Monday, December 27, 2010

Darkness Visible

Been spending time with a group of young women in Hawaii trying to unravel the thorny points of class, gender and sexuality;  of nationalism, regionalism and transnationalism;  of language and literature;  of what constitutes the politics of women in this age of globalization.  One asked what my writing process was -- and strangely enough, I'd been thinking about it -- for the long work specifically, since I tend to go on automatic with short pieces, sitting down and after hours of barely eating or sleeping, getting up only after the last punctuation. 

A long work often begins with an image, an idea, an event -- which becomes like a train ticket that I tend to place in a desk drawer somewhere in the writing room of my mind and try hard to forget -- until the day I can no longer procrastinate and open the drawer, pick up the ticket and embark on the journey toward another world, where I am another person.  I don't much like it, because it means going through the tribulations and stresses of a lifetime within a year or two;  and also because as I become the character and that world, my world, I resent intrusions from reality and become anti-social.

That is the process -- a journey through an unfamiliar and yet familiar universe;  where I am both main character and all characters at the same time and yet remain in total control of the evolution of events toward an end of which I have no inkling.

I've had great trouble with this last manuscript, because the real person keeps intruding between me and herself as character, returning me again and again to herself as a person versus herself as character, not understanding that my relationship is not with her but with herself as character, that I needed to deconstruct her, then reconstruct her, so that the angles of her being come out very sharply, acutely, rather than have circumstances grind them down to ordinary smoothness.  Her character may own me but she herself as a person does not.  I have absolutely neither desire nor need to have any personal relationship with her, once she has transferred her life to me.

How does one explain that to the subject of one's writings?

I am often tempted to snarl, "leave me alone -- I'm not interested in the present you but you as a sum total of your past."  Interested in what has been shaped, not in what is being shaped.  Not interested in your current crises but rather how these came about and what could possibly result from them -- mainly because every tale must have completion, even if that completion is also the beginning of another paradigm. 

In quantum physics, one sees what one is looking for only after it has gone. 

Recently, when faced by the difficulty of explaining such a conundrum to non-writers, I find myself hoisting my Nikon and taking photographs -- probably in an attempt how this freezing of the instant, the stopping of time, is so important to my writing process. 

Here's a photo I took on the night of the full moon, 21st December, from the 25th floor of a building in Honolulu.  I call it Darkness Visible.  Click on photo to supersize. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Di-Ba's

Wearing anting-anting (amulets)....


Damn, I'm beginning to look like my mother.  Ha!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Addendum

"...But first, we have to clarify who really are the victims," said President Benigno Aquino III, regarding compensation for victims of Marcos-era human rights violations. 

By admission of Marcos's own then Defense Minister, 100,000 people were arrested and imprisoned without trial;  they called it detention.

Less than 10,000 were plaintiffs in the Marcos tort case;  the Hawaii court's synchronized database is only 7,500. 

It's been 24 years and it's still not known who the victims are?  It didn't take that long to document the Holocaust victims who were in the millions. 

Don't hold your breath;  this is another 2+2=2+2, maintaining impunity alive.

Be outraged;  be very outraged.  -- ##

Response

Here's a response to the piece I wrote on the Marcos Tort Case:  http://www.gmanews.tv/story/206221/pnoy-vows-compensation-to-martial-law-victims

Let's see if 2+2 will be 4 this time. 

I'd like to be proven wrong on this one but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2+2 Equals 2+2 Forever

The Texas Court approved a $10 million settlement of a case linked to the Marcos tort case -- i.e., about 10,000 victims sued the Marcos Estate for violations of human rights and were awarded $2 billion. It's been 24 years. Did two stories on this while on the crest of an overwhelming sadness; here's one: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20101117-303660/No-President-keen-on-helping-Marcos-victims.

Sadness came from realizing this was one more unending story of the archipelago -- kind of like Gulong ng Palad (Turn of Fate), a radio serial drama that went on forever. At some point, I think, patience becomes a vice.


So in a way, the mid-year US election results had some positive aspect, if taken as a manifestation of people getting fed up. Unfortunately, Pres. Obama seems to have misinterpreted the message and announced more "bipartisanship."

The message to me was simply: "we're tired of seeing government take care of the rich and powerful while the rest of us go into bankruptcy."

I for one would like to get bailed out from usurious credit card companies, overcharging cable-internet-phone companies, surcharges from my residential coop, etc.

I'd like to see Antartica before it melts.

And this issue of human rights violations committed by the Marcos Dictatorship resolved before the sea drowns the 7,100 islands.

Trust me, it will.  --  ##

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is There A Civilians Day?

Marches, parades, bands, gun-salutes, white-glove salutes. 

Any recognition given to the civilians who died in wars, invasions, occupations, a hundred thousand armed conflicts?  The civilian dead likely number a hundred times the military dead.

As the Bob Dylan song goes, "how many times must cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?" 

The best way to honor Veterans, methinks, is to eliminate the causes of wars, invasions, occupations... 

I leave it to you to list such causes.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Character Calamities

The speechwriter of the President of the Philippines, Mai Mislang, tweeted, during a state visit, that the wine sucked in Vietnam – as though she had been raised guzzling Domaine Romanee-Conti.

Having been a French colony, Vietnam was likely amused by such judgment from a person of a country known for beer.

Ah, well, stupidity is a child of ignorance.

As if this wasn’t enough to upset one for weeks, one of the two women seriously injured at a grenade attack at La Salle university blithely forgave the assailant, whoever he was.  The two women lost limbs and nearly their lives. 

The grenade was thrown allegedly by one fraternity member to damage members of another fraternity – and by accident, collaterally damaged grievously two women whose lives are hereon changed in ways we cannot even conceive.

This readiness to forgive, in my perspective, does not necessarily make one a better person; it simply marks one as a patsy, who cannot even recognize the presence of serious evil.  Whoever threw the grenade was evil;  he knew and didn't care that he could not limit the damage to members of the other fraternity only.

Forgiving so easily allows evil to thrive; and this is probably why people known to have committed great crimes surface and re-surface, again and again, holding on to power, position and privilege, in the Philippine political world, as acts of injustice and terrorism remain un-redressed.

So, there’s the wine comment and the forgiveness comment and my comment: women of the Philippines can sometimes be arrogant and judgmental in petty matters and pushovers in really serious ones. -- ##

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Gilda Cordero Fernando

Prof. Gemino H. Abad of the University of the Philippines was kind enough to send me Volumes I & II of Underground Spirit – a compilation of short fiction from 1972 up. They are handsome volumes and offer quite a spread on Philippine short fiction in English, since the imposition of martial law.  I believe that more volumes are forthcoming.  Prof. Abad inscribed the volumes to me with the words "one's country is what one's memory owes allegiance to..."

