Birds Out Back

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Birds Out Back
Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
Animal Scene Magazine
Oct 2010 Issue

Most of us in the urban jungle would think that having the sounds of chirping birds to wake us up in the morning is almost close to the idyllic fairy tale story, since the sounds of the city is an entirely different set and that there are hardly any birds hovering freely around us anymore. It was the same case for me, until the informal settlers from the PNR rail system here in Malabon were relocated, leaving the place barren and empty, and after a few years sprawling with small trees, grass, shrubs, vegetation and yes, different kinds of birds!

It happened one early morning. I was roused from sleep by different chirping sounds, and it piqued my curiosity me: What birds can I find outside? I opened my window to take a look, and I was amazed with what I saw. I did not notice that the bird population in the nearby lot has grown and diversified. I grabbed my camera and started shooting.

Michael C. Lu, president of Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (www.birdwatch.ph), was kind enough to help me identify these newfound feathered friends. After photographing the birds, I collated them and grouped them into four and emailed them to Mike. The following day, Mike has already identified the birds I saw.

I thought that amongst the birds I photographed, I knew at least one – the very common Maya bird. But I was wrong, and Mike corrected me. “Probably the most common urban bird after the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (maya), this is the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) – the yellow coloring is found under the start of the tail feathers. It also has a black mask around the eye,” Mike commented. “Yellow-vented Bulbuls are open country birds that have adapted to the urban landscape in Metro Manila. They are one of the most common species although they keep to the trees and do not show themselves too often,” he added.

The next bird in the set is a small bird just like the Maya but with the white color on the tip of its tail feathers. According to Mike, “this is the Pied Fantail or Maria Capra. Distinctive fan-shape tail that it flicks up and down. This feisty bird is known to mob cats and dogs when they come near it’s territory.”

One of the birds that really caught my attention is a small bird that I often saw walking around the thicket. I noticed its duck-like legs and it wasn’t very shy and not easily scared by humans nearby. It is very pleasant to look at, especially how it struts around early in the morning or late in the afternoon, perhaps searching for food. Mike appeared to have the same fondness for this particular bird. “Wow, a White-breasted Waterhen! I love this dainty bird.” According to him, the Amaurornis phoenicurus is commonly found near grassy wetlands.

The last set of photos featured the first bird I photographed. I was roused from sleep by the sound it produces which is quite different from the common sounds I hear everyday. So I looked out in the window to look for that bird, and there it was, perched in a small tree, unmoving and well hidden from casual gaze. “This is a Lesser Coucal – called Sabukot in Tagalog. Despite it’s size – as big as a chicken – it can quickly disappear into the thickets. The Lesser Coucal is a common grassland species. It inhabits tall grass only. This proves that grasslands, like forests, is a type of habitat. Certain birds like the Centropus bengalensis can only thrive in grasslands,” explained Mike.

Mike explained that these birds are commonly seen, if one cares to stop, look and appreciate these beautiful creatures. “The birds in the lot are quite common but they are not commonly seen by non-birdwatchers because in the Philippine setting, all living creatures are captured, killed for fun, for food, and for a certain need to prove that humans are the superior species. What you have is a pretty interesting mini-habitat where all these different species have found a temporary sanctuary.”

Mike, who is a sales manager for an industrial tool company, also shared his thoughts regarding issues involving birds, like hunting and loss of habitat.

Loss of habitat is an important factor in population decline and species loss. “Take for example, the reclamation area along Macapagal Avenue. The reclamation started 20, maybe 30 years ago. One lot that we used to frequent behind the Coastal Mall had around 100 species of grassland and wetland birds but with the decision to develop the area , the whole habitat was destroyed,” said Mike. Development of new habitats for birds – even accidental cases like this one – can be a factor in striking a balance between creation and destruction. With this, birds are provided with new habitat, however temporary it may be. According to Mike, “the accidental creation of habitats only proves that there is still hope once nature is left to its own devices. The process is slow and we have to start now.”

Mike also stressed other important problems. “The Philippines is an amazing place. It’s biodiversity is very rich. With bird species alone, more than 200 species are found only in the Philippines and nowhere else in the world. Sadly many of our countrymen are not aware and they do not appreciate our wildlife. We have very strict laws (i.e. Wildlife Conservation Act) but these are hardly enforced. It is common to see wildlife being sold, eaten or kept as pets. The wildlife rescue center in the Ninoy Aquino Park is filled to the brim with confiscated wildlife.”

In the past, birds are often a symbol of an emissary or messenger, a bringer of hope and the symbol of freedom. Seeing these birds out back made me realize that it was an experience that sent an important message about bird life issues facing the country, and the world. These birds are in need of refuge, and since humans are bent on clearing every form of bird habitat, all these birds can afford for themselves are temporary, accidental habitats, while some end up in cages or worse, inside bowls at dinner tables. They are stripped of their home and freedom.

Apat na pisong buhay

Capture

Apat na pisong buhay
Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
Dimension Literary Folio
Vol. 53, No. 24. May 28, 2011

“O, malapit na tayo sa Monumento, ‘yung mga hindi pa nagbabayad, magbayad na,” sabi ng drayber habang tinitingnan ang mga pasahero mula sa rearview mirror.

Nagkatinginan. Animo’y hinahanap ng isa’t-isa kung sino ba ang tinutukoy ng mamang drayber. Ibinalik ko ang tingin sa kanila, baka kasi isipin nilang ako yung hindi pa nagbabayad.

Anim kaming pasahero ng dyip na iyon. Apat ang nakaupo sa harap ko at may isa akong katabi. Pinagmasdan ko sila. Isa-isa. Hinahanap ko kung sino ‘yung mukhang guilty.

