Monday, November 23, 2015

Kung handa ka nga sa Rehimeng Duterte

Ayun, matapos ang ilang beses na paroo't parito, tatakbo si Rodrigo Duterte, Mayor ng Davao na kilala bilang tigasin, matapang, walang-takot na amining handa siyang pumatay ng ganun-ganun lang, nang hindi napapatunayan ng korte, "beyond reasonable doubt," kung ang isang tao nga'y nagkasala basta't sa mata ni Duterte ay dapat na nga siyang itumba.

Ang daming masaya sa deklarasyong ito, mga naniniwalang siya nga ang magsasalba sa bayan mula sa katiwalian, sa korupsyon, sa kriminalidad, sa kahirapan at iba pang sakit ng lipunang Pilipino.

Ang sarap nga namang panoorin sa TV, nakakaaliw, kung ang presidente ng isang bansa ay nagmumura, bumubuga ng mga katagang pang action movie na walang sinabi sina Julio Valiente, Leon Guerrero, Asiong Salonga atbp. sa bagsik ng mga salita.

Handa ka nga ba sa isang Rehimeng Duterte?

Ingat ka sa lansangan, lalo na siguro kung lalaki kang mahaba ang buhok, gulanit ang maong - alam mo yun, yung sa mata ng karamihan e kung hindi man tulak e gumagamit ng droga. Baka kasi mapagkamalan kang yun na nga, tulak, o baka may kamukha kang wanted na kriminal dahil isang bala ka lang. Pwedeng-pwede mangyari yan pre sa ilalim ni Duterte - sa iyo o sa kahit sino. 'Di ba't yun ang nagustuhan mo sa kanya, kung paano niya diumano nilinis ang Davao?

Teka, siya nga ba mismo ang pumisil sa gatilyong kumitil sa buhay ng ilang "suspected criminals" sa Davao? Hindi naman siguro. Ilang taong nabigyan ng baril, ng kapangyarihang kumitil ng buhay - paano kaya naiseguro na yung iniwan nilang bangkay sa bangketa e tunay ngang nagkasala? At kung nagkasala man, buhay nga ang dapat nilang bayad sa pagkakamaling iyon? Meron din kayang mga nagkaatraso lang sa isa sa mga tauhang ito?

At dahil labag sa batas hindi lamang ng Pilipinas kundi ng kahit saang sibilisadong lipunan ang ganyang uri ng hustisya, handa ka rin bang ibasura ang konstitusyon, ang batas? Dahil kung payag kang gawin ito sa Davao, payag kang gawin ito sa buong bansa, at malamang ay payag ka ring balewalain ng Rehimeng Duterte ang iba pang mga batas kung sa tingin niya ay hadlang ang mga ito sa kanyang uri ng hustisya.

Ingat ka rin sa pagpuna sa isang tulad ni Duterte, sakaling mahalal nga siya (salamat sa boto mo), kung hindi man siya, ay baka masamain ito ng mga taong bibigyan niya ng mga baril at kapangyarihang mamaril.

Handa ka nga bang sabihin na karahasan ang paraan para ibangon ang ating bayan?

Ako kasi, hindi e.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The coming out of Henry Sy and his empire

After all that has transpired, I must admit that deep inside me I still believed that they, Henry Sy and his family, still possessed a bit of sense of decency. Until Banco de Oro, a Sy-owned bank, came up with these:

Somebody up there in the Sy empire thought of this, somebody up there gave the go-signal to the advertising agency to go ahead and explore this idea, somebody up there must really believe in what these ads stood for: a self-centered, uncaring, apathetic existence is the ideal, and caring for things other than one's self and own interests is laughable and indeed must be mocked. Shame on all of you: from the Sys to the advertising professional prostitutes who must have swallowed their own sense of morality for that fat BDO paycheck. 

Despite all these...

1. SM City Baguio's attempt to destroy a forest for a parking building and the questionable and immoral way in which they gave this attempt a semblance of legality and morality
2. The way SM City Baguio corrupted several government institutions, several government personnel, journalists, people from the community, et al to advance their selfish interests
3. The way SM City Baguio made a mockery of our legal institutions when they defied a court order (a Temporary Environmental Protection Order) and killed decades-old full-grown trees and having their battery of highly-paid lawyers justify the act by twisting the facts, the law and common sense
4.  The way SM City Baguio, through its henchman Bien Mateo, shrewdly and deceptively pretended to listen to the clamor, the plea of the people to set aside their selfish interest in Baguio and save as much of one of the city's fast disappearing remaining forest covers for the benefit of its people, its children, its future by presenting a re-designed plan that would save all of the remaining trees on Luneta Hill, only to once again mock the trust that the convenors of the protest movement sincerely offered and went ahead with the killing of the practically all of the remaining trees in the area
5. Etc., etc., etc.

... Still, I hoped, believed that they somehow, yes, like most human beings do, that they still had some sense of decency, of compassion, or responsibility and that one day Henry Sy, or Hans, or Teresita, or this Bien Mateo or one Jansenn Pe will wake up and realize the immorality of their expansion plan and stand up for the good of the community, the rights of Baguio's people and her children to a healthy and safe environment - that they will realize that it can't always be just about money, something they already have so much of to last for as long as they live and for many generations to come.

But no. With the above ads, SM and its minions and henchmen just outed themselves: they are indeed the epitome of greed, of what is wrong in the world today, of bad, and yes, of evil.

And as long as there are Sys lording it over this country, and as long as we continue to empower them to do so, there is no hope for this country.

Henry Sy doesn't care, SM doesn't care and BDO will always find ways to make money, even at the expense of others.

Shame on you, shame on you!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#16 Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City

That yellow structure on the right side of the frame, directly behind the basketball hoop, that's where I grew up - #16 Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City. That entire row of houses running the length of the basketball court - plus a few more meters on both sides, all of that's #55, actually. But my grandmother didn't like that number, so she just decided on her own that our house would be #16.

The house wasn't always like that. Back then, it was wooden, elevated high enough to avoid getting flooded during the rainy season. A creek behind the house rises dramatically during downpours. We had a "silong," under the house, which eventually was turned into three small apartments. When the "silong"was first walled off, an uncle, a bachelor at the time, used it as a pad. That's where I spied one morning that he had a girl with him. They would marry eventually and live in one of the "apartments."

Road 7 wasn't concreted back then - the asphalt surface was where I learned to ride a bike, skinned my knee countless times, drew a sun on when clouds threatened rain...

Road 7 had a unique light. Sunrise came from the rice fields across the creek, it would enter the window of the kitchen, the grills making a nice pattern on the floor. I took that light with my breakfast of diluted Blend 45 cup of coffee, into which I dipped my pandesal with Dairy Creme.

With the harsher late morning light that gets harsher towards noon comes Kulot, the taho vendor. Pre-lunch snack. If mom was in the country, Kulot would usually get a mouthful for shouting too loud and waking her up. She's up, I'll ask for some change for my taho. The puto vendor usually comes soon after Kulot leaves.