Which reminded me that for years I had planned to write or say something about one of the great prose stylists of the Philippines, Gilda Cordero Fernando, who is constantly underrated as a writer, even by herself, methinks.  But then Gilda has never been one for the “struts and charms of trade” as Dylan Thomas puts in, so her literary presence tends to be constantly drowned out by those who do strut.

Her long story People In The War has no equal in Philippine literature. I read it when very young and it has never left me and it taught me, from the moment I finished it, that large themes like invasion, occupation and violence are comprised of small acts of humanity and inhumanity – both inflicted upon ordinary beings and into acts of which they are forced. Hey, to know how tremendous that was, think of how many words and pages it took Tolstoy to say that in War and Peace. This lesson from Gilda was the root of my oft-repeated thesis that one does NOT write for the people but rather one should write as one of the people, thereby undergoing the process of becoming declasse.

Once in a while, I am seized with the urge to read that Gilda story again and re-experience the seismic shock of understanding a Truth about human beings. Gilda reminds me of the equally underrated Katherine Anne Porter, whose Flowering Judas was a consummate treatise on revolution and betrayal.

Gilda’s writing world is a world of women – though not as didactically dry and self-pitying as Kerima Polotan’s; it is a world magical indeed, long before magic realism rose out of Latin America, imbuing with mythic resonance the small, the daily, the minutes, rather than the years, of Time. She has a housewife capture a duende (elf) ; a hairdresser create subtle narratives from hairstyles; and so on. From all these, one draws a sense of women’s quiet strength and Gilda was doing it before feminist values became the “common sense” for women even in the West.

Gilda was also the force in the creation of books on various aspects of Philippine history and culture, which brought together artists and writers, antedating the manga novel fad from Japan. Truly, she’s done crucial work but is under-recognized for it, and I am inclined to think that it’s not simply because she is female but because she is gorgeous and intelligent, to boot. Ah, well, every woman out there will understand that.

So, here’s to you, Gilda; let’s raise a glass of EF THEM! to all the dead and/or dying old men overrated as Philippine national artists – which of course you will never do, gracious person that you are.

My, this started out as a piece of recommendation that you all buy Underground Spirit – please do so – and became a short discourse on Gilda Cordero Fernando. But if you can manage it, please read People In The War. -- ##

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Is Done

From a character in Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book: “I realized I’d change nothing by proving that the life we live is someone else’s dream.”


The sentence floated through my mind as I watched the fifty-some new members of AF3IRM, all under 30 years of age,  take their oath of commitment to principle, cause and organization after two days of intensive deliberation at the end of nearly two years of study. I wished then I could add a footnote to Pamuk’s book: “At least it gives one a chance to choose -- not to do so,  or to live a different dream or a dream built on one’s experiences.”

Some principles were debated and established during those three days, among which were a) one has the right to make history wherever one is – in accordance with the material conditions of one’s existence and the right to acknowledgement of that history; b) true social transformation encompasses transformation of gender power relations and an end to the relegation to the private sphere of obligations which should be and are social in character; c) as with other sectors, women have a right to theory-building. There were others but to me these were among the weightiest.

The last will likely be the most difficult but even ideology has to evolve.

We had good landmarks to go by. Prof. Johanna Brenner warned about an international movement to restore/maintain the hetero-patriarchy; Dr. Anna Guevarra exposed the deliberation behind the push for Filipinas to metamorphose into servants for overseas work; Charlene Sayo raised the rather bizarre Oedipal specter of second generation Filipina-Canadians having to deal with white male Canadians raised by Filipino nannies; Roma Amor, a trafficking survivor, traced her vulnerability to domestic violence in her Philippine marriage.

The strange thing for me was being able to play on the guitar, after the launch, without mistake the song “Good Night, Ladies.” This piece of music has strange resonance for me, since my nanny invariably tuned in to Ruben Tagalog’s radio program “Harana” (serenade) as she waited for me to fall asleep. The program ended, I think, with this song and to this day, I associate it with burdens laid down and preparations to voyage into the mythic realms of sleep.

As for the guitar playing, I took it up to learn to read notes. I’d picked up somewhere that learning a new language was the best way to forestall brain decrepitude. I thought music being a different language and having been an opera buff since I was 15 years old, I might as well learn how to read notes.

It’s been so difficult, what with slashes of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand (I once tried using my right hand on the frets but that inverted the guitar, silly me) that I kind of wish I’d chosen to learn Arabic instead. The brain processing is so different I find myself forgetting language and drawn to playing high math games.

The poor ewok Guapo curls up in pain whenever I practice, so terrible are the sounds. When a friend who’s a classical guitarist asked to look at my Martin guitar, I had to demand that he NOT ask me to play for fear he would suffer a stroke from laughter.

So now you understand why playing “Good Night, Ladies” without a single false note was so edifying.

I do not know to which ladies I was saying good night. Perhaps you do. But I do hope that this signifies a preparation to return to the mythic realms, from which I'd been diverted by politics.  -- ##

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Enshrining Judas: 9/21

A hundred thousand were imprisoned without charges and without trial.


Hundreds disappeared.

Countless women and men were toyed with, tortured, violated.

The body count rose to 14 per day,

The fetid canal running through downtown Manila became the Estero of Death, as the summarily executed were dumped into it.

The looting of the public treasury was so massive it made the Guinness Book of Records.

The currency slid down steadily, destroying families, driving men and women to jobs overseas. 

The doorway to all that opened on September 21, 1972 with a simple act of betrayal – a betrayal of mandate, a betrayal of oath of office, a betrayal of the Constitution, a betrayal of the people and of the nation.

After the overthrow, 10,000 former “detainees” – a euphemism for those imprisoned without charges and without trial – took courage in hand and sued the ex-dictator, who had reigned as “president” for 22 years.

They won and were granted by the courts a billion dollars in damages. Not a cent would reach their hands, though that case became a precedent for so many other victims of human rights abuses who got indemnified.

One by one, the 10,000 grew old; some became sick; some died. Collections were taken for those who had no money for burial.

It would be good for the significance of this date to disappear. But it will not because the process of justice remains amputated, incomplete. No one has actually been made to pay for betraying mandate, oath and the Constitution. No one was held accountable for butchering people, raping women, stealing from government… Only the poor who fought grew poorer and realized the irony of the saying “you can’t eat principles.”

