Friday, April 28, 2006


The heart dies a slow death, shedding each hope like leaves until one day there are none, no hopes, nothing remains.

She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel.

Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings, she entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.
- Memoirs Of A Geisha


rise, work, rise, work, nothing
- Memoirs Of A Geisha

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Interest in the Catholic church has been growing in recent years with the death of Pope John Paul II, the publication of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and the recent release of a translation of some portions of "The Gospel of Judas."

I've been attempting to refresh whatever little knowledge I have of church history by digging into the boxes of books I acquired during my seminary days. One of the books I found was "In God's Name," an investigation into the death (murder?) of Pope John Paul I. The book was published in 1984.

I still remember reading the book in 1986 in Himlayang Filipino, where I used to spend Saturday afternoons meditating about my "missionary vocation" and the state of Philippine politics. It was a time then for difficult choices.

As I re-read the book this week I came across this quote from "The Imitation of Christ" which was quoted by the author of "In God's Name."

"My son, try to do another's will rather than your own. Always choose to have less rather than more. Always choose the lowest place and to be less than everyone else. Always long and pray that the Will of God may be fully realized in your life. You will find that the man who does all this walks in the land of peace and quietness."

Some reminder in a time of challenges.

The Mouse story

I got this from my email with the following introduction:

This was supposed to be a chain email on friendship pero mukhang subversive din, along the lines of "kung di tayo, sino? kung di ngayon, kailan?" but if you like, you can forward this to bunye, ermita, defensor... o kay tiglao, hehe :-)

Mouse Story

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

"What food might this contain?" The mouse wondered - he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.

"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.

One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Congratulations to AFIMA

A year after I wrote the story I posted yesterday the killings continued. The murders opened the eyes of a lot of journalists and led to the formation of several organizations.

One of the most vibrant organizations established recently is the AFIMA (Alyansa ng mga Filipinong Mamamahayag). The organization will be holding its induction of officers on Wednesday.

COngratulations to AFIMA and to Benny Antiporda, the prime mover of the organization. I hope you will continue with the right moves you have started. Let's keep united in our struggle for genuine press freedom and may your tribe increase.

Mabuhay po kayo.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What to tell the children

This weekend I will be speaking before children of killed journalists. Will I tell them their parents died because they practiced a very hazardous profession? Will I tell the children the death of their parents were necessary for the future of this country?

Our colleagues who were killed died because they had to work for their children to be able to go to school, eat a proper meal and have a better future. Maybe I will tell the children that their parents did not want to be heroes. Our colleagues who were murdered did their job to have food on the table for their families to survive. Nothing more. Nothing dramatic. Nothing mushy.

I wrote the article below for last year’s observance of World Press Freedom Day. It was published by the World Association of Newspapers and can be accessed at The information on Esperat’s killing was incomplete. The article was written the day she died.

March 25, 2005, Good Friday. The streets of Manila were empty. The airwaves were silent as Filipinos, mostly religious Catholics, go to churches. Local television and radio stations were off the air. Others broadcast religious shows. Newspapers did not publish. Journalists were on vacation. But the killers were not.

A message came on my mobile phone as I wrote this article to meet the deadline. “A local columnist in Tacurong City (in the southern Philippines) who had been a vocal critic of [a former congressman] was shot dead in her house,” the message reads. The sender identified the victim as Marlene Esperat of the local weekly Midland Review. She’s the third Filipino journalist to be killed in 2005.

The wave of killings that made the Philippines the most dangerous media hot-spot after Iraq in 2004 seems to continue into 2005. At least two journalists were already killed early this year, bringing the death toll to 15 since January 2004. If Filipino journalists are flies, they’re just dropping dead.

Romeo Sanchez, a broadcaster in the northern city of San Fernando was shot dead by a lone gunman on March 9. On February 28, Arnulfo Villanueva, a columnist for the Asian Star Express Balita newspaper was also killed. His body was found on a roadside. Police suspect he was killed because of his criticism of local officials over illegal gambling.

“The ordeal of Filipino journalists will only end when these ruthless assassins are brought to justice,” said Aidan White, secretary general of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). “It’s time for the authorities to do more to find the killers,” he said. He challenged the Philippine government to conduct a “credible and extensive investigation” of the killings and commit to protect other journalists from violence.

But Aidan’s call will most likely fall on deaf ears. Journalists are being killed with impunity in the Philippines. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) counted at least 66 journalists killed in what could be work-related murders since 1986 when democracy was restored in the country. The highest number was in 2004, a year that would likely be remembered by the Philippine press as a year of infamy.

