Thursday, May 31, 2007

All alone in the Red Square

9:45 p.m. May 30 (Wednesday)

Finally, I was able to go to the Red Square, the Kremlin. Alone and via the metro. I just have to do it. One has to conquer the unknown.

The Asia-Pacific delegates had their meeting this afternoon after lunch. We introduced ourselves made our country reports. I appealed for help for our projects and support for our activities in the Philippines, especially in our work for the safety of journalists.

Everybody voiced their support. Australia, through Chris Warren, the outgoing IFJ president, promised to continue the support his union started especially on the Safety Office we've established. Serenade of Hong Kong made a motion to raise a Congress resolution to support the struggle of Filipino journalists. Alan from Australia was tasked to formulate the resolution that would be presented to the body tomorrow. The same motion was seconded by Heru of Indonesia and supported by Nurela of Malaysia. Japan, India, Nepal, Cambodia also issued statements of concern on the situation of the media in the Philippines.

We then discussed the elections, which will be held tomorrow. We agreed to support Japan, Malaysia, India and South Korea in the executive committee while I was nominated as reserve adviser for Southeast Asia. All the delegates from the region agreed to support each other to have a bigger voice in the international community.

Like in any other big international organizations, politics rules in the IFJ. There's a lot of lobbying and negotiations and campaigning for each country's issues. It's good that I have been exposed to international politics early via the World Conference on Human rights in 1983 and the regional meetings and conferences I attended in the past. Well, Filipinos are experts when it comes to politics. One will just have to look at what's going on back home. Ha, ha, ha.

After the meeting and the filing of our certificates of candidacy, people just went on their own to enjoy their free time. The Cambodian joined the Indonesia to have dinner out with Indonesian Embassy people. I called up Mr. Atienza of the Philippine Embassy but he said he's busy and had no time to meet. He invited me to visit the embassy, I said I might do it on Friday.

Serenade said he would be going out with a Russian journalist and she wanted me to tag along. The Russian looked for an English map and brought me to the metro. He said if I survived the Philippine I could survive Moscow. Despite Serenade's protest I went alone. I had to. The Russian was right. The joy of a journey is really in the discovering on one's own something that's truly alien.

And there's nothing more alien to me than going out to Moscow on my own using the metro without. You know it's really hard. There are no English signs. Everything is on Russian, even the street signs. It was just crazy. I tried to ask for directions, but nobody speaks English. And do you know that all Russian metro stations are different from each other? And they're really old, as in many of them dates back to the 1800s. With the drumming of my heart, I came out from one station that led me to the historic Metropole Hotel just in front of the Bolshoi Theater, which is unfortunately under renovation. I saw ancient red walls and I thought those were the "Red Square." I was wrong, but I was nearer. I followed the pack of tourists, many of them locals and some Germans, and voila, I was inside the Red Square. I recognized it immediately of course. What with all the movies and all the Ludlum novels I read since I was a kid.

Lesson No. 1: Read and read a lot even books and novels that pretentious people describe as trash. Your readings will help you a lot especially during unexpected moments.

I bought a can of Sprite, lighted a stick of Marlboro and entered the Red Square while fending off street hawkers who insisted that I buy those rabbit caps that many of us who love Cold War movies saw Russians wear. I spent two hours in the square, took a lot of pictures and started my adventure back in the metro. I survived and came out of a station almost two kilometers from the hotel. I had to walk inside a park I saw to make a shortcut. I bought a bottle of water, which I later found out was "sparkling water" (It's like drinking a tasteless 7-Up). When I reached the hotel, some delegates told me my walk in the park at past 9 o'clock in the evening was crazy. They said muggings, especially in parks, have become rampant lately with all the drunk teenagers around. (Ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin was robbed US$20,000 last week in the middle of Moscow. He was walking alone, maybe enjoying the freedom he has while vacationing here in Russia.)

After tomorrow's meetings and elections, I'll try to discover more of Russia.

Moscow Adventure

8:23 p.m., May 26, 2007 (Saturday)
NAIA, Manila

It's 8:23 p.m. and I'm here at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Gate 11 for my flight to Moscow via Frankfurt. The fun part of travel starts. After waiting for weeks to secure a visa, I'm finally ready to leave. Thanks to the Russian and Norwegian embassies in Manila for the suspense.

I had to do a last-minute shopping for a suit on Saturday morning. I have to. I'll be speaking before more than a thousand journalists during the opening of the World Congress of Journalists after the keynote address of former Russian leader Michael Gorbachev.

It's good that I lost weight these past days. My waistline has gone back to 33 and I can wear my size 32 pants. I don't have to buy a new pair of pants. In Norway, I'll be wearing Mujiv's barong and pair of pants. 'Yong pang congressman, ha ha ha.

To save on what little dollar some friends gave as "baon" and not to spend money abroad on "incidentals," I bought two packs of cigarettes, extra pairs of underwear and socks, and yes, a new toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, a small piece of soap and shampoo. (Most hotels in Europe usually don't provide these in their rooms.)

By the way, I'm typing these notes on WordPad because the guys at the office who I asked to format my laptop forgot to install Microsoft Office. Guys, wait 'till I come back, especially if I would not be able to open my speech. I wonder what other programs you forgot to install. (Well, I also forgot to bring a book to read in the plane.)

