Friday, August 31, 2012

The Martha Stewart In Me

I used to be that little boy who could grow plants at will. It's the green thumb, people say. But I pay no heed to their suggestion. 

Left under my own device, I scoured the city for herbs and tiny shrubs for my small garden. I pick them from someone's green corner (often without their permission) with the plants' roots still intact. The thumb-sized plants are then carted home in plastic cups half-filled with water. They are then replanted in infant formula tin cans and covered in soil dug from a family friend's unused pots. 

The plants are left to grow, some at the mercy of passing children, with restless hands bent for destruction.

Garden plants breathe life into a stale room.

It was sheer passion that kept me going. None of the boys in the neighborhood would like to get caught doing gardening. 

Not even the soon-to-be-gay ones. 

A girl, who lived across the house was my sole companion. A convert to my hobby, she would ask for leftovers - stems with roots and leaves that were no longer needed for my pots. She would become my rival and partner at the same time. There were days when she would stay with me from noon to sundown, as I tend to my plants. And my mom got worried. She said, such friendly ties might grow into something deeper.

I stopped seeing her when we were high school freshmen. Mom had enough of our closeness after I went missing for a day. After searching the neighborhood for any trace of my presence, I was found at the girl's place doing some crafts using the leaves we've plucked from our plants.

Materiel: Water Spray @125 pesos; Plastic pots @20 each. Uni-Top price

The girl and her family moved to another house; a ride away from our neighborhood. She would have a new garden. With open space far bigger than what she had in their old apartment. I kept mine, still. I nurtured my plants while holding back the feeling of confinement. As months passed, new interests were beginning to take hold. And there's no one to lift my sagging passion; No one to keep me from outgrowing my love for gardens. 

There was the growing addiction to video games - which consumed most of my free time after school. Pestilence also destroyed a quarter of my plants. Entire varieties of Gabi-Gabi and Mayana were nipped by molds. The San Franciscos wilted more often. Maybe because I hardly water them anymore. And when the dish garden - the very reason I got hooked to gardening - fell from its ledge, the passion suddenly disappeared.

Plante: Creepers and soft-skinned shrubs @35 pesos each.

No longer will I find myself with soil and dirt in my hands. And the herbs and shrubs that belonged to my verdant realms will remain a memory for a long time .

Still, I think of my old garden. Especially when I yearn to remember that happy place. I still keep in my head that image of that narrow curtilage, with the rays of the sun glistening when seen on the surface of wet leaves. The earthly smell of humus coupled with the scent of Oregano and Sampaguita blooms make me forget being a nuisance in the eyes of other kids. And the heart-shaped pink Caladium, while not as plenty as they used to be in the city, reminds me that once, I boast a row of its variety not even a hobbyist with better resources can put on display.

Such good times.

No wonder, I still try to recapture the old splendor even when the passion for gardening is no longer there. The many attempts in these last few years have always ended in failure. Not a single plant I bought from a nursery survived the brief reawakening. And the shell of plastic pots pile up, without nothing to put back as fibrous replacements.

The attempt goes on. When I feel restless; When sullenness overwhelms my springy spirit. When I lean towards dourness, and the idea of crumbling into dust, and being abandoned by love becomes a nightly forethought. It is in these seasonal tempers that I find myself getting out of my stale quarters to procure house plants in places that still sell them.

So Begins The Eden Project

In hopes that maybe, just maybe, I may overcome the hollow thoughts I have culled within, and to be reminded of the joys and pleasures there is to living.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Anal-Probing Sotto

"Am I man enough to stand by my principles?" Sotto must have been musing before delivering his speech.

"Even when the educated middle and liberal upper class, who have access to social media pelt me with criticisms? Tell lies about my family? Write ugly stories for everyone to read? Discredit, not only my character but everything I believe?" 

The Senator finds himself in very deep shit.

"Even when I'm obviously wrong but I just can't admit it?" He would then probe deep into his being for answers. This time, he chose not to let his speech writers do his work. Whatever he will say must come from his tin-coated, hollowed heart.

"Because I am a Senator of the Republic and people like me can never go wrong." 


I will always remember what Athena, my superior, said during our leadership training. That when a person of power commits a mistake, a swift and sincere apology ends all debates. To be sure, collateral damage must still be dealt with, and excuses have no place when admitting a mistaken judgement. But as far as the issue is concerned, it's all over. It will die a natural death, and everyone will find another fault - from another person to point at.

