero private na sya, kaya hindi ko na babanggitin. Eto na lang: nang sabihin niya yan, nasa third base kami, going to home run.

***

Limang taon din naman kaming magkasama bago ako pumunta ng Amerika. Masasayang mga taon; frustrating din minsan, dahil si Tristan yung klase ng lalake na hindi tinatablan ng mga tampo-tampo o sabihin na nating emotional blackmail.  Frustrating din siya dahil wala sa kanya ang konsepto ng “self preservation”—ang mga gustong niyang gawin ay ginagawa nang ayon sa paninindigan, pahapyaw na konsiderasyon lamang sa pansariling kaligtasan.

Minsan, sa isa niyang “project” sa katimugan ng Pilipinas, napag-tripan siyang i-harrass ng isang pulitiko dahil sa napaka-outspoken niya na pagki-criticize tungkol sa pakikipagsabwatan nito at ng isang undersecretary ng DENR para mabigyan ng permit na  minahin ng mga negosyanteng dayuhan ang itim na buhangin sa lalawigan. (Blind item: yung undersecretary ay significant other ng isa sa pinakamataas na lider sa Pilipinas.)

Ang hirap kay Tris, ang bongga talaga ng mga pinipiling banggain. Seventy percent of the time, kinakabahan ako (pati na nanay nya at mga kapatid) para sa kanya. Pero magbibiro lang yan kapag pinagsabihan mo.

Katulad  ng dialogue naming ito:

Gemma: Alam mo honey  (Ang linyang ito ay dineliver ko mga 4 years sa aming relasyon, sa panahong hindi na ako nabibilaukan sa pagsasalita ng mga terms of endearment.), sa palagay ko dapat mag-mellow ka sa pagki-criticize kay (insert name of powerful politician here).

Tristan: Bakit?

Gemma: Kasi, diba may pina-salvage yan na isang journalist na nag-feature ng tungkol sa pandadaya niya nung eleksyon. Iniisip ko lang na sana iniisip mo rin yung safety mo.

Tristan: (tatawa-tawa) Honey, safe ako palagi, as you should know …

Isang araw, buwan ng Hunyo, tinambangan ng mga armadong grupo ang  convoy na kinabibilangan ng ilang katrabaho ni Tris sa environmental NGO na nagpapasinaya ng proyekto nila. Patay lahat ng military escort. Dalawa sa limang researchers ang malubhang isinugod sa ospital. Mga rebeldeng grupo daw ang may pakana ng insidente. Hanggang ngayon, halos anim na taon na ang nakakaraan, wala pa ring nahuhuli sa mga salarin.

***

Mahirap yung walang pormal na break-up … sabi nga ni Toni Gonzaga sa pelikula nila ni Piolo Pascual: walang closure.

Parang hindi na kayo, pero hindi pa rin maka-move on.

Isang kakatwa na nagpaalam ako sa kanya sa mismong araw na pinili niya na yayain akong magpakasal.

Prestihiyosong  scholarship iyon sa isang prestihiyoso ring unibersidad sa Amerika. Malaking oportunidad, lalo na isang katulad ko na ilang panahon na ring nabuburo sa trabaho ko sa Maynila, walang direksiyon ang career.

Traditional si Tristan nang mag-propose; on bended knee (sabi nga sa isang kanta) at may singsing!

Hindi naman naging tahasan ang pagsasabi ko ng “no.”

Ang eksaktong sinabi ko ay: “Mukhang hindi ito ang tamang panahon para pag-usapan natin ang kasal.”

***

Ngayon uuwi ako. Matapos ang apat na taon.

Nang umalis ako, akala ko ay doon na rin natapos sa amin ang lahat. Pero hindi nagtatapos sa paalam ang kuwento naming dalawa.

Mga apat o limang beses kaming nagkita sa US habang nag-aaral ako.  Sabi ko sa kanya: hindi ka ba nanghihinayang sa pamasahe? Ang sabi sya sa akin: Ano ang gusto mo? Kalimutan kita?