It was raining when I left Quezon City for the airport late this afternoon. There was also rain when I left for the United States two years ago. President Arroyo was also facing her own storm that time - an impeachment suit in the House of Representatives. Today, the Arroyo administration is waiting for the people's judgment after the May 14 elections.

I also have some storms to battle - then and now.

Coincidence has always played a role in my life. Some friends say I'm just good in timing. They even have this standing joke not to come with me on my trips to "dangerous" places, especially in Mindanao, because something might happen. I believe that coincidences are actually part of the natural course of things, only magnified by our sensitivity to events or instances due to specific situations. For instance, it's actually no coincidence that every time I travel it rains. It's just that I travel during the rainy season or during bad weather.

As promised, I will keep you updated about my trip and about the meetings I will be attending. I just hope that I can have Internet connection when I arrive in Moscow. It's a long flight. By the time you will read this, I will be in Moscow already. I will change planes in Frankfurt after more than ten hours.

Some sidelights:

When I arrived at the airport's airline check-in counter, the security people asked me if I'm a seaman. I said no, I'm a journalist. A guy said, only seamen go to Russia.

At the immigration counter, the officer asked me what I would do in Moscow. I said I'm giving a speech. He said: "Ang galing talaga ng Pinoy. Kayang-kaya talaga natin ang lamig. Saang maritime school ka magle-lecture?"

Aguy, aguy!

When I went through the second security check at the airport, before the boarding gate, the guards saw my t-shirt with the broadcast network's logo. One man asked: "Anong ikokober mo sa Russia? May gera ba doon?."

Gusto ko sanang sabihing may rali ang mga bading sa Linggo. Ikokober ko.

I tried to enter the Lufthansa lounge. A beautiful girl there smiled and asked for my boarding pass. I said I just want to take a leak. When he saw that I was booked in the Economy section, she pointed me to Gate 11, still with the very nice smile for me not to get embarrassed. I know, I know, I wanted to tell her. Baka lang makalusot. Gutom na kasi e.

I went to a Kopiroti stand and had a cup of coffee and four small pieces of sliced bread for P100. Yes, naiihi talaga ako.

In a few minutes, it would be boarding time, and off I go above the clouds, to never-never land, to sleep on the wings of a Lufthansa airplane, crossing continents and time zones that I only imagine, and making the best effort to kill time thousands of kilometers above the earth, nearer the stars this rainy evening, far from a beloved who is already in bed, dreaming, wishing, working for a better world for herself as I, the accidental journeyman, wonder what's in store in the future.

Good night.

8: 30 a.m., May 27, 2007 (Sunday)
Frankfurt Airport

Just arrived after a more than 12 hours from Manila via Guangzu, China, then over Russia and then Germany.

There were other Filipinos in the plane: caregivers going to Germany, Norway, Milano and other parts of Europe; about 50 Catholic pilgrims accompanied by some nuns on their way to some religious site; a number of seafarers on their way to ports in Copenhagen and Moscow.

I remembered my last trip to Europe in 1993. There were only few Filipino passengers then, mostly seafarers and some activists on their way to a meeting with European counterparts. The times have changed.

During check-in in Manila, I asked for an exit seat. It was a long flight so I preferred to have some leg room. The Lufthansa guy, however, said there was no exit seat available. He offered me a seat in the front row of the economy section. I found out, however, that I was seated with two nursing Filipino mothers on their way to meet their European husbands. I asked to be transfered to another seat beside Vergel, a Filipino seaman on his way to Copenhagen. Except for chats during mealtime, we slept throughout the flight.

Vergel will board a cargo ship in Copenhagen after three years without work in Manila. He said he has a four-month old child now who needs to be baptized. He needs the money for baptism so he accepted a ten-month contract.

When the plane was over Russia, I saw on the map that we were flying over the city of Almaty, a place a dear friend talked about with so much fun. How I wish to discover the city with my friend.

I went around Frankfurt airport to kill time and would have loved to buy books at one bookshop. There was V.S. Naipul's book on his travels to Muslim countries, which I was looking for a time already. It was published in 1998 and is priced at 14 euros. I decided against buying. Maybe I will find a cheaper copy in Manila one of these days. I know there will be a lot of papers to read in the conference and newspapers to browse in the airport to kill time.

Right now I'm sitting beside the glass window of Gate 1-52 of Frankfurt airport. There's a seven-story building on the left that reflects the morning sun. To the right is a building under construction, with a yellow crane hovering above. Jutting below me is the tail of a Lufthansa A-320 plane. Beyond the buildings are trees. Only a few cars and buses are passing.

Places are actually the same wherever your are. It's the same sun, the same sky, the same world we are in. Only people look different, but not that much. What makes sceneries, people, sunsets, sunrises different is how we look at it, how we appreciate the world around us, limited the view may be by our beliefs, feelings and outlooks in life. What makes relationships work is not love itself, it's a universal experience. What makes love work is how people, partners, lovers appreciate each others uniqueness, hate it, argue about it, and in the end try to change it for the better to make each other's life one's own.

