Posts Tagged ‘filipino’

pop goes the world: pinoy this way

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today29 September 2011, Thursday

Pinoy This Way

San Francisco, California – Every two or three years I hop on a plane for a vacation in the US with friends and family. I divide my precious few weeks’ of leave between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, revisiting old haunts and discovering new.

At Pebble Beach, one of my favorite places to visit. 26 Sept. 2011.

On the plane I sat between two prayerful Filipina ladies, both US citizens. The one on my right at the window seat was chatty. She had just escorted her ailing mother, also a citizen, to Cavite to be cared for there by other family members. “I’ll miss her,” she said, “but it’s not easy to care for seniors in the US.”

The older lady on my left (aisle seat) was meticulously made-up and dressed, a teacher at a college in Bukidnon, handling public administration and law. She was on her way to rejoin her daughter and grandchildren.

We didn’t know each other’s names, but that didn’t matter. “Ingat,” we said in farewell.

When I emerged from the airport doors pulling my luggage stuffed with ensaymada, hopia, and Queensland butter in cans, my family enfolded me in their arms and took me to IHOP for a meal. “We’re sure you’re hungry,” they said. They urged me to eat a bacon omelette, pancakes slathered with whipped butter and syrup, hash browns. (It was eleven o’clock in the evening.)

The next day we went to Target, where the woman behind the mobile phone counter explained in Tagalog-accented English to a tall white man that they do not sell jailbroken iPhones. When he had left, she shrugged at me. “Ganun talaga dito,” she said, knowing I was Pinay even if I had not opened my mouth.

The cashier who rang up our purchases was an elderly Filipina with carefully-waved salt-and-pepper hair and a stylish black-and-white scarf around her neck. She smiled knowingly as my sister and I spoke to each other in Tagalog.

At a Filipino supermarket the day after, I saw shelves crammed with Cream Silk and Sunsilk, Chippy and Chiz Curls, and Ligo sardines; refrigerated cases stuffed with Star margarine, Magnolia Ube with Beans ice cream (made in a California facility), and Pampanga tocino; racks full of San Mig Light, Pale Pilsen, and Red Horse Beer.

The aisles were decorated with fake coconut trees and banig on the walls as backdrops, whereas Target and Wal*Mart had pumpkins and Halloween masks. There was a Goldilocks’ outside and a bakery that sold hot pandesal. “Ibili natin si Papa ng mamon,” I overheard a young girl say. In those few hundred square meters was recreated a little slice of the Philippines, filled with even more bits of the Philippines that the homesick can buy to alleviate the longing for the flavors of Inang Bayan.

My sister at Island Pacific supermarket, Union City, CA.

At home, my sister uses a thick paper towel to wipe the bathroom and kitchen counters clean; she rinses it and hangs it to dry. She reuses these paper towels until they fall apart. “Sayang e. Puede pa naman.” Our leftovers from the huge American portions at restaurants are boxed and taken home; she makes sure we eat them the next day.

When Pedring hits, Filipinos call each other up. “Have you heard about the flooding in the Philippines? Kamusta pamilya mo doon?” We trade news and commiseration.

All this reminds me of Fil-Canadian Mikey Bustos’s “Pinoy This Way” (a parody of a Lady Gaga hit), that became an Internet sensation in April: “Back home, a land far away/ Where we work hard every day/ It makes us grateful, baby, we’re Pinoy this way….Nothing ever goes to waste/ Appreciate, don’t throw away/ Baby, we’re Pinoy this way!”

 

Cultural values embedded through socialization at home, school, and other settings in context are difficult to shake off. They permeate our core, unconsciously, communicated through language and food and tradition and rituals.

No matter how we may intellectualize “What makes a Filipino?” and debate from whence comes identity, the reality is that if we are born in the Philippines we are steeped in it from birth, through communication, behaviors, and expectations. If we are not, it can be learned, and is generally taught by immediate family members who developed their personalities within the context of Filipino culture. It is all carried inside us and comes out when we interact with others.

What’s it all about, wherever the Filipino may be? Work. Frugality. Sacrifice. Hospitality. Food. Family. Because we’re Pinoy that way.

* * * * *

Book Bonanza:  From University of the Philippines professor emerita and University of Santo Tomas Publishing House directress Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo:

“In February of this year, the UST Publishing House launched seven more new titles… all by Thomasian writers…: The House of True Desire, essays by Cirilo Bautista; Selected Poems by Rita Gadi; At Sa Tahanan ng Alabok , poetry by Louie Sanchez; Insectisimo, poetry by Lourd de Veyra;  Superpanalo Sound,s a novel by Lourd de Veyra; Clairvoyance, poetry by Carlomar Daoana; and Body Haul, poetry by Allan Pastrana.” Also launched was Everyday Things by US-based poet Fidelito Cortes.

