December 31, 2004

Jose Rizal : An Icon Management Test


More than a hundred years ago, in Bagumbayan, shots rang out in the western sky and a man fell down without being able to face his assassins. He stumbled to the ground without being able to turn a complete three hundred sixty twist that he had labored to create when the word “Fuego!!!” rattled and hummed into the wind.

What courage does a man has to be able to muster enough resolve in order to face the unthinkable in the very instance of death. I have not known any man other than Jose Rizal, who could retain such composure, writing even what could be the greatest farewell ever written when he inscribed within the dim stonewalls put on him, a paean to this Motherland, a last goodbye. ….Adios patria adorada….Goodbye, my dear Motherland….

Jose Rizal is the man we see as an icon test, the standards we seek in order to size up our character. He has the courage that every Filipino needs in these times of the greatest trial to our nation’s character to rise above these seemingly unending bouts against poverty and corruption, that led the eventual fall of a once great and rich nation. We are still great now, but we have been much more in the past.

In his words, “the youth is the nation’s tomorrow”, and no patriotic words could ever be truer than this. The young amongst us are the rising stars that shall take us surging again towards the sky like a phoenix from the flame. They will be our last great hope to bend this stranglehold of misfortune and desperation that holds us down down like a monkey wrench. We, the Filipino people seem to have the perchance of pulling each other down that for every one man that escapes these desperation, a hundred lies naked and homeless in the streets and our daughters become whores that cater to fat-bellied thieves in the government and our sons are pushed to take up the hands of mischief and become hardened in crime and violence.

It is the moment for us to rebel and seek to put an end to this vicious cycle where generation after generation, we grow into a people lacking in extraordinary vigor and persistence. Our youth must survive this test and we must see our hero, the great Jose Rizal as a test of character for all of us, to emulate his discipline as a young shy creative student until the day he became the courageous young man that he had been, without thought to the benefit of the self but always to the benefit of the greater all, even in the very seconds that those murderous shots rang out in the wind-swept shores of Manila.

Every day we are bombarded with false icons and false gods. Movie starlets abound that goes gyrating in half-naked garments and they only instill the more animal instincts of our youth. What becomes then of our young but sex-crazed individuals who only seek the pleasure for the material self and puts away the passion and patriotism to contribute to the greater well-being of our country.

In politics, and in government service, we honor and put on a pedestal those that had fattened themselves with public money. They become our honorees with honoris causa here and honoris causa there. They become godfathers and godmothers to every betrothal there is in town and every loving child that are newly born. They become the toast of the town. The few ones that labor in honesty, like the man who rides a bicycle to congress, do not ever become a godfather to any weddings or a special guest in the openings of some fancy restaurants---at least not in the grandest scheme. We honor those that put us down. They are the cancers of our society.

Rich men within us just go walking past the hungered in the streets. They have lost their hearts towards their downtrodden brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus Christ had once said: “Whomsoever said he loves God then hates his brother is a liar for how could he love God whom he could not see and yet hates his brother whom he could see”. We see them parading their charities when disasters come. They become listed in some foundations as the donor of this and the donor of that. That makes us wish that every day there is a disaster for it seems that there has to be some news-rich disaster that they come out from their mansions and castles in order to be part of some much talked about disaster.

Everyday, there is a disaster my brothers and sisters. Everyday, we see men and women who sleep in the streets and carry their young in their hungry arms even when it rains outside. We see infant crying in the night for they seek the milk of their mothers that are not there when they need them. They have no roof, no food, no water and no medicines to cure them. Yet, we pass by them like we do not see a daily disaster.

Everyday there is a disaster. Our laborers work for pittance and at times they earned lesser than that what is paid a mule. Yet, we do not see this as an everyday disaster. We see the earnings of these companies skyrocketing to the roof and yet the pay we earn moves like turtle. Net income increase for the year here, net income increase for the year there. Targets overlapped here, target overlapped there.

Yet our icons becomes them, those who seek not the hands of their brothers and sisters but labor and strive only so that they could build another mansion when they already have two, and looks forward to buy another car when they have already seven in their garages.

Our youth must see another form of icons. Of courage and discipline in order that we as a nation must rise from this quagmire of poverty and desecration of spirit. We must find new heroes to lead us forward, to move against the wind, to strive further even if the hill is so steep and the enemies are ever formidable.

Our youth today must become brave and patient. They must be industrious and resilient. Serious in their studies, and they must stop at nothing to gain more and more knowledge. At times we stopped when we see the difficulties are tremendous. We do not stop until we can build airplanes that will fly into the air or even rockets that shall roam and orbit the spaces above us.

We must promise not to recreate the mistakes of generations past. We must learn and rise from the ashes. Even when our young are just children now playing in the fields, we must invoke on them to please prepare themselves to become the people of the future, the builders of a rising nation, and then we shall rise up again like a phoenix from the flame.

And to start this uprising, we must all be prayerful to the Lord God for everything begins and ends from Him.

December 29, 2004

TSUNAMI! TSUNAMI!

And the world was shook (literally it had seemed) by a legendary scourge known to man as Tsunami. It is a word of Japanese origin just like Haiku. Except for that one singular similarity in the country of nativity, everything else between the two Nippon words is farthest apart like the space that operates between Milky Way and Andromeda.

Unlike the dreaminess of a short lyrical poem, Tsunami refers to a giant accumulation of seawater, rising up steadily from a certain situs point where the earth’s core is violently disturbed---as in an earthquake underneath the ocean---and gradually builds up waves whose force exponentially increases with each nautical mile it navigates. Thus, the farther the shore hit, the higher the water rising to dry lands where the ill-fated inhabitants lay complacent and unawares and thus, the worse of disaster it becomes. Tsunami is one of the most unforeseen among all force majeure, and at the same time amongst the deadliest of all. Like serpents in the field, Tsunamis strikes when nobody is watching.

We grieve with sympathy for those who were lost in this yet another earthly disaster. The rumblings of nature are at times inconceivable but such is the way of the world.

At times we feel drowned into the abyss of disaster after disaster, and yet we try to persevere and survive past each tragedy because man by nature perseveres and survives any hardships he encounters---he has no choice but to rise up again like a phoenix from the sun. That was how man evolved through a prolonged and protracted adaptation to the climate and environment that surrounds him. When there will be a time that humans should wither, that would be the time that we will lost our spirit to go on and persist; to resist and struggle, to live and survive. Thus we see the early man of the ancient world taking each painful and slow step towards the preservation of the specie until he did know fire and the wheel allowed him much more distance in much lesser effort. He have seen fire and he had built arrows and molten wares, and then his existence become more sufferable with more food on the table and better armor against predators and fellow humans who only seek the blood of their own in their calloused hands. And so the specie persisted and humanity today finds comfort and solace that our ancestors have not withered despite the cruelty of their prehistoric environment.

At present, we are perturbed by the landslides and the hurricanes and the menacing super-typhoons that pursue our deepest fears---pursuing it like no other. And now, we are face to face with another juggernaut called Tsunami---one that strikes us from the back, and strikes us in its deadliest form. We must persist and stay faithful to the willings of our Lord. For it may be the harshness of fate that sorrowed our hearts every time we see the piling corpses on the glaring television screens, yet is also fate that allows us to persist and insist and traverse any hindrance to the survival of the specie. If there be a time as I said that we will lose sight on persisting to exist, we may lose the spirit that enlivened and emboldened our ancestors to take each step forward---no matter how difficult, no matter how hard.

We must find a way to survive this menace called Tsunami. Man must persist.

December 26, 2004

Hey Mr. Tambourine Man!

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy
and there ain't no place I'm going to.
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song
for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following
you.

Though I know that evenings empire has returned into
sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not
sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to
meet,
And the ancient empty
street's too dead for dreaming.

---Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine
Man


It’s Christmas Day! We hope we can have all the gadgets that our hands could ever get----cellphones, internet, telephone, blueberries, Palm Pilots, walkie-talkies---whatever, so just as we can greet as many friends as possible.


I want to greet Tony and Russell and others but Tony must be at his Mom’s house as usual like in the past years( I spent some memorable Christmases there when we were in highschool) and Russell must be in Sibuco right now. I had some friends in mind whom I could only reach through the cellphone but the darnest thing happened when I lost my unit sometime ago and never had any replacement since then. But Merry Christmas to every one and to every soul that may have gotten lost in the abyss of blogosphere and found themselves lost and peeking into this site.

