Sunday, December 10, 2006

Another blog

I've been experimenting with other blog sites/hosting. I've since mirrored this blog on No worry, as of now the contents are the same. I'm still on the experimentation stage. I've tried the new beta of blogger. It's better the earlier version, which I am using for this blog. I am, however, still waiting for blogger to allow earlier users to migrate content to the new improved and easier version. As of now, I'm enjoying my experiment with wordpress although there are times that the connection to the site slow down.

'The White Man’s Burden'

I just got hold of a copy of Robert D. Kaplan’s “Imperial Grunts” from National Bookstore this afternoon. “Imperial Grunts’ is Kaplan’s reportage on the American military’s operations in various areas in the world, including the Philippines, after the United States declared war against terror.

I just read the book’s prologue where Kaplan compared the poet/writer Rudyard Kipling to another American artist, Frederic Remington. While Kipling celebrated in his works British imperialism, Remington turned imperialism “from fact into heroic myth” when he rode with troops scouting for Indians to subdue.

What caught ignorant me, however, was a footnote on page 10 of Kaplan’s book that reads: “’The White Man’s Burden’ was a poem written by Kipling to urge the United States to intervene in the Philippines in 1899. It is essentially an idealistic poem, though it has often been quoted out of context.”

I searched google for the poem and found a copy in the Washington State University website. Here’s Kipling’s poem.

The White Man’s Burden

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke (1) your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel, (2)
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

(1) Cloak, cover.
(2) Since the days of Classical Greece, a laurel wreath has been a symbolic victory prize.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Porn, the Internet and online journalism

Francis Fukuyama declared history, viewed as a clash of ideologies, has ended. He said “liberal democracy” of the type pioneered by the United States might constitute “the final form of human government.”

So what’s next? What is supposed to be the next organizing principle of history?

Cyberspace, of course, Internet enthusiasts say. The Internet is global and personal at the same time. With a computer and a telephone line one can communicate, and even have sex, with anybody around the world. The Internet is supposedly becoming a “new paradigm for human development.”

Nicholas Negroponte, in his 1995 book Being Digital, wrote:

“Computing is not about computers anymore. It is about living. As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different role. Twenty-five years from now, when you look out a window, what you see may be five thousand miles and six time zones away. When you watch an hour of television, it may have been delivered to your home in less than a second. Reading about Patagonia can include the sensory experience of going there. A book by William Buckley can be a conversation with him.”

Media, of course, is in the forefront of this new world order. In the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has pioneered blogging as a form of interactive journalism. Other media organizations, like the giant broadcast network GMA and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are preparing to plunge into new forms of journalism in the Internet.

Pornography, however, has been way, way ahead already and has become, for many people, the doorway into the online world.

In its latest installment of articles on addiction, the PCIJ printed a commissioned article I wrote on pornography. The proliferation of relatively cheap bootleg sex DVDs, as well as increasing access to the Internet, has made it easier for some Filipinos to get hooked on porn. To read the article visit GMANews.TV or the PCIJ website.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Doug Engelbart, a Stanford researcher, came to the Philippines in 1968 and came across an essay written by Vannevar Bush and published in the Atlantic Monthly under the title “As We May Think.” Inspired by the essay, Engelbart wrote a program that demonstrated the first working hypertext software he called “oNLine System.”

Engelbart’s software allowed users to browse through multiple windows of text using a small block of wood mounted on a ball to direct the cursor – a prototype mouse. Engelbart, however, was years ahead of his time. It would be another 25 years before the invention of the World Wide Web.

Imagine if Engelbart was not stationed in the Philippines and did not come across Bush’s “As We May Think”? The Internet would not have been the same as we know it today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When things happen on a Sunday

It was supposed to be a lazy Sunday afternoon. I woke up while a heavy downpour tries to drown an army of cockroaches in the drainage outside the gate. I was supposed to just supervise that hanging of posters on the walls of our office that's why I decided to wake up late. I even had my breakfast/lunch at Jollibee at past 2 p.m. (By the way, I was surprised that Jollibee indeed cut on the use of plastic and Styro!)

Then the text messages started coming: There was the encounter between government forces and communist rebels where one insurgent reportedly died; then there was the reported shoot-to-kill order by the Army against a peasant leader; then Defense chief Cruz resigned and Saddam Hussein was sentenced to die by hanging. (Will they literally hang him?) I’ve been reading a biography of Saddam and it’s interesting to learn how his miserable childhood and his growing up years in the town of Tikrit affected his later years.

Again, it’s still work, Saddam or not. News won’t stop coming and it’s already 8 p.m. What was supposed to be a lazy afternoon spent reading Saddam’s biography or browsing back issues of Time or Newsweek that keep piling on my desk or an afternoon watching NCIS ended just like one of those weekday afternoons.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I was enjoying reading new entries from John Nery’s blog only to realize that I’ve been missing my blog too. It has been a while since I last wrote something. I’ve been preoccupied these days with everyday matters – like how to go about doing an article on pornography for the PCIJ, how to achieve symmetry in putting up the frames on the wall of the office, how to manage time between editing stories and making work processes go smoothly, attending meetings, etc.

There are books too that are waiting to be read – Michael Weisskopf’s new book on the war in Iraq lent to me by a dear friend, Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir (also borrowed from a friend), Ghost War, the award-winning book of Steve Coll on terrorism that I started reading last year, a Cuban novel, and several journalism books that I only remember to browse when an invitation to give a lecture comes.

My only respite from the daily, if not hourly, grind is to watch the television series “Rome” and “Prison Break.” The first is a lesson in history while the second is a reminder that things can be done if one puts everything into making it happen, be it breaking out from prison or making a wireframe become a working website.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dan Campilan: Brief, brilliant life in journalism

The only time I had the chance to talk with Dan was during a training workshop for GMA News reporters early this year. I presented to the reporters the new website of GMA News and invited them to write stories for the site.

During the break I joined some of them for a chat. Dan was there. Maybe because of my Visayan diction that he introduced himself as Cebuano. He was happy to learn that I too am a Bisaya. He said "daghan na tang Bisaya sa GMA."

He also said he wanted to write. I told him to just start writing. "Maulaw man ko," he said. I told him there's no reason not to try. "There's always a first time," I said.

He was excited. There's a lot of life in him. I wished him the best. I saw a very promising and very eager journalist.

When I woke up this morning I saw several messages on my phone. Some were asking what happened to Dan. Lean, Newsbreak's artist, said Dan is a classmate at PUP's Open University as a first year broadcast communication student.

The man had a dream. As Jessica Soho said, Dan is an inspiration. May his short life inspire us.

Here's a tribute to our colleague:

Danifel "Dan" Campilan had a brief but exciting five-year career as a broadcast journalist. It ended in Quezon City the way it started in his home province of Cebu – by accident.

In his iGMA.Tv homepage, Dan recalled his first job: "Aksidente lang ang pagiging broadcaster ko. Pagkatapos ng kolehiyo, nag-work muna ako as a Bingo caller sa Cebu — as in Bingo na sugal: letter B 2. Then I found out na may boses pala ako at kaya magsalita in public."

[My being a broadcaster started by accident. After college, I worked first as a Bingo caller in Cebu — as in Bingo the gambling game: letter B 2. Then I found out that I had the voice and could speak in public.]

And so Dan applied for a job with Bombo Radyo Cebu. Readily, he was hired — but not just because of voice. He had some experience in campus journalism at the Cebu Institute of Technology, where he took a course in Information Technology as a scholar of the Department of Science and Technology.

His first major coverage assignment earned him a promotion.

Curiously, his career rose after he reported on the sinking of the M/V Asia South Korea tragedy in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

"The tragedy happened on December 23, 1999, and Christmas was near. Together with the survivors, we spent our Christmas at the site," Dan wrote.