These books and others forthcoming are part of the “400 Years, 400 Books” Project and will be presented to the public at the closing of the University’s Quadricentennial Celebrations in January 2012. The books are already available at the UST Publishing House Bookstore on campus and in National Bookstore branches. ***

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pop goes the world: by any other name

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today1 September 2011, Thursday

By Any Other Name

The debate on Filipino language and identity remains hot as ever, the flames stoked higher recently by Ateneo de Manila University student James Soriano’s essay “Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege”.

It was incendiary and set off an explosive string of comments pro- and -anti on the Internet. I have issues with language and identity myself and have written about them here before. But Soriano’s essay, on first reading, stank of the arrogance of privilege and caste. Referring to Filipino speakers as merely the people who wash our dishes or fetch us from school is at the very least insensitive.

On a second, deeper reading – no, still nothing.

Other writers have “deconstructed” the piece and claimed to have found it “satirical” and like Mideo Cruz’s art, meant to provoke. But why ascribe depth when there is none? The work, hardly well-written to begin with, screams that it was crafted by an unformed, immature personality that reminds me of nothing more than a social climber.

Soriano’s was a straight-up statement of fact and I object to the over-readings. Take it at face value.

From all over the world, reactions poured in. Says the California Dreamer (a Pinoy living in Los Angeles): “The fellow might have a serious attitude problem, but it was not about his attitude but his proposition. There’s always privilege and entitlement, especially where access to knowledge is unequal.  It was mean-spirited to say the least, but wasn’t he just a mirror of what’s wrong in society with a yawning gap between rich and poor, the information haves and have-nots?

“Once more, vanity is the death of us all.  He should’ve kept it to himself because from now on it will be all about a certain (bleep), and not the fact he framed his argument so badly that it fell apart.

“Identity is like water- the more one tries to grasp it, the more it slips past one’s fingers.”

Soriano may have a point in that because of the circumstances shaped by our culture’s colonial mindset and economic exigencies, and some individual families’ affluence, there are Filipinos who speak English better than any of the Filipino languages. Still, there is no call to denigrate the people who speak Filipino through preference, accident of birth, or lack of learning opportunity. And why laud one language over another? We are richer for being conversant in more than one.

We multi-lingual people have the advantage, because the words in the different languages we know have specific nuances; thus we are able to communicate more effectively because we have this formidable arsenal of words. Language is foremost a tool for communication.

This is also the point Carla Montemayor raises in her “How do you make dabog in English?” on Newsbreak Online.

“Since most English people are monolingual,” she writes, “they don’t get this seemingly schizoid shifting from one language and one thought process to another. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine myself using just one language all the time, forever. That’s like having a teaspoon in your hand when there’s a banquet spread before you. Attack with all available cutlery!”

I was in Los Angeles two years when an American friend asked me and an LA-based Filipino friend, “Why do you speak to each other in English and not in Filipino?” We replied “There are concepts we discuss for which there are no words in Filipino; but matters of family and the heart are spoken of in Tagalog.”

That is where identity lies – where the heart is. Language is there to help us articulate what is inside of us, struggling to get free and be shared with others.

* * * * *

My column last week was about first-time novelist Samantha Sotto, whose Before Ever After was published recently by Random House. Her story is a miracle of determination, drive, and dreams coming true. Here’s a Q & A with her:

Jenny:  Is this the first time you’ve written anything or had anything published – are you a professional writer? If not, what is your profession?

Sam: I’m a stay-at-home mom and Before Ever After is my first book. My previous career was in marketing management.

J: Where you educated in the Philippines or abroad?

Sam: I studied at Benedictine Abbey School for grade school and high school. I took up AB Communications at Ateneo. During college, I spent one year in the Netherlands where I studied at the Leiden campus of Webster University.

J: You’ve said elsewhere that Audrey Nifenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife was your inspiration for Before Ever After. In what way is your novel different from TTW?

Sam: I think the key difference is that while Before Ever After spans different historical periods, it is not a book about time travel.

J: You’ve made your characters, except one, non-Filipino. Why did you choose to do it this way?

Sam: This might sound strange, but it was the story and characters that chose me and not the other way around. Max, my main character, popped into my head while I was stuck in traffic in EDSA and told me his story. I just wrote it down.

J: Is there a second novel in the works? Will you set it abroad again?

Sam: I’m 80% done with my second novel. It explores an entirely different concept but is also set in Europe.

J: What has been the most exciting thing so far about this entire experience?

Sam: Holding the finished book in my hands was very surreal. The highlight, however, was when my kids read the dedication of the book.

J: What made you decide to try have your novel published abroad rather than in the Philippines?

Sam: I decided to pursue publishing the book abroad because I wanted to prove to my children that dreams have no boundaries.

