Nation’s Due

Wrote this in 20 minutes. Sorry for typos and bad structure. Rushing to go to school.

So I read in the news (double checked, found the same story in Rappler and Philippine Star, because I just couldn’t believe it anymore) that Duterte is going to postpone the barangay elections. And you know what else he’s going to do? Fill up the vacant positions left by officials on holdover capacity himself. So he takes people out of commissions in the senate, in congress, and now even shifts power to his people down to local government units. Red flags everywhere. This is not how a democracy is run.

You know, I have this theory that Duterte is just one humongous distraction. There’s always drama going on, and it’s hard to keep up with any storyline – at this point, everything’s lumped up into one ugly mess, with Duterte smack dab at the centre of it all. Duterte’s name pops up on the news literally everyday – something he said, or something PresComm said, or something the opposition said about him. Doesn’t matter. The media eats it up, along with the captive audience that are the Filipinos (at least for those that actually bother with politics).

So, the media has its hairs split chasing the daily headaches Duterte’s administration has caused. No administration as a whole has ever acted with such lack of decorum, with such lack of consideration for the least of its citizens, with such pomp, with such a blatant disregard for the consequences of its actions, without any effort at all in at least appearing democratic and lawful (except when it’s convenient, i.e. I am never going to let go of his secret bank account or the Marcos burial. Of course. Classic). I’d like to argue that he’s messier than Marcos. After all, 3,240 people were killed during the time of Martial Law. And today? Close to 8,000. Marcos was in power for 20 years. This guy hasn’t even reached his anniversary. Don’t get me started on the falling economy and the tense foreign relations (even with China, who Duterte has been trying to suck up to, turned coat and is trying to set up house in Scarborough: There is literally no stability in this nation right now.

So what exactly are they trying to do, here? What is up with this blatant “I’ll just do what I want, the rest of you can go to hell” attitude? Is there some insidious master plan? Are we supposed to get mad? Will impeachment and revolution trigger us all into falling into their trap? Or was this paralysing paranoia the point – was this a ploy to shut us up lest we cause more trouble than good? What a way to abuse the enduring, pacifist Filipino attitudes. It can drive any rational person into madness.

I am reminded of a recent video I saw of the Trump administration. Apparently, while the media was gobbling up all his drama, bills were being filed in the senate – bills about removing their department of education, bills about Planned Parenthood, etc. Would it be possible to have a highly controversial bill passed without getting much attention from the media? Would the US be distracted from opposing something that directly affects the people? Could the same thing apply to us?

And isn’t just downright funny (in the absolute saddest sense of the word) that all of this is happening right now? The world has been thrown into chaos lately, 2016 events proved that. It almost makes you wonder if it was coordinated somehow, or if at least some of it was. What do these all have in common anyway?

Well. Us. The people. We grew afraid – the global economy recently fell and jobs have been a problem for a while now. Migrant labor competition only increases racism. Viral media only feeds impulses, and multiplies them across borders. Corruption cultivated what was planted in ignorance. We grew desperate, and someone stepped up to say all the pretty words we wanted to hear. Why or how didn’t matter. Nothing matters when all we think about is self-preservation.

What if at the end of it, this is the story we deserved? For not educating our fellowman, for not protecting the least of us, for being a cog in the machinery instead of an active agent? It’s so tempting to be overwhelmed and to turn away from trouble – to just focus on “doing your job.” Idk, maybe the worst of it would blow over, right? And then we’d be okay.

You’re incredibly numb for thinking you’re okay when the people around you aren’t.

No. Let yourself be hurt. And do something about it. Get creative. Get connected. Use your voice, mediate conflict, tell others. We should use that ability of ours while we still have it – far be it that it be taken from us… but it may.

I’m not pointing fingers anymore. I am a Filipino and I am responsible for my nation. Di ako aasa sa strong man na Presidente, di ako iiyak sa gilid. I have my own hand in letting this happen, and I have my own hand in fixing it. I know the responsibility isn’t mine alone, but I’m not going to wait anymore.

