Three Short Stories

Since I shamelessly (albeit a bit hesitantly) shared my blog URL for the first time ever with office mates today… I feel a little bit ashamed that I’ve allowed this blog to take a dive into the “deprioritized” list hence the absence of new, quality content.

Hence, this new post about random nothings. Well, not really nothings.

Call this little quickie stories to paint a picture of life as it unfolds these days.
















Story # 1: In the Grip of Chaos.

New Year started with an explosive announcement. My boss resigned, and made me inherit most of what he left behind — the responsibilities, the problems, the aches and pains… and occasionally the joy, the fulfillment and pride. And best of all, his MacBook.

It’s been a crazy ride. As if last year wasn’t crazy enough, the world seems to deem me fit and able to withstand all manners of chaos. From my domestic life, to my career, my personal time, my time with my family, and all the other responsibilities, chores and errands in between.

I have a secret nightmare. In it, I fear that my seemingly healthy pallor and constitution will gradually and sneakily take its toll on me someday… and I will suddenly find myself terminally ill.

Lately, my head feels like a mass of nerves. A series of interconnected neurons that have all gone astray, all tangled up and jarred, laid out in a messy heap with no more rhyme or reason. This drives me crazy – the sense of having absolutely no sense of control over anything, and worse —  the head-pounding misery of wondering how this all just came to be. I didn’t see it all coming.

But my story is far from over. So I never lose out on the fervent wish that some day soon, my happiness and peace-of-mind meter decides to take an upward spiral — and hopefully stays there for a long, long time.













Story # 2. Changing Tides.

I know many in the Philippines don’t think much about what’s been happening around the world as a result of the Revolution in Egypt that finally unseated long-time tyrant Hosni Mobarak.

I was watching CNN that day and saw the very first broadcast made by Vice President Omar Suleiman that changed the world. I was washing the dishes in the kitchen; the TV in the living room was slightly muted but intelligible enough that I could figure out the major developments while cleaning out the kitchen. Like many Egyptians, my heart skipped a beat when the Vice President made the proclamation.

A few weeks later, we watch in abject horror as more and more lives are brutally taken in Libya.

In Yemen, the public is calling for the President’s resignation, even though his official rule still ends in 2013.

In Bahrain, police set-off tear gas and fire rubber pellets at protestors who are clamoring for better jobs and political equity.

Even quiet little Oman stages a mini protest — though for what motivation, I can’t be sure.

I don’t know what to make of these events… and what the future holds for the rest of the world. With people marching on the streets, putting their lives at risk to rally for their rights — on one hand the call for positive change while electrifying in different ways, is nonetheless a good change. On the other, where do we draw the line on anarchy? Is this how the world will eventually fall apart at the seams?

Story # 3. The Fight for Democracy Forgotten.

And speaking of revolutions, a hot news item recently emerged in which debates are ongoing whether former President Ferdinand Marcos should be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It’s astounding how the polls at ABS-CBN shows that 59% of Pinoys are in favor of having him buried right there. The deposed, unseated Dictator that caused the People Power Revolution in 1986 — buried in a cemetery intended for the nation’s heroes??!?

How quickly people forget. Or is it just because the new generation of Pinoys grew up not really understanding the painful realities that characterized his reign?

It doesn’t help that you’ve got the late ex-President’s son ranting about how if he had stayed in power, the Philippines would be a Singapore by now. Who are we kidding? Take a lesson from History: we were poised to become an economic superpower when Marcos’ Presidency began. By the time he was deposed, the value of the Philippine Peso had declined massively. How’s that for becoming a Singapore if he had stayed on?

Funnily enough, our President now is the son of two freedom fighters who spurred the Revolution that changed the course of the Philippines’ history. To coincide with the 25th Anniversary of that Revolution and not accord it the proper deference by celebrating it as an official holiday — makes me feel that we’re allowing everyone and everything to ignore the significance of that day 25 years ago, and the lives given for the cause of Democracy.

How truly, truly sad.


The Aquino Legacy

There are only very few Filipinos whose spirits do not feel a lift when the subject of Ninoy and Cory Aquino comes into discussion. If there was ever a couple most loved in Philippine History, it would be this yellow-bearing, unassuming yet very charismatic couple.

