Friday, October 31, 2014

Noli me tangere in the time of Binay, et al

The abuse now comes not from the hands of colonizers, but of our countrymen, and the primary cause of our misery comes not from the abuses themselves but from our refusal to see these abuses for what they truly are - crimes against the people. Noli me tangere, Jose Rizal called his portrait of Philippine society more than a century ago - do not touch it, do not talk about it, know that it exists yet just grin and bear it.

It's how it was then, it's how it still is now. Rizal, through Padre Florentino in the latter part of the sequel to Noli, EL Filibusterismo, asked what need we have for freedom when the slaves of today are the tyrants of tomorrow?

Jejomar Binay, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, current front-runner in the race to Malacanang in 2016, is at the center of the country's attention. We did this to Makati, we can do the same for the rest of the country - that sums up his justification for his ambition to become the next President of this country - he offers images of high-rise buildings, underpasses with escalators, luxury cars along the streets of the Central Business District where Dionisia Pacquiao can purchase a handbag that costs as much as three years' worth of blood, sweat and tears for the common Filipino worker. Hidden beyond the concrete monuments is the rest of Makati, representative of the rest of this country: Filipinos living below the poverty, nay, dignity line. 

The ongoing Senate hearings on corruption charges against Binay and his family want to turn our attention to the systematic, institutionalized plunder of the city's coffers that's been going on for as long as the Binays have been in power in Makati that made it possible for the family to own what's been alleged as "Hacienda Binay," the size of which can probably provide land to all of the thousands of Makati's homeless and more.

Why aren't there a million people massing up along EDSA, a  million voices calling for justice? Because to a lot of us, being in power means getting away with plunder, an opportunity to serve selfish interests. For if not, nobody would dignify the moro-moro that is Philippine elections - for how can anyone justify spending millions of pesos to win a seat that would pay a few thousands a month for the next three years? 

Try tallying up the cost of winning the chairmanship of any one of Baguio's biggest barangays, put it next to how much a barangay captain gets as salary. "Ang swerte naman niya," we say about the young man who's been accepted to the police force, not because he has been given the chance to serve the community, but because he now has the opportunity to get his hands dirty with money earned questionably.  

A cancer that's spread from head to toe, that's how deeply rooted corruption is in this country. Public service is an empty concept for most - the public's welfare can easily be set aside for the opportunity to pocket SOPs from inane public infrastructure projects like parking lots and gates in parks, throw in dozens of monograms on overpasses and waiting sheds. 

But consider, too, the role models this country had - the friars and governors-general for three centuries, the yanks for half, fellow Asians for a few years, no wonder we had Ferdinand Marcos for a couple of decades and two plundering presidents more recently one after the other. For that's what we were taught power translates to: impunity. It's time we change that. 

I've said this before and I say it again - for all of the failings of PNoy's administration, perceived or otherwise, it's efforts to punish people in power for crimes against the people is setting this country on the right track. But that "daang matuwid," as straight as it can be, is an uphill one and we can only get this country up there if most of us will get behind and help push it up. It's time we say no, being the president, vice president, a senator, congressman, governor, mayor, barangay captain, policeman, a person behind the desk at any government office does not give you the right to steal from the people, to take away hope from the farmers in the fields, the workers who carry hollow blocks on their backs from sun up to sun down, the children who walk kilometers before sunrise to get to school in time to sing "Aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi ang mamatay ng dahil sa'yo." 

Really, it is not, well, "OK lang" for people in power to steal, whether billions of pesos or a ream of bond paper, from the people. If the Binays, Revillas, Enriles, Estradas and for that matter, the Aquinos, et al did commit crimes against the people, they must be punished.   

Let me quote, albeit with a bit of paraphrasing, from playwright Malou Jacob's translation of Padre Florentino's conclusion in El Filibusterismo in the play, "Pepe" - 

Ang ating kasamaan ay sa atin din buhat, huwag natin sisisihin ang kahit sino. Hanggang ang bayang Pilipino ay wala pang sapat na tibay ng loob upang ipahayag ang kanyang karapatan sa lipunan at patibayin ito, sa pamamagitan ng sakripisyo ng ating sariling dugo, samantalang namamasdan natin ang ating mga kababayan na nakikisama sa mga nang-aabuso, upang kutyain ang ang mga inabuso. At hangga’t nakikita nating pinupuri sa tulong ng pilit na ngiti ang mga lalong nahahalay na kagagawan, at nagmamaka-awang humingi sa pamamagitan ng tingin ng isang bahagi ng napala.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Be and let be

It’s a simple question nobody seems to have a simple answer to: why are some people gay?

I was invited to be a speaker at the 5th Parents’ Congress organized by the Child & Family Service Philippines and the SLU Sunflower Children’s Center last October 11, and I was assigned this topic: “Doing Good for our LGBT Children: Psychological Tips on Raising Happy Gay Kids.”

I arrived early so I got to listen to the presentation of Ms. Annie Salvador, and she said something that almost made me review my own presentation, perhaps even revise it: according to research, “homosexuality MAY NOT BE ENTIRELY learned or acquired.” Caps mine.

I sat there, waiting for my turn at the podium, thinking: I don’t have scientific research or studies to cite, and only had experience to go by. Does that count?

Because, see, I was born in the 70s, to a mother who’s a theater actress. You know what they say about theater, so yeah, I grew up surrounded by gay people. In fact, I was told that at my Christening, all my godparents were gay men save for one woman. One of them found time to gather butterflies to release in church to celebrate my baptism. Another came in drag.