Ever since, my growth and ideals have been dedicated to you, my mother land. But as the days pass, I get more reasons to push myself in preparation to serve you. I deem it my moral responsibility, far deeper than quaint sentiment. Di ko ‘to ginagawa because I owe my life to you – I owe that to God and my parents. But you are undeniably part of who I am, and my heart aches even when you’ve grown numb. And my heart aches because it hopes. What gives hope to this heart is the joy of one day seeing you, knowing I had a hand in it somehow, liberated, to the glory of God.


Snippet Series #11:Tinikling

Tinikling is a Filipino dance that involves criss-crossing rhythmically over and between shifting, opening and closing bamboo shoots. I hope that gives the image justice.


Pakiramdam ko’y nagtitinikling ako

Isang yapak palapit sa’yo,

Isang pagbawing galit sa’yo

Pabalik-balik, paulit-ulit.


Mabuti pa ang sayaw

Na ang manunuod ay nagsisipagpalakpakan,

Na ang pagbukas ay laro,

At pagsarado’y katuwaan,

at masaya’t kaibig-ibig,

Kaysa lumuksong mag-isa

Papasok sa inaasam

Para lang sikmatan palabas

Sa pagkasiphayo’t pananabik


Ngunit ako pa rin ang mananayaw;

Hindi ako yoyo na hinahatak at tinatapon.

Nakakalulong ang iyong tikas,

Ngunit maaaring hindi magpadala.

Nakakapagindak ang tinig mo,

Ngunit maaaring magtindig.

Nakakaalok ang kasimplehan ng iyong pagtingin,

Ngunit maaaring magtiis.

Sinong nagsabing ang pagtigil ng musika

Ang siyang wakas ng sayaw?

Ang sayaw ay nagwawakas

Di sa paghinto kundi sa pagganap.


Snippet Series #10: In Another Life

Yesterday I saw you in white, in a polo, in black pants. It reminded me of last year, of how we met before your thesis defense, so that I could see you dressed up. I remembered wanting to fold your sleeves and button your polo. I wanted to pull your collar and dust your shoulders. I felt that then and yesterday.

I thought of doing that for you in the morning, the way my mother had to my father, before he went off to work. I imagined what it would be like to help you with your tie, and to tuck a hanky into your pocket. Now, I’m thinking of helping you match socks, and bickering about colors, and laughing about styles. I’m thinking of the two of us fussing over your hair. I’m thinking of walking you out the door and you kissing me goodbye. I’m thinking of waving at you while you look over your shoulder, and the two of us reminding each other of groceries and bills to pay.

I wonder what it would be like to come home to you after I finish with my field work. I wonder what it would be like to wash dishes side by side – please tell me there’ll be stories and bubble fights. I wonder what it would be like to call my home your home. I wonder what it would be like to get angry about the news together. I wonder what it would be like to have you cook for me. I wonder what it would be like for the two of us to be tired, and then agree to just “leave the chores for the morning.”

I wonder what our newspaper and magazine subscriptions would be. I wonder what colors we’d paint our living room. I wonder what we’d sit like: would I be on the floor, by the couch, by your feet? Would I be laying on the couch with my feet propped up, with your head just within reach for me to stroke?

I remember that you like balconies. I love balconies too. Let’s have milk and tea and shawls and stars there.

Whenever I’m somewhere beautiful, I think of you, and I wonder, “What would he say if he were here?” I want you to breathe in this air. Partake of this fruit. Collapse into this chair. Glaze your eyes over this view. Dip your feet in this stream. Surround yourself with the sound of these birds. I want to feel you relax. I want to feel you let go and take all this beauty in.

When I go, I want to be buried in a place like this. I want an old Filipino house by the foot of a hill, and a mango tree, or some other fruit-bearing tree that I’ll let you liken to me, to be planted by my gravestone. And then over the years, I want flowers planted around my grave. Visit me, and surround me with sunflowers and berries and dandelions and butterflies. Robe me in gold, blue, purple, red, pink and majestic green. Let the children take the flowers and the fruit, and let them plant their own seeds and water their own shoots.

