Accountable

It’s kind of late for me to write about this but I want it out of my mind before I sleep. The evening news bothered me to the point I wanted to laugh out loud due to the weirdness of the justice system in my country.

Only in the Philippines. Yeah, right!

While incarcerated, big time criminals lavish themselves inside a national penitentiary. After an early morning on the spot inspection, the raiders found out that being in jail was not a hindrance for moneyed crooks to enjoy the same luxurious lives they had before they were apprehended. It was a mind-boggling sight.

Imagine these: millions of pesos, thousands of dollars, a Jacuzi, a sauna, air-conditioning, flat screen TVs, computers, WiFi routers, cellular phones, live studio for bands, sex toys, several kilos of prohibited drugs, assorted guns, lists of recorded transactions and much more.

To think that ordinary people, upright and law abiding citizens, could only dream of possessing some of those stuff. Influential felons, who acted with impunity, recreated their jail time as a secured and safe vacation, complete with guards paid for by the same people those criminals victimized.

If there is a so-called injustice, that was it. Those ‘select’ criminals should be locked in a plain cell like everyone else.

And, those government officials who turned a blind eye while all of those transgressions took place should be sent to jail, too. Administrative sanctions are light penalties for their connivance with hardened criminals: they were outright accomplices to the continued illegal activities of the convicts they guarded.

Justice should be served accordingly.

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Tribal

How’s that for a wake up beat! (It’s playing and I am wearing earphones.)  😀

Life is beautiful!

We entered what we call locally as the ‘ber’ months (names ending in ber), the start for the long preparation for the holiday season. Yes, we Filipinos start playing Christmas songs early on. That’s how festive the mood is in the country. With all the problems facing us, we still have time to smile and get on with our lives.

I suppose you can also call us islanders due to the fact we live in an archipelago. Diverse groups of people with different dialects, scattered all around and often mixed with one another like a small version of United Nations.

We are a motley crew (not the band) of people trying to survive, and survive we will.

If you know a Filipino or familiar with one, you might think of him/her as a chameleon, a genuine example of an individual who can cope up with hardships and luxuries in the same breath, a person who can live in deserts, frozen regions and anywhere civilization exists.

At times, he/she is more westernized than Westerners, more leftist than Communists or more religious than those in the Vatican. But, all displayed in their own particular way. Most of the time. (And, there are exceptions, too.)

I am them. They are me. We are together, like husbands and wives, for better or for worse.

I am a Filipino, living in my homeland, staying for good after a few years living in distant shores.

I am home.

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Timing

What time is it?

Ask this question and you’ll probably get several different answers. 🙂

During my high school days, I was too preoccupied with time. Why? Everything was this and that for if I became late, there was a corresponding consequence to bear.

But one time, I did a personal experiment. I heard the announcer on the radio reporting about the Philippine Standard time. So, I reset my old-fashioned automatic watch (more popular then before the quartz watches took over). I was a bit proud to know exactly what time it was.

In school, I asked the guard at the gate the time. His answer was ten minutes late compared to mine. That’s one point for me. Even if I was ten minutes late, I would have been on time.

Five of my classmates had different answers, varying in minutes but all was ahead compared to what my watch showed. They reasoned out it was the best option not be late: set their watches in advance.

Then, our instructor came. He rushed inside the room, flipping open the textbook even before he could take a seat.

“I am glad I got here on time,” he smiled, staring at his digital quartz watch.

I did not know what had gotten a hold on me that I quipped, “I am sorry, sir, but you’re late.”

Everyone fell quiet. There was hell to pay for my side remark.

“What time is it, then?” Our instructor closed the book quietly.

I told him. My face had no trace of victory.

“Okay, take out a piece of paper. We’re going to have a quiz. Your good classmate here will give you exactly twenty minutes to finish.”

I felt everyone’s angry stares were on my person. If they were suns’ rays and I was a candle, I could have melted right there and then.

