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Archive for September, 2010

The Fear Lingers

A year and one day ago, we were all humbled by nature. No one was richer than the other. No one was more powerful than the other. Everyone was equal in the eyes of Ondoy.

During the first week of September 2009, Saturday, I was in my room’s terrace pulling out weeds from my cacti when I noticed the dark enveloping all around me. I though it must be the clouds covering the afternoon sun. But it was getting bigger and closer. As I turned around, I managed to scream – in front of our house was a swarm of dragonflies! A swarm big enough to make the sky dark. I thought I’d only see this in movies and with locusts, not in Cainta and not with dragonflies. I went inside the room and called my sister and mom to see the rare phenomenon. My mom said that her lola told them when they were young that when dragonflies converge in plains like what we were seeing, a fairy or a mountain goddess went down from the mountains, protected by the swarm, to warn the people of an impending disaster.

September 26, 8AM. The rain was pouring continuously for several days now. Not very strong. Not even with strong winds. But consistent. Our street, which was never flooded, slowly showed water building up. We were all in the garage, looking out from the gate and showing my nephew how fast the current was. We were laughing as the last time we saw such flood was when we were still in San Juan. We saw fish jumping out of the water. Then a banana plant trunk. Then a sofa. Then rubble with what looked like the remains of a shanty home. We started to panic.

Water suddenly turned from brown to black. We helped our neighbor who was busy saving her chicken coops get across to our home for she could no longer cross the street with the how strong the water was flowing. The banana trunks soon were replaced by tree trunks with roots! James and my mom were hurrying in saving all the potted plants in our garage and moving it higher up on the plant boxes.

We went inside and slowly watched the water rise and engulf everything on its way. With only three steps before the water gets inside our home, I told my mom we should move everything upstairs. The first one to go were the two dogs. Contessa and Samantha were already panicking and were barking incessantly. James stayed with them in our room to calm them.

My mom, brother and sister packed everything up and brought almost everything to the second floor of our home.

September 26, 12NN. Only an inch was left before the water reaches our living room. Our neighbor’s bungalow was already covered a meter shy up to its roof. I was holding a big stick, bravely smashing the heads of small snakes trying to escape the flood to our home. We might survive the flood but not the snake bites.

September 26, 2PM. The water slowly receded. With no electricity and water, we were thankful. Our neighbor courageously swam back to her house for her sister and grandmother. I was still at the door watching out for snakes. My family slowly brought down the furniture.

September 26, 6PM. Cold. Dark. But safe. We were laughing and recalling what we have just seen, oblivious to what just happened to millions outside our home.

September 27, 6AM. We woke up early to find two-feet deep mud in our garage. My mom tried to go to the market as usual. I went out to see the streets after the storm. All of us almost cried. Cars on top of another. Big tree trunks through windows. Dogs with stiff, dead bodies lying around. With no water, we used the running water along the street (probably from the overflowing creek) to wash off the mud in our garage. It was a heavy task but nothing compared to our neighbors who brought out their furniture soaked in river mud, with their homes ruined by the ravaging flood.

September 28, 9AM. We still do not have electricity and water. Though our pantry was filled with canned goods, we had no drinking water anymore. The adults can survive. But my sister’s young son and our dogs won’t. Braving the waist-deep waters in the main street of our village, we went on to Robinson’s Place in Junction.

It was closed. But the manager said they will be allowing shoppers with urgent needs – old people, pregnant women, sick people – to go first. Everyone was hysterical – one man said her wife is pregnant but he needs to get her water. The mall closed its doors again, I can’t blame them for there was no electricity, and the grocery was still filled with water on some parts. I stayed calm. I need water for my nephew and dogs, and candles for the night.

When the store allowed us to go in, I calmly walked straight to the candle section, James to the water and dog food section, my mom to the noodles section. With only about two thousand pesos in my pocket, we spent everything on that and walked home, and sincerely thanked the cashier for coming to work that day. I saw a woman in a pushcart, carrying two big bags of dog food and a large pack of diapers. I wanted to cry then but I composed myself.

September 29, 9PM. I was back in the office. I delivered my clients’ needs. And then I realized how devastating Ondoy was to the country. No words can describe the gruesome images we’ve seen. No words can describe the heroic deeds people have done.

Writing this entry makes me teary-eyed. I am suppressing the emotions. We did not lose anything. Our valuables were intact. Our family was safe. Our dogs were healthy. But we were only one of the very few who were lucky enough.

Ondoy brought out the worst fear in all of us. But he also brought out the best in us. That Filipinos can rise from the disasters. That we can continue living on.

One year has passed and the memory still lives. The pain is still there. The fear lingers.

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Bring it On!

I am a very, very competitive person.