What Sotto did was the opposite. First, he denied any wrong doing - even when his officers had already admitted to the act of plagiarism. Then, he had the balls to display his bravado, by telling the nation that it's okay to copy other people's work. His statement further irks an already belligerent constituents that soon, even his thoughtless opinions (like who he will support as the next interior government secretary) receive near-universal derision. Three weeks into the plagiarism issue, and still in-denial, the dishonorable legislator now thinks he could get away by proposing regulations that will stifle what bloggers can write.

No wonder, even the politically-allergic fence-sitters have now began taking sides.

I may not be as incensed as I used to when the issue first came into the public's attention. Perhaps, I have resigned to seeing Sotto as a jester, and that everything he claims no longer stirs a violent reaction. He may be the most disliked government official today and in the months to come, but his hold on power lasts until the next president is put into office.

Which is sad really, knowing we have to bear with his breathtaking idiocy for a long time.

But there are pressing concerns, which I believe Sotto is trying to distract us from. Should this be a deliberate strategy, he has not only spared the Bishops from the mudslinging they have been getting before this plagiarism issue came out, the unloved Senator, in his cunning ways have sacrificed himself so that the rest of us will turn our heads elsewhere and move away from the battle lines we have already secured.

Somewhere in the far distance, the architects of the Anti-RH Bill campaign must be LOL-ing. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meanie, I Refuse To Be

How do you know when you're already picking on a subordinate? 

Is it measured by how easy it ticks you when she doesn't follow work guidelines, and being the person of authority, you won't hesitate sending her electronic letters - with the director included in the address field - to point out the mistakes only she at work commits? 

Does it show when you add your voice to the growing chorus of complaints, when other colleagues express their strong dislike for this colleague? And because you know some stuff that are seen as too trivial to talk about, you share these observations to further pin the person down?

And should you be alarmed that you spend part of your waking days thinking what sanctions to impose because the erring colleague continues to ignore your e-mails? There are times you thought of blocking her access to the accounts, to force her to explain in a separate e-mail why she continues to commit mistakes you have told her not to repeat again. 

So you may assert your dominance: Impose your order and punish those who refuse to tow the line.

I have always recognized my penchant for holding grudges, and showing my contempt for people I dislike. When a person rubs me the wrong way or when I get fed up being someone's lackey, I would be more than happy to kick that person out of my life. 

And then the fall-out is followed by a permanent non-speak - like the person who used to have relations with me is a total stranger. I may no longer harbor anger or hatred. Simply put into context, I no longer wish to have any ties - no matter how deep our bonds were.

While my social fault lines can screw my treatment of acquaintances, it must never get in the way of profession. I cannot play favorites, grill a subordinate without leaving a breather, or pin someone down until her perception of work becomes a burden. Because of this, I am trying my best to be aware of my leanings, and if possible, make compassionate adjustments before I find myself becoming the person who used to occupy my seat.

For I used to be the one who is being picked on. Unable to stand my ground, not even raising a howl even when I found myself being embarrassed in front of others, the least I could do is to spare others from the suffering I have been through. 

This way, the cycle of malevolence finally ends with me.

Literary Bedrock

Just before bedtime, I would ask my mom to read me a book. The story and the characters play no importance. As long as the narrative can take me to another realm and another time, any children's literature would do.

With my head resting on her thin legs, and with my droopy eyes half-closed, mom would summon fairies and dwarves, and even mystical herons to send me off to dreamland. She would begin her tale with "once upon a time" with conflicts that sometimes don't end with "happily ever after." 

Like the Steadfast Tin Soldier in Hans Andersen's fairy tale, stories with resolute partings stay remembered for life. One may call this a trauma; a rude and unsaid introduction to real life. But these premature awakenings only endeared me to the protagonist of the story.

The nightly habit would go on, until I was told I'm too old for fairy tales and that, I should start reading books on my own. It is in this crossroad that I learned how I was betrayed by fiction, so instead of reading short stories, I began stuffing my mind with easily digestible facts that are readily available at the school library.

And read I did. 