"It was a major break for my radio broadcast career, because I was promoted on the 27th day of the same month to cover national news in our Bombo News Center in Makati."

Thereafter, his career steadily picked up at every turn that he covered accident, melee, upheaval, one after another.

Memorable stories

His profile offered a summary: "Dan Campilan was practically in the center of many upheavals and shakeups that the country has gone through, from the impeachment of Erap and the swearing in of PGMA to the impeachment bid of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr."

He was a young journalist but Dan ran a long list of memorable coverage events.

As a Bombo Radyo Makati reporter, he covered both EDSA Dos and "EDSA Tres," or the siege of MalacaƱang by pro-Estrada supporters on May Day 2001.

"Di ko makalimutan ang May 1 siege coverage na ito," he recalled.

"Habang nagko-cover sa dispersal ng mga Erap supporters noon biglang umulan ng tear gas at tinamaan ako at nagpulasan na lahat. Para mawala ang anghang sa mata, dinakot ko yung ice cream na tinitinda nung mama sa Mendiola at pinanghilamos. Nagsunuran na rin yung iba. Sorry sa manong, but you saved my life."

For GMA 7, Dan’s diligence and discipline yielded good stories. He was the first to break the story on cases of meninggococcemia in Baguio City.

He reported on the tragedy that befell the people and communities of Infanta, Quezon, after a terrible typhoon in 2005.

Great little lives, beings

But the big political upheavals were not what really caught Dan's fancy.

Some of the stories he found memorable were the features he did on great, little lives and beings, like the one on Juliet Chavez, the first Dumagat to win a beauty contest at the Sabutan Festival.

"Pinakagusto ko rin yung nire-rescue namin yung mga eagle, sawa, at unggoy at iba't iba pang mga hayop na inire-report sa GMA at dinadala namin sa Wildlife Rescue Center," he said. At home, he said he had love birds for pets.

[I liked it best when we would rescue eagles, snakes, monkeys and a variety of other animals, and we would take them to the Wildlife Rescue Center.]

Between tight work schedules, Dan managed to give time to two hobbies.

The first is job-related -- watching TV, art films and documentaries. The other is totally unrelated, even unexpected of a strong and sprightly man – cooking.

Dan had the built of an athlete and was given to sports. In high school, he was a varsity player in volleyball and table tennis, but also dabbled in basketball, badminton, swimming and track.

Dream: To be a farmer

Apart from sports, he was grounded in nature. In fact, if his broadcasting career had not taken off, Dan said he would have wanted to become a farmer.

"Kasi yun ang pangarap ko noon para tulungan ang aking mga lolo't lola sa pagtatanim ng mais sa probinsya. Ha-ha-ha, ang babaw lang ng mga pangarap ko. Kahit ngayon I still want to become a farmer, pero siguro pag nag-retire na kasi kailangan ko kumita."

[My dream is to be a farmer and help my grandfather and grandmother plant corn in the province. Ha-ha-ha, I have such a simple dream. To this day, I still want to become a farmer. Maybe when I retire I would, but for now, I have to earn a living.]

Retirement would have been a long way off except that the lie of life visited Dan so suddenly, just before he could turn 26 years old on November 27.

Since joining GMA News Dan had really been busy, so busy that on August 17, 2005, he started a blog — Kapusong Cebuano. More than a year later all that the blog contains is its first, and unfortunately also last, entry:

"matapos ang ilang linggong trabaho, day-off ako today at gumawa nitong first blog ko.

"trial pa lang ito kasi di ko alam paano mag-blog. hehehe."

[After weeks of work, I finally had a day-off today and so here is my first blog. This is a trial blog for now because I still don’t know how to blog. Hehehe.]

Treasured possessions

At the time of his unfinished blog’s posting, Dan wrote that his mobile phone was his most treasured possession.

It was, after all, the one thing that "keeps me in touch with my family in the province." As important, too, were "my steno notebook and pilot ballpen – the most important items while working in the field."

Just recently, Dan did something for himself for a change. He bought a second-hand car to drive to and from work.

It was, unfortunately, while driving it that he would meet yet another accident that would cap his brief but brilliant career as a broadcast journalist. - GMANews.TV

Monday, October 02, 2006

Victory for Uste!

Thanks to JJ. She said the lizard kisses the ground every evening as punishment for killing her mother. The lizard was supposed to be a woman who killed her mother and, as punishment, the gods turned her into a lizard that must kiss the ground every evening.

Why so, why a woman, not a man, must kill her mother, I don't know.

Luisa Igloria has this entry in her blog:

The elders told stories of how the lizard, among all creatures, understands the mysteries of the universe most because at dusk, at vesper-time, it runs or falls to the earth to kiss the ground. We saw them in the kitchen corners, under the eaves, beneath the windowsill, behind cabinets. More than once someone closed a door by mistake or too quickly lowered a skillet, and its severed tail went skittering across the floor. Thus, because it knows to give up part of itself to save the rest. The rest is a story of regeneration that I admire.

UST wins over Ateneo, 76-74.

It was not unexpected. I’ve always cheered for Ateneo (where I tried to fathom the mysteries of God in the late 80s), but when UST entered the UAAP finals this year, I could not help but wish my alma mater’s team the best. A lot of what I later learned in life I first heard from Dominican friars in UST.

“I only have one alma mater because there is only one God, and God is a Thomasian,” a UST journalism graduate said.

Congratulations to my alma mater, congratulations to all Thomasians!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The kissing-the-ground act of lizards

Every evening, when I have the time, I always look for house lizards. They are easy to find. They always come down from the ceiling, down the wall, to kiss the ground. I’ve always wondered why.

My father used to tell me a story why lizards kiss the ground every evening, about 6 p.m. I forgot the story already. Is it a kind of punishment from the gods? I can’t remember anymore.

The lizards, however, have been always a reminder to me. I mean their kissing-the-ground act. It reminds me of humility, of remembering, of recognizing from where we all came from.

With so many things to worry, I forget a lot of things, the simple things most of the time, like anniversaries, birthdays, acts of kindness and even the act of saying hello to people, I mean, just to be pleasant to others.

I wonder how come lizards don’t forget their kissing-the-ground act every evening.

Sometimes, when I feel reflective, I do admire the lizards. Aside their not forgetting their daily ritual, I admire them for – well this is a crazy reflection – their humility to remember where they came from. As priests say on Ash Wednesdays: “From dust thou art, to dust you’ll return,” or something to that effect.

Journalism is history in a hurry. That’s what I read last Monday in a journalism book I brought as reference material for a lecture on journalism in Zamboanga City. Life has been always a blur since I started working as a journalist, except maybe during those days and nights I spent in the barrios or in hotel rooms in some foreign country.

I’ve always told myself that it’s therapeutic just to stop for a moment, sit back, relax and just enjoy the ride. Yes, life is a ride and I’ve been enjoying the fast lane for a while now. It’s just funny that many times I don’t listen to myself. Many of us don’t, I supposed.

* * *

I’ve been trying to dig into my files these days to look for some papers – birth certificates, clearances, etc – that must be submitted to the office as part of my employment requirements. It’s not easy, the digging part. I have to look into envelopes, folders and boxes, leaf through old notebooks, books and files.

I’m still looking until now. I’m enjoying the search that I don’t want to find what I’m looking for anymore. I enjoy scanning old notes, books and files – and there are hundreds of them. Then, like ghosts from the past, people jumped from the yellowed pages of notebooks and pads. I have to talk to them, laugh with them, feel their pain and share their anguish.

While friends during my younger years accumulate wealth, here I am collecting dust, digging into dreams written on cheap notebooks, dreams that until now remain to be realized. What a life. But it’s fun.

I just wonder, as I write this, if 20 years from now I will be able to scan these pages, hese posts, this blog, to revisit the past. Will there be dust on my computer screen? What would be the feeling then?