The real-life inspiration in Boracay for “Shell”, one of the locations in the book. From the author’s public Facebook Page.

J: It’s been said that Filipinos are not a reading public. How do you think we can increase the popularity of reading in this country?

Sam: I think we should have more accessible public libraries so that people will be encouraged to read.

J: Where can we get your book?

Sam: The trade paperback edition of the book is exclusively available at National Book Store while the hardcover edition is available at Fully Booked. You can also order the e-book version via Amazon, iBooks and Barnes and Noble. People can find and follow me on samanthasotto.com, Facebook, and Twitter (@samanthasotto).

J: Describe your novel in one sentence.

Sam: It’s a fairytale for grown ups.

Samantha Sotto has proven that we don’t have to wait for dreams to come true – we can make it happen. May we all find our happy ever after!

* * * * *

Starting today till September 24 at Silverlens Gallery, catch “Slice”, Kidlat de Guia’s first solo photography show. His wife, performer Lissa Romero de Guia, calls him “the accidental artist”. “Slice” was born of those moments, she says, when “on a whim, [Kidlat] drove to Scout Hill at Camp John Hay. What he found there was completely unexpected: a childhood haunt in its death throes.”

Artist Kidlat de Guia setting up his works for his “Slice” one-man show at Silverlens Gallery. From the artist’s Facebook Page.

The images capture “the eviscerated remains of white clapboard structures in peeling green trim, the ice cream parlor transformed into a garage, debris carelessly strewn on the old tennis courts…[Kidlat’s] knee-jerk reaction to the carnage was to start shooting the beloved space that seemed to have found itself caught ‘in the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning’. Through the lightboxes these photographs have become, Kidlat allows us a look into a slice of time that may well be gone in the blink of an eye.”

Kidlat is the first of three sons of stained-glass artist Katrin Muller and multi-awarded indie filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik.  ***Email: jennyo@live.com, Web: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Gogirl Café, Twitter: @jennyortuoste

Image of writer Carla Montemayor here. Image of author Samantha Sotto from her public Facebook Page.

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mang inasal can save the world from hunger…

…with its “unlimited rice”.

Yes, the Mang Inasal quick service restaurant that offers as its specialty grilled chicken Negrense inasal style serves unlimited rice to its patrons.  Much like what you’d get in the average home – you know, this much ulam that you have to share with everyone else in the family, but there’s more sinaing in the rice cooker or caldero on the stove if you’re still hungry.

It’s this relaxed, home-style eating theme that this restaurant’s savvy owner and managers have parlayed into commercial success – fortune, fame, and a buy-out by food megagiant Jollibee Corporation.

Inasal is made by marinating chicken in vinegar with minced garlic and tanglad, and grilling. Anatto oil, brushed on during cooking, gives the chicken its distinct orange color. A simple recipe, but flavorful. Don’t forget that at Mang Inasal, it comes with unlimited rice.

How to eat at Mang Inasal:

Step 1. Queue at the counter. Choose items from the lighted menu on the wall. Menu items are no-brainers like chicken (60% of the menu), pork barbeque, bangus, and sisig. These protein-based entrees come free with a cup of sinigang broth and, don’t forget, unlimited rice.

Step 2. Pay the cashier.

Step 3.  The food will be served, so take your number-on-a-stick to your table, insert one end into the carved wooden number stick-holder expressly designed for holding number sticks, and wait.

Step 4. When your food arrives, eat! Galit-galit muna.

Step 5. Drizzle “chicken” (anatto) oil (the sauce bottle on your table not filled with toyo or suka) on your rice for more fat and calories, er, flavor.

Step 6. Ask one of the waitstaff roaming around with what looks like an ice bucket for more rice; he or she will gladly scoop a cup of the hot fluffy steamed onto your plate, as much of it as you want.

Step 7 (optional). Have dessert – save room for halo-halo or sorbetes.

Step 8. Repeat Steps 1 to 7 as often as desired.

I personally know a 20-year old man (I’m talking to you, JM) who ate seven cups of rice at one meal with his order of chicken. And he could have had more, because at Mang Inasal, you get unlimited rice.

Now that’s the way to solve world hunger.

Photos taken with a Nokia C3 2-mp mobile phone cam.

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pop goes the world: pacman and pinoy pride

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 18 November 2010, Thursday

Pacman and Pinoy Pride

Galit talaga si Pacman sa guwapo. When he’s up against handsome foes, he rearranges their faces into less attractive patterns.

That’s one of the many witticisms buzzing in the grapevines after Sarangani congressman and champion boxer Manny Pacquiao’s latest victory in the ring. His masterful control of the prizefight againstAntonio Margarito of Mexico impressed the denizens of spectators at the Texas venue and all around the world.