Sa may bukana ng dyip ay may batang nakaupo. Naka-pula siyang t-shirt at korduroy na shorts. Mukhang hindi naman siya nabahala sa paalala ng drayber kaya naisip kong marahil ay bayad na siya.

Katabi niya ang isang babaeng nagta-trabaho sa Ever. Sigurado ako, dahil uniporme ng Ever and suot niya. Nakapatong sa hita niya ang kanyang shoulder bag, pilit na tinatakpan ang mga parteng hindi ganap na naikubli ng napakaigsi niyang palda.

Katabi niya ang isang malaking mama na mukhang seaman na may kaakbay na magandang babae. Nasabi kong mukhang seaman’yung mama dahil sa kanyang naglalakihang mga singsing at kwintas (maliban pa sa napakalaki niyang katawan) at napakahabang buhok sa batok. Iyon bang tipikal na hitsura ng isang seaman na bagong baba sa barko. ‘Yung kaakbay niya ay naka-asul na tshirt na hapit, na nagbabandera ng mga malulusog nitong dibdib, at naka maong na pantalon.

Hindi ko masabi na asawa niya ito dahil alam kong mahilig sa tsiks ang mga seaman. Isa pa, pareho silang walang wedding ring. O baka naman syota lang nung lalaki ‘yung kasama niya. Hindi ako sigurado. Hindi rin ako sigurado kung seaman nga ba talaga ‘yung mama. Basta ang alam ko, sweet sila. Sigurado lang ako na bayad na sila dahil dyahe naman sa mama kung hindi niya makuhang ibayad ‘yung tsik na ka-date niya.

Isang payat na mama naman ang siyang katabi ko. Sa sobrang payat niya, eh, magmumukha siyang palito ng posporo kapag itinabi siya sa mamang mukhang seaman. Hindi naman siya ganoon katanda. Sa palagay ko, nasa edad trenta y singko pa lang siya. Nakaputing t-shirt na may mukha ni Ninoy sa harap. May nakasulat pang I love Ninoy. Nakapantalon siya na sa sobrang dumi ay mukha pang mas luma kaysa sa t-shirt niya.

Sa aming anim, siya yung mukhang di-mapakali. Ayoko sanang isipin, pero sa pakiramdam, at sa palagay ko ay ganoon din ang pakiramdam ng mga kasama ko sa dyip, siya ‘yung tinutukoy ng mamang drayber. Pero siyempre, wala sa aming nagsasalita. para bang nagpapakiramdaman. Tinitingnan namin kung magbabayad na ang mamang katabi ko, kung siya nga iyon.

Pagsapit namin sa Samson Rd., hindi pa siya nagbabayad. Ni hindi nga siya tuminag sa pagkakaupo. Nagsalita ulit yung mamang drayber.

“Yung hindi pa nagbabayad, ha. Malapit na tayo sa Monumento.”

Pagkasabi niya ay hindi niya inalis ang mga mata sa rearview mirror. Para bang inaabangan niya na magbayad ‘yung mama. Pero hindi pa rin tumitinag ‘yung mama. Hindi pa rin umuusad ang dyip sa sobrang trapik.

Maya-maya, umabante na ang mga sasakyan sa harap ng dyip ngunit hindi pa rin umaabante ang dyip na sinasakyan namin. Nakatingin pa rin ang mamang drayber doon sa pasaherong hindi pa nagbabayad. Nang malayu-layo na ang agwat ng mga sasakyan, bumusina na ang bus na kasunod namin, na sa palagay ko ay naiinis na sa drayber ng dyip na sinasakyan namin na kanina pa ayaw umabante.

Parang nainis na rin ‘yung mamang drayber. Pagkambiyo niya ay biglang pinaharurot ang dyip. Kasabay ng maingay na rebolusyon ng selinyador ay isang malakas na tili ang narinig mula sa babaeng kasama ng mamang mukhang seaman. Napalingon kaming lahat. Napakabilis ng mga pangyayari. Sa isang iglap ay nakita ko na tumalon ang bata sa may bukana ng dyip palabas habang paandar ang sasakyan. Kasabay niyon ay isang matining na ingit ng preno ng bus na kasunod namin. Sumalpok sa kanya ang nagmamadaling bus.

Nagkagulo. Nagbabaan ang mga pasahero ng dyip. Bumaba din ang drayber ng bus at ng dyip na sinasakyan namin. Ilang sandali pa’t nakakumpol na ang mga tao sa paligid ng kinabagsakan ng bata. Bumaba rin ako. Makiki-usyoso.

Pero hindi ko na nagawang makapasok sa malaking bilog ng mga miron na naroon. Maingay. Umuugong ang iba’t-ibang kuro-kuro tungkol sa trahedyang naganap. May nagtatanong kung may kasama ba ang bata, may nagpapatawag ng pulis, ng duktor, ng ambulansya, may nakikipag-argumento sa dalawang drayber na kapwa gulat sa nangyari. Nagtataka ako kung bakit walang bumubuhat sa bata para dalhin sa ospital.

Maya-maya, nakita ko ang drayber ng dyip na naglalakad pabalik sa sasakyan. Hindi ko mawari sa hitsura ng kanyang mukha kung siya ba ay galit, inis, gulat o takot sa nangyari. Nilapitan ko siya at tinanong kung bakit hindi pa dinadala sa ospital ang bata. Sumagot siya.

“Patay na iyon. Bakit pa dadalhin sa duktor? Sira-ulong bata. Sana sinabi na lang niya na wala siyang pambayad. ‘Yan ang napapala ng mahilig mag 1-2-3,” ang wika niya sabay talikod.

Nagulat ako. Natakot. Nanghilakbot. Siya pala ang tinutukoy ng mamang drayber. Hindi ang mamang mukhang posporo na katabi ko. “Nasaan na nga pala siya?”

