Entering my Lola’s House

It’s been years since I’ve visited my ancestral home at Tomas Mascardo Street. I had lived there as a little boy and now I’m finally returning as one. Things look so different with her now making me feel more like an intruder than her favorite son. Yes, time the barbarian has mercilessly drawn the scars of pillage on her face, yet she still carries that dignified gaze of a captured queen. But lo’ she is quiet now…resigned to her fate it seems. There is no barking to be heard even as I fumble to reach for that creaky gate lock from the back. Bandit, the dog who protected me as a child as I played with my toy soldiers under that big guava tree on her backyard, Bandit, who licked my knees after scraping them against her pebblewashed floor is nowhere to be found. Just a silent breezy welcome…a blank stare, a cold embrace. The warm sound of laughter of those who once cared for me now cruelly replaced by some distant muffled videoke singing…staccatos of joy that can only be heard not felt. Inside as I enter I can only see darkness and sadness mixed with fond memories. Memories, yes memories…the only thing I have now…the only thing I can play with, like those little toy soldiers under that big guava tree. Suddenly the gate slowly whines as it closes outside. It is fine I tell myself…it is well.


Central Anarchy

Another stinking cadaver has been dragged out from the closet of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The massacre of 46 innocent civilians by the monsters she created clearly shows how Arroyo truly sold the soul of our country to the devil by exchanging sovereignty for power and control. The Ampatuans apparently have been given free reign over Maguindanao in exchange for the overwhelming support given to her

Philippine Massacre

Philippine Gestapo's Artwork

through vote rigging and strong-arming during past elections.

The vicious crime perpetrated last Monday made the Abu Sayaff look like frat boy tweeners. It has brought our country international shame and stigma as the worse country for journalists. It’s even being labeled as the worse mass killing of journalists in history. Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin must be growling in envy down at their 666 Hades St corner Beelzebub condominium. As it is written in Mark 3:27 of the King James Version of the good ol’ Christian Bible: “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house”. How soooo true and relevant is this verse to our case! Just makes you wonder who really is the strongman now huh? Ever wondered what happened to GMA’s slogan “Strong Republic”? Isn’t it the same statement proudly molded on your plate number and on every plate number of the vehicles of the lawyers, media men and pregnant women who were slaughtered and raped by Gloria’s Ampatuan Gestapo? As worthless a slogan it is, Its seducing a thought enough to gather all these plate numbers and melt them then mold them into bullets then use them on all concerned.


Rags and Mud

Last Thursday, mudslinging returned big time to Philippine politics as the Nacionalista Party unraveled an accusation Trapothat the Aquino family illegaly earned P170-M  from the private road interchange built for Hacienda Luisita on top of P80-M payment for right of way. Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla said that the SCTEX project overshot by almost P12 billion from its original cost of P21.39 billion to P32.8 billion with alterations and realignment from the original master plan, including the Hacienda Luisita road interchange.

According to the accusers, the alleged road scandal is said to explain why Senator Aquino refuses to dip into the P200-million double insertion allegation against his colleague Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar on the C-5 road project which Villar’s accusers alleged benefited his real estate firm.

Mudslinging is as ancient as the birds chirping in the air. It is how TRAPOs normally communicate especially during the election season. TRAPO, for those new to the term is a blend word or fusion combining the first syllables of TRA-ditional PO-litician. In the beginning, Philippine journalists and “street parliamentarians” (that is, activists) used “tradpol” to refer to traditional politicians. At some point, someone (in a magical moment of intellectual bliss) must have noticed that “trapo” was a better combination because it’s also the Spanish-derived Tagalog word for rag. They are your seasonal smiling faces hanging on electric lines, They are the names in waiting sheds following “Donated by:, They are the names hastily printed on the donation food packets during Ondoy and They are the ones inside giant Trapo2SUVs with sirens honking on for you to keep to the other side of the road.

