Friday, July 18, 2008

where´s the logic?

I was checking the internet for plane tickets. The prices are ridiculously high. What are these airline companies thinking? That they can just get away with all those taxes they included? It costs now almost twice the amount to travel to the Philippines! This makes me really angry.

If they want to earn more, they should go after the business class passengers. But economy passengers? Hey, come on! We are just ordinary citizens trying to keep our finances afloat!

I really don't understand. The dollar is depreciating, but the commodities are appreciating. Where´s the logic behind that?

A greenie friend of mine said that she was rather happy that the prices of plane ticket went up. She said that if people could no longer afford to fly, the atmosphere will become cleaner. Mother Earth will heal. Again, where´s the logic?

A politician said that discouraging people to travel, will keep them home. Which means, savings for the family, hence savings for the country. Sounds logical, doesn´t it? Think again! The next day, a picture of him and his family vacationing in Cayman Island was on the frontpage of a local newspaper. So tell me, is that logical? That only moneyed people can travel?

As I´ve said, it´s truly unsettling and annoying. Perhaps, we will witness again in the not-so-far future an upsurge of violence to end the reign of these terroristic inflation. For how do we overcome the limitations of both common sense and reality! Because really, where´s the logic?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I had frequented the hospital last week, .... and also this week. Too often in fact that I am now familiar with faces there; that one doctor would wave at me everytime he sees me! But the truth is, I don´t really like hospitals. It reminds me of death..... of our mortality..... the omega.

I have trouble sleeping lately. Everytime I close my eyes, I feel like drowning. That there is this powerful sucking force that makes me feel like a leaf at the mercy of the wind. I also feel like I am going to die in my sleep. This is the reason why I take sleeping pills nowadays. You see, sleeping pills numb the senses.... the brain. You don´t have to think. You don´t have to be a responsible adult. In fact, you don´t have to be anything. It´s just you and sleep.

Which brings me to my next thought. What happens to us when we go to sleep? Of course, there are millions of articles, dissertations, books, and studies made about sleep. But nobody had really come up with a concrete answer. Until now, we still don´t really know what happens the moment we close our eyes and jump into that abyss where time seems infinite.

So can you blame me if I don't want to sleep anymore? hahahaha

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Big "D"

We all heard about Dr. Jekell and Mister Hyde. Depression. Such a big word.

I read in the newspaper that 1 out of 3 Dutch suffers from some form of depression. That's about one-third of the 17 million Dutch population. Freaky, isn't it? So I asked myself, what causes depression? Why are some people more prone than others? What are the possible causes?

Well, there's genes. Some people are born with it. In the Netherlands, they are referred to as children who were born on a rainy Monday, or something like that.

Childhood trauma or abuse causes depression also. Health problems. For instance, someone with multiple sclerosis. Loneliness and isolation will surely lead to depression. There´s also financial strain, and burn out. Oh, and there´s the winter depression.

What about if someone threatens to kill himself? Is that a simple threat? Or, do we take that seriously?

Then I wonder.... I wonder, how come we don't hear about depression in developing countries like the Philippines? Are we too ashamed to talk about it? I know we have several mental hospitals spread across the country but, a half-way hospital (as they are referred to here) for depressed patients? Don't tell me there aren't depressed patients in the Philippines! Don't tell me they can forget about their depressed mental state while singing My Way!

What about having a happy, God-fearing, and loving (extended) family? Does that count why we, Filipinos, are happy people? I think, it does!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mother of Pearl.

I have a new reader ... my Ma --- thanks to my older sister, Ate, who downloads and prints my blogs for her. Ma tirelessly and patiently reads my blog these days. hahahahaha

I actually feel elated. I mean, who wouldn´t? My Ma is a very good writer.... perhaps one of the best in the province, in my opinion. I used to read her poems when I was growing up. Sometimes, I would copy and post them on my study table or in my textbooks to remind me of her, and for inspiration. I always thought I could read her mind that way.... or, be connected with her innermost thoughts which was home of course.