The Aquino legacy began with Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, most visible and influential at the peak of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos’ era of dictatorship and tyranny.

I was too young to remember what life in the Philippines was like at this time. My brother and I are children born in the peak of Martial Law. Apart from witnessing (although never really comprehending) heated discussions over the dinner table as our parents (who were pro-Aquino) would launch into verbal combat with my Grandfather (a die-hard Marcos loyalist), my concept of Martial Law and living under a dictator’s rule was much like a baby trying to comprehend the funny sounds adults make when ooooh-ing and aaaaahh-ing over the crib.

What I do clearly remember is that fateful day on the 21st of August, 1983. The day when Ninoy Aquino, after being exiled from the Philippines for many years, finally returned home to continue challenging the tyrannical rule of President Marcos.

We already know what happens on this day. As he alights from the plane, he gets shot and dies on the spot — there, on the tarmac of what is now known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Several days later, millions of Filipinos gather on the streets to mourn and bury their hero. I remember this – mom was watching this on TV. She was very sad. If I recall correctly, she was on the phone with my maternal grandmother and they were together mourning the death of Ninoy Aquino.

The next big Chapter of the Aquino saga came a few years later. I was 10 years old — still ignorant and clueless about the ongoings of a country slowly dying under the weight of a relentless dictator. And yet, my memories of this time are just a little bit clearer.

The events that led up to the final toppling of the Dictator on February 25, 1986 paralleled some little events here and there that were happening in our own household. I remember mom and dad suddenly shuffling me and kuya home on the night of February 22 (that was a Sunday… we usually spent weekends with my maternal Grandparents in Paranaque).

You see, my childhood home (and my paternal grandparents’ ancestral home) is located in San Juan. It’s 5 minutes away from EDSA-Ortigas, 10 minutes away from Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. I still wonder to this day why instead of leaving us safely tucked away far from where all the happenings were, mom and dad brought us closer to the center of action.

But I digress. That night, after seeing us safely tucked away in our beds, mom and dad (with my uncle) left the house and didn’t return til the following day. They came home just to get bathed, dress up, eat, and then they left again. This went on for the next two days.

And on the third day, mom and dad went home, exhausted but happy and jubilant. They dressed my brother and I in yellow clothes, and took us to EDSA where millions of yellow-bearing Filipinos were singing, dancing and crying with joy. Marcos was gone. Corazon “Cory” C. Aquino was finally the rightful President of the Philippines, and she has just given us back the freedom that Marcos took from everyone years ago. Democracy was back.

Two years ago (August 2008) we commemorated the 25th Death Anniversary of Ninoy. And a year later (August 2009), we mourned the Death of his widow, Cory.

Apart from being such strong historical figures in our country, these 2 are also special to me on a personal level. On his 25th Death Anniversary, I worked on a youth-driven advocacy program to help advocate the values that Ninoy lived by among the youth of today. His values of courage, integrity, honesty and resilience.

Through this campaign, I had been able to get close to some members of the family. We would be invited to watch plays, read scripts, and meet with other interest groups who wanted to sign in to this advocacy. We even had long discussions about the current political scenario. About GMA. Sometimes we would share opposing views. But of course, since they were still my Clients, I couldn’t stray too far and reveal some of my more intense points of view.

I take pride in fact in being able to say that at one point of my life, I met Cory Aquino face to face. I didn’t get to shake her hands – since she was battling Cancer, she needed to exercise caution when meeting with people who’ve been outdoors. But we did take a picture with  her for posterity’s sake. I’ve got it safely stored among my most valued possessions.

On her death on August 2nd, 2009, I had the privilege of attending one of her funeral masses.

I will never forget too the sentiments I had when I met Cory face to face. She is an awe-inspiring woman. She is… was… a very strong woman. Not loud, not abrasive, not rough. But strong, in her own quiet, resilient way. She could speak volumes in spite of her mild-mannered bearing. She was firm, decisive and authoritative…. and yet, infinitely gentle.  How one woman could possess that contrast of qualities is amazing.