I remember the days I would find myself lodged between the pastel-colored bookshelves, turning a page or two to learn about the dinosaurs. Sometimes I would skip lunch (or make haste gobbling my home-made baon) so I could squeeze more time during noon breaks tracing with my small fingers the maze of streets criss-crossing a choked metropolis.

I recall those late afternoons, where instead of getting inside the school bus to go home, I would entrench myself in the same library. There, I would make acquaintance with the Philippines' midnight creatures and tribal folktales before heading off to a hidden park at the back of the campus. Since I was into gardening, I would consider it a lucky day when I spot the shelf where the school librarian kept the only copy of the ornamental plants catalog. With its rich pictures and vivid descriptions, the plants I pulled out with its roots intact - to plant them on a pot at home would finally get its name. 

It is only when I took a short leap to high school, in a different place of learning that I stopped having daily trips to the library. The inadequacy of its book shelves and the ambivalence of its librarian forced me to seek other pursuits. Years would go by. I would give up my solitary escapades for other distractions. I would find joys watching anime, playing video games, listening to alternative music, and letting my image-altering pretentiousness mask my low self-esteem. 

Together with friends, I would hang out at the biggest shopping mall in the city, do road trips at the break of dawn, and proclaim my female crushes only to get my heart broken. I have lived a life many teenagers did, and in all the rare chances I could tell someone how books shaped the way I perceive life, only a soft whisper would come out of my reluctant mouth. 

The official line would always remain, "I seldom read books."

Deliberate maybe the revisionist mouthpiece, but the truth has its way of catching up. It resurfaces from time to time. Unperturbed. No matter how often I fail to make the cut when the school papers call for the submission of articles.

Robbed of recognition, words would quietly assert themselves when I passionately write test essays on history, or in the poems I have written to leave a footprint in the university. I may laugh at the disfigured sentences and nauseating allusions when I read aloud the poems today. But at a hindsight, the rudimentary compositions would grow into prose, which I now weave every time I blog.

And the geek side of me awakens


Thursday, August 23, 2012


There were many bloggers to choose from. There was Kane and his chichi blog, the venerable RedtheMod, whose wellspring of words I scoop with my literary bucket, and even Pilyo's, straight from the gut entries would be a suitable candidate. I thought of lifting their works, their minds, their hearts and ideas just to make it a point that you never lift a passage from someone's blog without properly attributing it to the author - even if the material on the writer's portal is a study of another expert she herself did recognize 

I do not know what the uninstructed-yet-arrogant Senator tries to prove, but when I made an attempt to copy his speechwriter's folly, I realized that I got no heart to perform the deed, even if the bloggers themselves would see the deliberation.

It is simply not so me.

Therefore, I will conclude this blog entry, originally mine with my heart and mind into it, reminding myself time and again that some leaders don't deserve their place of authority.

Monday, August 20, 2012



There was a loud crash, a thud he would hear for the last time. The propeller hurled into the sky, while his body jerked forward, slammed his head into the metallic skin of the ill-fated aircraft. The blow left him unconscious. Unaware that his time had come.

"No, you will not be consumed by the sea..." A soft, feminine voice had spoken. "You have earned your place not only in the hearts of men. But in the bosom of your land."

And just before the sea water came rushing in, a bright light, more beautiful than the sunset swallowed his body and those of his lifeless companions. When the vermillion glow had dissipated, all that is left were winged creatures. Brown like the bark of a Narra tree, and more majestic than the lives they lead on this planet.

Into the sun the creatures fluttered their gentle wings - to soar the heavens and return to their homes; To say farewell and comfort those they will leave behind.

While in the distance, the jagged mountain peaks of the island disappeared behind a bluish veil of clouds, as the engines of the approaching pump boats roared to let the world hear their loss.  

No matter how they searched the heart of darkness. The human remains were never found.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Radio Blackout

In the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety four, we rendered the night to sleep and the day to work. We knew nothing of after-midnight, for our eyes were shut and our minds swept off to another realm. We found joys in what the terrestrial television had to share. There was X-Men in Channel 2 and Simpsons in Channel 9 on Fridays. Sunday nights are reserved for the Million-Dollar Movies on ABS-CBN. When the clock strikes eleven, and the "Final Word" has been said on The World Tonight, the monochrome box is put to rest while our bodies lay suspended in the wooden king-sized bed.