That was before..... when Ma had time to indulge in the fascinating world of reading and writing. She still reads all right, but writing has taken a back seat.

Now, she's a retired grandma and recently became my number one fan! I'm overjoyed. hahahahahaha

But there's another face to this story. Ma is also my silent editor.... my critic. We discuss my blogs nowadays, and she would always give me a 5-minute lecture on grammar and syntax. This, I find, rather endearing and to some extent, amusing. I guess, I´ve matured. After all, I´m a middle-aged woman now!

Whereas before we would have our lengthy discussion, argument, and sometimes, brawls as to who is right, I actually listen to her now. You see, my Ma had always encouraged that among us. She said that arguing is a healthy form of mental gymnastics.

Some people do not agree with her, saying that we are being discourteous and disrespectful to her. But for Ma .... if you could defend and fight for your argument to the very end , she will listen and at times, even consider what you´re saying. She keeps an openmind .... always. And she stays calm.

Now that we are grown ups, Ma has become the elder of the tribe. Our tribe. She now embodies the very essence of motherhood. Our everything really. She gives birth to wise ideas ; lends an ear and sometimes support our not-so-sound decisions; provides laughter and sunshine when everything seems dark; gives strength and hope when needed; and loves unconditionally. After all, we are hers no matter what!!! hahahahaha

At the end of the day, we are both happy with this blog thing..... why, we are more reconnected now than ever. I´m not saying that because she reads my blog. I say that from a point of view of child who must have been difficult to raise.

I am after all the artist in the family. As my little sister Cpie would say, we don´t have to understand what you´re doing or saying, but hey, we´re listening and we're here for you. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Monday, July 7, 2008

a laughter ....

I just saw an add on the msn website. It says, `baby´s laughter triggers mom´s brain.´ Does it really? If that is the case, let´s have a laugh.

When I was studying in Indonesia, my professor called my attention one morning.

Prof: Mbak Maria, you make me sick. You hit the wrong note twice.
Me: Go to hell!

After saying that, I collected my things, stood up, and stormed out while tears flooded my cheeks. Everybody was looking at me with a somewhat bewildered and confused look. Truth is, I was so embarrassed. Imagine, I made somebody sick with my music!

Hours later, Emma, my English classmate, dropped by my place. At first, I didn´t want to talk to her, so I told her to go away. I just wanted to be alone.

Around that time, my grandma just had a heart bypass and I was far away from home. I just actually wanted to go back to the Philippines. But Ma said that specialists are looking after grandma and there´s not much I can do.

Besides, if I go home during the academic school year, it will definitely have consequences which will include paying the university a full refund and perhaps even getting fired for breach of contract! (I was a government scholar then.)

So I was double upset when my professor told me I make him sick! But Emma was waiting outside my door. She wouldn´t leave. So I let her in and spoke to her.

Emma: how are you?
Me: I´m not really in the mood for a chit chat, Emma.
Emma: But why were you so upset?
Me: Won´t you be upset if someone told you that you make him sick?
Emma: Who told you that?
Me: Pak Joko (the professor), who else???!
Emma: He did? When?
Me: EMMA!!! during our class.

Emma stared at me. Then there was a pregnant pause.....

Emma: Oh that!
Me: Yes, THAT!
Emma: Marissa, Pak Joko said Mbak Maria, you MADE A MISTAKE. You hit the wrong note twice.

I was silent. And then, we both laughed. Poor Pak Joko.

But the thing is, some Indonesians have problems with pronunciation. So Pak Joko sounded actually like this:

Pak Joko: Mbak Maria, you mek mestek, you het rong not twez.

Which sounded to me like: Mbak Maria, you make me sick. You hit the wrong note twice.