* * *

A very dear friend gave me a book today. It’s Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s “The Insatiable Spider Man”. I intend to read it in the coming days. I scanned the first few pages and I came across sentences like these:

“He tries to kiss her. She smells the tobacco and alcohol on his breath and feels nauseous. She moves her face quickly to one side and pulls back. The man kisses her neck and licks her. She struggles some more. The man pushes her. Silvia loses her balance and stumbles. He holds her up to prevent her falling. He’s a giant playing with a little bird. Silvia is very slender and frail. She’s still trembling….With his right hand he fishes inside his trousers and pulls out a long black stiff thick prick. Shit. Silvia looks at it. She has to look at it since it’s a few inches from her eyes and she thinks, ‘Christ almighty, I’m really fucked now. Look at the size of it, dammit. If he puts it in me, he’ll split me in half, he’ll kill me, the motherfucker!’”

Just look at the lines, the short sentences, the active voice, the drama it brings to the reader sans the adjectives that many of us, lazy, trying-hard-copycat wannabe writers, use to pretend that we too know how to write.

Thanks for the book, my friend, it sure made my day!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


NUJP's 5th Congress Statement

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) wraps up its 5th Congress held August 27 to 28 in Tagaytay City secure in the knowledge that the free and independent Philippine media's staunch defense of freedom of the press and of expression has expanded the frontlines with more committed journalists rallying to the cause.

But at the same time, this Congress also reflected the sober realities journalists face as the war against civil liberties in the country appears to have intensified and reached a more vicious stage.

As our keynote speaker, the venerable Vergel O. Santos, reminded us in the wake of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales' ominous pronouncement about the supposed communist infiltration of the media, "We may even be in bigger trouble than we think."
As he so aptly pointed out, the 50 or so journalists slain since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power "are enough to staff one national daily and that, therefore, their murder means the silencing of one potential collective voice of public conscience - silenced for precisely doing what it is in its perfect nature to do so - speak."

Not to mention the often odious working conditions and even more odious economic benefits so many of our colleagues, especially those in the frontlines, the provinces where the calling to serve the people's right to know is most needed, have to bear with.
And there among us, delegates to the NUJP's highest policy-making body, were living proof of the risks and dangers we face.

Tony Abejo of the NUJP's Ozamiz chapter is publisher and editor of the Malindang Tribune, a family-run community paper in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental.

Carolina Montilla of the NUJP-Tacloban is publisher/editor of the Eastern Times, based in Leyte's capital city and serving Eastern Visayas. Maureen Japzon is an editor and feature writer of the community paper and, incidentally, was voted by the Congress to the
NUJP National Directorate.

Last Friday, the eve of his travel to Tagaytay, Abejo received no less than eight text messages on his cellular phone, warning him to "be cautious" and, eventually, suggesting that he divide what little wealth he had among his wife and children because he would "rest in peace."

Tony can only think of one reason for the ominous messages: Retribution for using his newspaper as a platform to rail away at official incompetence and corruption.

Indeed, for Tony, threats have been a constant companion for the last 14 years. This time, though, he acknowledged, they appeared to be striking closer to home, the venom seemingly more potent than before.

Not that he fears as much for himself as for the future of the harbinger of truth he has worked so hard to establish if those who seek to slay him - and the truth along with him - succeed.

Roli Montilla is no stranger to the dangers that face the Philippine press either.

When Martial Law was declared, her colleagues at the national daily she used to work for had to all but bodily shove her out of the country to escape the wrath of the dictatorship.

She returned from exile and to the profession she loves. Only to find that the dangers she faced then remain and have, in fact, grown in the midst of our supposedly restored democracy.

It is not only Roli who is at risk but practically everyone who works for and with her at the Eastern Times.

In July, a Samar-based columnist for her paper received a letter bordered in black ribbon from an "Anti-Communist League" telling him to "regret what you have done." Since then, Roli told the Congress, the columnist has reported being trailed by motorcycle-riding men, the dreaded common thread in the pattern of murders that has ravaged the ranks of both the Philippine press and legal dissenters.

As have two of her staff reporters in Tacloban, one of them treated to the sight of an arrogantly flaunted bulge at the waist.

Roli and Maureen have been receiving text threats regularly.

That Tony, and Roli and Maureen, notwithstanding the personal worries that weighed heavy on them, showed up at the Congress and lent their time and experience to strengthening the NUJP is a tribute to their courage and dedication and the truism that, indeed, real strength lies in unity.

The unity of those who share the same dream of a free and independent Philippine press serving the people's right to know and their right to free expression, the unity of those who together wage battle against those who seek to stamp out the truth in pursuit of selfish interests.

Tony, Roli, Maureen, the writers of the Eastern Times and all of our threatened colleagues are what the International Federation of Journalists fittingly paid tribute to, Filipino journalists who "continue to strive for increased professionalism and a strong, independent and free media" and "defend the public's right to know, despite regular and violent attacks from all sides."

They are, as Vergel Santos fittingly observed, "freedom's last line of defense" in the face of "one evidently desperate president," a national security adviser "out of an old dangerous mold of official enforcers - those programmed to feel more needed as their bosses feel more insecure," their favorite general, "who seems to relish being called 'executioner' as an affirmation of efficiency - efficiency in a barbaric sense," and a government gripped by an "official cold-bloodedness and twisted sense of retributive proportion."

Our threatened colleagues are the raison d'etre of the NUJP. They ARE the NUJP. And they are the best proof that, at the end of this arduous path, the Philippine press and the Filipino people we serve will emerge unbowed, triumphant.

Jose Torres Jr.
August 29, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shakespeare at 2 o’clock in the morning

It’s past 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m fighting not to close my eyes as members of the House of Representatives explain their vote whether to junk or not the impeachment complaint filed against President Arroyo.

Lack of sleep is one of the hazards of the trade, especially when covering politicians who just love to talk. Sometimes it’s fun. I mean the coverage, not the politicians. One has to learn to survive on cigarettes, cups of coffee or glasses of cold water to remain sane.

Journalism is not a walk in the park in a country where everybody has an opinion on everything political or otherwise.

As our politicians talk on television, I entertain myself trying to read a biography of William Shakespeare. Politics in the Philippines anyway seems to be a mix of comedy, tragedy and bad poetry.

Friends from abroad ask how we, Filipinos, afford to smile and even joke about the tragedies we encounter daily. “We’re born to it,” I would say.

What better way to survive in our world of contradictions than to have a big dose of humor.

I find it funny that the only book within my reach as our lawmakers start to recite litanies of their “convictions” and even quote poetry from time to time is Stephen Greenblatt’s “Will in the World” on “how Shakespeare became Shakespeare”. - JT

Thursday, August 10, 2006

'Journalist din po ako'

"Attorney, paki-explain na lang sa mamang pulis na 'not guilty' po ako dahil journalist din po ako."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A visit to my old beat

After so many years, I went back to my favorite beat - the House of Representatives.

Nothing seemed to have changed - the lawmakers, the journalists, the security personnel and the congressional staff. The tables, chairs, computers and printer I used eight years ago were still there.

There was already a wi-fi connection inside the session hall and the working area for the media. New and younger journalists replaced older reporters like me who had moved on to other fields. Still some of my contemporaries and older reporters I met when I was first assigned as a newspaper reporter in Congress were still religiously filing stories from my old beat.

Nothing seemed to have changed - the stories, the issues and the concerns.

I was there today to cover the state of the nation address of President Arroyo. There was nothing significant to write about except for the promises the President delivered and the usual protest actions outside in the streets.

Still the excitement was there, the teasing, the jokes and the stories journalists share when we get together. A president's SONA is always an opportunity for us journalists to get-together. It was actually a "reunion" of sort.

Raul and Ben were still there. So were Jess and Jodeal. Fidel, Dennis and I were just visitors today. Still the welcome was warm.