I was a high school sophomore when noise began to intrude our night. At long last, it began to dismantle the silence and its foothold on our lives. Somehow, good fortune enabled the patriarch to set aside some cash for the Skycable bills. Regional channels like HBO, Discovery Channel, and sometimes, even CNN kept our eyes wide open at 2 am. However, bedtime is still bedtime for us kids and only the adults stayed until past midnight. 

When I turned eighteen, the widescreen was still off-limits when the patriarch arrives from work. When sleep slips and restlessness begs wakefulness, I found myself burning the telephone wires; talking to phone-pals and friends until the roosters crow, or a parent catches me beside the staircase encased in my self-created puppy-love shell.  

Between that, or Sonic the Hedgehog, or the short post-evening walk to a nearby lugawan with friends, who took shelter for the night. I was off-the-grid. I was living a life without being wired on the Internet.

It is only when I learned to face the world head-on, many years later, that I began to rely on visual noise for distraction. For the night's silence prolong the agony of waiting for sunrise - and redemption. From the way I snicker myself to sleep while Flapjack reruns air on Cartoon Network, to my daybreak meditation in front of the Chrome - reading the online edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, or emptying my flask-of-lust watching video clips on Lifeout; there in the digital Nirvana, I found solace. A state of bliss I can always trade-off for nocturnal resignation, that when one night, when the modem stops sending bits of data and the Panasonic TV cease streaming technicolor images from the Digibox, my world came crashing down with me at the center, half-deranged and totally helpless to contain the growing discontent.

Blue Screen of Boredom

It has been three pallid nights and a day of suspended animation and still, there is no sign of when the technicians will arrive. Like having a first-hand taste of withdrawal symptoms, I had to make do with the tools still available to me.

On the second night, I had Marie Antoinette on the media player, while on the third, I had to give up my reclusive ideology and reclaim a life I once had - on the dance floor. Only to realize that I have completely outgrown the scene.

There were sober moments when I do remember the old days, when the web was still spun - elsewhere, and watching cable TV merely stays as a leisure activity and not the building blocks of life. And it did leave questions as to how this piece of human innovation made my world smaller, and yet, distant to the humanity others still enjoy.

This radio silence affords me to probe the things I should learn to live without.

The religious calls to Skycable's customer service will go on until they hear my prayers, or I find myself searching for a new service provider. Meanwhile, I shall try to endure the noiseless, pitch black nights; wrestling the demons of my mind before it can assault my wandering thoughts.

For when the LED lights on the Digibox reappear and the WiFi returns to my airspace, it is I who will grow wordless, and my silence will cocoon me once again from the people I share my world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rush Hour Epiphanies

I was waiting for a bus to pass along Buendia. I was in Makati to deliver relief to my boyfriend who will be hauling work way beyond his shift that evening. I know the bus stops in front of the Stock Exchange building. But the queue of weary commuters there stretches on forever - especially on a rush hour. So I waited on the other side of the Business District, hoping that a bus driving from Manila would stop and take me home.

It was my first attempt and that's why I asked a fellow commuter for instructions. When she cemented my intuition, I felt relieved that I might be with someone who's riding the same bus. The nice lady wasn't hailing the passing jeeps going to Guadalupe so I assumed.

Minutes had passed, and song after song being played on my music player, still, no bus showed up. The ground was damp, the sky heavy with clouds. Anytime, a water spray will fall and I was already bored with my music.

So I thought of switching to Chill Out sounds.

And just when I was shuffling my Nano, a PVP bus whizzed in front of me. It didn't slow down even when the traffic light at the intersection turned yellow. And the ladies who were there asked in a chorus why I didn't hail the bus. On my part, it took some time before I realized what I had just missed. I was still shuffling my music player even when the ladies were telling me that I could still catch the jumbo. The two succeeding ones, whose interval to the first was a mere five cars in-between didn't let me in. The commuters thought they would be returning to the terminal so they didn't stop. I doubt they were, knowing the people waiting in Ayala.

"Every thirty minutes ang dating ng bus." I heard one of them saying. 

"Ganun po ba?" I cannot afford to wait. So I walked away and crossed the avenue to ride a jeep. I will have to take the Taft route instead.

