Monday, February 29, 2016

Our Edsa Story

The battle for memory is as much about the future as it is about the past.

Milan Kundera

It was at this spot I once stood, leaned my chest against the metal railing to witness the sea of humanity converging below. The Left were on the other side of the intersection, unfurling their large banner demanding the ouster of a corrupt leader. The civic society groups were at the center, cheering, and raising their hands with the Laban sign for every good news coming from the radio stations. In just a matter of hours, the speaker on the makeshift stage would announce the withdrawal of support of the military. They too would show up in that corner, lending their voices calling for a leadership change. 

Just days before, I remember sneaking out of the house at sunrise after hearing some groups converging at the foot of the Blessed Mother. The group they said came all the way from Ateneo, who after seeing the good Senators weeping, and a clown dancing went to Edsa to call for the President to step down. The admin lawmakers had gone too far. The impeachment court had just lost its authority. When they voted against the opening of the second envelope containing evidence that would further press the President, it was time to do another Edsa.

And boy did we succeed.

What we didn't know is that every political force demanding the government to step down would replicate what we did and assemble at Edsa to block all traffic. They would set up camp, and like the ebb and flow of tides would swell later during the evenings. In less than three months after Ms. Gloria took office and Mr. Erap carted away to face his plunder charges, the masses would mount another Edsa. They would be crushed completely when they tried to storm the Palace gates.

We were horrified to learn the truth, that the People Power of the past that was called to restore democracy would be twisted and mangled to serve the interest of the few. It is, for this reason, no other Edsa protest was ever mounted after the third. Gloria knew this too, and for nine years - an equivalent of a single generation - she would bury the memory - in print and in spirit. The revolution that inspired so many nations to turn to Democracy would slowly fade from our national consciousness leaving this hollow notion that the Marcos years weren't bad at all.

As a result, we have kids today who knew nothing of that revolution. Of how People Power guaranteed our freedom to express our aspirations; of how that mass movement restored our right to enact change (through elections and street protest) when our leaders fail; of how, in our coming together, made us a nation of freedom-loving souls. Though I may often find it depressing how some people in authority would try to change what is already history, of how they would try to picture the years after the revolution as nothing but a series of failed promises, I still have faith in the legend. 

For once our rights are suppressed (in social and traditional media); and once we see opposition leaders being dragged in the streets, bloodied and screaming while protesting against an oppressive government, we will once again come together - with beaming pride and overflowing spirit - in that corner that brought us to where we are today.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Teacher Mugen


Guro (First Part)
Guro (Second Part)
Guro (Last Part)

From time to time, my mother would ask me to make an appearance at her class, not to talk about what I know in my profession, but to listen to her students as they conduct their report. It was a ceremonial task, performed so as to ensure my mom won't miss her once or twice-a-week lecture, and at the same time, avoid being marked absent by the checkers going around to demand account of the teachers. The last time I did show up was because of an affliction that almost led my mom to be confined in a hospital. It could have been worse. With her blood pressure shooting up to almost 200/xx, there was certainty of stroke. 

But this story is reserved for another entry.

As she recovered, the professor asked me to oversee her class as they discuss the literature of the Africans. For most people, (including me, if I were not familiar with the writings of Chinua Achebe) nobody would ever think those black people from that continent ever produced a body of literary work. Even the students, who began reporting on the topic appear to merely scratch the surface: there was mention of the hieroglyphics, but the Egyptians were omitted. A reporter said that Africans had written and oral literature before the Europeans came, and yet, didn't know anything about the University of Sankore. Worst, they keep harping about racism and apartheid, and yet didn't say a word about the cruelty of the state policy once applied by South Africa

I can't help but intervene and tell them what I know about the people and their tragedy.

Being a student of history, I have always understood that every literary work was drawn from a time period lived by the author. Every social experiment, every revolution, every war he or she had seen and felt leave a mark on his or her writing. This, I explained with so much passion that my arms were all over the place as if to point out what I would like to hear in their report. At the same time, I cannot help but lament what I should be doing, knowing I could have enriched the lives of these students and set the facts straight when every story can be twisted on Social Media and beyond.

"So the Africans had built their civilizations, but they destroyed one another in the name of the slave trade."

"That is why there are Negroes all over the Americas."

"Sometime during the Industrial Revolution, the Europeans decided to colonize the whole continent instead (since forced labor is being replaced by machines)"

"Resources were exploited and so were the people."

"Then the missionaries came, together with their families, converted the heathens to Christianity, only to treat them as second-class people in their own land."

"They divided families from one another, made tribes fight each another."

"In some places, imagine being forbidden to enter a hospital for the white people, eat food for the white people (which the blacks have planted and harvested in the land the whites now own), ride in an elevator reserved only for white people."

"Only a few realized this mistake, and very recently did they make steps to correct this social injustice.

"That is the story of the Africans."

Gasps and sighs were heard inside the classroom.