Today's headlines:

From the International Herald Tribune

Bush looks past 'surge' for ways to cut troops
Every generation is first generation (for German Turks, foreign brides)
EU's next global target: Google

From the FT Weekend:

Germany clashes with US on climate
Eurotunnel back on track after investors approve new structure

Now it's time to read the papers. I would have wanted to take pictures right now but the 30D Canon in my bag is too bulky to take out. I should have brought with me an instamatic digital camera, if only I have one, ha, ha, ha.

11:57 p.m., May 27, 2007 (Sunday)
Mezhdunaradnaya Hotel
World Trade Center, Moscow

Already in Russia. I arrived here past 4 p.m. local time. I have a problem connecting with the electric socket. The system here is different. My battery is already low. Good that my Siemens phone charger has the right plug. I still have to look for an adaptor tomorrow to charge the laptop.

I have to look for a grocery this evening to buy water. The mini bar in my room has nothing in it. There's also no toothbrush, toothpaste and razor in the toilet.

Moscow is an expensive city. A Coca-Cola at the airport cost me 70 rubles. A lighter costs 30 rubles. A one liter bottle of water costs 80 rubles. The exchange rate is US$1 = 29 rubles.

I wonder if I would be able to tour the city. Aside from the cost, I haven't seen any nearby places to go near the hotel. The schedule is also hectic. I'm closing the computer now. The battery is down.

9:25 a.m., May 28, 2007 (Monday)
World Trade Center, Moscow

In 30 minutes, the former Russian leader Michael Gorbachev will be addressing the World Congress. I will have to be there. I already found a solution to my electricity plug adaptor. A chambermaid brought one to my room, although it was the wrong one. My plug could not fit. She said she could not do anything about it, except if I destroy the adaptor she brought and fit the one I have. Voila, I destroyed it when she left and had my instant adaptor. Next problem is Internet connection. I will find a solution within the day.

I still could not find a shop that sells razors. I will be speaking before the Congress at 2:30 this afternoon. I have to shave. Vanity, vanity. Nope, for once I just want to look good. I have a new suit, a good speech if I may say, and I will be speaking with fellow journalists around the world. I have to show the best of the Filipino people.

It's sad that I will be doing this alone. Like any other small country from around the world, the Philippines has only one delegate to the Congress. The other countries, however, also sent a government delegate. The organizers said they sent invites to all the embassies to send a representative from the home country. Indonesia has one, so my friend Heru from Jakarta is not alone. The Indonesia government representative foot our bill during dinner last night. I hope the Philippine Embassy in Moscow will send a representative at least during the opening of the Congress. If not, then I will have to do this alone.

The Congress is one big meeting with more than a thousand people already registered. The World Trade Center hotel is fully booked for the meeting. Delegates from each continent are meeting to press for their respective agenda. The Asia-Pacific delegates will still have to meet and decide what issues to raise, who to vote, among others. I expect a long meeting with other Asian delegates, knowing fully well the politics and orientation of every country in the region.

I'll keep you posted. Gotta go, for Gorbachev's address.

2:37 a.m, May 29, 2007 (Tuesday)
Moscow, World Trade Center

Stoned drunk!!! Blame the Lithuanians, Cambodian and Indonesian counterparts!

11:58 p.m. May 29, 2007 (Tuesday)

I just came from a village where the Russian Union of Journalist hosted a dinner and a cultural presentation for us. There was a lot of drinking, dancing and singing under huges tents in the woods. I took a lot of great pictures, which friends from Lithuania - Jonas Staselis and Dainlus Radzevicius - asked permission to have a copy.

Jonas, a photographer and vice president of their union, and Dainlus, the chairman, have become good friends. Lithuanians love to drink and talk and drink and talk. We've shared stories and found out that we have really similar experiences in working in the media, making friends, drinking and, yes, we talk a lot about beautiful girls.

Jonas gave me a copy of their book on photography and CD of photos that they publish every year. They have a group similar to the Philippine Center for Photojournalism. Actually the only difference between us and the Lithuanians is they have the money and we don't have.

Today's sessions are rather boring, aside from me having a bad case of hangover due to last night's red wine, cognac, vodka, beer and all the other drinks shared with the Lithuanians, Indonesians, Nepalese, Indians, Kosovars, Russians, Australians, Cambodians, and the rest of the gang who dropped by our table in the bar until two o'clock in the morning. I can't imagine now how I survived the drink and came to my room and then later woke up at eight o'clock this morning.

1:08 p.m. May 30, 2007 (Wednesday)

Ang hirap kapag nag-iisa. Solo flight talaga, walang suporta kahit galing embahada. Nakakainggit ang Indonesian, pareho lang kami na nag-iisang delegate, pero pinupuntahan siya araw-araw ng representatives ng kanyang embassy para kamustahin kung gusto ba niyang mamasyal, kung may kailangan ba niya ng tulong kahit sa Internet connection man lang, o para sabihan kung saan siya makakabili ng tubig.

Nagtanong ako kung paano nalaman ng embassy nila na nandito siya, ang sabi ng mga taga embahada nila may invitation daw lahat na embassies and foreign missions sa Moscow. Meron pa nga daw meeting earlier na sabi ng mga Indonesians, hindi daw nag-attend ang Pilipinas. Tinawagan ko ang Information department ng Philippine Embassy dito sa Moscow at sabi ni Mr. Derek Atienza, meron nga daw siyang invitation pero he will try daw kung makaka-attend siya.