So I took the long journey. A trip covering three cities, four vehicle transfers, and two precious hours wasted on urban commuting. All because I was shuffling my Apple device when the opportune time came. If I succeeded in finding a seat at a near-empty PVP bus; if I didn't assume that someone else found the courage to wait on the other side of Makati, only a mere 30-minute nap, and probably I've reached my house.

And now that I'm approaching home, on a G-Liner, which stopped in front of me near the City Hall, I learned the price of missed opportunities. Sometimes, even second chances don't come - or people don't have patience for it. Mine was a simple bus ride going home. But when applied as life lessons, good breaks get missed simply because one failed to look when the fleeting and elusive chance finally did arrive.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bucolic Days

Know that in a few years, this article will disappear on the online pages of Inquirer. And so is the memory of Malabon and it's fishponds, in the senses and words of Neal Cruz. After reading his column yesterday, I wish a part of me had lived through his childhood.

With the great bay spewing trash every time a storm passes, and the silted rivers taking with it remnants of makeshift homes hastily constructed along its swollen banks. With the sea licking more land and civilization leaving its footprints on lands once belonging to fish ponds, a time would come when all he had written would just be stuff of legends.

Like the pine trees standing in the uplands of the city.

Allow me to lift his article so that those who will get to read will never forget.

Malabon Tram, 1900's

The news in the Inquirer yesterday that the heavy rains had caused fishponds in Pampanga to overflow and the fish to escape reminded me of the floods in my hometown of Malabon, then the fishpond capital. Our housing compound there was like an island, surrounded by fishponds that were fed with seawater by the Catmon River, a tributary of the Tinejeros-Tullahan River.

During heavy rains, the water in the river, especially during high tide, would slowly rise to spilling level. The water in the fishpond, fed by rainwater flowing from the land all around them, would also rise. A bank of the river, weakened by the holes that crabs had burrowed, would cave in, allowing river water to rush into the fishpond. Soon, the water would spill over to the adjoining lots and streets.

With the water went the fish, and it would be a free-for-all in the neighborhood.

Children and adults chased the escaped fish in their backyards and in the streets, using all sorts of gear to catch them: nets, three-pronged spears, bamboo traps called “salakab” and even pieces of firewood with which the people clubbed the bigger fish on the head. Children chased the fish in the shallow water with their bare hands.

Our house on the island had a basement. When the pond overflowed into our yard, the water—and the fish—also entered the basement. When the flood ebbed days later, the fish were left behind in the basement, and we could hear them splashing there. We fed them leftover rice. The bangus, which are vegetarian, we fed “lablab” (algae or moss) from the ponds. Whenever we were short of fish for our meals, we would catch some in the basement.

At other times, before the ponds reached spilling level, fish we called “liwalo” and others “martiniko,” using their spiny fins, climbed the banks against the flow of the water as if they were swimming against the current of a rushing stream. We would sit by the window and watch them inch up the banks to our backyard and swim in the shallow water there. Later, we would go down and catch them with bamboo traps or our bare hands. We would put them in stone jars called “tapayan,” feed them leftover rice and fish, and catch and cook them as viands when needed.

The liwalo or martiniko is about six to eight inches long, with firm flesh. Broiled over hot coals, it exuded such an aroma that made one hungry. Eaten hot with steaming rice and soup, with either vinegar or fish sauce, it is a most enjoyable meal during cold rainy days.

The floods that brought fish into backyards made for a time of plenty and joy for the neighborhood residents, and a time of sorrow for the fishpond owners who would lose their investments.

Living in the middle of and beside fishponds, you would never want for food. It was easy to catch small fish with a hook and line using tiny bits of fish or shrimp as bait. Indeed, fishing was a form of play for the children. One of the favorite pastimes of the boys and girls in our neighborhood was picnicking on what we could catch and gather. The boys would catch the fish, the girls would gather the vegetables and tamarind fruits for the “sinigang.” The boys would gather dry firewood, and the girls would cook the rice and “sinigang.” We would arrange banana leaves on the ground, spread the rice, fish and vegetables on them, then gather around and eat what to us then were the most delicious meals in the world.

Old women preferred to catch frogs instead of fish. The frogs hid under the grass growing on the banks of the ponds. The women used earthworms as bait. The fishing lines had no hooks. For some reason, the frogs refused to let go of the bait even when they were hoisted into the air. For the same strange reason, they would let go once they were dropped inside cloth bags carried by the women.