The event promotional poster. Image from here.

And Filipinos, true to form, busted out with the wisecracks after the win. (It would have been a different story if Pacquiao had lost.) Upon seeing Margarito’s face swell to twice normal size during the beating he took from Pacquiao, friends I watched the fight with said, “His last name suits him – maga ritoAt maga roon.”

Kidding aside, it was obvious before the fight that Pacquiao would have to work hard for this win. Kibitzing with officemates last Friday, I predicted that it would be a Pacquiao win by unanimous decision in 12 rounds. My friends were all for KO or TKO. But Margarito had the weight and height advantage, and was sturdy and robust compared to that peanut brittle Ricky Hatton, who went down under Pacquiao’s pokes – those weren’t even serious punches – in the second round.

At the pre-fight weigh-in. Image from here.

Manny would have to wear down the Tijuana Tornado; and he did it like the worst tropical typhoon that ever devastated a landscape, drowning Margarito under a barrage of blows to the kisser and quenching the fire of his long-armed jabs.

A Los Angeles-based Filipino friend, Ray San Juan, said of the fight: “It was like Zen watching Manny control the game. He was like water, just flowing with the energies of the match, as opposed to Margarito’s listless flat-footedness.”

Margarito tried to defend himself, but in vain; the accuracy of Manny’s punches were such that his glove would ram in between Margarito’s arms that were shielding his face.

First one of Margarito’s eyes swelled, then blood flowed from a cut, then the other eye ballooned, as did his bruised cheeks. After a Pacquiao makeover, Margarito’s own mother wouldn’t have recognized him.

“I really punished his face,” said Manny in the after-fight interview. Yet Manny had no stomach for his handiwork; he looked pleadingly at the referee to end the fight, full of pity for his determined foe, but Margarito, peeking through puffy eyelids, declared he would soldier on. Pacquiao would have wanted a fight stoppage to spare Margarito any further injury. “Boxing is not for killing each other,” he declared.

The Pacman Makeover: De La Hoya, Diaz, Hatton, Cotto, and Margarito after their bouts with Pacquiao. Image from here.

They fought a good fight. Both are valiant warriors, excellent examples of specialists of the sweet science. They persevered though beset with challenges – Margarito and his obvious dehydration, a factor that contributed to his weakness and slowness; Pacquiao and his weight gain to move up a class.

At the finish, viewers were left with admiration for Margarito’s grit and Pacquiao’s matchless strength, speed, and skill. Ray added, “Even the Mexicans at the sportsbar where we viewed it cheered for Pacquiao.”It’s great to hear about them cheering for the Pinoy Mexicutioner. It’s obvious they know a great thing when they see it. The admiration for the strong, speedy, and skillful transcends national boundaries.

Margarito cowers beneath the onslaught of Pacquiao’s punches. Image from here.

But Margarito didn’t let Manny get off unscathed. Pacquiao had to see a doctor after the fight to have his ribs checked out, the area Margarito kept raining with blows. The physician gave him a clean bill of health, but this is a lesson to Manny not to be complacent. He said in an interview that as early as the second round, he knew he could control the fight.

If so, then he should have finished it early, to reduce the risk of injury to himself and to his opponent. I met the great heavyweight prizefighter Muhammad Ali some years back, and he was a pitiful sight, hands shaking from Parkinson’s, unable to make eye contact. I’d rather not see Manny reduced to that. His own coach, Freddie Roach, a competent boxer himself, also suffers from that disease, which commonly afflicts boxers; if Manny would spare himself that by retiring soon his millions of fans would be happy. Anyway, he has a new job as a politician; why not settle into that?

Once again, Pacquiao has made the Philippines proud. But let us ask ourselves how much of our pride in Manny is genuine happiness for an extraordinarily talented individual, and how much of it is vicarious satisfaction. Manny works very hard for the fame and fortune he now enjoys; is it fair for an entire nation to ride on his coattails?

Let us, in our own various ways, eke out achievements that in themselves will bring honor to the country. I agree with my friend Ray when he says, “Manny will teach us one thing, [and that is] to push the envelope beyond our preconceived borders.”

I started my career as a sportswriter, and even back in the day, the local boxing stables were already full of pugilistic talent – Luisito Espinosa, Rolando Navarrete, and others. Perhaps all they needed was a Freddie Roach; if they had a coach as good, who truly cares for the wellbeing and success of his fighters, who knows what heights they could have reached?

Manny and Freddie after the 19 November 2009 fight against Miguel Cotto. Manny’s face is practically unmarred after going twelve rounds with Cotto; Freddie’s face shines with joy. Image from here.

In the same manner, stellar songbird Charice, another source of Filipino pride, had the good fortune of being discovered on Youtube and of being taken under the wing of starmaker David Foster.