Inilibot ko ang aking mga mata at nakita ko siya na kasama ang mga taong nakikimasid. Umiiling. Maaaring nanghihinayang siya sa buhay ng bata at sa sinapit nito. Binato niya ng matalim na tingin ang mamang drayber ng dyip. Marahil ay galit siya sa kanya. Kung malalaman lang niya ang iniisip ko sa kanya kanina sa dyip, ang aking bintang at paghusga, marahil magagalit din siya sa akin.

Unti-unting nahawan ang mga tao nang maulinigan nila ang sirena ng pulis. Nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong lumapit sa bata.

Nakita ko siya. Nakadapa. Ang mga braso’t binti ay pili-pilipit. Nakabakas pa sa kanyang matang dilat at nakabukang bibig ang pagkagulat. Ang kanyang buhok ay basang-basa ng malapot na dugo na unti-unting umaagos sa kalye kung saan siya nakahandusay. Animo’y nakatingin ang mga mata niya sa aming lahat, nagsusumamo sa kalangitan, nagtatanong, “Apat na piso lang ba ang halaga ng aking buhay?”

Lumayo ako. Hindi makayanan ng sikmura ko ang nakita, hindi malunok ng kunsensya ang napakababaw na dahilan ng kanyang kamatayan.

Parang nasusuka yata ako. Dinukot ko ang panyo sa aking bulsa ngunit wala iyon dito. Sa halip, ang laman ng aking bulsa ay apat na mamiso. Naisip ko, mas masaya pa ako kung ang laman ng aking bulsa ay ang panyo at ang mga barya sanang ito ang laman ng bulsa ng batang nakahandusay sa aking harapan.

Ilang araw na ang lumipas mula nang masaksihan ko ang trahedyang iyon subalit hanggang ngayon, patuloy pa rin akong minumulto ng mga pangyayari. At sa tuwing sasakay ako ng dyip, pinagmamasdan ko ang kanilang mga mukha habang iniisip ko kung kaninong apat na pisong buhay ang masasaksihan kong mawawaldas sa pagkakataong ito.

Getting Ready, and Getting There

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Getting Ready, and Getting There
Text and Photos by Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
Animal Scene Magazine, 2011

For pet lovers, they say that the hardest part is the death of a pet. The truth is that it is just part of a bigger experience which is as daunting, challenging and tasking because the other half – being ready to fall in love again and opening one’s heart again – is just as difficult.

It was December of last year, 2010, when Snoop died.

Snoop is an Aspin, chocolate brown with streaks of black. He has been the only regular companion I had in the house since my family moved to Mindoro. We never asked to be with each other, me and Snoop – he was someone else’s pet who was left behind because it was what the changing times demanded. I never wanted a pet dog for several years for reasons I did not understand at first, but seriously, who wouldn’t fall in love with an adorable, faithful, intelligent Aspin who looks at you everyday with his tongue hanging out at the side of his mouth while his tail dances and wiggles frantically from side to side?

In the end, Fate would decide that we should stand alone together. And that we did.

And so, it had been like that: Snoop and I.

The everyday labor was neither heavy nor taxing. I feed him, wash his big, oversized playground for a cage and did not put him on a leash. He enjoys being hosed and it passed off as the intermittent bath time he needed to keep from becoming smelly. In exchange, I have a happy face greeting me everytime I come home, and someone to say goodbye to when I leave. I have another soul who shares with me the task of guarding the castle.

The family has left for a different home, just as he was left behind by his original human companion. Realizing the feeling of loss, we saw in one another the comfort we both needed.

We are kindred spirits who do not understand the idea of abandon. At the height of Ondoy, he was the first and the only one I saved, releasing him from his cage and placing him on higher grounds, letting him spend the rainy stretch with us on the second-floor of the house. During the night when the water level rose higher, I stood precariously from the second floor window, stooped slowly and picked him up and let him stay on the terrace to make sure he was safe.

Yes, we two were survivors. But we are not immortals.

Snoop, who is already between 7-10 years old (and older in dog years), suddenly became thin. It was as if overnight he lost all vigor. I noticed it when he stopped barking anymore. On December 22, I visited him. He looked me in the eye with the look of a dog worn out and tired but is still happy to see me. He tried to stand up to approach me, but all four legs collapsed, and he lay there, sprawled. I sat closer and touched him, as if telling him everything is going to be ok. And for a moment, even in his tired, weak self I felt he was at peace, just as I felt peaceful, unafraid of death that I was certain would come in the morning.

In silence, we said our goodbyes.

The next morning Snoop was in Doggie Heaven.

When Snoop died I realized why I wasn’t excited at the prospect of a pet dog when Snoop was just a puppy given to our care: I wasn’t over the loss of our pet. I wasn’t ready.

Now, seven months after Snoop’s death, a friend has offered to give me a puppy, and I asked myself: “Am I ready?”

I know many pet lovers lose their pet loved ones, and because they are natural animal lovers it is not far into the future that the prospect of having a new pet presents itself, thus facing the question of whether one is actually ready or not. But before answering this, it is important that one undergoes several steps.

Mourn – Losing a pet is a painful experience, and mourning is not just a social convention but is also a form of therapy to help the individual get over the loss. Talk to friends, relatives and family, especially those who are also human companions to the pet and might also be mourning the loss too.

Examine yourself – Being ready is more than just emotional readiness. Can you have a pet in your life right now? This should be a realistic self-examination and assessment. Is your lifestyle conducive to having a pet? If not, are there changes that need to be done and are you ok and comfortable with those changes?

Don’t be afraid – People always advise the broken hearted to learn to love again. The same is true with pets. While losing pets can be traumatic especially in consideration to how the pet was lost and the role of the individual, in moving forward it is important to remember that one should not be scared that you will again be helpless in keeping a pet from dying. What is important is that you know you learned something from the experience and will try to be a better human companion.