In the old days, around September was the time of the crabs in the river and fishponds. The crabs were small and we called them “pehe” but they were generally known as “talangka.” They swam in great numbers in the Catmon River and we would sit on the wooden bridge over the river and dangle pieces of meat or fish innards to them at the end of lines from short fishing poles. The lines also had no hooks. Like the frogs, the crabs would grab the bait with their claws and wouldn’t let go until they were dropped into cans from where they could not climb out.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
What We Had Was The Siyam-Siyam

Nostalgia Manila

Friday, August 10, 2012

Values Education

Guy:  Hello
Me:   Hi
Guy:  Can we be friends?

I hold on to the belief that friendship - in its sincerest sense - is nurtured. It must have a foundation, like common interests, shared struggles or at least two people, who are friends, co-habitate a common space. Embracing this philosophy, I consider those I follow on Social Networks friends, if not acquaintances. Ties exists and it's not important to spell it out for all to see.

For this reason, I found it strange when some guy from Twitter, who followed me just recently, asked if we could be friends. Motives aside, (years of experience honed me to read the tell-tale signs) I found the question very perplexing. 

I would have responded in a hostile tone, if not for my partner's reminder - a long time ago - to be nice to everyone. Modesty aside, the change of display image some days ago sent hawks circling above my head. It didn't bother me, and I took their interests as a complement. However, what happened next between me and the guy affirms his penchant for things that are fleeting. 

Or should I regard his social values inferior to mine?

Me:  Sure, walang problema. =)
Guy: Great! Puwede malaman ang number mo? Salamat?

Of the things I find very difficult to give is my phone number. Siguro dahil I hardly send SMS or respond to messages. It annoys me too when people engage me in small talk over text instead of going directly to the point. And to spare these people from my diabolic pet peeve, I'd rather not give my number unless, it is something of great importance and immediate urgency.

I tried to make light of his reasons, especially when I know nothing which connects us. Perhaps my values are obsolete, and that, people these days do indeed embrace the fleeting and the shallow. I wouldn't mind putting into words my hand of friendship, but asking my number is a breach of etiquette.

It's a direct assault of personal space.

Me:  How old are you pare
Guy: 27 po. 
Guy: Kayo?
Me:  19
Guy: Hahay... Ang bata pa pala. -D So puwede ko ba malaman number mo?
Me:  Why ask my number?
Guy: So I can call you?
Me:  I'm not satisfied with your answer. Make it all clear to me.
Guy: I want us to be friends. And to make that happen, mas magiging okay kung may voiced communication din. :D
Guy: Mas ok and voiced communication kesa Twitter.

Me:  Nasusukat ba ang pagkakaibigan sa pagrinig ng boses ng isa't isa?

I would have said a mouthful and give the guy some tips on finding real friendship. But if this is how most people behave online; of how ties are forged without any profound respect for time and familiarity. If I'd only let my old self speak and say, "DP lang yan parekoy." Then there's no point in raising a voice.

Instead, I would leave this entry for others to find, and hopefully, what we cherish as an older generation rubs off to those we will one day leave behind.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Purpose

At four in the morning, I knew sleep won't come. My work begins at 6 o'clock and to make a shut-eye tempts an overstay in dreamland. So rolled over I did, until I was at the edge of the bed. I then got up, looked at the mirror, said hello to my puffy eyes, before leaving the room with a moist towel. 

And just when the water from the plastic dipper cascaded down my head, the sky bursts open, sending a downpour heavier than the one it sent the night before. The gentle patter became a chorus of drums, and within minutes, I knew the main street, a block away from home, had sunk again under ankle-deep waters. 

Under half an hour, I was ready. I left the house with a flimsy, dark-blue umbrella, a thick cotton jacket to top my body-fit shirt and a pair of rubber boots to cover my legs - these were the implements I prepared the night before. But they would prove feeble to the elements - to the man-made river - that would greet me once I reach the flood-prone street crossing.

Somehow I saw it coming.

When I reached Ramon Magsaysay, I saw no boulevard. Instead, a lake had swallowed the busy highway. I tried to get close, but I haven't even stepped down from the gutter and the water line was already inches away from the rim of my boots.