But those are the breaks of the game, and it does not fall to everyone to enjoy such opportunities. Still, you’re one up on the competition when you’re prepared, therefore the extreme importance of a quality education and proper training for those seeking employment and entrepreneurship chances.

We cannot let the successes of individuals be our only source of national pride. When our entire country, through collective effort, has lifted itself up from the muck of corruption, complacency, and poverty; when consistency and fairness mark the justice system; when human rights are respected and all are deemed equal under the law; when all that’s amiss is fixed, then we can truly be proud of ourselves as Filipinos.  ***

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pop goes the world: one family, many cultures

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 15 July 2010, Thursday

One Family, Many Cultures

Baguio City – It is lovely this time of the year in the City of Pines, Luzon’s “Summer Capital”. I am here with my two daughters, ages 18 and 12, and my two sisters, whose ages I will not disclose for fear of reprisal.

One sister, Aileen, has been based in Dubai for the last 16 years. The other, Tiffany, was born in Manila but moved to California’s Bay Area when she was four. This is her first visit to the land of her birth in 15 years.

Aileen and I finished our education in local schools and did not get to travel abroad until after college. While we bear the mind-broadening effects of education and travel, still we are Pinoy to the core, thoroughly acculturated with Philippine values and norms, and aware of its traditions and rituals, in particular those of the urban area we grew up in – Manila.

Aileen is more traditionally Filipino than I am in her observance of rules and rituals that I prefer to ignore. She believes one should not sleep in, even on weekends. She insists that everyone must take at least one bath a day, no matter how cold it is, nor sleep right after a shower with wet hair. She tells Tiffany not to wash her hands in cold water as she might get pasma and asks her why she eats with only a fork and not a spoon too.

My mother and stepfather imbued Tiffany with traditional Filipino values – respect for elders, the importance of family, the significance of a good education. They have The Filipino Channel at home; Tiffany watched P-Noy’s inauguration before stepping on her Manila-bound Philippine Airlines flight. She watches Mom cook dried fish and eat egg with bagoong from a jar. Uncle Joe has instructed her to bring back Hizon’s ensaymada, the kind with grated queso de bola on top.

Not having grown up in Pilipinas, she cannot speak Tagalog nor Ilonggo though she can understand a sentence or two here and there in both languages. She is clueless about the Filipino way of doing things and wonders why motorists here weave dangerously in and out of their lanes, who Kris Aquino is and why she seems to have such a big impact on Philippine society, and what pasma is and why she should care.

My daughters, who grew up exposed to American culture on TV and the internet and in books, straddle the divide between cultures. They are at ease with their Tita Tiffy’s American twang and respect Tita Aya’s strict insistence on routine.

They are the true multiculturalists in the family, who understand the nuances of both mindsets and may at times act as ‘interpreters’, having the learning advantages of mass media, education, and travel in addition to meeting and interacting with people who are from or have been exposed to other cultures.

Alex, the elder, studies at De La Salle University, where she counts Koreans, Japanese, Indians, and Italians among her classmates and professors; online, she has Australian and American friends. Her best friend, Penelope moved to Singapore recently and chats with her often about her experiences and life in general there. Erika has classmates who grew up in Indonesia, Japan, and the US.

Their fondness for Japanese anime and Korean pop music has inspired them to study those languages. Now they speak and read a little in both, as well as being aware of the various differences in societal mindsets stemming from the country’s particular culture.

The kids cosplay (costume + roleplay) their favorite characters from “Hetalia”, a Japanese anime.

With the overseas foreign worker phenomenon growing even more as Filipinos seek economic opportunities unavailable at home, there is an expanded awareness of foreign cultures that did not exist 15 years ago to the current extent.

Now Aileen, having spent the past two decades in Dubai, can tell the difference between nationals of different Western, Asian, and Arabic-speaking countries from their accents and dress. She can easily switch between British and American speech codes, saying, “Has the lorry delivered the telly to your flat yet? No? Bloody hell! ” and in the next breath “Yeah, the old TV in your apartment sucks like a Hoover. I know, right?”

Yet the norms and values that guide her behavior are Filipino. She works beyond office hours to finish a task. Before she makes a decision, she assesses its possible effects on her family, which is her priority. She keeps snacks in her desk because God forbid that she or anyone else in her sphere go hungry.

My sister at Versailles – “a transformative experience,” she says.

When Aileen and I were growing up, we received knowledge about other cultures primarily from mass media. The younger generations have the added advantages of advances in communication technology, the shared narratives of the experiences of family and friends who work and live abroad, and friendships with people from other countries in the flesh and online to create the “mental model”, as theorist Peter Senge calls it, that is the lens through which they look at the world – a multicultural lens.