Get over it and move on – Don’t feel guilty. It is not about forgetting your pet, but allowing a new pet to enjoy the love you can give. It is about something new, and not about finding a mere replacement. Here, it is important to remind one’s self that the mindset should be starting a new life and a new episode in life with a new pet.

With all of these put into consideration, you are now in a better position to ask yourself: Am I ready?

Don’t be afraid to ask. Look for the answer, which is always in our hearts.

This is not in defense of Duterte

This is not in defense of Duterte.

This is in defense of the sentiments of the people to which I can relate to.

As a person who studied communication, I look at the campaign period for the presidency from this point of view because this is what I know and understand. I think every candidate tries to communicate to the electorate in a way that is consistent with their persona; Grace Poe projects herself as a respectful, dignified lawmaker; Robredo is using the same approach, although enhancing it with a tint of being perceived as ‘motherly’; Miriam is the strong-willed intellectual, because she is; and Duterte is the ‘masa’, and he talks to them in a manner that the ‘masa’ could relate to and respond to because, after all, campaigning is about, above anything else, winning the people’s sympathy, and by extension, winning their votes.

As he campaigns for support in the upcoming May 9 election, Duterte consistently focuses on fighting crime because this image of him as a crime fighter in Davao is what the people wanted first and foremost; this catapulted him to this race, and I think he is smart (or well advised) not to wade in deep waters where he is not really good at (like economics), and he admits that.

Yes, this is a serious cause for concern for people who are worried about having a president who is not well-versed in economics, but I think the reason why Duterte is generating this kind of response despite this weakness in a key aspect of running the nation is because the people are putting peace and order first in their priority in terms of what this country should achieve in the near and immediate future, believing that everything else will follow and fall into place, including stable, sustainable economics.

Simply said, Mayaman ka nga, pero hindi ka masaya dahil ang daming kriminal na pagala-gala. Hold up. Kidnap. Carjack. Home invasion. Mamili ka.

Duterte is using theatrics, but really, who isn’t during campaign period? The people allowed themselves to be regaled because they believe that once in Malacanang, the theatrics will end, and the real action will begin (personally, I believe that the current administration hasn’t stopped its theatrics, since we’re on the topic – just look at how the president is responding to the very serious problems in his plate and the endless excuses he makes over and over again – it is simply appalling, but I digress).

This is not in defense of Duterte.

This is in defense of the sentiment of the people to which I can relate to.

This is in defense of the validity of fear and being fed up.

Critics say that looking at the way Duterte speaks and rationalizes, it is not impossible that he’ll become a tyrant like Adolf Hitler or a fascist like Benito Mussolini.

Yes, Duterte can be a Hitler and Mussolini, but limiting the spectrum of what he can become is, to a point, unfair for argument’s sake, because there are also those who ruled in a tyrannical fashion who nonetheless proved effective in leading the country forward, like Marcos Pérez Jiménez of Venezuela and China’s Mao Zedong. While history is a great teacher, there is also danger in reading too much into it and setting the future in a pigeonhole. For argument’s sake, any presidential aspirant in the running today can become an evil despot – we can’t argue against it because none of us can see the future.

So yeah, there is reason to fear.

But I would rather have this kind of fear: the fear of breaking the law knowing the iron hand that is ready to slap me smack in the face is there, waiting, vigilant, and ready, rather than the kind of fear I have right now: the fear of being victimized by street thugs and petty criminals late at night, while walking, while on the bus or jeep, or even when in my own house, knowing that those tasked with law enforcement is inept and inutile at eradicating this kind of modern day pestilence, rendered to this embarrassing, pitiful state as a result of the kind of governance their commander in chief lacking political will inspires.

As for the semblance of being a fascist and his use of charisma and ruthlessness which is similar with Hitler’s approach that augured his rise to popularity in pre-war Germany, I agree with this observation, and I am not surprised.

The Philippines, like Germany during the ascension of a charismatic leader in Hitler, has a population many of which are plain sick and tired of an ineffective government which can’t stop lying to the people, which can’t stop amassing personal wealth by unabashedly looting the public coffers, which can’t stop the rise of criminality, which can’t provide a justice system of integrity considering how criminals with money always gets away with their evil deeds unscathed, while the streets continue as a worsening breeding ground for petty criminals police can’t apprehend, leaving honest, hard-working people in fear of their lives and their properties because there is no one else they can trust.

No one but Duterte, whom they hope can make real change happen. Duterte has become a popular choice because he does not mind getting his hands dirty.

I think this is what happens when the people are pushed against the wall. They want someone to help them push back.

I do not subscribe to state sponsored killings, but I am not naive to believe it isn’t happening right now or in past administrations, but to reiterate, I do not approve of it.

But if circumventing the law to fast track improvement in peace in order is what he’ll do, I’ll have to agree or disagree on a case per case basis.

Like many people, it is frustrating to see guilty individuals roam freely because they continually exploit the corrupt, lackadaisical justice system; it is a slap to the face of honest law-abiding people.

To my point, if Duterte will execute/rub out drug lords and rapists for example, go ahead. I think about the people these devils raped, killed, and drugged. I think about the other evils they perpetrated, like turning drug addicts into thieves and murderers for a quick buck. If Duterte will circumvent the law for that end, then I have to say that I do not have any problem with that at all.

They say this will sow fear. I say good, it is time fear becomes palpable again, and force this very crooked rod to become straight once again.

Fear will restore discipline. And if we become accustomed to living disciplined lives, then maybe we’ll regain old values long lost: self-respect, self-worth, dignity, a sense of honoring one’s word and commitment, and over time, a natural proclivity to stand on the side of morality.

