Friday, February 26, 2016

EDSA didn't fail us, we failed EDSA

The whole thing has been brewing for a few days already, and my mother has been in and out of the house. Been hearing about the goings on from adult conversations in the house and the rest of the neighborhood. Marcos cheated in the recently concluded snap elections. The minister of defense and the chief of the armed forces  have resigned. People are gathering at EDSA to protect them, Cardinal Sin has called for more warm bodies.

That morning, my mother was talking to several grown-ups in the neighborhood (I was 12) - she was renting a jeepney to ferry whoever wanted to join her at EDSA. Next thing I knew, everyone was getting ready to go. I wanted to go with them, but this time my mother told me I couldn't for things could get ugly. Odd, for I have been to countless rallies with her - several times not only as a participant but also as a performer along with my friends who belonged to my mother's community theater group, the Workshop for Creative Survival.

When one Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, I was turning 10 the following month at the time, I remember being at all these rallies all over Metro Manila - I remember Mendiola, Liwasang Bonifacio, Plaza Miranda, I remember WOMB (Women for the Ouster of  Marcos and Boycott), Inang Laya, the smoke-filled (mostly courtesy of my mother's cigarettes) Hiraya Gallery mezzanine office where the cool people hung out (and where I was a child would alternately try to pick something from the conversations or just be amused by the animated characters around the table). That was where I, while doodling on Tito Bobi's desk overheard a story about a woman who was captured by the military, her vagina was carved out with a hunting knife by the same soldiers who gang-raped her earlier. The story was told by a photo journalist.

Back to February 25, 1986 - not this time, I watched that jeep full of Road 7, Project 6 residents leave with a heavy heart. Whatever was happening in EDSA, it was huge, I thought, and I wanted so much to be part of it.

It wasn't as easy to follow goings-on then as it is today. There were only five TV channels available - 2. 4, 7, 9 and 13. Broadcast was erratic. The radio was on too and almost everyone in the neighborhood was tuned in to Radio Veritas.

I remember getting scolded several years earlier for toying around with our stereo. After playing my Voltes V 45 vinyl a hundred times, I got bored and thought I'd put on whatever I could get my hands on in our collection of records. I picked out one with an interesting cover and put it on in full volume. Turned out to be one of those subversive recordings - it was Martial Law, and people have been arrested or made to disappear or killed for less. My grandmother immediately turned the stereo off.

I remember wondering about who Carpio was, and why every teenager in the neighborhood was afraid of him. "Pasok na tayo, Carpio na..." I would hear the "tambays" in the neighborhood say. Ahh, curfew.

Suddenly, there it was: Marcos Flees. It's over, and the real winner of that election, Corazon Aquino, would now sit as the first ever woman president of the Republic of the Philippines. I remember - I could literally feel the country's collective sigh of relief, a nation's victory over tyranny - I could now play that Inang Laya or any other album in our collection.

And my grandmother, along with myself and the rest of the family, could now sleep better at night not having to worry if my mother will make it back home after a rally or a play or whatever other activity she may be involved in that, during the Martial Law years, could be considered subversive.

Fast forward 30 years later, and Bongbong Marcos, unrepentant son of the tyrant that EDSA rid us of, is threatening to make it a step closer to being back in Malacanang. There are young people clamoring for the return to the "Golden Years" of Martial Law. Duterte proclaims without batting an eyelash: I am a dictator, so what? And a lot of us applauded him.

These days, Cory's being lambasted for her supposed lackluster performance as the first post-martial law president. Try hurdling six coup attempts while running a transition government.

The prevailing sentiment is this: EDSA, the People Power Revolution, did nothing to uplift the lives of Filipinos, that it failed us.

But, no, EDSA didn't fail us. It gave us what it was supposed to give us - freedom. It's what we did with that freedom that failed us. And if the current trends remain 'til election day this May, we're just about to fail ourselves again.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

VANI: a better fighter, pound-for-pound, than Manny Pacquiao

Just like any other kid, he's made some bad decisions here and there. But like a man, so to speak, he owned up to them, learned from them, moved on and came out a better person every time.