Eons ago TRAPOS were headed and bred by no other than former President Marcos under the lab of cronyism. unfortunately remnants survived the attempted purge after the 1986 EDSA Revolution. But due to lack of activism, collective apathy and because of our inherent short-term memory, the infestation grew though the years and peaked during the current regime spawning scandals such as ZTE, Fertilizer Scam, Hello Garci, C-5 Dead End to name a few.  If you look hard enough, you will understand  that the *EDSA revolution was actually a revolt against the effects  of TRAPOism more than dictatorship.

In today’s age of modern individualism, we should already have developed a revulsion against TRAPOs. A kind of vile churn in the stomach you may feel when glancing a roadkill. We should be wiser now…we should be tired of the political crap they try to feed us every now and then. Mudslinging is a caveman tactic used by Neanderthal politicians. It has no place in this day and age.

1991 Henry F. Carey Christian Science Monitor (Boston, Mass.) (Aug. 19) “Aquino’s Challenge: Electoral Reform” p. 18: In the 1987 legislative elections, the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)—which exposed President Ferdinand Marcos’s attempts to rig the 1986 elections—did not contest the election of many traditional politicians, derogatorily called trapos (Tagalog for “dirty rag”) *Comment by Jose F. Lacaba 21 Feb 06 http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/dictionary/trapo/

Patron Saint of Philippine Politics

I ran into post about a little known Philippine incorruptible and unrecognized local Saint named Sta. Filomena (Check out the interesting post at FILIPNO eSCRIBBLES on my blogroll) A prayerful young lady who died in her 20’s, she was buried and was found totally preserved when exhumed. Apparently more interesting is the claim that even her eyes


An Incorruptible

were found untouched by decay. Sta. Filomena, already considered an unofficial Saint by many in Binan Laguna and is highly revered due to the many claimed miracles already attributed to her intercession. Unfortunately though the Catholic church has not progressed on canonization many believe to be due to the fact that she is now under the auspices of the Iglesia Filipina Indipendiente or the Aglipayans. The IFI, if you’ve read our history separated from Vatican control to pursue a more nationalistic approach to religion.

It’s sad enough how politics sometimes gets mingled with religion but  it’s even sadder when crime becomes part of it. Case in point: Jesus Malverde aka the Mexican Patron Saint of Narcotics. Yep you’ve got it

Jesus Malverde

Santo Jesus Malverde

right, our cultural cousins in South America have their own Patron Saint for selling mind poppers. Apparently Santo Jesus Malverde in one form or another can be found in the possesion of most South American drug pedlers from the mansion of  Don Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman  in Sinaloa to the little twig hut of Uncle Hector down in Tijuana. St. Malverde is said to protect and bless not only drug barons and pushers but narco-politicians as well (Check out the funny resemblance to a former president…mustache and cowboy hat and all). He is also said to be floating out there keeping an ever-watchful eye out for the poor and the oppressed. 

Mexico and the Philippines are married by vitue of religion, culture, trade and some would even argue in terms of psychology. Raised by Mother Spain, both countries inherited the Latin machismo attitude and the short fuse that comes with it. Tutored by the Catholic faith, Mexicans and Filipinos enjoy similar religious practices and dabble  and enjoy in familiar customs and superstitions. Similar economic situations force populations to immigrate or work abroad to survive. Mahathir of Malaysia was once quoted saying that Filipinos are actually not Asians but rather misplaced South Americans. I must confess that I tend to subscribe to this point of view. Now with a tequila in my right hand and a burrito on my left, I can’t help but wonder if our local politicians deserve to have their own Saint to call out to…or maybe they already have. Some say the sacred name to mutter would be Santo Mike de la Malacanang others claim to petition directly to Santa Gloria de Lubao. Although I highly doubt if they would make it as incorruptibles 🙂