When people tell me Duterte will kill people, I reiterate by asking them to look at the result of an inept government right now: people are already dying, because of petty crimes in the streets, because our soldiers are sent to the jungles to fight rebels, bandits and terrorists poorly armed, because of warlords in provinces fighting for electoral position and territorial control, because of drugs, because of criminal syndicates, because of dirty cops, because of the prevalence of cheap guns-for-hire.

The sad part is, today, most of the people ending up dead are law abiding individuals who mean no harm to others – people who are held up at gun point and refused to be taken advantaged of, ending with a bullet in the chest or a stab wound in the belly; people who are resting at home ending up massacred by a drug crazed junkie in need of money for more drugs.

It is time to return the favor, and send these devils straight to hell, a trip long delayed and overdue.

I am tired of living in fear because the government cannot protect me.

I want to be free of fear, as long as I know that I am law-abiding.

Please do not dumb down my argument for choosing Duterte for president, simply because you think he is a stupid choice.

Because this is not in defense of Duterte.

This is in defense of my right to live in a world free of fear.

Duterte

I am voting for an effective president, not for someone eyeing canonization and sainthood.

The Sword from the Stars

Kampilan Tala

It was supposed to be the beginning.

Instead, we – Sue and I – found ourselves looking at an end.

Like all expecting parents, the several-months-long pregnancy journey is filled with moments wherein we imagine how life would be with Kampilan Tala.

Now, none of these is coming true.

At least, not now.

Because when faced with the end, what I realized is that the end is the beginning. The end of the hope that Sue and I get to become parents to a son named Kampilan Tala is the beginning of a new chapter in our life as a couple. The end of Sue’s pregnancy is the beginning of our life as a couple – tested, scarred, cautious and all the more resolute in the belief that all things will come in due time, and that things happen for a reason outside of our own abilities to consciously shape the future as we hope it to be.

But the realization did not come easy. What was it they say, about how it is the darkest before dawn? I am not sure if it is scientifically true, but me, I saw a darkness I have never seen in the past, before I was given a new dawn.

What was immediately made real was this: the end of that night – April 19, 2015, the longest night of my life – signals the start of a new day, a day that imposes itself upon us, notwithstanding grief; an impetus, a wrecking ball.

It felt like the end – and for quite some time, it was more than a feeling, as I held Kampilan Tala in my arms – wrapped in green cloth, eyes closed, lips carrying a smile now frozen (a smile I know he was saving for his mom come the big day), body still warm and soft. I wailed unabashedly, engulfed with an unbearable loss.

Facebook status after

At that time, I just don’t know where to go from there, or if I even wanted to move towards any direction at all. I just wanted to stay still, hoping that this can make everything – the loss, the pain – go away.

It was beyond painful: it was unbearable, and many times, I just wanted to die, so I can follow my son to where he is now. Every time I go out to buy necessities in the nearby convenience store, I would look at the speeding vehicles along E. Rodriguez, and I’d think about how easy it is to die, by just stepping in front of any of the cars and trucks zooming back and forth.

Or just jump from the third floor balcony of the hospital room, plummet head first.

After that episode, I found myself in a darker place, if there was one. I can’t sleep, and in the rare moments that I doze off, I would wake up with a start. I was disoriented and forgetful. After the night terrors came the sense of hopelessness, and the lack of desire and purpose to live. After that, I just wanted everyone to lose someone, for the world to be swallowed by death here and there, so that I know I am not alone in my misery.

During those times, I feared never finding peace again. I was a broken man, doomed to self-destruct soon.

Until that one evening when I saw a shooting star blazing across the night sky. My first thought was “It’s Tala.” My son.

And somehow, in that moment, as I watch the shooting star disappear on the horizon, I felt a sense of hope again. I was awashed with a new-found positive energy.

I felt Kampilan Tala whispering in my heart: begin again, to be happy, to hope, to live.

I have been trying ever since, anak.

Tattoo of Kampilan Tala

Salamat Kampilan Tala. You are my warrior spirit, as I fight the battles in this war we call life.

You are my Sword from the Stars. And today, I will buy you flowers.

Kampilan Tala's photo, urn and flowers


Postscript

Last year, I lost my son. It was a painful and unbearable experience. My wife and I could have not made it through this adversity if not for family and friends who supported us, gave us kind and warm words, and showed us that while we lost Kampilan Tala, we are still surrounded by many people who love us and cared for us. Like Kampilan Tala, you and your words are never forgotten and forever treasured, by us who are eternally grateful.

Gloc 9 & Binay – a mis(sed) communication

Gloc 9 found himself in the center of a firestorm after a video of him performing in a campaign sortie for presidential aspirant and current VP Jejomar Binay and his party-mates surfaced.

Many fans felt disappointed and/or dismayed seeing their idol performing in a campaign/party that promotes the vice president and his political allies running for office.

Fans took to social media to express their sentiment, and while there are those who are openly wondering why Gloc 9 accepted that gig, there are also those who showed Gloc 9 support.

To put things in context: Gloc 9 is a rapper famous for his lyrics that provide strong social commentary on the many ills of the society – from homophobia, to the evils of war, violence and prostitution, and yes, corruption in the government and the resulting social injustice. Binay, his family and many of his allies are currently in the midst of an important legal battle which, in victory, would validate him, whereas in defeat, would permanently tarnish his and his allies’ image.

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2015/08/26/More-corruption-allegations-vs-VP-Binay.html

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/26/1546557/binay-dared-explain-corruption-allegations-during-campaign

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/757363/new-witness-vs-binay-in-corruption-hearing

Here are the two sides: there are those who believe that, considering Binay’s current legal woes involving but not limited to graft and corruption, vis-à-vis Gloc 9’s diatribe against dirty corrupt politicians, the rapper should have opted to pass up on the invitation to perform, as a matter of principle.

You can’t work for someone who represents one of the many social problems you constantly address in your songs, can you?