That’s my memory of Cory: a strong, capable, intelligent and trustworthy woman with unparalleled integrity. The world lost a great woman upon her death. But it was time for her to rejoin her love, the man whose ideals she did not allow to die along with him.

In their respective time frames, Ninoy and Cory were heroes in their own right.

Ninoy’s persistent fight from Senate, to his squalid prison cell, to his hospital bed and his brief sojourn into family life as an exile in Boston – he never stopped speaking up against the ills of the Marcos regime. All this at the cost of his own life. He fought til his last breath, and spurred a people starving for a hero into action.

And to continue his fight, his widow. The one who united a people into a peaceful revolution that would once and for all overthrow a dictatorship and restore democracy to a nation down on its knees.

The freedom that we enjoy today we can attribute largely to the Ninoy and Cory Aquino legacy. And while there’s so much more progress to achieve and societal ills to battle, at their time, they did what they needed to do, and did it well.

With the death of this enigmatic, charismatic couple comes the new generation of Aquinos to leave their mark in Philippine History.

My generation of Aquinos.

Where do we begin?

Let me see… should I start with the controversial showbiz sensation that is Kris Aquino? TV host, actress, daughter of Ninoy and Cory, wife of basketball star James Yap, sister of Presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. Well, that’s not even worth writing a long paragraph about.

So I’ll move on to current Presidential candidate, Noynoy Aquino. Leader of the Liberal Party. Senator for several terms, but not clearly associated with the formulation or revision of any bills or legislatures. Known by many of his supporters as the only guy in the current Presidential roster who has a squeaky clean record.

I wager that his popularity now is brought about in many ways by the legacy left behind by his parents. Sure, he’s pretty well known, but truthfully his past record is unremarkable. Especially if you compare it against the history-forming efforts of his parents.

And it makes one wonder.

One would hope that the offspring of the famous couple would likewise carry the torch of his parents and truly make a difference.

But what does making a difference in this day and age really mean?

If it means speaking up against corruption and making a stand in cleaning the government of corrupt officials… and an economic policy that’s hinged on an idealistic and conservative belief system that’s more suited for times past… frankly, it feels to me no different from the outdated ideals preached by the Catholic Church that fail to contextualize religious edicts and sermons against real and present day scenarios and all the things that people face on a regular basis.

There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with forcing moral ascendancy. Who doesn’t admire people with values and morals?

But how much of a change will that create? The Philippines has continuously been sinking deeper and deeper in poverty year on year. Peace in Mindanao continues to be elusive. Literacy rate drops as the years go by. Health conditions and environmental conditions continue to deteriorate. How many more Administrations can we survive before we’re driven to the brink of desperation?

Many say they’re choosing to support and vote Noynoy in this coming Elections because among the candidates, he’s the only one who’s “clean”.

The trouble with people with a squeaky clean image is sometimes you wonder how far they’re willing to go to get their hands dirty. And do note: “dirty” doesn’t mean immoral or unlawful. Simply — making unpopular (sometimes controversial) decisions that often spell the difference between progress and regression.

Sure, I’d love to have a President who’s got his values screwed on right. But if it’s at the expense of the (potentially) controversial but necessary acts for the greater good of the country’s citizens, maybe I’ll just choose the candidate whose reputation may be questionable, but who will get the results we desperately need to rise above our problems.

At the end of this long monologue, I have no conclusions to draw. I have more questions than ever. As for Noynoy – if he becomes President, I wonder. What kind of legacy will this new Aquino leave behind?

Christmas in the Philippines, 2009

So many stories you’ve heard and read about lately… stories about my country. In the past, we didn’t make it to the global news that much. CNN, BBC, NBC and Aljazeera would hardly have much time for a quiet, little poverty-stricken country like the Philippines. At best, we were famous only because of the famous showbiz and athletic personalities that either gave our country a good or a bad name. Sometimes, an abused domestic helper in Hong Kong, or a migrant worker caught cheating in Saudi Arabia would make it as a news sidebar. Nothing really major, and not even remotely close to being consistently on the headlines.