Here in Baguio City, the weather is cooler than in Manila and Tiffany is grateful for the respite from the lowlands’ humidity. Aileen says it must be much like that in San Francisco, and wouldn’t she like to live here instead? Tiffany smiles, because it’s not just the climate that will induce her to stay. Would she be able to adjust? How long will it take her to learn the language and norms so that she can fit into this society better?

My daughters shrug and say, “What’s the problem?” For them, there is none. Their knowledge of different cultures and ability to compare and analyze them gives them a broader picture of the world, making them global citizens while remaining Filipino at the core.

I dig my spoon into a jar of sweet sticky Good Shepherd ube jam and marvel how the confluence of cultures resulted in these four women, my family. I wonder where the coming years will take us.

One thing I am sure of – we are Filipino, and we carry that identity embedded in our heart and soul. ***

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pop goes the world: we are family

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 10 June 2010, Thursday

We Are Family

If the Philippines had a theme song, it would be Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”.

Taking yesterday’s proclamation of senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as president –elect and of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay as vice-president-elect at the Batasan Pambansa from a semiotic viewpoint, the theme of ‘family’ emerged as one of the dominant signs.

Present were children and babies held by nannies or parents, because it is part of Filipino traditional culture that significant celebrations be held with family.

Also in the hall were members from the several dozen ruling dynasties of the country. Some were incoming, others outgoing, elected or appointed public officials. Their faces and genders and credentials may change, but the names stay the same, election year after election year. We might as well be a monarchy with a hierarchy of nobility and aristocracy.

The Aquino family members received much on-camera exposure during the television coverage of the event. Noynoy’s sisters Ballsy, Viel, Pinky, and Kris were seated in a row, clad in black, showbiz celebrity Kris in a glamorous off-shoulder number, her older sisters dressed more conservatively. Apart from showing the difference in their personalities and fashion taste, the clothes were a sign of two things: that the customary one-year mourning period for their mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, is not over; and of just who their mother was, and her place in history.

President-elect Aquino, Enrile, and Nograles are joined by Aquino’s sisters and brothers-in-law. (Photo by Voltaire Domingo/NPPA).

By extension, their dark garb was also a reminder of the other family member they lost – their father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., whose assassination may be said to have set this wave of events in motion, bringing an entire country to this point, where his only son holds the highest office in the land, borne to power on the crest of public sentiment for his parents.

This image references Kris’s hosting of game show “Deal Or No Deal”, which ended 2009.

Seated near the Aquino sisters was Shalani Soledad, Noynoy’s significant other, speaking to singer Ogie Alcasid. The showbiz family of Kris Aquino was well-represented too. It is from their ranks that the incoming president considers recruiting heads of government agencies – Boy Abunda for Tourism, Dingdong Dantes for the National Youth Commission, and Grace Poe for the MTRCB are some of the names he mentioned. Of course he makes these choices based on their qualifications, because it can’t be out of gratitude, can it, for their help in his campaign?

Shalani Soledad being interviewed by a radio news reporter. (Photo by Voltaire Domingo/NPPA)

In behalf of yet another prominent family, Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada read a message from his father Joseph. The senator extended his father’s “humble” acceptance of his defeat to Noynoy in the elections, and wished him well. From there the speech degenerated into a rant, citing the “failures” of Comelec and Smartmatic, stating again, as if we didn’t know, that the elder Estrada once served as president, and warning the Filipino people to guard against the corruption in government which he was unable to stem during his own administration.

There too at the Batasan were the Binays of Makati City. With son Junjun taking over from his father as Makati mayor, and daughter Abby the new congresswoman of the second district, they carry on decades of Binay administration in one of the country’s richest cities. The same goes for the Belmontes of Quezon City – father Sonny moves up from mayor to Congress while his daughter Joy steps in as vice-mayor to Herbert Bautista, who for years has held that same position.

We could go on and on.

But what about the families of the millions of people who gave the reins of government to these people via their votes? Who thinks of them?

As a citizen of this republic and the head of a family of my own, I lay this solemn charge upon the incoming set of political leaders – remember the families.

Think of the overseas contract workers who endure separation for years from their loved ones to toil in foreign lands to ensure the survival of their children in a country that cannot provide jobs and better life opportunities for them and their parents, while the government brags of a high GNP pumped by the billions of dollars they remit, ignoring the social cost and its consequences.

Seek to improve the lot of the widowed and children of those murdered in the Ampatuan massacre; those who die fighting on both sides of the insurgents’ war; those who live in hovels mired in abject poverty in sight of your grand mansions; those who cannot continue their education because of financial constraints.

Rescue those who are victims of abuse by the military and private armies and by those who because of the inflated condition of their pockets and egos assert their power over those who have little or none, since they thrive unpunished in a culture of impunity.