I could have turned back and tell the boss that I cannot go to the office. My agents could work-from-home, as planned.

But my stubborn and adventurous self insists that I should go. There is an overpass nearby, and maybe, I could reach it by wading through the shallow areas of the gutter.

I could still make it through.

A few clicks from the street corner and I found myself not far from a Tapsilogan, which recently, has been converted to a dull and nameless beer house. The flood has almost spilled over the mouth of my boots, and the people behind me walked - without wearing any protective gear. I wasn't even done hopping from one shallow spot to another when suddenly, a G-Liner bus appeared. A behemoth, whose water trail ripples as it passes through. 

Impulse tells that I should find higher ground. But from where I stood, there was none. The first wave came like a raging tsunami. I arched my feet, hoping that the few extra inches would spare my boots from the sudden tide. Alas it didn't. Just as I feared, the rim of my right boot has been breached. 

Sewage got in and submerged my foot.

Dazed and defeated, I returned home with a squeaking footwear. I should have listened: It was unwise to make an attempt with a scraped leg. And with Leptospirosis on the rise, I've put myself at risk. Washing my soaked leg with soap, before dousing it with a bottle of alcohol, I've finally sent word that I'll be working from home.

But had I succeeded in climbing the overpass and finding a jeep, these waters, I will have to tread before reaching the workplace:

V. Mapa, Santa Mesa

Kalentong, Mandaluyong

Looking at how my day went - from running two shifts effectively and conveniently from home, to sparing the matriarch the trouble of having to worry a son stuck in the streets, to staying dry and cozy at the bosom of my bedroom, it wasn't as bad as I thought the disgusting flood breach was.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Passing On The Torch

He arrived at past midnight with a box of goodies.

For the past several months, I would ask him for that one thing I need for my academics - a desktop computer. He would just brush it off, uncertain of how to respond to my pleas. On my part, the academic excuse was just a ruse. I've been spending a fortune renting computers near the campus to indulge in my favorite pastime: playing strategy games. However, the pursuit had an unexpected windfall. I was learning to use Microsoft when most of my schoolmates resigned themselves to submitting papers done on a typewriter. 

I was learning two things, most people don't know.

I remember being roused from sleep and was told to go to the playroom. There, he told me, "O ayan yung hinihingi mo" while pointing at a package as big as a Balikbayan Box. I immediately knew what it was and how to use it. But because the machine came all the way from the Land of the Rising Sun, I had to wait for a technician to correct its language.

No one understands Nipponggo.

And thus began my lifelong attachment to computers. Dad brought home a Compaq Presario. The one with its central processor already attached to its monitor. It was already obsolete when it came under my possession. It had limited storage capacity, which led me to uninstall old games when I bought new, pirated ones at P500 a game. The desktop also let me navigate the world of cyberspace for the first time. It is only I who didn't find Netscape appealing. Most of my desktop habits today - from erasing unneeded files - all the time; checking my available disk space even when I still have gigabytes of it; and uninstalling software believing it would speed  up my system formed because of my first desktop computer.

It shaped my relationship with machines.

The Compaq Presario would be replaced by several, more powerful computers in the course of time. I would still use the "academic" excuse every time I'd ask my father for upgrade. The last machine I had was brought on credit. At 30 grands, it used to be the cream of its generation. I had to waste three years of my life paying for it.

But like all desktop computers, a time comes when the machine would need replacement.

When its computer screen flicked and began refusing to show images; When I finally got tired of disconnecting and reconnecting the cable attaching the video card to the monitor; When I thought that I'm ready to take the leap of faith, and buy a laptop, the age of desktop came to an end. Disused for almost a year, the unit was set for scrap. If not for its second hard drive that contain most of my precious documents, I wouldn't think twice of disposing the computer during my general cleaning frenzies. 

Until I thought of passing it on to a godchild whose mother and father saw how my bonds with machines evolved.

Find Your New Purpose

Pasado hating-gabi nang matapos ako magbuhat sa gym. Samantalang ang computer naman na naging dugo't laman ko ng mahigit tatlong taon ay naiwang naghihintay sa office. Inaasam na muling mapasakamay sa tunay na nangangailangan. Pinalinis ko ito't pinatanggal ang isang hard drive sa katrabaho. Binalak ko pa sanang ipa-reformat ito kung hindi lang ako gahol sa panahon. 

