Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Other SEA Games

This is another shameless way to attract male readership I know and the next sentence would only titillate Vincent Cabreza. But Fashion TV chose Cebu as the locale of its 2006 calendar. Specifically the waters of Cebu. Guess Europe is too cold. Famous fashion photographer Mick Gleissner took the shots in what Fashion TV described as the "pristine waters of Cebu, the Philippines." Fashion TV is watched by 300 million people in 202 countries so this could be a big boost to Cebu's tourism.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Violating New Orleans

U.S. journalists should show us the way about cross-checking facts, being accurate and others. Now Reason tells us that it too bungled the Katrina coverage with tsismis.

They Shoot Helicopters, Don’t They? an article from Reason online
How journalists spread rumors during Katrina.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Write First, Drink Later

I essentially went to Manila to comfort a friend who was having a birthday party by his lonesome. He was on his third beer when I met him. After we finished (four hours later), I texted about 40 messages of which only one (girl) came over for the remainder of that party. I was supposed to go back to Baguio (supposed to stop at Rosario, LaUnion) but, as usual, overshot or rather overslept and reached Candon. Ha ha ha. And now let's go to the Frank Cimatu Random Lecture on Writing on Drinking and Writing.

I, surprisingly, have my own rules on drinking.These are: 1) No drinking before sunset (which I realized was almost impossible in Los Angeles in summer when we have our drunk sessions with Rowland and his Korean friends because the sunset those times would come at 9 pm) 2) No drinking in front of my dogs 3) I don't write after I drink.

People, when confronted with the words "drinking" and "writing" will inevitably blurt out "Edgar Allan Poe" as if that's the only thing Poe was good at.

Writers are cautious over drinking and writing. One of my favorite novelists, John Irving, wrote: "You know what Lawrence said: "The novel is the highest example of subtle interrelatedness that man has discovered. I agree!And just consider what drinking does to "subtle interrelatedness." Forget "subtle"; "interrelatedness" is what makes novels work -- without it, you have no narrative momentum; you have incoherent rambling. Drunks ramble; so do books by drunks."

If you are drunk, you can not enunciate "subtle interrelatedness." My favorite Irving book is "Cider House Rules" which is not really about apple cider.

Madison Smartt Bell countered, "Drinking makes you loquacious; as we all know, and if what you've got for company is a piece of paper, then you're going to talk to it. Just try to enunciate, and try to make sense."

"A man's prose style is very responsive -- even a glass of sherry shows in the sentence," write John Cheever, who loved to drink.

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you," wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald.

There are no journalists I can get on defense. Maybe somewhere Hemingway had a defence for booze but I can't find it.

I remember during my UP Writer'sWorkshop when Eli Guieb wrote about friends drinking and one of the teachers shouted,"In vino veritas." When I first mingled with the older Baguio journalists, I meant the ones that really mattered, I heard that phrase too many times. In wine there is truth. But all they drink is gin and I don't drink gin.

Most journalists get their stories by drinking with their sources. Or rather a source would call them for a beer and the truth or their version of it would come out. Sometimes the Baguio journalist would be so emboldened by drink that he would then argue with the source. As a result, no story. The wiser source would just sponsor a round of beer (or rather, rounds) and not talk.

I would rather believe that journalists drink because of the stories they handle. Violence. Crime. Politicians lying. People getting hungry and desperate. They feel the world slipping from them. They see their idealism taken over by cynicism. And their cynicism turning into "sinisisi" or "blaming."

Richard Rhodes wrote, "writers who use alcohol to shut themselves down at the end of the daay risk hangover or worse, heavy drinking damages short term memory-- exactly the kind of memory you need to juggle words and sentences and evoke associations as you write."

We are back to Irving's subtle interrelatedness again. What Rhode meant was that what's worse than a drunk writer writing is writing with a hangover. Ha ha ha. Where was I? Oh Candon.

The reason I don't drink with my dogs

Heartaches of Journalist Bloggers

Alas, this is not about my heartaches. This is the title of an article of Adam L. Penenberg, an assistant professor at New York University and the assistant director of the business and economic reporting programin the department of journalism. I found it in my "sent" messages a year ago. I forgot where I got this but believe me, you will learn a lot about the business of journalist blogging. So here goes...

After Chris Allbritton returned to New York from Iraqi Kurdistan, he raised $15,000 and headed back to Iraq in 2003 as the first independent journalist-blogger sponsored by his readers. There he risked life and limb covering the war and its messy aftermath,detailing his experiences on his blog, Back-to-Iraq 3.0.

With 25,000 readers a day checking out his dispatches, Allbritton wasable to build on this success by securing a plum assignment as Time magazine's Baghdad correspondent. As a result, Allbritton has had to change his approach to blogging.

"I'm just very, very careful," Allbritton said. "I never scoop Time, for instance. And I've become much more miserly in parceling out my opinions. I place a whole lot more emphasis on the reporting on the blog, rather than taking a stance. This has alienated a significant number of my readers, who have accused me of selling out, going corporate, whatever. But, I came to Iraq to become a full-time foreigncorrespondent, so them's the breaks."

He also doesn't post as often on his blog anymore, and says he is thinking of shutting it down.Allbritton isn't the only journalist-blogger who serves two competing masters.

Om Malik, a senior writer at Business 2.0, pens two online columns a month, as well as contributing features to the magazine, while operating a blog on broadband that attracts 350,000 uniquevisitors a month. But it's his day job that pays the bills.

"My first commitment is to my publisher, my magazine," said Malik, who is also the author of Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist. "Last month I earned $9 in net profit (on my blog). Thank God for Google AdSense -- they let me break even now. Last year, I spent alot of money out-of-pocket, when my bandwidth costs went through the roof."

For all the press that bloggers have received for revolutionizing masses, when push comes to shove, journalists who operate personal weblogs face an inherent conflict of interest. In the end, it's theblogs that usually get short shrift. And according to some, that's the way it ought to be. As JasonCalacanis, founder of Weblogs and publisher of the defunct SiliconAlley Reporter, put it in an e-mail: "Blogger + reporter = bigproblem. I wouldn't do that, and I'm sure it will end in tears. I knowas an editor of a magazine or newspaper I wouldn't want my paid editors putting scoops out on their blog when those scoops could bedriving and growing the print product."

But it's not just about who gets the scoops. A more serious questionis how can bloggers, whose success depends largely on sharing unvarnished opinions, also work as so-called objective journalists? There are no easy answers, and many media outlets find it easiest to avoid perceptions of bias by simply issuing blanket restrictions onwhat their reporters can say and do outside of work.

In the past, for example, CNN pressured correspondent Kevin Sites to shut down his blogfrom Iraq. Time put the kibosh on freelancer Joshua Kucera's personalblog, and the Hartford Courant strong-armed one of its columnists,Denis Horgan, to stop him from blogging. (With the exception of Kucera, they have all returned to the blogosphere.)

Wall Street Journal staffers agree to follow a code of conduct that restricts certain activities to ensure "the independence and integrity" of its publications, services and products. I imagine theJournal is particularly sensitive after an e-mail from Farnaz Fassihi, one of its reporters based in Baghdad, made the rounds last year, portraying life in Iraq as much more dire than her published work suggested.

The New York Times requires its staffers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and requires that no newsroom oreditorial employee "do anything that damages the Times's reputationfor strict neutrality."Although the policy doesn't specifically cover blogs (yet), the Times prohibits staff from marching or rallying "in support of public causes or movements," and from signing "ads that take a position on public issues ... if doing so might reasonably raise doubts about their ability or the Times's ability to function as neutral observers incovering the news." Timesians may appear on radio and TV but "they should avoid expressing views that go beyond what they would beallowed to say in the paper."

(Of course, Op-Ed columnists likeMaureen Dowd and William Safire "enjoy more leeway than others inspeaking publicly because their business is expressing opinions.") But this whole idea that so-called objective journalists should hidetheir true feelings may be misguided. Reporters are people, too (really), and just because they express opinions doesn't mean theirreporting should be dismissed out of hand, as long as they arrive attheir conclusions honestly, through rigorous reporting.

In fact, when journalists give two opposing viewpoints equal weight in an attempt to be even-handed, they are engaging in superficial "he said, she said" journalism that may actually be undermining the search for truth,since one side might be completely without merit.

Readers "know journalists have opinions," said blogger Ed Cone, who also writes for CIO Insight. "A writer who expresses an opinion in aweblog, and explains how that opinion relates to the subject he or shecovers at work, might seem more credible, not less."

Another member of the blognoscenti, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds,agrees. "I think that the openness of opinions helps, rather than hurts, since it allows you to make adjustment for known bias, rather than guessing at unknown bias."

And Peter Rojas of Engadget thinks the entire issue should be flippedon its head. "It's a mistake to think that we're making a choicebetween objectivity and honesty, with traditional media on one sideand blogs on the other," he said.

"The larger issue here is trust, andwhether or not readers trust the media outlets they're relying on fornews or information. If anything, being forthright and honest on blogsmight have a positive effect on how people perceive the rest of theirreporting."So perhaps publications shouldn't worry that reporters who maintainpersonal blogs will undermine their organization's objectivity.