The wife, Evelyn, as usual prepared the Noche Buena but we were so tired doing some last minute buying spree and it was already morning that the kids were up and about, eating whatever was prepared. There were just a lot of celebrations the past week that I did not feel good eating any meat or any cooked food for that matter and I just wallowed into bowls after bowls of fruit salad. By the volume and variety of food on our table, this year saw us having lesser. There are just a lot to spend for like gifts for the kids and the grandsons and granddaughters---I bet you could not have the best of all worlds.

And we are planning to buy a new bicycle for the second child, Yves. Partly, the reason why the food on our Noche Buena table is much lesser now is because we are planning to have the neighborhood kids in our house today for kiddie games again. Last time they have the most native of pansit that one could ever find, but now they may have some hotdogs and spaghettis, a little occidental dish for them. We may have lesser this year but having the neighborhood kids for a little fun makes the day more meaningful for us---and much, much more eventful than any Christmas in the past. I see my kids growing and I delight to see them starting to have relationships with other kids around. Reminds me how blissful we were in our childhood when there are more kids around to play with us.

Now, that I finally became more and more a Christian, I was dreaming of hams in my sleep, but no hams on the table. I wonder how it taste like.

We all have our Christmas stories but what is this year’s storiest of all stories? What does this day mean to all of us? Is it merely a day of great food and merriment? Do we understand what we are celebrating and whose day we are glorifying? Who is Christ to us and how does He fit into this bedlam of joy and pleasure?

I do not mean to be preachy. I apologize. As what Bono quipped in his live rendition of the U2 song Silver and Gold, “I don’t mean to bug you, huh.”

This afternoon, I was retreating to my bed and put on some MP3 music, the ones I hacked from file-sharing modules. I have stopped hacking lately since my conscience clarified the fact that downloads of this kind may be a form of thievery. Some thief we are at times. Although some Supreme court in some U.S. states decided that file-sharing is legal.

And so I lay there on my bed reading the papers and Bob Dylan got to croon some old-time ditties. His song “Like A Rolling Stone”, the one with “once upon a time you look so fine…” just got recently honored by the Rollingstone magazine as “The Greatest Rock and Roll Song” of all time.

And funny how Bob’s voice reverberated through my head, as I was slowly lulled into half-sleep. He kept on singing in an almost yelping manner, “….Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man sing a song for me….I’m not sleepy and there is nowhere I am going to…..Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man sing a song for me…In a jingle-jungle morning I come following you….”.

Then I saw the streets in my head and many of those homeless people in their dirty and tattered clothes. When I was in Manila, I use to pass by these people through Recto St., a place I frequent almost daily as I head towards San Beda College where I was reviewing for the bar examinations. Through Sta. Mesa, Cubao and Taft Avenue, they go walking and sleeping in the sidewalks that everywhere I see them, they seem to have the same faces and the same clothes, as if they were clones that was generated into a whole specie of man, in order to suffer and grieve, for the sole purpose of letting the world know how grave some suffering of man is.

In my last Sunday in Manila that year, a man with a cart kept on following me as I walk down Taft Avenue towards La Salle where I was to take the darnest examination of all. I panicked a little since it was so early in the morning and the daylight was not yet come, thinking the man in ragged clothes might pull a knife on me and make just another entry in the crime statistic. But I cleared all of my senses and stopped walking, and earned enough courage to ask him why he was after me. He pointed to the food I was carrying in a plastic bag. Without any hesitation, I gave it to him. I was expecting some food handouts from my brods in the Alpha Rho Lambda Law fraternity that day anyway, as part of the bar operations. And I still remember his face. He wasn’t that old but some sanity was lost on his face. I have reckoned then that hunger and desperation could make a person lost sanity slowly bit by bit, day by day and moments after moments as the pangs of hunger gradually eats up the person. I thought then that if I had a lot of more food then, I would have given more. He was singing to me, “…hey Mr. Tambourine Man…sing a song for me…”.

Then I saw Koming in my head as Mr. Dylan repeats and repeats his glorious verses. I do not know why the hell he was called Koming. I have never heard a moniker like that before. Maybe his real name was Nicomedus, in deference to some Greek icon---and it becomes Koming in the shortest breath of the tongue.

He is an old man living on the streets; in fact he rolls his linen in the vicinity just fronting our house. He had no relations, or more particularly he had lost relations, or to put it more clearly, his relations does not tend to him as what was expected.

Koming was a regular tambay in the streets of Lustre St. in his healthier days. If I am not mistaken, the last time I saw him in fair physical condition, he was peddling cigarettes along the sidewalks of downtown Zamboanga. In many previous days and months or years ago, I saw him often with a hammer in a hand and some other carpenter’s tool in another, and a cigarette was always tuck behind his ears. In legends told now by those who knew him well, they said that the old man did gain some wealth in his younger days that he had owned cows and traded rice by the sacks. I see this particular story as mere legend for how could he have fallen so steeply into hard times. Such things are staple of movies, aren’t they? Now as I see him, he has completely nothing and he is as raggedy as any person living in the streets, with dirt darkening his skin and his clothes do not fit him no more.

About months ago, Koming fell ill and stopped selling cigarettes in a corner of the downtown streets. He just fell ill one day and the sickness so bad that he could not tend to his own necessities anymore. He could not even attend to the proper manner of nature’s call, and thus began his downright desperation. The owner of the house where he had rented a room for quite sometime now had asked him to leave as his immediate surroundings became so unsightly with feces and urine. His other relations living in the same barangay refused to allow him shelter mainly for reasons that I have mentioned above (he could not tend on his own). He has no wife and children, that was his main inadequacy; for if he ever did had a child, somebody would have tended to him through a difficult sickness like he has now where only the loved ones could have the patience to care through such often sickening situation.

And so Koming slept on the streets just near us. So near that in the beginning I talked to him for some while and took note that not only was his movement was so weakened and limited, but his mind is already much clouded. He blubbers and talk about things without connection to anything he said previously. The effect of stroke tells on him so gravely but at some moment when I converse with him, he becomes lucid and suddenly talked like his mind is intact. I wonder if he was just making up his blubbering act. I feel at times that it was only his defensive mechanism to stave off the embarrassment of his situation. You see I am insane already so I am excused for looking so dirty and smelling so awful, he must have declared to all of us by pretending to be mentally retarded. At times, he cries when I give him food and I could see that he was trying his best to keep the tears back. I thought for once then, that this man might just be playing dumb.

And now it’s raining outside, that for every drop of rain, my mind imagines how that man must be feeling in the coldness of the night. Among the things that have I delivered to him was a spread of foam, which I cut out in order for him to sleep a little more comfortable, a pail where water could be poured for washing, a pair of slippers and some plate. I think I forgot to give him some blankets.

It is not that the relations have abandoned him altogether. They give him regular food. There are even some richer relations that would pass by and leave him packs of cigarettes and tetra-packed orange juices. When there are days to celebrate in the community, like Christmas, someone would hand him some real cooked food. It is mainly the unsanitary condition of his person that makes it harder for his relations to take him in. So he had been built a little wooden shack nearby us, and he passes these kind of cold nights in a house without a door with only a huge opening and nothing much else. No window, no ceiling. One day I whispered to him “you know, you just have to be contented with these things. Some street people could not even expect food handouts on such a regular basis”. At least, I said to him, he has food on a fairly regular basis.

For once, I felt nothing but scorn against his relatives living nearby for I believe they must at least exert more patience in order to give him some more relief. But there are things that we just could not meddle into. And there are reasons perhaps, that we do not know. They just wouldn’t take him into their shelter.

When Koming sometimes appear near our gate, while I wash the jeep (despite his weakness, he could fairly move around albeit in a very slow pace), I take him in and give him a thorough shower---so thorough that I scrubbed his body with soap and water. I could not believe I was doing it. Dirt I could feel easily in my hands and the smell was at some moment excruciating. But I overcame any inhibitions because every time I see his very dirty figure, I tend to squirm and feel extreme repulsion to the fact that there is a man like him whose body has become so desecrated by lack of attention. I believe that despite poverty and nothingness, no human should live like dogs on the streets. And besides, such pity overwhelms me every time I see the person that he had become.