There has been no single conviction for a journalist’s murder since 1986. And the killers seem to be getting bolder. The killings were most of the time followed by gloating calls and more death threats to the newsrooms. The climate of impunity is such that murder of a journalist also sparks a rash of death threats in other regions.

Even witnesses to the murder of journalists are being killed. On February 2, three unidentified gunmen shot school teacher Edgar Amoro, primary witness to the killing of journalist Edgar Damalerio in 2002. Amoro was killed despite the fact that he was under the government’s witness protection program.

Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, demanded for “more than just lip service from the government” after Amoro’s murder. “It is high time that officials made good on their promises to uphold press freedom by bringing those who murder journalists to justice,” she said.

Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute, said the “countries with journalists’ blood [like the Philippines]” should take “effective action to find and prosecute their killers.”

“The sheer number of journalists killed in 2004 is cause for deep concern,” Cooper said. “But the fact that so many were murdered with impunity is shameful and debilitating. Governments have an obligation to pursue and prosecute those responsible. By failing to do so, they let criminals set the limits on the news that citizens see and read.”

Without a doubt, the criminals are having a “field day” slaughtering or distressing members of the press. Due to lack of action and justice, the crooks are becoming bolder and resolute in attacking the media. Some groups even tried to scare journalists into silence. Information surfaced about the alleged existence of a “hit list” targeting at least two journalists in each province.

“The journalists’ killings, their threats and insults, and...the liquidation of key witnesses in their cases, have definitely cemented the infamy the country earned as one of the worst places in the world for journalists,” the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) said in a statement.

“The impunity with which the killers of journalists have been able to get away with the murders and threats is alarming, threatening press freedom and the viability of Philippine democracy,” it added.

The Philippines has been regarded as a haven for journalists for having perhaps the “freest” press, but for having a democracy providing a virtual paradise to murderers and killers, any place in the country could be a hellfire for media.

The killing also highlighted the rising cases of threats and attacks against journalists.

Maximo Quindao, an editor and publisher based in Mindanao, was seriously wounded when unknown gunmen shot him on January 29. Three days later, a businessman threatened journalist Luz Rimban of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, after she linked the businessman’s company to illegal logging activities. On February 8, Manila-based columnist Pablo Hernandez survived a assassination attempt suspected to be orchestrated by high-ranking police officers.

Early this year the government issued a statement criticizing an IFJ report on the government’s failure to protect journalists and solve the killings. The government labeled the IFJ report as “misleading.” A government spokesman, referring to police leads where suspects were either identified or arrested, claimed that the Philippine National Police already solved “majority of the cases involving the slaying of journalists.”

Data from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility revealed that only two cases resulted in the identification, prosecution and conviction of suspects. The family of one of the victims, however, believes the convicted person was a “fall guy” of the real mastermind behind the killing.

In 2004 alone, there were only two “serious” government investigations on the killing of journalists. None of these led to any prosecutions. Government data also revealed that since 1986, 15 cases of murders of journalists are pending in courts while 27 remain under investigation. None resulted in a conviction.

Impunity, the failure to prosecute and to punish those responsible for the murders, is the primary reason journalists are still murdered in the Philippines.

“The killings are also indicative of the generally low levels of security available to everyone, not only to journalists, especially in the countryside where police and military officials are often in collusion with the local officials and criminal syndicates that journalists frequently target,” said Luis Teodoro, a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines.

He said the unsolved ambushes and murders of other citizens and the impunity with which security forces arrest and torture crime suspects also encouraged the killers of journalists, who have discovered that journalists do not have any special powers that could enable them to gain redress.

“The killing of journalists in the Philippines is a symptom of a deeper problem of governance rooted in the failure of the justice system,” Teodoro said. The killings also put in serious question the Philippine claims to democracy because they target a fundamental right, the right to a free press, without which no society and no government can claim to be democratic.

The only way for the culture of impunity to end is for the government to apply the full force of the law and due process to bring the killers, and those out to silence the media, to justice. It is high time for the public, the authorities, the media, the religious sector, the business community to make a strong stand against violence, particularly the series of killings of journalists and denounce various human rights violations.

Hopefully it would not be too late. These days it is not uncommon to see journalists carrying a gun even in the middle of the city. “I pack a pistol. In case it rains, at least I have an umbrella,” said a reporter who has been receiving death threats for almost a year now. He said he will fight back and is ready for it.