Afterall, the Times has been hit with accusations of bias for years, wellbefore the advent of blogs. Meanwhile, blog readers shouldn't worry that mainstream publications get the primo stuff either. Blogs are "a value-added proposition,"Malik said. "I used to print out articles, stick them in a file andreview them later. Now I just blog it. It's a repository for my thought process."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Later, alligators

I will be in Manila (conference), Candon (the reenactment of the 1st Feria Exposicion of 1892) and Angeles (I wanted to cover petanque and lawn bowl -- sounds snobbish) until December 4. So I would be pining for pine till then.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I, a Rovo

I received text messages telling me that “Funny, but d misspelled name of GMA in d new P100 bill as “ARROVO” in Spanish means thief or robber. “A rovo de la cuadrilla.”
Manila Times wrote: “Rep. Rolex Suplico of Iloilo said rovo, which sounds like robo in Spanish, means “robbery.”
“This comes from [the verb] robar, which means to ‘rob someone.’ In [a criminal law textbook], the term a rovo de la cuadrilla means ‘robbery in band,” Suplico said.
“I hope this isn’t deliberate. It’s a shame that the surname of this country’s President was not misspelled by a printing company based in Europe,” Suplico said.”
The Spanish I know should be “robo en cuadrilla” or sometimes “robo realizado en cuadrilla” or “robo en cuadrilla con lesions.”
If that is the intention, then that’s a successful joke, similar to the “google hackers.”
This reminds me of a daily in Baguio. It was in 1996 when the Publisher called all his reporters and asked them who replaced “the publisher” to the “the punisher” in the masthead of the past issues. I think it ran for a week before somebody brought it to his attention. No one owned up to the crime. I was waiting for a friend outside when the meeting transpired.
We were laughing so hard outside. I think I knew who did it but I will keep my mouth shut because it was just damn funny after all these years.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

ppgma is ppg wd an ma n roco is not a wannabe but a wallaby

Here's the story i told u abt gma. requested lang po. flip had to edit siyempre so this is much longer. this was written before GMA said that yes, she will run again.

On December 29, the Marcos bust in Tuba, Benguet was blasted and the top of Apo’s head flew as far as a kilometer away. On the morning of December 30, Rizal Day, my head felt like the Marcos bust after all those presidential and ex-presidential coverage and post Xmas parties. PPGMA (President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in a similar manner Dubya is addressed formally as POTUS or President of the United States) was delivering her annual Rizal Day Speech here in Baguio and I was again asked to cover but I thought there would be nothing extraordinary.

But PPGMA invoked Rizal in her inaugural speech and considered him and not her father, former President Diosdado Macapagal (in Malacanangspeak, Papadom) so I upped the volume just in case. The speech, later known as the Rizal Day Speech, was unlike the previous speeches because she mentioned the political divisiveness and the bloodiness of the 2004 elections but I still didn’t know what’s coming.

So when she was about to sum it up: “In view of all these factors, I have decided ,” I continued it for her, “to follow Jesus.” But PPGMA instead said, “not to run for President during the election of 2004. If I were to run, it will require a major political effort on my part. But since I’m among….”

In my confusion, I flipped the channel instead of the volume and went to Cartoon Network where the Powerpuff Girls were on and ten minutes later, I was in Baguio’s Rizal Park feeling stupid, interviewing the still disbelieving politicians.

During the night, PPGMA invited the local media at the courtyard of Mansion House and there we were drinking red wine and eyeing Luli by the bonfire as she made tusok the jumbo hotdogs. By 10:30 pm, PPGMA decided to make a live appearance for Channel 7 news and everyone decided to be the live audience.

Problem was, Channel 7 in Manila had a hard time hooking up and PPGMA kept on looking at her watch and then she said, Ano ba? It’s way past my bedtime. Having been emboldened by red wine, I laughed loudly and just like that, everybody froze. Which is a good thing because now I can move on with the proper beginning of my story, ehem, essay:

The poet James Fenton noted in his Granta piece about the 1986 Snap Revolution that some Filipinos have a way of seeing beyond the shadows. While others only see a policeman, a Filipino toughened by years under the Marcos dictatorship would see Dead Presidents passing hands between the policeman and a jeepney driver.

Marcos babies like us also have that gift, honed by watching seemingly innocuous cartoons in TV during those dark times. Don’t say watching The Yogi Bear Show, Spider Man, Challenge of the Superfriends, Flintstones, Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, Wacky races, Shazam, Herculoids, Space Ghost, Fantastic Four, Tom and Jerry, Batman and the Bugs Bunny Show didn’t have an effect on us. Even now, we still watch these old classics at night at CN just to catch up on our lost childhood.

We, the Marcos babies, also had a way of seeing beyond the shadows. Call it rusticus aspectus or the gift of morphing our political leaders with cartoon characters. Case in point, Voltes V. Enough said.Second point: Our present president. PPGMA is the PPG with an MA. You may unfreeze now.

She is (let’s all sing) Blossoms, she is commander and leader; Bubbles, she is a joy and a laughter; Buttercup, and she’s the toughest fighter, Powerpuffs save the day.

It was Good Friday, 2002, when we were also called at the Mansion House courtyard because PPGMA presented Jeffrey Schilling, hostaged by the Abu Sayyaf for eight months. The President said then, “Seek and destroy the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf. Sa mga bandidong natitira, sumurender na kayo. Pupulbusin ko kayo!”

How funny that Spanish-thinking Filipinos would translate pulverize to powder. In my notebook, I drew Bubbles hitting the Abu Sayyaf. Sen. Tessie Oreta was wrong in saying (right after PPGMA and her cabinet posed for Tattler as the Men in Black) that PPGMA should also pose with DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman and Gloria Tan-Climaco as the Powerpuff Girls. Dinky guffawed and said she wanted to be Buttercup.

But PPGMA is the Three Faces of PPG. You would only know whom by the color of her dress. The Powerpuff Girls is the biggest selling cartoon created by the Cartoon Network not because of its clever storylines because of the fashion and color coordination. People in the know exploited this secret in dealing with GMA. Why then would former Justice Secretary get into the inner circle? By gifting her with a pink orchid he christened “Malvarosa Princesa Gloria” which appealed to the Blossom in her.

Last February 26 during the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Kuala Lumpur, GMA stood tall from the other delegates by wearing an orange outfit designed by Fil-Japanese designer Ito Curata. “People at the hall, used to seeing the men in dark suits and the women in formal light-shaded business attires, could not but noticed and expressed awe over the lady wearing the orange suit,” the OPS noted.

In her interview with Time Magazine in June 2001, the time of the EDSA 3 and the Basilan hostages, she wore an iridescent blue silk gown to highlight Bubbles, the sensitive PPG who also, more importantly to that interview, acts as the mediator between the wise and egoistic Blossom and the aggressive Buttercup. Of course, there is the Gloria Labandera (soap bubbles?) to soften her Georgetown reputation and endear her with the blue-collar people and the blue ribbon committee. President Arroyo does not like wearing green but she loves posing and surrounding herself with the military men in their olive green uniforms and the US Green Beret.

And the PPGMA exhorting the pupulbusin ko kayo is Buttercup speaking. During the Fourth World Meeting of Families here last January, PPGMA said that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, wife of St. Joseph. "Thus you gave us the model of a God-loving and humane family. And now you bind a Christian woman and man in marriage to be the sign and channel of your love for the world, and of the love of Christ for his Church," she said.The OPS later noted that “those who attended almost covered the expansive football field and garden, making the crowd a sea of white, red, green, pink, orange and yellow, the colors of the several parties from different cities and municipalities.”

And the color of the whole Powerpuff posse.Many, especially among the women’s groups are stupefied on why President Arroyo, a former economics teacher at Ateneo, would not aggressively address the population problem when she knew in all her studies abroad that a high population growth negates whatever modest economic growth we have.

She instead toed the line of the Catholic Church, which is the aforementioned man-in–the-womb-of-the-Virgin method, otherwise known as the natural methods like withdrawal, putting the temperature before the thingy and the rhythm.Come to think of it, how were the Powerpuff Girls created? By mixing sugar, spice, everything nice and Chemical X. How virginal can you get?

By association, other characters in PPG’s Townsville resemble our past and present heroes. Captain Righteous, the original defender and hero of Townsville who sued to fight the Minster of Pain is now retired and living in a trailer.

There are the Broccoloids who sound like the defenders of GMO like Bt corn. Then there is the disco-loving Boogieman and his Midnight Cabinet who put Townsville in the dark just so he can party.

Al Lusion, the magician who came back from the dead, sounds like our good man from Batac. Major Glory is PPGMA’s classmate, Bill Clinton. Him, our favorite villain, has eyebrows that remind us of our favorite ex-senator. Then there’s Mojo Jojo, the monkey with a brain so big he needs a turban to accommodate. Can Joe Almonte and Jojo Acuin fit the bill?

Cuteness is the world where the PPG wallows in and President Arroyo incorporated that in her image. Frances Richard in the Autumn 2001 issue of Cabinet Magazine wrote about the “15 Theses on Cute.”

The fourth thesis is thus: “Cute marks a crucial absence. It guarantees, by definition, the nonappearance of malice, premeditation, irony, self-consciousness, accusation, or mercenary agenda. However, in its manufactured forms cute remains a major locus for—in some ways is synonymous with—the manipulative gesture, the prepackaged, consumable demonstration of (necessarily factitious) innocence, spontaneity, and need. Cute arises by manipulating the guarantee of non-manipulation. Professing its own demure and complete powerlessness, it gains power over and directs all interactions with it: parents wait upon the infant, not the other way around. Simultaneously referring to and negating its own vulnerability, cute functions as a self-fulfilling system, maintaining its image as 100% stolid and happy and obvious only by virtue of utter contingency.”