The other side believes that Gloc 9 can do as he pleases, and there is nothing wrong if Gloc 9 appears on the stage during a Binay sortie.

Weighing the right versus the moral, and wondering if it is possible that the moral is right, and the right is moral. That’s always a tricky one.

After his brief silence, Gloc 9 responded with this message, via Facebook:

Gloc 9 responds to viral Binay video
Gloc 9 posted a response via his Facebook account

Gloc 9, whether knowingly or otherwise, created an IMAGE for himself as a rapper: he was the voice of the poor and the oppressed, a rags-to-riches fairy-tale story who, despite his success, remains in touch with the masa and continues to write about their experiences, helping them fight the good fight.

Binay, for many, is the SYMBOL of the oppressor. People believe he oppressed the masses by pocketing huge amount of money from the public coffers, and by using his power and influence to provide his friends ‘financially rewarding’ projects, to the detriment of those who truly need and/or deserve it.

So when Gloc 9 took the stage in a Binay sortie, people were surprised:

I thought he hated dirty politicians, so why is he performing for them? This is the watered down, baseline sentiment of those who were shocked at what they saw, and what they think it means.

For Gloc 9, the answer is simple: Trabaho lang.

Gloc 9 implied that he wasn’t endorsing Binay.

I think it would have been easier for everyone if Gloc 9 was indeed a Binay supporter, and him being there (even though it is a paid gig) was to show support for the person he feels should be the next president. If this was the case, the issue would be over. Many celebrities have made public their choice among the presidential hopefuls, and fans let their idols be, even if the fans wanted to vote someone else and not the choice of their idol.

But like the man implied, he isn’t endorsing Binay. Just had a paid gig with the man, that’s all.

Is it that simple, for an influential public figure to just say ‘trabaho lang‘?

No.

For one, there’s “endorsement by association”. For Gloc 9, this could have just been another paid gig. This is not his first rodeo. But to the audience, this is more than Gloc 9 performing as per the contract for this paid gig. This is already endorsement by association.

It can’t be helped if some fans now are wondering if Gloc 9 is too wrapped up in putting in work to earn money for his family that he doesn’t have that clear line separating the gigs he should take and the projects he should beg off from.

For example, if a popular and openly homophobic individual books Gloc 9 to sing at his party, wouldn’t his act of gracing the event of a known homophobic be in contrast with the empowering message of his hit song Sirena?

But I digress, so.

Guy Masterman (2012), in his book Sponsorship: For a Return on Investment, explained that “by placing a celebrity into an advertisement, or other setting, and alongside a product, the connection between the two can be described as being ‘by association’ in that one endorses the other because they are seen to be together” (p. 106).

Because they are seen together. The power of proximity.

This means the image of a celebrity holding a marijuana joint can be immediately interpreted as an endorsement, the celebrity encouraging people to smoke pot, even if this is not the truth and even if the interpretation was taken out of context.

For some, Gloc 9 and Binay in one stage is immediately seen as endorsement by association. Gloc 9’s intentions may have been pure (earn money in a decent, legal way, accept projects for as long as his schedule permits, and not promote a politician along the way), but as an influential celebrity, he should have also done his due diligence and assessed first how this will make him look.

Like any celebrity, Gloc 9’s actions – to the eyes of the fans – have a symbolic meaning. Sharing the stage with Parokya ni Edgar symbolizes his friendship with the group. Wearing FMCC shirt symbolizes his esteem of the late FrancisM., and his loyalty to the apparel brand created by the Master Rapper.

This symbolic value is interpreted by the fans in a subjective manner. While that does not mean the interpretation is automatically correct, Gloc 9, as an artist, should have made the effort to make sure there is no misunderstanding resulting from what he was about to do.

Believe it or not, Gloc 9 could have avoided this whole fan uproar. He could have announced via social media that he has a gig in a Binay sortie, and that this was a paid performance, nothing more. He could have stated prior to the gig that he wasn’t, in any way, endorsing Binay or any politico. Furthermore he was just using the opportunity to reach to his fans who will be there amongst the crowd who’d would be happy to see him rap, which was always a powerful motivation to return to the stage.

He could have opened his tour of gracing various political sorties with this announcement, and had he done this, this whole negative backlash would have been entirely avoided.

Why? Because you communicated. You explained before the fans’ highly imaginative and very critical wheels of interpretation started turning. You initiated the effort to avoid any misinterpretation.

And you did this because your fans are important to you.

The crisis could have been avoided if you showed you cared, if you showed your fans their feelings and opinions matter to you – and it really should, if you appreciated the fans so much that you do not want to disappoint them by appearing on stage with someone many people hate because of corruption – the same problem the fans thought you, Gloc 9, hated too.

Remember when we were kids? Kapag bati kayo ng kaaway ko, hindi na tayo bati. Hmp!

To the fans, Gloc 9 is not just a rapper. Gloc 9 is their idol and their hero. To the fans, Gloc 9 is an artist who uses his gift of writing and rapping to help in the battle against social ills. They all look up to Gloc 9, and they want Gloc 9 to set an example for others to follow.

Do it because it is your job. Trabaho lang.

For some fans, they see this as Gloc 9’s message to them, and many are disappointed because they cannot, in good conscience, abide by such a Machiavellian and Draconian outlook.

Are we alive just to work? Aren’t we alive so that we can live, love, fight social injustice, be the voice of truth and moral values, inspire, make a difference, influence change?

True, Gloc 9 is a father and a husband whose main responsibility is to provide for his family.

But did he do the right thing here?

I will leave you with this:

“What is right is not always moral, and what is moral is not always right.”

I have my humble opinion, and you have yours too.

Mawalang galang na po, sa taong nagra-rap at ngayon ay nakatayo.