It has been a long time that I have covered a beat since I left newspapering and tried my hand on online journalism.

I miss my beat. I miss the people I worked with in the past, the people who helped me become what I am today. I treasure my experience in the House. There's no way but forward, however. What is important is we do not forget.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Something to tickle our hearts
in this time of uncertainties

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

- Prayer of St. Francis

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What a shame!

Yes, another journalist was killed. What a shame.

Local and international media organizations have issued statements. What to me hit the nail on the head was a statement issued by Mr. Red Batario of the Center for Community Journalism and Development.

Something's Very Wrong

Once again press organizations and media associations will be condemning the latest killing of a Filipino journalist. Once again international press watchdogs will call for a full investigation. Once again police authorities will create another task force to go after the killers. Once again there will be a lot of angry denunciations. Once again nothing will happen.

The murder of community broadcaster Armando "Rachman" Pace, 51, of Radyo Ukay in Digos, Davao del Sur last July 18 brings to eight the number of journalists killed in the country this year.

"This brings the Philippines' atrocious record for journalist safety to a new low, less than a month after the shocking murder of journalist husband and wife George and Macel Vigo," said Christopher Warren, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The statistics are grim enough reminders that something's very wrong with this country.

But do we as a nation really care about the brutal, blatant, successive, and brazen murder not only of journalists but also of activists, lawyers and others whose only crime was trying to let people know the truth and their rights? Do we in the national media suffer from selective amnesia when we forget to voice our anger because those targeted were community journalists living and working so far away from our own comfort zones? Do we as citizens care well enough to understand media's role in democracy?

These are dark days indeed for the Philippine press and the Philippines as a nation.

All of us should suffer the collective shame of allowing a culture of impunity to take root in our midst. All of us should take the blame for pretending, or at worst believing, that things will become better by doing nothing at all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mindanao, 20 years ago

Twenty years ago, in the mountains of Mindanao, I lived with the people.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

George and Macel

I could have written a poem like Mila. I could have written a story like Fr. Peter. But after a few drops of tears, a short statement and fewer interviews about the murder of people, work overwhelmed me. I did not forget. I just became like many of us, overwhelmed by our daily needs and preoccupations, angst, illusions and daydreams. How we wish we could have done something good for others. How we wish we could have changed our ways for the better. Then the rain came one Saturday afternoon, the moment is perfect to forget our idealism, it is perfect to just forget and cuddle with someone while listening to Bob Marley on the new ipod.

Did George and Macel had the same moments together? Did they also just lie down on a Saturday afternoon when the rains prevented them to do the laundry? They love each other, friends who knew them said. They dedicated their lives to each other and together served the people they infected with their love. Their death was not only a moment of sacrifice, it was also a moment of truly sharing the love they nurtured despite all the odds.

George and Macel
By Mila D. Aguilar

George and Macel were lovers
Four children between them.
They rode out into the night
To be shot down in broad daylight.

George and Macel were lovers of country.
They did what they could,
Peacefully. But they were mowed down,
In view of so many.

George and Macel were lovers of freedom.
Young, they never realized that
Martyrdom would be the sum
Of their quest for the Kingdom.

George and Macel were lovers of God.
Born at the end of dictatorship,
How could they see
They would die on the tail of it?

Friend, I never got to know
George and Macel. Were they
On the list you made
Of those to be wiped out?

July 7, 2006

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. (says the Lord in Numbers 35:33)

George and Macel: United in love, commitment and death
Written by Fr. Peter Geremia

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/29 June) -- George and Maricel Vigo came to visit me on June 19, 2006, just before being killed. Of course they didn't envision a violent death on that day. They didn't even mention threats or issues. They focused on their own personal and family concerns. It was a sort of renewal of their personal relationship and their deepest commitments.

After our long sharing, they walked away holding hands like young lovers. They looked as if that was the happiest moments of their life, a peak experience. They poured out so much affection that I was amazed.

As they rode home, they were shot down like birds flying in the sky.

A couple of days later I saw a picture on top of their coffin. They were standing together by Lake Agco, the magic lake near the peak of Mt. Apo. That's where the tribal leaders held their ritual, the D'yandi or Blood Compact, vowing to defend the sacred mountain, which they call Apo Sandawa, "to the last drop of their blood." On that spot George and Macel made their own vow to one another and to the oppressed. When I saw that picture I could feel the vibration of their burning love for one another, for the oppressed, for nature, for the values of peace and justice.

Why didn't the spirits of Nature warn them about the immediate danger to their life? Their 13-year-old son would ask, "Why were they sacrificed like innocent lambs?" I could not protect them; maybe I added to the risks they were facing. God certainly knew what was about to happen. They were chosen for the special privilege of becoming martyrs.

Those who plan to kill them knew what was happening. How many saw that horrible murder coming and did not stop it? How can they live with their consciences now? How can they look at their children and see the children of George and Macel, like shadows in the dark.

They showed they can kill even women in a public place without any fear of being stopped, as if they have a license to kill. Some say this is a warning to all activists. It is the season for hunting down popular community leaders. They say it is a national campaign funded by the masterminds of the war on terrorism, or better, the war of terror.

This is the sickness of vigilantes and fanatical groups—like when Fr. Tulio Favali was killed during Martial Law. They think atrocities will make them more powerful. And they are masters of deceit. In fact, the official investigators deceived Macel's mother to sign a statement attributing the killing to New People's Army (NPA). They accused George and Macel of supporting the NPA, then they blame the rebels for their killing. They also blame the rebels for Favali's murder, but gradually the truth was revealed by witnesses who overcame fear and threats, sustained by solidarity of many supporters who took a stand—"tama na, sobra na" (enough).

George and Macel grew up during the last years of Martial Law. During their student years, they joined our Task Force Apo Sandawa, an alliance of church groups, NGO's, and Peoples Organization (PO) committed to protecting the environment of the Indigenous People (IP) and all the oppressed sectors. They both served in the Diocesan programs, Tribal Filipino Program (TFP), and Justice and Peace Integrity of Creation Program (JPIC). Then they found jobs in various NGOs to support their growing family.

Both of them joined the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE) and they struggled to launch a local paper called "Apo Sandawa", then a second paper called "Headliner." In 2001 the offices of Headliner was burned to the ground, suspected arson attack because of their reporting. George was also involved as a local producer for a number of BBC World Service radio and television documentaries and features. He also helped produce "Islands Under Siege," which aired on America's most respected documentary program, Frontline. George became a UCAN correspondent which stands for Catholic Asian News. Their voices became familiar to the public in the local radio stations and as a journalist they constantly projected the voice of the poor, oppressed, exploited and struggling masses.

Since the time of the All Out War in the year 2000, which raged around us here, they were among the most active Peace Advocates joining in human rights investigations, relief and rehabilitation missions, peace rallies, and so on. In particular, they proposed and formed a group called Kids for Peace, bringing their own children together with others to express their expectations for peace.

They became very much involved in promoting pro-people politics through education and grassroots organizing. In 2004 they were among the conveners of KALAMPAG- Kotobatenyos for Good Government, an alliance of POs, NGOs, church-based and civic groups of concerned citizens who promote "a style of leadership respectful of all our people and to heal the wounds of the victims of abusives."

We wonder if they became targets because of their participation in KALAMPAG or because of all their community involvements. They were considered moderate activists, journalists working within the system—young professionals who cared deeply for family and community values.

George often introduced himself as my 'junior', implying that he wanted to continue my way of serving the people around us. Macel always shared her deepest secrets. Now I feel their deaths are also my death, like when Fr. Favali was killed in my place.