Yet, hours after I washed his body, he dirtied himself again by just flaying his body all over the muddied ground. I did wash him again after a week when the time to wash the jeep came up again and I gave him some of my clothes. Still, Koming would dirty himself again as soon as he goes back into the streets. I finally gave up and deduce that I just could not have the time to tend for him as much as I desire to for I have some family duties that keeps me until early evening just driving and keeps me wide awake so deep into dawn singing lullabies to my youngest daughter Evette, who is just four months old by now.

I often asked the Lord in the night if I already measured up to what was expected of a Good Samaritan? Of course, I could not take Koming into our house even if I want to for the wife would go crazy. And besides, the apartment space is already too small already for us. I felt that I must help more but what more I could do except to include him in my prayers that whenever soon he would depart this world, certainly Koming shall enter the Kingdom of God, for he had been so poor and suffering while he is here on earth and blessed is he like the Lord Christ said.

Actually, I could see the food being delivered to him had become more regular these recent days but at times I am disturbed thinking that he might not have anything on his stomach in any particular moment. But all I do is worry and become so tired in the night that I just have no time to tend to his needs. At times, I deliver some bread and water to him in the middle of dawn because at times he just comes up into my mind. In recent weeks, my pocket was so tight that I wasn’t more inclined to buy bread for the night. You see, the wife buys bread in the morning. If I want to give to Koming, I still have to buy some bread in the afternoon after I fetch my kids from school. The morning breads are usually gone when I woke up often late into the day.

In rainy days like these, there I go again thinking of that sick old man as if I was his own keeper. This afternoon, I saw someone gave him some Christmas food. I saw some bottles of water. I see that he just needs some blankets. Maybe, there are some unused blankets somewhere in the cabinets.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Man sing a song for me. I’m not sleeping and there is nowhere I am going to.”

That’s the song of Koming. How I wish our relief organization were already up and about by this time for “Mr. Tambourine Man” is the song sang by many Komings in the streets of our country.

VERSE OF THE DAY. From St James. Chapter 2 and Verse 17: “ Even so faith, if it hath no works, is dead, being alone.”



December 24, 2004

Another Midweek Mass

ST. JOSEPH CHURCH

Yesterday was Wednesday again, a midweek day that beckons to me some liveliness in spirit. One of the reasons on the high of spirits is the Midweek Mass being held in St. Joseph Church at Nunez St., just five blocks away from home. But ever since, Wednesday is such a day of favor for me due to many other countless reasons. In no particular order, here are some reasons. Wednesday is alive because:


  • --When I was working in the government some years ago and at times felt so drowned in the grinding routines of office work---with tons of paperworks and at times with tons of nothingness---Wednesday gives me a bright hope that sooner or later this week will end one way or another.

    --When I lost my job and became a home buddy, Wednesday is the first day of basketball games after non-basketball days of Monday and Tuesday, and from that day, the Philippine Basketball Association games comes every other day. At present, they go three straight days. The ballgames somehow stave off extreme boredom from having nothing to do. Yes, I am a great basketball fan ever since I was in highschool---last night, I was treated with a very well-played game according to Norman Black when the Purefoods Hotdogs stifled off a late run by FEDEX to win by hairline. It was one of those games that was decided by whether the last shot would go in or go out.

    --On Wednesday, the people’s mind seem to be in lightheadedness, not as lightheaded on weekend but I have observed that in this day, people tend to go walking on the streets more than any other day outside the days leading to Sunday, that is, on Friday and Saturday. So on this day, I find myself more incline to go downtown because the streets are livelier with many strollers and walkers filling the sidewalks of Zamboanga.

    --About four years ago, my favorite TV sitcom was aired every Wednesday(now the re-runs are on Monday night). Wonder what this program is? It’s none other than “Friends” with Ross, Joey, Chandler Bing, Rachel, Peebie and Monica. It is always a happy show, just like “Happy Days” with the very young Ron Howard and “Three’s Company” with old Mr. Apple.

    --And when I was so young and so restless—that is, still having a lot of gimmicks with friends from college ---Wednesday was a hint that the weekend is about to come.

    --And lastly, I just like Wednesday for some reason I could not point at. It’s hard to pinpoint what this reasons are, so I’d better give up pointing at all.

And now I have this fancy for Wednesday midweek mass held at the newly refurbish St. Joseph Church. I just felt homely in that place for one because I have been there before on frequent task for my wife, to pay for an offering for the repose of the soul of her father the late Dr. Domingo Calderon. I have been there so often then that I almost knew the cashier there on a name-by-name basis---she was Saling. When I came from Manila two years ago, my life and views greatly changed by the visions of Christ sitting on the throne and throngs of angels hovering behind Him, I always find some moment to sit in the empty caverns of the St. Joseph church, in a time when church-goers are not around, thinking I must pray to the Lord every time I had the chance.

Back then, I wasn’t as comfortable praying in a Christian way but as the days passed, this discomfort with my new faith has slowly become a passing thing. Now, I planned to frequent my midweek mass for the Lord said, “Pray to the Lord God…and love Him with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind”. What is a man of faith then if we do not pray in the churches? How am I spiritually awakened if I isolate myself from the Church that Christ had built through Peter? And how could I imbibe others to follow this path towards a spiritual awakening if I lay silent and enclave in my own unwillingness?

In the days to come, I may frequent the regular Sunday masses but the time may still not be at hand. I have been comfortable with St. Joseph because nobody seem to know me there and nobody would be astounded to see me there and the place is not as frequented as other churches. You see, if for reasons you might ask why these things bother me, I have come from a muslim family and it his highly that some problems might arise if relations would see me praying in the churches. There might be some problems.


December 23, 2004

The Swordsman Is About To Enter

The Swordsman is About to Enter
(An Elegy: Fernando Poe Jr. 1939-2004)
By Y.B. Masdal a.k.a. The Daily Prophet

The swordsman is about to enter
Make him his way, for neither
witches nor shamans shall be of courage
To seek the flightiness of his saber that was molded
In a fire that burned like the oceans of fire;
There are fist to behold but be aware of his
For it rattles through the roof and the adversary
lays trembling like a pitiful cabbage on a long trip to perdition;
Whereas the lines he made between the stage and
the momentary air we breathe, is farther than we thought,
He is closer to the man who fights the every evil
of greed and selfishness, he was the man of the people
and his courage shall live forever long in the tarmac
of shanties and dirty streets that remains
the isolation of other men who pursuit
honor and vanity for themselves merely,
away from the guidance of the Light.
He sought the perilous road for once,
yet he returns to the Lord as the hero he portrays
In the caverns of our minds and in our hearts,
and not any fallen son
that sought power and self-gloriousness;
And now he returns as a rising son.
Behold, the swordsman
for he is about to make his entrance.

December 22, 2004

Stand Back and Listen!

Stand back Mr. Murphy---(the guy from the Murphy’s Law)---and listen. We do not need you hanging around. Whomsoever created your law let him or her vanish into thin air.

One day after I have surmised so prematurely that our plans to put up a relief organization may be on a standstill due to significant differences of views, (See previous post “One Fantabolous Night With Mr. Murphy”-Sunday, December 19,2004) the phone rang smacked right at the strike of twelve noon, while I was about to have my lunch, and Tony was at the other end of the line.

“We have a meeting today. Russell is here,” Tony said without any prelude. I did not expect to meet both guys within just a couple of days. Usually, we are so busy with our respective personal tasks that it would take at least one whole week to gap the usual camaraderie we have. When sometimes we play billiards in not-so-glitzy barrooms, our matches could continue for hours and hours even up to near midnight, that after each session, Tony would comment that it was a billiard game that would last us for a month without playing again. And that would mean we could have more time for our families and at the same time save on ever- scarce currency. We have not been to any billiard halls for a long while now.