Some are not that tough. “Life here is dangerous,” said a journalist from a city in the southern Philippines. Because of threats to his life he avoided writing investigative stories. “It’s not worth dying for. I don’t want to sacrifice my family,” he said, adding that the threats and the killings brought about a “chilling effect” on media practitioners.

Something has terribly gone wrong. But in the Philippines, where one top police official admitted that every time he sees a journalist his blood boils, nothing seems to be going right. One thing, however, is certain. Despite the killings and intimidations, Filipino journalists will continue to practice journalism. Unfortunately, some are desperate. “There’s no middle ground here anymore for journalists,” one reporter said. “Either you become corrupt or you get killed.”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Appreciating a story

There are many ways to look at a story. The release on Thursday of the Supreme Court decision on Executive Order 464 shows how Filipino journalists differ in appreciating a simple story.

Some reports, especially those released earlier than the others, say the Court declared "EO 464 unconstitutional," others say the Court "partly voids" the executive order, while a Supreme Court media release says the Court "declared constitutional EO 464 insofar as it bans executive officials from appearing during the question hour."

Below is the official media release of the Supreme Court.

SC: Congress Can Compel Appearance of Public Officials in Inquiries ‘In Aid of Legislation’

In a unanimous (14-0, with one Justice on leave) decision promulgated today, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Congress to compel the appearance of executive officials in congressional inquiries in aid of legislation by partially voiding Executive Order No. 464.

However, the Court, speaking through Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, declared constitutional EO 464 insofar as it bans executive officials from appearing during the question hour.

In making a distinction between congressional investigations in aid of legislation and investigation during the “question hour,” the Court said that the former should be untrammeled because it is co-extensive with the power to legislate of Congress. On the other hand, investigations relating to the question hour do not relate to specific legislations but are directed merely to congressional oversight over the implementation of laws. Section 1 of EO 464 required all heads of departments in the Executive branch to secure the consent of the President before appearing in an inquiry conducted by either House of Congress, pursuant to Art. VI, sec. 22 of the Constitution. On the other hand, sec. 2(a) enumerates the types of information covered by the order.

The Court invalidated Sections 2(b) and 3 of EO 464, thus resolving the major issues raised in six petitions filed against the order. It can be recalled that on September 28 last year, the President issued the questioned executive order banning the appearance of heads of departments and other officers of the executive branch in congressional inquiries without the prior consent of the President.

Under sec. 2(b), officials within the coverage of EO 464 are: senior officials of executive departments; generals, flag officers, and other officers of the Armed Forces; Philippine National Police officials with the rank of chief superintendent or higher and other PNP officials; senior national security officials who in the judgment of the department head, Chief of Staff, PNP Chief, and National Security Adviser, respectively, are covered by executive privilege, as well as such other officers as may be determined by the President to be likewise covered. Sec. 3 states that all such officials should first secure the “prior consent” of the President before appearing in a congressional inquiry.

“The infirm provisions of EO 464…allow the executive branch to evade congressional requests for information without need of clearly asserting a right to do so and/or proffering its reasons therefor. By the mere expedient of invoking said provisions, the power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is frustrated,” the Court said.

The Court held that only the President can invoke executive privilege. She may also authorize the Executive Secretary to invoke the privilege on her behalf, in which case the Executive Secretary must state that the act is “By order of the President,” which means that he personally consulted with the President, it added.

The Court also held that the claim of privilege under sec. 3 of EO 464 in relation to sec. 2(b) is invalid per se for being so broad as to allow even “implied claims” of privilege by lesser officials. The proviso requiring the President to give her prior consent, the Court explained, means only that the she may reverse the prohibition which already exists by virtue of EO 464. This may allow the President to authorize claims of executive privilege by mere silence, the Court said.

“It is not asserted. It is merely implied. Instead of providing precise and certain reasons for the claim, it merely invokes EO 464, coupled with an announcement that the President has not given her consent. It is woefully insufficient for Congress to determine whether the withholding of information is justified under the circumstances of each case,” the Court said.

It emphasized that a claim of privilege, being a claim of exemption from an obligation to disclose information, must therefore be clearly asserted.

“Congress has the right to know why the executive considers the requested information privileged. It does not suffice to merely declare that the President, or an authorized head of office, has determined that it is so, and that the President has not overturned that determination,” the Court stressed.