This is why impunity does not even amaze any longer in the archipelago. This is its taproot, the start of national demoralization, the enshrinement of Judas.

As long as the process of rendering justice to the imprisoned, tortured, disappeared and murdered remains amputated, futility will be the only lesson for the poor and the powerless.

The lesson will always be that the traitor always emerges victorious, with his 30 pieces of silver, fame and fortune intact, with a fake banner of “honor” waving over his heads and convinced that Judashood is a virtue.

Make no mistake about it: there are those who believe from the bottom of their hearts that the Filipino people are undisciplined, unruly, without honor and values, childish – and need an iron hand and that hand is theirs by right of birth, connection and power. They are biding their time. #

Saturday, September 18, 2010

P-Noy's Entourage

President Noynoy Aquino of the Philippines will bring 57 men and women with him for his seven-day trip to the United States.  This junket will cost 25 million pesos or more than $500,000. 

The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, travels with an entourage of 40-70, depending on the visit's duration. 

Presidents of the Philippines, I think, should only be allowed to leave the country if they've solved pressing problems  -- as in, solve garbage collection problem, you get one trip;   solve illegal/legal logging = one trip;  solve water crisis = one trip;  solve flooding = one trip... 

No problem solved, no trip as everybody just looks foolish, begging for help before any effort is made. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11

Code Pink has called for Read a Qu'ran Day and is asking for solidarity messages for the women of Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

On stressful days, I usually remember this passage from the Bhagavad Gita: 

Fear Not. What is not real, never was and never will be. What is real, always was and cannot be destroyed. 

Happy end of Ramadan.  Shantih. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

One Beauty Queen & Eight Dead Tourists

If one question were to define the character of your people and if two events were to be pivotal in defining the character of your nation – what question and what events would you choose?

Maria Venus Raj, 22-year-old Miss Philippines contender for the Miss Universe crown, likely did not anticipate she would be at the center of the above-mentioned situations. The question that became a character definition, not only for her but for her entire country mates, was whether she had committed a big mistake and what she did to correct it. Ms. Raj replied candidly that she’d never had a major, major problem and thanked her family for guiding her – not in perfect English, granted, but neither unintelligible nor incomprehensible either. I've heard worse from winners and losers alike. 

Ms. Raj placed fourth and thereby became the object of intense criticism, and a cause for a general self-abnegation on her country people's part, as if she herself, not the judges, chose Miss Mexico for the title. Or as though this was and will be the only chance at a beauty title for the Philippines.

Worse, ex-cop Rolando Miranda decided in the same week to hold hostage a busload of Chinese tourists and allegedly killed eight of them before offing himself. I say allegedly because with all those bullets flying, I prefer to wait for the forensics.

One beauty queen and eight dead tourists then merged into an absurd symbol of the character of the entire nation called the Philippines and an entire people called Filipinos – to wit, that they are flubbers, fumblers, incompetent, corrupt, stupid, murderous, etc.

And now there are rallies in Hong Kong with the Chinese demanding apology, compensation, etc., etc. It shouldn't surprise us when, at some point, there's a demand that the Philippine government reinstate the ZTE broadband project, which was scuttled for corruption under the previous regime.

Filipinos themselves are adding fuel to the fire by blaming Ms. Raj (in lieu of the judges who, btw, were never asked why they chose Miss Mexico), not even understanding the source of their own anger, which in my view is our common perspective on OFWs: bring home the bacon or else... Ms. Raj was born overseas of an OFW mother and an Indian father, hence by legacy is cloaked by the same expectations of OFW women.  Give those of us at home what we want or die trying.

Filipinos as well add to the fury over the eight dead Chinese tourists by immediately blaming one another, passing the buck, falling to their knees and smashing their foreheads on the floor in self-abnegation.

Get a grip, people. The Philippines has had and will have beauty titles galore. Beauty contests are judged on the basis of (1) how close to Western beauty models a girl is; (2) how appealing she and her country are to those looking for product endorsers; and (3) whether there’s a political and commercial advantage to recognizing her country.

Get a grip as well, people and P-noy, re: the eight dead tourists. While it is proper to apologize for this unfortunate end to this murderous madman's actions, enough already with the kowtowing and feeling bad and blaming yourselves.  Hong Kong never apologizes for the cruel and sometimes murderous treatment of Filipina domestic workers; nor did Beijing apologize for the crazed guy who hacked  Filipino father and daughter tourists. If the Chinese feel it’s too dangerous to go to the Philippines, then tell them to go elsewhere.

For the sake of the nation's self-respect, stop acting like the country with its 100 million population is a beauty title contestant and/or a Chinese suzerainty. - #

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Flora Lansang

Ms. Flora Lansang, known to many University of the Philippines alumni, passed away last Monday.

She and her family were long-time advocates for national independence and social justice.  They were also stalwart participants in the resistance movement against Marcos.  And a very good supporter of GabNet. 

She inspired one of my short stories, "Our Apostle Paul."   The last time I saw her, which was ages ago, apropos of nothing, she gave me what looked like a tektite ring.

We will miss her. 

So many deaths these two years.  An era is ending.

Monday, August 09, 2010

One Nation Indivisible

The wind had become a cool river flowing through the neighborhood sun-tortured streets when the house ewok Guapo demanded a walk – meaning he skipped and hopped six, seven times on his hind legs, chased his tail four, five times and then dug forepaw nails into my knee, So I brushed back his forelocks, tied it into a topknot with a green ribbon and we sauntered out to join the Congregation of Small Dogs on the sidewalk for a brief orgy of sniffing, yelping and pouncing.

Judge Vaughn Walker had just ruled against Proposition 8 in California; even as, the Center for Reproductive Rights released its study on abortion in the Philippines and Engender Rights demanded the legalization of abortion.

The latter inspired the lawyer-counsel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to compare women seeking abortions to dope addicts even as Judge Walker was being outed and his ruling questioned, never mind that no one questioned the presumably heterosexual orientation of a court that previously upheld Proposition 8.

The CRR report tabulated more than half a million back-alley abortions per year in the Philippines, with 90,000 women suffering complications and a thousand dying.

I am of course in favor and in support of the entire range of women’s rights – from the right to equitably end unsatisfactory marriages, to the right to marry whomever one wanted who’s of the age of consent, to sex education in schools (which the bishops contend will cause “developmental harm”, unlike pedophilia which many priests consider as NOT breaking their vow of chastity), to reproductive safety and health, to full and equal representation in power institutions, organizations and agencies of whatever tendency.