When I go, the funeral doesn’t have to be extravagant. Let me stay in Manila for two days, and then bring me to the province I’ve adopted, whatever that might be in the future. Let my family and my scholars bury me. Throw sunflowers (or their petals, since I know they’re expensive) in my grave. If they want to give white flowers, make them lilies or baby’s breath, not roses. Invite everyone, even those who you think might have hated me. Be kind to them and treat them like family if they arrive. I want to go with all efforts of peace.

When I go, don’t be too sad. Cry, but remember me in laughter. Grieve, but love one another. If there is pain, let it make you raw again. Death is a powerful thing, with lots of powerful emotions. I suppose it’s because it’s the grand culmination of a life full of passions and stories. Don’t be afraid to feel all of that all over again – at the time of my death, and even after.

Snippet Series #9: Walang Utang sa Panliligaw

Another piece that mirrors frustration. At the end of the day, every man is his own, an Infinite Other.

“But I gave her everything,” he mourned, weeping.

“Darling, she never asked.”

I think the most painful thing about this that I have to remember is this: wala kang utang sa’kin.

I have no rights over you. I do not own you. I do not control you. I cannot make you think what I think or feel what I feel. I cannot make you want what I want or dream what I dream or find joy in the things that I find joy in.

You and I are irrevocably different. I am day and you are night. I am sky and you are ocean. I am steely reason and you are virile passion. And yet as the sun chases after the moon, so do I chase after you. And as the sun never catches her, so I never will.

You are elusive, like sand. A contradictory truth, like a paradox. Proud, and stubborn, like me.

At first glance, it would appear that I should have the upper hand. By all the standards of the world, I have outpaced you. And yet, you remain, frustratingly, beyond my reach.

I will not deny it, I have tried all my tricks. I have practically courted you with words and acts and show. I have listened for nights and swallowed my pride and wagered my time and expanded my understanding. I have been kind and forgiving and considerate and generous. I have allowed you into the bounty of what I own and into the bounty of my soul. Regardless. I cannot make you bend.

It would have been better if you tried to win me as well. If you had insisted, if you had taken up arms and made demands. I know you would not have been able to make me bend. But that’s not how it worked. You had no such desire. And now you have all hold over me.

I give. And yet you owe me nothing because you never asked. And you never asked because you never cared.

And so you forever remain outside of my grasp. Unconquerable.

And it makes me feel powerless. It makes me wonder if everything is chance. I hardly try, and everything is given to me. The one thing I have invested everything in earns me nothing.

And you don’t even realize it. And it doesn’t even matter. It is one thing to fail, and another never to even be recognized.

Snippet Series #8: Sympathy

Something old that I found lying around in the drafts section. It’s really not that artistic, more like word-splatter. I wanted something slightly more stream-of-consciousness on my blog (if any of you have noticed, I try different approaches to several posts, both in style, topic and function). I decided that I still wanted it posted, and I’m more comfortable posting it now than I had been earlier.

At least I don’t get to suffer this alone. Maybe it’s selfish that I want someone else to be suffering through this with me, but it’s my one solace.

Context: Sadly, people don’t value the same things I do, and I have to adjust. I have to let go of things, and maybe I have to stop wanting what’s not good for me. It’s just sad, because I really still feel like I lost. Maybe I’m over liking him. Maybe it’s really more a matter of pride than actual love. I dunno, maybe it’s some sort of defense mechanism. Maybe I know I’m not strong enough yet to legitimately fall in love with someone and suffer not being loved back. Then again, this isn’t the first time my feelings haven’t been reciprocated.

I still wish I could have stayed there, actually. Actually, not there, with them, but wherever, with him. I mean, at least we could talk about it. Or well, connect over it. I dunno, just so that I didn’t feel so alone. I hate it. ‘Cause once upon a time, there was no lonely, just alone. And I was okay with that. I couldn’t understand how other people could be so goshdarn sawi all the time. Like come on, there are things other than love out there. It didn’t make sense.

But then life comes along and gives you a taste of something beautiful, and then you finally get it. You finally understand all the “stupid” love songs, you finally get cheesy literature. This whole new world opens up, and it just looks like… everything. The sun seems to shine brighter. Everyday feels like a good day. Everything is just so right in the world that you actually feel like nothing can go wrong.