Facebook, email, YM, Skype, paminsan-minsang snail mail. Nakakamangha ang mga modernong paraan ng pagniniig. Minsan nag-FB sa akin ang kapatid ni Tristan na si Marie:

Gemma, pagsabihan mo nga si Kuya Tris. Wala namang masama sa environmental advocacies nya. Pero ang dami nyang nababangga. Yung isang mayor diyan, may private army. Tinatawanan lang ako ni Kuya pag pinapaalalahanan namin na mag-ingat. Si Mama nga sabi nya, dapat pinikot mo na lang dati si Kuya. Baka kaya nasosobrahan sa pagpapaka-bayani ay dahil wala ka.

Sa huling pagkikita namin, 4 or 6 months ago, masaya siya para sa akin. Kasi natapos ko na rin ang dissertation ko at ga-graduate na ako. Sabi niya, marami daw akong magagawa sa skill-set na natutunan ko sa pagbabalik ko sa Pilipinas.

“Tristan, may possible job offer sa akin dito. May H1B visa na provided.”

“So hindi ka uuwi?”

“Ano ang uuwian ko?”

“Tangina Gemma, anong klaseng tanong yan?”

Yun ang huli naming pagkikita.

***

Si Marie ang nag-message sa akin Facebook  na nawawala si Tristan. Isang araw ay kumakain daw ito sa isang restaurant sa Puerto Princesa kasama ang isang kaibigan nang may dumukot sa kanya na di-nakikilalang mga lalaki.

 

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

 

Show and Tell

from ddeubel.edublogs.org-

Image from ddeubel.edublogs.org-

 

I forgot.

That writing is about showing. And not telling.

Like peek-a-boo, maybe. The fun is in the searching

Finding is just icing

On a cake (chocolate flavored with a hint of strawberry).

 

Okay so I have been dissed again.

Boohoo

on me.

 

But this time I found it to be fun.

Robert, darling, I get it … but still,

You should have given me the right to reply.

I would have just smiled and said “thank you”

And would that be so threatening?

 

***

Will sex scenes in blockbuster movies start showing cunnilingus instead of the missionary position? That really would be radical.

— Germaine Greer,  The Whole Woman (Anchor, Great Britain, 1999), pp. 242.

 

***

I sure hope so Miz Greer, I sure hope so 🙂 — silly old me

 

 

***

Reading Lists:

http://www.iag.org.ph/index.php/blog/506-f-sionil-jose-to-milf-leaders-be-excellent-muslims

http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/141573/2013-philippine-pen-congress-tackles-mindanao-conflict

http://www.timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=16540.0

http://pcij.org/stories/favored-as-boys-disadvantaged-as-men/

http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2015/01/the-whole-point-of-sex-is-reproduction-not-the-pleasure-that-comes-with-it/

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Heroes And Their Struggles (or: to terrorists with no sense of humor, this is why we do it)

Below is an “obscene” poem by Erica Jong (EJ) which I shamelessly lifted from her website.

ISIS and all you MCPs out there … you have to be nicer to your girls so they will willingly (even happily) give you great blowjobs. Seriously! I think terrorism is sexual repression in action.

The Long Tunnel of Wanting You

This is the long tunnel of wanting you.
Its walls are lined with remembered kisses
wet & red as the inside of your mouth,
full & juicy as your probing tongue,
warm as your belly against mine,
deep as your navel leading home,
soft as your sleeping cock beginning to stir,
tight as your legs wrapped around mine,
straight as your toes pointing toward the bed
as you roll over & thrust your hardness
into the long tunnel of my wanting,
seeding it with dreams & unbearable hope,
making memories of the future,
straightening out my crooked past,
teaching me to live in the present present tense
with the past perfect and the uncertain future
suddenly certain for certain
in the long tunnel of my old wanting
which before always had an ending
but now begins & begins again
with you, with you, with you.

