PhDs on LDRs

According to a 2017 survey, there are 2.3 million OFWs or overseas Filipino workers; and in another survey it was found that the Philippines is 3rd in the world when it comes to receiving the most amount of remittances at 30 billion US dollars (the 1st is India at 72 billion and the 2nd is China at 64 billion).

I was thinking of these numbers today because I was watching a CNN documentary in Netflix featuring Christiane Amanpour on the topic of Love & Sex around the world.

So far, she has gone to Lebanon, India, Japan, Ghana, Germany and China to find out the current mores and conditions pertaining to marriage, love and sexuality among these countries’ population. She has not visited the Philippines yet; which makes me curious as to how she will portray my country in her stories.

I have an idea, Christiane — and it is that of all the nations in the world, it is Filipinos who are the experts on long distance relationships (LDR).

If PhDs on LDRs will be endowed to anyone, it will be Pinoys who will graduate at the top of their class.

We have turned long distance romantic relationships into an art form.

A story: there is a woman named D who is married to a ship captain named M. The two of them were married just before M went into his first voyage overseas as a sailor (“seaman” is how we Filipinos refer to these men who run the world’s shipping vessels). Out of every year, M and D would meet and be together for one or two months; so 10 months out of 12 they would not be physically in contact. Before the days of internet, D and M would communicate with telegrams and snail mail and long distance phone calls (in fact, D was the first person in my neighborhood to have a telephone back in the days when only business establishments have phone lines; and in fact, my mom owes a lot to D and her telephone because my mom would communicate with her sisters in Canada using this device). Today, D and M have been married for 39 years. They are still together. Ten years ago, M stopped working and settled with his wife in their condo near a mall. Their only child (my childhood playmate K), has finished her studies and was about to get  married. So there is no more need for M to hop into a ship again. I  am curious though — how does it feel for D to now be constantly around M’s presence after him being gone all those long years?

D & M’s story is one that has been happening hundreds of thousands of times among Filipinos. Ever since the government made it a policy to send foreign workers abroad in the 70s to supplement our much-needed dollar reserves, the story of couples who have to sustain their relationships from thousands of miles away has been a quintessential Filipino story (or at least, Filipino middle class story — the class D and Class A have a different one, a topic for another blog post).

It takes a certain faith and resilience to make an LDR work. Especially an LDR that spans years or decades even. Not a few relationships that I personally know have crumbled because the male or female partner was abroad.

There is a song in Tagalog by Joel Ayala (I mentioned in a previous post that it was by Noel Cabangon; well I was wrong — my bad) which I think is the theme song for Pinoy OFWs and their significant others. It is called “Walang Hanggang Paalam”. It’s melody is a sad guitar, accompanied by what sounds like a banduria, and the lyrics go like, “at habang magkalayo, papalapit pa rin ang puso/ kahit na magkahiwalay, tayo’y magkasama sa magkabilang dulo ng mundo.” (we move farther apart though our hearts grow together, and meet from different ends of the world — my awkward translation)

Needless to say, I am a hopeless romantic. I believe that love prevails in the end. And despite the difficulties that distance or time or financial/resource constraints will impose, Pinoys will find a way to care for those they love.

Dubai Creek at night, from a boat. There are over 400,000 Filipinos living in Dubai at the moment, which is more than the population of Baguio City. Go figure.

 

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Words

I have never learned how to speak Bisaya.

Not surprising; since 99% of my life was spent in Luzon. There are over 150 languages spoken in this country that I call home. And I only know 2 of them! Shame on me.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes; one of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How's that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact, the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for.

We did have a culture before King Philip of Spain and Uncle Sam invaded our land. We were a hodge podge of many tribes, not so different from the different Scottish clans before the English invasion. One of those tribes were the Tagalogs; and this was their ancient language called alibata. Blame the Spanish friars for eradicating it from modern society. How’s that, Pope Francis! Another historical fact the Catholic Church should say mea culpa for?

Once upon a time, when I was a student, the topic of National Language was an emotional and personal pet crusade. I would debate someone, anyone who would dare to malign Filipino and insist on English’s superiority as a medium of expression. Blame it on the university where I graduated. It insisted on equating “love of country” to “love of national language”.

I was (and still am) an expert Filipino speaker. My first articles and stories were in Filipino. The stories I love passionately (Edgardo M. Reyes and Lualhati Bautista’s novels; Gerardo Sicat and Genoveva Edroza Matute’s short stories, to name a few) and the poems that I used to emulate (Francisco Balagtas’s “Florante at Laura”, Jose Corazon de Jesus’s “Ang Pamana”, Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Republikang Basahan” etc.) were all in Filipino.