What's good, however, is I don't owe anything to the government. Baka makikiusap pa na magdahan-dahan ako sa pagsasalita. Hindi pupwede yon. Pero Philippine national pa rin ako at trabaho nila na tumulong sa mga nationals na mapunta dito. Kahit man lang ipakita nila kung saan ang embassy natin.

Anyway, tuloy pa rin ang balitaktakan sa plenary. Ang hirap pa pakinggan dahil Russian at ang bagal ng translation. Di pa ako maka-connect sa Internet. Di ko alam kung natanggap ng Norway ang aking email o kaya ng opisina sa Manila. Pati itong computer nagloloko pa. Hay, buhay, di na ako nag-eenjoy sa byaheng ito. Actually, pwede rin sanang mag-enjoy kung may pera lang akong pwedeng gastusin, pero napakamahal ng bilihin at pamasahe dito at hindi pala-kaibigan ang mga Ruso, aside from the fact na di kami nagkakaintindihan dahil madalang ang Russian na nakakapag-ingles, kahit mga journalists.

May meeting mamaya ang regional groupings para i-raise ang issues ng bawat rehiyon. Dapat lang. Naka-apat na araw na ako dito wala pa ring nangyayari. Ngayong hapon pa lang ang talagang simula ng business of the congress. Trabaho na nga lang ako.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

To Russia and Norway

Finally I got my visa. I'm going to Russia and Norway in the coming days.

Thanks for all the support to:

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Manila
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila
The International Federation of Journalists (particularly Christiane Dennis)
The Section for Human Rights and Democracy, The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (particularly Elisabeth Salvesen)
The Russian Union of Journalists
The directorate of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
My bosses and colleagues at GMANews.TV
Benny Antiporda of AFIMA
Carol of CMFR

Without your support and follow-up I would have given up this trip.

I will be speaking at the opening of the World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists in Moscow on Monday. The meeting will gather hundreds of journalists from all over the world in the Russian capital to share experiences and update each other on the media situation in their respective countries. Former USSR Prime Minister Michael Gorbachev is the keynote speaker.

A week later, I will be in Oslo to attend the Second Global Inter-Media Dialogue, which is sponsored by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

I'll try to keep this blog updated on the activities of both meetings.

I still have to prepare for a 21-hour flight.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mabuhay si Dagohoy!

Here's an old joke sent by my dear brother Totsie of Bohol:

It was the first day of school in Washington, DC and a new student named Dagohoy, the son of a Filipino immigrant, entered the fourth grade.

The teacher began, "Let's review some American history, class. Who said 'Give me liberty or give me death?'"

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Dagohoy's who had his hand up,"Patrick Henry, 1775."

"Very good," said the teacher.

"Who said 'Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth'"?

Again, no response except from Dagohoy: "Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863," he said.

The teacher snaps at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed, Dagohoy who is new to our country knows more about our history than you do."

She hears a loud whisper from the back: "Screw the Filipinos."

"Who said that?" she demanded.

Dagohoy put his hand up. "General John Pershing, Manila, 1896."

At that point, Jack, another student says, "I'm going to puke." The teacher glares and asks, "All right! Now who said that?"

Again Dagohoy answers, "George Bush, Sr. to the Japanese Prime Minister during the state dinner, Tokyo, 1991."

Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!!

"Dagohoy jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher at the top of his voice,

"Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, the Oval Office, 1997!!"

Someone shouts, "You little shit if you say anything else, I'll kill you."

Dagohoy yells, "Congressman Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, Washington, D.C., 2001!"

The teacher faints. "I'm outta here!" mutters one student as he sidles to the door.

"President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Baguio City, December 30, 2002!!" Dagohoy responds.

As the class gathers around her on the floor, someone says, "Oh shit, now we're really in big trouble!"

"Saddam Hussein, on the Iraq invasion, Baghdad, May 2003!" Dagohoy bellowed.

"Now, I really have to run," Jack mutters, heading for the exit, "Gloria Macapagal Arroyo again, Pampanga, October 4, 2003!!!"

Dagohoy shouts triumphantly jumping with glee.

Then a burly African-American boy grabbed Dagohoy and strangled him, about to give a fistful to a frightened Dagohoy.

Then an Asian boy stood up and shouted, "Hey easy on him. I'M A FILIPINO!"

Dagohoy then blurted out before he got socked out, "Fernando Poe, Jr. Manila, January 2004!!!"

A trip to Europe?

I'm supposed to leave for a two-week trip to Europe this weekend. But until now I still have no visa.

My dilemma: There's this embassy located inside a posh village in Makati where I was supposed to apply for a visa. The village guards would not allow me in because my name is not on the list of people who are scheduled to visit the embassy. The guards, who were just following orders, said I should set an appointment by calling the embassy, which I did of course several times already in the past weeks. The one who answers my calls always referred me to the number of the visa section, which nobody answers.

So what to do? I sent an email twice already to the email address on the embassy's Web site. No answer. I also sent a fax message to the number of the consular department, still no answer. I already have an invitation from the Foreign Ministry of the said country, but the guards refused to recognize the letter.