At the two in the afternoon, most of #55 (and #16, too) would be asleep, siesta time while the rest of the neighborhood would either be idling at any one of the few sari-sari stores, reading the week's comics (Hilaga, Holiday, Funny), or playing bingo near the row of houses near the balon (where that group of #55 houses in that area get their water) surrounded by kangkong and talbos ng kamote. For me and my gang of friends, that meant getting out our panungkit and net bags and off we would go to explore the rest of Project 6 and nearby barangays (Pag-asa, Vasra, Sanville, Carmel, etc.) for generous homeowners with fruit tree in their front yards. Depends what time of the year it was, the loot would either be or a combination of mabolo, santol, makopa, kaimito, duhat, avocado... 

If we're not in the mood for fruits, then off to Alley 11 we'd go to buy fish hooks and nylon strings and the panungkit becomes a fishing pole. There's always dalag to be caught in that creek behind our house. If we're not too lazy to just sit at the banks, we'll chop down banana trunks, skewer them together with bamboo and the resulting raft can take us all the way to the public market area downstream.

The basketball court wasn't always a basketball court. We called it the "playground," the space wasn't cemented and that's where we ran around to our hearts' delight - all morning, all afternoon, in the evening we took over the street when there were less cars passing. There were monkey bars there when I was little, rusty, missing a joint here and there which was a castle, a fort, a car, a space ship, a house or anything our imagination wanted it to be.

One day, the main road where the jeeps passed, Road 3 underwent major repairs. The asphalt surface was removed in preparation for its concreting. It took a while for the cement trucks to come, and while the workers prepared Road 3 for concreting, #55 Road 7 (along with the lone #16 house) prepared areas of the house that may need concreting. And after weeks of digging, removing, grading, and whatever else needed to be done before concreting, the trucks came - and Road 7 was ready. It didn't matter what time it was that they poured concrete, we were there, the whole neighborhood each one with their own bucket to catch the excess cement that was pushed to the side when they leveled the surface.

If you wanted your kitchen or bathroom floor concreted, you caught a bucket-load, ran as fast as you can to pour that at your own construction project at home, and ran back to get more.

The concreting of Road 3 took a while, but by the end of it, a lot of the homes had concrete walls, floors, the pathways from the road side to maze of homes in the area were cemented too, and the playground... that was the time it was tuned into a concreted basketball court.

We were one of the first to have a television set in the neighborhood, and prime time TV meant having heads at our window in the evening. If my banig wasn't set up yet for the night, then I'd sometimes let some of the neighbors inside the house to watch a Friday special, Piling-piling Pelikula. At the end of whatever it was we watched, everyone would spill out onto the street to talk about it. Us kids would reenact some of the notable scenes such as the zombies in Panday running after Bentot Jr. We'll take turns playing Bentot Jr. 

There was Mang Rudy, the handyman whom you called for anything from dog bites to changing the fuse to fixing a leaking pipe.

There was Mang Frank and his taxicab, Kuya Dan and his well-maintained owner-type jeep.

There was Mang Inggo and his vegetable garden.

There was Mang Ipe and his sari-sari store and Pool Table (or pul, chips instead of billiard balls on a square table with holes at the corners where you shoot the chips in).

There are more memories, I can actually leave this blog entry open and just keep on adding as they come, and I wouldn't be able to really say, "that's it, all 14-15 years' worth, give or take a few months after we moved to a new house in 1988 whenever I'd run back to #16 Road 7 whenever life makes an unexpected turn.

Our house, where I swear I saw elves climbing the sink, out the kitchen window and down the creek, was sold some time in the nineties. And the new owners tore it down and built that concrete multi-storey structure.

I believe that's when I stopped visiting Road 7, Project 6, Quezon City.

It's hard to see what the picture above actually shows - the dull gray of the road all, the imposing roof over the basketball court, and the walls. All I see is my wonderful childhood.    


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Duterte, Marcos, genocide and why I'm very, very afraid

Someone I know has already admitted to slowly falling for the rhetoric, she adds though - "Ng slight." She's not alone, and that scares me.

Duterte had no problem saying in public that he's more likely to be jailed for murder and genocide than plunder. I will not steal, but I will send people to their death, maybe even entire groups of people. Why should he worry? Hardly anybody thought there was anything wrong with that. 

Although he did also say that if elected to a higher office (read: the presidency), he will do all he can to restore the death penalty. So I'm not sure if the murder/genocide will be State-sanctioned under his presidency, or if it will take the character of the infamous/famous Davao Death Squad, which sent criminals, both petty and hardened, ALLEGEDLY, to their graves. The youngest victim of this vigilante group was said to be 14 years old.  

It scares me to think that by next year, the most powerful man in this country has no problem having a person who has not been proven without reasonable doubt to have committed a crime... killed, and that a lot of us are applauding that. Are we ready to believe that to turn things around in this country, the people need to be afraid, not empowered, but very, very afraid? Are we really ready to just cheer to have a president who promises genocide? 

And here comes Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. with, "what am I to apologize for?" when asked about his father's regime. The regime that caused the disappearance or death of thousands, that suppressed our freedom, the regime that made a whole nation live in fear while those in power and their cronies plundered, murdered with impunity. 

Every day, social media is filled with "Buti pa noong panahon ni Marcos" posts, memes, videos, etc., a brazen Orwellian attempt to erase the horrors of Martial Law from our collective memory 

Marcos is being touted as a possible Duterte running mate. It's gaining ground. And I'm afraid, very very afraid. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Macondo, Benguet

The sun has yet to come out in Baguio for the month of July. It's the 16th already, 25th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that brought the city down to its knees in 1990.

Monsoon season in Baguio - time for afternoons  by the fireplace, power interruptions, landslides and moldy clothes. We just moved to a new house - much smaller than the one we were staying in the last couple of years, but this feels more like home. We lost a huge yard, gained a fireplace. We can always plant in pots, but the fireplace, ahhh the fireplace. Mom & Pop closed down their grocery store, but kept the flower shop. They still sell firewood but there has been no deliveries the past couple of weeks. So we've had to make do with the dozens of boxes we've emptied trying to settle into this new house.

We've lived in practically all major areas of Baguio since we decided to settle here in 1996. Suello, Campo Sioco, QM, Gibraltar, Gen. Luna, Leonila Hill, Aurora Hill, Asin Road, Quezon Hill, Tacay Road, Mines View, Tam-awan, back to Asin and back to Mines View.

Once we were offered to squat on a parcel of land up Mt. Sto. Tomas. For P5,000 or so we could've built anywhere in a specific area. But we didn't want to free ourselves from rent that way. We could've probably made a killing the last few months at the height of the La Presa gold rush. Ah, well.

We've been here a few days, and only got a glimpse of the mountains of Ambuklao twice, very briefly when the fog cleared for a few minutes. Power went out for an hour or so earlier. It's back now, cable's out so I put the Godfather II on the DVD player for the nth time and let that serve as ambient sound while I try to get some work done.

We commemorate our 20th year together tomorrow, Rl and I. What a ride it has been! What's in store in the coming years? Would a house of our own finally be in the horizon? Who knows. In the meantime, we just want to clear enough space in front of the fireplace as it seems like the rain will go on for a few more days.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lights fade out, lights fade in

New home. New beginnings. New rituals and traditions.

