to be honest, it became triply hard
when you realized that he did it to make you laugh
but there was the clock
and there was ten o’clock
and you had to go and get that coffee
having wasted your coffee breaks on paperwork
but you had to give him a smile
because it felt the logical response to do so
so you did; you felt good inside
and you felt – *insert random pictures of cats*
so you sat him down at lunch
only to be told that the cat pics went with the time
is there another option?
because you had to pass the paper this afternoon
your boss, you told yourself, was exacting –
but what was he exacting, anyway?
tak, tak, tak, tak, tak, tak, tak
– in Polish that’s seven “yes”-es
but it’s also from your typewriter you bought
from a ghost peddler from your past
you finished by three o’ clock
and gave this paper to your boss
shivering-ly, in an anguished manner,
longing for the positive response
but by five o’ clock it was almost over
and everyone prepared to go back home
including the one in the Keroppi suit
and he was smiling at you – did you smile back?
and he flew back to Keroppi-land
while you stretched out, stood up, and prepared
to walk back home, with that smile on your face
and three hundred more units of currency on you
to be replenished yet with three hundred more, and more
if only you showed up tomorrow in a Keroppi suit
News. 474-mm rainfall in Hsinchu City.
Flooding in Tamsui.
The Shimen reservoir (Taoyuan) released water.
And here I am, listening to sappy fast love songs
and trying to catch the last emotional bus
to the terminal emotional train station,
the last train of which will take me
to the farthest emotional airport,
the last plane in which will land me back here.
The fool in me was hoping you’d give me tickets.
But you’ve already bought enough for you.
Funny that I should ask this way,
because I knew all along.
So, the rain falls in thirty-second installments
and I – person by person.
But I forced myself not to take the opportunity,
spurning Fate’s spindly, deceiving hands,
after she made this fabulous mistake.
Oh, I gave her the finger!
But you were the ticket she held out, comrade,
while I did.
If you were the 800-yuan ticket around Taiwan…
but unless and until you are,
dear belatedly-looked upon comrade,
I’m going to be stuck with “maybe”.
– dedicated to Comrade Wei
On (not with) one hand I write this salaciousness
and on (not with) the other hand I caress you –
your face, your awkwardly-placed ears.
This is fantastic, I’m in love. Then I throw you on the bed
with a libertine nonchalance, but that’s it,
I respect bodies of lovers so deeply. I let you creep to
the side of the bed, and I chase you like cats chase mice
and kiss you in one, two, seven places.
You must have heard yourself moan – but pity you,
weakling – collapsing in a heap of kisses. But I
pull you to myself, you resist – I like that –
with your bulky arms, and yet you are weak and helpless
as I bite you on the shoulder and you let out a scream
and I proceed to do as I did, in three, four, seven spaces.
You call what I do to you “idolatry”, but for me
it seems more an iconoclasm. Because I break up
your smile, your dainty face, even your sweet words,
and pull your short hair, forcing you to the ground
as I inflict nail after nail upon your chest, scratching
and tying your pitiable limbs with five, six, seven laces.
And then I smile and let you have me. Such ambivalent
turnarounds you have not learned to memorize – it suits me,
and you sit there dazed by your ordeal for a few minutes
until you realize that you’ve been given the crown
and then you proceed to possess me, possess my
everything, take back what I’ve stolen from you in these
few minutes, reassert your power, and use me severely
but you never exceed my third, second, first paces.
If Chad Osorio had written his piece in the 1960s it wouldn’t be much of an issue, because the idea of lavish celebrations was, and still is, universally accepted. To give perspective, I’d say there were issues worse than “taxpayers’ money being used” during this period:
- the low wages and overworking of the sugar workers, on which the sugar barons made a fortune;
- the existence of large haciendas for sugar and other agricultural products, which limited land that can be used for subsistence agriculture, hence the farmers had much less to eat even if they harvested the crop;
- the existence of private armies of the oligarchs; and
- the tight feudalization of democratic politics, which prevented any changes in the state of a province or city.