It was Mr. F. Sionil Jose that made me realize that the Filipino language (much as the Philippine’s official Language Commission would try to deny it) is actually the Tagalog language with some variations.

 

There is nothing inherently wrong with the Tagalog language. Half of my genes are Tagalog; that must be a reason for my affinity with it. However, I have been traveling to the southern parts of my country for several years now; and I found that a lot of people that I would consider my own, do not even understand me when I speak this language that the academics call “Filipino”.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time was week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book's values was terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig, but I love him anyway!; 2. This book's heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book's heroine would have learned something like "she doesn't have the corner on suffering in this world; 3. Virginity is overrated.

I first read this book, the life story of a Manila high class prostitute when I was 19 y/o. Re-reading it for the 2nd time last week was an enlightening experience. I learned: 1. This book’s values are terribly old-fashioned and Mr. Jose is probably a male chauvinist pig (but I love him anyway!); 2. This book’s heroine should have been introduced to Anabel Chong, the pornographic performer who once held the record for the most men fucked in a gang bang; then this book’s heroine would have learned something like she doesn’t have “the corner on suffering in this world”; 3. Virginity is overrated.

Traveling to Cebu, a city in the Visayas, I realized how woefully inadequate my so-called education was because I couldn’t adequately converse in Bisaya! I had to speak to taxi drivers and fishermen in Oslob beach in English!

(Nothing terrible with English … my blog is in English, for one. It is the world’s lingua franca at the moment, true. Scientific and medical journals are written mostly in this language. My favorite writers write in English!

But the roots of this language has nothing to do with my geography. And it is useful and fun and I love it but …

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what's remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Sunrise in Oslob. Oslob is a southern town in Cebu island. And what’s remarkable about it is that every morning, huge whalesharks would swim very near the beach and go so near the fishermen that they would feed them.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.

Tumalog Falls. a very charming, very pretty waterfall, also in the town of Oslob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.. but it is not … entirely mine.

And there is something heartbreakingly sad when a person from Kansas cannot converse with a fellow American from New York because they don’t have the same language, and they have to talk using German to understand each other.) 

***

So these are just words.

And someday, if I’m really bad, they will be forgotten.

***

By the way, the term “I love you” in Bisaya is “Ginihugma ako ha nimo.”

Okay, Cebuanos and other Bisaya-speakers  can shoot me now.

 

Girl-Power (or How To Double-Team a Boy and Win)

Jonas was in Mindanao during the 2001 all-out-war against Muslims (who prefer to be called Moros in this part of their world) instigated by an actor who was playing the role of “president”.

It was not an experience that he would care to repeat.  He and his friends were stranded; and his mother was calling everyday, embarrassing him. At that time, cellphones were rare; and his mom would call collect on the landline. His friend, Arnie, would be merciless whenever handing Jonas the phone.

Jonas loves his mother (he doesn’t have a choice about it). But she drives him crazy!

Today, his mother is in cahoots with Alice. Their project is to persuade him to accept an NGO project that is based in Luzon.

The Magat River. Picture from http://www.snaboitiz.com

The Magat River. Picture from http://www.snaboitiz.com

 

Mrs. Endriga: For a change, right Alice? What is in Mindanao that cannot be found in Luzon?

Alice: Right Tita! I mean, they have mountains and so do we!

They talk to each other as if he is the Invisible Man.

Mrs. Endriga: We even have rivers!

Alice: True. In fact, the Magat River is the longest in the country and it’s in Nueva Vizcaya!

Mrs. Endriga: That is near your town, right iha?

Alice: An hour or two ride away.

Mrs. Endriga: There are so many beautiful places one can explore in Luzon …

Alice: Right! Like there’s Mount Banahaw …

Mrs. Endriga: And let’s not forget the Cordilleras …

The last time Alice checked, headhunters are already history in Sagada. Maybe. Picture from www.wayph.com

The last time Alice checked, headhunters are already history in Sagada. Maybe. Picture from http://www.wayph.com

 

Alice: Tita, they have headhunters there.

Mrs. Endriga: Is that so. Well, Sagada is civilized, I heard.

Alice: The Southern Tagalog region has Laguna lake, we don’t have to go very far …

Mrs. Endriga: But Laguna Lake is already polluted.

Alice: That is a challenge to any environmental geologist worth his salt.

The Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in Luzon. Too bad it's very polluted. Picture from deviantart.com

The Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in Luzon. Too bad it’s very polluted. Picture from deviantart.com

 

Mrs. Endriga: That’s true, that’s true … I must say that I have raised my children not to run from any challenge.

Alice: Well, your girls are wonderful mam. I love them!