New stories.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In fairness to the MAPEH teachers

That may not have come across very well... my sentiments on MAPEH teachers taking over mentor posts in Baguio City National High School's Special Program for the Arts. As one commenter pointed out, they too underwent training on the subjects covered: Music, Arts, Physical Education, Health. But here's why I think it's not enough.

We are talking about students who have shown potential to become really good in either one of the different specializations, and if the idea is to hone, enhance, develop such talents, we need teachers who can provide way more than basic education in Music, or Arts in general, which is basically what MAPEH teachers are trained to provide.

If my car needs its oil changed, I can to basically any car repair shop, even a gasoline station, to have it done. The personnel there may know a bit about car engines, where the spark plugs are, where the air filter is, but they won't be able to take down that whole engine and work it from the inside out because they have neither the knowledge nor skill and most probably the tools to overhaul an engine. So if I need to enhance the performance of the engine itself, that would need a specialist. Someone who, on top of knowing how to change the oil, or the air filter, or the spark plugs, also studied the art and science of car engines, has a deeper understanding of how each piston, each spark plug, each moving part contributes to the over-all performance of an engine. Someone who knows how different one engine is from another, because each one is different, with different parts, different capabilities, knows that some engines run on diesel and some on gasoline, that some will do better on open highways at high speeds while others do better climbing hills.

The previous article did not mean to put MAPEH teachers down, I'm sure most if not all of them are good on the subject, but their training was meant not for a special program for theater, or visual arts, or dance, or media arts (by the way, MAPEH covers basically two fields of expertise: visual arts and music, and theater/media arts/dance aren't covered by the subject).

With this, I can only hope that the school would go out of their way to really equip the new teachers with the appropriate knowledge and skills to be able to really produce the country's future artists who can help each of us have a better understanding and appreciation of the world around us, and life in general.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bangsamoro Band-Aid Law (Or offering an ARMM and a Leg)

Atty. Sittie Amirah Pendatu of the legal team of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) couldn't stress it enough - nowhere in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law do the words "Islamic State" appear. Yet her presentation of the government's latest peace ransom belie her claim.

Just a few points of interest that caught my attention during the forum last May 29, 2015:

- "Consistent with the Principle of Autonomy and the asymmetric relation of the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government, the President shall exercise general supervision over the Bangsamoro Government to ensure that laws are faithfully executed." So the person elected by the people of the Republic of the Philippines, from Luzon to Mindanao, shall only have "general supervision" over the Bangsamoro region.

- The national government gets zero percent share from revenues derived from mining operations involving non-metallic resources.

- The redundancy of this provision, "In addition to the basic rights already enjoyed by the citizens residing in the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro Government shall guarantee the following enforceable rights..." followed by a list of rights already provided for and protected by the Constitution. Double redundancy: the provision ends with "The Bangsamoro Parliament may pass a law for the promotion and protection of the above-enumerated rights."

More questionable provisions have been tackled in this article: UP LAW EXPERT: The Lies of the Bangsamoro Basic Law

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was a result of peace negotiations/efforts between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). That didn't sit well with some factions within the rebel group who believe that the Bangsamoro region should be an independent Islamic State, the ARMM was rejected, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was born, and the armed conflict in Mindanao continued. 

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is now on the table, and the MILF likes what it sees. I asked Atty. Pendatu, "5, 7 or ten years from now, who will we have not consulted, the Abu Sayyaf? The Rajah Sulaiman Movement? Jemaah Islamiyah? And what are we going to offer then? How about the New People's Army? What did they want again?

Section 5 of our Constitution declares: "No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed." To me, the Bangsamoro Basic Law contradicts the first part of this section, and whatever its proponents' aspirations are are protected by the latter half.

Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as follows: "the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal."

With Mamasapano on my mind, it's difficult not to see what the BBL for what it is: a political goal achieved by engaging in violence and other acts of terrorism. 

We acknowledge the struggle of the people of Mindanao, whether Muslims, Lumads, Christians, etc., as we acknowledge too the injustices experienced and being experienced by other groups, communities, by families and every Filipino, and as in most conflicts, violence never achieves true justice. A Band-Aid in one part of the body will not heal a wound that's very deep and affects the whole nation. 

Take it from Rizal: "Why independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?"

Monday, May 25, 2015

Not-so-Special Program for the Arts

Some years ago, ca. early 2000's, every summer, I would get invited by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to help facilitate a theater workshop for teachers from all over the country. They were members of the faculty of the Department of Education's Special Program for the Arts, and I would usually various classes on theater: Acting, Directing, Stage Management, Technical Direction, etc.

A lot of the teachers assigned to this special program were former P.E. teachers, and for some of the participants in that workshop with whom I continued to work with outside the workshop, it was inspiring to see them grow into their new tasks: help mold their students into the country's future artists and culture bearers. Such a program used to only be available at the Makiling High School for the Arts, and having the privilege of knowing some of the school's alumni: Raymond Red, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Soliman Cruz, to name a few, I was really excited by the idea that the Department of Education has expanded the program to pilots schools all over the country.

When the opportunity for one of our children to be in the program at the Baguio City National High School (BCNHS) presented itself, we grabbed it. Our daughter has been taking ballet lessons and was really showing some potential. She took the written entrance examination and passed it, and the next couple of weeks were spent preparing her for the next step: a dance audition. She passed that too.

On her first year, as part of the first batch to be in the recently implemented K-12 program, much of their time was spent learning indigenous dances along with some traditional folk dances. Our daughter would come home excited to show us a new movement she learned and the story behind each step.

They got to experience performing infront of audiences too as their group would usually be invited to showcase a dance or two at various functions within and outside the school. I was already thinking of how much farther she can get in the field of the performing arts when she gets to college. I personally knew some of the first alumni of the BCNHS Special Program for the Arts and was immensely impressed by their talents. I worked with some of them when I had  a brief stint as an artist-in-residence at the University of Baguio (2005-06) and they delivered like professionals in each of the productions we staged.

From the early to the mid-2000's, Baguio City National High School was already slowly evolving into one of the city's arts and culture destinations - then, they regularly staged exhibits, plays, dance and musical performances that showcased amazing young talents. But in recent years, that stopped.

A couple of months ago, some of these alumni, most of whom have pursued more lucrative careers in other fields yet maintained their interest in the arts, while others actually started careers in various institutions engaged in different fields of creative expression, invited me to do a talk for this year's graduating batch. They were particularly concerned about the last few batches' apparent disinterest in pursuing careers in the arts.They were simply uninspired.

A new person was has been installed to head the SPA program of the school and one of her first directives was to trim down the "specialization time," or the time the young artists spent working on their craft, from two hours per day to just an hour. As a theater artist myself, I can't imagine what can be accomplished within just an hour. For theater, warm up and vocalization exercises already take up to 15 minutes leaving only 35-40 minutes for rehearsals or acting exercises to allow for at least 5-10 minutes for the students to cool down and prepare to go to their respective academic classes. It's basically the same with dance. Clearly, the new head has no real experience nor knowledge about the performing arts, or perhaps even the arts in general.