“I am going take my meal first and I’ll be right there in no less time” I said without flinching although I was nursing what appeared to be the initial stages of a major flu attack. Perhaps, the previous days activities have stretched me far enough. It started with the birthday celebration of Ms. Arlene Care, an officemate of my wife, about five days ago. We stayed for a long while eating luscious fried chicken and I got a couple of bottles of beer. Last Saturday, I was with Tony and Russell at La Vista del Mar and I also had some beer while we talk about matters of faith and God. On Sunday morning, the children had their Christmas program at school and how the children dance. It was such a sight to see Yusef and Yves performed their steps. In the afternoon of the same day, we drove to Divisoria nearly ten kilometers away from the main city for another birthday celebration. This time, it was Tracy Casimiro’s son Lorenzo who is celebrating. Tracy’s husband Bibing prompted me to a table and we sat drinking rhum as we talk about health conditions in connection with FPJ’s sudden but unexpected death. After three glasses of hard drink, I recoiled and we headed back home. Stress perhaps causes the flu virus to gain their glory over the immune system of our bodies.

“I have prepared some chicken. Why not eat here?” Tony suggested but I said that I would try not to take a heavy meal before I leave and see if I can still have some spoonful if I arrive at their house. I was so starving when Tony called.

I rested in bed for a little while hoping my bout with the colds may improve even by just a tad and at nearly three o’ clock in the afternoon, I took a sikad-sikad towards Sta. Catalina, just a barangay away from Lustre St., the street where I lived.

When I arrived at Tony’s place, Russell was with his wife Sheva, sitting in the sofa. I have not gotten acquainted with her so much, yet I was already feeling comfortable with her around after meeting her for already quite a number of times already.

Tony was not around. Russell informed that he was just out on a quick task for a client that needed some urgent computer fixing. He offered me the chicken meal but I said my tongue tasted queer due to some colds. It was a little uncomfortable talking to Russell after we had the fervent debate about God a couple of nights ago. I swept away any inhibitions between us by just not bringing that argument again and he did so as well and we proceeded to talk on some other matters. He said, Bong Edding, a member of the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Board is in town and wanted to meet us. There might be some project opportunities for us in his place. I was a little glad that more and more people seem to be drawn to an organization that is still on the birthing stage but I knew even before conferring with Bong that private agencies like ours do not have much access to government projects. When I was working for the SZOPAD Social Fund about a couple of years ago, I had learned that the government auditing system have most recently institutionalized major changes in standards and procedures and one of these changes is the minimization if not the eradication of private entities implementing government projects. It turned out that in the 80’s, public funds were channeled through a lot of private organizations, where some were even bogus, and as a consequence to the system’s apparent loopholes, great amount of public funds were mishandled or pocketed unscrupulously.

Russell was in patent high spirits that day that he gave us more news than we could expect. He gave me a list of people willing to help establish the organization some are familiar even. Atty. Wendell Sotto was interested to sign in. I said to Russell that I knew his brother Clarence who is also a lawyer and maybe we could also invite him. The Sotto brothers took over their father’s law office here in the city after the older Sotto died of a gunshot wound from a motorcycle-riding assassins just early this year. The murder was all over the news even weeks after the incident occurred. A lawyer’s murder does not usually happen in this town but like Cebu and Manila, this city has its own bout of prominent killings. It was a sad day for the Sottos and I was in the wake when the incident occurred.

Tony arrived soon and he showed us a logo design for PPRO, the acronym for the soon to be established organization. Russell and I both commented that it was such a fine and exquisite design aside from being colorful. It has a blue back draft and highlights a white dove with wings a-flutter at the center of the image. I requested Tony to e-mail me the image so that I could already start on a web design idea for our organization.

When Bong Edding arrived, the day was nearly over and we got to discuss some issues. Bong was with John and J.J., all three are the sons of Norbi Edding, the mayor of Sibuco.

Bong assured us that if ever there were project opportunities in his locality, he would try to take us in. We all agreed that in the initial stages of the organization, it is most important that we are able to complete a number of projects no matter how small they are. This mode of action is important I emphasized to the group in order for us to build credibility. I have stressed out that in the business of relief works and in the world of NGO’s, the name and reputation of the organization is at the apex of the requirement pyramid. In my short stint in government, I have learned that NGOs and foundations come in such great numbers that one would have to be exceptional in order to get noticed and then, get funding support even from the government in the rare times that it allows private entities to interfere in the implementation of projects.

Despite of the forward things that occur to this plan of ours, I could not help but feel a little pessimistic. I was planning for a Christian fellowship but instead I am building a relief organization. Maybe later on, there would be time and resources for me to do the things that endears to my heart so closely. As the Lord Christ had often said in the early days of His ministry, “the time has not yet come”. Maybe my time has not yet come also.

When the skyline finally gobbled the sun, Bong, Russell, John, J.J. and Sheva asked permission to leave while I stayed a little longer. When I learned that the chicken carte du jour Tony prepared was actually adobo, I did not hesitate anymore and savored the chicken drifted in soy-sauced and vinegar even with cold rice. Tony boasted that he cooked the chicken himself and by the manner I ate them (that is, with much gusto), I was certainly impressed by his cooking prowess. Like mother, like son it seems. And it would be the rarest of time if ever there were a moment that I would turn down a chicken adobo, my most favorite chicken dish.

Batjay, if ever you come around this blog, Happy Birthday to you pre. I saw some greetings of your important day in some other blogsite. Maybe Cath was just playing tricks on you. Maybe not. So Happy Birthday to you.

VERSE OF THE DAY ---St. Luke Chapter 4, Verse 4: “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” This is the word of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Stay (Faraway, So Close)

If I could stay, then the night would give me up”—U2

There is a place and time that lingers like mildew on a wet stone. This longing is so steep that it reaches the point of angst and revolution, while the caverns of my heart attempts to explode in a myriad of dead stars. Dead stars, dead stars they come at night when the moon roars like lions in the desert.

If Einstein was true to his great mind, then maybe then, my soul would rejoice in a thousand nights of songs and dances. If time stops and regresses, to move backward and backward until time becomes my freedom instead of my prison, then my heart would be aglow with a thousand firelights that I shall set fire in the night’s sky. There is the fire that burns without reprieve, it is the Eternal Flame, and it burns in me like nothing else. One day, I shall set free this passion inside, this smoldering desire, that would carry me through the moon and back, like the man in the moon of my past dreams that took me in a swirling magical trip, across the ocean and towards the setting sun in the horizon. But whence that day comes, is the one ultimate question that leaves me gasping for breath.

Her eyes like diamonds and her face like a blossom of heavenly pearls---such lilies in the field. Such lilies in the field.

Fate is such a goddess and man lays naked upon her knees. I have retreated from her cruel hands and yet I find no door that will lead me away from this deadly longing. There are tears that roam like rivers and rivers of blood and yet, the hands of mercy stand farthest like a stone unmoved even by the universal forces that rule and bind us. For once then, she had become my sun, my moon and my comets and meteors; but now she is just a quasar, infinitesimal and so very far, far away that my eyes could not see her even by aid of the most gigantic of all telescopes.

December 20, 2004

One Fantabolous Night With Mr. Murphy

The thing is almost humming but not quite. It’s like rain on your wedding day, a singer crooned. It’s like a toothache that suddenly gone when you finally reach your dentist’s clinic, humping and sweating from overly agitation. I have some rendezvous with Mr. Murphy yesterday, you know, the one we are on familiar terms with because of some famous universal law. When just I thought we are on, some hindering incident occurred.

LA VISTA AT NOON

This thing is the movement that was in my mind, an initiative to launch a vehicle organization that may possibly channel this desire to serve the drowning men amongst us and impart to the world this “prophecy of our time”. When I thought nothing could go wrong, something did just before the night was over.

I was with Tony Ramos and Russell Tiblani yesterday on a brainstorming session and after a dozen of sample terms on the plate board, we agreed on a simple yet coaxing type of name for the proposed organization. The organization would have been called “Progress for Peace and Relief Organization” or PPRO. It reminds me of logos that read “PROGOD” and “PROGUN” that perhaps the chosen name could ride on the popularity of these two phrases, pasted on many a car back windows.

Our faces shone after we three agreed on the name, and yet I reminded Tony and Russell that the buck does not stopped there; we have a long way to go. So we talked about memberships, project viabilities, initial cost of incorporations, the by laws, and other similar concerns.

Russell went on a business task for a moment when twilight approached and Tony and me went to his Mom’s house for a sumptuous dinner. Eating is such a sublime experience in the Ramos household mainly because of the excellent culinary prowess of Tony’s Mom. We were served the smelliest chicken curry that one could ever find in this part of the world. The Christmas lights were on and the carolers hollered through the cold night wind outside the streets.