These involved actual deaths of people in certain cases, and the oligarchs held large parties whilst these things were happening. Few were angry, though everyone WAS aware. Nowadays, you simply hit some guy for defending Jeane Napoles and call him a tacky fashion photographer, and everything is OK for you.
If you really wanted change, you could have refrained from attacking people and clamored instead for a societal change. In the past, it was difficult: you were branded a McCarthy blotch of Red if you criticised the workings of the corruption industry, and then they’d set the soldier hounds on you to tear you to pieces. Nowadays though, you could simply be one Efren Penaflorida, making a small effort to improve the lives of those around you. But no, your claim to activism is that you simply hit some guy for defending Jeane Napoles and called him a tacky fashion photographer.
I am saying that we’re like those guerrillas who have lost their reason and, in the end, just enrich ourselves at the expense of people who we perceived to be thieves (maybe they were, but in despoiling them we become thieves ourselves). If it’s still not clear, watch the movie in the part where the guerrillas treat their captives like slaves, and sate themselves with alcohol or whatever in their base in the city.
You see, this is the full realization of what Trining (in the movie) says in the end.
“The war has made all of us animals.”
It is the war on corruption that has made us all animals. Sadly. We haven’t even started winning these battles.
Let me tell all of you what we must do, even though we already know what to do. We saw Bianca Gonzalez’ tweet about informal settlers, and now this. Clearly, we know what to do. We just go back on ourselves every freakin’ time.We must push the government to implement the change we want to see. We must use the time between elections to convince people that we should vote for certain candidates and not others, using issues that matter to everyone. Enough of the “Vote Wisely” ads. People think about whom to vote, we just lack the arguments and the issues to convince them.
We must have a vision of what we want to see in this country, and move toward it, slowly but surely. We must plan, and plan well, and plan ahead. We must undergo the process of self-criticism, retribution, and repentance. We must ask the hard questions – not of others, but of ourselves, as a country with a longstanding culture of corruption, crony capitalism, emotionalism, and antiquated methods of doing things. Arguments like “So how are you related to them?” are not only incredibly ironic, but also, well, tacky.
We must ask our society why it allows for these things – are they necessary for the survival of this society? If not, why retain these things in our culture? We must further ask if there is a way to develop society further, to improve civic involvement.
There are so many things we can do, now that we are on the Internet. If we’re truly concerned about the Philippines, maybe we must start shaping its ideological and civic future. Attend the march against PDAF abuses, sign petitions, have honest and wholesome discussions on blogs, go Efren, even just be a good teacher to your students. There are SO MANY things we can do, compared with the so many things we can not do.
It’s ironic that I might finally ask that you agree with one of the most inane comments on both pages, which I screen-capped for my own writing pleasure. With some modifications, of course, but it hits the spot so well. Let me explain. In the movie, the problem with the manservants who turned guerrillas was that, when they were forced to live together with the rich people, they glimpsed more of their lifestyle. This led them to be so envious, that they forgot that these rich people were kind to them anyway.
If these people became envious of the rich people who were kind to them, eventually turning against them, it would be much easier for us to be indignant about the Napoleses’ displayed wealth. But that is not required of us: what IS required of us is the vigilance to net, punish, and prevent corruption in all forms. If you think on the real issue, it shouldn’t even matter whether Janet flaunts her wealth. It does matter that she has illegally-acquired wealth, but the fact that we think this flaunting adds insult to injury is a symptom that we’ve been reading Lifestyle a little too much.
Some of you might say, “But it’s shameless posturing! Surely we have the right to be indignant at that?” Janet Napoles might be rich, but after all, she has stained her hands. Her very activities are already THE shameless thing she did. These must have shocked us so much more than her daughter’s flaunting of their wealth. But no, we opted to not only just vent our anger on Jeane Napoles, but to also attack those who defend her careless posting of pictures on Facebook – that long lifestyle section which does not cease with the photos. It kinda blurs our resolve to seek the truth.