Filipino culture values family above all, even above God and country. The way we address each other reflects this – kuya or manong security guard, ate or manang food vendor, nanaytatay this or the other. And how often have we heard someone say, “Gagawin ko ang lahat para sa pamilya”? A Filipino will do, endure, and sacrifice all, for the sake of family.

To our new leaders, do not forget you are Filipinos, imbued with this land’s culture and norms. Accept that you are members of a larger family – the nation. Perform your mandated tasks, bearing in mind that you have our trust, because we have nowhere else to put it.

Remember the Filipino families – not only your own.   ***

“My Brother’s Keeper” by Ronnie T. Tres Reyes. Top Five finalist, 2008 Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office “Isang Pitik sa Charity” photo contest. Reyes describes his photo: “Taken one chilly night outside a McDonald’s along Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City. For over a year, this five year old boy has been taking care of his baby brother every night on the steps of the restaurant. Sometimes he lies on the concrete and allows himself to be the baby’s bed and source of warmth.”

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pssst! hey, taxi!

Cabs are everywhere in Manila, except, of course, when you need them most – when you’re in a hurry, and when it’s raining.

Their other cab is called “Bridge Over the River…”

Let’s say you find one. Slipping into it, you expect a swift, safe ride to your destination in airconditioned comfort.

But have you reckoned with your taxi driver? There are two kinds: the silent type, and the not.

A quiet cabbie is restful, soothing. You tell him where you want to be taken. “Escolta?” He nods, puts the car in gear, and drives. He knows where to go, the fastest and easiest way to get there, and does not require instruction. The entire trip, not a word escapes his lips. You lean back in the seat, perhaps shut your eyes to rest them. You listen to the radio, if it’s on. The silent types usually don’t have it on; if they do, it’s tuned to a soothing station that plays pop or ballads, the volume turned down to muzak level. You use the time to rehearse your pitch to the client you’re about to meet, think about saving up for that adorable purple tote, or refine your plans for world domination.

But what if you end up with the other kind? The garrulous, talkative, just-won’t-shut-up type?

In my experience, they fall into the following classes:

  1. The Political Expert – His radio is nailed to a talk show where the host spends hours swearing at corrupt politicians. The Political Expert is well-informed on current events and can discuss issues like the global recession and the fuel price hikes knowledgeably, usually from his own point of view as a cabbie. “Tinaas na naman ng mga @##$ na iyan ang presyo ng gasolina, pero hindi tinaasan ang flagdown ng taxi!” (Those @##$ raised the price of gas, but they haven’t increased the taxi flagdown rate!) He names wayward politicos and rattles off their offenses in a derisive, chiding tone, like the one you’d use to a tall person who plays basketball badly. “Iyang si (deleted), puro pangungurakot ang inaatupag imbis na tumulong sa distrito niya.” (That (name of politician) is busy lining his pockets instead of helping the people in his district.)
  2. The Religious Nut – His radio is tuned to a religious station with a preacher explaining a Bible chapter in an excited tone, or he plays gospel music on his stereo. At first he is quiet, gauging you. Then he strikes. “Kristiyano ka ba, sister?” (Are you a Christian?) “Ligtas ka na ba?” (Are you saved?) I mistakenly debated with two. One was a Jehovah’s Witness. I presented the point of view of a Protestant and he took great delight in shooting down all my arguments, though never really seeing my point of view. The other professed to be a born-again Christian. I tried to shock him by telling him I was agnostic. He fell silent for a while; I thought I had shut up him, but no, he merely redoubled his efforts at converting an ateista.
  3. The Lonely One na Naghahanap ng Kausap (Looking for Someone to Talk To) - This one usually is heartbroken over a woman – could be his girlfriend, wife, or mistress. Knowing he will most likely never see you again and that you’re a captive audience, he pours his heart out to you, venting his ire about the woman that done him wrong, or that he done wrong to and as a consequence is suffering a (momentary) twinge of guilt or regret about.
  4. The Guy Who Loves to Hear the Sound of His Own Voice: He will talk about anything. But anything, with hardly a pause for breath. At some point, to escape the endless and boring flow of words, you will seriously contemplate jumping out of the cab, committing suicide, or strangling the driver.
  5. The Flirt – His spiel goes something like this: “Ilang taon ka na, mam? Talaga? (Insert age here) ka na? Hindi mukha. Ang ganda-ganda niyo po. May anak na kayo? Ambata niyo sigurong nag-asawa. Kumusta na po asawa niyo? Ay, hiwalay ba kayo? Puede pong malaman ang cellphone number niyo?” (How old are you, ma’am? Really? You don’t look it. You’re very beautiful. You have kids? You must have married young. How’s your husband? Oh, you’re separated? May I know your cellphone number, then?) All this delivered with a cheesy grin.