The High Court also reminded Congress that although the power of legislative inquiry may be broad, it is not unlimited. It explained that in order to avoid conflicts, Congress should indicate in its invitation the possible needed statute which prompted the need for the inquiry, in addition to stating the subject of the inquiry and questions relative to and in furtherance thereof.

It explained that there are clear distinctions between the right of Congress to information which underlies the power of inquiry and the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. However, to the extent that investigations in aid of legislation are generally conducted in public, any issuance to unduly limit disclosures in such investigations necessarily deprives the people of information which are presumably a matter of public concern. In that sense, EO 464 directly impairs the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.

Concurring in the decision were Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Justices Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio T. Carpio, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato C. Corona, Conchita Carpio Morales, Romeo J. Callejo, Sr., Adolfo S. Azcuna, Dante O. Tinga, Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia, and Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. Senior Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno is on leave.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bo's story behind the story

A friend of mine sent this to me. It's supposed to be an article by Bo Sanchez.

One day, I was giving a retreat to a bunch of bigwig executives. As a whole, the group was very happy to be there. Except for one guy -- one of the vice presidents -- at the back of the room.

If horses suffered from menopause, that was what he looked like: He snorted around, kicked his hoofs about, creating dust clouds everywhere. While all were listening to my talk, he'd stand up and walk around, disturbing everyone, chatting with people and munching chip! Obviously, he didn't like being there. I guessed he was forced by the company's president to attend the retreat.

This menopausal horse was getting to my nerves, so I approached him after my talk. The evil laboratory in my brain provided me with a few opening lines to use. "Let me see...You became VP by marrying the owner's daughter, right?" "You're a VP? Does that stand for Vile Personality?" "So, what Al Quaeda cell do you work for?" "Are you by any chance demon-possessed?" Of course, my favorite was... "Hi, are you having hot flushes?"

Thankfully, I didn't choose any of the above.

Instead, I took him aside and sincerely asked, "Hi, brother. How are you?"

After some awkward moments, his story came pouring out. "Last month, my wife was diagnosed to have cancer," his voice trembled, "and the doctors don't know how long she will last. I hate being here because I want to be with her every waking time I have." He wept like a baby. Suddenly, I felt tinier than a virus. Can anyone step on me and squash me, pleeeease? I deserved it. I said, "Brother, can I pray for your wife right now?" He nodded. I laid my hand over him and prayed for her healing. You won't believe what happened next. For the rest of the retreat, the man was as attentive as a contemplative nun.

I learned two lessons that day. One, I'll never call anyone (even in my mind) a menopausal horse again. Two, I need to know the story behind the story. Without it, making judgments is insanity. ********

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How I wish I could keep the doctor away

I went to the doctor yesterday. I had cough and colds.

I went to a clinic inside a mall. These days anything one needs or wants are available in malls. One can find food, flowers, clothes, sex, men, women and those in between in any mall in Manila.

Maybe not everything. I haven’t seen a funeral parlor inside a mall although I saw people selling lots in memorial parks.

I’m digressing from my story.

The doctor asked me if I smoke. I said yes. Do I have plans to stop, he asked. I said, since I started smoking I already planned to stop. That was around 25 years ago.

He said: “Good. Now that you are here inside the mall, you can go to the men’s section. They have good barong tagalongs with great designs. At least you can still choose what to wear during your funeral.”

That was really inspiring!

He later prescribed an antibiotic for my cough.

“I’m not giving you the most expensive antibiotic because it’s the same with the cheapest. They’re all the same,” the doctor said.

“Prescribe me the cheapest then,” I said.

“Nope,” he said. “If I do that, the pharmacist would think that I’m a ‘cheap’ doctor and you are dirt poor. Let’s not pretend to be rich nor should we pretend to be poor.”

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to argue with one’s doctor.

I tried to coax him into talking. He said he’s only getting P240 from my health insurance company for having me as patient.

“That’s why a lot of doctors are studying to be nurses,” he said.

“You better get an x-ray. Let’s see if you still have lungs,” he said.

Fortunately I still have a pair.

“You better take care of those,” he said. “You’ll be together for at least 30 more years,” the doctor said.

Another inspiring quote from the guy! Whew! Great man, though.

(Why is it that my PLDT WeRoam performs badly even in the middle of the night?)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

What to do when everybody seems to be out of town. The stores are closed. The streets are deserted. It's difficult to even get a ride.