They can kill people like George and Macel, like Favali and other martyrs, but they cannot kill our dreams and commitments. The power of hatred can shock and scare many, but the power of the kind of love that George and Macel shared will grow beyond death. As it happened with Christ: he was condemned and crucified, but he rose to new life and he promised that all those who follow his way to the cross will experience resurrection, but I believe it is being generated like a seed underground, watered by the blood of martyrs. Those who share their spirit and their passion for truth and justice, for peace, and solidarity, will continue their struggle.

Our tribe is decreasing. So many progressive leaders killed, others paralyzed by threats, particularly here in Kidapawan. The worst trend is the indifference of the majority—from the authorities to academics, even churches and NGOs—who appear to have lost their prophetic voices. The majority of the media are used by the masterminds of deception. Even the Department of Justice and the courts make a mockery of the system of justice.

As a result a new wave of vigilantism and fanaticism is sweeping the land, and true democracy is being suffocated under blood and fear. Some say that, because of the pervasive influence of consumerism, the culture of corruption promoted by the media and internet, the commercialization of vices and the make-belief world of entertainment, many people are prevented from facing reality. Thus many families break down, the young are alienated, and very few leaders can be credible to the masses of the oppressed. Maybe now the victims or the martyrs can become the new modules for the counter culture that can fill wounds of violence and generate new Peace Advocates like George
and Macel. (MindaNews)

(Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, is an Italian-American missionary who has worked in Mindanao since 1977. In 1985 Fr. Peter was targeted for assassination by right-wing vigilantes, who instead killed his friend Fr. Tulio Favali. Fr. Peter's name appears on military blacklists now being circulated. So did George's.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

As you grow older, remember this

Forwarded by Miss Amita

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will.

You will have your heart broken, probably more than once, and it's harder every time.

You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.

You'll fight with your best friend.

You'll blame a new love for things an old one did.

You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will stay awake just to watch you sleep.

Wait for the guy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in your sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends.

Wait for the one who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares about you and how lucky he is to have you.

Wait for the one who turns to his friends and says, “that’s her.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Paalala lang, kaibigan

Forwarded by Mr. R. Jimenez (Salamat!)

Wala na ang mga kaibigan mo noon.
Ang dating masasayang tawanan ng barkada sa canteen, napalitan na ng
walang katapusang pagrereklamo tungkol sa kumpanya ninyo.
Wala na ang best friend mo na lagi mong pinupuntahan
kapag may problema ka.
Ang lagi mo na lang kausap ngayon eh ang kaopisina mong hindi ka
sigurado kung binebenta ka sa iba ‘pag nakatalikod ka.

Pera. Pera na ang nagpapatakbo ng buhay mo.
Alipin ka na ng Meralco, PLDT, SkyCable, Globe, Smart, at Sun.
Alipin ka ng Midnight Madness.
Alipin ka ng tollgate sa expressway.
Alipin ka ng credit card mo.
Alipin ka ng ATM.
Alipin ka ng BIR.

Dati-rati masaya ka na sa isang platong instant pancit canton.
Ngayon, dapat may kasamang Italian chicken ang fettucine Alfredo mo.
Masaya ka na noon pag nakakapag-ober-da-bakod kayo
para makapag-swimming. Ngayon, ayaw mong lumangoy kung hindi
Boracay o Puerto Galera ang lugar.
Dati, sulit na sulit na sa ‘yo ang gin pomelo.
Ngayon, pagkatapos ng ilang bote ng red wine, maghahanap ka ng
San Mig Light o Vodka Cruiser.

Wala ka nang magawa.
Sumasabay ang lifestyle mo sa income mo.
Nagtataka ka kung bakit hindi ka pa rin nakakaipon kahit tumataas ang
sweldo mo.
‘Yong mga bagay na gusto mong bilhin dati na sinasabi mong hindi mo
kailangan, abot-kamay mo na.
Pero kahit nasa iyo na ang mga gusto mong bilhin, hindi ka pa rin makuntento.

Saan ka ba papunta?

Frend, gumising ka. Hindi ka nabuhay sa mundong ito para maging isa
lang sa mga baterya ng mga machine sa Matrix.
Hanapin mo ang dahilan kung bakit nilagay ka rito.
Kung ang buhay mo ngayon ay uulit-ulit lang hanggang maging
singkwenta anyos ka na, magsisisi ka.

Lumingon ka kung paano ka nagsimula, isipin ang mga tao at mga bagay
na nagpasaya sa ‘yo. Balikan mo sila.

Ikaw ang nagbago, hindi ang mundo.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

To Miss A... Good Luck

They’ve been in a relationship for eight years. For eight long years they shared dreams, ambitions, songs, prayers and, they believed, love.

Then one day, something went wrong. The guy had enough and walked out of the relationship. The girl said she did have mistakes but she admitted she still loves him. Tears flow. The girl’s eyes seemed to have never recovered from crying. The guy, well, he joined the barkada for a drink from time to time.

Three weeks later, she received a message. The guy wanted to talk. She said he wanted to iron things out. She was not sure whether he wanted to dry her tears and care for the heart, nay, the love, he broke three weeks ago.

When the girl came to the office this morning she tried to hide the excitement despite the teasing from colleagues. But one can see a glimmer of hope behind those tired eyes.

What will happen to their love story? Abangan!

Here’s an old email circulating in the internet about relationships.

To Miss A____ and Mr. I___, I tried to tweak the message a little bit to fit your situation.

Here’s to your love story.

EVERY relationship has a cycle. In the beginning, you fell in love with your partner. You anticipated their call, wanted their touch, and liked their idiosyncrasies.

“Falling in love with your partner wasn't hard. In fact, it was a completely natural and spontaneous experience. You didn't have to DO anything. That's why it's called "falling" in love because it's happening TO YOU.

“People in love sometimes say, "I was swept off my feet." Think about the imagery of that expression. It implies that you were just standing there; doing nothing, and then something came along and happened TO YOU.

“Falling in love is easy. It's a passive and spontaneous experience. But after a few years of a relationship, the euphoria of love fades. It's the natural cycle of EVERY relationship. Slowly but surely, phone calls become a bother (if they come at all), touch is not always welcome (when it happens), and your partner’s idiosyncrasies, instead of being cute, drive you nuts.

“The symptoms of this stage vary with every relationship, but if you think about your relationship, you will notice a dramatic difference between the initial stage when you were in love and a much duller or even angry subsequent stage.

“At this point, you and/or your partner might start asking, "Did I have the right person?" And as you and your partner reflect on the euphoria of the love you once had, you may begin to desire that experience with someone else. This is when relationships breakdown. People blame their partner for their unhappiness and look outside their relationship for fulfillment.

“Fulfillment comes in all shapes and sizes. Infidelity is the most obvious. But sometimes people turn to work, church, a hobby, a friendship, excessive TV, or abusive substances.

“But the answer to this dilemma does NOT lie outside your relationship. It lies within it.

“I'm not saying that you couldn't fall in love with someone else. You could. And TEMPORARILY you'd feel better. But you'd be in the same situation a few years later. Because (listen carefully to this): THE KEY TO SUCCEEDING IN A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON; IT'S LEARNING TO LOVE THE PERSON YOU FOUND.

“SUSTAINING love is not a passive or spontaneous experience. It'll NEVER just happen to you. You can't "find" LASTING love. You have to "make" it day in and day out. That's why we have the expression "the labor of love." Because it takes time, effort, and energy, and most importantly, it takes WISDOM. You have to know WHAT TO DO to make your relationship work.

“Make no mistake about it. Love is NOT a mystery. There are specific things you can do (with or without your partner) to succeed with your life.

“Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make it stronger. It's a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable... you can "make" love.

“Love is indeed a "decision"... not just a feeling.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

‘Death be not proud, though some have called thee’

I went to the wake of journalits Larry Sipin. Flowers with ribbons bearing the names of "who's who" in Philippine society were everywhere. President Arroyo and former President Ramos visited the other night. Family members, friends, former colleagues in the media were in and out of the room. It was like a party. Actually, it was like a wedding with all the white flowers and the beautiful people with their beautiful clothes and smiles.