(One thing I appreciate about the American Embassy in Manila is they will either say yes or no to any visa application and will not hold you in suspense.)

I am also very grateful to the people at the Norwegian Embassy, the other country that I am going to visit for another conference. The friendly Norwegians immediately accommodated my request for a visa after I showed an invitation from no less than their prime minister.

Actually, I always have mixed feelings every time I'm invited to travel to another country. One, I don't really have the financial capability to travel. I'm not really that excited to travel because I know that all I do abroad is stay in my hotel, attend meetings and walk around the block or to the nearest park. Except of course if there are generous sponsors who shoulder my needs, including allowances for excursions or outings.

The last time I went abroad was to Jakarta. Except for my trip to my hotel from the airport and back, and for the short trip to a park where a protest action for missing journalists was held, I just stayed in the hotel, consuming cups of free coffee.

Travels are exciting, but for a Filipino "promdi" like me who can hardly afford a trip out of Metro Manila, it's a sacrifice.

Abangan na lang natin kung it's a go or not this weekend.

My thanks, of course, to my dear friend Carol who, upon hearing of my ignorance about traveling abroad, went out of her way to look for an agency and get my travel insurance, although it's not yet sure if I would be able to leave. Ha, ha, ha. Thanks, Carol dear. Sabi nga, you know who your real friends are in times of need.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back to basic

The smell of sweat, the excitement of the moment, the feeling of being nameless and faceless in the crowd, make going back to the field an experience I will never trade with any other post.

I'm back in the field these days, trying to remember the basics of "real journalism."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tired, sore, and alone

Just so tired to work or think. Time moves like "shooting stars" - here one moment, gone the next, so fleeting, leaving no trace on the horizon.

When I was young I've always wondered where shooting stars go, although I was always fascinated, and at the same time afraid, with lightning. Lightning kills. I've seen trees, houses and lives destroyed in our province because of lightning.

I was always afraid of fleeting moments, of passing fancy, of short or shortened lives. I've always wondered what meaning there is for people whose lives are cut short either by poverty, sickness, war, or accidents. How does it feel to pass this world like lightning, for only a moment, like a shooting star.

The season for rains and typhoons and storms is here again. There will be more lightnings, there will be more deaths, there will be lives lost, lives forgotten, like dying stars, falling.

Unlike politicians with a vision to live and reign in the next 100 years, if not forever, it helps to remember that we, ordinary mortals, are just passing by, like "shooting stars," like lightning. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Counting the numbers

Monitoring the Namfrel and Comelec counts of the May 14 elections results is a feat for reporters assigned to cover the tally, and for editors who have to manually encode the results into computer programs.

(Journalists work at the Comelec's Media Center at the PICC)

The Comelec distributes "soft copies" of the elections results (they even email it to media organizations) but these are two days late. It has to clear the commission's various stages of checking and counter-checking before it is released to the media. (I wonder why Comelec announces the result even before the soft copies pass the clearing stage.)

If one reads the result of the Comelec count in newspapers or news sites, one notices that the figures are already in the millions. But if one looks at the official results released by the poll body, the numbers are lower.

Namfrel releases only "hard copies" of its count.

Reporters at the PICC (Comelec) and Greenhills (Namfrel) have to generate their own Excel files and encode the figures announced by both Comelec and Namfrel to determine the ranking of the candidates.

Comelec releases only an alphabetical listing of the results. The poll body does not rank the list of candidates based on the number of votes.

It's a long way for elections in the country to be at par with other democracies. Longer than the counting of votes is the overhaul of the election process itself, voter education included.


May bagyong parating. Parang napaaga yata ang pagdating ng tag-ulan sa taong ito. Tila nagbabadya ng mas marami pang baha at sakuna.

Typhoon 'Amang' intensifies

Typhoon "Amang" continued to intensify Saturday morning.

In its 11 a.m. advisory, Pag-asa said "Amang" was 1,080 km east of Aurora province as of 10 a.m. Saturday, with maximum sustained winds of 130 kph and gustiness of 160 kph.

"Amang" continued to move north-northwest at 13 kph and was expected to be 970 km east of Northern Luzon Sunday morning, and 1,300 km east of Batanes Monday morning. - GMANews.TV

Friday, May 18, 2007

Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere'

"Neverwhere" is my first Gaiman novel.

An officemate told me Gaiman's fans are mostly young people. I said I'm not that old to understand Gaiman.

I've read several Gaiman stories. I even bought a second-hand collection of his stories. I enjoyed them.

"Neverwhere" aroused innate fears. And a little bit of hope.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ang landas na tinahak ni Allan

Dalawampu't isang taon na ang nakalipas nang huli kaming magkita ni Allan B. Dahil wala pang cell phone noon, naputol ang lahat na ugnayan namin. Ni sulat wala kaming natanggap mula sa isa't isa. Di ko na nalaman ang nangyari sa kanya, di na rin niya alam kung anong landas ang tinahak ko sa buhay.

(Ang letrato na yan ay kuha 20 years ago, noong 1987. Ako yang nakadilaw(!) na jogging pants sa kaliwa, si Paul ang nasa gitna (nasa Amerika na siya), at si Padi (nasan na kaya siya?))