And the eleventh: “Morphologically—that is, æsthetically—cute relies on big eyes, round heads, fat bellies. The limbs of the cute are stubby or nonexistent, its mouth abstracted or disproportionately tiny, its nose button, its ears enormous, or alternatively, invisible. Cute tumbles, toddles, waddles, rolls; it is visibly dependent, apparently engineered by natural selection to stimulate a nurturing response. If this is true in evolutionary terms, it follows that the surpluscuteness manufactured by culture might denote the culture’s attempt to trick itself into kindness. One respondent defined it thus: “Cute makes you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Which is to root for PPGMA. She is far more manipulating that we think. Other political frontrunners are catching up on Cute 101.

I remembered interviewing former Education Secretary Raul Roco in 1995 about where he got the idea of wearing his screaming blue or pink Hawaiian shirts. As it turned out, every other journalist asked him that same question and his standard answer is this seller in Nepa Q or was it Farmer’s Cubao was so fond of Roco that he gifted him with about a dozen of this cheap tacky shirts. So he wore them out of gratitude and also to distinguish himself from the gray-flannel flock. We went back to our computers and wrote this charming story. Unfortunately, I also switched on the TV and saw this excitable wallaby in Nickelodeon. How can a politician easily fool me? There it was: Roco is Rocko.

“Rocko’s Modern Life” is about a wallaby (a small kangaroo) wearing the same loud shirt as Roco. In the opening segment, a big book was squeezed into his head (think: Dep Ed), given a Jack Russell terrier named Sparky and kicked from Bicol to the big town. He loves jackhammering (tatad, also from Bicol) and reading comics. He works as an attendant for a comics store and once worked as a product tester for Conglomo-O.

His best friends are Heffer, a steer raised by wolves, and a neurotic turtle named Filburt who sometimes looks like Conrado de Quiros, Roco’s favorite intellectual partner. Roco always looks at the bright side of life and even if the world gives him earthquakes, bad luck, bad supermarket attendants and an evil toad for a neighbor, Roco always come out alive and happy. Rocko is very cool but when he gets really, he shoots up like the Mayon. And if ever Roco makes it to primetime, he knows whom to thank.

And to make this essay really serious, we emulate historian Renato Constantino who at the end of his “Aquino Reader” came out with a pop quiz where you try to guess who said what: President Ferdinand Marcos or Corazon Aquino.

So who said these, PPG or PPGMA? 1) Ego? I ain’t got no stinkin’ ego.2) But since I’m among the principal figures in the divisive national events for the last two or three years, my political efforts can only result in never-ending divisiveness.3) Hey…I just realized something! We’ve just defeated every kind of criminal there is to fight! We’re the strongest people in the entire world! People just totally respect us! So why fight the crime world, when we can just take it over right under their noses?4) I believe this because I see around me the emergence of a new generation of dynamic and progressive leaders, whether in politics, in business, or in civil society. They are our agents of change.5) I’m not a good girl. I’m a bad girl, right?6) Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.7) In governance, there is too much politics hampering good, productive governance. The convergence of the national stresses such as these has led to the sense of gloom that many of our citizens now talk of. There is a feeling of too much negativism and conflict in our society.8) Hey girls, don’t you think that instead of just beating up the bad guys and throwing them in prison, we should be solving the socioeconomic problems at the root of their criminal behavior?9) Pour down on them the light of your truth, the fire of your love, and the strength of your power so that everything they do will be pleasing to you and beneficial to families.10) I want new clothes! This dress makes me look fat!11) Him, will you give me a makeover? This good girl image just doesn’t suit me anymore.12) Forget fighting. I’m going to a ballet.13) On the other hand, relieved of the burden of politics, I can devote the last year and half of my administration to the following.14) Hmmm…maybe I should donate to a brain transplant center. There are people who need my brains more than me15) Why am I always the crybaby? I demand a lawyer.16) I wonder if my planet-sized ego is why people are jealous of me? Nah.17) Join me therefore as we begin to tear the walls that divide. Let us build an edifice of peace, progress and economic stability.18) Goodbye everyone. There’s a war going on and I wanna be on the frontline.

1,3,11 and 16 from Blossom; 5,6,8,10 and 12 from Buttercup, 15 and 18 from Blossom, 2,4,7,9,13 and 17 from GMA (taken from her Rizal Day, inaugural and 4th World Meeting of Families speeches) and 14 from Mojo Jojo.

Babeth L on the Fire that Hit The House of NVM and Narita Gonzalez

Narita's coolness in the face of fire

By Elizabeth Lolarga

The text from Princess Nemenzo forwarded to her by violinist John Lesaca described the fire that engulfed the house of NVM and Narita Gonzalez on Mabini Street, Area 1, University of the Philippines campus, Diliman, Quezon City.
As more information trickled in, I learned that only a television set, two cars and Narita's musical jewelry box were saved. The rest—the priceless manuscripts of NVM, the writer and National Artist for Literature who gave us immortal stories such as "Bread of Salt" and novels like Children of the Ash-covered Loam, the first edition copies of Hemingway books and other bibliophile's delights--were gone along with his violin, guitar and the piano that a few weeks before another literary giant, Gregorio Brillantes, played on continuously at Narita's request. She told him she hadn't heard live music in sometime, and thereby a command performance followed. That piano is toast.
Right away I forwarded the text message to common friends like sculptor Jerry Araos, writers Menchu Sarmiento (who is also executive director of the Philippine Airlines Foundation) and Gilda Cordero Fernando. Gilda gave an update that all household members were safe. Later, I learned Narita and her grandson Huggy were brought to the UP Infirmary because of smoke inhalation but were released afterwards.
The Saturday evening after the fire, I joined Dr. Melen Araos, her daughters Liwa and Mira and son Julian in bringing donated items to the fire victims.
At the neighboring Lesaca household, where the Gonzalez family members are temporarily staying, the tables were groaning with foodstuff and the corners with bags of clothes and other essentials.
When Narita came out to meet us from her room, she acted like a gracious hostess. Trying to place my name, I told her I am a friend of Gilda and Delfin Tolentino Jr. of UP Baguio. At the mention of Delfin's name, she almost broke down, remembering the books she had set aside for donation to the university library. She had also selected books for sending to various Ateneo units in the provinces as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of NVM's 90th birthday.
She whispered to me, "I was going to buy 90 books since he's 90 this year. But I couldn't afford to buy that much so I just settled for 50."
As the conversation flowed, she stood up to get a bottle of pate, a jar of pesto and one big queso de bola. She asked her son Nim to scrounge around for some bread or crackers, but we declined the hospitality since it seemed strange during an occasion of grief.
Narita also said that Gilda brought her "fashionable clothes," including an expensive shawl, and made her promise to wear them.
I relayed Menchu's concern and what Narita wanted the young writer, the first NVM Gonzalez short story competition award winner, to bring. Narita leaned over, "Not panties because my room is raining with new panties from benefactors." How about unscented Dove soap, her preferred soap? Narita giggled, "My room is flooded with them." Then what practical thing can Menchu bring you, I asked. "Half slip," Narita declared.
The others around the table voiced their belief that half slips were a thing of the past. Liwa said, "No, they're back. Nursing students need them. The best place to find them is SM Department Store. Go for the Sogo brand."
Narita brought out her jewelry box and wound it so we could hear it play the theme from the movie Love Story. All the while she thought it was Lara's theme from Doctor Zhivago.
She was in fine spirit as we bade adieu and took a lingering look at the remaining posts and roof of what used to be a second home of writers. When I texted Gilda to tell her of Narita's calmness and poise, she answered " Pero humahagulgul in between." Well, perhaps she can open up more to someone she has known for decades.
I texted Princess to tell her I made it to Narita's temporary shelter. Princess replied: "Am glad, Was amazed at how Narita and (daughter) Selma have kept their equanimity in the face of the tragedy. I still feel devastated at the loss of NVM's manuscripts and mementos."

The Hello, Garci Sonnets

Now that Garci (Hello) is back, I also want to tellyou about these poemsI wrote early this year. Not really write but compiled from pages and pages of transcripts. All the words were from Garci. Randy David was right when he said that these transcripts were the real ones because of some consistencies on how Garci talked. For example, his use of "kwan"which is so Pinoy. The kwan is not a verbal tic but arises when we are in the sinister mode. I mean, kwan. And it could mean the unmentionable.Kwan also manifests when we are thinking ahead of what we are supposed to say. I also noticed that Garci wants to repeat himself. "Oo, oo" is so consistent.It also helped that many of the areas have names that are doble-doble. Garci also loved to ask where the other line is. Saan ka? Saan ka? In the end, it became melodramatic as seen in the 3rd sonnet. Note also the rhymes. O sige na nga....


1) Paghahanap kay Miss Tipo Tipo

Garcillano: Hello.
GMA: Hello, Did you get my text about the Tipo-tipo?

