Friday, August 26, 2016

Collateral Damage

A cousin posted this on Facebook...

Just a passing thought:  I wonder if I die as collateral casualty, will my family and friends say that it was inevitable because some people are really bound to have it for the greater good of the country? "Anyway, the number of criminals killed are way more compared to the innocent that got caught up in the fire. Their statistics is insignificant compared to the progress this war is leading." Or is it really? Will my death be worth the sacrifice?

My response, roughly:

This is really not something I want to think about at an ungodly hour in the morning, but I know people contend with this as part of their reality. Heck, I've asked this question myself, just like others do. And I know, for some, it can only remain a hypothetical question for too long. It actually happens.

Here's the thing, though: Criminals shouldn't even be murdered in the first place. What don't people understand about the fact that each person has the right to live? There is no clarification clause in that statement that says "except criminals" or "except drug-abusers" or "except people I don't agree with" or "except poor people." People who believe solely in retributive "justice" (as opposed to real rehabilitative justice) and in the idea of a culling as a means to an end shouldn't be allowed to hold power or have a say in anything at all. And the obscene thing is that they consider themselves men of God. They invoke God so much, it's sickening. What God??? Christians, my ass! People of God, my ass! Hypocrites, this country is full of!

Truthfully speaking, if anything at all happens to anyone I love, I will probably lose it completely. I may even become the very kind of murderous monster I so strongly speak out against. Or perhaps not. Let's just hope for the best. Let's hope nothing happens to anyone we love and let's hope this all stops. If we have anything at all right now, it is hope. Mine is incredibly slim and fading fast, but it is still there. I cannot lose it. While it may be easy for me to remove myself from this country to try to find a more ideal situation, I am in no position to whisk away everyone I love and care about, so I must have hope. We all must. Let's be steadfast in being advocates for good. Let's be faithful that the people of this (almost) goodnessforsaken country will take another glimpse at their moral compass.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice

Time for some BIBLE STUFF!

It amazes me how when the Lord's Prayer is translated into Visayan/Cebuano and Filipino/Tagalog, bread becomes rice.

"Give us this day our daily bread" translates as "Ang kalan-on namô sa matag-adlaw, ihatag kanamô karo'ng adlawa" and "Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw-araw," respectively.

While some would argue that the words "kalan-on" and "kakanin" may directly translate as "food," in the context of the original prayer where a specific staple is mentioned (i.e. bread), it should then follow that an equivalent local staple be used in the context of what is common for the people who use the languages that the prayer is translated into. In this case, rice. And as "kalan-on" (or "kan-on" in modern standard Cebuano) and "kakanin" (or "kanin" in modern standard Filipino) are actually the words for cooked rice, I believe it actually means rice in the prayer.

Nevertheless, I am well aware of how deep dissection by a lot of biblical scholars has led to the inference that the Epiousios Bread referred to in the prayer is actually the Bread of Life, the Christ Jesus. Interestingly, however, if Jesus were not Middle-Eastern (West Asian) and if the events of the New Testament had not taken place in Israel and Palestine, but in East or Southeast Asia, he would be called the "Rice of Life," which I personally have no qualms with.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Education, Education, Education

Sharks in a basin at a food market in Xiamen, Fujian, China

A lot of Filipino householders burn plastic along with the dried leaves and twigs on their 4 o' clock habit pile.

A lot of fisherfolk unapologetically yank sharks, rays and whales out of the water. Many even use dynamites and cyanide.

They persist even though they are perfectly aware that it's illegal. They end up being fined or thrown in jail if they are caught. If you ask them why they did it, the answer always has something to do with either lack of awareness or necessity.

"Why did you incinerate those plastic bags?"
"Well, why not?"
"It causes harm to the environment."
"Why should I care? (Sus, tuo man ka!)"

"Why did you yank up that shark/stingray/dolphin?"
"There's not much tamarong this season. Also, these things cost more than the average fish and I have eight children to feed."

It's not that people are innately evil, it's that a lot of people lack education. And I'm not talking about elementary and high school rudiments on environmental concerns; I'm talking about real education--making people aware of how each small action is consequential to every other thing that happens on Earth. Bringing to their attention that the reasons behind the hardships they are going through is because people started doing what they are doing in the first place. We need to make people come to terms with the fact that everything has consequences that extend beyond the walls of their homes. And we need to find a way to really make them feel it.