Pareho kaming tubong-Mindanao. Mas matanda siya sa akin. Nagkakilala kami sa seminaryo. Sabay na nangarap kung papaano makapagsilbi sa Diyos at sa bayan. Sabay na nakibaka sa anumang maliit na maitulong namin para magkaroon ng pag-asa ang mga taong nakasalamuha namin sa mga baryo sa Mindanao at Basilan at sa urban poor communities dito sa Maynila.

Sabay din kaming namulat sa ganda ng mga dalaga, dito man sa Maynila o sa mga liblib na baryo kung saan kami nagtuturo ng katekismo at kanta sa mga bata. Syempre pa, siya sa kanta at gitara, ako sa katekismo dahil kahit anong praktis ko medyo sablay talaga ang tunog kapag ako ang nagtuturo ng "El Senor es contigo."

Nagulat ako nang makatanggap ng text message mula sa kanya kanina. Natatawa pa ako: Eto kasi ang sabi nya: "D nko m imagine ang usa k y buot nga cge rag bsas kwarto s claret serious na kaau s tv on vital isues n concern. Musta na (Di ko ma-imagine ang isang walang muwang na lagi lang nagbabasa sa kwarto sa Claret, seryoso na masyado on vital issues and concerns).

Dalawampu't isang taon na ang nakalipas, kaya tinawagan ko siya. Di ko nga alam kung sino sya noong una. Isang bata ang nakasagot. Tatay daw niya si Allan at wala ito sa bahay, nasa bukid daw naglipat ng baka.

Nang makausap ko siya, sinabi niyang nasa isang liblib na baryo na raw siya nakatira. Simpleng buhay daw. Matagal na raw siyang walang nakausap, nakasama, nakahuntahan na dating kasama't kaibigan. Sa TV na lang yata niya nakikita ang Maynila na dati naming pinasyalan at kinilala na parang dito na huhubugin ang kapalaran.

Sabi ko, basta ba masaya siya sa kanyang kinaroroonan, basta ba nagigising siyang buo pa rin ang mga pangarap, buo pa rin ang pag-asang sa susunod na pagsikat ng araw mas maalwal ang buhay, mas may pag-asa, mas mataba ang baka, may itlog ang mga manok at namumulaklak ang mais.

Matagal-tagal din kaming nag-usap, nagkamustahan, inaalala ang nakaraan, ang mga nakasama sa pagbuo ng mga pangarap, ang pagtayo ng LRT sa Taft Avenue, ang Nayong Pilipino na naunang napasyalan sa Maynila, ang Corregidor, ang EDSA 1, ang marami pang mga karanasan.

Sabi ko naiinggit nga ako sa kanya. Matutulog na siya pagkalubog pa lang ng araw, gigising naman sa padating ng bukangliwayway. Napakatagal na panahon nang di ako nakakita ng bukangliwayway. Napakatagal na panahon nang di ako nakatulog sabay sa paglubog ng araw.

Sabi ng kaibigan ko: "Yan ang pinili mong landas."

Naalala ko tuloy, isa sya sa mga unang nakabasa sa aking mga tula. Natatawa ako sa sarili dahil talagang di naman ako marunong tumula at sinasabi lang ng mga tulad ni Allan na ang mga sinusulat ko ay tula. Kaya naman, nagsulat ako ngayong gabi.

Lumubog na ang araw, madilim na ang gabi
Oras na naman ng pagdalaw ng pangungulila
Walang takipsilim sa syudad, walang kampana
Walang hudyat para umuwi na ang mga bata

Walang kalabaw o baka, o baboy o manok
Na aasikasuhin bago sumubo ng kanin
Habang nakapatong ang maruming paa
Sa mahabang bangko sa tabi ng hapag

Tumawag ang isang dating kakilala kanina
Nasa malayong bukid na raw siya nakatira
Mahirap daw ang makikipagbuno sa lupa
Kahig muna bago tuka ang magsaka

Sabi ko mas mahirap na maglakad
Sa sementadong gubat sa syudad
Mabigat ang maghabol ng pantasya
Gustuhin ko pang magbungkal ng lupa

How I wish

"Be careful what you wish for, it might be granted to you."

Somebody might have said it to me, or I might have read it from somewhere. But yes, I wish, yes, how I wish I was more careful in my wishes.

God has been good, really good to me. He gave me a lot of blessings more than what I wished for. Now I'm just tired.

I wished for work that would be pioneering in my field of expertise. I wished that I could work with no specific time to come in or out. I wished that I could help other journalists.

God granted me my wish.

I work in the morning, I work in the afternoon, I work in the evening, I work at dawn, I work in the office, I work outside the office, I just work.

Reporters who get threats call me, media organizations call me for interviews when a journalist is killed, I attend meetings, travel to places without enjoying the sites, address audiences as if it is my responsibility to attend such functions, etc, etc.

I just work. I have no time to enjoy the fruits of my work, to gaze at the sunset or welcome the sunrise. I haven't seen a movie for a long time, I haven't been to a mall, I haven't sung in a videoke bar, I haven't even had beer with colleagues.