After the hearty meal, we proceeded to Russell’s place and we showed him how to navigate through the internet (He was just new to the modern gadget and do not really know how to tinker with it). We discussed a little bit about our initiative’s immediate concerns and Russell mentioned about a viable project wher we could put sour hands into in Sibuco, a southernmost locality of the Zamboanga del Norte Province where he works as a secretary to the mayor of the local government unit there. This was a fine idea Tony agreed considering that the place was just an hour away form the city through the sea route, using a personal speedboat. Both of them were planning to take a trip to Sibuco Sunday morning but they cancelled the excursion due to some unexpected conditions.

Russell mentioned something about a great happening in La Vista del Mar that night and without even pondering whether or not the night has gotten too long for us, we headed to the east coast of the city to check-out some merriment near the sea.

In the days heading towards Christmas Eve, a night market is opened in La Vista, a seaside resort owned by the Lobregat family and a favorite weekend destination for the city inhabitants. As we entered the gates, you could say “Oh, what a night!” The place was lighted all over and the music was all over the place and people were just swarming all over. I have never seen such congregation of nightwalkers in this city ever in my life, except in carnivals and big concerts of major celebrities here. The night was so alive under a cloudless sky, and the moon was half-hanging just over the horizon. We traipsed along the walkways where myriads of commodities were being peddled. At many point, I was gleefully surprised how some items were such a great bargain while on the other hand at one point I was taken aback to be informed by a not-to-eager storekeeper that the ABS-CBN mug cost a couple of hundred bucks. That’s a pricey pot for your coffee I thought. Generally however, the prices of item sin the night market were crazily low that you could see marketers yakking at every item from second-hand pocket books to batik, the stylish and very colorful garments of the ethnic minorities here. There was a copy of Fugitive Nights by Joseph Wambaugh. I wanted to buy it because my copy has tattered cover already and it does not look like a collection material to me anymore. I always mishandle my books often because I read them in bed that they always got thrown at any direction when sleep finally comes to me and my movements become more independent that the books are either thrown or get crumpled by my hands or by my lumbering sleeping body. I did not buy the copy the book after all because there was just no time to think amidst the rush of a maddening crowd.

When we thought we almost scoured every frontier of the night market, we settled on the bayside, sipping some beer near a man-made sea wall.

And as if he knew so much about my present introspection on faith, Russell started querying about the existence of God. I said I believe in the Almighty God, who created all things. The effect of alcohol easily evaporated when I was taken by surprise when he declared to me that in his belief “there is no more consideration of good and evil and that man exist regardless and it is up to man to choose to do good or become evil.” I was even more surprised when he added, “man can be God because man could produce offspring and therefore he is a creator like God”.

I tackled last night’s debate by saying to Russell that to produce a child is not the same as creating a human being; there is a wide gap to both conditions. And besides man could not create many other things. I said further to him that it is blasphemy in many faiths to declare oneself as a God. He answered by clarifying that he meant it merely as a metaphor.

The argument was not as sour as it would sound as we both agreed to disagree.

The night ended while I was thinking whether the differences in our views on faith---especially that of mine and of Rusell’s---would affect the harmony that we direly need in order that our proposed initiative to form an organization would prosper. More minds are always better than one some sages say. On the other hand, some other wise men declare that diversity leads to synergy. I think the problem in this world is that we just have too many wise men when in fact; we only need one—which is Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is sent to the world so that peace and joy would reign forever.

Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God”---the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, ST. JOHN Chapter 3 and Verse 3.

December 19, 2004

A Joyful Child

A Joyful Child
She was busy packing relief goods for those who were left unsheltered by the vicious rampage of the Pacific wind when fate beckoned upon her to leave this mortal world. She died in the moment many of those who have passed away crave for, to die while in the moment of kindness. Like a soldier, KC de Venecia died in the heat of battle and she earns a Medal of Valor. To the angels, she earns Eternal Life. And like a saint, we always remember her for her works to those who were left homeless and hungry.

Reeling from the death of a national icon in Fernando Poe Jr., the nation again grieves the passing away of a kind soul, as we also lamented the many deaths caused by the ferocious typhoons. We stood in great shock that a young and vibrant life was taken by the angst of fire, and when the dust was settled, my heart was heavy with sympathy. I condole the family of KC. The speaker certainly faced his own tragedy with courage and composure as a man with great faith in the Lord.

Famous is the statement that “no father or mother should not bury his or her own children” for the pain is heaviest and most heart-rending, and certainly this must be so. Yet, fate is at times mysterious and we can only take faith in the Mightiness of the Lord for whatever His plans for each and every one of us.

To be sure, KC is now in the mothering harbor of Heaven. And with prayers and acts of kindness, may we calm the doubt of her loved ones that one day, In Heaven, she will be as vibrant and as joyful again as she was that beautiful young woman that she was when suddenly she was called by the Lord to depart this world.


PSALM 27 : " The LORD is my Light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is my strength; of who shall I be afraid?"

December 17, 2004

Selling The Drama

The Prophecy

This is one chicken story that hit me ever since two days ago when Colonel Sanders finally hit town. In a quaint corner of the city streets, somewhere where the roads are wider and the traffic is more reasonable, KFC, the famous chicken store rose from the ground and in their opening day, the loudspeakers boomed so gloriously and a great number of the city inhabitants troop to the new place in town and just outside was a long parade of parked cars, obviously from all the all-too-eager customers.

Events like this in the city are hard to ignore for every known franchise putting up store in our shores signals progress, a big step forward. McDonald’s, the famous burger store, is also about to hit town in a few days or so. Years ago, Zamboanga earned some reputation in a very perplexing way when it qualified for an entry in the Guiness Book of World Records in the food category. It turned out that when Dunkin Donuts opened up in the city, its first day of operation spurred an unimaginable amount of sales of those world-reknown round breads that the city streets practically smelled of freshly-baked donuts as people lined up in very long queues from morning till dawn---even up to midnight. I remember that day very well as local TV news covered the scene of what appeared to be near hysteria over a food item, and radio stations held on-site broadcasts, chronicling blow for blow what appeared before us as an explosion of consumer power---a letting of steam from years and years of seeming deprivation.

Such is our city, for many years it had yearned for all the things good that one could ever find in every progressive city (until now, there is no SM mall in our town where every city worth its dime should have one) but peace and order situation here made it harder for every fancy food brand to come by. There were frequent talks then that mad extortionists roamed our downtown streets that businesses were not wont to open up here, not to mention that in the national papers then, Zamboanga often become embroiled in the rebellion wars that raged so hard in those dangerous days when the MNLF was still as active as a raging volcano. That’s why these days, for every arrival of these famous food franchises, the city inhabitants let off steam that boils towards the high heavens.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove by KFC and the line of customers remain extensive and the wife and kids decided that the time for us to savor some new chicken may not still be at hand.

Along with the famous Jollibee brand, as well as Kenny Rogers, KFC remains in the top of my fast food palate. In the rare times that I was in Manila, I never failed to visit its store at least once. There is a story to this, which I thought might interest you for all its storytelling value.

When we were kids (there I go again backtracking my life, aren’t I?), KFC chicken is high on the list of pasalubongs every time my Uncle Mameng arrives from Manila. The minute he comes through the apartment door, thehighly noticeable chicken smell would permeate throughout the household that such mornings were filled with glee for us kids. One of those days when the pasalubongs came, there were just too much KFC chicken that we ate it morning, noon and night. The following day, Aunt Nene put out a very huge chicken leg on my plate and because of the glutinous rage I had the previous day, I miraculously pass on it. “I am very filled”, I just said to my aunt. Days after, every time I feel hunger in school or anywhere else, I always come back to that day when I rejected a huge tasty KFC chicken leg served on my plate, and always pondered how I should not have turned it down. “Only if I could turn back time”, I always said to myself. Since then I promised myself no to turn down no more chicken legs especially if they are famous chicken legs like KFC and swore tom myself that when I grow up I will buy myself a lot of them KFC chicken legs. These particular childhood dreams as you well know did not let me down every now and then.