Mrs. Endriga: I love them too, iha. Now the boy …

Alice: Is a dork … sorry I know he’s your son. But we have to be honest here.

Mrs. Endriga: Well, he’s not that bad. When he was one-year old he used to eat my lipstick.

Jonas has to draw the line when he heard the the word “lipstick.”

“Mother, you have to shut up. And you too Alice. I am going to take that job, if that will keep you two from yapping like harpies and driving me into a mental institution.”

 

***

Reading Lists or References:

http://jonas.ph/blog/2014/06/06/places-in-the-philippines-na-parang-pag-ibig/

http://manila.coconuts.co/2015/02/06/6-cool-coffee-shops-found-quezon-city

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/02/20/pnoy-scolds-saf-widows/

http://raissarobles.com/2011/10/24/what-would-an-all-out-war-in-mindanao-cost-us/comment-page-1/#comment-244765

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/father-murdered-jordan-pilot-demands-harsh-revenge-150204100838183.html

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/middle-east/83188-jordan-queen-rania-isis?utm_content=buffere5407&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/83196-presidential-resignation-matter?utm_content=buffer5f258&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Hormone Wars, or Territorial Disputes

There were puddles, and the streets (if you can call them that) were unpaved and … ugly. Alice felt relieved that she chose to bring her sturdiest, most reliable pair of flats for this adventure.

Typical Philippine  rural scene. Neglected unpaved roads that are muddy  during rains and dusty at summer. Alice wonders, what is there to love?

Typical Philippine rural scene. Neglected unpaved roads that are muddy during rains and dusty at summer. Alice wonders, what is there to love?

Jonas appeared very pleased and happy; he was all smiles and was constantly holding and kissing her hands.

How scandalous, Alice was wont to think. This is a rural area, people are not as sophisticated as those in Manila. What must they be thinking of this very ardent displays of affection?

But, truth be told, Alice was just as happy as Jonas; hence, she could not muster the effort to tell him to stop being so frisky.

He proved to be a hospitable host, taking Alice sightseeing on his motorbike (which he borrowed from a co-worker who is currently in Manila).

That day, he took her to see the ricefields in one part of the town. “Agriculture is a primary source of livelihood around here,” he said in that lecture-y way, as if he were a college professor (which, come to think of it, he actually was).

“The problem is that the irrigation has not been working very well and a lot of the kids grow up not wanting to be farmers. So they eventually leave the land, or sell it and they become laborers in Davao or miners.”

“Well farming is hard work,” Alice pointed out. “So can we blame them if they chose another non-back breaking means of livelihood?”

“True,” he agreed, still smiling. His happiness was so effusive and infectious that Alice had to smile back.

But she had to stick to her principles; so she told him the truth. At least in her point of view. “I think it’s ugly. The people are lazy and complacent. The women are spineless against their husbands. All they do is gamble all day and then sell their children to get by.” She waited for him to be angry. He was still looking at her with the most tender expression on his face. She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I just don’t understand why you love it so much!”

Jonas answered, “Because it’s mine.”

Alice was not entirely sure he was talking about a place.

“That is testosterone talking,” she mutters under her breath, though a portion of her heart accepts the truth in his words.

***

References:

http://opinion.inquirer.net/82224/aquino-has-betrayed-us

http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/82513-abinales-shame-president-aquino-maguindanao-clash?utm_content=bufferf9276&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://isisstudygroup.com/?page_id=3

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/82250-netizens-aquino-who-gave-orders?utm_content=bufferb9b28&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/nation/82168-marine-battalion-maguindanao?utm_content=buffer3652e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.rappler.com/nation/81958-marwan-target-saf-maguindanao

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/90739/milf-mnlf-not-terrorist-groups-simply-fighting-for-moro-dignity—duterte

http://www.rappler.com/nation/81958-marwan-target-saf-maguindanao

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)

Hospitality

According to Wikipedia, hospitality is defined as “the relationship between guest and host which includes the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or stranger.”

Sometimes I wonder about this so-called “Filipino hospitality”, this tendency of my people to give the best part of what they have to their guests. The best place in the house to sleep in, the best blanket, the best food, the best type of treatment.

Or maybe, that was the case a long time ago. Like 400 years ago maybe.

I can remember a high school teacher saying something like, “if we Filipinos have not been so hospitable, we wouldn’t have been colonized by white-skinned foreigners. And then we wouldn’t be this fucked up.”  That  second sentence, she didn’t say that exactly … I just implied it from her expression and the kind of teacher she was (a member of the LFS who had probably joined the NPA — I think).