How I wish I can still make a wish without God making a joke.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The right to vote

Scenes from the May 14 elections

After 6 hours

After more than six hours, at about 2:30 in the morning, news was slow, and so was the server.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Election coverage

Past 8 p.m., May 13, 2007. GMANews.TV Newsroom. Simula na ng walang tulugan for the 2007 Elections coverage.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sa pagbuhos ng ulan sa tag-araw

Bumuhos na ang ulan. Malamig na ang panahon. Ang simoy ng hangin ay tila haplos ng malamig na kamay ng sintang kinakabahan sa unang gabi ng pagtatalik.

Patapos na ang tag-init. Muli na namang mamumulaklak ang mga halaman. Muli na namang uusbong ang mga makahiya sa gilid ng daan, muli na namang magbabantay ng mga murang tinik sa tangkay ng bagong tubong rosas.

Bagong pag-asa ang hatid ng pagpatak ng ulan matapos ang mahabang tag-init. Pag-asang alam nating lahat ay may kaakibat na mga pagsubok -- tulad na lamang sa parating na halalan, tulad na lamang sa mga pangakong muling binibitawan ng mga magsing-irog, o ng mga magkakalaban sa tunggalian, tulad na lamang sa pagsapit ng takipsilim sa mga liblib na baryo.

Lahat ng bagay, ika nga, ay magkakambal. Kung merong liwanag, may dilim, kung may dalamhati, may ligayang darating. Nakakalungkot nga lang dito sa ating bayan, halos 'di makita ang ganitong pag-ikot ng kapalaran. Tila hindi umiinog ang mundo. Ang mga dukha ay patuloy na dukha, ang mga mayayaman ay walang humpay sa pagpapasasa, ang mga pulitiko, sila-sila pa rin ang tumatakbo, ang mga niloloko ay patuloy na kumakapit sa paniniwalang darating ang panahon at kusang babaligtad ang sitwasyon.

Ayokong maniwala sa kapalaran, ayokong maniwala sa pag-ibig, o sa kapayapaan, na nakakamit dahil sa takot ng pagkatalo. Naniniwala ako sa isang patas na laban, sa isang laban na waland dayaan, na walang trayduran, sa pakikibakang hatid ng pait at sakit dahil sa pag-aalay ng dugo, pawis o buhay para makamit ang minimithi.

Kapag tag-ulan, lalo na sa gitna ng gabi, dumarating ang halo-halong damdamin - ng pangungulila, ng nag-aalab na damdamin para makibaka, ng pangarap na baguhin ang mukha ng lipunan. Nakakalungkot nga lang na sa pagsikat ng araw, marami ang nakakalimot sa gabing dumaan. Sa paggising nalilimutan ang mga matatamis na salitang ibinulong sa sinisinta, ang halakhakan sa baba ng hagdan, ang sumpang ipaglalaban ang mga karapatan, ang mga sigaw ng pagnanasa ng kapayapaan. Nalilimutan ng marami, nalilimutang sa bawat pangako, sa bawat pagbigkas ng "sulong," maraming puso ang umaasa at nagigising na nauulila.

Parang gawain ng mga pulitiko, parang gawain ng marami sa atin, parang gawain ko, parang mga nakasanayan mo.

Hand of the Master

This came from the egroup of my Claretian brothers:

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato.

Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a fr ightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Perhaps that's the way life is meant to be. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful.

The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit. Keep playing."

May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Memory waltz

It’s May. The rains are here. With the first raindrop, flowers bloom. Girls turn into women. Love blossoms. Memories, like golden rays of the setting sun, are fingers that reach back into the depths of one’s being. Ordinary folks become poets, poets become lovers. Sinners pray, children offer flowers to the Virgin.

It’s fiesta time in many parts of the country. People remember their saints – San Isidro, patron of farmers. There’s food on the table after a bountiful harvest. The morning star seems to not part with the moon. A sign, fishermen say, of a good catch waiting in the middle of the ocean. A sign, young men say, to go a-courting.

People who are far decide to come home. Those who could not afford a trip back wax sentimental, especially in the early evening, when noise and silence compete to grab one’s attention. There’s no escaping the memory of village dances, of picnics under fruit-bearing mango trees, of games – tubig-tubig or tubigan under the full moon, taguan, or even sungka with older cousins and siblings.

There’s no escaping the shadow of the past visiting, of lovers leaving, of family members dying, of the first heartache, the second, and sometimes, the endless romance that never came to be, of promises that never become reality.

The month of May is both happy and sad, a marriage of tragedy and victory - facets of life all of us cannot escape, like coming to life and dying, like clouds becoming rain, like buds dying to become flowers, like girls having their first period, like the fingers of the setting sun, reaching out but slowly fading on the horizon.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cloudy skies

The weather bureau said Metro Manila will be experiencing cloudy skies in the coming days.

I just hope that in the coming days, as the elections near, the forecast will not take a literary twist.

Elections in this country is not known to be "bright" with the perennial incidents of cheating, fraud and violence.

France had its presidential election last Sunday. On Monday, the French people already knew who their new president is.

Will the time come that Filipinos will have the same experience?

Saturday, May 05, 2007


There's nothing more romantic than spending time with a loved one, even for a moment, to reminisce the past and dream about the future.

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it's you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.