I went to church. The University of the Philippines chapel. I arrived when the priest was about to let the people kiss the cross. Then the ministers decided that the kissing (Veneration) of the cross should be done in an orderly manner. With the hundreds of people inside the church and with only one cross to kiss the waiting would be a nightmare. I decided I had to look for my own cross.

Next is the Kamuning Church. People were already outside the church when I arrived. They were waiting for the religious procession to start. I went inside the church and had the cross all to myself.

I remember when I was in Basilan. It was Holy Week and I had to sleep in a room where the Blessed Sacrament was installed from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. It was the most blessed week of my life.

All shops are closed. Next thing to worry is dinner. Where to eat dinner in Metro Manila on a Good Friday evening?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Problem solved

Our problem has been solved: Pan de sal, sardinas sa lata, mumurahing keso, mamahaling liver spread.

Tapos na ang pagkain. Trabaho na naman. Sabi nga ng isang column sa Poynter, "It's a 24/7 World." Teka, ito nga yon o. Read on...

Posted by Alan Abbey

When I began as director of the Jerusalem Post site more than four years ago, we posted a few articles on the site every Friday afternoon and resumed again only after sundown Saturday, the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

Similarly, we took a break during the major Jewish holidays. So, four years ago on this day (by the Jewish calendar) we posted a "Happy Passover" note on the site and went off to be with our families and friends for the annual Passover seder.

The next morning I heard the awful news: On March 27, 2002, a suicide bomber walked into a hotel in the northern Israeli city of Netanya and detonated himself in the middle of a crowded communal seder, killing 30 Israelis and injuring 140, 20 seriously. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The eventual Israeli military response, called Operation Defensive Shield by the IDF, was to re-enter the Palestinian territories with military force to crush the terrorists' capabilities.

This terror attack was a turning point in the second Palestinian intifada -- but the Jerusalem Post site had nothing on it for 25 hours while the entire world was focused on the tragedy, and sites from here to Timbuktu covered it wall to wall.

It was a wakeup call in more ways than one. We realized that we had to staff our site as close to 24/7 as budgets would allow. Even the sacred days of the Jewish calendar, for Jewish workers in the Jewish state, would have to be addressed in a modern way.

Today, there isn't a major news site in Israel that does not run 24/7, even on the Sabbath and Holy Days, when work is traditionally prohibited.

In a better, more peaceful world, journalists (unlike police and hospital emergency room personnel) would be able to take a break here and there. But we don't live in a peaceful world.

Happy Passover and happy Easter.

Big problem

It's Holy Thursday. The streets of Manila are empty. The malls too. There are no newspapers. Television channels broadcast religious shows. The radio stations too. Nothing seems to move. We have a "big problem" here in the office. We can't recall the telephone number of McDonald's. What to eat on a Holy Thursday? A Big Mac maybe?

Bakit kami nasa opisina ala-singko ng hapon ng Huwebes Santo? Ito ang mga dahilan.

25 Filipino seamen rescued in sea mishap off Japan
LRT maintenance work underway
Higher fees sought for sale of guns, explosives, firecrackers
Oil prices hover above $68 a barrel
2 injured PEZA protesters still await govt aid
New fossil links up human evolution
HK-based rights group alarmed over activists’ disappearance
Moussaoui jury hears Flight 93 recording

Once more, with feeling

It has been a long time. I would have wanted to write more frequently but other tasks overtook the writing process. I know, there should be no excuses. Someone who claims to earn a living from words should write daily. That's one lesson I learned from my editors in the past.

There are new tasks ahead of me. New challenges await in the next corner, so they say. Another blog site has been set up to force me to do more writing. I will later put a link from here for you to visit the site. It's still a work in progress.

I was scanning old files today when I opened what was supposed to be the beginning of the first chapter of a book I was commissioned to write a few years back. In the spirit of the Lenten season let me share to you the first few paragraphs of what I still believe would be another book within the year. God bless!

THE MEN WERE wearing masks. Under cover of the early evening darkness, they moved quickly past the empty wooden church to the nearby convento. The shadows cloaked their presence.

The clock just struck seven.

Rodrigo Laureto, 13, shut off the motor of the water pump behind the priest’s residence. He has been doing this every night since he stayed in the convent with the old priest and the other sacristans.

The men momentarily froze when they saw the boy.

“Is Father around,” a man in black jacket stepped up to Rodrigo.

“He’s already asleep,” Rodrigo said.

“Take us to him,” the man insisted.

Rodrigo obeyed. He ran to the convent and called out to Jose Monterde, 18, an older sacristan. “Some men to see Father Ling,” Rodrigo told the older boy.