Educate the rich as much as the poor. They need it, too. If they are smug enough to say they don't need to be told again, then that just means they don't know shit. We are only able to take photos of violators who emerge from fishing trips directly onto beach shores. These are small-time fishermen. The bigger moguls commit much larger atrocities but we can't take photos of the wrong things they do because they have developed ways to shield themselves from us. They have dedicated ports, freezers in their boats and such.

We need to stop laying all the blame on the poor and start scrutinising higher up the echelons if we are to change things. And we need to stop relying on punitive measures to get things done. "Make a law. Pass an ordinance. Ban this. Make that illegal." It seems preventive on the surface but it always ends up being punitive. For most people, the implementation of a law entails policing and arresting violators rather than to allow people to understand why laws are in place in the first goddamn place.

We need to stop the notion that we have to cause people more suffering to effect change. It doesn't work. It never works. We need, instead, to start finding ways to effect change by making people realise that they are already suffering by their own deeds. We need to instill values in people rather than create more prison cells or instigate a culling.

When has a society run by fear and anger ever been considered effective?

Sharks fished off the coast of Panglao, Bohol, Philippines
Photo:  Holger W. Horn (Facebook)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Marine BDSM

Here you see me awkwardly resisting the strong current
 and doing my best not to die right before going 27 metres down the reef drop-off

You visit one whom you love so much and spend nearly a full day in that familiar embrace. Sometimes you are hugged too tight that you struggle to breathe. Sometimes you accidentally ingest something that human beings are not supposed to have too much of. Sometimes you end up violently flailing your arms and legs to resist the things done to you. Being there entails the use of various instruments--apparatus that help you spend time together, but at the same time, risk weighing you down and causing you to become completely consumed if you're not careful. Either way, you feel ecstatic even though there are moments when you feel like you're barely an inch away from death.

You are not alone. There are others there, too. Some just visit to enjoy the company; some people visit to experience the same embrace you get; while some are there as devoted worshippers of this awesome deity.

When you part ways, you head home happy. In the evening, nearly every single muscle in your body hurts like hell. One consolation is that at least your sleep is absolutely wonderful. Then you wake up in the morning to find everything three times more painful.

But, dear ocean, you are still my #1 and I love you infinitely.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fei Lu Bin

Linked image:

Less than a year ago, at a market in Ramallah, the West Bank, Palestine, a man came up to me and greeted me in Mandarin. "Nǐ hǎo," he said. That was the fourth time it happened since I arrived in the Abrahamic Holy Land. The first two instances were in Jerusalem where I actually took time to explain that I was from the Philippines. While having tea at a cafe in the Old City near the Damascus Gate, having just dealt with an old man trying very hard to convert me to Islam, a little Arab boy approached me saying "China? China?" followed by a few short sentences in Arabic. He didn't seem to speak English at all. I tried saying "Laa, laa (no, no)," but he just went on and on in Arabic. I grew impatient so I just responded with a nod, saying "Na'am. China. (Yes. China.)" That got rid of him.

Now, back to the Palestine incident. Having had a long day, recently coming back from Jericho and having no patience to explain that I was not Chinese, I just responded with the same greeting."Nǐ hǎo," adding "Wǎnshàng hǎo. (Good evening.)" I thought it would make him go away. Big mistake! He then grabbed my wrist, called people over and started taking selfies with me. I was an instant celebrity! The commotion caught the attention of my Spanish and German companions, who then explained to the locals that I was actually not Chinese. Disappointed, they let me go. Kind of like if people looking to catch a cheetah caught a leopard instead. Close enough, but not quite what they were searching for.

Little did I know that an anchorwoman from China Central Television (CCTV) claimed, four years ago, that that Palestinian man was actually right. If Ms. He Jia were to be believed when she stated the "indisputable fact" that "the Philippines is China's inherent territory," I actually am Chinese. Not even Filipino-Chinese, but actual Chinese from China, being that the Philippines is supposedly part of China.