- Pablo Neruda


Tila ulan sa tag-init ang maikling panahon na nakaalis ako sa bansa. Subalit gustuhin ko mang maaliw, ipinagkait ito ng panahon. Hanggang sa ibang bayan trabaho pa rin ang aking inatupag.

Umalis ako sa paliparan ng Maynila alas-otso ng umaga ng Martes. Natulog lang ako buong panahon sa eroplano hanggang dumating sa paliparan ng Singapore.

Masayang sumakay ng eroplano lalo na kung malayo ang biyahe. Para bang dinuduyan ka sa ulap. Hindi ko lubos maisip na nasa pagitan ako ng langit at lupa at ipinapasa-Diyos ang buhay. Isipin nyo nga naman po, nasa hangin ka, nasa gitna ng kawalan, tila sinusubukan ang pananampalataya.

Pagdating sa Singapore, takbo naman agad sa isa pang eroplano para lumipad ng isang oras patungong Jakarta. Nang sinabi ng piloto na malapit na kaming dumapo sa Indonesia, sumilip ako sa bintana. Parang Pilipinas lang pala ang kapitbahay nating bansa. Medyo maganda pa ang Maynila. Marami ang sasakyan. Isipin nyo nga naman na apat na milyon daw ang motorsiklo sa Jakarta kung saan ang population ay tulad din lang sa Metro Manila.

Dumating ako sa aking tinirhang hotel at nagpahinga. Gawain kong magbabad sa bath tub matapos ang mahabang paglalakbay. Nakakatuwang maglaro ng mga bula sa maligamgam na tubig. Para kang bata, wala kang ibang iniisip, pabasa-basa, payosi-yosi, hanggang makatulog at magising na lamang dahil malamig na ang tubig.

Naghapunan naman agad ako ng authentic na Indonesian na pagkain at biglang napaluha dahil nakakain ng sili. May tumutugtog sa piyano at biglang humirit ng mga Frank Sinatra, kaya nagdesisyon akong bumalik na lang sa kwarto para manood ng TV.

Matagal-tagal na ring panahon na di ako nakatulog ng maaga, kaya bago pa man mag-ala una ng umaga'y nakaidlip na ako. Syanga pala, huli ng isang oras sa Pilipinas ang Indonesia.

Kinaumagahan, masaya naman akong binati ng mga kasapi ng fellowship ng Seapa. Nagbigay ako ng pananalita sa sitwasyon ng media sa Pilipinas. Mahaba din ang naging diskusyon kaya inabot kami ng tanghalian.

Kinahapunan naman, isang pagtitipon ng hindi kumulang isang daang mga mamamahayag mula sa iba't ibang bansa ng Asya ang aking nakasalamuha. Nagsalita naman ako tungkol sa tinatawag na "Culture of Impunity." Marami ang nagtanong. Marami ang nagulat. Marami ang namangha sa sitwasyon hindi lamang sa ating bansa kundi sa buong Asya.

Nagpalipas lang ako ng gabi sa kwarto dahil napaka-traffic sa Jakarta at tila wala naman akong mapapasyalan dahil medyo malayo ang aking tinirhang hotel sa sentro ng bayan.

Umaga na ng magising ako at kailangang magsalita naman sa isang forum tungkol naman sa "defamation" at libel. Nag-press conference pa ako matapos ko malaman na inatras na pala ni First Gentleman Arroyo ang demandang libelo laban sa 46 na mamamahayag.

Nakiupo na lang ako sa workshop kinahapunan tungkol sa mga batas ukol sa media at sa tinatawag nilang press council. May natutunan naman ako at iba talaga ang karanasan ng media sa ibang bansa.

Ala-siyete na ng gabi ng magsindi naman kami ng kandila para sa mga mamamahayag na nawawala. Umikot ako sa plaza ng Jakarta at kumain ng mga lutong Thai kasama ang mga taga-Seapa.

Madaling araw ng Biyernes ng umalis ako ng Jakarta pauwing Maynila.

Siyanga pala, alam n'yo bang sikat na sikat sa Indonesia si Diana Zubiri na nakilala daw doon dahil sa isang pelikulang "The Girl from Bandung" yata ang pamagat. Sikat din ang mang-aawit na si Christian Bautista.

At alam nyo bang mas mura pa ang batik (na galing Indonesia) na binibenta sa barter trade sa Zamboanga kaysa batik sa Indonesia na tinitinda sa isang pamilihang aking nadaanan?

At ang daming pirated na CD at DVD na nagkalat lamang sa kanilang mga lansangan.

Hanggang dito na muna. Mukhang kailangan ko pang magpahinga.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Back from Jakarta

I just got back from Jakarta where I sat as a member of a panel that discussed the media's struggle against defamation in Asia.

In the middle of the discussion on Thursday (Press Freedom Day), I received a message from the Philippines that says First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo dropped the libel charges he filed against 46 journalists.

It was good news for Asian journalists gathered in Jakarta. The conference organizers (IFJ, AJI, Seapa) invited me later to join a press conference to announce the news.

After the whole day workshop, we held a candle-lighting vigil at one park in Jakarta's city center to call for the immediate release of Alan Johnston, a BBC correspondent who was abducted by gunmen in Gaza on March 12.

It was an emotional gathering of journalists from all over the region.