Maybe we Filipinos need to watch the news more, and read the showbiz and lifestyle section – on Facebook – less.
For those of us who like old movies, Oro, Plata, Mata is one of the most shocking. You can start your own viewing here, and finish the whole movie from there. But, for the sake of discussion, here it goes:
Two wealthy Negrense families, along with others, are celebrating a debut when the first news of the Japanese invasion comes in. They are alarmed, and retreat from the city to live in a simpler rest house somewhere close to the interior of Negros island. They eventually retreat to a jungle house deep in the Negros forest. The increased contact with those of lower social standing forces the family members to accommodate to them. Once prim-and-proper people, they become more grounded and more practical. Apparently, however, this did not prove to be enough.
One of their menservants becomes frustrated at seeing them trying to still live the easy life, while he and his men toil for them. This person eventually breaks away from them, joins the guerrillas, and then – stunningly – returns to despoil his former masters, whom he and his men subject to practically the worst humiliations he could possibly think of, even raping one of the mothers and taking away the elder daughter Trining (Cherie Gil) to serve as the guerrillas’ “common bitch” (as this generation would put it).
The families are only avenged when Miguel (Joel Torre), the youthful scion of one of the families, decides to help take back Trining and kill all the guerrillas. He succeeds, and after Liberation the families get back together and celebrate their survival – in a simpler manner, but still convivial. The festivities are more subdued, but Trining (in a shot that features her disdaining all the appearances of piety the people around her are trying to revive) remarks that the war has turned them all into animals, and proceeds to seduce a guy using the same pseudo-pious expressions she just disdained.
End of story.
It is obvious why I am bringing this up. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” was probably one of the most controversial sentences of the last month. Chad Osorio got the brunt of the fiber crunch for his opening statement. People flung him so many negative comments – things they wouldn’t even say verbatim in front of a group of people. But they’ve never experienced being in the world of Oro, Plata, Mata, I guess. The present generation has forgotten even recent history and how it unfolds.
The film was meant to be a veiled critique of the Marcos era, at the height of Martial Law. Before this period, then-Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. released his exposés on dubious government spending, election fraud, and especially Oplan Sagittarius – the plot to place the country under Martial Law. The Communist-led student movement also led popular revolts against the government. It was a period of social instability that was only repressed, not solved, by Proclamation 1081. It was a time when the upper-middle class – shorn from the oligarchy instead of rising from the common people, as is the case in Europe and America – were questioning their being oligarchy scions. But young ones being fickle, they sought some refuge in their family name when crunch time came. It actually depended on whether you were a Marcos, a Ver, an Araneta, a Cojuangco – or an Aquino.
Those who were Aquinos (like the current President) had no choice but to wail. If your father was jailed just for being a journalist, HOW WOULD YOU OTHERWISE FEEL? If you were a Cojuangco, on the other hand, you were torn, because one of your relatives happens to be that journalist’s wife.
But if you were a Marcos, you’d go to the ends of the earth to proclaim your father’s benevolent deeds. Why not? If you got it, flaunt it. It just so happens that what you got is not only a good share of the new business environment, but also the chance to promote Philippine culture to the world. So, flaunt it!
Of course, no one counted on the Communist Party gaining more members. Most of them were university students who are now either university professors, columnists, government officials (gasp!), or artists. All of them, or most, were disaffected. Even so, most of the people did not resist Martial Law. They wanted some quiet, they wanted to go on with their lives. They didn’t want an overhaul. These few people who wanted to overthrow Marcos and change the system were graduates of that freakin’ university of hippies which hosted the Diliman Commune. Right?
Back to the film. You’d be surprised that there aren’t any actual Japanese troops. That is because the Japanese weren’t the real enemies in this film. But, you might ask, who were the real enemies?