Pwew! That was a long sentence. This range is indivisible.

The argument in California is that majority want marriage to be defined as between male and female only; the argument of the bishops is that the Philippines is a Catholic country by majority.  Both argue that the "will of the majority" should be respected, even as such a will rests, not on democratic logic, but on mutable social/religious norms. 

But the actual democratic principle is that no majority can impose its will upon a minority in such a manner that the rights, freedoms and privileges of the minority are restricted and eroded.

This is the same principle that protects the rights of ethnic groups (to speak their own language, for instance), of indigenous peoples and others recognized to have a different lifestyle from that of the majority.

In the Philippine case, the bishops/priest minority is actually suppressing the rights of a majority (women).

All these were running through my head as Guapo and I took a walk this early morning. The Congregation of Small Dogs was absent; there was only this white, middle-aged man with one of Guapo’s cousins and he was happy to see my dog. “A girl, ha? A girl?” No, I said, he’s male. “But the ribbon, his hair, why is it like that…” I said I didn’t know what to do with his hair, just to keep it off his eyes, never mind it was a gender-bender… “He’ll fit right in,” the man said. Say what? “Oh, you haven’t hcard, this is the new neighborhood for HOMOSEXUALS.” I thought my eyeballs would drop to the sidewalk, I was that shocked. “Yup, you haven’t seen them – the HOMOSEXUALS! This is their new area.”

I scooped Guapo up and ran. -- ##

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Note to Inviters

My schedule is ruled by an agent with an ironfist. Please email vidaevents@verizon.net.  Or check-out Speak Out Now.  Because of ancient bones and a still rather hectic schedule, my preference is for professional (writing) and political (speaking) activities.  Thank you for your forbearance. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 29 event

Click on picture to supersize.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fela! on Broadway

When lead performer Sahr Ngaujah asked the audience at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre “who’s been arrested?” “ Imprisoned?”, Milady and Ollie cast expectant and encouraging looks my way as a few in the audience raised hands.

Later, coming upon the star on the sidewalk, they told him I had been a political prisoner and had wanted me to raise my hand. I said I'd been waiting for him to ask, “Who’s been tortured” – then I would’ve raised my hand. Mr. Ngaujan looked thoughtful and said maybe he should add that to the script. So, WHEN – not if -- you see Fela! and the question is asked, hey, know that it comes from a Philippine experience to become part of a Nigerian story.

Being still in the grip of a massive jetlag – crossing half the globe twice in five days was too much – I had feared I would doze off during the show. Not much chance of that, with all the energy and intensity and, yes, anger on stage. Amazing music, amazing choreography and an amazing life. Mr. Ngaujan brought fire and sincerity to his performance – which was not surprising, as he turned out to be well versed in African politics. When I mentioned Zimbabwe’s new diamond mines, he quipped: “Dig deep enough in Africa and you’ll find diamonds.” Ollie mentioned Sierra Leone’s female foreign minister Zainab Bangura and Mr. Ngaujan, who is of Sierra Leone, said she was doing all right. “She’s negotiating with multinationals – who’ll develop electricity, who’ll do the roads…We have nothing, you know; so she’s seeing who can give us what we need. Later will come the backlash.”

It was a good antidote to my weekend in Poland, at a conference where too much went into attitudinizing and about 90% of the discussion was a regurgitation of old ideas masquerading as new. I’d left Poland thinking about small countries, big tyrannies and then there was Nigeria. And Fela!
Go see the show. -- #

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Didn't Even Realize It

Was on Huffington Post and only found out when googling for a photo to send to Polland. Click on title above to access. Sorry for those who get posts automatically. I was trying to embed the link, hence the many versions of this post. Failed at it, too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Note on the Gaza Flotilla

In case you did not know it, Israel has universal health care -- courtesy of American taxpayers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Burp2: Crunching Numbers

The election aftermath in the Philippines seemed designed to strip the population – voting or otherwise – of its last fig leaf of dignity. Gone were the images of millions lined up for four-five hours under the cruel talons of a summer sun just to vote, a testament to a people’s hunger for a moment, just a split-second, of being able to wield control over their nation. In their place were now images of vociferous mouths shrieking “cheating,” of masked men with plastic noses rumbling “cheating,” of foreigners intoning “cheating,” of suddenly self-righteous men shrieking about offers of “cheating” for amounts from 50 million to one billion pesos.

Makes one wonder whether any of these screamers even briefly considered the impact of this on the said millions: peeling off the last veneer of possibilities from their awareness to re-affirm the mantra that they were stupid, ignorant and therefore must depend on the ruling oligarchy, and to revive their sense of the futility of life itself… No wonder practically everybody’s looking for a plane ticket out.

I’m reading all these news reports and wondering WTF they want: re-do the entire elections? Oboy.

Which is why I wasn’t too fired up over collecting my second winning bet, though the dinner revolved around fruits of the sea, paid for by this cadre-turned-actuarial who ruined my planned scenario by blurting out, immediately: “I read your blog. I want you to crunch the numbers now.” Oich! I pretended momentary deafness and concentrated on finding out how many sturgeon’s eggs one could balance on the tip of one’s tongue.

Okay, here goes: yes, Virginia, there is a women’s vote. Few post-election analysis will state that outright, as women are considered a minor species, but it explained the discrepancy between GWP and BM votes, and the discrepancy between LM and SO votes, as well as the wave that carried Ms. Hontiveros to number 13, following her decimation of Kit Tatad on the issue of reproductive health and safety, said wave having carried GWP consistently through past elections. Expect a scramble now among patriarchs for the women’s allegiance, without calling attention to the pivotal nature of women’s political participation, building what may be referred to as the sisterhood under the old-boys-network.

Yes, Virginia, the state of alienation of overseas workers from Philippine politics increases with time and distance and neglect, explaining the low voter turn-out – excuses and justifications notwithstanding. Material conditions of daily existence exert their primacy inevitably.

Yes, Virginia, if the spectrum of Lefts got together, they can bring a full senatorial slate to victory and probably elect a president; but it’s far easier to ally with class enemies than with ideologues quarreling over interpretations of passages from writings done 50 to a hundred years ago. It’s kind of like the priesthood where there can only be one pope. See Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, etc. In other words, check out histories of self-referent systems of beliefs and schisms.

And finally, yes Virginia, Philippine political power is becoming more and more balkanized among family dynasties, which are and will be major obstacles to the development of progressive democracy and justice in the Philippines. Family dynasties are totally without compunction, as we saw during the Marcos dictatorship, with regards to human, civil and women’s rights.