You see the food in our lives is at times the portals of our time. The things I ate in the past would remind me of past events or situations in my life. The list of my childhood favorites includes those that are not available anymore like Lemolime, that soothing colorless beverage which always taste better than Sprite or 7-Up combined (those days, Royal Tru-Orange if my memory serves me well, still had some bits of real orange seeds in them. That’s how true an orange drink it was in the past). There was also Caramel candy and Texas chewing gums, which once in a while I see in some faraway sari-sari store, and the list also includes kropeck which still remains in the stand of many of our neighborhood store here in Lustre St. Who could forget the La Perla Saltine biscuits, which actually was not one of my favorite but a staple of one of my older girl cousins. That biscuit became an unlikely disturbance in my childhood days where this older cousin of mine would always looked out for me and send me walking to the store every time she wants to eat it, even at times when I was lazier than a turtle. And unfortunately, she wouldn’t even share it with me. For once then, I regretted all the saltines in the world.

Just like brewed coffee, the thought of the foods in my life send me into a twilight zone, just like the thought I have every time I pass Colonel Sanders’ chicken store.

We talk of quaint fancy foods, yet the hungry amongst us remain cold in the night. Let me take this opportunity to remind the world that in times of bounty, we must become more aware of our responsibility to lift the hands of those who are downtrodden, especially in this season of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I put online some drama in my life in order that readers may gain more interest and lead them to read the more serious side of my works, especially those in my blog, The Prophecy of Our Time and The Voyage.

Verse for the Day. John 16: 7-9, “ Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me.” These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

December 15, 2004

Ang Panday


I always know him as the sword wielding local hero who roamed the dessert and the jungles of the northern lands in order to vanquish evil and along the way, vampires, zombies and goblins would fall by the wayside often bloodied and trampled. He was the "Panday" and as a kid in the days of old, it is not a few moments that I have dreamed that I was the one holding those powerful blitzing swords.

Last night, or rather this morning, a few minutes after midnight, the King of Philippine Cinema has gone to the other phase of existence and may he be in the company of the angels right at this moment. Bless be his soul.


In my eyes, he is the real hero of many of our countrymen who longed for the one savior that would come and lead this nation out of its quagmires despite that fate was not in his favor when he tried his one and sole attempt at politics. He had fought his own battle, where in some battles that he had waged he may have retreated, but I am sure he had never surrendered even once.


This day is a time of bereavement for the entire nation for a son has passed away. My condolences to the family and friends of the "Panday".

December 13, 2004

Zamboanga The Southbound City of Iceberg Part I

I went to the barbershop and had my third son’s hair cut. For a two-year old kid, he seem to be fairly behaved unlike his two older brothers whom I had wrestle towards the nearby neighborhood barbershop every other time, not unlike pulling hands of kids towards the dentist’s clinic. Yuri cried a little but that was near the end of his grooming session, and so it wasnt that bad at all.

After the hair event, I took Yuri for a round of the city in our chugging but ever-reliable Willy’s vehicle. My kids love this drive around town even if we do not have any particular destination in mind.

The streets were clear and it was a little grand to swoop down the half-empty streets of downtown Zamboanga. Driving on Sundays gives you a feeling of some invincibility that at certain points, you would believe you alone possess the city roads. In normal days, I would cringe seeing vehicles of all sort honky-tonkying with their horns as smog are spurted all over. The traffic in our city is sometimes monstrous that you wonder if the city government could afford to put up overpasses and skyways from one end of the land to another.

In Sundays, one becomes the king of the road and you wish the streets of Zamboanga would remain that way for a long, long time.

I had described Zamboanga as “The Southbound City of Iceberg” once before in a lost and unpublished short story. I did not really know what prod me to coin that term. If memory serves me, I reckoned then that a beast was living beneath the city streets, creeping amidst the canals and waterways, urging to take in victims once the proper time is at hand. Like the ill-famed ship Titanic, the city would someday be like a huge ship that would collide with its own iceberg, and downward it goes towards its own perdition. People are like ships that whomsoever collides with a huge floating ice; he or she would make a shipwreck of his or her own life.

No such thing actually occurs. The beast is never there and Zamboanga is safe from any iceberg. I use to be a dead fanatic for Stephen King’s thrillers that I almost never spared this city from being doomed by some stupid monster living underneath the terrain---if only in my mind.

Zamboanga has grown by leaps and bounds through the recent decade. Ten years ago or so, there were only about two public markets in this town; one is the Main Public Market near the Plaza Pershing, the main public park where a lot of the city inhabitants go for a stroll, and one in Sta. Cruz, a more modern edifice when it was first constructed but had somehow deteoriated through the past years (not that it became so bad but for one it is not as good and clean as it had been before). Since then, flea markets sprouted here, there and everywhere that for every barangay is a flourishing wet market with all sorts of fresh commodities available from highly-price lapu-lapus to pork meat. It left me wondering how in the past, the Main Public Market catered to almost all the inhabitants of the city. When I used to go there in the past, people would bump unto each other so often as they do their marketing each afternoon because there were just a lot of them buying their daily food all at the same place. It was what we say, the real “market scene” with children selling plastic bags hollering and bugging every person intending to buy as fish vendors hawk their goods by using booming voices that you could think they were using the aid of megaphones instead of their pure human voices. These days, that kind of overcrowding is a thing of the past—for good it seems.

I used to accompany my grandfather to the Main Public Market when I was a little kid. Each week, he buys sweepstake tickets from the same store every time that the Chinese storeowner knew him almost personally. That was the first and only Chinese man that I ever knew who could talk the “samal” dialect, the language of our tribe. The store owner seem to be so good to my grandpa but even at that very early age (I was about eight or nine years old then) I had reckoned then that storeowners are always good to those who patronizes them.

From the Chinese store, we would take some refreshment---he with steaming brewed coffee while I wallowed with all-too-milky halo-halo. The smell of brewed coffee now would always remind me of the old public market and such aroma is often therapeutic that at times I drink brewed coffee just for the smell of it. The building where the coffee was served is still standing now (I had gone by there about a couple months ago), but it is now deserted and empty like an old warehouse. No, rather the building is not as deserted and empty but its use has been greatly modified now. The second floor is entirely abandoned but the ground floor is where the dried fish vendors store and display their goods. Whenever I enter that building in the past, some images races through my mind, especially every time grandpa and me would climb the wide concrete stairways to the second floor. They are images of temples and high-ceilinged ancient buildings. I could not forget these things for the images are etched in my mind so well. One of these days, I may visit the old public market if only to reaffirm these “lasting” images. Perhaps, some occurrences of déjà vu are more than what they are.

December 11, 2004

These Foolish Things

A couple of days ago, I was resting the whole afternoon inside our room, a little tired from the furiousness of the preparation for my son's birthday celebration that day. As always, when sleep does not comes as easily, I would spun some reading materials until my eyes get tired and golden slumber sets in.
That day, I picked the Holy Bible and randomly paged through it. The first page I opened was page 288 and I read the following verses:


"And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that
he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them;
and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were
around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do
like them." [II Kings 17:15]

After I read the preceding words. I leafed randomly again through the thick King James Version until page 553 popped out and I read the following verses;

"And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto
them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their
own spirit, and have seen nothing!


O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes
in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge
for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.
They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath
not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the
word.


Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying
divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen
lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.


And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of
the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye
shall know that I am the Lord GOD." [Ezek 13:1-13]

As you could see, both random verses were specifically about vanity and the precaution of the Lord to those who may traverse the excesses of our desires.

Moments after I read the above-written verses, I saw the clouds break into morsels of images, as I look into the sky. Our window gives me a wide view of the clouds. And then the Angel appeared, with its wings spread far apart. On the background were a number of signs and symbols. There was a book, a dragon, a pyramid, a double slash sign (like in our html addresses), and a few more that I could not remember quite exactly. The Angel was forewarning me about the temptations of vanity---of gold and silver---that I may possibly fall into the wayside and lose my sight on the real purposes of my mission and become a "foolish prophet". This is the kind of conversation me and the Angel has if only you should know.

A day after I read the signs, I was driving so casually through town when I chance upon a colleague from Law school driving a very fancy vehicle, one that you could only have in your wildest dreams. The onset of "emotional obfuscation" was a little sudden that it hit me like a bee sting. I guess the human emotion is one you could not take rein as easily. Envy was as real as the wind we breathe and It is inescapable like the sun on a warm summer day.