The Wikipedia page for this movie opines that it was fellow Filipinos who were the real enemies: specifically, the guerrillas who were meant to represent the armed forces during Martial Law. People have stories of mistreatment during the Martial Law years, stories of power-tripping Constab men and soldiers of the Philippine Army. The scenes of humiliation depicted in the film were one of the most moving, repelling, shocking scenes. This is how it must have felt for the common folk back then. Of course, the guerrillas in this film were behaving like it was their lawful right to despoil the now-poor families, take away all their remaining provisions, rape their women and force them to trade off everything in a duress-filled game of mahjong. Yes, people, for these guerrillas, it was ALL RIGHT to shame these people to ashes. They took our money, didn’t they? They were living on our expense! Bastards! As for the people who rationalize their conduct and try to explain it to us –
If you were someone in the Oro, Plata, Mata world, would you have defended these guerrillas’ actions? Maybe you’d also be retching, but then again, guys, this word war is waged from Starbucks Katips, not from the jungles of Negros. It’s absolutely OK to be ad-hoministic. (Ok, that wasn’t a word, but you get what I’m trying to say.)
You might say, “Hey, we’re the common people, we’re not the military, your analogy is flawed!” Of course, you’re against what Janet Napoles did – all of us are, because she used OUR money to fund her family’s lifestyle, and who knows what other persons might have benefited from that money. But have you even considered (from the beginning of the Third Philippine Republic) that countless others might have done the same or even worse?
Now, if you had had enough of this, you’re free to not go on to Part 2. But I suggest (even beg) you: read this two-part article to the very end, because it is important for each Filipino blogger and netizen (expat or not) to understand that, together, we are very, very powerful in shaping public opinion, and that it is important for all of us to use this to help our country shape up and become better.
(to be continued)
It was in 2009 when I first realized that the use of the mandated national language, “Filipino”, in the Philippines was a contribution to the decline of the original Philippine languages. Back then, multilingualists were saying that ‘Filipino’, a dialect of Tagalog in fact, was destroying the ability of the people to speak, write, and even think in their own native language, and that the promotion of ‘Filipino’ amounted to “Tagalogism”. Aurelio Agcaoili’s essay won me over to the multilingualist camp, as I was wavering back then about the multilingualist movement being the harbinger of an ethnic-purism situation such as I observed with Cebuano separatists. I decided to write and help strive for a multilingual Philippines, a multilingual Philippine mindset.
Some pro-Filipino academics, on the other hand, posited that multilingualism was a danger to the unity of the nation, and amounted to “regionalism”. Roberto Añonuevo’s essay, criticising Agcaoili’s characterisation of the pro-Filipino push in government, society, and mass media as “a figment of (his) imagination” (kathang-isip), defended the “gains” the Tagalog language has made in lingustic strength as not only for the Tagalogs but for the rest of the Philippine peoples.
We can argue that Añonuevo neglected to do an intensive literature search for works in Philippine languages other than Tagalog during the Spanish period, for which he might be chastised as an academic; that his attack is written as if a native Tagalog were describing only his own literary tradition, which of course is more than enough evidence of “Tagalogism” in practice; that he, without sufficient convincing arguments, views Agcaoili and those who support him as “murderers” of a “nascent” Filipino language by labeling it as “neo-Tagalog”, and charges Agcaoili and others as “regionalists” and “ethnicists”, the enemies of Philippine unity, which is simple pandering to nationalist and neo-nationalist tendencies within the oligarchy and the common people.
We can say all of this against Añonuevo’s ideas, but there is no question that the majority of the Filipino people adopt a laissez-faire approach to language: whatever the major language is, we shall speak it.