And then we received information that all the current mentors/advisers of all the specializations - dance, theater, musical, literary, visual and media arts were being replaced, mostly by MAPEH teachers. The current mentors have undergone several workshops, training sessions under different institutions through the years, and now they will be replaced by Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health teachers most of whom received their education through textbooks. The reason for the replacement isn't clear, but I'm almost certain that politics isn't totally out of the equation here.

Given the above circumstances, we now believe that the program may just do more harm than good as far as the children's potential creative talents are concerned so we decided to pull our daughter out of the program.

A bureaucratic approach to the program is what's slowly killing it. With Master's Degrees and Ph.D.'s being a dime a dozen these days, people may be given such lofty positions in the government bureaucracy, including public schools, on the basis of their years in service (which do not necessarily translate to wisdom/knowledge or actual skills) and 100% attendance in their post-graduate studies.

Sayang, is the only word I can think of. The Baguio City National High School's Special Program for the Arts held so much promise. But right now, it's just not special anymore.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Baguio in the time of Domogan

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ In Baguio today, it's more like - those who choose to ignore history cannot learn from it.

Here's a portrait of today's Baguio: a tiny highland city a kilometer and a half or so above sea level with an estimated resident population of half a million with hardly enough resources to sustain such a huge population, its carrying capacity further burdened by tourists whose numbers can go as high as a million on occasion, water has been rationed since time immemorial where most households receive water only for a couple of hours once a week, a city facing a waste management crisis and its administrators are hardly doing anything substantial to address the problem, pollution levels are at an all time-high and continue to rise, crime is also on the rise and, perhaps with the exception of the few years under Japanese occupation, the quality of life of its residents are at an all-time low.

Fairly recent developments - City Hall approved and defended a mall's planned expansion which had almost two hundred trees, most of which are decades-old pine that served as one of the few remaining forest covers in the city's central business district, the Rose Garden at Burnham Park was "developed" which significantly reduced its natural space and replaced with concrete and a dancing fountain, the city's congressman caused the death of hundreds of pine trees in a forest reserve and the contamination of the areas water resources compromising the welfare of thousands of residents, and its aesthetically-challenged, shortsighted, unsentimental Mayor who has occupied various seats in the local government of Baguio for more than two decades is determined to trample on the historical value of two heritage sites: the Baguio City Hall (where they want to build a fence around it and concrete structures right in the tree-covered gardens that beautifully frame the government building) and the Melvin Jones Football Grounds (that the Mayor think nothing about digging up to erect a parking facility - his solution to the city's worsening traffic situation). 

It is interesting to note that the current mayor, Mauricio Domogan, seem to be obsessed with parking facilities having figured prominently in the Jadewell on-street parking fiasco that caused his erstwhile political sidekick, Bernardo Vergara, the mayoralty but he was lucky enough to survive the backlash and still bagged the city's lone congressional seat in the 2004 elections).

Both the Baguio City Hall and Burnham Park where the football grounds eyed as the site for this parking facility is located are declared heritage sites - as such, any improvements, alterations, construction activity must go through and be approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). Why?

I was fortunate enough to have been able to visit Paris, France as a young man, and I will never forget the experience. Perhaps it worked to my advantage that this was way before the advent of digital cameras, so I took in all of that Parisian visuals with my eyes and not through an lcd screen and saved all of it in my mind and not in some memory card, the reason why I can still vividly recall not only the images but the whole experience itself. 

Paris has a soul, it is alive and the city speaks to you, it tells you her story with every cafe, building, park, boulevard and side street. All infrastructures in the city complemented the city's heritage, its feel, its soul. Two major structures built a century apart do jump out of the renaissance painting that is the Parisian skyline: the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. 

Mayor Domogan is not proposing to build an Eiffel Tower and a Louvre. Not at all. 

At the City Hall grounds, he wants a fence that will serve as "protection" from vandals and is not meant to deny the public access to the grounds. A stage is also part of the this improvement design "to be used by performers..." Local advocacy groups have denounced the project. Mayor Domogan defended it saying that the construction project is not meant to deface a historical site and that this will, in fact, enhance its historical value. 

Why am I not buying that? I just have to look at the "improvements" done at the Rose Graden in Burnham Park where parcels were cemented over reducing the area's natural space significantly and and how the place ended up with a "dancing fountain" but much less roses. I have just to look up at the mostly empty flyover at the Baguio General Hospital rotunda and the traffic jams right below it. I have not gotten over the hideous concrete pine tree at the top of Session Road (the construction of which was lauded by Domogan and its eventual removal by another mayor he denounced so vigorously). The man just can't be trusted with a backhoe and a cement mixer. Who knows what he's got up his sleeves this time.  

Let's not forget his proposal to put up gates on top of the fences around the whole of Burnham Park.    
At the Melvin Jones grounds, the proposal is multi-level underground parking facility, with shops and other commercial establishments on ground level, and a rooftop with artificial turf so "football may continue to be played." I first heard it from on of the horses' mouth, so to speak, soon after the 2010 elections when then congressman-elect Bernardo Vergara announced during the opening of a football tournament their (his and Domogan's) plan to construct an underground parking facility in the area.

Mayor Domogan refuses to acknowledge, and this sentiment is shared by much of the councilors who have either come out to support the ridiculous proposal or have said nothing at all about it, the area's historical value. He also doesn't see the aesthetic value of a wide open space surround by towering trees. He also ignores such an area's ecological value and what could happen if such a huge rainfall catch-basin, aquifer, carbon sink is cemented over. He just has to have his parking lot. 

In the meantime, City Hall prohibits activities such as football and other similar sports to be played there as these result in the destruction of the lawn. No football in the football grounds, but yes to destroying it totally and building a parking building?
Baguio was much like Paris in a way before - it had a distinct character. Vestiges of both its colonial past and indigenous heritage against backdrop of pine forests. The city even had a distinct aroma. The cool climate is fast becoming Baguio's only tourism draw and that's why we need to come up with events such as Panagbenga to prop up the industry. Soon, as more cars ply the streets or get caught in traffic jams spewing carbon in the air, that cool climate might just go too for as early as now, we have been experiencing temperatures north of the thermometer that most Baguio folks never experienced before. 

Paris has managed to keep its character while our current administrators seem to be doing all they can to destroy Baguio's. Session Road used to be a showcase of Baguio's colonial past - but not anymore, viewing the historic road from any angle today only offers a noisy collage of over-sized commercial billboards. They ignore the very laws that they are supposed to enforce to satisfy their conscience-less capitalist cohorts. Much noise was created about that new building on Session Road that violated the permit issued to its owners who built additional floors on top that exceeded that number of floors that those same owners originally applied for. After much noise? Nothing, it's business as usual. 

There's very little left of what Baguio is all about, and Mayor Domogan is determined to erase all that. He's no urban planner, he's no engineer, he's no architect, he obviously doesn't have an artistic sensibility, or any eye for aesthetics, yet his administration has all been about infrastructure. Ugly infrastructure. He's a lawyer, but that doesn't even come into play when it comes to legally defending the city from abuses such as SM City Baguio's insistence on making the biggest commercial establishment in the city even bigger at the expense of the welfare of the people. 