I know what I want, I know how to get it. I plan like a thief, wait like a panther, watch like an owl, strike like a falcon.

My competitiveness stems from the desire to be recognized. To be noticed. As the youngest child, I was often seen as the weakest, dumbest, slowest among us, something that did not sit well with me.

Ever since I could remember, I have always equated love with achievement. If I achieve something good, they’ll love me good.

I started competing in contests in first grade for declamation. I did not win but that was followed by all imaginable competitions – school subjects quiz bees, spelling bees, Caltex Science Quiz Bee, declamation, extemporaneous, impromptu, debate, essay writing, story telling, exhibits, painting and drawing – name it I’d probably joined it. Think of Rachel in Glee.

I did not win in all these competitions. One time, I won second place in History Quiz Bee on my third grade and I was expecting that a silver medal would be given to me. Our school principal spoke on behalf of the district supervisor and said that there will only be one medal – the Gold medal – as in all competitions there is but one prize, the first prize, the rest are consolation and we should all aim for the only prize. That molded me into the highly-competitive Scott.

Now, now, don’t start getting all the evil thoughts that since I am very competitive I devise ways to ‘dispose’ of competitors. I can assure you, my dear readers that I had not, in my more than 20 years of beautiful life, done something malevolent against anyone I competed against.

I know I am competitive because I prepare for the battle. I study. I memorize. I practice. I strategize. My focus is set on winning.

This is why I do not understand why some people claim that they only join contests to have fun, not necessarily to win and not exert effort on the matter. Do they have the luxury of time and money and energy to waste joining a contest without aiming to win? Are they just being sickeningly humble so as not to appear competitive?

There are games where I enjoy having fun but these are games where I am not good in – badminton, accounting quiz bees, paramihan ng manliligaw!

But if it is my turf, expect my tiara and my full feathered boa to be there.

I know what I want, I know how to get it. I plan like a thief, wait like a panther, watch like an owl, strike like a falcon.

I just do not know when to stop, to call it quits, to rest after falling and losing, instead of getting right back up, to not cry over my own limitations, to accept that I can never be the best, that I can never be loved by the whole world all at the same time.

I just know I need to win this one. This time, I am up against the best opponent for the prize to have bigger biceps, firmer pecs, rounder butt – myself and my insatiable desire to sleep!

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September 21 was the day Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under the famous (or infamous for many) Martial Law.

Martial Law is usually declared for a short time to solve pressing issues such as revolts. September 21 is a date famous for Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines but it was also on the same day – in 1944 – when Jose P. Laurel first declared Martial Law in the country during the Japanese occupation.

Media has played a very pivotal role in creating a malicious image of Marcos’ regime during the Martial Law. Yes, you read it right, malicious. The intent of media was to destroy Marcos; the people’s belief in him, even by doing so would mean destroying the nation’s international image.

With the declaration of Martial Law, everything fell into the hands of the government – one of which was the broadcasting corporations. Did these corporations like the idea? Hell no! It meant millions of pesos lost from their own personal pockets and their fall from societal graces. So it was expected that after years of being kept from your riches that you would lash back the moment there is a chance against the person who put you there – Marcos – and not really about the hypocritical suppressed press freedom.

I was born in 1982 and begun to understand public affairs during the late 80s. I mentioned this fact to show that I do not have any first-hand experience of the height of Marcos’ administration but I base my belief on my parent and family’s account and on what I can see now.

The belief that Marcos did not ruin the Philippines but instead has made it into a world-class country in Asia.

It was during the Marcos administration that roads and bridges and highways were built. Even up to now, most of the big road developments being constructed are based on Marcos’ blue print. Gibo was right in saying that in order for our country to prosper, make sure infrastructure is in place to secure the economic needs of the people. It was Marcos who had the Light Railway Transit in Manila built – the first one in Asia. After Marcos was forced out, did the succeeding governments take care of these railways? No. LRT, before its rehabilitation, was the worst ride you can ever get into and we became Asia’s laughing stock.

Singapore and Japan boast of state-of-the-art subway systems but what did they have back when we were enjoying the LRT under Marcos? They still used rickshaws but now, we’re the ones left in the old century.

Ferdinand and Imelda were told to have edifice complex – the insatiable desire to build and build, not necessarily for the country, but for themselves. So what? Didn’t our own useless baranggay captains build basketball courts and waiting sheds and road lamp posts from tax payers’ money in order to have places to permanently place their initials on?

Marcos built more than just basketball courts. The Cultural Center of the Philippines showed the world that we have a culture worth emulating and protecting and supporting just like the ballet of Russia or the opera of Old Europe. The Lung, Kidney and Heart Centers helped many people as these institutions used to have the best equipment in Asia, if not in the world. Some argue that prices of services in these places were very steep that only the rich can afford it. If that is the case, then let us work harder to afford such benefits. No government was created to give in to peoples’ wants and needs at their whims. It is very sad that even up to now, medical services are often expensive and are not accessible to the lower brackets of the economy. But instead of depending on the government, let this be an inspiration for us to work harder and live healthier lifestyle, primarily because we could not afford to get sick.