I asked myself then if I measure well to the Lord's calling now that I realize that I am left fragile against the temptations of wealth. And ultimately, I cured my emotional disturbance by deciding that as a man of great faith, I should not measure myself against men and women who had gain great wealth nor great fame, but I must measure only to one man, and that is Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord never even had a house of His own much less a grand fancy vehicle, and yet He owns the Kingdom of Everlasting Life.

I took a great sigh and became grateful to the Lord for He had forewarned me, otherwise I would be trapped in my own envy and become a "foolish prophet".

December 10, 2004

A Great Return To Love

LAST NIGHT, Tony Ramos--my so-called constant companion these days--telephoned me in a seemingly unexpected hour. The phone rang at 10:00 in the evening and Evelyn told me it was Anthony. I ran downstairs thinking it might be some urgent matters that he has to talk about.

It turned out that Russell Tiblani, a common friend from Silliman, was at their house having the usual camaraderie with him (Tony is a computer programmer that a usual visit to his humble nook would mean a lot of DVDs and website talk and new music and program downloads. When we were younger and both unmarried to our respective partners, those hours would mean a lot of computer war games instead).
"So what's the burning matter that you called at this hour?" I asked.


It was not really about any earth-shattering matter at all but I was sure glad Tony called. Tony and Russell was discussing about my recent plans to form a Christian fellowship. Russell is a Moslem and he might not be able to join such religious exercise. So Tony said that if I really have some calling to serve the people, especially the downtrodden amongst us, it might be a good idea to form a Non-Government Organization so that people like Russell could join.


Initially I informed Tony that even with the fellowship, we could take in non-Christians members because it is one of the organization's objectives to encourage harmony and unity among all men. (Please note that I was born a Moslem. Am I still a Moslem now? Am I a Christian already? I believe in Jesus Christ now and in the resurrection of the soul so perhaps you can call me one already. Actually, I do really not want to approach this question now because the changes in my life has been so mind-numbing that I can still feel some symptoms of maladjustment. In my belief, in the eyes of the Lord and in the Kingdom after this life, men and women will be brothers and sisters all without the boundaries and limitations set about by any religious difference. Meaning to say, there will only be one "religion" in the afterlife.)


At the end of our conversation, I agreed with both Tony and Russell that indeed, an NGO is also viable that through this kind of channel, we would be able to help the ones who need a helping hand. We all agreed during last night's mini-teleconference that establishing this kind of endeavor is hardest at first, but I imbibed them that with God's grace on our side, nothing is impossible.


Russell asked for my website URL and he said he was glad he could glance at some of my written works. He said he just arrived from Cebu for a business conference. This guy is so young and yet so upward. He comes from a family of Muslim businessmen that he sure did learn his craft well. Cebu is a place that one wants to go back again and again. The last time I was there was in my short Silliman days, nearly a decade and half ago. Maybe one of these future days, I will go back to that memorable place. So memorable, that the place is like a lost love yearning for a great return.

December 09, 2004

Tuesday Was As Plain As The Sahara Desert

It is now Wednesday morning, the 8th of December, the "real" birthday of my eldest son Yusef. As I wrote earlier in the week, he was celebrating his birthday in school a day earlier. Today at home, his Mom Evelyn would prepare some food for the kids in the neighborhood as well as the holding of party games such as the "pabitin", which is an all-time favorite for the kiddie visitors. This may be an eventful day for my kids. In the afternoon, I plan to attend the "Midweek Mass" in St. Joseph Church and I hope nothing would hinder this specific itinerary.

Yesterday was Tuesday, and it was so plain and uneventful that I wasn't able to ponder upon any interesting thing to write about in the Daily Prophet. I guess, this would serve as a disclaimer that although the title of this blog contains the term "daily", the entries may not be so, since some days are better than others. Perhaps, I could retitle this site as "The Not Too Daily Prophet". Or maybe not.

Not that Tuesday was such an absolutely and mercifully ordinary day. Some unordinary things occurred yesterday, like me going to the cake shop to order Yusef's chocolate chiffon for his big day today. My brother Nasrullah was around this morning. I brought Yves' bicycle to the shop for some repairs (it had needed a lot of acetylenes).

And yet, despite the number of break in routines, Tuesday was a low in terms of subjects to write about. I have read no issues wanting urgent scrutiny. I have seen no event worth thorough analyzing and I have not witnessed any incident worth crying out loud for.

Some days are better than others. I hope you take proper notice.

Let me leave you a verse in the Bible that inspires the heart. From Psalm 26, Verses 1: "JUDGE ME O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide."

December 07, 2004

A Day Earlier

TOMMORROW, my eldest son Yusef will be celebrating his fourth natal day, one day before the actual day entered in his birth certificate. It so happen that Yusef's birthday falls exactly on December 8, a date in the Catholic world that we celebrate as the day of the Immaculate Conception---a day where every catholic school has no classes. He would celebrate it in school this year---for the first time---since in the past years, we celebrate it in some fine place.

I have seen Yusef grow almost by the day and he went from a naughty toddler towards the present where he had gained some level of maturity, and not the crying little kid that he was whenever he doesn't get what he wants. When I was a child, I remember feeling a little spoiled when every time my grandfather fails to give in to my desires. I would wallow in screaming tears until he buys me some toys that I have fancied early in the day. My grandfather would leave me at times to cry without giving in, and that was a lasting image that returns every time my kids act that way.


Now that I am on the other side of the crying game, I am always inclined to give in to my kids as easily mainly because I am aware that as I child, it felt so bad not to be able to get what you desire. This must be bad (giving in to every demands of kids) as every modern parent would tell you. And so, as Yusef grows by the day, I try to give him some cold shoulder every now and then, sometimes letting him cry for hours if only that he may learn that he can't always get what he wanted. I guess my conditioning work quite well now that I see him not being too demanding anymore.

While I drive the kids to school, we would stop by red traffic lights and street children would approach our vehicle. My kids, Yusef and his younger brother Yves, would observe me quite closely as I hand some coins to the outstretched arms of the kids on the streets. Yusef would ask everytime, "Why are you giving them money? Don't they have money?" And then, I take advantage at such opportunity by teaching them some early lessons on charity by saying, "They have no money and nothing to eat. If you grow up, you must give some money to the poor kids. Would you?" Of course, they would answer in the affirmative. I proceed to tell them that they must not squander every coin they have on their hands for many kids their age do not have as much as they do. I could see that they ponder on these things quite seriously that they become silent as we travel the remaining miles towards school.

December 06, 2004

The Everlasting Farewell

Last night, ABC 5 scored a major coup by exhibiting a movie whose acclaim is phenomenal to say the least. I am speaking of the movie “Farewell My Concubine”. I have not seen the liner notes but I think mostly that it is directed by the much renown Chinese genius named Zhang Yimou.

It was the second time that I have seen the movie. I have seen it first while I was in Manila about ten years ago. I was residing in a boarding house in Sampaloc in order to prepare for that year’s CPA board exams and I had to call a friend from Zamboanga who was also around town, Zulficar, so that I could have some companion. I was new to the big city and did not know much how to get to SM Megamall where the film is exclusively exhibited. He said it was a Chinese film. I said it has a subtitle and it’s critically acclaimed in almost all the papers. He said the rain was pouring hard (and it was) and the rain, as well as knee-high flooding in the streets of Manila, gave him an excuse not to accompany me. But as in a cliché, I braved the storms that day and found out later that the film was worth every effort. In fact, it ranks among my all-time favorite movies namely “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Dead Poets Society”; films which I have seen countless times before and yet every viewing allows me newer glimpses, fresher outlooks of the story and discover some aspects of the film that I never minded before.
“Farewell My Concubine” is about a story of a triumvirate of protagonists, or antagonists depending on each viewer’s point of perception, namely Deiyl, Xoulie and Ms. Juxian. You could say that they have a love triangle made for the ages. Never had a film so expertly dramatized this kind of drama before, paralleled only perhaps by the three-way love affair told and retold in “The Wuthering Heights”.


Deiyl was a whore’s son who was left forcefully to the care of an opera house when he was a child. When he entered the training school for acting, he never saw his mother again. Through ardous and often-cruel years as an acting apprentice, Deiyl blossomed into an opera star playing a female (of all characters), more specifically as the concubine of a distraught king who was defeated by an intruding army from a rival kingdom. The concubine killed herself when everything was seem lost and even while the defeated king allowed her to flee. The concubine maximized the tragedy by killing herself instead of facing the possibility of becoming disloyal to the king. Deiyl played the character as the concubine so well that one patron declared that the opera should have been tilted “Farewell to the King” because the king entirely becomes irrelevant in the entire process especially when Deiyl starts to sing and dance the last fatal dance to the king.