And finally, too, my losing bettor friend came out with the numbers he was interested in: “What was the price of the alliance? Any money trade-offs?”
Oich. “That I do not know,” I told him straight up. “If at all, that would only be known to a handful.”

“But if you were the one negotiating, how much would you ask for?”

“A senatorial candidate’s campaign costs about 125 million pesos. For two candidates, I would ask for 300 million pesos minimum, 500 million pesos max to cover this-that expense and brokerage fees. But that is only my thinking and again, I say I do not know.”

Footnote1: A great disservice was done in the tacit sanitizing of the Marcos clan. Unforgiveable. Don’t look now, but some people are bent on auctioning off Imelda’s jewels before the Arroyo admin ends. Cash and carry: they turn it to cash and carry it away.

Footnote2: If I knew how to cry, I would cry with Ms. Grace Padaca, who wept for the people of Isabela province when she lost to the Dy dynasty and its logger-allies once again – ironically, during the hottest summer of the decade in the archipelago. I’ve never been to Isabela but recall a gift of two foot-long sweet-fleshed lobsters from its then-pristine waters, a long, long time ago.

Cut the trees, boil your brain. -- #

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Last Fire Sale

To the last drop, it seems, the Arroyo government is bent on wringing the last cent out of the archipelago. Two items are pending: the sale of the power component of the Angat Dam, whose completion had been a source of pride for the country many years ago, and the country's 10% stake at the Malampaya oil fields. The haste leads one to wonder whose commissions are at risk here, should the government change hands before the sales are completed, and how this constant churning out of election protests feeds into a delay of the electeds' proclamation, so that the Arroyo administration and its flock of vultures will have as much time as possible to sop up whatever's left of the country's patrimony.

Don't look now -- but the last of the country's assets are on the auction block. Oil, power and water privatized weakens government exceedinlgy and dispossesses the people of control over the most basic of their needs. Next thing you know the tourist brochures will just simply say "Everything on sale." Don't look now. #

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Post Election Burp

Like Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” I find daily food a bore, so when three friends offered a bet of dinner each at restaurants of my choice on whether Manny Villar, Philippine presidential candidate, would win, I immediately accepted, having in mind three places with top chefs I could never afford. They thought he was going to win; I thought NOT. This was the month Villar was neck-to-neck with the eventual winner, Noynoy Aquino, and for a while there, I wondered if I would have to sell Guapo, the house ewok, to cover my bets – or maybe hand him over to the chefs.

Well. Burp. What an absolutely fab first dinner, paid by friend with the black visa card, while he ranted against his stupidity and I nodded in sympathy, so he wouldn’t notice I was eating his dinner, too. And to make up for the damage to his bank account – ice wine, fab!, with this unimaginable dessert of honey, filo dough, chocolate, strawberries and green tea ice cream, (if you ate as erratically as I do, you’d understand the bliss) – I gave him a comforting spiel about how I knew he and his candidate were going to lose. I plan to use the same spiel for the two forthcoming fab dinners as well:

“First, Villar’s slogan sipag at tiyaga, which presented him as having made billions from hard work and patience, which to 99.9% of Filipinos is hogwash, as they’re all on sipag and tiyaga on a dollar a day. The subtext of the message is if you’re poor, you’re lazy and impatient or if not, must be stupid, which the 99.9% will reject and cause them to think eh, balderdash, you did something nasty; nobody becomes a billionaire overnight in the Philippines without effing up the next guy… The other subtext is that you, the voter, is such a moron I can say anything and you’d believe it – quite an insult.

“A jeepney driver could’ve told him that and for half the money he likely paid an advertising agency, I could’ve given him a better slogan like negosyo’t trabaho which would’ve made sense, with his image as a successful businessman and be clear as well to the unemployed, underemployed and low-income masses… Filipinos are very good at teasing out subtexts so one’s message has to be clean of possible (mis)interpretations.

“Second, when he added Bongbong Marcos to his senatorial slate, which already included Left-wingers, he showed he was willing to discomfit even his allies for his own interests – i.e., selfish, no core values and no loyalty. Then he had those half-naked girls gyrating on stage, though he knew he had women candidates. Villar might have been from the poor but his actions showed he was so insensitive as not to see he was losing women’s votes in the process of titillating men.

“Third, the constant harping on his being rich, like he’s entitled to anything he wants or can buy… We hate that, don’t we? A rich person should be circumspect, tumabi-tabi diyan, as in line up for four hours to vote just like us... otherwise the impulse would be to take him down a notch or two.

"Class is not the sole criterion by which we judge an individual; to Filipinos, that’s leavened by character and record. Note that the people not only gave Noynoy millions of votes in advantage; they also backed Estrada over Villar. That’s not only being a fan but a backlash of anger against Villar's campaign callousness.”

Friend chewed that over instead of the white asparagus on duck – ummm good – and then rather crudely said: “Well your friends went down with him,” which warned me he’d noticed I was eating everything. "How do you think they'll spin that? What do you think they should do?"

Mull that over for a minute. I had wished and still wish Liza M had run as an independent; it had been painful watching her try to deal with the gross impositions of the Villar campaign, from Marcos to the Kembot Girls and the self-back-slapping of that lurid guy Willie whats-his-name. As painful as watching guerrillas try to give substance to the “failure-of-elections” hysteria – a Plan B, I suppose, in case the Villar alliance crashed and burned, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy…

Myriads of phone calls had reached me hyperventilating about “failure-of-elections,” the main ingredient being fear of Gloria staying in power – which left me quite non-plussed as it was clear she already had an exit strategy in place. I’m not sure whether her record of outmaneuvering the Left, or at least one of the Lefts, was due to her smarts or other’s denseness… in any case, there were days when I sort of walked around wondering if I was the only one in the whole universe unable to see this “failure of the elections” scenario, barking out to whomever on the cellphone, “the US won’t allow it, haven’t you heard of imperialism?”

But what do I say to my dinner partner, who’s found something to twit me with? Looked him straight in the eye and declared: “Focus on partylist gains instead of denouncing and kicking out whoever crafted the Villar alliance. Cover-up in lieu of criticism-self-criticism. It's nothing new."

I speared the last strawberry and ate it. -- #

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PS

I'm inundated with anti-Aquino propaganda from NP allies, cluttering my email, etc.

Thank you to all the other candidates and their allies who aren't sending me any.