Sometimes, I also wonder if this so-called “hospitality” is a concept devised by my country’s elites; foisted on me so I that I will not feel enraged when they screw me over and over. (But then I should also remember that I got screwed  because I smilingly I laid on my back and spread my legs. Well, boo hoo on me …)

I haven’t been bothered by a blog for a long time. But this one had. And I can’t really say why. The writer seem to be well-meaning and very honest. Honesty should be prized more than hospitality I think.

This is how she related an experience travelling to the Ilocos:

“A big disappointment here. For some reasons, Filipinos (especially older people) got really angry when they saw us taking photos of them, the food in the street or even ourselves in front of their shops or houses. It’s totally understandable, but once we asked them for permission, they quoted the price of the photo or said “Any money is ok. It’s up to you.” This attitude shocked us on the first day, but it continued for the rest of our stay. We still can’t understand that. Is it because some Filipino are materialistic people or they are just poor people trying to earn some extra money? Don’t know the answer.”

Hmmm …  are we a materialistic people? But then, we (a majority of us, anyway) are a people who have so little as far as material stuff are concerned. Even the lands under our feet are not ours.

We gave them to the white-skinned foreigners and their local cronies a long time ago. Shame on us …

And then she tried our foods and was disappointed as well.  Yup, me too … sometimes I’d rather starve than try the food she ate. But then, I can afford to starve like for a day or even two. The people who patronize the “poor quality food” she mentioned are, well,  poor.  If they starve, they really starve — as in, to death.

I feel sad for this tourist. For her horrible diarrhea and her bad experience in my third world home.

But I feel sadder for myself.

sunset

We are supposedly known for (and are proud of) our sunsets …

burot beach

… and beaches ….

tree

It’s just that I think, there is a dishonesty in being proud of stuff that one did not create in the first place.

The Muntinlupa to Punta Fuego Soundtrack

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

The good thing about the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is that, ever since Sharon Cuneta, Manny Pacquiao and all sorts of important people started buying real estate south of Manila, it has greatly improved in quality.

The asphalt laid on its august miles, has been, for the most part, fit for public consumption, making travel relatively uneventful. That is, if one does not chance upon a speed junkie who is psychotic enough to cut in on you at 125 miles per hour.

Happily for those who are blissfully unaware (and ignorant) of the joys of driving, the speed of 100-125 mph is very conducive to thinking up stories (lurid or otherwise) as one speeds past former ricefields-converted-to-so-called-development-projects-that-will-benefit-important-people-and-will-probably-give-shit-to-ordinary ones.

One listens to music so one may be “inspired”. Admittedly, one’s taste in music can best be described as “questionable” at the least and “atrocious” at the worst — based on contemporary cynical society’s standards.

One would like to express one’s gratefulness to Piratebay and other file-sharing sites, without which, the following playlist would not be possible:

1. Faithfully (Journey)

2. After all these Years (Journey)

3. Beauty and Madness (Fra Lippo Lipi)

4. If I’m not Inlove with You (Janno & Jennilyn version)

5. Everything I do, I do it For You (Brian Adams)

6. Catch Me I’m Fallen (Toni Gonzaga)

7. So It’s You (Christian Bautista)

8. Lost in Your Eyes (Debbie Gibson)

8. Now That I Have You (Erick Santos & Sheryn Regis version)

9. You are my Song (Regine Velasquez version)

10. Save the Best for Last (Vanessa Williams)

11. I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from “Jesus Christ Superstar” soundtrack)

12. On My Own (from “Les Miserable” soundtrack)

13. How Did You Know (singer unknown to me for now but will try to find out later)

14. After All (Peter Cetera and Cher)

15. It Might Be You (Stepher Bishop version)

16. Anyone At All (Carole King)

17. The First Time I Loved Forever (Lisa Angelle)

18. The Search Is Over (Scott McIntyre version)

19. Reaching Out (Gary Valenciano)

August is the National Language Month or Buwan ng Wika in Tagalog, That said, I would like to remind myself to always patronize Original Pilipino Music (OPM).

As an aside, there is something called Filipino literature in English. In fact, a number of songs in the above soundtrack were in English; sung by very talented Filipino singers, a considerable source of revenue as far as exports are concerned. One such singer, named Charisse, was even singled out by the Great Oprah Winfrey. We considered it an honor that Oprah featured Charisse on her show; prior to that, Charisses’s own people couldn’t have cared less if she existed.

Also, our National Hero (title courtesy of the Americans), Jose Rizal wrote his two greatest novels in Spanish.

Just goes to show what a confused (schizoid?) nation we are.

Jose Rizal. Yet another schmuck who got himself killed because of love. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Jose Rizal. Yet another schmuck who got himself killed because of love. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.