Xoulie plays the king in the opera. In days in the old acting school, Xioulie was Deiyl’s constant companion and apparently some sort of a homosexual bond blossomed between the two. Deiyl lamented (when Xioulie finally announced to him that he was to marry Ms. Juxian, a nearby prostitute from the House of Blossoms), that he and Xioulie “should be together for a lifetime and a second less would not make it an entire lifetime”. But as it was, Xioulie loved Ms. Juxian so much that the marriage proceeded, giving cause to great troubles in the relation between Deiyl, Xioulie and Ms. Juxian. Yet, amidst the troubles they had, they clung to each other in times of great distress, through the harshness of the Japanese invasion and the Nazistic behaviours of the Red Soldiers of Mao Zedong. In the midst of these turbulent hours, there evolved the most unlikely bond among three hapless soul caught in the whirlwind of human indiscretions. As the movie went along, the troubles seemed became the more weightier that at the end of the movie, Deiyl killed himself and the scars among the people in the movie had become finally all too apparent and enduring. The troubles in the characters have now paralleled the troubles of the times China was in the early part of the 20th century---through the Japanese invasion towards the painful Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s. The good thing about the tragedy was that in the end, Xioulie and Ms Juxian could live peacefully among themselves, perhaps apart since the movie did not hint so much if they remain as lovers despite the betrayal that separated them so grievously.

Since the tragic ending leaves your heart a little heavy, the film itself on the other hand was a grand celebration of cinematic art. It is a kind of juxtaposition of film techniques that is not found in Hollywood or even in Europe. It is entirely Asian in character and it has a beauty of its own. It is photographed stunningly and the production designed leave no details unminded that one is taken back to 1930’s China in the most effortless of manner. Like “Lawrence of Arabia” it is almost like a “perfect film”. For me a perfect film must consist the following elements: a.) a good casting, b.) a good production design, c.) a convincing story and d.) a camera that is ever-moving throughout the film, a that feat could only be attained by film directors who does not be lazy even for a single second while making the movie. Some directors became contented with approximates but a few good of them does not rest unless the things that is shown on the wide-screen becomes perfect.

In the end, we seek the lessons of the story. When I watch a film. I do not seek for lessons in anticipation. I just need to enjoy a good film experience, that’s all. But since we are at the end of this posting, we could perhaps dwell on the wisdom that is imparted by this movie. In my mind, “Farewell My Concubine” teaches us to seek the strength in our character and continue to have faith in the perseverance of our humanity; that in the end it is dignity that allow us to proceed in life and that no amount of money and fame could substitute for lost honor through infidelity and disloyalty to the norms and mores that we hold dear. We must stand by the principles we cherish in our hearts. Or at least, we must try to abide by them even if at times the troubles that hound us is insufferable

December 05, 2004

The Pleasure Dome

Yesterday, I came back to an old town where for nearly a decade I came in and out of. Last night was Alumni Homecoming for all Ateneo de Zamboanga graduates and our batch (Batch 89) was one of this year's honorees. It felt a little strange that I had never been inside the Ateneo campus for nearly four years that the moment I stepped into it, I could not help but feel a little emotional. Just a little.

There was a grand parade earlier in the day but I had decided against joining it for reasons I could not really tell. Perhaps, I was just tired that day or maybe I was just overly conscious that I may appear as someone who came in from the grave; someone who was not that much around for a long, long time and then suddenly appearing in the scene. Luckily that night, there wasn't any such uncomfortable "getting to know again" stuff like "Where have you been all these years?"


You could say it is just an overreaction and I was not really so much as having been isolated from civilization since I also attended the homecoming about three years ago. Still, I could not help but feel like I hadn't been here for the longest time.

The night's program was exhilarating where no less than the president of the university, the ineffable Fr. William Kreutz himselfm starting the event with a very stylish picture show on wide-screen. There were music and dancing and the crowd was loud that at some point, it was howdy. I guess it was an ecstatic crowd.

An old friend, Major Victor Loon was around from Manila. He wasn't part of the high school batch but he just fitted into the group for having a lot of common friends. He was there as a grade school alumni.

The banker, Michael Lopez was a longtime friend that I have never seen and so we talk a little. He got this digital camera flinging around his neck and we spend a lot of posing here and there for digital posterity. There was the moneyman, Mr. Richie Bucoy (he works as an accountant) who I am to be grateful for reminding me of this year's event. I would have forgotten it easily. Herbano was also a guy I have not converse with in along while and he looked like he had not change a bit for he is still as noisy and as gregarious as I have last seen him.
This year a lot of my classmates from the Xavier section were present. They were more in numbers than the previous years. There was Jason Mendoza, the basketteer (he almost made it to the big colleges in Manila), Martin Renolla, a colleague from both Ateneo and Silliman, Balot Coronel, a present neighbor, James Kwan, the one we always know as the peanut eater (our teacher made him eat all the peanuts he was holding in a paper bag. Strictly no eating in the classroom he soon found out to his great dismay), and Daniel and Chino and Ulysees.Tony Ramos could not come.


With fireworks show that was incomparable ever, this year's celebration was clearly the best of them all, at least among all that I have attended going back to my college days.

I guess there is so much reason to celebrate now that Ateneo has become a University.
Perhaps, you would wonder why I titled this day's entry as "The Pleasure Dome". In my autobiography (A Prophet's Life), I have mentioned there that there is this place that I enjoyed so much and spent so many hours----this was the Ateneo Library. For me, the place was a pleasure dome since it had introduced into the mystical world of world literature---from Feodor Dostoyevsky towards Tom Conroy---and so many in between. I wouldn't have met Huckleberry Finn if not for the very expansive collection of books from the pleasure dome. One of these days, I may go back there just to reminisce. The place may not look the same now, but I expect its collection to be more and more expansive and variant. And that would be the day I am looking forward to.

December 04, 2004

The Friday of Our Lives

In the week that past, our country the Philippines has gone through something that suffers the heart with great sadness and grieving. They did not come in one; the giant storms came in two. When the typhoon “Unding” started to wield its mischief throughout the northern lands, I was watching the evening news and retorted inside my mind that the storms are here again, as it was the year before and many years in the past. Yet, I did not realize that “Unding’ was an extraordinary wind, that this day, I finally realize that the country has just suffered a tragedy that is never anticipated even if in the past we have witnessed more deaths through flooding waters in our country, more particularly in Ormoc City down south.

My heart is wretched so enormously as I see mothers orphaned by their children while daughters grieve their lost husbands and fathers. This morning, two children were found in a ravine, apparently a victim of flood that assumes nothing and distinguishes no one. They have grieved for their deaths and we as a nation also grieve with them.


As I write, the typhoon “Yoyong” is still ravaging in the northern towns and we are holding our breath hoping the tragedy may not be as worse as the previous one brought about by “Unding”. We continue to watch the news and hope against all hope that the wind calms down immediately and wither away out our region. It is by God’s grace that many of our countrymen continue to pinched in their help through the many agencies offering assistance. The Lord is surely with them.

I trouble my mind with the thoughts of this tragedy for the pain of the mothers losing their love ones is like a needle into our hearts and the wail of children looking for their lost fathers reverberates like wild sirens. I trouble my mind that this tragedy was partly man-made, as floodwaters rushed down towards where the people tightly sleep, for the hills were already barren of trees. Illegal loggers scour for more and more wealth and now death in the hundreds have occurred. The whole nation grieves while these men of greed continue to enjoy the loot of their indiscretion. Many asked if illegal logging is such a heinous act. I say one is too blind not to realize that there is no more grievous transgression to cause the death of many and bringing the demise of Mother Nature as well. They will certainly answer to the Lord when Judgment Day comes.

Let me comfort the ones who grieve for in the name of the Lord God, their loved ones shall be in the company of the angels now---for they have suffered and they shall find relief in the Kingdom of God. In Psalm 23, we are told, “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.” And in Revelation 21 we are advised, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither there shall be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

I imbibe all of my countrymen as well as mankind to have faith and continue to pray for the salvation of our souls.

Tuba