Marahan ang buhos ng ulan nang makalabas ako ng Eclipse. Bihira ang dating ng sasakyan at ang lamig at kalungkutan ay tila nanunuot sa katawan. Sa pagpara ng taxi, ipinaalam ko sa nagmamaneho ang aking kukunin. Kailangan ko kasi ito bago tumulak sa aming pupuntahan. 

Patuloy pa rin ang iyak ng langit nang marating ang aking destinasyon. Sa makitid na kalsada tungo sa aming lumang bahay ay may mangilan-ngilang nag-iinuman. Hindi nila ako namukhaan. Sa pagpasok sa loob ng pinto, ng tirahang aking kinalakihan, tila ang mga dingding at kisame ay nangingilala sa aking pagbisita. Ang mag-asawa naman na naging patnubay ko sa paglaki ay tila naputol ang tulog nang dahil sa akin. 

Ngunit may mga bagay na hindi maaring ipagpabukas. 

Huli ko na napansin, ngunit habang nasa loob ng taxi, unti-unting gumagapang ang alaala ng una kong desktop computer: Kung paano ito napasakamay sa akin at paano ito napakinabangan ng maraming taon. Sa aking pagbabalik tanaw, pakiramdam ko ang mga simbolismo. Mula sa pagkatok sa pinto ng aming lumang bahay, sa paggising sa mga magulang ng aking inaanak, sa pagkadelay ng pagkabit sa cables ng desktop na naiwan pala sa kusina ng isa pa naming bahay.

Sa muling pagbabalik ng computer sa mismong kuwarto kung saan ito unang napadpad.

"Sana mapakinabangan..."

Patuloy pa rin ang buhos ng ulan at ihip ng malamig na hangin habang naglalakad ako pauwi ng bahay. Ngunit sa kabila nito, mababakas sa ngiti ng mukha ang full circle na na-accomplish ko nang magbalik ang computer sa kanyang pinanggalingan. Anurin man ng baha ang mga naulilang alaala, masasabi ko na sa aking namayapang ama.

"Nagtagumpay ka, Dad."


Saturday, August 4, 2012

El Trabajo

I would tell my partner that I am that delinquent officer who sleeps in full view of his subordinates; who surfs the web, stream video clips on YouTube, and blog instead of reviewing the work logs of my agents. I'm the supervisor who plays Transport Tycoon Deluxe on my workstation, tops the days of tardiness, thus setting a fine example for the rest to follow, and just last month, I had to be roused from my bed by a phone call from the director. It's already past 9 in the morning and my shift starts at 6 am.

There are so many reasons why it took seven years to be considered for the top post. And judging my performance these past few weeks, the hesitations of my superiors are quite justified.

But when it comes to work, of implementing policies that not only streamline our operations, they put order where none exist. When it comes to making sure everyone goes to their work stations dignified and highly appreciated for their performance.

And when it come to making sure everyone's spirits are uplifted even when material compensation falls short. 

I guess, despite the overwhelming odds, there remains atonement for my appalling and abusive ways.

Six months and counting, I have managed to run my own show, no matter how clumsily I played my part.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


The squall that brought the city to its knees is no more. What lingers are the howling winds and rain showers, that remind the earth of the storm's monsoonal grip. The sun occasionally peeks between the marching clouds, bathing the moist ground of precious minutes of sunshine. But when the stubborn nimbus, always on the lookout for changing winds hover over the weary metropolis, darkness cast a long shadow to everything the sky touches. 

I went to Baywalk this afternoon, to see for myself the remnants of the storm surge. Gone are the piles of wood, human trash and putrefied animals. The air no longer whiffs of death and destruction. And the seaside, still empty of its regular audience was left to heal its tattered shoreline.

Strong waves still pound the sea wall, spraying brine over the nearby highway. It would have been fun to dash across and get drenched, if not for the thought of the water reeking body excrement and household waste. 

And so I sat nearby and watched the dramatic pounding from a safe distance, a spot shielded from the open waters by a thin line of half-submerged barrier a league's distance from the shore. Knowing too well that had it been yesterday, the tempest would have taken whatever awe I have for the sea.

To be swallowed by terror, for the climate change we cannot undone.