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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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.

Swear Words are Difficult to Translate

Jonas’s family decided to hold a service every year to commemorate his disappearance. They would not believe him dead; but with every passing day, week, month, year … the chance that he may still be alive was growing slimmer and slimmer.

They were in a limbo. Which was worse than being in hell, actually.

That year, Alice found herself sharing a cup of coffee with Jonas’s older sister, Marianne.

***

Alice’s Monologue from Marianne’s POV

The  following passages are difficult for me to translate, so I would beg readers to bear with me in my inadequacy to put into English words that, I can only surmise, have been buried far too deep and far too long.

I used to have an aunt who was also an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). She failed to attend the funeral of her dad because she was in America with no green card yet, so she couldn’t come home for the services. Grandfather was buried without her even seeing him.

Alice, somehow, reminds me of her.

***

Sa totoo lang, Mary, ang gusto kong inumin ngayon, beer. Naiinggit nga ako sa mga uncle mo, ayan sa labas, naka-Ginebra.

Actually, hindi talaga ako umiinom. Si Jonas hindi rin mahilig sa alak diba? Bait nga ng kapatid mo. Sa aming dalawa, ako ang demonyita.

‘Tang ina nila Mary, ano ginawa nila kay Jonas? Nung bago ako umalis, galit yan sa akin. Nag-propose ba naman e, sabi ko, sorry huwag muna. See, demonyita nga ako! Paano naman, gusto ko rin matapos yung Masteral ko. Pero sana nagpaka-dalagang Pilipina na lang ako ‘no, at hindi na umalis. Alukin ka ng kasal, mag-yes na lang diba? E gaga ako.

‘Tang ina nila Mary. Sabi ko naman sa kapatid mo mag-ingat e. Masyadong nagpapaka-bayani! Yan nga ang pinag-aawayan namin dati. Sinasabi ko sa kanya na ang mga Ninoy Aquino at Jose Rizal, maagang kamatayan ang hantungan nyan. No exceptions. Sabi naman nya, kaysa naman daw mabuhay ng walang karangalan, walang paglaya, walang prinsipyo. Sabi ko, bullshit! Ano ba yun! Male ego ba?!

‘Tang ina nila Mary. Kahit ganyan yan, mahal ko yan. Mahal ko kapatid mo. ‘Tang ina, bakit ba ako nagmumura?

‘Putsa kasi, sa US hindi ako makapag-mura ng Tagalog. Na-miss ko siguro.

Nang umalis ako, inihatid pa nya ako sa airport. Heavy drama kami! Parang sine nga. Akala ko galit talaga sya. Akala ko maghahanap na ng iba.

E nag-email ako. Aba sumagot! So yun, email. LDR daw, pero officially hindi kami.

Isu-surprise ko sana sya e. Binibiro ko sya na merong Alex Pettyfer look-alike sa faculty ng department sa Yale na type ko. Hindi kumagat ang lolo mo! Ang sabi sa ‘kin, kung para daw kami sa isa’t isa, wala daw makakapigil kahit pa si Alex Pettyfer. Ang tatag din ng kumpiyansa sa sarili nyang kapatid mo, hindi man lang na-threaten na papalitan ko!

‘Tang ina Mary. May karibal kasi ako sa kanya e. Sana babae nga, wish ko lang! Kaya lang, ang karibal e Inang Bayan! Sino ba naman ang makaka-compete? Ha? Sabihin  mo nga?!

‘Tang ina nya .. ‘tang ina nila …

Leonor Rivera was Jose Rizal's girlfriend (sort of) before he went to Spain. She was supposedly the model for "Maria Clara", a female character in the novel "Noli Me Tangere". Maria Clara is supposedly the model that Filipinas are supposed to emulate. Alice just said, fuck them!  Photo from Wikipedia.

Leonor Rivera was Jose Rizal’s girlfriend (sort of) before he went to Spain. She was supposedly the model for “Maria Clara”, a female character in the novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Maria Clara is supposedly the model that Filipinas are supposed to emulate. Alice just said, fuck them!
Photo from Wikipedia.

I’m Joining the Bandwagon

In the interest of ridding my crazy country of the corruption that has been holding it down for most of its history. So here are the websites:

http://www.rappler.com/nation/35285-napoles-daughter-owns-80-million-property

http://dulzspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/08/anonymous-speaks-pork-barrel-scam.html?spref=fb

http://momandpopmoments.com/2013/07/31/janet-napoles-pork-barrel-scam-theft-from-a-nation/

http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/35781-napoles-lawyer-threatens,-rappler-replies

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/breaking-news/2013/08/05/pork-barrel-scam-probe-not-open-public-296202

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/320822/news/nation/house-minority-wants-congress-to-investigate-p10b-pork-barrel-scandal

 

To My Fatherland:

Recorded in the history of human sufferings is a cancer of so malignant a character that the least touch irritates it and awakens in it the sharpest pains.  Thus, how many times, when in the midst of modern civilizations I have wished to call thee before me, now to accompany me in memories, now to compare thee with other countries, hath thy dear image presented itself showing a social cancer like to that other!

Desiring thy welfare, which is our own, and seeking the best treatment, I will do with thee what the ancients did with their sick, exposing them on the steps of the temple so that every one who came to invoke the Divinity might offer them a remedy.

And to this end, I will strive to reproduce thy condition faithfully, without discriminations; I will raise a part of the veil that covers the evil, sacrificing to truth everything, even vanity itself, since, as thy son, I am conscious that I also suffer from thy defects and weaknesses.

THE AUTHOR
EUROPE, 1886

noli me tangere 3noli me tangerenoli me tangere2

An Exercise on Lying (or Do as I Say, Not as I Do)

Things to do:

1. Take pictures – for evidentiary purposes.

2. Curse those whom you’d love to kill – it delivers catharsis, but won’t land you in jail.

3. Roll eyes every 5 seconds – Make sure you are adequately warmed up. Eyes may remain rolled-up for rest of natural life.

4. Post pictures of hypocrites on FB page. Facebook is to the new millennium what temples were when Pharisees walked the earth.

5. Pray for patience. Sometimes being passive-aggressive is the best policy.

6. Ask oneself, re: validity of statement: “We are slaves.” Because we are, in one way or another.

7. Sappiness dictates that one should bring up, “But love sets one free from enforced or chosen slavery.” To which one becomes a smart-aleck and make the counter-reply: “Chosen slavery is a misnomer, contradiction of terms, irony, paradox — slaves do not choose their lot. Unless, they are masochists, which make them pathologic.”

Good old Juan Luna. He probably inspired Steven S. De Knight — gladiators do get people’s attention. And it gets better, Pepe Rizal wrote a review! “Luna’s Spoliarium with its bloody carcasses of slave gladiators being dragged away from the arena where they had entertained their Roman oppressors with their lives…stripped to satisfy the lewd contempt of their Roman persecutors with their honor.” Image and quote from Wikipedia.

 

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.