Frozen Foreheads & Depression

As the Philippines head on the homestretch to the 10th of May elections, one can already see the rough outlines of the attack tactics and content of the leading parties. Against the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, the issues have been landgrabbing, stock manipulation, and use of government position to advance one’s private corporate interests. Against the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, the issues have been land reform, involving the family hacienda (sugar plantation) and mental health.

The last was fueled by two fake medical reports alleging that the LP candidate suffered from depression during the Marcos Dictatorship, when his father was in jail. Hello! The whole country was depressed during the Marcos Dictatorship, for chrissakes! If you weren’t depressed, you were a crony. Period. This prejudiced, biased and discriminatory attitude toward mental health issues is just barbaric beyond belief – Abraham Lincoln was depressive but that didn’t stop him from being a transformational president.

Considering this low level of political discourse, I am surprised no one has said anything about certain candidates' botox-ed frozen foreheads as indicative of their massive vanity and swollen egos. Pfft!

There’s been little discussion even of survival issues: typhoons and flooding, over-population, food self-sufficiency, health care, education, women’s rights, unemployment and labor export, sub-contract work by multinational corporations, the balkanization of the archipelago with the sale of land, islands even, to foreign corporations, etcetera.

Instead what’s on full display is the Filipino’s genius for propaganda and myth-making, reducing the whole sheebang into a spectator-sport, much like boxing -- which probably explains the orgiastic hysteria. This is what democracy’s all about?

What could have been an opportunity for mass education on what it means to truly have control over one’s country has been lost. -- #

Friday, April 23, 2010

Last One Standing

One has to give it to Atty. Robert Swift who has pursued, for 25 years, the class action suit of the 10,000 incarcerated, tortured, killed, during the Marcos Dictatorship. He and his law office just got the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas federal judge who dismissed a lawsuit for possession of 4,000 acres of land, said to be worth between $100-$150 million and said to be part of the Marcos Estate.

At roughly the same time, he won a $28 million claim in Singapore for the class action suit, which caused the Philippine government to ask for the list of names of the claimants. The court refused, saying the only purpose of this would be “retaliation by military and paramilitary groups who first abused these victims during the Marcos regime."

The case was filed way back in 1986 or nearly a quarter of a century ago. The legal principles established during this case, for which Atty. Swift won a judgment of $4 billion (with interest) has enabled other human rights abuse victims of other countries and other fascist governments to obtain cash judgments.

Unfortunately, not a cent has gone to the original Filipino claimants.

Everyone else seems to have made peace with the Marcos legacy. Me, I’d be happy to live on one acre… or maybe two.

Favorite Poem About the Earth


O sweet spontaneous


by e.e.cummings

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting

fingers of
purient philosophers pinched
and
poked

thee
,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy

beauty .how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
(but
true

to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover

thou answerest


them only with


spring)

---------------------------
For Earth Day 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gabâ From a Comedian

Visayan for come-uppance, whereby the thing we’re proudest of is destroyed, held up to the unbearable light of public ridicule. Manny Pacquiao, this time, since our noses went up a notch because of him, even though even a non-aficionada like me thought he was under-matched in the last two fights. This comedian not only dumped on him but, in true macho tradition, dumped on his people, especially “his” women – meaning the women of the Philippines, thus revealing the reality of how a large part of the world still looks upon us, despite Pacquiao.

Had Mr. Pacquiao responded with “I’ll give you three minutes in the ring with my legs shackled and my left hand tied behind my back,” I would have been edified. As it is, he merely forgave – FORGAVE!— the comedian who’s certainly NOT of the caliber of Stephen Colbert who nearly made me die of ecstasy with his comment that we have to fix Kyrgyzstan since it’s our top supplier of consonants. (FANNED!)

Mr. Pacquaio, listen up, I believe you have been under-matched in the ring and now over-matched with a low-brow comedian.

Meanwhile we all gear up to joust with said comedian. As we have done before, with a long list of quasi-, semi-, wannabe, celebs. I’ve done it myself, even threatening to picket the Oscars red carpet once, because I’m of the Philippines – meaning, nothing is worse than an insult, since we subscribe to the Schrodinger theory that nothing is what it is until it’s said to be what it is. Sex tours – maybe happens, maybe not, until someone points it out and then we shriek in fury.

I’m p---ed, people, because in the same week, some 300 Filipino teachers in Louisiana, aided by the American Federation of Teachers, sued a recruiting agency based in Los Angeles which, per the complaint, extorted thousands of dollars from this mostly female labor force. Horror of horrors, the agency owner is a kababayan, kalahi, katropa, ‘day, a compatriot, hija de… ONE OF US!

And there’s the rub, people. I wonder how many such material insult – outright exploitation – we’ve let pass, refusing to buckle on the armor of our righteousness, strap on the sword of our outrage because we accept that we can do unto one another what we expect the Other not to do to us.

We treat one another cavalierly, according to an internalized colonial value system; assume that work from a kababayan should be cheap, wages can be delayed, ideas stolen, help un-thanked, waste another’s time, and expect our own people to grovel before us…

A friend who’s a classical guitarist tells me he got a call from a woman wanting him to perform at her daughter’s 16th birthday party and who cruelly asks whether he could play Bahay Kubo, Leron-leron Sinta... I’m asked to edit something for free -- which was fine until I’m told that the favor-asker had hired a layout artist to set the text. To my face, WTF! It’s a class thing, you say, except the culprits aren’t even in my class. Nah, it’s colonial, feudal and imperialist. We’re cheap labor, simply because we're of the race.

Those who are not kalahi learn how to treat us by watching how we treat one another.

So raise the sword of outrage, get on the horse of righteousness and do battle on behalf of the 300… Fix the reality and the image will fix itself.

If not, we’ll get gabâ-ed over and over again, until we learn that respect should begin within our circle. -- #

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joke For the Church

Just read this note admonishing priests to read Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (Latin for Touch Me Not) which must have been taken from the (alleged) words of Jesus when he was newly risen. The note-writer translated it into Tagalog as 'Wag Mo Akong Hipuan or Grope Me Not...

Early Morning Big Laugh.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Love Those Bishops

Ang Ladlad, a party-list political party for Gays, Lesbians, Bi-sexuals & Transgenders, was finally given the go-signal by the Philippine Supreme Court to participate in the elections.

I believe it was co-founded by the erudite Danton Remoto.

In any case, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, chairman of the committe on public affairs of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said that the bishops would discourage people from voting for Ang Ladlad. He said, “We recognize them, respect them, but their situation is an abnormality. The person is approving and encouraging an abnormality, which is unnatural.”

Dear Bishop Iniguez, pedophilia, not homosexuality, is what's abnormal.