But like I said, I should always clean my ears when travelling/living abroad! THE END! HAHAHAHAHAHA

Pak = Sir or Mister
Mbak = miss


My highschool classmate and friend Menchie wrote a very nice blog about reconnection. It touched me and made me feel homesick..... make that Menchie-homesick! HAHAHAHAHA

I was actually planning to blog about marriage. But I guess, friendship is also a sort of marriage, minus the wedding that is! So I am going to talk about it instead.

Friendship..... what is it actually? It sounds so trite and banal, I could fall asleep right now! ha ha ha!

Kidding aside, I believe friendship is the marriage of two (or more) people who have different upbringing yet are drawn by a common interest, dream, frivolity, background, and sometimes even by the same nemesis! Menchie and I however never had the last one. hahahahahaha

I used the word marriage because in many ways, it is a union of people who do love and care for each other (minus romance... although we all know that friendship can reach its zenith in marriage because the bond is closer). But the camaraderie, commitment and demands are just as exciting and precious.

But it´s true what Menchie wrote in her blog. Eden, Mel, Cherie, Menchie and I are re-discovering and reconnecting again through blogging. Sounds odd, but true. And that´s the beauty of cyberspace. You are only an iota of a second away from each other..... or in our case, a blog away.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Meeting marten.

It was Friday night. Our friend Niek just left, and I still have to clear the kitchen. I decided to go upstairs instead to check my email. Hey, I have one from my sister! I picked up the receiver and dialed her number.

We chatted, and by the time we were done… it was almost 4:00 AM and I was exhausted. It was time to retire to bed. Suddenly I heard a thud and stumping. My brain ran wild. What could that be? Or maybe I should be asking myself who could that be?!

And just like that, I was wide awake. I was annoyed.

I walked to the window…. looked outside. It was so peaceful. The sky was so beautiful..... like a canvas. It reminded of Van Gogh's Starry Night. Ah,... summer. I love Europe in the summer.

I saw somebody moving close to our neighbors’ fence. It’s probably Meneer Erv, I thought. But what seemed like Meneer Erv’s head, had a very bushy tail attached to it, and was running around! My heart started to pound in excitement. What was that????

Then I heard a loud shriek. It was almost like a piercing cry. The little nocturnal creature was playing! Was he calling for a friend??? It was such a delight to witness such a beautiful sight. He was very agile.... moved very fast....and an excellent climber too! It’s definitely a large squirrel, I thought. If only I had my camera now, I said. But if I leave, I knew that the creature will be gone and perhaps I won’t ever see it again. So I continued watching it.

I found myself enjoying the experience. Ah,…. he looks soooo cute, soooo cuddly! So innocent... and so,... and just like that, it was gone! I fell sad, like a little child robbed of her favorite doll!

At breakfast, I told my husband about my little adventure. He said that the “cute little creature” I was referring to, was a stone marten (steen marter). An omnivorous, opportunistic animal who feeds on rabbits, chickens, birds, nuts, and berries.

I was silent. My pet Kapkap (a chicken) was killed last month. Life was literally sucked out of her. We found her lying in a corner, ... headless and bloodless.The creature who killed Kapkap was merciless. I still shudder at the thought.

And today, I found out that the beautiful furry creature that I saw prancing and dancing early this morning was the deadly predator that was responsible for the tragic death of Kapkap! Truly, looks can be very deceiving.

(The photo is not mine. I downloaded it from the Encyclopedia Britannica website.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

life of an émigré.

Emigration is hard. You are forced to live abroad, for political reasons. When that happens, people (friends, acquaintances, and relatives) think of the pain of nostalgia. But what is worse, is the pain of being alienated. When what was once intimate to you becomes foreign.

And when the emigration stretches on (as in the case of my Afghan friend Krima), a new `loyalty´ develops to the adopted land.

That´s when the break occurs.

Accordingly, the adult years is richer and more important for life. But the memory, language and all the understructure of creativity are formed very early.