To Larry and to all those who went ahead into wherever, let me quote John Donne.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

- John Donne

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Merry Christmas

It's crazy. It's just July but I've been listening to Christmas carols over radio DZBB for almost an hour now. Merry Christmas to all of us and may God bless us as we try to survive the rest of the year.

I just love how Manny beat Oscar, and more

While on my way to watch the Pacquiao-Larios fight this morning I was thinking about how easy it is to please Filipinos. Just give us a good show, a tearjerker soap opera, a good boxing match, a Rico Blanco concert and, maybe, even a live telecast of the World Cup, and presto we all forget about our problems.

I was thinking, while driving on the almost deserted Quezon Avenue, where have all the people gone. I was just trying to entertain myself. Of course, I know where they are. They're at the Araneta Coliseum (at least those who could afford the P30,000 ringside seat), inside their homes, ears pressed to the radio set, or in front of their television sets agonizing over the many commercials between every round.) I would have preferred to jog around the Quezon City Memorial Circle or to just go around the weekend market at the Lung Center and hunt for a "Made in China" pair of shoes, but I have to watch Manny Pacquiao batter Oscar Larios. I have to upload the story and beat the competition.

While entertaining myself, I remembered a text message earlier in the morning about the burning of a radio station in Cagayan Province before dawn Sunday. Eight masked men entered the station, hogtied the staff and poured gasoline on the equipment inside the announcer's booth and the transmitter. But who cares about that faraway village in that faraway province or that never-heard station that is not even affiliated to a broadcast network. We have an international boxing fight to watch, a story to upload to beat the competition. (Unfortunately too for President Arroyo, her arrival from her seven-day trip to Europe was forgotten because of the boxing match.)

Anyway, there I was, trying to be relevant, trying to think about all the things we’ve forgotten – like the rising cost of sugpo (a kilo of medium-sized prawns already costs P480.), the killings of journalists and activists, the war in the countryside, the corruption in government, the environmental destruction, even broken-hearted friends and those who broke their heart – because we’ve been had.

We've been had, wittingly or unwittingly. We've been had because we chose to forget. We've been had because some people want us to be entertained to forget. I wonder why we hype “positive stories”, “good news”, the success of people who climb mountains because they just want to, the pride of being able to pulverize the faces of Mexican boxers, the knowledge that such a bar exists in such a place where the rich, famous and beautiful gather in the evenings to watch the World Cup, while all around us are stories of death and betrayal, of war and conflict, news of illegal deals and corrupt government officials, denuded mountains and lives of slum dwellers and farmers being pulverized and lives kicked out of existence by imported bombs and bullets.

I enjoyed the Pacquiao-Larios fight. I even rushed to the office to really beat the competition and to be able to be the first one to upload the “good news” on the internet. A good friend of mine said I should write how I too forgot, that I too am part of the system, of a situation wherein, if we are not careful, would swallow all of us alive, hair, toes and fingernails.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Sharing stories, sharing dreams

Today I was with nuns in a convent somewhere in New Manila, Quezon City. For an afternoon, we shared stories, we reflected on the implications of events happening around, we sang, we prayed and we questioned ourselves. What have we done to prevent the evil that’s besieging our world?

We shared stories how we were touched by the killings of activists, church workers, teachers, journalists. We asked ourselves why there was no outrage from the people, why is it that even the church and the media have become so used to the situation to complain.

Is there still hope? We agreed that prayers are not enough. We have to take action. We have to voice our concern and protest the onslaught of violence in a society so calloused to raise its voice.

It was sunset when we finished pouring our hearts out. It was a prayer session that, instead of inspiring me, disturbed my whole being.

Back in the office, people were talking about where to spend the evening. It’s pay day and people have money. The stretch of Timog Avenue was filled with vehicles. People were on their way to the bars and restaurants on Timog and Tomas Morato.

Does it matter that two promising students of the University of the Philippines and a farmer were missing several kilometers away in Bulacan because they were trying to understand the situation of poor rural folk.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand the logic of this world. People who toil most of their waking hours deserve to enjoy. But do we really exist only to enjoy despite the inhuman situation of people around us?

O, how we forget even the most intimate moments of our experiences. How we forget that summer is not in June, that when it showers the sun usually does not shine. How people forget the past, even the recent past, how we forget our history. And because we forget, we don't move forward. We continue to go around in circle, repeating the mistakes that we've made.

Many times I wish that Plato is right, that the world where we exist, the things that we see and the experiences that we undergo are mere shadows, illusions.

Let me share Plato's "Parable of the Cave":

And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.

I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?

And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy, when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?

No question, he replied.

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision,, what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing And when to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?

Far truer.

And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?

True, he said.

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities?

Not all in a moment, he said.

He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?


Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.


He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about it.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?


Certainly, he would.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.

Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?

To be sure, he said.

And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

No question, he said.

This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed, whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.

Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.

Yes, very natural.

And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, when they returned to the den they would see much worse than those who had never left it. himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?

Anything but surprising, he replied.

Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he has a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.

That, he said, is a very just distinction.

But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes?

They undoubtedly say this, he replied.

Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.

Very true.

And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?

Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.

And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the virtue of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, on the other hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue, how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but his keen eye-sight is forced into the service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness?

Very true, he said.

But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached to them at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision of their souls upon the things that are below, if, I say, they had been released from these impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now. From Plato's Repulblic, Book VII

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sharing coffee and stories

Speaking before priests, seminarians, nuns and members of religious congregations this evening was like going back in time. I could see myself a few years ago sitting in the middle of the hall, awed at the personalities in front, intently listening to every word they would utter.

Being with my brothers in the seminary is like being with my family. We all know we commit mistakes and we all understand. We understand and forgive after the one who commits a mistake makes amends.

I talked about the media situation in the country. I shared tales of my life as a journalist. I told them that being a journalist is like being a priest. Our vocation is the same: to spread the good news to everyone who would care to listen. We journalists also want our world to change into a better one. We also want all the killings to stop. We want also want justice and peace to reign in our land.

I sang and prayed with them. I shared coffee with them. They gave me a certificate of recognition. They even provided a stipend. They said they would pray for me. I said I would do my best in my profession and not fail them.

Years ago, when I was as young as the seminarians who listened to me speak this evening, I used to go to the chapel after every symposium. I would pray that despite the difficulties I encounter daily in my studies I would become a priest and put into practice all the ideas I learned from the speakers.

This evening, while I tried to negotiate the traffic back to the office, I silently murmured a prayer that somehow I was able to touch a future priest’s heart. I prayed that I did not do an injustice to those who listened and I asked for forgiveness for the mistakes I made.

* * *

Coffee, like beer, tastes sweet when one shares it with someone one is comfortable with. It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee one is having, be it brewed or instant coffee. Anyway, nothing compares to the coffee Lola Tinang and Tiya Sensyang used to prepare.

We used to have coffee trees around the house. We picked the ripe fruits, dry it under the sun and, days later, roast it until it turns black. Our grandmother would then bring out the grinder – how do you call a galingan? – and order us kids to grind the black beans. The ground coffee is then put into a kettle to boil. Then we have to wait until the coffee sinks on the bottom of the kettle before Lola Tinang and Tiya Sensyang pour the liquid into our cup.

When I was a kid, drinking coffee was not done to pass time. Drinking coffee was a ritual. I only drink coffee in my grandparents’ house. We didn’t have coffee in our house. My parents said we could not afford it. What we had was “corn coffee” or coffee from ground roasted corn. On special occasions - a death in the family or during birthdays - my mother would buy a glass of Nescafe. (We’ve collected these empty glasses for our daily use. My sister and I used to share a glass while my father and mother another because there were not enough for the whole family.)