And that’s the stupidest part of it all. Or perhaps, ingenious. Seriously, could anyone outsmart and get ahead of that kind of fantasy? Even the best of us have fallen to that, being one of those crazy, crazy, crazy believers thinking that yeah, things could be beautiful. That maybe you could get your fairy tale ending. It won’t be the standard cliche, perhaps, but it would be a beautiful love story. And crap, it would be yours. You have joined the gods in their revels.

But no. Without a sign, or maybe with all the signs you ignored, or all the signs you denied, or all the signs you underestimated, your bubble bursts. Your world shatters. It’s all gone. The fall is shocking, about as massive and impactful as a star falling in on itself. Light, and then… everything is inverted. Such incredible darkness surrounds you, so much that you even feel it in you, hiking up your throat and biting on your chest, and there’s pain inside and outside and the pressure’s going to break somewhere. You’re tempted to withdraw from your idealism and sink into bitterness, isolation and numbness.

That was my world a couple of months ago. But I was determined not to fall into depravity like that. I would not be the bitter soul. I was going to come out of this strong. Was I okay? Hardly. But I was going to come out of this strong. Broken, perhaps, but not as an adjective of the present. Broken as in that was what I was. I was not destroyed. I was deconstructed. I was  going to be remade. I was going to be reborn.

Of course I miss the way things used to be. Who wouldn’t? I was living a fantasy. The real world is exquisite, granted, but there was something else about that other world. Like everyone says, love is the closest thing we have to magic. The real world is mystery and adventure and challenges and development and glory…. but that was magic. It was everything AND everything else. And perhaps that’s why it was a the most beautiful lie I’d heard.

But it was still a lie. I’ve realized that I don’t want magic. I want a miracle. I still believe in love. I’m incredibly cynical about a lot of things, and I’m cynical about romance, but I still hold on to love. Because you can’t live life without it. It just wouldn’t be life, at least not to the fullest, without it.

So I’ve come around to my senses. I’ve realized certain things, and I’ve learned a lot from the experience, which I won’t detail here (although it may come up in future writings, although I won’t tie it in to this experience). It doesn’t hurt anymore, not really. Of course, it still makes me unhappy when I see the two of them together. I’m happy for both of them, in the sense that they’re happy and, in general, I’m happy when other people are happy. I guess I just kinda wish that I could have some of that happiness for myself. As in, not just a sympathetic happiness. A happiness that I can experience firsthand.

Anyway, I hate to use this as a clutch, but I’m extremely happy that you’re suffering through this with me. I feel terrible for what you’re going through, don’t get me wrong. If I had my way, I’d chase him away so that you could have her. I know how things moved and grooved between the two of you. It was beautiful. But I won’t deny that having you around turned my quiet, patient neutrality into, well, a shift of perspective. It wasn’t like a distraction, like my pain was the default that hanging out would bandage over. Instead, all of a sudden, the bitterness wouldn’t cross my mind at all. Reminders didn’t even hurt. Things felt light again, and free. I could focus on other things again and laugh with a lot more sincerity. I felt like I was back to normal. Maybe even better than before. Things were the way I had hoped they would be after I had been deconstructed.

I wish I could return the favor somehow, and I guess that’s why I try to be here for you. And I also want to make your love story work for you. I wish you could have the happy ending that I didn’t. As awkward as I am around any couple, something tells me that I wouldn’t be bothered by the two of you, I swear it. It just looked like something that was secure. I dunno, everything just looked so okay. Maybe it really was all temporary. But it was beautiful. And I guess even was led to believe that you two would stay that way, or perhaps go in deeper, until… well, until this stage in our life passes. Basically it didn’t look like it would change the way it suddenly did. Why does the game change rules so fast?

I like the dude. He’s a nice guy. But for your sake, I want to keep him at bay from her. For your sake, I want to shake her awake… but I’m not even sure if she’s asleep. I mean, she’s happy with him too… darn it, why’d your case have to be so similar to mine? Why did the world have to move so fast?

But however this turns out, I’m happy for the now. I’m happy that we’ve technically got each other through this mess. To some degree, I can trust you. You can trust me. I don’t know what more to add to this. We’re just not alone. That makes things a lot better.