So how is this supposed to work? Kind of like how Puerto Rico's relationship is with the United States of America? Does this mean I get statutory Chinese citizenship? Does this mean I don't need to apply for a visa the next time I wish to visit the "motherland," unlike the last two times I did. I guess that's one perk, because sitting in a queue at a Chinese embassy isn't exactly pleasant. And speaking of queues, does this mean it's now socially acceptable for me to jump queues* wherever I go? Tell me, He Jia, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for my country? Do we still get to call our land "the Philippines" or is there a mandate from Beijing that we now have to start calling it "Fēi Lǜ Bīn"? What if we don't comply? Do we get thrown in a labour camp?


Thursday, May 12, 2016

They Hurt

They hurt--my eyes.
Seeing you just lying there,
Drifting away to sleep,
Not a care in the world.

Watching you ignore me.
With not an idea that here,
Lies a heart that beats,
Spelling out your name.

They hurt--my ears.
Listening to your sleeping sounds,
Wondering if between a snore or two,
The deafening silence hides "Ludwig,"
Or acknowledges that I am here.

Sometimes you say things.
You sigh and whisper soft words.
And I wonder if they are for me,
Or another man you dream of.

It hurts--my heart.
That I cannot tell you how I feel,
Because I am too scared to mean it,
And give myself away again.

Feeling strongly like this,
Seems as though I am building myself,
A trap without killswitch or way out.
And I jump in with a smile.

And then I die.
Damn it!

Is the Filipino truly worth dying for?

One of the things that bother me about Miriam Defensor-Santiago is her proclivity to pander to ideas of intellectual elitism and the innate superiority of the intelligentsia over the rest of the population. According to her, a vote by an uneducated person must not be regarded as equal to the vote of a university graduate.

In a democratic country such as ours that is trying (at least on paper) to gear itself towards becoming a fully egalitarian society, this idea does not sit well. Supposedly, each citizen's voice is equal to every other's. However, with the results of our most recent national elections where we elected Manny Pacquiao, an athlete (and current congressman who knows close to zero about legislation or constituency representation), into the senate and we almost elected the son of a brutal dictator as vice-president, one almost gets pushed to reconsider one's stance on the whole "every vote is equal" rhetoric.

I'm aware that the solution is not to reduce anybody's right to choose leaders but instead to fulfill each person's right to an education. But are we actually capable, as a nation, of doing it properly? A lot of defenders of the Marcos regime are actually educated. A lot of them have bachelor's degrees, while a number have master's degrees and doctorates. Heck, my own grandmother, a retired judge, even voted for Bongbong because, allegedly, his father did the country a lot of good. I had an argument with her over breakfast yesterday, from which I had to restrain myself before I got too passionate. Was she genuinely blind to the plight of the underprivileged during his hegemony? Was she willing to dismiss every evidence of his evil doings as fabrications in favour of the pretty picture she has in her head just because she and her husband benefited from his rule?

In an age when Holocaust denialists among extremist groups in Germany are a pathetic minority ridiculed for their refusal to acknowledge overwhelming evidence debunking their cause, the Philippines has over 34% of its voting population either saying the Marcos regime was A-OK or that the atrocities that the brutal dictator committed, for which there is overwhelming evidence, didn't happen at all. And how can you blame people? What did the government do when the Marcoses returned from their time in exile? Did it put them behind bars? Did it hold them accountable for the billions of dollars they stole from the country's treasury? No! The government allowed them to continue living luxurious lives.

What's worse: The government allowed the Marcoses to get back in power and slowly make their way to the top again. What the hell? I've asked this countless times before and I'm asking this again: Why is Imelda Marcos not in prison? Why is she in the Philippine Congress?

Seeing this, a lot of people today who never lived through Martial Law might be led to believe that because there have been zero repercussions against the Marcoses for what a lot of people--scholars, historians and ordinary citizens alike--vehemently insist were two decades of sheer brutality, they must be alright. Everyone else must be misinformed and the Marcoses are just misunderstood well-meaning, good-natured people. This notion is so strong and so prevalent that what used to be two words that meant complete terror is now simply worth describing as nothing more than some sort of "thingy" that a lot of people just have a fixation for. "That Martial Law thingy," as one Twitter user put.

Ugh! I don't know, Philippines. Fuck this! Fuck everything!

Anyway, while all these weighty disappointments about the Philippine citizenry won't cause me to let go of the principles of social egalitarianism that I hold very dear, I am instead led to ask the question: IS THE FILIPINO TRULY WORTH DYING FOR?