Consequently, Marcos also built hospitals around the country to ensure the high ratio of doctors and nurses to the general public. Marcos made sure that even foreign doctors want to work in the country. Now, as soon as a Filipino obtains his medical license, he gets on a plane to work elsewhere in the world.

A good number of Marcos-era built complexes are in dilapidated conditions now. Is it their fault? It was the succeeding government’s fault to not take care of these assets. Their reason was primarily emotional and entirely illogical.

I can go on and on enumerating the many good things Marcos did and left the country with, even longer than the IIRC report! But let me comment on the never-ending accusations of media owners who were imprisoned and by some high-ranking scions of old political rivals.

Marcos bled the country dry of its fiscal resources through systematic graft and corruption. Who didn’t? Who doesn’t? Who wouldn’t?

Corruption, though shameful, is embedded in our culture. I believe no one in his right mind would run for public office, spend millions of pesos in campaigns, put himself in cancer-inducing stress just for the service of the Filipino people. Even a five-year old kid would not believe this crap. Everyone has an ulterior, financial reason – to get richer. It is only a matter of questioning the ratio of national development as to the corrupted resources.

Marcos may have been very rich through corruption but he left the foundation of a powerful nation equipped to be better and have a strong economy. He may have taken some, but he definitely returned a lot to the people. As compared to the modern icons of democracy who took everything, or did nothing, and left nothing but the rubbles of the resource-dried Philippines.

Marcos violated human rights. I was taught that your rights as a person stop as soon as it trespasses the rights of another. Martial Law was declared and it was very clear that people should obey the laws at all cost. But we Filipinos have a penchant for things which are illegal. We were given foot bridges to use in crossing the street but we still opt to gamble our lives crossing the speeding traffic below. And once apprehended by the police, we cry that it is a violation of human rights.

The Quirino hostage crisis was worsened by the fact that media stations had a field day with the scene. Let us admit it – in the minds of these so-called journalists, it did not matter if those hostages or the Filipino hostage-taker survive but what matters was who was to get the best camera angle and the freshest story as it happened. What was the result? The Philippines was put in an international shameful show of stupidity. If Noynoy ordered a news black-out, these media practitioners would cry out that is a violation of press freedom. Marcos would have ordered all news stations (if not yet government-owned) to cease coverage for the sake of national interest.

You see, no matter who sits in the throne, Filipinos, sadly, would forever complain. Filipinos would always want to blame their poverty (which is caused by their parents’ overwhelming sexual desire to multiply despite the fact that they themselves have little crumbs to survive on) on the incumbent administration without really doing something to alleviate their status.

This government, together with the old media practitioners, continues to paint Marcos as a bad picture only to make themselves look good in comparison.

I am a Filipino, though may be one of few in thought and belief, but I continue to strive harder than hard, do better than good, to show the world, more importantly, myself, that I can help the country rise up from its stumble and be the Philippines we once were.

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Game and Watch

I have no qualms about my age so I would admit that one of the hot toys when I was still a kid was Nintendo Entertainment System! This is the very old play station which has a big box where two handheld control thingy are attached to and where a beta-max looking ‘bala’ is inserted in its port.

Please forgive my insane description of how Nintendo looked like for I only saw and used them a couple of times and I never had one myself.

Toys such as this are very expensive back then and my family could not afford such a luxury. And besides, my lola would often tell us – ‘aksaya sa kuryente’ (waste of electricity) so we never had it. My brother and my sister would always be excited to be invited to our richer cousins’ house to play Nintendo, I begged off most of the times to read books. Boring, yeah, but I never really enjoyed playing computer games.

But there was one digital game that I enjoyed playing when I was a kid – Popeye (or was it Goofy) catching falling eggs from chicken nests! It was the game on the Game & Watch toys each of my brother and sister and I have.

I suddenly remembered about this when I saw what my nephew was playing with last weekend. He was using it as platform for his building blocks!

The Game & Watch toys no longer work and I think no longer can be repaired. But no one dares throw them away for these are little things that remind us of how our childhood had been so similar yet so different from those of our age.

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paperdolls on my 7th birthday!

Ask me anything

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I have been working very hard lately and been staying in the office longer than my official shift to take care of the many projects I am involved in. It has been a tiring month but I guess I just received some few very early Christmas gifts. Please allow me to share some of these to you.