Coffee for me has become synonymous with special occasions like weekend visits to my grandparents’ house, Christmas, Holy Week. Later in life, when I stayed for several months in the hinterlands of Basilan and Zamboanga, I was always honored when Muslim families offer me coffee. There were times, when I made home visits to at least ten households in an afternoon. I had to drink ten glasses of coffee. Yes, that’s ten big glasses!

These days, drinking coffee has become a fad. Lovers quarrel and reconcile over coffee, deals are sealed over coffee, plans are hatched over coffee and people mask and unmask themselves over coffee.

I have lost my passion over coffee. These days, I drink coffee because others offer me a cup or, out of courtesy, I offer guest, friends and acquaintances. Many times I have coffee just to pass time and accompany someone who loves to drink the beverage. I prefer water.

I still for my grandmother's coffee. I still long for the special occassions when drinking coffee was a ritual. I dream of that day when I will drink coffee with someone willing to share a cup. What matters most would be the sharing. What matters most would be drinking coffee not with misty eyes after illusions appear and disappear with the white steam that, for a few seconds, linger in front of one's face.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Motorcycle ride

A motorcycle ride is always a moment of freedom. There’s always the adrenaline rush. One wrong move, a wrong turn, a wrong flick of a finger can bring disaster. But nothing compares with the joy of feeling the wind on one's face and the thought of being in full control of one’s life. Riding a motorcycle is like making love. Orgasm comes with a full throttle. There's no room for false moves.

A motorcycle rider must also learn to read the skies. One must know the direction of the wind and feel its temperature. One must know the difference of a stratus cloud from a cumulus cloud. Reading the signs makes a lot of difference especially during the rainy season.

The beauty of a motorcycle ride is the speed of travel while maintaining a connection with “life.” One must always be rooted on the ground or be ready anytime to keep contact with the ground. Like life itself, being rooted on the ground means survival.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mando’s piece of land

Mando is selling the land he inherited from his mother who died many, many years ago when Mando was still a kid. I was not even born yet when Mando’s mother died.

The piece of land, a ricefield, is the share of Mando’s mother after her surviving siblings decided to divide the land because their parents have long died anyway and they are growing older too.

Mando wanted me to buy the piece of land. It’s 380 square meters and he’s selling it to me for only P900 per square meter instead of P1,000 per square meter, the current rate in the real estate market in our province.

First, I told him, I don’t have the money. I even haven’t eaten dinner today because I lost my last P200 in my pocket. Second, what would I do with a piece of land in the middle of nowhere and near a cemetery?

I used to roam those fields when I was younger. It was there where I hit my first tukmo and killed my first punay. It was in Mando’s piece of land where I learned to plant rice, plowed the field with my favorite carabao, played hide-and-seek when rice still grew up to two meters, and it was there where I hid to peep on Mando kiss Manay Timmy when they were still lovers.

Mando’s piece of land holds memories of the past. I would have wanted to buy it if only I have the money to pay for it. Mando said he needs the money to pay for her daughter’s college education. I don’t even have the money to buy a fake college diploma in Recto.

And I don’t want to spend money to buy memories. Like friendship, memories are supposed to be taken care of, nurtured and treasured. Like friendship, memories are not supposed to be recalled only when one needs it.

I may or may not buy Mando’s piece of land. I might just help him, in whatever little way I can, send Inday Fe to college. There’s no need for me to be reminded about the tukmo and the punay, about Tura and Tata, Junior and Yoyo Luis, and the carabao and the chicken in the middle of the field, the maya and the tirador. They have been always part of me. There’s no point missing them.

Adobong Bisaya

Living in the city deprives me of a lot of things, especially food. (And real friends, too, who welcome you any time of the day even without an invitation, sometimes even inviting you to partake with what little food they have.)

I thought about food after watching Howie Severino’s “Amoy Pinoy” in “i-witness”. I thought about friends after being turned away by a friend who said I should have given a warning before coming over.

I thought about food and remembered the "Adobong Bisaya" my friends in my hometown used to share especially on the feast day of St. John the Baptist. My friends used to raid our kitchen – the bahaw in the kaldero, the three-day old adobo my Nana tries to save for the next meal, the ginamos in the Nescafe glass – despite the half-hearted protest of my mother.

My friends would bring everything, including the kaldero to the beach. The family has no choice but to follow and to hold an instant piknik with "Nonoy's barkada".

In our province, my friends are my parents’ friends, my friends' friends are also our friends and so on and so forth. We would always become a happy family of friends. That's why Mayo's home is my home, Marvin's bed is my bed, Meiko's mom is our mom, Divina's husband is our barkada and we eat together, sleep together and many of us, I know, would die together, nay, almost at the same time, like our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

(By the way, wakes are a happy moment for our community. Although we shed tears, we also share happy moments together. When we were kids, we used to sleep under the coffin of a friend's dead grandfather or father or mother. November 1 is a grand reunion of the community in the cemetery. It's the only time when we account who were dead and who are still alive. The next time we buy candles for the tombs or submit a list of names of the dead for the priest to mention during the dedication of the mass, we would know how much to spend.)

Adobo is cooked in various ways. In my hometown, our adobo is dry and oily. I think it’s just appropriate because we don’t have a refrigerator. The oil preserves the meat for it to last weeks.

During fiestas, we cook a lot of adobo for friends and relatives to bring home. We call it “bring house.” We put the adobo with a lot of mantika inside cans of biscuits, milk, anything that we find in our kitchen or backyard. Sometimes, weeks after the fiesta, when we visit friends in their homes during mealtime, the nanay or the lola would proudly offer the adobo. “Gikan pa ni sa inyo. Lami kaayo mao nga gihinay-hinay namo,” the friend’s mother would say. "Kanus-a man mag-adobo og usob si nanay mo?” would always be the next question. "Sa piyesta tingali kung magpatay mi og baboy," I would answer.

It has been a long time since I’ve eaten our adobo. It has been a long time I have been with friends.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

‘Struggling journalists’

Many times I am ashamed about my being a journalist. I am ashamed for having not done anything, for not having written or edited good stories, for not having perfected my grammar, for not having lived to the fullest my calling, nay, my profession as a journalist, as a witness to history, as a writer of raw materials that would, in the future, be the basis of our own kasaysayan.

I also feel ashamed about the many other journalists, especially those in the cities, who easily claim to be journalists because they cover their beats daily, write stories based on what their sources say or what the press releases wanted them to say, and worry more about what to wear, how they look, where to spend the night, where to go for vacation, what’s the next gimmick, etc.

I am ashamed because George and Macel died struggling to become journalists in Mindanao. I am ashamed because when Carol Arguillas asked me a few years back if I wanted to work in Mindanao and join her team my first question was how much would she pay me to go back to my homeland.

I felt sad after reading the article below that was written by a student who trained under George and Macel. I felt sad because despite the many training workshops and lectures I’ve attended, despite all the books I’ve read, I remain a hostage of my needs in this big city where I call myself a journalist.

George and Macel: “Struggling journalists”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 June) -- This was how George and Maricel "Macel " Alave-Vigo described themselves during their stint as regular staff members of "The Headliner," a weekly newspaper published in Cotabato City and circulated in Southwestern Mindanao from 1998 until the paper folded up in 2003.

George and Macel were members of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE), an organization of journalists that ran and managed the defunct Headliner.

For them, being "struggling journalists" meant writing and advocating a cause, with bias for the rights of the Lumads (indigenous peoples), war evacuees, women, and exposing irregularities in government.

As "struggling journalists," they did not write for a living but "write to serve the voiceless."

The couple would tell young writers and campus reporters not to write merely to inform but to educate.

While doing media work, the two continued helping advocacy works of the Diocese of Kidapawan. Macel was then working for the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) in Kidapawan City.