My Tagalog friends and relatives could not understand why there has to be a distinction between “Tagalog” and “Filipino” AND at the same time could not understand why we should not have Tagalog as the national language. They therefore view these efforts by non-Tagalogs as “unnecessary” and “impractical”. On the other hand, my non-Tagalog relatives and friends adopt a more pliant attitude toward the Tagalog language, believing that it is good for them to learn Tagalog as another language, while maintaining that the language is named TAGALOG and continuing to speak their own native language. They believe that a revitalization of their own language is “unnecessary” because they do not recognize the possibility that their language can be a poetic language, a scientific language, that their language can develop further.
In both cases, the sad reality is that the common people find the discussion on language as out of touch with reality. Surprisingly, Tagalogs and non-Tagalogs among the common folk find common ground in refusing to overcome this linguistic and literary inertia.
The ‘Filipino’ language, as the common folk see it, is an academic invention to make Tagalog more palatable for everyone to accept. It is, for them, no different from the Tagalog that the Tagalogs speak, even if academics put in words like “gahum” or whatever Tagalized English words one wants. It is an instinctive acceptance of Tagalog as a language apart from their own tongue. Non-Tagalogs are condescending to the language, in fact: they learn it in schools because the government orders it, but they speak other languages at home and in familiar situations. Of course they eventually think that it is better to speak Tagalog, rather than the native language, with their children, but then again this process of Tagalogization is slow the farther from Manila one gets – and so many places are far from Manila geographically and socially, the effect of centralized development.
This is where ethnic Tagalogs are likely to lose. For them, as described above, ‘Filipino’ is no different from the Tagalog that they speak. The problem is, the Tagalog people in general have not borrowed these words themselves. None of the dialectal variants of Tagalog were even consulted for words which can be used in general. Where are the vocabularies of Batangas Tagalog, Marinduque Tagalog, and Quezon Tagalog? Virgilio Almario, attempting to be a centrist in these questions but still promotive of the “national language”, has discussed this in some length in his book Filipino ng mga Pilipino, but came off rather woolly regarding suggestions for the inclusion of dialectal words. The sad fact is that Almario, a theoretical ivory-tower academic, is unwilling to concede what the common folk already know, lambasting them instead for being “ignorant” and “small-minded”. He and other like-minded academics in the literary sphere have taken issue with linguists, which have stood against the artificial modification of the Tagalog language to suit the official mantra of “one nation, one language”, professing as “biographers of the nation” to side with “the people”, about whom and which groups in fact they have little idea.
The horrible thing then is that Añonuevo may be right, in a perverse sort of way. When he says that the Tagalog language has “struggled” for the nation, we are inclined to ask if the “struggle” was against American influence (the eternally vogue topic in academic nationalist circles) or against the nationalist academics, the “Tagalogists”. For us, it seems that the Tagalog people have been robbed of their language, of the right to use it. It has come under the strict, if inept, professional regulation of the Tagalogists.
The corpus delicti of this rotten situation is that it is just one more symptom of a desperate attempt at control in the hellish, chaotic Philippine sociopolitical scene, in a world of Janet Napoleses, deep-pocketed Customs officials and congressmen, colluding and pandering Catholic clergy, cheating small-time business owners and individuals forced to do their “diskarte”. The oligarchy itself is discordant within, while it expects us to believe that it has everything under control at the same time it tries to convince us it does not exist. The language snafu is extensively connected to the other problems of the Philippines, having so many tangents with the issues that make the headlines that we do not bother to count anymore.
The Tagalogists will likely be defeated in the non-Tagalog regions with the rise of the Mother-Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) system, the declaration of local languages as official in provinces such as La Union, the efforts by certain members of Congress to discuss multilingualism, the nationwide outrage over the expulsion of three Ilokano students for speaking Ilokano in school, and other initiatives undertaken by literary and linguistic councils in the non-Tagalog regions.
But there is no such comfort for Tagalogs who would like to see their own language develop in the natural way, who treasure the dialectal riches of the original Tagalog language. Unless the Tagalogists are silenced and their ideology curbed, the Tagalog language will be destroyed, to be replaced by a new language no one can or will want to speak.