Feeling satisfied with the grain of knowledge I imparted to my students, I returned to my seat and refrained from interrupting the reporters any further. Meanwhile, inside my head, where the actual thought process was happening, I would have wished I pursued those juvenile dreams of returning to the academe to lend a credible voice and speak out against the systematic revision being done to this country's recent history.

Searching for identity and real self-pride, like the Africans do, we still have a long way to go before we finally re-discover our true selves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In the Silence of Aldebaran Space: First Pt.

Previously in Rinavia Prime

Masasabi ko na sa nakaraang higit kalahating taon ay nalagay ako sa katahimikan. Ito ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit pansamantala akong lumiban sa pagsusulat. It was November of last year when I published an entry on my blog. That doesn't include the months of intermittent postings because of my work commitments. When not hitting my quota for the writing job, the days were spent seeing places and experiencing new things with the person I choose to love. To help you put everything in perspective, the exclusive dating setup I had with the Weatherman did bear fruit. Armed with patience and a firm resolve to hold on to the notion that there is no one I'd like to see the world except him, the two of us ended up getting closer. Parang Aldub lang. It was fun and exciting. Ganoon pala ang feeling kapag yung taong kasama mo ay kapareho mo ng hilig. One thing leads to another and the next thing I knew, one year had passed since he came back into my life. While we seldom talk about our beginnings, I can say that our lives are more intertwined now than in any other time in our history. We still have more journeys to come and milestones to cherish - but for now - let me share what we have accomplished so far. 

1. Taal Heritage Tour

At the belfry of the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours.

The town of Taal boasts grand ancestral houses and a century-old Basilica built in 1856. Only a three-hour drive from Manila, a visitor can see the places around the poblacion on foot.

The heritage tour was my surprise birthday gift to the Weatherman. And it was probably the best I ever gave to someone.

2. Cloud Nine Chill

The Weatherman doing a time-lapse video

The Cloud Nine Hotel and Resort, with its cliffside view of the metropolis has always been a secret hideaway. I fell in love with the place when my schoolmates decided to watch the sunrise there after spending the night partying in Timog. To this day, more than a decade later, I can still count with my fingers the number of times I came back -

half of them with people very dear to me.

So I returned for the nth time with the Weatherman in tow. While inside the UV express going to the highlands, he told me that his fondest memory of Antipolo was seeing the city in the distance. He had no idea that the place we are going is known for its viewing deck. So yun, imagine his eyes glow when he saw the unobstructed view of the skyline for the first time. He took pictures, climbed the hanging bridge leading to the hotel's rooftop, and watched the sunset while attempting to create a time-lapse video on his phone. As if nature wanted us to stay longer that evening, we chanced upon low-lying clouds passing through, shrouding the hotel and its surroundings in a think blanket of haze.

The weatherman's grin was priceless.

Wawa Dam Adventure

Mt. Binakayan in the Distance

I came across a travel blog about Montalban a long time ago. Written on the essay were some interesting points about the town's famed mountains, whose peaks were a favorite haunt of rock climbers trying to test their skills. Back then, I have no intention of checking the place out, not even when Bentusi, my editor, lives in town. But when her father died and I went to the wake at 6 in the morning, I thought of exploring Rodriguez on foot before returning home to get some sleep.

Curiosity prevailed, and the next thing I knew, I was on a jeep heading to Barangay Wawa to see the mighty dam up close. Taking some pictures for posterity, I vowed to bring the Weatherman there, and one fine afternoon I finally did. The kid, who is a confessed nature lover could not believe what his eyes could see: rock boulders as big as houses, the crystal clear waters of a dead river downstream, the twin peaks of Mt. Pamitinan and Mt Binakayan bisected by the Marikina River. the everyday rustic lifestyle locals seem to enjoy. It so happened that we went there on a Monday so we had the place to ourselves.

It felt like a spiritual journey.

We went home exhausted after shooting pictures of nature and looking at the sky to catch a glimpse of the mountains while riding at the back of a tricycle, a rainbow appeared on the horizon.


We had other adventures, including the ones he surprised me with. These and our other stories, I will write in the next part of this blog entry.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Words Left Behind

We have lost count of the days since the last time words once filled these pages. Confident that we won't disappear into the night, the promise of writing didn't follow. We have become complacent; gratified by the terse thought afforded by 140 characters on Twitter. With over a thousand followers in that microblog website, why bother with long-form writing when pint-size narratives can be shared with your audience? 

So we ventured past the cradle, believing this outdated storytelling no longer appeals to our blog readers. With the raketship demands soaring, the two hours spent writing and publishing an entry no longer fits the busy schedule. The stories that were supposed to be penned for posterity have all piled up, accumulating dust in the fringes of our memory. There were many attempts to come back, but nothing had gone past the plan - until today - on the eve of my literary awakening did I make this most serious attempt of returning.

We can no longer deny this calling.

There will be no assurance. No guarantee that this enterprise will work. If this homecoming bears significance; if someone stumbles, and finds time to digest the remnants of these restored pages - read: this is our attempt to carry out what we started 12 years ago. May we remain faithful to the craft until our last breath.

This is Mugen writing back.

*raketship - second job