Amats

Gitarista ka, drummer ako.
UE Caloocan ako, ikaw Recto.
Forward ka, guard ako.
Gusto mo magpasa, ako gusto ko tumira
Tsk. Nasa ilalim na yung bola, ilalabas mo pa.
Buti matangkad ka, kasi vertically-challenged ako.
Kaya ikaw kumuha ng rebound, ako na tatakbo.
Payat ka pa rin, ako mataba na.
Kapal pa ng buhok mo, ako nakakalbo na.
Tinutulog mo ang mahabang byahe, ako malapit na sumuka.
Magaling ka sa details, ako mabilis mataranta.
Gusto mo Airsoft, ako bumili ng espada.
Tinapos natin yung Contra, ikaw yung kumamada
Bagot ako sa arcade, buti sulit pag pinapanood kita.
At nung napako ka sa paa, ako yung pinalo.
Badtrip. Gusto ko sumigaw, “Wow, Pa, ‘nlabo!”
 
Pero ganoon talaga pag kuya ka
At kahit magkaiba trip natin, ako yung una mong kasangga!
 
Ito nga siguro yung dahilan bakit matatag tayo,
Sa gitna ng pagkakaiba at salpukan, sa huli
Mag utol pa din tayo.
Tara inuman na, putek!
 

Masama daw ang tattoo

I came across this guy’s comment, saying tattoo is bad.

Masama daw ang tattoo.

True. If your tattoo is something you use to spread the message of hate and discord, masama nga yan.

If your tattoo is not healing well to the point that your skin is festering, masama nga yan.

If you are like the mother in this video who forces an underage kid to have a tattoo, masama nga yan.

BUT

If you have tattoos because the story of your painted ancestors inspired you, and you seek to emulate them and make an effort to reconnect to your colorful past by undertaking the same art of body modification, because the tattooed ones back then are the warriors and the mystics and the seers and the elders and the leaders, and it is a truly inspiring and poignant story, anong masama dun?

If your tattoo is an expression of sentiment – like a portrait, a tribute to a deceased loved one you cherish and miss so much, anong masama dyan?

If your tattoo is your symbolic way of showing people who you are, anong masama dyan?

If your tattoo is the tome containing the beliefs you most hold dear, and looking at it is a reminder and an inspiration, anong masama dyan?

"In Islam, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ) is part of the Quran, Sura Al-Baqara, Verse 156...The phrase is commonly translated as "Verily we belong to God, and to God we return."
“In Islam, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ) is part of the Quran, Sura Al-Baqara, Verse 156…The phrase is commonly translated as “Verily we belong to God, and to God we return.”

If tattoo is your artistic self expression, anong masama dyan?

If you see your body as a temple, and tattooing is your means of decorating the walls, anong masama dyan?

This is an education on context.

Anything can either be good or bad.

So before you make a sweeping generalization and post it on social media where millions of trolls prey on unwitting people who are not careful with what they say and how they say it, first, mind your words.

Think it through.

Set the context.

Educate yourself first.

What do you really know about tattoo, anyway?

A tattooed Igorot
A tattooed Igorot

 

Whang-od Photo by allanbarredo on Flickr
Whang-od
Photo by allanbarredo on Flickr
From Richard J. Field's Magellan's Cross (Trafford Publishing, 2012)
From Richard J. Field’s Magellan’s Cross (Trafford Publishing, 2012)

Paul A. Rodell's Culture and Customs of the Philippines (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002)
Paul A. Rodell’s Culture and Customs of the Philippines (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002)

In the end, should you choose to be obstinate, at least don’t be vague, man.

Commit to your ideas, to your beliefs, however stupid or outdated it may sound to other people.

Pakialam ba nila, right?

You say tattoo is masama. You know what else is masama?

Making generalizations. Subscribing to stereotypes. Insisting at looking through the pigeon hole. And at this day and age, still?

Magaling, magaling

Philippines Reverse Brain Drain

Magaling ka, bakit hindi ka mag-abroad? (You are talented, why not work overseas?)

I get this all the time, from relatives and friends alike.

Sometimes it’s an empty gesture, a feigned act. Sometimes, it is a sincere proposition they’d want you to truly consider.

Most people mean well, I know, and it is heartwarming that they’d want me to experience the comforts brought about by being successful abroad. It is not every day that someone comes up to you and recognizes your talents, believing you are worth more than what you have right now.

So why do I feel disheartened? Because it is a reminder of a reality, that many talented Filipinos opt to go abroad, that the immediate impulse is to leave, which, over time, becomes a resolve cemented by despair and frustration.

I don’t blame them. It is not their fault. The truth is, there is very little opportunity here in the Philippines to tap, enhance and nurture talent.

I’m a writer. Someone told me years ago that this is a great profession, if only I was in the right country. A decade and a half in this gig, and I know what that person meant.

So would I go abroad where there is a bigger chance that my talents would be better rewarded? No.

Kung magaling ka, huwag kang mag-abroad. I say this sans the self-righteous tone. This is an entreaty.

Stay here. Use your talents here. Have faith that the Philippines is set to turn a corner soon.

When that happens, I am proud to say I did my part, however little it may seem in the grand scheme of things, and you would too, I promise.

For all the maladies that have crippled the Pearl of the Orient, what we need now is action, a collective effort, one Herculean heave, through the combined strength of those who still believe in what the Philippines – and the Filipino – can truly become.

There is no remedy in complaining. There is no solution in mud slinging. And with brain drain, what is extinguished from us as a country isn’t just talent, but hope, promise, and will.

Magaling ka, bakit hindi ka bumalik ng Pilipinas?

Before we die, let us give ourselves a chance at a life dedicated – in part or in whole – to helping Philippines become a great nation. Ang mabuhay para sa iyo.

Pilipino, para sa Pilipinas, para sa iyo ito.