I can't imagine him running for public office, taking an oath to serve his country, but showing up only for a few days while receiving a salary for three years. That would be wrong, and he won't do something like that.

He steps onto the ring not knowing who his opponent will be motivated only by his conviction that all men are created equal and all men must have equal rights, regardless of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.

And these fights he fought not because he stood to earn millions in prize money, pay-per-view buys, endorsements, etc. Nah, he fights to defend his rights as a human being, he steps onto the ring not only to fight his fight but to fight for the rights of others like him. Now there's a real fighter.

And for that, Vani, my gay son, is a much better fighter, pound-for-pound, than Manny Pacquiao.

Related articles: 
Are you gay? 
Father and his gay son
Be and let be

Monday, February 15, 2016

I want to ride my bicycle (but the Mayor won't let me)

Just like many others, I too do double takes when a flashy coupe zooms by, yield to imposing "get-out-of-my-way-or-I'll-run-you-over" SUVs and once in a while find myself daydreaming of driving one of those.

I personally drive a 25-year old mini van. A Toyota Liteace which just came out of a car hospital - for just like its owner, its joints needed some lubricating, get its bearings... repacked, re-greased, replaced. While in there, I thought it might as well get an oil change. It's running so well now and i'm very happy. it breezed through this morning's emission test. But in those daydreams, I find myself wanting to sell the van, add to it to get a car that's at least a few years younger, with an engine that's a bit bigger, stronger.

A prospect presented itself - a Chevrolet Trailblazer, just about a decade old, reasonably priced. Sell the van, then scrounge up more to cover the cost. What usually bursts the bubble for me is this - how much gas would that V6 engine eat up for every engine start, uphill climb, occasional trips to San Juan, La Union or Manila, and would our family's carbon footprint be justified?

I don't think so. See, it's not like the van's 1800-or-so cc cannot provide for our needs, or even my need as an artist who often does location shoots from way up north to a bit down south on various, often unforgiving terrain. The Liteace has taken us to highest point in our country's highway system, up to Sagada and Besao and even over that treacherous under-repair road to Batad, Ifugao last year. Sure the van came back home to Baguio with a few added "sound effects": more squeaks and thuds, but nothing the Manong down the road can't fix with an adjustable wrench, WD40 and few taps here and there.  

An 1800, even with some 6 or 7 passengers on board, runs comfortably at 100 kph along the sleep-inducing TPLEX. That V6 can surely go much faster, but who needs 120, 130, eeeek, 160(!) when the country's superhighways pegs the limit at 100 kph anyway?

Besides, I can hardly afford to keep the van gassed up - which brings me closer to the title of this article (pardon the long intro and the digression/s)...

...see, climate change is upon us, believe it or not. Excessive man-caused carbon emissions at the top of the suspects list. And while the van sevices the whole family, a lot of times I find myself driving that van alone. Yes, that van that's designed to accommodate as many as 9-passengers, okay, maybe 7 more comfortably. Sometimes on long drives to the lowlands, more often to downtown Baguio. I cringe a little when I get caught, nay, WHENEVER I HELP CAUSE TRAFFIC in the city's Central Business District and realize how much space that van is taking up and how much carbon is spewed out onto the atmosphere to bring me, one person, to my destination. Destinations that, while may be quite physically challenging for my middle-aged knees to walk, are easily accessible by bicycle.

So the past few weeks, my SUV daydreams have been replaced by ones with me wearing a helmet pedaling to town. That's certainly more affordable than an SUV with a V6 engine, and I wouldn't have to sell the van. And in a city battling with worsening vehicular traffic and air pollution, a bike makes sense.

But the city government of Baguio, under the leadership of the Hon. Mauricio Domogan, Mayor of Baguio City, is the bubble-burster his time - bikes have just been banned not only along Session Road, but in the whole Central Business District.

While other cities have been doing all they can to accommodate and encourage cyclists to help mitigate vehicular traffic and lessen emissions, Baguio once again takes a step backward with this ban. Just like it does whenever the city condones environmental destruction in the name of development (read: commerce, and that isn't always equals development).

Ahhh, to borrow lines from Freddie - I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike... but Domogan won't let me.

Photo lifted from the comment of Jp Leung on a post on my page