I have been reading a superstar’s blog for a good length of time now and I even had the guts to follow him up in Twitter! Please welcome, Sir Joel Mcvie’s blog in my blog roll (http://mcvie5.blogspot.com/)! His latest post on online behavior hit me straight to my heart when he said that being unfollowed or unfriended in cyberspace does not diminish you as a person. Joel does not know me but he sure had just taught me one of the greatest lessons in my life. Thanks Joel!

Speaking of being unfollowed, those who have had the luxury of time before to read a previous post of mine entitled Missing Link know that I was once hurt when my blog was taken out of a star’s blogroll. Well, lately, I received a comment from him on one of my posts! When I saw his name, I read it again, then again, then I scratched my eyes (bahala na si Dr Vicky Belo na nagsabing wag magkusot ng mata or else iitim ang paligid nito) and read again. It was him! He reads me! Wag presumptuous! At least he once read me! My gosh! I was like, can’t-wait-to-tweet-about-this euphoric! But I composed myself, relaxed a bit more, though beads of sweat formed on my forehead (arte!), and decided that this comment is rare and would be received in honor, just like his previous ones.

Speaking of comments, one very good friend commented on one of my posts not on my blog page but through a private email. Of course, I am not ready to reveal her true self but I am seduced by the thought since her comments were so well made, well constructed and so long it could already qualify as another blog post! I am proud of this friend of mine that she knows me and how I feel very well. You, yes you, we truly miss you!

Speaking of missing, remember the show ‘Out’ in GMA 7 back in around 2004? The show was about gay men and women and the very first, and I think the only, show in the Philippines specifically tackling homosexuality geared at empowering the gay community. Well, I have a super crush on one of its hosts, JM Cobarrubias! Before he joined Out, he was with the Probe Team and even if his show was not aired anymore for more than half a decade now, I still remember him and still has a crush on him! Just today, he accepted my invite to be his friend in Facebook! My gosh, again! I am just so happy! To JM, happy birthday!

Hay, this is one of the few times when I wish the saying ‘when it rains, it pours’ is true!

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After writing about my childhood Thursdays, here comes my childhood Tuesdays (and wait till I get to complete the week!) which has almost the same format as the predecessor post.

This time, allow me to start telling you what I did on Tuesdays after school. I was in primary school then ad being a public school in the city, classes are either in the morning or in the afternoon – doing so would ensure more classes held in the limited classrooms. The honor sections from Grades 1 to 2 were in the morning and those from Grades 3 to 6 were in the afternoon. The timing of this post was when I was in Grade 2, morning schedule.

I’d be home before lunch after my lola has fetched me from school. I was not allowed to go to school by myself (I was always with my brother and sister) and go home from school myself (either my lola or older cousin would fetch me). Upon reaching home, I’d quickly change into my house clothes as wearing your uniform at home will ruin it according to my lola. Then a quick lunch would soon follow and up to my lola’s bed to do the siesta (afternoon sleep) beside her.

I’d wake up at around 4am in time to watch That’s Entertainment with my favorite aunt who was still single and in college then. I enjoyed watching and dreaming about Jovit Moya and Romnick Sarmienta (though I am not sure if they belonged to the Tuesday Group). I would be watching with giggles while I read my notes and do my assignments. After watching Kuya Germ’s teen show, the dial would be turned from Channel 7 to Channel 2 of the black and white television set we had that was kept inside its own cabinet.

By 5.30, the show was Hoy Gising! with Ted Failon and Korina Sanchez and Kris Aquino. I would always be excited to hear the news on the environment which usually showed videos of animals in the wild. Time flies so fast that it was TV Patrol’s turn to reign on our TV screen. Noli de Castro, Mel Tiangco, Francis Evangelista and Angelique Lazo would deliver news for an hour. It was also the same time as our dinner with my brother and sister with our nightly lessons on Spanish words from our lolo.

After TV Patrol, I think the next show was Palibhasa Lalake with Richard Gomez, Joey Marquez, Gloria Romero, Amy Perez and Cynthia Patag. Cynthia was my most favorite and I dreamed of one day to become as articulate as she was on the show, sans the stuffed bunny!

Then Palibhasa would give way to the Diamond Star’s Maricel Drama Anthology, a weekly dose of drama and comedy. I love Maria and her antics and raised eyebrows. Her lines ran in my head for so long it seemed to have been inculcated in my mind so much that it has become part of me without even remembering it was from Maria.

The usual weekday shows would soon be followed by The World Tonight which I noticed was the English version of TV Patrol with more emphasis on business and economy and less on show business.

Late night current affairs for Tuesday was Loren Legarda’s The Inside Story where she exposed the biggest and most pressing issues of the times – child prostitution in Subic and insurgency in Mindanao.

I would be very sleepy by this time, and it was time to go to bed, sleep but without failing to dream that one day, Romnick would come and sweep me off my feet!

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