The city's heritage cannot and must not be ignored, and I'm not only talking about old buildings and parks here. I'm talking about all the past administrators of Baguio who made sure that the city progressed without sacrificing the city's heritage, its raison d'etre and most importantly the welfare of its citizens. That is a very important aspect of the city's history, and Domogan must ignore that, must learn from that.    

We inherited a beautiful city from those who came before us, we cannot, must not allow Domogan to hand over a decaying city to our children on behalf of our generation. Because that's what it all boils down to - we are turning over a dying, soul-less Baguio to our children.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chavi's point

I'm quite sure this particular client never reads my blog - in the middle of a ridiculously rush job, dozens of text messages coming in with edits, suggestions, directions coming in as I was trying to put together a story on the timeline. A text comes in from Ferdie asking if I was home. I am. On my way Chavi and Millie. Cool. A bottle of Jim Beam. Yes. I take a break at sunset. I can continue after dinner.

We reminisce about Baguio of two decades ago. We talk about our sons and daughters today. The challenges of playing the role of parents to teen-aged children. Of course we'd like them to be safe, avoid the mistakes we made.

Cue: Kenny Rogers' Coward of the Country.

"Promise me son not to do thing I've done... walk away from trouble if you can."

That's the biggest mistake we're making, actually, Chavi offers. Sure we made some stupid mistakes, and we don't want them to make the same mistakes as much as possible. So we tell them about those mistakes, try to make them understand and learn from those mistakes. But we have to realize that for them to learn from those is for them to actually make those mistakes too.

Good point.

"Now it don't mean you're weakIf you turn the other cheek
And I hope you're old enough to understand
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man"

I don't know, just take care, very good care, always.

Monday, May 4, 2015

No spare, spare none and waking up

The day was ushered in by a beautiful sunrise, I usually wake up before light these days as it has been for the past several years. While there are times when I wish I could stay under the covers a bit longer, I've learned to love waking up as the sun rises. 

This was a particularly good batch of yogurt, even our guest at home agreed after she helped herself to a bowl topped with honey. Even the first press of coffee was wonderful, I step out for a bit to check on the tomatoes and lettuces that Aeneas and I planted a couple of weeks ago and are now finally sprouting - they too seemed happy to welcome the new day. 

I drive Leon to school and our guests to the bus station to get a ride to Sagada - wished we were going too, and off to the rest of the morning's chores. Then I spotted this...

Life goes on for as long as it can, then lights out, and we don't know for sure what comes next. For now, this is it, the one and only life we have on this planet.

Jeepney wisdom, nothing like it. Go ahead, seize the day, bring about happiness and joy, that's what life, this life, is all about. Spare none.

Good day.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Binaliw ng kahirapan

Mary Jane Veloso's execution has been temporarily put on hold, and the reason for it depends on which side of the political fence you sit on.

It was Indonesian President Joko Widodo himself who said that his decision to grant Mary Jane a stay of execution was out of "the Indonesian government's desire to cooperate with the ongoing case in the Philippines."

"There was a letter from the Philippine government saying that there is a legal process related to human trafficking there. So we need to respect this legal process," a CNN report quoted Widodo saying. (CNN)

The Department of Foreign Affairs simply says, ""We are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was not carried out tonight," said DFA spokesman Charles Jose. (GMA).

Migrante says credit should go to them. Veloso's mother echoed the same, and went on to bash the Aquino administration, and Aquino himself, "Dumating na kami dito sa Pilipinas para maningil. Maniningil kami, marami kaming singilin — marami kaming pautang eh, kaya lang hindi pera. Pautang sa gobyerno natin dahil hanggang sa huli, niloko pa rin kami..."

Let us not forget that what Veloso got was a postponement, not a cancellation, of her execution. Let us not forget, that the fight was about saving Veloso's life, and not about billing. Let us not forget, that in all this, we are taking advantage of Mary Jane all over again, using her, abusing her, along with her mother, to advance our respective political agendas.

Are, indeed, a nation of trapos? Have we, Filipinos, really gone that low that we now refuse to celebrate anything good that happens in, to this country? That we have lost all respect for each other?

In the meantime, Veloso's life still hangs in the balance.
Amado V. Hernandez said in his poem, "Kung Tuyo Na Ang Luha Mo Aking Bayan," 

Sa libingan ng maliit
ang malaki'y may libangan
Katulad mo ay si Huli, naaliping bayad-utang,
Katulad mo ay si Sisa, binaliw ng kahirapan

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dream theater

Tourists coming up to Baguio not only to watch a parade of plastic flowers and marching bands playing "What does the fox say?," or buy La Presa strawberries, or drink lattes and frappes in an over-sized mall precariously sitting on top of a fragile hill, but to catch the opening night of the latest original play by a local playwright to be performed by local actors in one of the several performance spaces that should have sprouted all over Baguio between now and 20 years ago.

Ticket prices to a play in Baguio today average P100.00. Well, I'm no economist but should I be happy that in October-November, 1996, when I staged "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll" at the then BCF (now UC) Theater, our tickets went for P40.00?

I came, I saw, I stayed and searched for kindred souls to go on journeys with, share struggles with, and triumphs too, people who shared the same passion and love for the craft... artists I could collaborate with.

"Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll," directed and featuring myself and Ferdinand Balanag, production managed by Rl Abella, stage managed by Ado Cabjuan and sister Ningning, lighting designed by Perry Mamaril, who else was with us then?, ran for a few performances in BCF (now UC) then went on to have a re-run at the Bulwagang Juan Luna of UP Baguio. That first one screamed, the dream's not totally outrageous after all, it can be realized!

The next thing we knew, we were performing a play with a cast of 12 to an audience of 7, in a theater that powers-that-be in Baguio attempted to turn into a casino (the community opposed it, won, yet the slot machines and card tables are still set up inside, they say). Bubble burst.

But what can I do, theater blood runs in my veins, and aside from loving this art form too much, and despite the box-office flop that is "A Prelude to Kiss," I have also fallen in love with Baguio by then and I was free falling. Spread yourself as wide as possible to provide the strongest resistance possible and fall as gently and smoothly as possible.

I collaborated with some people, but turned out I hired more. Theater is a wonderful art form, but an unforgiving industry. One day you're treating the cast to a hefty dinner or a well-stocked open bar at a cast party, and the next you're handing over a watch to a cast member as payment because there's no more money to cover his "professional fee."

I couldn't resist, like seeing a plant with a bud at the end of a stem, you water it, cultivate the soil around it, commune with it, motivate it, urge, push... hoping that one day you'll be there when it blooms, in full splendor, color...

A singer sings like she's never sung before, the actor becomes someone he never knew he could become, telling stories that are worth telling, what a joy. The audience responds to that unique experience only theater can bring about... oh God.

It's hard when you pour your heart and soul into something that others just do to pass the time. But yeah, it's not right too to expect others to see things the way you do. Some read books to let their imagination take flight, some do because the movie was a blockbuster. That's just the way it is.