It seems this year changed that.

August 1st, 2009. The death of ex-President Cory Aquino. Known to the country as the mother of Philippine Democracy. The wife of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. They were both the ultimate symbol of peace and freedom in the Philippines. Loved by many in their lifetime; and mourned by millions upon their death – even by the International community. Cory’s death would also trigger many beginnings. While I can’t foretell the future, I know that hope and the fight for democracy and freedom were reignited by her death. Who knows what will happen in the coming months and years?

September 26, 2009. Tropical Depression Ondoy (International Code Name: Typhoon Ketsana) ravaged Metro Manila and parts of Northern and Central Luzon. One month’s worth of rainfall in just 6 hours, leaving thousands of commuters stranded and forcing them to swim through the streets of Metro Manila in a futile attempt to get home. It left thousands of homes submerged under flood water – some for weeks. It was the first time that rich and poor alike had to quickly scramble to the roofs of their homes just to escape drowning inside their own homes. And they stayed on their roofs for several hours. Days, even. It left thousands homeless and mourning for the loss of loved ones.

September 30, 2009. Typhoon Pepeng (International Code Name: Typhoon Parma) ravaged the parts of Northern Luzon that Ondoy spared. Landslides in the Mountain Province Region; severe flooding in provinces of Northern Luzon; and many other things in between. Its aftereffects rendered cities and provinces on mountaintops isolated for weeks. Cut off from the rest of the country, food and aid could not reach them. And to the rest of the country, crops and produce that fed millions of Filipinos each day could not get through, leaving prices of basic goods skyrocketing to beyond the affordable range of the average Filipino barely eking out a decent living. And this, a few days right after Ondoy’s wrath.

November 24, 2009. And just when we thought the country had started getting a real breather so we could start rebuilding lives again… the Maguindanao Massacre shocked the whole country, and the whole world with the brutal barbarism that was witnessed that day. Women and children were maimed, tortured, abused and killed – all because they were on their way to file for the Padre de Pamilia’s certificate of candidacy. Journalists had their lives snuffed from them in that one instant. These are democracy and humanity at their worst. This incident had the Philippines dubbed as the “most dangerous place for Journalists to work”, toppling even Iraq and other countries swarmed by terrorists.

December 15, 2009 (today). At 12 noon, car explodes in a high-end mall/ residential community in Taguig City. (photo courtesy of This was just at noon time today. No one knows for sure if this car was bombed, or a freak accident. But 1 person has been confirmed killed. While the number of deaths is nothing earth-shattering, this is the first incident that’s ever happened in broad daylight, in a relatively well-guarded community, and in a high-end community.

And if that’s not all, check this picture out.

That’s Mayon Volcano. Currently at Alert Level Number 3. Residents around surrounding villages and subdivisions have been asked to evacuate. Goodness, with a volcano spewing lava like that, it would take an idiot to not even start thinking about evacuating. Volcanologists say that the alert level is just 2 levels shy of a full-out eruption. Roughly 50,000 residents will be temporarily relocated to evacuation centers. Who knows what happens to their homes if this volcano really does erupt? And to think — it’s 10 days before Christmas.

This Christmas will be a little bit bleak for many. The sad stories to tell are those who will spend their first Christmas after all of these. The ones who will more potently feel the loss of loved ones in the season of family, love and togetherness.

But hope springs eternal for the Filipino heart. Never one to back down even in the midst of the toughest adversity. I wouldn’t be surprised to find news coverages of Filipino families spending Christmas in evacuation centers still laughing merrily and making the best of a bad situation. Much like the Filipinos madly waving and smiling at the cameras behind foreign on-camera correspondents who actively tracked the life stories of Pinoys on the days and weeks after the Ondoy tragedy.

I have sadness in my heart for all the things that are happening to my country, and my countrymen. I count myself as one of the few lucky ones who survived these events completely unscathed. But in the spirit of unity, compassion and oneness with my country, this Christmas is the first Christmas when I will share whatever blessings I have to give with those who need it more than I do. And I don’t mean my family and friends.