Sympathetic Magic

I just read an article on Bon Beliefs about emotions. What I found quite compelling was how they understood and treated human feelings like love & hate. But before going there, I’d like to give you a quick runabout on what Bon is. Today Bon is commonly associated with Tibetan Buddhism. This may be due to similar traditional practices and cultural aesthetics but Tibetan scholars and records claim that the Bon Spiritual tradition Sympathetic Magicactually pre-dated Buddhism by a thousand years. Some say that Bon actually originated from Iran sprouting from the fertile mind of an obscure fellow named Shenrab before he decided to do a quick stroll to Tibet. Given the history, we could logically say that Bon is uniquely separate from Buddhism in terms of origin but through the years became similar due to philosophical and cultural coitus. Like a longtime couple who broke-up, Bon and Buddhism retained both similarities and animosities they shared through the years. One particular issue is the Buddhist contention on the aspect of Shenrab’s enlightenment status. Their argument is simple: Buddha is enlightened while Shenrab is not. My personal comment is simple as well…”Show me someone who can freak’n prove it.” Will the real illuminated one please stand up? After 4000 years can anyone really tell?

Going back to subject…love, hate and other emotions according to Bon are treated as persons or external forces not as innate human emotions. Baffled? I won’t blame you. I was confused as a seahorse in the mating season when I first read about it. To make things simpler, try this…imagine enjoying an afternoon tea in your room called life. Suddenly someone rings the doorbell, you put the tea away and hesitantly stand up. You wonder who the hell it could be knocking on your door this late in the day. As far as you know you haven’t bumped into any Mormon Brethren or Jehovah’s Witnesses lately. In a vain effort to shoo the unwanted visitor away, you shyly shout “If you’re selling Bibles…I already got one!’” But nobody answers…Annoyingly, you make your way to the door. You gently turn the knob half hoping to see an Avon lady…the door creaks open…there’s nobody there. You look to the left then to the right…not a soul. Your mind gives you a nudge to look down and to your surprise you find a little creature…the kind with big fluffy ears… one with dough eyes…a cute member of the K-9 species…a beagle breed of some sort. Worse of all it has a sign hanging from its neck saying “adopt me please”.

Now you find yourself in a conundrum. Will you keep the mutt? Or will you just shoo or shoot the animal and close the door? Never had a harder choice since the 3rd grade didn’t ya? As innocent and simple a choice it may seem, it’s just the same thing when it comes to emotions. Anger or in this analogy…Love as the beagle might more appropriately symbolize is nothing more than an intruder or a guest depending on how you see it. Emotions according to Bon don’t emanate from you as most western religions and philosophies suggest…therefore you don’t have to carry the guilt of expressing them when they visit you. All you can do is manage them at the door after opening it or deal with them as a visitor after deciding to let them in. At the end it all boils down to choice and management when living with the consequences…without the guilt of course. That’s why I keep my door shut closed, double locked with an external security camera installed…specially at night when crows and monsters abound. Though sometimes I forget to close the windows…where mice and spiders tip toe and crawl in. But what the heck…an occasional afternoon tea time guest won’t hurt you after all…well…sometimes.

Arbeit macht frei

I felt like a concentration camp inmate yesterday. Slowly dragging the whole Sunday from twelve  in the afternoon till Nine in the evening doing stuff for the bosses. With my laptop and Powerpoint decks as substitute for ball and chains, I slowly Arbeit macht freitrudged  the lonely hill of data dumps and graphs till just before i wrote this dying worker’s brain fart. Leaden-eyed and with my mental sinews flaccid, i faintly remembered the camp motto on all the labor camps that jolly ol’ Adolph  had installed on all the gates welcoming those to be gassed: Arbeit macht frei (Work makes one free). Funny but I seem to agree. Work drowns away the pain of time and senselessness. It puts things into perspective just like a poor man’s Prozac to life’s depressions…it brings about a semblance of purpose and order. It takes away  the feeling from the fact that you are about to be burned to a feathery grey chaff of an existence. I guess atleast the architects of the gas chambers got it right on that point.

Taxi Tales

I’ve been riding taxis for about a month now and contrary to what I expected, I had lots of fun doing so. Beyond the dirt and grime accumulated in my sweaty brow and the mocking stares of passengers of cabs I failed to flag down lay a Taxi Talescollage of stories & experiences that taxi drivers happily tell between traffic jams and wrong turns. Their accounts are weaved and embroidered both with their own personal experiences and their passengers as well. These interesting and sometimes disturbing short narratives hang and flow like a beautiful tapestry, a rich display of the urban Filipino experience.