The next day I did not wear any watch nor said anything about the time. 🙂

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Feast

For those unaccustomed to Christian traditions, the Philippines being a predominantly Christian country celebrate feasts of saints and other religious holidays. Some tour agencies often claim that everyday there is at least one feast in any part of the archipelago. 🙂

Today is the feast of St. John the Baptist.

Cities, municipalities and other smaller units of local government that made St. John their patron saint proclaimed today as a holiday.

Being the baptizer in the old days, people try to emulate his role by splashing water to anyone and everyone. It is part of the tradition that in some ways created not only friendly celebration but hostility as well.

I remember one time when I was in high school, I rode a passenger jeepney that passed by the town of San Juan (St. John). All of us inside the vehicle was aware of the traditional splashing by residents who lined up the streets. The plastic cover in the windows was already drawn down to protect us from unruly celebrants who would not be stopped to fulfill their wishes.

Suddenly, our vehicle was caught on traffic. The inevitable happened.

Out of the blue, three teenagers with small pails appeared on the back door. Without warning, one by one, they splashed us with the contents of their buckets. The unclear water that wet us smelled disgustingly bad. Our conclusion was similar: it was drainage water from the canal by the roadside.

Fuming mad, we stepped out of the vehicle to run after the lads. What met us were more people with containers of water, thankfully cleaner. We experienced the full treatment of the traditional splashing.

From then on, I made it a point to stay clear of places where St. John is the patron saint. I do not want to have a second shower without my blessing. 🙂

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Coincidence?

A hen squawks but never crows, right?

Well, that was what I believed back then. It is the normal actuation of the animal.

Living in the province, you’d pick up a lot of weird notions and many superstitions. Folks stories are handed down through generations. Most times they were proven wrong in the end. But, others defy explanation still.

Take a hen, for example. It freely roams around with its chicks tagging along. You observe how it protects them. Then, suddenly without warning, it mimics a rooster with its loud short crow. Weird?

You see, some people believe that when a hen senses a pregnant unmarried girl somewhere, it faces to a particular direction where she resides. The hen might repeat the same strange action for several days.

Unbelievable! I remembered the exact word I said to my grinning hosts. Naturally, I believed they were making the story up.

To cut the story short, I became a witness to this unexplained phenomena, not once but several times. Months later after each incident, a baby was born.

Coincidence or not?

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Silly

Welcome to our beautiful Paradise with our Big House!

Here, we roam freely, provided we do not transgress against the rules. We can do whatever we want, provided we do not trample another’s rights.

Here, we are the masters with many servants. We hire them to provide services we do not want to do ourselves.

However, here too, our servants do all the business of tending the household. We give them the money to spend, provided they inform us where they will spend them. We trust them with the purse of the house.

When there are missing funds, we get angry. We shout at them and blame them for their inefficiencies and carelessness. But we do not fire them: we are patient that they will mend their ways.

We are so dependent on them that even the rules of the house are their job to think of and enact. Often, they write them vague, professing that regulations are for our benefit and advantage..

After a long time, alas, we the masters follow the servants’ orders with fear and fervor to boot.

Is there something wrong with us?

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Switch

Please do not ask me why only now I reappeared online. My answer as always is obvious.

Frankly, I do not want to dwell on this matter because I could say a lot of ‘platitudes’ toward the primary source of my irritation. I want to treat this situation as the way of life in an undeveloped region in a Third World country.

But, the situation got worse. You see, instead of the few ‘interruptions’ once a week, I learned that this occurrence will be daily. The ‘best’ part of the surprise is the surprise timing anytime of the day. One moment you’re on, the next you’re off. Swell!

To add insult to injury, instead of an hour (truly acceptable) we will have four to five hours of forced ‘savings.’ Isn’t this ‘encouraging’ to us consumers? So we shout “Hooray! Our bills will be a lot lower than a month ago.”

What do get as explanation? Consumption is on the rise so load shavings had to be enforced. (Hahaha! That’s very funny.)