* * *

Last night, after watching CNN, I wrote a poem that I was cheesily wanting to dedicate to Charlie Hebdo. Like most of my poems, it had very little rhyme and much sentimentality. I wanted to stick a finger down my throat while reading it. I don’t know how EJ do them… I love her poems, even the sedate non-sexy ones.

charlie-hebdo-controversy-20150108

Just what was the big deal about this French cartoon that people had to die for it? Picture lifted from rappler.com

A few days ago, my mother’s brother, Rolly (who was a soldier) had his left foot amputated. Of course, one doesn’t need to be a soldier to be a hero. One doesn’t have to be violent to be a hero. Maybe the most difficult form of heroism is that which demands us to hunker down and bear that which is unbearable.

The more difficult of the most difficult form of wanting to be “hero” is the willingness to die so innocents may be spared of pain … to illustrate, please google “Jose Rizal”, “Mahatma Gandhi” and even “Jesus Christ” — who (the bitchy part of me would think) were all suckers whose life’s ambition was to be a “hero”.

I hate pain. I think if I had lived in 1940s Germany, I would have probably collaborated with the Nazis to avoid being tortured. If I had lived in Mao Zedong’s China, I would have killed my parents and joined the Red Guards if it meant that I can have a few comforts in life (as a member of the Communist party, I surely would have). The North Koreans can relate to this. It is excruciating  to act “the hero” and endure pain, hunger and humiliation.

Sometimes I think that I write because the written word is my own form of struggle; it is my chosen battlefield, so to speak. It is a different battlefield compared to the operating room, and has its unique and quaint form of stresses.

I had something just like this! When I was in high school, it drove my mother crazy because I was clacking away at 3 in the morning. Thank god for silent keyboards and computers!

I had something just like this! When I was in high school, it drove my mother crazy because I was always clacking away at 3 in the morning. My goal was to write a bestselling novel by the time I’m 30. Now, I am way past 30; the computer keyboards are not as loud; and touchpads are as silent as monks. Needless to say, I have yet to finish a novel 😦            Picture from  sevenels.net

I write because I choose this form of dying … when words drip and they frustrate me because they don’t make sense. When my rambling sentences are gutted and routed by my viciously disdainful internal censor. When I cannot choose between a comma and a semi-colon, and end up using one over the other; but I get stabbed anyway (which just goes to show that punctuation pyrotechnics are useless if one’s thought processes are not lucid).

There is an adrenaline rush, a quickening of the heart, as I look on at letters that become words then sentences or stanzas … that hopefully, will mean something. And will live on (probably in hard drives or in cyberspace) despite myself.

Notes to Myself: How to Write a Sex Scene

I no longer had money to splurge on food so I had to go home to Lucy’s vegetable stew my Aunt had taught her to cook. The maid was alone most of the time for my uncle and aunt worked the whole day. She had already finished cooking the vegetable stew. She was dark and a little chubby, but her face was warm, friendly. She had finished high school and had wanted to study in Manila, but she did not have enough money;  she worked instead as a maid for one of Aunt Betty’s co-teachers, but the teacher no longer needed her so she passed her on to my aunt who took her grudgingly although she often complained how difficult the housework was.

“You can eat now if you want to,” Lucy said at the door. I was warm and perspiring for though the rains had started and the brown weeds along the tracks had started greening, it was still humid.

The shower adjoined the kitchen and I started soaping myself with the laundry bar.  I was a virgin. Though I knew all that should be done, the most that had happened was a brief interlude with Marie; she was in section B in our senior year and I often danced with her in our high school parties, holding her so tight her breasts pressed close against my chest, and I could feel the smooth curve of her thighs. But there were few chances for us to be alone and though we had some sort of understanding that we would continue the relationship when she got to college in Manila, her family could not raise the money for her tuition and board.

Anyway, I was soaping myself and had to do it again. It did not take long really and, though I enjoyed it, I looked forward to the time when it would be for real.

When I got out, Lucy was at the bathroom door, her face lighted up with mischief. I was very embarrassed when she asked in a bantering manner, “What have you been doing?”