Tipo-Tipo, hindi pa. Ang inaala nila ngayon kaya nga.
Eto, nag-aano ako kasi. Yung sa Tipo-tipo na tao
Parang nasa kamay na nila. Nassan na? Nasaan na?
Yungsa? Tingnan ko lang kung ano. Ano, ano?
Alin, alin? Anu yun? Anu yun? Bakit, bakit?
O sige, sige. Paano pagkayo-kayo dyan? Ganito, ganito.
Oo, oo. Siya nagsabi sa akin e siya nagsabi sa akin.
Saan, saan. Pabayaan mo, yung isa sa Sumisip, ay, no,
Tipo-tipo, Isang Muslim na babae. Pero hindi naman
Masisira si Ma'am doon. Kung ano-ano kasi pinagsasabi.
Kaya kaya? Ha? Kaya kaya? How can she. Ewan ko lang
Kung pupunta uli iyun, pakidnap ko siya. Nakakaano e.
Wag na lang, wag na lang. Pipilitin ko baka na rin kasi.
Tutal wala na. Pero they are already ready nandun sila eh.

2) Paghahanap kay Nancy Kwan

Garcillano: Hello.
GMA: Hello, Did you get my text about the Tipo-tipo?
Garcillano: Kwan ho. That's what I'm being fearful about.

Kaya kwan. Pero OK naman iyan kasi kwan.
Pero titingnan natin kung ano ang makukwan natin
Para sila ngang nagkwan niyan. Oo, that's Kwan,
Si Vilar. Pagkatapos iremind mo si Rolly dun sa kwan natin.
Tutal kailangan naman mga arrangement diyan para sa kwan
Pero Ok naman iyan kasi Kwan, Sila na ang magkwan niyan.
Maski yung legal ni Kwan? O sige tatawag na ako sa kwan.
Hindi, wala na yung Columbio nakasama na nung Kwan.
I will send her to the Senate para Kwan. Wala akong kwan.
Nagexplain ho sa akin yung election officer ng kwan, ng Pangutaran,
Si Kwan. Paki kwan lang ha. O sige, sige, ako na ang Kwan.
Si Kwan, yung maputi ang buhok. Anong Kwan dyan
Sa Lumba-Bayabao? Ok, basta ready, makwan siguro.
Pakikwan lang ha. Kasi Kwan, baka may regalo para sa iyo.

3) Paghahanap kay Garci, ang Ventriloquista

Garcillano: Pagsasalitahin ko sila ho without letting people
that I am the one who will address it ho.
Ganun lang po, sige po ma'am.
GMA: Ok, ok.

Hello nasaan kayo? Andito ako sa Tondo. Pagkatapos sabihin mo
Nandito ako sa Manila Hotel. Oo ma'am, mamamasyal daw muna
Ako sa Mindanao. I will not anymore. Pare, papunta ako Baguio
Pero kung maari, magpakwan ka ng, magkano ba ang iyong kaya?
Kahit magkano? Kailangang linisin yun lahat. Nandito naman ako
Kanina, ba't hindi ako tinawagan, ako na nga ang nasa opisina eh.
Hindi kami makaalis. Dito nga kami nakatira. Nandito ako
Sa labas, pumunta ako doon sandali. Tinamaan nga ako diyan eh.
Hello, hindi ako puwede ngayon kasi nandito ako ngayon
Kasama misis ko. Eh di mabuti kasi di sila makakaalis.
Ano, nasaan na kayo? Magserve ka na diyan so you can go on.
Nagugutom na ako eh. Puwedeng dumeretso ka sa akin?
Nandito ako sa kwan, sa Westin. Malayo pa ako, dito
Na lang sa may Roxas. Andito ako sa taas. Oo, nakikita ko kayo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Power of Inter (coco) Net

I received a forwarded email three months ago. I used to be the black hole of all these chain emails. Even if you threaten me bad things if I don’t forward this to five of my emails, the letter goes straight to trash. I even threaten some of my friends (Bob, Nonet and Carol are the most notorious) that if they don’t stop giving me all these chain mails, I will cut them off from my will. So three months ago, I got this chain email about coconet and the BBC Challenge. For some reason, I read the whole thing and clicked at the hyperlinks. Buti na lang because the email proved to be a good material for a story so I wrote it. Unfortunately, INQUIRER forgot to put my name so the story looked like another email.
I also forwarded it to some of my egroups. Weeks later, I would receive the coconet chain emails and one of the email was my story. Last Monday, INQUIRER came out with a story that the coconet, one of the 12 finalists, was chosen. There is no doubt that emails (browse and click) from Filipinos here and abroad had a major impact on the decision. Congrats at balato naman to the $20,000.
This is one thing we Pinoys should be proud of. How many beauty contestants have we made Miss Photogenic because of texting. Pinoys in Hawaii brought Jasmine Trias in the Top 3 in the American Idol.
We used to be reminded that if all Chinese in China would jump at the same time, the resulting earthquake would have destroyed the world. If all the Pinoys text at the same time, look what happens. Aside from making Smart, Globe and Sun rich, we are making a difference.

Before the earthquake

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Blind Lemons

The very famous "Orange and Lemons" are coming to Baguio on November 26 for a concert. Dig the name of their concert, Rock Against Piracy. That got me laughing. "Orange and Lemons"? Anti-piracy?
You all know the "OrAL" and their "Pinoy Big Brother Theme." You probably heard it once every hour for the past two months.
One of my good friends even had it for a ring tone. The first time I heard it, it just brought me to the 1980s and my journalistic suspicion was right. It was the New Age era. They copied riff by riff that song "Chandeliers" by "The Care."
So "OrAL" is anti-piracy. Hmmm. Is that like saying they are "anti-plagiarism" also?
My other beef with the song is that, it concurs with the "Pinoy Rule on Bad Songwriting" which is "When at a loss for words, go for the patriotic."
"Ibang-iba ang Pinoy." So why are you copying, you morons!
I don't watch Pinoy Big Brother but they literally come to me. It's weird but I was in the same elevator in two occasions with two of those who were yanked out. One time it was a girl and one of the hotel employees asked her about adjusting back to the outside life.
"At least nakakakita na ako ng tao," she said, which raised my eyebrows because I don't know her.
When I was informed later, the remark made a lot of sense. The second time it was boy in yellow T-shirt. We were alone in the elevator and when we got off, he had small talk with a hotel clerk.
This was the guy who was yanked out because he stayed in the toilet longer than expected. My God! If there are cameras everywhere you go 7/24 then the toilet is the best place to regain your sanity.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Newspapers as Mousetrap not as Flyswatters

Here are quotes from the recent World Editors and Marketeers Conference in Athens.

"Why change formats? Readers want it, its an excuse for potential readers to revisit, it appeals to young people and women, it is an opportunity to re-energize the organization, it can reposition the newspaper and it may increase circulation."Eamonn Byrne, Deputy Director General, World Association of Newspapers
"The broadsheet is a ridiculous format for newspapers in the modern era. If you are thinking of launching a broadsheet, don’t, because nobody wants it except men over 60."
"People don’t want to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of the newspaper. They want to know what’s on offer every day."Marc Sands, Marketing Director, Guardian Newspapers, United Kingdom
"You know the second most flattering thing you can be asked for, after your telephone number? It’s your opinion."Ted Glynn, Group Circulation and Marketing Director, Northcliffe Newspapers Group, United Kingdom, on getting readers involved in the newspaper.
"It wasn’t about building a better mousetrap, but a new mousetrap."Penelope Muse Abernathy, Senior Vice President, International and Development, Wall Street Journal, on the complete redesign of the international editions for The Wall Street Journal.
"Yes, the challenges that newspapers face are intensifying. Our industry is not being complacent. There are a lot of new developments -- new titles are emerging, news formats are spreading like wildfire, together with a range of new products and new services. There is an effervescence in our industry globally and a real willingness to innovate."Timothy Balding, Director General, World Association of Newspapers
"Other media are trying to position newspapers as old and dying. They may be old, but they are not weak. They have the resources for the future."Mike Smith, Managing Director, Media Management Center, USA
"In the long term, all media will be two-tiered, with a free and a paid dimension. Think about it: 25 years ago, all TV was free, and all newspapers were paid. Now you have free and paid TV, and free and paid newspapers."Constantine Kamaras, CEO,, Greece
"Price is a guarantee that readers are interested in the content of the newspaper."Aura Iordan, Business Analyst, World Association of Newspapers
"The world is full of millions and millions of people who want to do our job for us, and publish stories on their own. Production editors no longer have staffs of 50 -- they have a staff of 50,000. The problem is, nobody knows what is good among all that. But certainly we have to be better than Google and the other aggregators at developing the tools to determine what is valuable."
"This is the most exciting time to be in print than any I’ve seen in 30 years. Newspapers are innovating, they are creating new products, they are taking chances and they are adapting to change."Jim Chisholm, Strategy Advisor, World Association of Newspapers
"Young people don’t write letters, they write e-mails and SMS. They even break up with their girlfriends by SMS. We have to take the new reality into account."Thomas Dobernigg, Director, Dobernigg & Rupprecht Kommunikation, Germany