And theater just can't put food on the table, that's a fact too. But when you do hire people, they expect to get paid. Doesn't matter what your reasons are for bringing people in, or what they brought with them once there. While you envision an art work that could provoke one, two, three persons, or everyone in the audience to action, to thinking, to looking deep inside themselves or at the world around them in a way they've never done before, break on through that fourth wall and touch their hearts with a line, a soliloquy, a gesture, a sigh, a tear drop, some are just there because... I don't know, for reasons other than causing a supernova?


I'm tired. Time to get on the rest of this adventure with a clean slate. There are so many other ways to reach that audience, touch that heart, without unwittingly forcing others to be on a journey they had no plans of taking, get in a boat they don't want to row... what am I saying? I don't know.

Would've loved a better curtain call. But I guess this one ain't that bad at all too.

It's been great.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Filming a musical, staging a festival, participating in a revolution and nursing a flu

I really just have to remind myself that I am not that 23-year-old young man in tattered denim pants and jacket embarking on a new adventure in a new yet very familiar city where 8-hour long rehearsals during the day can still be capped with a night out in town at night.

Not that I've been barhopping though, but the last few weeks were toxic. The days leading tot he weekend of February 21-22 were spent polishing scenes scheduled to be filmed on the first two of a four-day shooting schedule. We plunged into those first two days blindfolded: although the play was a familiar one, filming remains a mostly un-chartered territory for the group. Editing the those first few scenes now, I can see how much we still have to learn about film production.

First two days done, and we schedule more rehearsals. We lose six dancers who were cast in supporting roles in several scenes, new dancers were brought in and we start from scratch. We receive word that the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. has allotted some funds for the staging of the 5th Baguio Music Festival. We doubt if we cold still take on the responsibility of putting up a marathon concert, so we tried to get beg off. But we also couldn't let the opportunity to provide a gig for 20 or so local bands and individual musicians go, so we reconsider. In the meantime, almost everything's ready for the last two days of the filming of "Pangarap," a musical on the life of one Fernando Bautista.

Insert a People's Summit right here: February 25. Wasn't able to be of much help during the preparations, but I tried to be there early enough on the day of the summit. Projector set-up, registration ongoing, refreshments table organized and we were overwhelmed by the number of participants. We were expecting around one or two hundred, and we had over 600 who came, some had to sit outside the auditorium already.

Energy was inspiring, you know each one just wanted to do their share in making Baguio a better place for all of us.

Back to Pangarap the next day. That Saturday was also the day of the street dancing parade of the Baguio Flower Festival, and I didn't want to underestimate the traffic that it could bring. I arrive at the venue before sunrise ahead of the most of the throngs who were expected to fill up every inch of space along the parade route. There's a barber's chair on stage, I finish most of the coffee I got from 7-11 downstairs and take a nap.

We go through the next two days more smoothly, we did learn a lot from the first weekend. In the meantime, we have confirmed our participation in the 5th Baguio Music Festival. The following Monday after a very, very long Sunday, we were neck-deep in pre-production work for the planned open-air marathon concert at Wright Park. 22 bands and individual musicians so far, our budget can barely cover all expected expenses, but we end up adding more bands to the list. How can you say no to fellow artists who, just like you, are struggling to make ends meet? We order 120 souvenir t-shirts to be printed to be given away for free to every single participant. Did I mention that our budget can barely cover all expenses? We also decided to buy a television set to be given as donation to the Wright Park Pony Boys Association - a good source of amusement for the pony boys particularly on lean days when hardly customers show up for a ride.

The sun was brightly shining when we started setting up the stage and the sound system on March 8, Sunday, also the last day of Panagbenga 2015. Wright Park was a good choice, I thought, away from the crowds at the Central Business District.

By 3PM the first band was onstage doing a sound check. We requested for each performer to limit their time on stage to a maximum of 12 minutes, enough for 2-3 songs. But, once up there, you can hardly do anything anymore when they suddenly segue into an encore or a long ad lib. We were running late by 30 minutes by the time the first hour was up. Schedule kept moving by 5 minutes or so with every performance, some bands get irked, but hey, we're just trying to spread the love and give everyone a chance to be part of this.

The dusty, folk, rock and country music-filled concert, ended around 10pm and it was already midnight when I got to sit on a chair at home. I fall asleep in my chair.

I wake up to a slight fever, a bit of coughing and colds. I shrug it off and start doing post-production work on Pangarap. The body aches came later that day, but still had enough energy to go on working, even able to squeeze in some yard work, which I have neglected the past weeks, in between the splicing, sound processing and rendering.

Felt much better by midweek, so I proceed to start prepping The Living Room for the weekend's Yoga session - mopping, waxing, scrubbing the floors, moving furniture and plants around, even thought of re-opening the weekend cafe. The chills, fever and coughing lingered, but seeing the studio take shape just kept me going.

Went out yesterday to buy the necessary inventory for The Living Room's kitchen. Wanted to make curry, some yogurt, falafels, etc., but after I got home, the fever has gone up, the couch has worsened and I barely had enough energy to make the yogurt. At midnight I woke up shivering and no amount of blankets, sweaters, sweat pants, socks could keep me warm enough to stop the chills. I was shaking so bad, couldn't stop it and it really felt like I was going into hypothermia.

I was in and out of sleep, a bit delirious every now and then RL told me this morning - I was mumbling and mouthing off all sorts of things last night and most of it I have no recollection of whatsoever. I woke up this morning with a very heavy body and a really bad headache.

And, back to work.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ang mabuhay ng dahil sa'yo

More than three decades ago, I was in first grade and I joined an elocution contest at school. I vividly remember the day of the contest – I was dressed in crisp white pants and an equally crisp white shirt. My grandmother couldn’t find the bow tie she bought for me that morning, and so she fashioned one from a black sock. The improvisation worked perfectly, looking now at the old photograph of myself on stage with one arm raised as I delivered the lines.

She also chose the poem I recited – The Unknown Soldier. I don’t remember the author anymore, so I searched for the poem online and several results for ones with that title came up. I read several hoping that a line or two from any one of them would help me remember which one I spent late nights on learning, memorizing that time in 1980. Two poems looked promising, they both sounded quite familiar.

I will never know the details of the tragic mission that led to the death of the 44 men of the Special Action Force. I know only what everyone else knows: they died a very painful death. So painful that the pain was felt all across the nation. And as the president decided that being there when their bodies were brought back from ground zero to the capital wasn’t enough to cancel his appearance at the inauguration of a car manufacturing plant, the pain just went deeper, and the people are furious. For really, how can he be so heartless?

A close friend of the family is related to one of the slain, but I myself do not know any one of them personally. And while I’ve recited poems almost all of my life, I never did learn how to write one myself. This is one of those moments when I wished I could.

But I do want to put this out there, to the unknown men who laid down their lives for Bayang Magiliw:

They have lowered flags at half-mast in your honor. We are all trying to get a handle on this and millions of our countrymen are eager to have their voices heard, to praise you and your honorable sacrifice. I cannot even begin to imagine what life must be like being one of you: keepers of the peace, defenders of the people and this nation. Unlike you, next to you, I am a coward. I don’t have the courage to carry a rifle, aim it at another human being and pull the trigger. I am not brave enough to get hurt that way, and even more afraid to cause another human being that much pain.