She was slightly older than I — maybe 25, and I asked angrily, “What do you do when you take a bath?”

“It depends,” she said. “I didn’t hear the shower for some time.”

“You do not rub off the dirt or soap yourself?”

“It was not soaping or rubbing,” she said, looking at me, the grin on her face telling me that she knew.

I  fumbled and did not know what to say.

Then, confirmation, the laughter crinkling the corners of her mouth.

“You peeped!” and I went after her.

I did not want to hurt her and I really was not angry — just embarrassed. I grabbed at her, but she was ready and we were soon wrestling like two children from the kitchen on to the living room. I pinched her buttocks and she yelped aloud, then she grabbed my  arm and bit it so hard, I cried at her to stop.  When she let go, I held her and dragged her to the floor then pinned her down, panting. She glared at me, her breasts heaving; and I had her legs wide apart, my torso between them. Her arms were pinned down and she could not move except to try too bring her head up. Then, suddenly, I felt this stirring and, bending down but still holding her wrists so that she could not hit back, I kissed her breasts. Almost immediately, her struggling ceased and when I looked at her face, the fight was no longer there — instead the unerring light of expectation, of wonder. Bending over, releasing her hand, I kissed her, thrust my tongue into her mouth.

I really did not care anymore if a sudden knock exploded on the door or if the windows were open, which they were not because they were always shut more as a matter of precaution against robbers than for privacy.

I thought conquest would be easy for, by then, the compulsion that were surging in me could no longer be leashed. But Lucy started pushing me, wriggling, and was all arms and elbows and pointed knees — but these, more than anything, served only to heighten my resolve and convinced me in afterthought that there was a latent ruffian and rapist in me. Her resistance, it turned out, was temporary; I do not know if it was just to show that she was no easy prey or she wanted to test how determined I was. Or maybe, she found out how physically strong and well beyond calming I was and there was no further sense in lengthening the struggle which, after all, I would soon vanquish.

My entry was gentle and smooth; through her gasps, she said: “Do not hurry … please. No one will be here … we have all the time.”

She did a lot of housework, but her hands were not rough. They were soft, beautiful hands, exquisitely expert and strong ; her breasts were  firm and after a time she cautioned me for, as she said, they began to hurt.

We went up to my room after we had lain for a delicious length of time on the tiles which were cold but which we had become impervious to, sweetly unconscious as we were  of the world except the rhythm and the warmth of our bodies. We took our time upstairs as she had suggested, savoring each other in the light of day, and then it was dusk, time for her to cook dinner. We were exhausted and it was an act of will for both of us to part.

Everything was not in the script, everything was not as I had read in those guidebooks that passed through our hands in high school — explicit American guidebooks to that mysterious domain which is woman. I had thought that I would be clear-minded and  would recall everything — the step-by-step preparation, the plateau and the peak, the cozy, cuddling type of talk and display of tenderness that would cap it all — but I had merely acted out the hasty and irrational beast. I did not forget, however, to ask her if she was happy and in reply she looked at me — those big, black eyes dreamy and half closed — and she nodded.

From “Mass”, pp. 20-22, F. Sionil Jose, Solidaridad Publishing House, Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila, 1983.

Mass_FS Jose

***

I can’t remember if “Mass” was the first F. Sionil Jose (FSJ) book that I have ever read; or was it “The Pretenders”?

They are both parts of Mr. Jose’s Rosales saga, a 5-book epic spanning 100 years of Philippine history. They are very entertaining reading; especially “Mass”  whose hero Pepe Samson epitomizes the typical (in my opinion) Filipino lower-lower middle class male, virtues as well as faults.

“Mass” also has the hottest sex scenes.

My other favorite author, Lualhati Bautista (LB), wrote a Tagalog translation of “Mass” (she titled it “Masa”), also published by Solidaridad Publishing House which Mr. Jose owns.

Excited is an understatement to describe how I am looking forward to reading the Tagalog translation. I am itching to know how  LB managed to translate FSJ’s more, ehem, raunchy scenes 😉