Thursday, November 17, 2005

SM Baguio vs Baguio Walker's Club

Session Road is a walker’s paradise. Try this exercise. Stay in a coffee shop anywhere in Session and try to visually tag two to three people walking on a Saturday. If you are observant, two of the three will pass by you again even before you had a coffee refill.
The result was valid maybe three years ago, you say, when SM Baguio was still not around.
Well, you better think again. The way SM Baguio is treating its shoppers, those who walk, they will have another think coming.
I just came from Manila and went to SM Baguio to buy books. I only went to SM here to buy books and probably meet some people in the cafes or restaurants. Otherwise, I see no point in staying there.
I was walking to cross when a security guard motioned me to go further 10 meters right to cross. I said, What the heck? Why do we have to walk an extra 20 meters when we could just cross diretso?
Management orders daw.
If you happen to walk to SM all the time (because you work along Session Rd), you knew that the security guards would make you stop in your tracks to let all the cars pass by before you can cross. I’ve fought the guards about that and knew some friends who fought the guards about that discrimination and nothing has been done. Why can’t they let the cars wait. There’s no queue for cars anyway to disrupt the traffic below but its all management orders.
Well, the main road being used by SM is a city road or even a national road, why is it being used exclusively by SM shoppers?
And the sidewalk given to shoppers is so narrow that it has become a pickpocket paradise. And there are no security guards who would dare help you. I’ve witnessed many victims coming to the security guards for help and the guards would just radio in and that’s that. Back to making the roads safe for motorists.
And at night the stairway at the foot of Luneta Hill is not even lit. How much would it take the management to put up a post there?
Maybe the management think that these people just walk around and not pay anyway? They don’t know that the motorists only take advantage of the P20 parking fee so they can leave their cars there for the rest of the day and go back to walking to Session Road.
I never saw SM Baguio as a crowning achievement of Baguio’s development. It’s just a sad phase of city’s quest to transform itself into a huge concrete tomb. .

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Googling Gogoling

I can't resist that title. Years ago, CNN featured a woman named Dot Comb and how her life changed because of that appropriately IT name. Abe Gogoling is a regular bar habitue in Baguio because he is a darts player. A damn good one because when i googled "Gogoling," that is one of the few entries on him. You can just see his hands and how smooth his followthrough. He is also a computer instructor at the STI Baguio, which is my mother's neighbor. He is an IT instructor even before "Google" was conceived so it's perfect material for a news story. Anyway, Gogoling is also back in the news because he topped a national Scrabble tournament in Baguio. It is the first time that a Baguio boy won such tournament. Scrabble in Baguio had a surge because of my friend Pigeon Lobien. Yes, Pigeon is his name. He used to work for "Skyland News" so he is pretty sick of the "Skyland Pigeon" joke. Pigeon is also a good darts player but sometimes he is pikon and not as consistent as Gogoling. Pigeon was hooked (different meaning for Scrabble players) and went on a crusade to teach Scrabble to young students. He also organized Scrabble tournaments here in Baguio and edits Lexico, which is the official organ (different meaning for Las Pinas boys) of the Baguio Benguet Scrabble Tsu-Tsu. Lobien placed sixth in the tournament that Gogoling topped.

You know my story is about something else. Last week, an old friend from the US of A came home and brought her classmate. The classmate brought her husband who has not been to the Philippines for 30 years. Evelyn B (my friend) called up all her classmates in UP and they set an Ilocos trip. I am not a classmate (maybe a dozen years younger or more but let us not rub that in) but I was set to plan the Vigan and Santiago Cove legs. So last week, despite three screaming deadlines, I joined them. Now Manny Pasetes (the guy who was not home for 30 years) had a grandpa who was a tobacco trader in Bacnotan, La Union. Manny wanted to see Bacnotan (he had never been there) and perhaps have a photo in front of the church or something. Manny is an IT guy back in California and was glad that Philippines is also making leaps in the IT field. He would notice a transmission tower along the way and would be very happy. He was always talking of "internet capability" of the places we passed by. He dreamt of starting an Internet cafe in Evelyn's backwater village named Tarugtog. We reached Bacnotan at about 12:30 and when we went to the Church and Municipal Hall. There was one official there having a siesta. He woke up and had a little conversation with Manny who mentioned that he is a Pasetes. Thsi man then lit up and said, you must be from Nangatiran! He said that 40 percent of the Pacetes (Pasetes? Pacetes? Sim sim) are there. Maybe the 60 percent migrated to the US. So he sketched a map for us and then later guided us to the place. Nangatiran is about five kilometers away. He texted the barangay chairman who is a Pacetes and when we came there were about six women waiting for us. There were awkward moments but we were glad that Manny finally found his hometown. There was even one relative who rushed out of the ricefield, muddied slippers and all, to meet his cousin.

"Roots," my brother (the classmate of Evelyn) said, recalling Kunta Kinte of that Alex Haley's book and miniseries. Then DomC added, "Ro-ot" which means "grass." Ok, that is why when you say grassroots, an Ilocano would say "redundant."

"Well, Evelyn, you can't google this," I said. This, meaning the Ilocano way of finding connections to everything.

The mystery official who made the reunion possible helped us because we came from Baguio. He is related to Bishop Salgado who used to be our bishop in Baguio and now in Vigan where the group went.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Birdcatching in Sagada Part I

Boys will be boys but if you were born in Sagada, life is a little more exciting. Among Sagada boys running thirty or more, they remember spending nights in the dap-ay or sleeping quarters for men massaging the toes of their elders with bamboo sticks. They played traditional games and learn rituals. Then in the cold months, they go to mangkik.
Mangkik or ikik means catching migratory birds with a net. The way it was practiced, the mangiikik or bird catchers would look for signs about the approaching migratory birds. Sometimes it is a series of feathery clouds. They would then make the one-and-a-half hour climb to Mt. Ampacao and wait with their kerosene lamps. When the flocks would approach, they would raise their lanterns and then throw their huge nets at the precise moment. They then trampled the birds and bring them home for food.
No one would say that ikik is a tradition or a ritual but it had been going on for decades. The late William Henry Scott cited the mangkik in the Sagada Postboy , the organ of the St. Mary's School, in the July 11, 1953 issue.
"Sagada is not only admired for its natural beauty but also has abundant forest resources. On the mountain called Ampacao which bounds Sagada and the West is the place where men go to mangkik (catching birds at night with a net)," Scott wrote.
Mt. Ampacao has changed since 1953. Now at night, you will see an eerie orange glow similar to a V-shaped flare on top of Ampacao.
Alarmed, I told my friends, there are mangiikiks in Ampacao.
They laughed and said that it is just the Smart telecommunications tower.
Ikik has been on the headlines the past years because of suspicion that wild migratory birds carry the pathogenic strain of H5N1 or the bird flu or avian influenza. Once skeptical scientists doubted that the migratory wild birds carry the virus until the death of 100 or so ducks, gulls, geese and swans at a remote lake in Inner Mongolia which can't be explained by human activities.
In the local front, Mountain Province Governor Maximo Dalog called for the ban of ikik in Mountain Province and nearby provinces. He cited Sagada's Mt. Ampacao and called for Sagada officials to guard the path leading to the mountain and bar anyone going up there at night.
Sagada had already issued a resolution banning ikik starting August 2005 up- to May 2006 and indefinitely extended it because of the bird flu threat.
Dalog also cited Sinipsip in Buguias, Benguet and Hungduan in Ifugao as the other areas where the migratory birds pass and where ikik is also practiced.
"But at least, these areas are only the path and not their dwelling places. Our people only catch them," Dalog said.
The migratory birds came from Siberia down to China and ultimately the Philippines.
"In the past, we tell the mangiikik not to kill the birds tagged by scientists. Now we tell them to just avoid the place," Dalog said.
In Ilocos, the Department of Agriculture cited Bani in Pangasinan and Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte as the sanctuaries of these migratory birds. DA installed footbaths or mats wet with antiseptics in local airports or areas near the two sanctuaries supposedly to stop the spread of H5N1.
But back in Sagada, the threat of bird flu is hardly given attention by the mangiikiks and the Sagada boys.
Eduardo Umaming, a church worker here, said that last year when Sagada council banned ikik, there were still many who went up and trampled some birds. He said that his nephew and three of his friends went to Mt. Ampacao and bagged only 12 fowls.
"Every Sagada boy wanted to experience ikik," Umaming said.
He remembered going up there in 1980 when he was in high school.
"We got drunk waiting for the birds and I bagged only seven. It's not worth it," he said.
Back then (probably in 1953), the mangiikiks would harvest sacks and sacks of birds, he said.
"Then people would go to mangkik for food. Now young ones do it for the thrill. I've been saying to the council and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) that should be their basis. If it is for thrill and not for food, then ikik should be stopped," Umaming said.
He also said that mere banning ikik would not deter the residents.
"They should penalize or fine them," he said.
Another Sagada boy interjected that if the birds are indeed infected with bird flu, they should have dropped dead even before they reach Sagada.
Ornithologists around the world also flirted with the idea but still called for worldwide surveillance of migratory birds until the specific species of wild bird could be found to have been carrying the dreaded disease for long distances.
Until then Sagada boys would have to settle for bird watching rather than for bird catching.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Why I Don't Cover PGMA Anymore