 It all started in the wee hours in the morning September 26th when the weather spawned a monster named Ondoy. The beastly freak laid waste to majority of Metro Manila while its murky waters devoured many vehicles including my father’s brand new car. With my Dad left without a way to go around, I volunteered to lend him my own. I work in heart of Makati and live near Mandaluyong where there are no garage to terminal shuttles and jeeps had short routes. This left me no choice but to ride taxis.

This is how I got to meet Toryo…or Goryo. I honestly couldn’t remember his correct name. Blame it on my selective or fleeting memory and I’ll plead guilty. But what I do remember with great clarity is his dark story about a co-driver. So for now  let’s  just call him Oryo.

Oryo was of the extroverted kind. After the grim days of Ondoy, his incessant chirping and jovial disposition was a welcomed relief. He talked about how his brother-in-law spent two days in the roof of their shanty with his wife and ten month old son. He  lamented on how they were sold “relief food packages” at P20 bucks a piece by crooked barangay officials. He was very thankful that his own family was spared by the floods. Oryo was also very appreciative of the fact that he now had a new employer given the harrowing experience he had with the last one. Now people must know never to mention such phrases like  “harrowing experience” or “mysterious goings-on” to a person like me. Doing so would be like dropping a lollipop on my mind’s pavement where armies of curious ants zestfully await. With the ants now fully engaged… the prodding commenced.

Oryo had been a Taxi driver for only less than 2 years. He was once a Masiao (Filipino illegal betting game) operator but has since retired when another mayor got voted in his town and given that the new public servant had another team handling his interest… it got “too hot” for his crew.

 Taxi was nowhere in Oryo’s list of alternative jobs. But a good friend had the better of his opinion and convinced him to try it out. He enjoyed the job.  Blessed with an extroverted nature and great PR skills, he jelled sweetly with his operator, passengers and co-drivers…well almost all except one. You see Oryo didn’t have one unit all for himself. His operator had a shared system called “Half-set”. In this simple scheme, one driver handles the day shift while the other covers during the dark. Oryo handled the day shift.

For one year and a half everything seemed fine with his partner. The unit transfers were smooth. No long conversations, problems were pointed out and solved quickly and without qualms. His partner though withdrawn and often pensive always made sure that the unit was crisp and clean ready for Oryo. And as far as he knew the guy never failed to pay the boundary fee in full.

It was quick whiff at the start like a sickening sweet smell that he couldn’t fully describe. He initially dismissed it simply as bad cargo. Might just be market meat juice that spilt over from an old lady’s plastic bag that his partner failed to shampoo off…as so he thought.  Weeks passed and the smell got worse. To the point that poor Oryo couldn’t drive without the windows open. He confronted his unit partner about it and he always got a vague explanation about passengers spilling drinks and food. His partner was so good in his excuses that somehow after every confrontation, he always got the feeling that he was the only one smelling it. It got so bad one day that a lady passenger got so disgusted about the stench that she begged him to stop midway to their destination to transfer to another taxi.

In one shift he lost three consecutive passengers to the strange smell. At the end of that day he only had a take away of P100 after the boundary was collected. That’s when he told his operator of his plight and was given permission to follow his partner to catch what was going on during the night shift. After all, the taxi unit’s welfare was in the best interest of the operator and rarely did they have a driver so concerned about a corporate asset.

He started hounding his partner starting from the garage in Pasig. He was quite astonished when the target vehicle just went zoom past flagging passengers. With its lights out and with the HIRE tab off, the cased out unit went flying through Edsa down to Makati rolling across Taft and then finally slowing down the approach of the Philippine General Hospital. The old yellow Toyota XL then slowly crept towards the emergency parking bay. The driver went down and nonchalantly smoked a cigarette as if caring nothing about time or loss of passengers. That’s when a group of crying women appeared huddled around two men bearing a shroud covered stretcher. They approached the driver and lovingly transferred the corpse of an old man to the reclined passenger seat of the taxi. That’s when his partner handed a baseball cap (which he later learned was a ploy to deceive the toll way guards) to one of the women who carefully placed it on the head of the cadaver after gently kissing its forehead.