For a lawyer or a doctor emigrant, an émigré's artistry won't be a problem then. But for an artist, leaving the place to which his soul, imagination, impressions, and obsessions, are bound could mean suicide. It takes a genius to turn the disadvantage of this situation to benefits.

Stravinsky was an émigré. He spent 27 years in Russia; 29 years in France and the French Switzerland; and 32 years in America. Incidentally, the most Russian among his creative works (Le Sacre du printemps, Les Noces ... to name a few) were composed during his stay in France. But when he died in 1971, his wife complied with his last wish and rejected the Soviet government´s proposal to bury him in Russia.

Stravinsky, like any other émigré, bore within him a wound. Wound of displacement which led to a poverty of heart. A sort of heartlessness captured in his music.

Surely Stravinsky´s artistic growth would have taken a different path if he had been able to stay where he was born. But he left and lived abroad. And having understood that no country could replace Russia, he found that his only homeland was in music by all musicians. Stravinsky was at home there..... in his music. He walked and lingered in each room, felt every corner, held every piece, and cherished every moment he spent there.

I am no Stravinsky. But music is truly my home.

I can tell lots of stories of this kind, especially because there are so many emigrants here. But some things we can only leave unsaid.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Today´s temperature was 38 degrees celsius. I was sweating like an Amish farmer plowing a field of 50 hectares with a horse. To think that I was barely moving and was just reading a book. But I'm not complaining. I like it here when it's hot! hahahahaha

Everybody is blaming global warming/cooling for the climate change. I am not so sure. I just know that for every action is a reaction. You cut a tree, you have less shade. You switch on all your appliances, the temperature will rise. You use an abanico (a fan made of anahaw leaves native to the Philippines), you save energy! hahahahahaha

So next time you plan on chopping down that Kamagong tree that obstructs your glorious view of your neighbor's living room, think again and try to remember Kilmer´s TREES.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The UP I remember......

I am feeling sentimental. I miss UP; the school that molded me into what I am today. And so, this space goes to Nelson Navarro´s article.

The UP he describes here, is of course not the UP that I know.

During my time ( I sound and feel OLD! hahahahaha), we had the Marcos appointees for president (Angara, etc). While it is true that there were so many affluent students then who were more concerned about frat rumbles & parking spaces than going to class, I beg to disagree about Vinzon´s Hall being a pigsty. It might not have been what it was during Navarro´s time, but it was nevertheless the citadel of students´activitism.

Also, if I may add, the so-called decline in status as pre-eminent academic institution in Asia came after the downfall of the dictator because UP was no longer the favored `son`. Besides, then President Aquino allocated less fund for education. That´s why professors started to do some moonlighting; some left the country; and there was the infamous socialized tuition fee scheme.

The goal was not only to accommodate students coming from lower bracket incomes (and the far-flung provinces), but also to generate income for the University. Look at Philcoa!

If students dressed like slobs, it was because we felt the need then to be unique indivuals, and not become the Elvis Presley- Beatles- & Jane Fonda look-a-likes that was fashionable in the sixties.

Indeed, the mid 80s saw a distinct national awakening among UPians. Our sense of nationalism was not defined by the American-inspired sense of nationhood, but rather by our Malayo-Polynesian ancestors that was best typified by our choices in clothing and accessories. So what if we dressed like our Badjao, Tboli, Igorot, Agta brothers? It was more of a social statement.

And while it is true that UP had ( has and will still) produced crooks, the same can also be said about Harvard and Oxford graduates.

Yes, such is life. There's good, and there's evil. And we all know that this duality is the governing principle of human behavior.

And so (I have learned in UP that) understanding good and evil, requires a deep awareness of what man is (and not only as a UPian), as this behaviour appears at various levels and in different times in our social matrix and cultural history. (Note that I use the word social and not political!)

Therefore, the intrusion of several political overlays, and the internal & external struggles for power (corruption at all levels in Philippine society ) have shaped the stormy events that represent what we now know as UP.