People asked me why I was leaving Baguio just when the President is coming to town last week. I told them I stopped covering her since last year. I can do this because I am jsut a correspondent and can choose what to write. But even if I am a regular reporter, I would probably tell my editor that what I would write would not interest me anyway.
I did this when our former mayor in Baguio was elected. I swore to myself that I will not enter his office nor mention his name in my article. I did and nobody noticed.
PGMA used to interest me. One of my favorite coverage was when she presented Schilling on Maundy Thursday. It presented a special problem among us because here we are with a very big scoop and we knew fully well that there would be no newspapers the next day except for Manila Bulletin. I think my story came out in New York Times. He he he.
Another was when she went to PMA one Friday night. It was rainign very hard so people were wondering why she has to come. The speech was blah except when she said, "I am married to my country." I said to myself that is the story. But I was the only one who filed about it as an allusion to her crumbling marriage.
Another was when she announced that she would no longer be running for President. This happened in front of the Rizal Shrine in Burnham Park. I caught the speech on TV and was there five minutes later, looking for people to react. Our bureau's story on The Queen's gambit was a finalist for the CMMA and probably lost because as we all knew, she lied.
I was at the airport when i read the news. I was going to Bangkok for a press conference on reproductive and sexual health. The delegates who were with me were so downtrodden by the news. Here is one woman president who was so anti-woman in her policies. What do we do, they asked loudly. Some suggested Raul Roco and FPJ. But we all knew that she will have her way, and she did.
The other times I covered her were dreadfully coordinated. One February 14, we gave her roses and I was shot giving her the thorniest rose she ever received. Then they gave the media strips of paper containing the questions they have to ask her, just like FVR time.
After that, I stopped covering her. There were instances especially during the elections when you have to be there but I did not write anything about her. I just forwarded the press releases.
My favorite piece on PGMA was the one I wrote for flip magazine which came out in the INQUIRER. I will provide it here later.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dahil Kay Gilda

Due to the overwhelming popularity (silence) of my blog, a good friend asked me to reproduce this essay on the Great Gilda

Gilda Cordero Fernando as Life Coach
by Elizabeth Lolarga

Gilda Cordero Fernando. The Last Full Moon: Lessons on my Life. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press and GCF Books. 2005. 250pp.

Sylvia Mendez Ventura. A Literary Journey with Gilda Cordero Fernando. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press. 2005. 174pp.

Was he being cantankerous or issuing a left-handed compliment when the Grand Ole Man of Letters Nick Joaquin once said of Gilda Cordero Fernando: "We have no other writer capable of such sublime nonsense?"
We have reason to object for the woman is far from flighty, superficial and wispy. Talk of woman of substance, of Mother Earth and sexy septuagenarian all in one! Every writer, male or female, looks up to her for her accomplishments as fictionist, essayist, editor, publisher, theater producer, fashionista, art patron, painter and what her best pal Mariel Francisco describes as "national cultural visionary…an outstanding voice in the expression of the evolving Filipino world view."
Heck! Fernando should've been named National Artist for Literature (or even Multi-media if the authorities ever put up such a category) years ago if not for the corrosive power struggles that mark the, ahem, sublime world of arts and culture.
Now in the autumn of her life, still garbed in avant-garde threads sewn by who's ever hot in the couture world, seen by literary scholar and friend Ventura as "keep(ing) old age at bay by moisturizing her unblemished skin, exorcising the demons of arthritis, hanging out with young adults, and, above all, keeping passion alive," Fernando, 75 this year, gifts us with a compendium of life lessons earned the hard, soul-cleaning way.
Critic Ventura zeroes in on the three central themes that inform Fernando's creative non-fiction (including Ladies' Lunch and Other Ways to Wholeness and A Spiritual Pillow Book, jointly authored, by the way, with Francisco): "her hostility toward her mother, her unequivocal love for her father, and the bewildering state of her marriage."
Not too long ago, writer Bobbie Malay said she still had to read a Filipino woman writer deal honestly with her relationship with her mother, raw emotions and all, not sweetness and light, the way the Frenchwoman Simone de Beauvoir did with her mother. Not too long after that, along came Fernando, and in this she breaks new ground for hasn't Francisco called her an "active door opener," a synonym for trailblazer?
In the third chapter of her memoirs , "The Soap Opera," Fernando uses a no-holds-barred language to describe a violent quarrel between her parents where she witnesses "my father standing on the stair landing, the top of his silk pajamas in shreds and my mother trying to claw off the trousers. Through a big tear on a pants leg, a bit of his penis was showing."
As an only child for 13 years before her sister Tess was born in the wartime, Fernando saw her Mama's upheavals, the hurling of things on the floor at the height of unreasonable anger. Once she threw a bottle of Mercurochrome and a splinter lodged in her daughter's wrist. To this day Fernando bears the scar.
During those pre-Bantay Bata years, the young Gilda, who was spanked with a slipper and almost strangled (with no intention to kill though), was pained to see how the outbursts, quick though they may have been to dissipate, hurt and annoyed those who heard the terrible words. No dirty word though, the author would grant her mother that. When the girl entered her teens, the mother guarded her more fiercely. "She made me guilty, like I were some lascivious child who would run off with the first guy I met."
The worst was the effect on the child's self-esteem. "My mother," Fernando writes, "made me feel that I was the worst person that ever got seeded on this earth…After a while, no matter how hard she beat her devil child, I didn't feel anything. That's why I understand it when the political prisoners say that beatings don't hurt anymore after a while. You get immune."
In her adulthood, Fernando confronted her aged mother about those beatings, and the woman denied everything. The author rues, "It was as if the God upstairs had given me a mother with so many gifts and talents and said, But you're not about to get them for free! You have to learn every lesson laid before you."
As her maturity deepened along with her well of compassion, Fernando realizes that her Mama, who lost her own mother at age five, also had a self-esteem problem to the point that she thought Gilda "wasn't a good-looking baby. It took a while to convince her that I looked fine…My mother's low self-esteem couldn't convince her that she deserved a pretty child." Fernando adds sympathetically, "But how could I blame her for faulty parenting when she barely had a mama herself?"
Fernando hauls out her honed skills in food description in recreating the dishes that came from her mother's kitchen, a strong point of this older woman with whom Gilda had a lifelong battle. "She liked serving fancy stuff—an incomparable lengua, a capon stuffed with sotanghon and chestnuts, a big fish bathed in mayonnaise and garnished with separate bands of minced carrots, hard-boiled eggs, and sugar beets…Sometimes there was wintermelon soup which was rich chicken broth in a big oiled kundol which stood on its end in a magnificent bowl."
Ventura notes that Fernando's "food essays transcend the usual articles on gourmet feasts served in gated subdivisions and patrician restaurants; they also portray the lifeways of the common folk, their beliefs, superstitions, customs, and culinary procedures which may be old-fashioned but pleasing enough to the palate." (See Philippine Food and Life as an example. Fernando considers it her "best book.")
The critic asks Fernando "if she every drools while writing her essays on succulent food, and her answer is 'Never, pagod na pagod ako.' But her exhaustion never betrays itself, so smooth and effortless is her style."
Back to Consuelo Luna Cordero, Fernando's mother whose influence is far-reaching in her sense of style and grooming. There is a precious chapter on "Mother's beauty secrets that I learned (and unlearned)" wherein the young Gilda is dolled up in Shirley Temple minis that had her pulling down the hem of her dress to hide her panties.
All the way to her 70s when she was producing the theater extravaganza Luna: An Aswang Romance, Fernando still had an axe to grind against her mother. "Not coincidentally," she writes, "my mother's family name is Luna. To me the aswang in the play represents all the things I had not liked about my mother. We were forever quarreling. She had lots of energy which I felt she drew from anger and nervousness. It was like aswang energy. She did not draw from a higher source and her unbridled nervous energy consumed her as it almost consumed me…My black chick was obviously the residual resentment against my mother."
As the production drew close to its premiere, Fernando, in the privacy of her home, dances and flings her arms to the moon, saying, "Mother, forgive me." At 70 she realizes that she also had her share of blame in their "sorry relationship. I had always felt that she was the older one, the parent, and should know better…But now the tables were turned. I realized that even in her intransigence my mother, too, had suffered. And for the first time in my life I felt free of any baggage!" The reader identifies with the closure finally reached.
As for being the apple of her father's eye, Fernando has nothing but good memories of Dr. Narciso Cordero who helped her with her arithmetic and later her algebra, geomety, physics and trigonometry, who read the entire Les Miserables by Victor Hugo while she had a bout of flu, who taught her how to bike during the Japanese Occupation when there was no gas, who softly played a makeshift flute-recorder as she drifted to sleep.
The writer observes how opposite as night and day her parents were: "A cautious man, my daddy descended the stairs on cat feet, one step at a time, holding on to the banister; mama nimbly negotiated the stairs in high-heeled shoes. My father saved money; my mother spent it. He was an indefatigable string-saver, pencil-stub hoarder and soap-paster; my mother blew the money saved on fondue casseroles and imported pink and blue cigarettes…My mother liked to cook; my father disliked to eat. If papa could take his food intravenously, he would be a much happier man."
This is Fernando at her best talking, not hiding behind the screen of fiction. As Ventura notes, "Gilda made a smart decision when she chose to give up fiction for creative non-fiction in the hope that she would attract a wider audience. Her readership expanded, indeed, and she harvested more prestigious awards than she did for her short stories….The fiction-writing instinct has, however, remained embedded in her psyche and has added sparkle to her essays."
Ventura describes Fernando's style as fusing "the methods of traditional exposition (facts, truths, theories) with the forms of creative non-fiction (narration, description, figurative language) in a style marked by vigor, color, and grace."
For choosing writing as her main line, Fernando is grateful to a wartime teacher, a Maryknoll nun stationed in Malabon where Gilda's family fled. She writes, "In every person's life there is someone, usually a teacher, who blazes a path to one's professional life. Sister Maria del Rey did that for me. She had been a Pittsburgh reporter before she became a nun and could certainly practice what she preached. She taught us how to observe things around us and how to describe them in great detail in writing."
While their class was required to write daily themes, by the end of the schoolyear, it was only the young Gilda who persisted on writing till the task "had become a loving, one-to-one tutorial between Sister del Rey and me."
The other person with a lifelong, still continuing influence on Fernando's life is her choice of a mate, Marcelo, whom she described in his youth as "unobstrusive…refined and sophisticated. I was impressed that he subscribed to the New Yorker magazine whose articles I adored. He was intelligent though not particularly sociable, a strong silent type with some mysterious underground current." But most of all she liked the fact that "he never made me feel insecure. I knew that he would take care of me forever and ever."
Although the chemistry that drew them was electric (pun intended; Marcelo Fernando rose to become a corporate executive at Meralco), the marriage went through decades of strife and adjustments. Fernando quips, "Some friends claimed that their marriages were made in heaven; ours seemed more like it was made in a barbecue pit."
One of the sore points that Fernando saw was her husband "both liked my being a writer and hated it because it was the star on top of the litany of interests that we did not share." Furthermore, "more than any man, woman, or child, my husband considered my writing his rival. And maybe so, because it was my passion. I could pour into a piece of paper all my anguish, my fantasies, and my secret desires. I could create a dwelling place, a holy of holies that no one could enter."
The modus vivendi they arrive at is: "I would attend all his Meralco parties and all the birthdays of his relatives but he would never go to any of mine. And he promised to keep supporting me in style all my life. I kinda felt shortchanged there but then how could you win, he's a lawyer."
Any writer, especially a perennially insolvent one, would agree wholeheartedly to such terms. They remain the secret of the couple's more than 50 years of togetherness. "If we shut a door between us, it was only a physical door, to create the space within that is the real sustenance."
In "Private Spaces," Fernando elucidates this idea further. After years of trying to create her own physical space away from the husband's snoring, nighttime reading lamp and TV watching, she finds that she can "create a room of your own within. Meditation could create that space. So could solitary biking, or running, or swimming, or slow dancing, or playing the piano, or painting, or being absorbed in work you love."
She hints on how she learns to forgive Marcelo's indiscretions and "I found I had landed at home. I finally accepted my partner's love the way it was, and had always been, warts and all, with no conditions, realizing at last that the only private space is being at peace with yourself and the one you love."
She once asked her husband what in their life he liked the most. His answer: "That we learned not to get in each other's way." In poetic terms it means: "Giving each other lots of room to grow." The formula works, whether with heterosexual couples wedded in the 1950s like the Fernandos or homosexual pairings in this era.
The essay "Welcome to the grace years" provides other pointers for couples who think their partnerships are falling apart. In one of her epiphanies, Fernando enters her husband's room to find why she had loved him all these years. "…(O)n the shelves were all shapes and sizes of tapes, batteries, scissors, glue, stacks of coin, strings, magnets, clips, pencils, ballpens, post-it, envelopes…I could rely on him—not just for pens and things—but for everything! Advice on an investment, a trip, a gift, the right word, the right wine, the name of a foreign dish…He grounded me and I felt safe with him. He was my Rock of Gibraltar. Never mind if rocks don't fly or kiss and aren't so sociable. Providing is caring, it is love, and how often that is taken for granted."
In "All about happiness," Fernando hazards a scenario where she and Marcelo are always together "maybe in the next lifetime…But for now let him be just him, and me, me. Twin hearts only when we choose to be." Truly a fairy tale for the millennium.
Ventura's conclusion is Fernando is able to "make senior citizenship look and sound funny. As funny as the weird women in her paintings, swathed in wild colors, frizzy hair askew, pouting, grimacing, pursing their lips, piercing you with witchy eyes, gazing tenderly at a crescent moon."
Columnist Alfred A. Yuson's gripe over Fernando's book is that it sounds like "a sort of swan song, ironically enough from the Grace Kelly of Philippine literature." On hearing of this, Fernando, holding a glass of red wine, shook her head and laughed , "But Grace Kelly is the Ice Queen. I'm the hotsie patootsie of my generation!"--First published in Ti Similla, academic newsletter of the University of the Philippines Baguio