They are supposed to be fighting for something lofty, noble, but they had just committed a most dishonorable deed, those murderers. And while we struggle to come to terms with your tragic death pointing fingers are people whose names follow words like excellency and honorable, yet commit the most deplorable and dishonorable crimes against the people, I hope that we will also not forget that you died not only because of such deplorable and dishonorable acts of our leaders, but also because fellow Filipinos indeed aimed their guns at you and pulled the trigger.

Out of the countless ways we can live our lives, you chose to live yours serving this country. Now that is indeed honorable. Not all of us are given the chance to die for our motherland, but most of us do have the chance to live our lives for her. And that is, perhaps, the least we can do to honor you, the 44 martyrs who died serving our country.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Noy, wala na nga, wala

Aling kalapastangan pa
ang hihigit kaya?
Sa kawalan ng dangal 
at pagkaimbi
Gaya ng pagtalikod
sa kabayanihan ng mga magiting
na sa bayan ay buhay ang inalay
Aling kalapastanganan pa?
Wala na nga, wala


Monday, January 26, 2015

Pagpapahayag ng dalamhati at pasasalamat sa pakikiisa

Hindi po namin ninais ang kahit ano maliban sa maiparating sa mga kinauukulan ang aming dalamhati sa walang saysay na pagkaputol ng mga puno sa Luneta Hill.

Ang sa amin lamang po ay hindi makatuwiran na bale-walain ang kapakanan ng mas nakararami para lamang sa kapakanan ng isang korporasyong siya nang pinakamayaman sa buong bansa.

Hindi rin namin pinipigilan ang SM na magpayaman pa kung nais talaga ng pamilya Sy na mas yumaman pa sa kabila ng pagiging pinakamayaman nang pamilya sa buong bansa. Huwag lamang sana sa paraang makakasakit sa iba.

Sa mga hindi sumasang-ayon sa aming paniniwala't prinsipyo, hindi po natin kailangang magtapon ng mga bintang na walang batayan at walang katotohanan. Gayunpaman, nawa'y nagkakaisa tayo sa mithiing isulong ang tama at makatarungan at mga adhikaing ikabubuti ng ating komunidad, ng ating bansa, ng daigdig.

Maraming salamat po sa mga naki-isa. Mabuhay po kayo.

Mabuhay ang Baguio, ang mga taga-Baguio, ang kalikasan at ang kinabukasan nito.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

So why did SM have to kill those trees?

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden." (But why destroy an existing forest to put up an artificial one?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a parking facility to help ease traffic at the Central Business District. (But wouldn't attracting hundreds more cars to one area actually worsen the congestion?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility that would solve the soil erosion problem in the area. (But wouldn't a retaining wall the construction of which would not require removing the trees achieve that?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility to help absorb the impact of climate change. (But Baguio receives excessive amounts of rainfall and wouldn't removing hundreds of trees and concreting that much earth space reduce the water absorption capability of the area and what happens to the lower lying areas, particularly Harrison Road which has been having minor flooding issues lately, where all that extra water run-off go?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility because we want to earn more money even at the expense of the welfare of the community...

ahh, ok.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Death of Pine Trees on Luneta Hill: A ConspiracyTheory

The months of December and January seem to be jinxed as far as Baguio's environment is concerned: on December 12, 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court with regards to the environmental case filed against SM, DENR, DPWH, et. al. effectively giving Henry Sy the go-signal to destroy one of the few remaining forest covers in the city's Central Business District for a parking building. And this morning, Baguio woke up with this news: Most of the area eyed for their expansion plan has been cleared of trees.

Upon hearing about this latest tree-cutting activity by SM, I just had to go see it for myself. For the first time since December of 2011, I entered SM City Baguio and went straight to the balcony before any of SM's personnel recognized me. I didn't really think they'll drag me out, but who knows. I whipped out my point-and-shoot and started clicking away. These are the pictures:

Photos taken on January 17, 2015

I manually counted the number of trees left standing - there must be around 90 or so left. We can easily say that a total of 100 trees - combination of Alnus and Pine - have been removed. 

Their lawyers will proclaim: there is no legal impediment preventing them from pushing through with their plans. The late Judge Estevez of the Baguio Regional Trial Court himself proclaimed: our arguments against the planned sacrifice of the welfare of the community for Henry Sy's benefit were not enough to stop the expansion plan, and this decision got the nod of Associate Justices Magdangal M. de Leon, Stephen C. Cruz and Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguilles. In their eyes, SM violated no law. In their minds, there is nothing wrong with killing a hundred trees to benefit one corporate entity. For them, SM followed the law to the letter. 

Perhaps, but SM, along with its co-conspirators, violated the very spirit, the true intentions, of those laws. Shame on every single one of them who used, perverted the law to justify environmental rape.

SM City Baguio is not the only guilty party here, no amount of cosmetics can hide the guilt of their enablers.

1. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources led by Sec. Ramon Paje, all the way down to his subordinates at the regional office, who not only legalized SM's immoral plans with their stamps and signatures, but even defended the planned killing of trees in the press and the courts. 

2. The Department of Public Works and Highways led by Rogelio Singson all the way down to officials at the City Buildings and Architecture Office, along with Evelyn Cayat of the City Planning and Development Office, for clearing the way for SM to get away with the murder of trees including circumventing our own zoning laws. 

3. The City Executive, led by Mayor Mauricio Domogan, he who merely said, when asked by the protesters for his help, "I cannot do anything." 

4. The Baguio City Council, or majority of its members during the term 2010-2013, who could not even hide their bias for SM and spent most of the time during that City Council hearing defending SM and castigating the protesters.

5. Members of the judiciary and the bar, from the aforementioned Associate Justices to the late Judge Antonio Estevez to the Fortun and ACCRA Law Offices and even lawyers from the Solicitor General's office who are supposed to protect the interest of the state and therefore the interest of the people of the Philippines who used their skills and talents to enable SM to destroy.

6. Members of the so-called Fourth Estate, supposed guardians of the truth, who willingly sang SM's songs, forwarded their half-truths and outright lies for free movie passes and a gadget or two. 

You, all of you, have all joined hands to destroy Baguio forever. You spat on the faces of every single one of the thousands of members of the community who wanted nothing more than to defend the integrity, heritage, beauty and natural environment of Baguio City. Shame on you. 

Our environmental laws are designed to be circumvented - that's how SM City Baguio got away with murder. 

And to SM? A while back, they sent their emissaries led by Vice President Bien Mateo to present what was supposedly a re-designed expansion plan. In that meeting, attended by some members of the protest movement including Atty. Chris Donaal, Ms. Glo Abaeo, Mr. Gideon Omero, Mr. Nelson Alabanza, myself, et al, they said that out of all the remaining trees on Luneta Hill, maybe only less than ten will be affected with this new plan. Last night, 60 trees were cut. 


As for me, SM just proved once again that they will do everything they can for more money. This kind of greed is what's preventing this country from moving forward. 

So they've cut a hundred trees on Luneta Hill, and a friend asked, "what's the point now of appealing the decision of the Court of Appeals all the way to the Supreme Court when most of the trees are already gone?"