An open letter to ESPN GO

Screen shot of ESPN GO's homepage and where the video clip is located
Screen shot of ESPN GO’s homepage and where the video clip is located

To the person who wrote the title “GRIFFIN GETS OFF GROUND. NAILS 3 BEFORE LANDING”

Dear Sir or Madam,

First of all, this is really a very intriguing title of a video clip I found while browsing your website. My curiosity piqued, I clicked, watched, and was disappointed.

The title did not match what transpired in the video.

Is it true the ball went in first before Griffin landed on the floor?
Is it true the ball went in first before Griffin landed on the floor?

Let me get this clear. By saying, “NAILS 3 BEFORE LANDING”, do you mean to say that the basketball – which he heaved outside the three-point arc – was inside the hoop before his feet touched the ground?

Exactly.
Exactly.

By this, you are implying that Griffin can stay in the air longer than normal. Yes, Griffin is gifted. He can jump very high. But remain airborne long enough that the ball went in the hoop first before he landed? Even His Airness Michael Jordan cannot do that.

I think the title is more air than truth. And this same ESPN GO video clip is proof.

In said 23-second video clip you can watch at ESPNGO, Griffin launched at around 6 seconds into the clip, and at around 00:07/00:23 Griffin’s feet are on the floor, the ball still up in the air.

When it went in, Griffin was already backpedaling to play defense on the other end.

Here’s a screengrab:

Clearly, the ball was still in the air when Griffin's feet hit the ground. This is not him making a 3 before landing.
Clearly, the ball was still in the air when Griffin’s feet hit the ground. This is not him making a 3 before landing.

I think what you meant was GRIFFIN GETS OFF GROUND. GETS A 3 POINT SHOT OFF BEFORE LANDING. When we say “nail” it means it is already a made shot. Griffin sank the trey AFTER he landed. He nailed a 3 AFTER he landed.

Physics. Gravity. That’s how it naturally is. You land first before the ball enters the ring, for shots that go in. Look at them.

Can you imagine seeing a jump shooter still airborne even after his three-point shot sank? Freaky.

While we, your readers, appreciate creative, fun and exciting titles, we do not want to be misled by an inappropriate, unsuitable or incorrect title.

Thanks!
Nathan

download

APEC-tado: Pinoys deserve the pulis’ very best, everyday

If the PNP can make foreigners feel protected, why not the Filipinos everyday?
If the PNP can make foreigners feel protected, why not the Filipinos everyday?

For a Wednesday morning commute, the streets are eerily empty. Sidewalks usually teeming with people moving in haste or waiting for a jeep are slowly gathering dust. The gray clouds and the slight mist early in the day makes everything more dramatic and surreal.

The road – wide open, bereft of the daily curse that has become the bane of commuters from all walks of life. The kind of road that only reveals itself during select moments – Maundy Thursdays, morning of January 1, when Manny Pacquiao has a fight, or when there is a big AlDub occasion unveiling.

The train – almost empty, making for a comfortable ride sans passengers elbowing each other and selfish, entitled individuals throwing rude judgemental stares to those who won’t offer their seats for someone else, as if they know best who deserves to sit and who should stand.

I mouthed a silent prayer. Why can’t everyday be like this?

It was serene, relaxing, peaceful – yeah, kind of weird to a certain extent, and out of the ordinary, but something I appreciate nonetheless, considering how stressful everyday commute is during normal days, and most especially during Christmas season. It was a commute like how you see it in the movies, from Sisa Street in Tinajeros, Malabon all the way to LRT’s Buendia station in Pasay; had I been in the mood for some music, it would have been a perfect music video reel.

And then there were the cops.

They number 30 to 40 easily, and quite visible. I think that was the intention. It was a mix of the typical button down blues and cops in camos. Most of them were clustered under the LRT infrastructure, along Gil Puyat. Most of them carry assault rifles – M16A1 and M4A1. Many are busy talking to one another, while some are busy with their mobile phones.

It was the same scene at the corner of Gil Puyat and Osmena highway. Every once in a while, a police car would zoom past us, doing routine patrol duties (I think).

Now, it has become a different kind of serene – warzone-type serene, wherein the only feature of an otherwise empty street is a cadre of armed individuals.

I wasn’t afraid. However, I was curious: if we have enough police officers for PNP to be this visible in the streets, then why not make this a regular thing?

Every day, people are victimized by criminals simply because there is no police visibility that can provide immediate deterrence or quick response.

I know this, because I see it firsthand more than once. If you ride a jeep from Buendia to Monumento at 10pm six times a week, you’d see how brazen criminals and street thugs are, snatching cellphones, jewelry, or bags, or worse declaring a hold up while the jeep is in transit.

I know that one of the reasons these cops are out in full view is to provide security in lieu of the ongoing APEC summit.

But it is also for show. Admit it: we Filipinos like to impress others. As the country plays host for the APEC Summit, the Philippines once again is trying to impress its guests, as well as the foreign audience watching this important event.

I say this: before trying to impress other people, why not impress us – the Filipinos – first?

We want to see cops on the streets, because that is where threat to public safety begins, and police presence on the streets is the first step towards deterrence. By staying visible and mobile, they can respond to calls for assistance faster, especially since in life-and-death situations, arriving a minute earlier can be a big difference.

giphy

We don’t want them relaxing in air-conditioned precincts, passing time playing Clash of Clans, and nurturing a culture of indolence, which corrupts many cops who started out as idealistic young men and women.

We – the Filipino people – want to be proud of our police force, regardless of whether or not there are foreign delegations visiting the country. We want to feel protected by the very institution that promises to do so, and we want to experience the same level of protection they promise to provide foreign delegates. We want to celebrate them as the real modern-day, everyday hero that we can rely on and trust with our lives.

Give us a reason to feel this way.