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Pop Quiz, Badshot

This pop quiz I saw in the Internet. Roland Tolentino and I wanted to publish this in our most-awaited book on the Marcos Babies. Do you know who originally posted it. And more importantly, do you know the answers. Not number 3 please and Jaworski's jersey.

1. Who was the woman in the Shell commercial that later starred in "Ang Boyfriend Kong Mamaw?"
2. What do the letters T.O.D.A.S. stand for?
3. Who was the host of "Spin-A-Win?"
4. What was the name of the soup that told viewers to "just add one egg?"
5. Who broke a piece of chalk and dipped it into fluoride for a Colgate ad?
6. One of Nino Muhlach's first films, this movie starred the child actor as a boy with the paranormal ability to control insects with his mind. What was this film?
7. If Randy Santiago was a "babaero," then who was the "pabling?"
8. Who played Lola Agueda on the soap "Flor de Luna?"
9. "Ito ay terrible, ito ay buhol-buhol." What TV show is this referring to?
10. Religious figures like American televangelist Rex Humbard and El Shaddai's Brother Mike Velarde have always flourished on Filipino TV, but none were weirder than the long-haired, bare-chested preacher who, while carrying a python around his neck, invited viewers to join him on his "Spaceship ET2000." Who was this man?
11. What was Vilma Santos's "cherished possession?"
12. An extremely talented guitarist, he was murdered just after his band released their much-praised first album. What was his name?
13. "That's the latest from PAG-ASA." This weatherman charmed viewers with his trademark sign-off -- and his heavily accented English -- on GMA-7's news program. Who was he?
14. One of the most wonderfully catchy advertisement jingles of the '80s was in a local ad for Chiclets: "Ang hilig ng bibig, Chiclets" -- then the kids would yell, "Chiclets!" -- followed by the unforgettable "Chicletin mo baby!" According to this jingle, what flavors of Chiclets were there?
15. Who loves you three times a day?
16. Our weekly motto ("Wala ka nang hahanapin pa") is the tagline for what product?
17. What was Kris Aquino's film debut?
18. The skin-crawling voiceover on Channel 13's "Pinoy Thriller" asked every week, "Ano ang nasa dakong paroon, bunga ng -- " What three-word phrase completed the line?
19. "Sa gabi siya'y bonggang-bongga." But in the morning, what did Annie Batungbakal do?
20. In one of the most often-told jokes of the past few decades, Alma Moreno goes to a McDonald's and orders a Big Mac and fries. When the cashier asks " For here or to go?" Alma answers -- what?
21. Dolphy, Chiquito, Balot, Palito, Pugo and Bentot are some one-named comedian names. What was Panchito's last name?
22. "That's the latest from PAG-ASA," the weatherman from Question 13 would say at the end of his weather segment. What was the last thing Inday Badiday would say at the end of "See-True?"
23. What candy, mixed with Sprite or 7-Up, was supposed to make you high?
24. On what U.S. sitcom was Eric Quizon and Redford White's TV show "Buddy en Sol" based?
25. For which basketball team did Billy Ray Bates first play?
26. Every tourist who goes to Baguio comes home with one of these tacky souvenirs: that wooden guy in a barrel with the disproportionately large and erect) appendage. What was the name of the film based on "the wooden guy" coming to life?
27. What was the name of the comic book character that was half-snake, half-man?
28. "May baril, walang bala; may bulsa, walang pera." Who is this referring to?
29. This California-based lite jazz pianist dedicated one of his compositions on a 1985 album to Ninoy Aquino. Who is he?
30. Where can you see the fried chicken on a 10-peso bill?
31. What was the theme song to the landmark film Bagets? 32. Who was it who said "Takot ako?"
33. Gelli, Claudine, Aga, Harlene, Rustom: One of these things are not like the others; which one is different, do you know? (And why?)
34. What animal is depicted on a Jack and Jill Chiz Curls package?
35. What did the cast members of "T.O.D.A.S." do at the end of every episode?
. What did the cast members of Palibhasa Lalaki do at the end of every episode?
37. In the film Tangga and Chos, which comedian, playing a gay hairdresser turned secret agent, starred in his first lead role, opposite Joey de Leon? (Hint: He is not Rene Requiestas.)
38. What is the exact recipe for "Star rice?"
39. You are a guy named Dingdong Avanzado, and you want to call up this girl whom you really miss. But you have no change in your pocket, so you ask some woman for change. How much money would the phone call cost?
40. What product tasted like "bebel gum?"
41. What were the exact three numbers that figured in the Pepsi contest scandal?
42. What is the number on Robert Jaworski's basketball jersey?
43. What brand of ballpoint pen "writes thousands and thousands of words?"
44. In one of the more bizarre rumors of its day, the fitting room (or elevator, or whatever) of this department store housed an enormous python (or a half-snake, half-man creature, or whatever) which preyed on customers. What was the name of this department store?
45. What do the letters "BLTB" stand for?
46. In his films with Rene Requiestas, Joey de Leon would sometimes adopt a particular sideways pose, combined with a slouch of the shoulders. He would then follow this pose with rapid-fire punches at an opponent. Which action star was he parodying?
47. Who was the karate action star that also played a Hitler-like superhero in action comedies?