(HEAD SHAKE)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Addendum

News reports say a Benedictine monk from the Philippines has been accused of abusing a boy or boys in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He's now with the Abbey of Our Lady of Monserrat of San Beda.

Having grown up with stories of priestly shenanigans, I've often wondered how large a scandal would erupt once Filipinos/Filipinas get over their (ridiculous but absolute) fear of authority and decide to go for it...

In Queens, NYC, one Filipino priest was sued by a woman allegedly for taking advantage of her state of bereavement. A photo of him naked or half-naked was released and duly published by community newspapers.

I just adore our nastiness when we're aggrieved. #

Saturday, April 03, 2010

All Hail To the Goddess Ostara

Or Eastre – from which the words Easter and estrogen spring, and from whose rites –started sometime in 500 BC -- comes the egg, the ultimate fertility symbol.

Nanny used to wake me early Easter Sunday as the church bells rang and make me jump up and down on the bed so I’d grow really tall. I think she had dreams of raising a basketball star. Huge disappointment. I didn’t even get to tall.

Lent seems to grow bloodier and bloodier in the Philippines which spewed out gory images of flagellants shredding their backs to ribbons with thorny whips, of 25 people, including one woman, who had themselves crucified. Government issued an edict banning foreigners from crucifying themselves – and why not? – thus tacitly saying that only the local lower classes may do so.

STGdess, the idea that those who already suffer on a daily basis should corporeally punish themselves more and terribly one day of each year just does not compute to my mind. I don’t see the rich self-flagellating or nailing themselves to the cross, despite the admonition about the eye and the camel.

Unfortunately, this is the week as well when gory details of the sexual abuse of minors by priests and the resulting alleged Catholic Church cover-up or cavalier treatment of such are also spewing forth in global media, rendering the blood-sweat-tears religious passion of Filipinos almost a ridiculous contrapunta.

I can’t even be impressed by the 25 crucifixions nor by one woman letting herself be crucified – though that might make for apt symbolism as to how the Church treats women, what with the Bishops loudly demanding “off with its head” with regards to the condom, and “off with the vote” with regards to any candidate supporting the proposed Reproductive Health and Human Development bill before Philippine Congress. Six bishops have endorsed a "pro-life" candidate for president of the Philippines, that country of such ecological disaster and burgeoning population it's beginning to look like an early Delubio (The Deluge) over there.

And since I am nasty, I mutter that of course, they're all against repro health since their preferred partners can’t get pregnant. {cynical sneer}

With lawsuits, verbal attacks and defense over pedophile priests more strident each day, my one question is why those who knew about this evil did not report it to the police or some outside agency nor saw it as a criminal activity, and opted instead to leave the correction of the anomaly to the very organization to which the pedophiliac belonged. It took 14 years to defrock one such priest and he had access, it seems, to young people all that time.

Moral of the story: you leave one hierarchy to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner and all you get is injustice.

Which is why I’m going around saying “Praise be to Ostara!” -- #

Monday, March 29, 2010

For May First

Gearing up for the May 1st immigrant rights mobilization, here are data to clarify the debate, from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

• Immigrant workers come from Mexico (32%), the Philippines (4.9%),
India (4.9%), China (4.2%) and El Salvador (3.5%) -- top five
country-suppliers

• Immigrant workers comprise 15% of the workforce and 13% of unionized workers

• Immigrant workers who are unionized earn about $5 more per hour than
non-unionized workers.

It's curious that the Philippines -- which is quite a distance from the US and with a smaller population -- should rank equal to India. I am surmising that the Western-style educational system, a product of colonialism, comprises part of the impetus for emigration. I have to check whether the gender ratio for the Philippines (65% female) holds true for the other countries.

Being a predominantly female population has its advantages and disadvantages. The push to build a women's network is there; but the vulnerability to a predator (and that has many meanings to me, including political; many entities profess to be pro-woman but actually work to bring women under patriarchal control) is also pronounced.

Building sisterhood is always a step forward but replicating feudal or nativist power hierarchies among women works against equality. Such hierarchies are usually patriarchal based. Hierarchies, to my mind, should only be based on skill, ability, knowledge and capacity for work, so they represent more of a structure of competence and wisdom than anything else.

The drive for women's emancipation has or should have the undercurrent of enabling women to engage with one another and with society on the basis of democratic equality. The drive for women's liberation builds on this internal emancipation and pushes forward to crush class and other structures that exploit and oppress women. Minus one or the other and everything backslides.

My two cents for this month. -- ##

Monday, March 08, 2010

Factoids For International Women's Day

Alexandra Kollontai, the only woman in Lenin’s Central Committee, wrote about her life and gave the book the title “Autobiography of a Sexually Liberated Woman.”

After the death of Ossip Zetkin, her lover and comrade, Clara Zetkin married George Friedlich Zundel who was 18 years her junior.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Better Educated But Still Crummy Jobs, Pay

Saw this at www.globalsister.org.

Although more than half of the enrolled students around the world are women and girls, increased education has not lead to corresponding gender equality and achievement levels in employment and politics, and with regard to social norms. At all levels of education, school curiricula reinforce negative/traditional stereotypes of women as home makers, mothers, and devalued members of society. At the university level, many women are still confined to studying “soft” subjects within the social sciences, whereas men continue to dominate “hard” fields, like engineering, math, and technology.
....

In the Philippines, women have higher literacy scores than men, and more than twice as many women graduate from college (17.83% of women compared to 8.24% of men). However, women only represent 20% of engineering and law students, predominantly receiving degrees in female-dominated fields, like education and health. And alarmingly, in several regions of the world, for example Africa and parts of Latin America, while the majority of enrolled students are still female, the number of women and girls enrolled in school is declining.


It validates one distressing observation: Philippine women have just about done all the prescribed solutions to inequality but continuously find themselves in worse situations of gender oppression and exploitation. Note that majority of exported domestic workers from the Philippines are educated, some at post-grad level. And yet they find themselves back at household work. I half-suspect that calling such domestic workers serve to hide what should have been glaring: their re-feudalization in terms of the character of the work and in terms of what obligates them to accept becoming exported.

Oh, please, enough with the poverty narrative! That's just not the totality of it. - #

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Factoid

From Global Issues.org:

"For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment."

"The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money."

Is there a presidential candidate who will promise NOT to borrow or beg for aid?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Traditional Election Spread

Been getting emails asking what I thought of the coming (May) presidential elections. I sort of dithered, asking do I have to? (think about it, that is), one of the main reasons being that though there were so many candidates (99 who wanted to be president), 99% were uninteresting. If you’ve been born bored as I was, there’s no greater bane than uninteresting.