I urge you, dear readers, to do the same this Christmas. Let’s help rebuild the lives of our countrymen and make Christmas a little bit more merrier for those who need a tiny glimmer of hope and joy in this season of giving.

Random Elections Thoughts (ver. 1)

I watched ABS-CBN’s special election feature “Harapan” last weekend.

10 random thoughts:

  1. My loudest laugh of the night was hearing Brother Eddie Villanueva merge the names of two spiritual icons into one name. Meet Mohammad Gandhi.
  2. Erap Estrada really cannot understand English well. It was a little bit sad watching him struggle to understand a simple question of one of the students. If I could only remember what question that was
  3. Noynoy is the fortunate beneficiary of the stellar and courageous reputations of his parents. He isn’t as ignorant of politics as I thought he was… but I still hold firm to my statement (since the death of Cory Aquino) that Noynoy is not Ninoy, nor will he ever be.
  4. But my fearless forecast is: he will win. My sentiments about this possible eventuality… his heart may be in the right place but the focus of his attentions seems to be elsewhere other than the more immediate and pressing problems of our country.
  5. Most Presidentiables right now (with the exception of Gibo Teodoro) seem to be single-mindedly focused on completely burying GMA six feet underground. Which begs the question: are any of them ever gonna take their eyes off GMA long enough to actually do their jobs and focus on what’s important?
  6. That conference confirmed my initial preference of voting for Gibo. Reading up on the platforms of the Presndentiables a few weeks ago through Cheche Lazaro’s documentary made me see back then that of all Presidentiables, he was the only one who (a) seemed to have a solid grasp of what it takes to run a country; (b) had a solid and clear platform; and (c) had his priorities straight. Most other candidates’ platforms were both unclear and essentially, non-existent. This latest coverage of ABS confirmed that Gibo indeed knew what he was talking about.
  7. But then it also got me to have doubts and second thoughts about voting for such a smooth-talking lawyer. Not that I don’t like lawyers. Sometimes, a person that intelligent could be quite dangerous. My husband seems to think though that in context of the political landscape of this country, he would more likely end up being a puppet.
  8. Manny Villar did not show up. Makes one wonder why. That was an important show, it got thousands of the voting public to talk about all that had transpired and all that was said in the show. He should not have missed it.
  9. Dick Gordon is another viable candidate. Personally, I also like Bayani Fernando. Call them hardcore traditional politicians – but at least they have integrity. If we’re talking about results, Dick Gordon has the clearest and most tangible results to boast of.
  10. Goodness. Every elections, we have nuisance candidates. JC delosReyes, Nicanor Perlas – who the hell are those??? I sometimes marvel at the infancy of our electoral process and how we comprehend the democratic process. It’s anyone’s right to run for office. But seriously now… that on earth makes them think they even have a chance in hell to win? Unless they decided to run for the simple reason that they wanted votes to be distributed between many different candidates. But what’s the point, and to what end??

As of this writing, I am still undecided about who to vote for. It’s still a toss-up between Gibo and Dick. Who knows though what else happens in the course of the next few months?


What is unusual for me though is that this is the first elections where I’ve really taken the effort to know the issues, have a stand on what issues I think need to be prioritized, and choose candidates not simply on the basis of their reputation but on their genuine capacity to make this country a better place.

It’s not just about a squeaky clean reputation and image. Sometimes, people with a squeaky clean image tells me that maybe they’re never willing to get their hands dirty and take risks that could potentially overturn a bad situation. This is not to condone immoral and unlawful acts. It’s about a presidentiable who can exercise resourcefulness. To think out-of-the-box (pardon me, I’m in the Communications business) and consider all possibilities, especially possibilities that no one else had ever considered – in finding solutions to this country’s problems. And this presidentiable should have guts of steel to withstand all the negative publicity and criticism that he will get from a citizenry and political opposition who won’t stop at nothing to bring him down for taking unusual risks or exercising what some would call – unpopular measures.

I think after decades of watching this country sink deeper in poverty as the days go by, desperate times calls for desperate measures. So next year, when I place my vote on that ballot, it will be with the desperate hope that whoever it is I’m voting for will win, and will do what he can to try to make things better for all of us.