Weeks ago, during a heated debate about the construction of a coal-fired power plant, the same spokesman bandied to everyone around that there is a huge excess of power. The only problem is the transmission lines. So, those against the power plant had an ally to prove their opposition: why build if we do not need it. Can’t beat that reasoning.

Tell you what. I am sure that almost everyone, pro and anti coal-power plant advocates and the rest of the undecided, are convinced that the spokesman do not know what he was talking about. Worse, he probably believed everything he said even though he sounded logically illogical.

(Note: If I sounded sarcastic, please forgive me. I just want to get this ‘heavy load’ off my system.)

A Vision

I just eerily witnessed,

embedded in a dream,

to me was impressed,

it was of a natural scheme.

I heard not a sound,

yet all motions were clear,

destruction did astound,

heightening my fear.

A light rail train upturned,

people with mouths open,

some with blood yearned

for swift salvation, when?

Collided vehicles, shaken,

cracks on the road seen,

bodies with souls taken,

littered streets, death bin.

Small buildings on fire,

larger ones immobile,

everything in mire,

in rubble, a huge pile.

Everywhere I surveyed,

pandemonium in the dark,

smoke and flames stayed,

chaos incensed the spark.

In cloudy air I floated,

imaginary breath inhaled,

perplexed as I doubted,

what these scenes exhaled.

Could this really happen,

in the future I could not tell,

or, was it simply an omen,

for people to escape hell.

I saw the sign on the wall,

the exact place I wandered,

national capital I did recall,

the region earthquake plundered.

Away I flew to safety,

but scared, in total shock,

to the bed with anxiety,

my spirit was back.

Yes, perspiration was real,

mind’s awake, conscious,

much memories to distill,

deliberate and cautious.

Will you heed this warning,

Or treat my nightmare a farce,

Yet, the days ahead inciting,

The future will be harsh.

Trauma

We have relatives in Leyte and we do not have communication about their condition. We rely on news reports in the hope of seeing familiar faces who survived. We are anxious for more good news about their whereabouts.

As I sit here, safe and dry, my brain tried to place what happened in some kind of a folder like a computer would, archiving it for future retrieval. But, that is not the case. Our brain could not easily separate interconnected items easily.

Being spared from a natural calamity sometimes create mixed feelings. There is some guilt that being alive is not justifiable compared to those who perished. The euphoria of breathing still after surviving the worst experience possible seems hollow if a loved one was not as fortunate. What is use of living when a major part of one’s life is taken away?

The psychological emotions of the survivors could be seen in their faces. Some gave brave smiles and guarded laughter. Some displayed resentment and anger while others kept silent as they pondered for a heavenly explanation from above.  Deep inside their hearts were the jumbled emotions of fear, hopelessness and a host of negative thoughts.

The physical aspect of this disaster could repaired in due time. The emotional, on the other hand, will be a question mark for so many as they personally battle their own fight to normalcy.

Left Out

The beginning of the eight day of the super typhoon’s victims in the worst hit areas is a bit hopeful. Today, massive distribution of relief will be underway. Most of the people in far-flung areas will be reached as promised by government agencies.

Foreign aid workers continue to arrive with more shipments of relief packages. Most of them have concrete ideas on how to effect a quicker effort to service more of the needy.

However, the concentration of relief efforts seemed to surround only two provinces and nearby localities. What about other less damaged areas where people, too, loss loved ones and properties? They also need assistance from the government.

In the last few days, I watched the news and only once I saw a report about Coron, Palawan. It is part of our region and it took heavy damage when super typhoon Yolanda made its sixth landfall. It looked similar to other devastated areas.

Loss of life was minimal, thankfully. But, people loss their homes, too. There are not less hungry than people in the Visayas. There also wait for relief goods.

The local government in the area has been crying for help. Their funds could only last for a short period. Unfortunately, all attention is elsewhere, far away. It would seem they will be waiting for morsels of aid much longer than necessary.

For so long, our region has given the nation natural gas. In return, we were given a paltry sum for our development. And now, we feel more deprived in our time of need.