So finally, this week, when the inquiring emails reached a ridiculous 350, I took a look.

And decided I like the platform of Sen. Jamby Madrigal. Access it and read at her website – www.jambymadrigal.com. She seems to be engaged in a wide spectrum of concerns – from LRT long-lines to fisherfolks, to the Visiting Forces Agreement (she’s against it) and the Magna Carta of Women. Many women politician get to power by (re)molding themselves to symbolize the male traditional view of how a woman should be (as in non-controversial and malleable) and thus de-genderize themselves in the process, becoming a conduit for conservatism. Sen. Madrigal seems to have escaped this; seems, indeed, to have made it a point to buck this feudal-patriarchal system.

I say “seems” because I’ve never met her, don’t know her but must say I like her oomph and am sorry that she does not have as widespread support as she deserves.

Of the three principal candidates – Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar and Gilbert Teodoro –I can’t seem to find anything new or exciting. Joseph Estrada one must discount, as there are no second acts in the Philippines, unlike the US.

Gilbert Teodoro suffers from the legacy of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but despite that seems articulate and rational. Well-mannered, one must say.

Of Noynoy Aquino, just about all I say is that he's NOT likely to precipitate a Constitutional crisis to extend or maintain his power. Matter of family legacy. His father died for the 1935 constitution and his mother promulgated the 1987 constitution.

Not sure I can say the same for Manny Villar, who’s spending the peso equivalent of fistfuls of dollars to make it to the presidency, welding an unlikely alliance of right to left, making one wonder as to what his core values are…kind of indicating a monomania … It seems to me – seems again, as I’ve not met any of these protagonists and merely follow their pronouncements and actions through media – that Villar would not be one to hesitate were he to deem a constitutional crisis necessary to maintain, extend, enhance his powers.

That’s not an easy thought for someone who lived under martial law or has had to respond to many maneuvers of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her followers to maintain, extend, enhance her/their power this past decade.

A country whose constitution is constantly threatened does NOT have even an iota of security.

As for the rest, let me say right off the bat that I won’t even consider anyone backed by organized religion, religious sects, etc. The principle of separation of church and state was a hard-won one, through revolts, uprisings, revolutions, through centuries. Throwing it away simply because it is easier to live by dogma than to think and be responsible for one’s actions is just not my cup of tea – or coffee, preferably Jamaica Blue Mountain.

So we come to the final question: will I – should I -- endorse Jamby Madrigal? Hmmm, never endorsed any candidate before; nor am I sure it will do her much good but sure, why not, yes – on principle, based on her platform. -- #

Friday, February 19, 2010

Punk Rocker

Thought the only unconventional one in my entire clan was moi -- until niece Kat Rosca Taylor showed up and showed me. Only daughter of my younger sister, she does heavy metal cum punk rock, writes lyrics and is the lead vocalist and sole female in a band called Saydie -- which she pronounces Sehdi but which I keep (mis)pronouncing as "say die" -- as in say what? Click on www.myspace.com\saydiemusic, if you dare.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Birthday, An Anniversary & The End of Days




Fortunately, at 6 pm, some establishments fire up the quasi-torches at their walkways. If perchance, you left your lighter, you can stand on tiptoe and light your cigarette by torch fire. Which is what I did one early evening, to the scandalized glances of passers-by. It is useless waiting for the next cig addict so you can beg for a light. There are none, this being Hawaii which seems to have hit upon a most efficacious way to get rid of smokers. On my first day here, I was happily puffing along a walkway when a security guard yelled: “There’s no smoking from here to the curb!” Meaning, step on to the street so a car can flatten you.

This is one reason I’m usually morose over the prospect of being here. An erstwhile friend snapped last year when I was preparing to leave, “yeah, we’re sorry you’re spending a month in Hawaii!”

Couldn’t tell her that the sea’s so vast, the horizon too far, the sun too sharp – all on a daily basis -- I end up feeling suicidal. Everything seems to say “yehey, that’s the way it is; nothing to do about it.” I become so stressed out I walk three hours every day.

There are, some residents assure me, trade-offs versus life in NY; people may be in one another's pockets over here but the relationship is closer, warmer. Too close maybe as to take for granted an abusive co-dependency. When a building guard started talking to me about myself, I began to really miss NY, where equal opportunity gossips are shunned, like a sinning Amish. One resident said, “sorry, there are no boundaries here.” I became paranoid, fearful that this stranger on a bicycle would stop and ask me questions about my life. Or that guy in flipflops. Or the cook at the corner diner.

In any case, ahead of the POTUS, I arrived here to a birthday cake (Photo A), which I was assured cost more than my actual birthday gift. So, minus three or four thin slices which were given away, I ate the whole thing, reserving for last the placard with the chocolate Happy Birthday. I suppose that meant that I would “disappear” last my being an activist. Or that I will fight to the bitter end for chocolate. I also got a bunch of flowers (Photo B). But no lei. Apropos of which, on my return trip, when I told a La Guardia Airport porter where I had come from, he shouted: “And did you get leid?” Cracked himself up. Minus $5 from your tip, you scandalous New Yorker.

Shortly after the birthday cake came a different birthday, commemorated with a statement, the 41st of its kind. One paragraph gingerly endorsed Sen. Manny Villar as “the most nationalist” of the presidential candidates. Hmmm. That gives Villar the most consolidated and most disciplined electoral machinery.

Ditto Bongbong Marcos.

Acid Reflux.

To make matters worse, this laconic doctor framed his laconic diagnosis in this laconic manner: best-case scenario -- “if the infection reaches the prosthesis, the leg could be lost;” worst-case scenario -- “this germ is lethal.” My hair, all 24 inches of it, stood on end and stayed that way for the five days of treatment. Not mine; I was merely pretend-home-health-caregiver. In the end, though, I became the proud parent of a surgery scar. Laconic doctor was good.

I watched New Year’s fireworks from a 25th floor lanai alone and thought of 40 years ago. If the progressive vote base is 3,000,000 -- that would average out to 75,000 “turned” per year. The population is 92 million and assuming10 per cent or 9 million adherents would suffice for radical change, that would mean 6 million more or 80 years additional. At zero population growth.

Math can be so depressing. Can someone point to a hidden exponential trend somewhere in the equation?

When I finally made it back to NYC, the Great Bear Hunter, Guapo, welcomed me with a catch (Photo C), trading it for five macadamia nuts.

And how was your End of Days? -- #