(halata na UP diehard! hahahahahaha) ;-)


IT was deemed politically correct and most fashionable in my day to refer to the University ofthe Philippines as "The Republic of Diliman. Unlike the great Manuel L. Quezon's love-hate obsession with UP (he was from UST), Ferdinand Marcos' devotion to his alma mater was legend.

The would-be dictator styled himself as the President ofthe Philippines who truly loved the academe, especially our independent republic of excellence and high moral purpose. Flattery always worked with the Diliman crowd. It was the best of times in the late Sixties.

That old UP conceit, nationalism, was on everybody's lips. The siren song of revolution ala Mao Zedong and Che Guevarra was in the air. Student Power was on the march from Berkeley to Paris, and UP's brand of ilustrado activism was political chic.

We were spoiled brats in the high summer of the Filipino ruling class, before everything turned sour, recalls one critical writer who came of age in those magical years. Marcos and his kind indulged us, anointed us the next generation of the well-educated elite, they who paid lip service to democracy but were feudal lords at heart.

We were curious and we kept asking embarrassing questions. We couldn't fathom why this elite could spawn or tolerate so much poverty and corruption inour country. But how were we to know? We were young, we were having fun, we were playing revolution, and we wantedto have it all.

Having studied and lived in Diliman during the gloriously liberal Carlos Romulo-SP Lopez regimes, I had a grand time and I left with golden memories to last three lifetimes. I entered freshman year crusading against the compulsory teaching of the Spanish language, fought against American intervention in Vietnam, and capped it all by storming the gates of Malacañang and joining the Diliman Commune (The first liberated zone of the Philippines) at the height of the First Quarter Storm in the early 1970s.

Many times I have written about this unforgettable period of my life by shamelessly quoting Wordsworth's paean to the French Revolution: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ And to be young was very heaven.

Diliman was a world unto itself, many dimensions removed from the earthly pleasures and miseries of Manila. It lay in splendid isolation at the end of the Quiapo-Balara bus route, when Manila was one of Asia's proud capitals and Quezon City could be called bucolic and pleasant.

The sordid squatter colonies hadn't yet infested UP's 500-hectare campus, much of it verdant green and evoking some country club blessed with a golf course. Both Romulo and Lopez had built distinguished careers in the foreign service, capped by top posts in the United Nations before retiring to assume the UP presidency, one after the other.

The former was a closet monarchist who endowed Diliman with a heady sense of power and majesty. Backed up by generous Ford and Rockefeller funding, he set off a building spree that gave Diliman a passable First World look.

The lawns were kept eternally green and manicured and the flower bedswere forever abloom. Every morning at 7 a.m., Romulo's black limousine would arrive at Quezon Hall after a breezy drive from his Forbes Park home.

A Philippine Collegian editor in his youth, he kept an open door for wannabes like me who suffered his monologues about New York and Bataan. Seeing him was like being ushered into a ceremonial hall worthy of Mussolini.

What seemed a long distance from the door to the great man's desk may have been calculated to reduce lesser mortals into vassals before the imperial presence. It was during the Romulo era that Prof. EliseoPajaro, composer-conductor of the UP Orchestra, premiered a cantata evoking Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

The University of the Philippines, thundered the chorus amidst drums and cymbals, is the citadel of truth! The citadel of Truth! Foreign dignitaries kept dropping by and were honored with military parades by the ROTC Rayadillo Model Company, which Romulo patterned after Aguinaldo's elite guard.

Such names as Madame Pandit, Nehru's headstrong sister, Robert Kennedy, President Sukarno, Nobel Laureate Jonas Salk and novelist Han Suyin come to mind. What was it like to bask in the hallowed groves of Old Diliman? Designed as the capstone of the public school system that the US set up right after the conquest, UP couldn't help but be frankly elitist.