Ukay Ukay with Ed, Edd and Eddie

Actually just two Eds. Ed Cabagnot of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Ed Lejano of the UP Film Center. Both from Manila who consider me their friend because I do not talk movies with them.
Ed C. is an astrologer and wants to go full-time because this is the bitchy season and he bitched everyone in the office. I was about to go to my “I have this friend who’s into hell lately” and he waved me off and after I told the birthday, said, “It will be hell until Dec. 1 and then if her karma is good, she could be rich. But her life had changed tremendously.”
So Ed C. is also now a psychic.
Off we went to Bayanihan Hotel to do some serious ukayukay. I have not done this for so long but ukay-ukaying with the two Eds is really like in a misadventure with that underrated Cartoon Network show, Ed, Edd and Eddie. After it’s over, I had a bag full and they had two bags full.
Rules for Ukay-Ukaying:
1) One in five will always be something you will never ever wear.
2) Go for the funky
3) Ed C bought a bowling shirt two sizes smaller he had to have it because it’s Guess. One in five of those you bought is for the you you thought you were. Meaning your ideal size.
4) One in five will have a stain or hole you would only discover when you have gone home
5) Go for the leatherjackets and just feel inside the pockets. I read in a local weekly once that $100 bills were stuck in some leatherjackets.
6) I once had a writing class and asked the students to write about their most memorable ukay ukay find. Ten of the girls wrote about their favorite T-back. A used T-back? I failed them because they cheated. Well, one went on to say that she showed it to her boyfriend and….
7) One in five would bear a bad karma. Usually the brand is Giordano or it’s a weird suit.
8) One in five would be destroyed by bad laundry.
9) That leaves you with no good purchase. If you bought five. I bought eight. One is a white Alexander McQueen shirt.
10) Here’s an essay which was used in Martin Masadao’s now classic, The Ukay Ukay Handbook with great graphics from Singapore-based Norman Adefuin.


P., a French anthropologist while doing the ukay-ukay at Bayanihan in 1998, told me she remembered reading a book about the dumping of used-clothes in Nigeria. She said the clothes came from French and my mind swam over a sea of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel haute couture in some Nigerian version of Bayanihan.It is worth digging up on how ukay-ukay eventually became wagwag and why Baguio became the center of it all. Ukay-ukay, which means "dig up - dig up" in Visaya, was the term for these garments, accessories, toys and other thingamajigs packed in huge cartons and unloaded in piers. "Ukay-ukay" first cropped in the port areas like Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, San Fernando and Manila. They had been around since the Second World War but hardly anyone noticed them.Even in Baguio, used clothings shipped from the US were already being sold in the Baguio Market in the 1950s. European countries got the Marshall Plan and what we got were the jeep and the ukay-ukay. These were the Big Brother's hand-me-downs.And since Baguio was established as the Summer Capital exactly a hundred years ago by the Americans, it was inevitable that ukay-ukay also find its way up there. But PX was all the rage then and ukay-ukay were thrift shop fodder.The epiphany came when ukay-ukay (which suggest digging into the piles of unsorted clothes) became wagwag. There are many theories about wagwag. One suggested that the ukay-ukay originated behind the rice section of the Baguio Market, hence the borrowing of wagwag variety of rice. The most probable one is the act of shaking the clothes ("wagwag"in Filipino and Ilocano) from the pile. So the evolution is from digging them up (ukay-ukay), you eventually shake off the dust in the hope of sizing them and wearing them.The period that ukay-ukay became wagwag in Baguio was in the 1980s when the source of garments shifted from US to Hongkong and Japan. The Philippine Japanese Association, which is very strong in Baguio, started the weekly sale of used clothes from Tokyo until the floodwaters broke. Used garments from Hongkong also started pouring in.If in the past the ukay-ukay (shortened into U2 by the sellers after a popular brand of clothing not the rock band) were unloaded in piers, now the wagwag traders or viajeros fly every other week to HK and accompany the boxes with them. Many of these viajeros were former HK domestics who knew their way around the former Crown Colony.Opening the boxes (done mostly on Saturdays) is like Pandora opening that damned box. You wouldn't know what you get. A box of used bedsheets and blankets is a losing cause while a box of children's clothes is a jackpot.At first, the shops lay out whatever they got. But as the shops proliferate (almost a thousand now compared to only 200 in 1997), in-trading has become the norm. Some shops now sell only toys, others only baseball caps and jackets. When a wagwag shop exclusively for left-handed (Remember Simpsons?) would be created, you know that the end is near.When the 1990 earthquake hit Baguio, the thing that drove the tourists back were the U2 and the (gayspeak for wagwag). Now it is the main crowd drawer. This will find its significance when we realize that Bayanihan (the Ground Zero for wagwag) was one of the first hotels in Baguio. From rest-and-recreation, the thrust of Baguio shifted to shop-till-you-drop.Why Baguio? Because if you have a U2 shop, for example, in hot CdeO and the box you got were all fur coats, what would you do? Wear them and sweat like a hog or deconstruct them into seat covers? At least in Baguio you can wear them and if you find them tacky, ship them to Lepanto where Fashion TV has yet to be shown in cable. U2 is the new drug and the network is as extensive. I bought a used scarf in Banaue.Does this forebode the over-commercialization of our tourism industry? Don't be silly. It's still the fight against the rich vs. poor, the North vs. the South. If Hongkong kept all its clothes like my mother does, it would sink on its sheer weight. They would only be glad to dump these on us. That is why there are still so many of us who fear the wagwag, seeing these are harbingers of AIDS and other imagined diseases.The garment trade is a social and ecological nightmare, just ask Kathie Lee and her sweatshop scandal. At least when you wear recycled clothes, you are assuaging the guilt of those who owned it first. You also help Planet Earth.Globalization is not always a sell-out. American books and magazines destined for landfills are sold here cheaply and the best thing you can do is to read them and learn.The key is to wear not-so-innocent wagwag yet keep your virtues pure. I remember treading along the foggy Baguio-Bontoc Road when out from the mist in Atok loomed an old woman wearing a long white coat with fur collars. She was carrying a bouquet of cala lily. The gown can only be wagwag.My friend, a photographer who forgot his camera, cried at such a surreal sight. I can only mutter, The White Lady of Cordillera also wears wagwag.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Reason Why I Was Dopey in Vigan

Burning Desire. As I was reading Botton, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Chavit Singson was burning marijuana in his kingdom known as Baluarte two kilometers away. So that was the "madeleine" that brought all these sad, sad effusion. Bad trip. Everything has a reason.

Prou(s)ted Mongo

Then off to another French author, Marcel Proust, then. Vigan seems to be perfect for reading him and I made the mistake of choosing “Swann's Way” as my guide. This is the passage when the suave kuno but very fawning Charles Swann confronted his lover's infidelity. I will never again ignore the innocent passage, “two or three times.”

“Swann had prepared himself for every possibility. Reality must therefore be something that bears no relation to possibilities, any more than the stab of a knife in one's body bears tot he gradual movement of the clouds overhead. Since those words, “two or three times,” carved as it were a cross upon the living tissues of his heart. Strange indeed that those words, “two or three times,” nothing more than words, words uttered in the air, could so lacerate a man's heart, as if they had actually pierced it, could make a man ill, like a poison he has drunk.”

Comforting at first but Proust being Proust had to go on stabbing himself with the pain inflicted by that “two or three times.”

I closed my book, thinking: Come off it. Two or three times? What about two or three years? This is the time of the Internet chat where I know friends setting their trysts there. What about texting? What a schmuck. There is a time to ponder on love lost and a time to push loving couples into the busy highway of Ilocos.

I walked along the cobblestones of Vigan barefoot. I read somewhere that some Northwestern US scientists discovered that walking slowly on cobblestones, shifting your weight to the unevenness can lower your blood pressure and improve your balance. They learned this from watching old Chinese people walking on traditional stone paths in the morning.

After that walk, I went to Plaza Burgos and ate empanada, the Vigan snack where an egg and sprouted mongo were wrapped in a bright orange batter and deep fried. There goes the lowered blood pressure brought by the cobblestones.

I also had pipian which is similar to the couscous, again rendered orange with a chicken made to drown on it.

Ilocano love songs are blared in the plaza even as I speak. Syrupy like tagapulot making everybody here drowning in slumber or make that amber.

Then there was a jolt and the empanadera made a sign of the cross and looked at me. Make that look through me because behind me is the belfry. There was an earthquake, maybe 3 in the Richter scale but only the empanadera noticed it. I asked for one more empanada and drowned the whole thing in vinegar and onions.

In the end, of course, Swann would make his final dive:

“And with the old, intermittent caddishness which reappeared in him when he was no longer unhappy and his moral standards dropped accordingly, he exclaimed to himself: “To think that I've wasted years of my life, that I've longed to die, that I've experienced my greatest love, for a woman who didn't appeal to me, who wasn't even my type!”

Naman pala, e.

But I highlighted the phrase, “and his moral standards dropped accordingly.” I might need that someday.

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