The older boy had no time to react. He blanched at the sight of the two men who shouldered their way inside the convent. The man in black had a .45 caliber pistol in his hand and the other, who was wearing a green sports shirt, had a snub-nosed weapon that could have been a .38 caliber.

“One peep and we’ll shoot you,” the man in black jacket hissed as he shoved the older boy up the stairs.

Jose’s knees shook as he reached the top step leading to the priest’s room on the second floor. He could feel the gun at his back. He knocked softly on the priest’s door.

“Father, Father,” he sobbed.

Father Godofredo Alingal, 58, opened the door. He had already stripped to his shorts and T-shirt for the night. Disturbed from reading, he had his glasses on. For one brief moment, his eyes stared fixedly at his murderer.

There was one loud explosion.

Lost entry

Below is the last entry of my American Diary I was not able to upload earlier.

September 17, 2005
San Francisco Airport
8:45 p.m.

It’s cold even here inside the airport. The America West airline desk is not yet open. I have to wait for a night here sitting beside a family of Indians. I cannot understand what they are talking about. We are the only ones here in the America West check-in terminal. My flight is at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning. It’s a long wait but I want to make sure that I will be here early.

I checked out of my hotel at noon today. I left my luggage in the hotel storage and walked a block to take the famous San Francisco train on Powell Street in front of Union Square. I was excited like a child. I even smiled and took my own picture. A black man volunteered to take another one for me. The car climbed the steep streets. My destination was the Fisherman’s Wharf. I paid $5 for the trip. Midway to my destination the car stopped. “We lost power,” the operator said. The passengers waited. I waited for almost 30 minutes. I asked how far is it to my destination. The conductor said it would be a 20-minute walk. It took me more than 30 minutes.

Alan earlier said I should look for a statue of a crab. I did not see one. I saw Alcatraz. I saw the Golden Gate. I saw the sea and memories of my hometown came back. There were many shops on the shore and on the streets near the beach. I walked and walked and looked at the shops. I still had no meal but I tried to forget about it. It was past two in the afternoon when I felt hungry. It was too late. I was too far from the restaurants.

I watched the old ships anchored on the harbor. I did not climb any one of the ships. One has to pay a few dollars to board the ships. I entered a museum. There were pictures of ships and shipping gears. I was so hungry. I saw a lot of ships and beaches in Mindanao. I decided to walk out of the museum and watched people playing with their Harley-Davidsons. There were also firemen and policemen. There was a ceremony to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.

I went to the beach and watched the birds. I watched the fog descend on Alcatraz and the Golden Gate. I watched two big cargo ships pass below the Golden Gate. I wonder where they came from. I am sure there were Filipino sailors aboard the ships. Filipinos are all over the world. We are like birds.

I started walking back to the restaurant row and decided to enter one, which has a sign that says “Since 1946.” I asked for soup, a glass of Coke and ordered crab legs and crab cake under the appetizer section. It cost me $21. Our crabs back home taste better.

I went around the block and looked for a toilet. They call it restroom here. I think it’s more prudent. I was able to rest and relax my complaining stomach. I entered a Barnes and Noble shop and bought a book with my remaining traveler’s check so that I could have cash. I only had $16 in my pocket and some loose change. In another shop I saw old newspapers that date back to World War II. I bought two. One proclaimed that the war has started, the other announced that war was over. I folded the papers and inserted it in my luggage, hoping that it would not be ruined.

I took a bus back to Union Square past 6 o’clock in the evening and stayed in the Square for some minutes. I went up to the column in the middle of the square and read how America defeated Spain during the battle in Manila Bay in 1898 and later put the Philippines under “subjection.”

I walked back to the hotel and waited for the airport shuttle. The ride cost me $20.

There’s a full moon tonight. I saw it on my way to the airport. Its reflection was clear on the waters of San Francisco Bay. I remembered a scene when I was young. I don’t know where we were going then. But I was with my father, my uncle and my sister. We went to the mountains, to Ilaya, a barrio in Dapitan, to visit my grandparents. My uncle was driving. There was a full moon that night too and I was fascinated with it because it followed us wherever we went.

The moon here in America looks like the one in Dapitan when I was young. It also looks like the one in Manila. Unfortunately I seldom see the moon in Manila. I seldom see stars there too. There are more stars in Dapitan than in Manila. The moon is larger too. Like the one in Bungiao, in Surabay, in Basilan.