Around 90 trees remain on Luneta Hill, and they are still worth fighting for.  


Thursday, January 8, 2015

That afternoon, who really was Damaso?

No apologies, I am not with Carlos Celdran on this one.

I have written about issue in this blog ("But even enemies can show respect") - and Carlos' statements on the issue since failed to change my position.

Celdran was charged with a crime against religious worship, and was found guilty as charged by the lower courts. The decision was appealed and the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision.

He posted this on his Facebook page:

Dear ‪#‎PopeFrancisPH‬ ‪#‎Pontifex‬ My name is Carlos Celdran and I am a citizen of the‪#‎Philippines‬ and a Catholic. Today, I received news that my legal appeal was denied. I am one step closer to being incarcerated for the crime of "offending the religious feelings" of Filipino bishops back in September 30, 2010 (article 133 of Philippine Penal Code). Please have a word with the bishops of the Philippines. Truth be told, I don't mind going to jail. I only wish that your message of forgiveness, reason, and tolerance finally reaches their hearts and their minds. I heartfully hope this message reaches you and thank you for your consideration. Love, a humble member of your Filipino flock. Carlos Celdran. ‪#‎RHBill‬ ‪#‎Damaso‬ ‪#‎CatholicBishops‬ ‪#‎CBCP‬ ‪#‎RT‬
The statement itself is not entirely true, he is not "a step closer to being incarcerated for offending the religious feelings of Filipino bishops," he disrespected not only the bishops but a place of worship, an ongoing sacred religious ritual, he is so because of this:

Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. – The penalty of arresto mayor in its
maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon
anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any
religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

He wished that the Pope's message of "forgiveness, reason... etc." will reach the hearts and minds of those offended by his actions. But, forgiveness without repentance? No, no, that's not right too.

I do not agree with the bishops', alright, the Catholic Church's position on the Reproductive Health Bill, and never will I. But no priest nor bishop dared enter my home at dinner time holding up placards while I explained what the Reproductive Health Bill is all about to my children. That would be just wrong. No, I don't find that comparison silly at all.

I don't agree too with the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Salman Rushdie, or the killing of innocent people by extremists in the name of jihad, but I am not about to barge into a mosque to mock, disrespect Islam in general or any Muslim I happen to chance upon.

I just can't agree with Celdran referring to himself as a "humble member of your Filipino flock." What's humble about barging in on an ongoing mass, wearing a costume holding up a placard with the word "Damaso" written on it?

I wrote this in that previous article I mentioned above:

"I also believe that Celdran should be released, not even be charged – it’s just wrong for him to be in jail while Romeo Jalosjos isn’t; while priests found to have committed pedophilia are merely suspended by the church or transferred to another diocese. The government has pardoned a plunderer, it cannot justify keeping someone like Celdran incarcerated. But…"

Yeah, but... yeah, it's easy to join the bandwagon and throw mud at the whole church for the acts of but a few, portray an image of being a firebrand, a revolutionary, yeah, wear that Che Guevara beret, but I will only applaud you until you cross that line. It's not only the bishops that Celdran offended - he offended the Church, a Church, a religious rite, a religion. That's just not right. 

In an article in the Inquirer, Padre Damaso was described as "He was known to be... selfish, proud, cruel, judgmental, malicious-minded..."

Tell me, that afternoon in that church, who was Damaso? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Stop, look, listen and do something

Just when you think we have started to get used to the heavy traffic in certain parts of the city, here come the Christmas holidays and the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come with it.

Most of us would each have our own horror stories to tell, here’s one of mine: took my kids to their practice game at the Melvin Jones Football grounds and it took us almost two hours to get there from our home in Pacdal, usually a mere 10 to 15-minute drive. It’s a good thing that the World Health Organization didn’t do their research on air quality in our city at that time, we didn’t need a nifty measuring device to know that the air over Baguio had way beyond the usual allowable levels of poison.

The community was not happy about it, the internet was flooded with critiques on how the local government of Baguio failed to prepare for the anticipated influx of tourists (I must say though that there seemed to not enough police visibility from the 24th to the 26th of December, I was really surprised not to see anyone directing traffic at the usual bottlenecks such as the Pacdal Circle, the intersections along Leonard Wood Rd. and Teachers’ Camp and Gen. Luna Rd., etc.). The rest of the tirades were directed at the tourists, not a few of whom can be seen disregarding traffic rules and basic road courtesy and decency, particularly going into counter-flows at already heavily congested single-lane streets a sight normally seen in the streets of Manila.

But in fairness to the local government, police and whoever else is responsible for traffic management in our city, even if they did anticipate, plan for and executed a scheme to ease the jam, Baguio was simply unprepared for that kind of volume of tourists. Heck, we’re still determining how to make our city livable for our own residents – you’ve heard it time and again, Baguio was designed for a population of only about 25,000.

Two things stand out for me: the need to spread out development initiatives to the neighboring towns, and a review of our public transportation system. 

Let’s start with the first. Yes, the BLISTT concept (which involves Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay) must be implemented already. Take our area for example: we moved to Pacdal because it’s not as congested as other areas in Baguio, except during the tourist seasons. But look at one office (PhilHealth) and a couple of new restaurants can do: since these opened the area has been experiencing heavy traffic almost at all hours of the day. The city can hardly handle any more development initiatives that attract a certain volume of human and vehicular traffic.

If the BLISTT concept is not easily and immediately implementable because it involves several government entities to come together, and you know what happens when there are too many politicians involved in any initiative, then perhaps we can start right in our own backyard first. See, our tourism efforts seem to only benefit a few members of the community. You really didn’t hear hotel and restaurant owners (alright maybe a few of them did) complaining about the volume of people and cars in Baguio at that time, most of the complaints came from the majority who not only do not benefit from the influx of tourists but whose livelihood and normal lives, in fact, got adversely affected by it. People couldn’t get to work, or even just get out of the house for a day in the park. The purported economic benefits of tourism, which is what our officials would want us to focus on, do not trickle down to the man on the street, so to speak, so how can you expect them to just grin and bear it? If BLISTT is not ready, then Baguio should consider spreading out development initiatives outside the central business district and its immediate environs. Perhaps start and experiment with the annual Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga where almost everything happens in and around Session Road. Involve all 129 barangays, and not only through token initiatives such as the superficial sprucing up of pocket gardens here and there to get whatever award they give out for the barangay with the most painted rocks along their main road.

Secondly, our public transport system. We have been seeing the same faces since time immemorial running things in this sector, maybe it’s time we bring in new people with fresh and updated concepts. If we have a public transport system that’s affordable, convenient, safe and efficient, there’s no reason for motorists to bring their own cars. That way, we not only solve our traffic woes during the peak seasons but every single day. And no, Mayor, with all due respect, parking facilities, particularly ones that require desecrating a heritage site, are not the answer. That, in fact, has the exact opposite effect – we do not want to encourage more private vehicles to be brought into the central business district.

And we’re only talking about how to probably ease up the congestion in our roads – do you have any idea about the amount of garbage generated by those hundreds of thousands? How it depleted our most important resource: water?

We can’t have, must never accept, statements like “I cannot do anything” anymore. We need to and must do something.