Only valedictorians, salutatorians and honor students were accepted. Those without honors had to pass qualifying examinations. The toughest academic regimen awaited them, beginning with English and mathematics, which required strict discipline enforced by the terrible fear of getting kicked out.

There was blind, if masochistic worship of scholarship and honors. Once a year, there would be a special convocation to honor scholars. One I attended culminated with some dean mentioning somebody's name and bellowing, university scholar, 14 consecutive semesters!

That nerd in medical school did nothing but study for 7 years. The audience erupted in wild applause. The common view before the FQS, I think, was that by being in UP, you were already serving the nation. You were bright and you studied very hard, therefore you were entitled to a privileged place under the Philippine sun.

Lip service was paid to dissent and to serving thepeople, but only as a lark and part of growing up. There was the absolute horror of being tagged a subversive, but also the reverse snobbery of radical causes like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).

Diliman was crawling with bohemian types. Most students were, however, into books and ambition,and were oblivious of the nation's deepening poverty and underdevelopment. Coeds came to class dolled up like Sandra Dee. Guys passed for Bobby Darin in poloshirts and slacks. Hay rides, lantern parades, fraternity and sorority rivalries, and politics aping the big time made them the envy of students across the land.

This dream world ended abruptly in 1972. I was on a student trip to New York when martial law was declared and there I was marooned for the next 17 years. In those pre-internet days, news from home came in trickles.

By the time I resettled in Manila, it was clear that the old Camelot days were gone forever. I made some visits down memory lane and saw how low UP had gone in the world. Vinzons Hall seemed a pigsty. Students dressed like slobs.

They worried about parking and frat rumbles, not the betrayal of Edsa democracy. Diliman had morphed into some grim corner of Calcutta. It was the worst of times. UP had lost its sparkle and especially its status as pre-eminent academic institution in Asia.

From high respectability in the 1960s, it had plummeted to something like No.38 in the rankings. And to think we once had classmates from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia who regarded U.P. with reverence and as close to Harvard as they could get.

Add to that the shift of the student base coming from public to private high schools and we have a university that has become even more elitist as its academic standing has sunk into the ground. Because the public schools, from elementary to high school, have fallen apart interms of standards, more and more U.P. students are now drawn from elite schools in Metro-Manila and Luzon. U.P.'s redeeming role as primary vehicle of upward mobility for bright boys and girls from the provinces no longer holds true.

Think of Carlos Romulo, SP Lopez, Ferdinand Marcos,Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Jorge Bocobo and many other notables of humble provincial backgrounds seeking to enter U.P. under present conditions and, yes, weep bitter tears.

It's goodbye to equal opportunity and all that. One of the few unblemished names in high office todaytells me of a rather unsettling encounter with a group of women lawyers who wanted some feisty character to grace their reunion. "We now have as many bar topnotchers as the men,"boasted a top practitioner. " The majority of today's law students are women," said another. " There are more and more women judges, evenin the Supreme Court," added another excited lady.

A respected scholar and bar topnotcher when it still mattered, the official felt obliged to jump into the raging orgy of UP pride and self-congratulation . "It's not a matter of beating the men," she said. "It's not just a matter of being excellent. Excellence for what? What about justice, ethics and social responsibility? Dead silence descended upon the room.

"This institution, the guest speaker said of their beloved law school, "is perhaps the single most culpable for the decline of this country and why we have sunk so low in the world. The bright minds who invented the coconut levy came from here. So did the wise guys who wrote those decrees and lent their brains and prestige to Marcos. Where do you think the biggest crooks come from? Why do they always go scot-free? And where is the remorse?"

Looking back, the official wry concedes it was another exercise in futility. The thunderbolts amounted to no more than a little tempest in a teapot, blithely ignored by those who have everything to gain and nothing to lose under the wonderful status quo.

Let's face it, some glory in entitlements and really believe all's well with Philippine democracy. Others beg to disagree andpay the price, some falling in the night. The silent majority are just tired of the charade and pretend they live somewhere else. Such is life.