And that’s when it dawned upon him…his partner was driving dead bodies to the provinces. The dreaded stench was caused by the death fluids dripping from the lifeless passengers. Later did he find out from other taxi & van drivers haunting the hospital parking grounds that this practice was quite normal and popularly considered as a cheaper alternative to hiring ambulances or hearses. They said that poor folks from the provinces just can’t afford the cost of transporting dead relatives back to their hometowns. According to the modern-day Kharons sipping coffee under the hospital waiting shed, hiring an ambulance will cost poor folks a cold ten to twenty thousand. Hearses are out of the question too because of the paperwork involved. Using a hearse entails a different set of permits for every municipal en route. This is why the only alternative to the grief-stricken poor is to hire a taxi.

A taxi transfer contract costs around three to five thousand bucks which is both quite fair to the grieved and the driver. Most specially the driver who can go home with good full day’s worth of take right after just one traffic jam free run. Who could blame Oryo’s partner for taking the deal then? After all isn’t he also helping our financially challenged brethren on top earning a good days pay? Isn’t his “Diskarte” an acceptable maneuvre in our impoverished economy and the survival based Filipino urban culture?  Moreover, isn’t this just a symptom…a way around the anti-poor laws and unfeeling government regulations? The stench that terrorized Oryo so much as to make him flee to another employer also spelled the doom of his partners  taxi driving career. But beyond the deathly haunting scent lies the deeper and farther reaching stench of government apathy and neglect.

Erap’s Wehrmacht

carcrashErap’s political machine to run anew? Do we really want him on the driver’s seat again? The last time he was driving, we crashed into a revolution and was hi-jacked by somebody worse! We don’t need another drunk driver on the wheel! Shady midnight meetings & Mafia type deals…are stuff from the 50-60’s…let’s leave it back in the trunk. If he ever wins in the coming election then I guess that it’s better to run this squeaky bus of a country down the cliff and wreck it totally. When will we ever learn?

Requiem for an old friend

GeocitiesTomorrow will be the last day of Geocities. For those too young to remember, Old Geo was one of the pioneers in  personal Web hosting using webrings to connect pages. In essence the granpappy of Facebook & Friendster, it taught a generation of designers their first lessons in web building. I can still freshly remember patiently unscrambling and assembling my HTMLs while trying to customize my first visitor counter. 

But like old teachers grow old and die, so do must trusty old Geo. I hope he do goes to program paradise. He did a good job while he was still alive…a really darn good one.


Dog shitEver ran into a “Shtick”? Nope its not another creative term for the warm sticky stuff your dog leaves on your lawn but it amazingly comes close in describing the same stuff you may encounter in malls and other shopping holes. “Shtick” is what your advertising and creative peeps use to describe the extreme “on-ground” marketing strategies they execute in a bid to get a share of your fleeting 21st century attention span. Yep they’re the little green hooded midgets giving out fliers promoting Mother Santa’s X-mas Sale or the 7-footer passing around invites to the Giant Bargain Extravaganza happening next week. Check out the “Pop-marketing” spin on that one! It’s interesting to take note that these attention begging stunts are also being used by political and religious forces as well. Take for example good Ol’ Osama. He went a notch up my book for being the best advertising strategist after 9-11. He succeeded in creating the largest political billboard of all time! Who could ever miss two burning skyscrapers? Not to mention the advert freebies he got from CNN, BBC and Fox. He spun a movement that would surely outlast him and most remarkably tapped into the most basic and universal of all human instincts: fear. The only problem with that is that a typical advertising campaign usually includes different levels within its lifespan like a launch mode, a maintenance mode and a re-launch to name a few. These levels of advertising bursts are designed to make sure that the message sticks to your head big-time. I guess that with the WTC launch and the Bali/Madrid/London maintenance over, it would be logical to expect a re-launch soon. So stick to CNN guys and watch out for the next big OBL Shtick.