Later in life, at 14, I myself would enter the world of theater. My very first professional gig was directed by a brilliant theater artist - gay. That production was handled by one of the best stage managers in the industry - gay. I was curious about what goes on backstage and worked as a stagehand for a while before eventually becoming a stage manager myself eventually. And as one, I got to work with some of the greatest theater artists in the country, and a lot of them were gay.

In all those years working for various theater companies in Manila, easily half, maybe more, of my colleagues and friends were either gay, lesbian or bisexual. I even learned to speak the lingo, which prompted my own mom to ask me one night: are you gay?

So why am I straight? All the “ingredients” were present for me to “learn” or “acquire” homosexuality. Heck, I even found my gay-couple friends’ relationships kinda cool that I actually wondered if I could ever be in one. But when I thought about it, I found the idea of myself being intimate with another man repulsive, perhaps in the same way that a gay man would find the idea of being intimate with a woman repulsive too. Bisexuals are kinda lucky, if you ask me.

On the other hand, I have a son who was raised in a “straight” environment – as a child we played all those “masculine” games, I taught him to climb trees, play basketball, hit cans with a slingshot, he had monster trucks and action figures, etc. He’s gay, and proud of it, as I am of him too.

See, from where I stand, it’s not a virus, nor a bacterium that anyone can catch. Nor is it a “mannerism” or “skill” that can be learned or acquired. We are either born straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual – some of us embrace our sexual orientation, whatever that may be, and live happily outside the closet, others spend their lives inside it and in denial, oftentimes forced to do so by external influences: relations, peers, community, society.

But who can really deny nature? Dams burst because we try to deny water’s nature. Grass will grow no matter how many times you mow the lawn. Birds in cages can never be as beautiful as the ones soaring in the sky.

So yeah, be and let be.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On October 16, 2014 (Sunny side up)

count your blessings, one coin
at a time
the garbage truck's late
today and
the car's all out of gas

so you walk, and walk some more
carry all that stuff
on your back
and one by one
you drop them
leaving traces on the ground

just remember never to walk this way again

Today's happiness is two sunny side up eggs.

That's why I stopped making art

Every now and then, this runs in my head - “If everybody knows everything, then nothing means anything. Everything’s a cliché. That’s why a stopped making art.”

From the "Artist," one of the pieces in Eric Bogosian’s play, “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bring it on

A column, a powerpoint presentation, menu for the weekend, and set up for tomorrow's film showing and Sunday's concert...

Got almost everything I need... bring it on!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A reliable source is someone who was there and saw it with his own eyes

The following spread via text messaging and Facebook posts the past few days:

"From very reliable sources. Unseen by the public eye, SM has been slowly cutting the trees they were not allowed to cut. Tenants on that side of the mall were given until December to vacate their spots after which construction will commence TO EXTEND THE MALL, NOT BUILD A PARKING extension. Pls spread the word."

It would be good to know where this message came from. We had so many of these during the height of the protest against SM City Baguio - during that first rally, we all trooped from Malcolm Square to Luneta Hill when one of the speakers at the rally announced that SM has started cutting trees only to find out that it wasn't true. But that announcement caused emotions to run high that almost led to a violent confrontation with the police and SM's security guards. 

So I wonder who sent the original message, and who the reliable sources were. See,one of the members of the protest movement took it upon himself to do an ocular inspection and took photos of the expansion site - the photo showed no tree-cutting activity. Another photo taken by a local lawyer on October 1, 2014 and posted on Facebook showed the same (click here to view the photos).

So where did it come from? Could the message have come from SM City Baguio, to sort of test the waters? Could it be the handiwork of agents provocateurs?   

So much disinformation is going around that we have to remind ourselves that just because it's on Facebook, or somebody said it and spread it that it's true, in the same way that just because it's not on Facebook doesn't mean it's not happening. 

So before we panic, or react, let's go through it point by point. 

1. "Unseen by the public eye, SM has been slowly cutting the trees they were not allowed to cut." 

In April of 2012, a 72-hour Temporary Environmental Protection Order was issued by the court, and eventually extended to until the termination of the case filed against SM with Branch 15 of the Regional Trial Court. 

That case was decided by the late Judge Antonio Estevez in December, 2012, dismissing the case that we filed. And while we have since filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, that decision of Branch 15 of the Baguio RTC effectively lifted the TEPO it issued. 

The case is still pending with the Court of Appeals. 

2. "Tenants on that side of the mall were given until December to vacate their spots after which construction will commence..."

We have yet to verify this information but initial probes revealed this also unverified information: there is a tenant who runs two shops located on the side of the expansion site whose lease is being terminated for violating SM's internal rules. 

We are still trying to verify both of the above information. 

3. " will commence TO EXTEND THE MALL, NOT BUILD A PARKING extension."

While the movement also pointed out in its protest against the plan that building an additional parking facility may contribute to the traffic congestion in the area for this will just encourage motorists to bring their car into the city's central business district, the SM City Baguio expansion plan has always been a mall extension, which just happened to have a parking facility incorporated in the design.   

We still stand by our opposition to the expansion plan as it was originally presented to the public in late 2011. SM has since redesigned its expansion plan (See; Option 2). Reactions to the redesign have been varied - some welcomed it, some rejected it. 

As for me, I opposed the expansion plan and continue to oppose it because I believe that removing one of the last forest covers in the Central Business District....

...would adversely affect the air quality in the area.
...sets a dangerous precedent: if SM was allowed to do it, why can't other corporations do the same? We saw this already in the Moldex construction project along Marcos Highway.
...would increase the risk of soil erosion in the area that could result in landslides, endangering lives and properties directly below the hill.
...would greatly reduce the water absorption capability of the hill which may result in increased water run off in the area.

I say it again: it's not so much about what they're going to build, but what they would kill in order to build it.