A feminist, Macel maintained a column in the "Headliner" titled "Feminist Expressions" which tackled mostly issues on the rights of women and children. She once wrote about an alleged case of sexual harassment brought to her attention. The alleged harassment implicated a politician.

George regularly wrote about the rights of the indigenous peoples (IPs) particularly on the encroaching of banana plantations around Mt. Apo, which is considered sacred by the Lumads (IPs)

George, who studied for three years at the Notre Dame Seminary in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, served as secretary of the Task Force Apo Sandawa under the Diocese of Kidapawan. The Task Force advocated for the protection of Mount Apo.

In the early 2000s, the group fought to prevent the Philippine National Oil Corporation's geothermal project from expanding in the Lumads’ ancestral land around Mt. Apo. The group also staged rallies to stop arsenic poisoning allegedly caused by the power plant.

George also served as bureau chief of Headliner after Carlos Bautista, who was then with Catholic-run radio station DXND, resigned from his pos

For being so critical of a officials in the province, George, sometime in 1999, was offered, through an emissary of a politician, a post as “ghost writer” in the politician’s office. Seeing this as a trap intended to silence him, he turned down the offer.

George and Macel wrote about the church and communities' peace initiatives in different areas of the region and conducted trainings for campus journalists in Kidapawan City colleges and high schools where they also shared the idea of public and peace journalism.

While covering the 2000 war, George also worked for Tabang Mindanaw, which extended assistance to the internally displaced persons. He was also one of 17 journalists who embarked on a fact-finding mission in the different war-torn villages across Mindanao during the "all-out war" of then President Joseph Estrada that year.

In college, both were members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and League of Filipino Students (LFS).

George, 35, a native of Magpet North Cotabato, served as president of the student council of Notre Dame of Kidapawan College where he finished Political Science. He was also a member of an international fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi.

Macel took up BS Chemistry at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato but stopped schooling. In April, she received her BS Development Communication degree through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency Accreditation Program (ETEEAP). The other graduate under the same program was North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol, a distant relative.

Macel, 39, was part-time media relations officer of Rep. Lala Talino and was area coordinator of SPOTS (Solar Power Technology System) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), a project funded by the British Petroleum, to distribute solar power to agrarian reform communities without access to electricity.

Before joining SPOTS, Macel was also executive director of the Peoples' Kauyahan Foundation, Inc. which was active in peace-building projects.

George, who was program coordinator of the Mindanao Youth Leadership Program of the Community and Family Services, International (CFSI) hosted Tingog sa Kabatan-unan (Voice of the Youth), a 30-minute radio program of the CFSI aired every Monday noon while Mazel hosted Talino’s Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs) aired over DXND every Sunday noon.

(This tribute was contributed by a young writer who counts George and Macel as among his mentors. The writer is also a former staff member of the Headliner and a distant relative of Macel. The writer now works in a non-government organization based in Davao City.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What I do when I'm not blogging

I read.

I'm reading "The Lazarus Vendetta" of Robert Ludlum and Patrick Larkin. It's like watching "Mission Impossible" or any other thriller sans the distraction of a seatmate.

I know a lot of people who hate Ludlum and people who read Ludlum. I love Ludlum. Ludlum taught me how to read. Ludlum introduced me to the world I only dreamt of seeing when I was young - Vienna, Washington, Amsterdam - and places - the State Department, the Capitol, etc.

When I was younger, when I was still in my sleepy little hometown, the only book I was able to get a hand on were copies of the Bible in Cebuano, Tagalog and English and second-hand Ludlum novels brought by the older siblings of my well-to-do classmates from Cebu.

My classmates would bring the books to school to show off. I borrowed the books. When my friends later found out that I was reading their books they started bringing others titles, other authors. They would ask me to read the books and tell them the story. I would later hear them telling other friends that they've read the books.

Ludlum opened my eyes that there is a world beyond the tall mountains that surround our little island hometown. Ludlum taught me to love reading and expand the reach of my imagination beyond the tall coconut trees and the horizon beyond the setting sun.

The first book I read was the "Gospel According to St. John," a small book which was a gift to me by a vacationing seminarian. I was around five years old then. The second book was "Silas Marner." Then the Bible. Then Ludlum came when I was in Grade 6.

I wonder what young people are reading these days especially in my hometown. The last time I went home I saw young people busy themselves day in and day out in front of computer monitors playing online games.

What I do when I'm not blogging? I look for Ludlum novels. I can also proudly say that I've read all of Ludlum's books and all the books of Tom Clancy, Le Carre, John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon and Michael Crichton.

When I was in college, I was forced to read the classics and Nobel Prize winning authors. These were the only non-fiction books available in the seminary during that time. I had no chance to buy my own books because I only had a P50 monthly allowance then.

When I started to have an income, I splurged on books - award-winning books, hard-to-find books, books, books, books. When I was in Saudi Arabia, I even bought books on Physics for lack of something to read.

I never felt sorry to have loved Ludlum. I will always be grateful to him for introducing me to the world of books and the world of men and the world of people who kill and love and sometimes fail.

So back to the world of Lt. Col. Jon Smith and his Covert-One mission. Let's go hunt some terrorists.

Monday, June 19, 2006

With impunity

When will the killings stop?

Today, ironically the birthday of national hero Jose Rizal, two people who dedicated their lives serving others through non-government work and the media were killed.

I might have met George and Macel Vigo when they were alive. George used to be a correspondent of the Union of Catholic Asian News like me. Macel used to be with non-government groups working for peace in war-torn areas of Mindanao. We have common friends. We might have been together in some UCAN meeting or gathering or NGO press conference. I cannot remember how they look like. Our friends remind me that George is mestizo-looking. Their looks are not important, though. What they did for others will always remind me of them.

There are so many things in life that we cannot explain. Unfortunately I cannot understand any explanation why people like George and Macel had to be killed. A friend in Kidapawan told me over the phone that George was the target but Macel was the first to have died. A bullet pierced through her heart. George died later in the hospital.

Why Macel? Why George?

Husband and wife NGO workers killed

By Malu Cadelina-Manar, MindaNews

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Two motorcycle-riding men shot dead a couple actively involved in non-government work (NGO) at around 5:15 p.m. Monday along Barangay Singao.

Killed were George Vigo, 33, project officer of the Mindanao Youth Leadership Program of the Community and Family Services, International, a Cotabato City-based NGO dealing with rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, and his wife, Maricel, 36, part-time media relations officer of Rep. Lala Talino-Santos of North Cotabato’s first district and since early this year was area coordinator of an NGO delivering solar services to villagers in remote areas.

The Vigos, both former journalists and co-founders of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE), did part-time media work prior to their killing.

They left behind four children, three sons aged 13, 9 and 7, and an adopted daughter, aged 20.

North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol in a four-paragraph statement sent to MindaNews, said the killings “are now being investigated by the [Philippine National Police]."

Pinol said he directed provincial police chief Federico Dulay “to give an initial report [as soon as possible]."

“I extend my condolences to the Vigo family… Justice will be served," Pinol said.

Pinol, a distant relative of Macel (Maricel's nickname), graduated alongside Macel last April from the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, under the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency Accreditation Program.

Initial investigation of the Kidapawan City police showed the motorcycle-riding gunmen followed the motorcycle-riding couple who was cruising toward Apo Sandawa Homes Phase 2. The Vigos were fired upon along Phase 1, in front of the residence of provincial board member Rey Pagal.

Relatives of the Vigos said they were not aware the couple had enemies as they had been “roaming freely, not only around the city but in other areas of the province and in Mindanao because of their job."

They also said the NGOs the couple had been working with since 2000 are not connected with progressive groups in the province.

George hosted “Tingog sa Kabatan-unan" (Voice of the Youth), a program of the CFSI aired over DXND-AM of the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation every Monday noon while Macel hosted every Sunday noon, “Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs), a program of Rep. Talinio also aired over DXND-AM.- Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews