Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Manila or Bust!

I guess this is it: I'm finally going to Manila come November 1!

My new office just found a place for me in Sta. Ana, Manila. I'll have to share the CR with another person, but at least I'll have a room all to myself. And it's in the city of Manila where I grew up. Thus, it's back to Mayor Lim's jurisdiction for me.

I'll miss having my cats around, though. Brought them all to Leyte where they'll be cared for by my mom and daughter. When I get a place of my own, will be bringing my entire family -- feline and human -- to Manila. In the true essence of Lilo's and Stitch's ohana, no one gets left behind.

I'll also be back to old haunts, friends from way back, and all the other things -- good and bad - that defined Manila for me. In fact, as of this very moment, I've got my college buddies eagerly waiting for my return so we can have an instant reunion.

I don't know what Manila has in store for me this time. However, one thing's for sure: I'm returning to Manila a wiser, more responsible, and stronger person.

I'm going to make sure that the city doesn't eat me alive this time, come Hell or high waters.

Sabi nga nila, it's Manila or bust!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008



My crush, Speaker of the Opposition and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila President Adel Tamano, just accepted my friend invitation on Facebook!

'La lang, just wanted to share the love...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

By now I guess everyone who knows me has this question on their minds: is she moving to Manila or not?

A phone call I got at lunch today provided me with a final and definite answer: Yes, I'm moving back to Manila -- with a vengeance!


I left Manila almost 10 years ago feeling helpless and pessimistic. It took a while for me to truly get back on my feet again and to get a good grip on the reins of family responsibility, but I managed to do both in Leyte. Sure, I may have transferred to Cebu to work but Leyte was still home to me.

Now, I find myself returning to my place of birth again. And very soon, my family will also be reunited with me.

I'm excited -- and scared.


The good thing about returning to Manila is that I get to achieve all four goals which I set for myself before I turn 40. I wouldn't be able to attain these if I went elsewhere.

My first goal: to get a job that will provide me with the stability and security I need in my career. At my age, it's quite tiring already to keep changing jobs. Career-wise, I need to get my feet firmly planted on the ground already -- and my new job (to be disclosed later) is just the thing to give me exactly that.

My second goal: to get my family reunited again. I was forced to leave my family in Leyte when I transferred to Cebu to work. While I had a respectable salary, it was always divided by two because I had to send half of my salary to my family every payday. Thus, I ended up barely surviving with the little money I had left until the next payday. If we were together in Manila, then we won't have to buy separate items just to keep two households up and running. Besides, my daughter's already a teenager and I'd like to be there as she passes through this most confusing stage in her life. After all, she is the reason why I work in the first place.

My third goal: to get my master's degree. In my younger years I ballyhooed anyone who advised me to go to graduate school. I thought to myself: heck, I don't need one. After all, I was getting good jobs. Years later (and after many career heartbreaks), I realize now that a master's degree is crucial not only for additional knowledge but also as a fallback (just in case I want to return to teaching) and for purposes of promotion.

My fourth goal is more personal in nature. Just to give an idea on what this is all about, it involves not losing again what I almost lost before.


So what scares me about returning to my lupang sinilangan?

Manila may have changed a lot since I left in 1999, but there are still things about that place that remain the same -- mostly bad things.

First is the traffic. Oh Lord, the traffic. But thank God for the LRT and MRT, going from Point A to Point B has now become less of a hassle. One will have to contend with the throngs of fellow passengers, though.

Second, the floods. When I was still living in Sampaloc, Manila, our place became a virtual river whenever there were heavy downpours. I doubt it if this problem of flooding will ever be solved, considering that Manila is said to be sinking by several millimeters every year.

Third, the high cost of living. They say that when in Manila, every move you make constitutes to money coming out of your pockets. And even when you're just staying put in one place, you'll still have to shell out cash for something or another. The materialistic lure of the city can truly create big holes in one's pockets.

Fourth is the high incidence of crime. I laugh every time I hear news of the Waray-waray gang striking again. These criminals obviously hail from my province, but they obviously honed their skills in Manila. Lawless elements left in Tacloban City and other areas of Leyte are just mostly small-time pickpockets or snatchers, with a sprinkling of rapists and murderers. Like I said, small-time. In Manila, you'll never know when you'll be the next victim. I already experienced my wallet getting snatched, my mom became a victim of the Budol-Budol Gang, I got mashed in Quiapo, and I got held up in a jeep which was in the middle of rush-hour traffic.

Fifth, major upheavals/occurrences always have to happen in Manila. Blame it on the city being the center of Philippine politics and commerce. That's why there are rallies happening left and right, jeepney strikes, and coup d' etats. I already know the feeling of being hit by tear gas. I don't want to experience that same feeling again.


Nevertheless, I believe that at this point, there is simply no other place for me to go but to Manila. It's a calculated risk that I have to take.


Parang kelan lang. Several months ago, I was resigned to my fate working for a BPO in Cebu. Someone rued my situation and noted that I was afraid to come out of my comfort zone. "Don't be complacent," he kept repeating to me. This person added that I still have much to offer, and if only I was in Manila, I'd be able to find new opportunities commensurate to my knowledge, experience, and expertise.

As it turned out, he was right.

Thank God for voices of conscience like him. Bless his soul.


So I guess this is it. It's back to Manila for me.

Wish me luck, everyone!

Featured Story: The City Dragon

Found this really engaging short story on Writing.com. Written by Clefton Twain, it was listed under the "Mythical Creatures" category. It's short, so please don't stop reading until you reach the end. This tale reminds me of the "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke.

Curious? Then read on...


The City Dragon
By Clefton Twain

Eliot Schmidt walked out his house just like he had done every workday for the past five years. He tucked his briefcase under his arm while fumbling with his keys to lock the front door. He slipped them into his pocket. I hope it's still there, he thought as he turned to go to his car.

It was. It always was.

Eliot looked up to see it wrapped around and clinging to the smokestack like a barnacle on the underside of a ship. A dragon. Bright green with wings of gold, the creature was there every morning as if to greet Eliot on his way to work or when he got the paper on weekends. It had taken up a position there two years ago, much to the dismay of the city management.

At first, nobody knew what to do with a dragon. What does one do with a dragon? It wasn't going Godzilla on the city, destroying everything and eating everyone in sight. No, it simply clutched the smokestack, wrapping its long tail around the pipe, and stayed there until sometime around noon when it would simply fly off, only to return the next day.

There had been talk of exterminating the creature. Mayor Johnson had raised issue with safety concerns. "Something that big on the loose is unsafe for the city and its citizens," he had proclaimed, banging his fist on the podium. But days and weeks passed. Nobody did anything and the dragon continued its peaceful visits.

Initially, the people had been both awed and frightened. Who wouldn't be? If movies and stories had taught him anything, Eliot knew that dragons ate people and breathed fire, acting like savage animals on the loose. Again, no destruction, no deaths.

As time passed, most of the fascination with the dragon slowly calmed down and people eventually came to accept the critter as being a normal part of life. The television news magazines had done more than enough so-called journalistic pieces on the dragon. Eliot remembered the last one he saw--supposedly the dragon had a mate and they were getting married! Good for them!

But Eliot was still intrigued--still captivated by the dragon. His wonder and excitement never waned. The reporters never got it right. They had never tried talking to it! Maybe it just wants some company? A friend? So much had been reported, yet they knew so little.

Well, I'd better get to work. I've got that meeting at 9:30.

Eliot got into his car, setting his briefcase on the seat next to him, and rolled out of the driveway. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was playing on the radio. They sure do like this song. Or they really hate it and think playing it all the time will torture us.

"Kurt!" he yelled, putting the car into first gear. "English, man! Sing in English!" Laughing to himself, he headed down the road to the stop sign where cars streaked past on the busy road before him. He flicked on his turn signal, the flashing right arrow reminding him of which way he was to go.

As he watched the cars go by, his mind wandered back to the dragon. Maybe it was a mystical protector, sent by someone to watch over the city? If a dragon was real, maybe wizards and trolls were too? That would certainly make life more interesting! More interesting than a nine-to-fiver for five days a week.

He anxiously tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel as the song neared its end. Finally a break in the traffic appeared. He tapped harder, watching the gap, looking both left and right but not moving. A car rolled up behind him, horn blaring at him. Eliot looked both ways and then, with squealing tires, turned left.

"You're going to be late," he muttered to himself, still tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel. The song had given way to commercials but he hadn't noticed. "What are you doing? Turn around!"

But he kept driving, turning left at the first stoplight and heading toward the power plant. The dragon hadn't moved at all. Maybe it was sleeping? It took up nearly a third of the smokestack, positioned almost perfectly in the middle. I wonder if it sleeps on there? How does it keep from falling off? Eliot's foot pushed harder on the gas but quickly had to slam on the brakes, nearly rear-ending the car in front of him as it turned right onto a side street.

"My fault," he said as if the driver could hear him. "I apologize." He waved to the other driver and, once they were out of his way, hit the gas.

Approximately five minutes later he was sitting in his car in the gravel parking lot next to the power plant. The lot was only half full, probably awaiting the influx of people arriving at 8 o'clock. He took a deep breath, staring straight ahead at the sign in front of his space. "Reserved for Municipal Power Plant Employees. All violators will be towed at owner's expense." He sat for another minute or two, his mind furiously working on all sorts of thoughts running through his head. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his suit coat.

To Hell with it.

The car door squeaked as he got out, slamming it behind him. He walked nervously around the fence, gravel crunching beneath his feet, to the other side where he could get a better view of the smokestack and, more importantly, the dragon. He'd never been this close before! Of course many people had come this close but he had always decided the dragon needed space. It would be intruding if he were to get too close. Dragons probably need their space, right? By doing this, he was violating that law.

Finally, he came to the perfect spot. He stood on shaky legs and looked up at the magnificent creature wrapped around the smokestack. It's so damn big! The creature's bright green scales were a stark contrast to the drab black tube upon which it currently perched. Eliot could only stare, rubbing his hands together nervously.

He wasn't sure exactly how long he stood there, watching. He figured it must have been at least ten minutes. Several employees walked past him on their way to work but didn't stop to talk or get a look themselves. They must be used to this by now, seeing it every day. They don't even recognize the wonder anymore.

The dragon was still. Was he expecting it to notice him and suddenly decide to do something? It was a dragon! What did it care? Still, it would've been nice.

Finally, Eliot mustered the words and spoke.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Dragon! What are you doing here?"

No answer.

Eliot kept thinking of all the mystical reasons why the dragon would be here, in his city, on this smokestack. Fighting evil? Waiting for its friends to arrive? What could possibly be its purpose? Could it have somehow been summoned from a mystical world and now it was stuck here? Eliot was nervously shaking with anticipation and excitement. Surely the dragon had heard him!

But the dragon still did not move or make a sound. Not at all. Its tail did not twitch. Its head did not turn to acknowledge him. Nothing. Eliot continued to stare up at the beast for several minutes after, glued to the spot. Still nothing happened. Finally, disappointment crept into his heart and he sighed.

"Well, I just thought I'd give it a try," he muttered sadly and then he turned to go back to his car. What did you expect to happen? It's probably like trying to talk to a dog or something.

As he started back, he heard a sound from behind him and he quickly turned to see what it was. There, a mere few feet from him, was the dragon's head--it had climbed down! Its eyes looked over him as if appraising an object carefully, taking everything in. The rest of its body still clung to the smokestack as it stretched its long neck out. Eliot was speechless. For the first time in his life, his mind had gone completely blank. He nearly wet himself.

Nothing happened for what seemed like hours as Eliot and the dragon stared at each other in stark silence. Eliot's feet told him to run but he stayed planted on the spot. Sweat poured down his face but he made no move to dry it off.

The dragon sniffed Eliot, its nostrils flaring with each breath. I've made it mad and it's going to breathe fire on me and then eat me! This is it. I'm dead. Eliot wanted to close his eyes and wait for the end--it would be over quick, he figured. But his eyes were transfixed on the dragon itself. Nobody had ever seen it this close before.

And then it spoke. Its voice was like a low-rumbling engine, only much more gentle sounding--almost like a very deep cat's purr. It spoke slowly, taking its time.

"Why am I here?" it asked.

"Y-yes, sir. I mean, dragon...sir," Eliot stammered. He couldn't believe he was talking to the dragon! His nerves subsided and his excitement returned. Whereas before he could barely move before he now wanted to jump up and down.

"Because," the dragon replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "This smoke pipe is warm."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Belt-tightening? Bring It on!

Just last night on the news, MalacaƱang has given word to Filipinos to do some more belt-tightening. This is in the light of the massive economic slump in the Land of Plenty.

Geez, so what else is new?

We have weathered the fiercest typhoons, the most violent earthquakes, several political upheavals, military coups, dictatorships, numerous human rights violations, food shortages, pestilence, civil strife -- almost every natural and man-made catastrophe ever imagined.

And yet we're here with belts cinched to approximate Barbie's waistline, and still as sturdy as ever. May ngiti pa sa labi.

Government no longer has to warn us of dark times ahead. It's already dark as it is. Despite this, Filipinos can simply laugh off these problems or drown them with a bottle or two of beer/tuba/lambanog/any other local alcoholic drink.

This is how resilient Filipinos are.

I guess we have just gotten used to swimming in deep fecal matter already that we have developed an immune system for these kinds of onslaughts.

I can't say the same for people in the Land of Plenty, though. I'm sure incidences of suicide over there are rising again.

And even before this specter of an economic slowdown occurred, many of their kids have already been cutting themselves simply for the heck of it, then they would blame their parents for their pathos.

Disaster management simply isn't one of their strongest points.

See what happened to them when a strong hurricane struck, and when terrorists blew off to Kingdom Come one of their primary landmarks one day in September?


Filipinos have seen worse. We get hit by typhoons almost on a monthly basis, and the same terrorists who destroyed their Twin Towers even trained for warfare here. But we don't go whining like crybabies.

Or cut ourselves.

I know we'll survive this. We always do. We Filipinos may not be perfect: we have an immature democracy, the line that separates the rich from the poor is very distinct, we bicker, we are sometimes lazy, etc. However, when pushed to the limit, Filipinos learn to act as one.

It's no small wonder that Ninoy Aquino said those immortal words: "The Filipino is worth dying for."

Given all our shortcomings, we are still a proud and resilient race.

And thus I say to the so-called incoming economic crunch, BRING IT ON!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Writ on Water

Allow me to share with everyone an article on BusinessWorld Online by Prof. Luis Teodoro, former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication (and our UP Journalism Club faculty adviser). It talks about how some student activists turn into the very people they were up against.

It kinda reminds me of the specter of apathy in UP Tacloban where I used to teach. Brought about by the possibility of not being able to avail of relatively cheap but quality education in their province, students who see the evils lurking within the UP Tacloban system simply prefer to clam up and turn a blind eye to what is happening around them. And those students who are a little more affluent just don't care.

In this article, Prof. Teodoro airs his laments toward a self-proclaimed former UP student activist who apparently lost his perspective on his generation's struggle and eventually turned into the administrator whose agency is tauted to be responsible for many human rights violations in this country. I share the good professor's disappointment, as this subject of his article is only one of many former activists who eventually got eaten up by the system.

Writ on Water*
By Luis V. Teodoro

It’s a common occurrence, and sad for this country and its poor and marginalized. A student activist graduates — and sooner rather than later — becomes one of the people he or she used to rail against.

Or some civil society type once committed to the bitter and dangerous struggle for change throws up his hands and joins those he says can’t be defeated anyway.

In too many instances are both forms of surrender driven by self-interest. But these acts of selfishness are often cloaked in some lofty principle.

For former student activists, the surrender is usually prompted by the coming of payback time; they have to bring home a paycheck and/or support the education of younger siblings as payment for those carefree years when they were parental scholars.

But it may also be due to the opening of all those doors to opportunity that, say, a University of the Philippines education virtually guarantees. Our ex-activist may have said often that the poor and uneducated don’t have the wealthy’s opportunities. But he discovers soon enough that his UP education has set him apart from those he used to champion.

Not that ex-activists from other schools don’t manage to stand before those very same doors.
Some do — and far too many quickly push their way through, casting off their activist pasts while attempting to explain the act as something beyond the call of that basest of all motives, self-interest.

He may not have known that his is not the only case of apostasy on record (both his words and tone suggested that he thought he had, like Columbus, discovered something previously unknown, like the New World). But the new chief of the Philippine National Police was doing precisely that last week — attempting to explain in grand terms why he’s ended up heading a government agency that in protecting the flawed social and political order he claimed to have opposed in the 1970s has become the worst violator of human rights in this country.

Jesus Versoza claimed last week that he was an activist when he was a freshman at the University of the Philippines in the 1970s. The declaration of martial law, he said, made him enroll in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) because he "wasn’t a real advocate of armed struggle" (and what’s the PMA’s advocacy, maintaining the status quo through debate?). What he was an advocate of, Versoza said, was "cultural change." In addition, he went on, "I began to see that there was no future in the movement. It offered no alternative solution."

What "movement," exactly, was Versoza talking about? In the 1970s, it couldn’t have been anything other than the student movement, which at that time was spearheading the Second Propaganda campaign — it was a movement for cultural change if it was anything, and not at all involved in the "armed struggle," or the guerrilla war that was then in its infancy.

If he was at all paying attention, Versoza should have known that the student movement in the1970s was focused on giving Filipinos an accurate understanding of their history, and the roots in the colonial culture of the Philippine crisis of economic backwardness and limited democracy.

The readings favored by student activists reflected this focus. The writings of Renato Constantino were at the top of their lists, as were the speeches of Claro M. Recto. The student activists of the 1970s were after all waging a cultural war, not ambushing government troops.

But what’s of interest equal to Versoza’s flawed recollection of the 1970s student movement is his declaration that he saw no future in "the movement" and his claim that it offered no solution to the problems it was exposing. In the first place the future he was apparently talking about was his future, the declaration of martial law having put the fear of state violence — imprisonment, torture, and/or murder — in the still raw minds of adolescent activists, among others.

As for solutions, there’s this thing about exposing problems: the exposure and criticism themselves often suggest the solutions. As Nobel Prize-winning novelist and philosopher Albert Camus was saying (in his collection of essays,The Rebel), conventional wisdom disdains criticism as a negative act. But you can’t criticize, and you can’t rebel against what exists without measuring it against definite standards. The cry in the streets against feudalism in the 1970s was certainly based on the demand for the democratization of land ownership, for example. And democratization WAS a solution to the land problem.

But let’s not assume too much. Versoza’s case is far too typically a relapse from Paul back to Saul to be taken too seriously. The entire country’s crawling with former activists — with some having been activists far, far longer than Versoza ever was — who’ve become part of the system they once denounced, lackeys of the very order that dooms millions to short brutish lives of misery, hunger, and despair.

Not that apostates and opportunists are not well rewarded. In exchange for houses in posh villages and humungous bank accounts, some have become tyranny’s worst apologists and henchmen. They defraud during elections the very citizens they once said they wanted to serve. They devise the strategies that have led to the killing of activists who’ve remained true to their principles.

But they’re not only in government. Many are also in the private sector, where they nevertheless wreak as much havoc as their state counterparts. They broker for crooks, or are themselves corporate crooks.

They’re the advocates of the monsters of deception the black lagoon called Philippine elite education breeds. They no longer serve the people, but those narrow interests that when not ruining the environment are dispossessing further the legions of the poor.

They’re farthest from the bright light of selflessness where true humanity dwells.

They’re the exact opposite of the heroes the country needs, the self being their focus first, last and always, rather than the poor who have always been with us, and in whose service talent and skill and knowledge are best devoted.

They proclaim that change is impossible-and they see to it that it can’t happen by opposing it.

They’re the self-fulfilling prophecies that have helped keep this country in the depths of the brutality, despair, hunger, and hopelessness that defines life for the millions fighting for survival in these isles of want.

When the time comes they will be remembered only with contempt; their names are truly writ on water.

*The poet John Keats thought he would not be remembered, and said his name was "writ on water."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

In the Twilight Zone

I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone these past few days. I've been treated (or shocked) with surprises and new challenges left and right.

First, I finally resigned from my present company. Now I'm getting out of my comfort zone, taking another big risk, and I do hope that this big risk would be so worth it because I'm scared as Hell on what its outcome will be.

Next, I became reacquainted with friends from my media, college, and high school days, thanks to my new Facebook account. (And now I profess my love for this online social network. If ever I conceive again, my nextborn shall hereby be named "Facebook.")

Then I get an invitation to another online social network by someone who I know used to be so hostile toward technology, primarily toward using computers.

Also recently, some of my older cousins and I managed to get in touch with each other again via Yahoo Messenger. The last time I got to talk with one of them was when I was in high school, and that was a long LOOOOOOONNNNGGG time ago. I was young and full of hope then. Now I'm older and just plain hopeless.

Today probably is the climax of my Twilight Zone syndrome. A special friend's brother just called me on my mobile for a favor. I can't divulge details about our conversation, only that I'm shocked beyond my wits. And I thought he didn't like me being friends with his brother...

As of press time, I still couldn't concentrate on my work because of his call.

Hmmm...I guess desperate times do call for desperate measures.

Now all I need to complete my Twilight Zone experience is the confirmation of my appointment in this PR agency I applied for. If all goes well, then it's back to Manila for me. If not, then there's still this other job waiting for me. It's a sanitary engineer job at the SM Mall of Asia. hehehehe...

I'm soliciting for prayers at this point. It's this PR agency job or nil -- so help me God.