Not to reply, in Philippine culture, would be considered rude and hindi marunong makipag-kapwa (does not know how to get along with others). As a thoroughly acculturated Filipino, in all cases, my response is a stock repertoire of noncommittal phrases – “Uh huh.” “Ay, talaga po?” (Oh, really? with the honorific po as a term of respect) “Ganoon po ba?” (Is it like that?) “Grabe ‘nga ‘yang si (insert name of government official being excoriated).” (That person’s too much.) “Kawawa naman.” (Poor guy.) “Tsk, tsk.”

Both ways, you get an interesting ride. Annoying, yes; irritating, perhaps; yet always interesting. You get off at your destination refreshed, or having learned something more about the human condition.

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bedside reading

Whenever I’m asked, “What are you reading now?”, I’m sometimes hard pressed to answer. I do read one book at time, but there’s always a stack or two of volumes beside my bed,  some of which I’ve read, the others newly acquired and next in line for reading.

My tastes are eclectic. There are marketing and business books, holdovers from my MBA days – Marketing Gurus, all the Franklin Covey books. Lately I’m into memoirs – Matthew Polly’s hilarious American Shaolin, A. J. Jacob’s tongue-in-cheek The Year of Living Biblically, Laura Shaine Cunningham’s poignant and brave A Place in the Country.

Near the top, where I can easily reach them, are the latest thoroughbred catalogues from Australia’s Magic Millions and Keeneland in Kentucky. Keeneland’s November 2008 sale catalogues are the more interesting. It is a set of eight thick books, the information on weanlings and other bloodstock printed on thin paper. I open to the Index to Sires and roll their names in my mouth like candy – Cryptoclearance, Langfuhr, Star de Naskra.

Somewhere in those stacks are the latest edition of Strunk and White, my style manual ever since it was introduced to me in my freshman English class at the University of the Philippines; a Dummies guide to Adobe InDesign for print publication layouting; and three volumes of the Plaridel journal, the academic publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.

And at the bottom of the shorter pile is Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside-Out – probably not the best place for it to be, if I want it to be of any help.

Any house I live in will be filled with books. It’s almost a psychological given; a house is not a home for me unless there are many books in it, spilling from shelves, stacked against the wall, piled on the coffee table.

My love for books stems from childhood. My mother raised me on science fiction and fantasy. This is a woman who kept her Lord of the Rings trilogy on the shelf below the TV set in her room, while all the other books were kept in the living room. This was back in the early ’80s, before fantasy became fashionable and when all of Tolkien’s books were out of print. Her copies, which she bought as a teenager at Lopue’s and China Rose in Bacolod City, were printed in the ’60s, before “acid-free” was heard of, and the pages were yellowed and crumbled at a touch. The spines were battered and mended many times with tape, which had also discolored to a color like weak tea.

In the tall wicker bookshelves in the sala she kept cookbooks. One of them was a ’50s hardbound Betty Crocker cookbook from her nanny who migrated to the United States. I have it now, and treat it as an heirloom. Others were cookbooks from the ’70s; those were filled with recipes for fondue, which seemed to me to be highly impractical since you needed a fondue burner.

That didn’t faze my mother. She improvised with a miniature saucepan on the stove. We gathered in the kitchen, dipping cubes of Kraft cheddar cheese in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs, then plunging them in hot oil till toasty brown.

Also on the shelves were my stepfather’s encyclopedias and his mother’s collection of children’s “two-in-one” hardbound classics. For instance, one side was Grimm’s Fairy Tales; flip the book and you got Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. My mother also had a good collection of adult classics – Aldous Huxley, Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, the Brontes. I wore out Bullfinch’s Mythology, though I later lost that particular copy.

My mother also possessed nearly all the Edgar Rice Burroughs books – my favorites being the Tarzan series (no, there wasn’t a “Cheeta” in the books) and the Mars series. The latter starred skimpily-clad Martian princess Dejah Thoris, who was constantly being saved by her husband, the manly Earthling John Carter, from predatory villains and robots controlled by evil scientists.

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Fanart depiction of Barsoom (Mars); in the center, Dejah Thoris and John Carter face a myriad perils

Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories were also well-represented. H. Rider Haggard and his endless yarns of hunter Allan Quatermain’s adventures in lost cities in Africa? Check. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells classics? Yes, there too, as well as L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books, many of them with the original John R. Neill art nouveau illustrations.

Neill’s drawings of Ozma’s hair – confined at the forehead by a thin diadem, tresses curling in whiplash tendrils – and her gauzy draperies, floating cloudlike around her slim body – captured my young imagination, representing an aesthetic that was otherworldly and unreachable. To this day, it is one of my favorite genres of art.

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A Neill watercolor of Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma of Oz.

Knowing of my insatiable – and indiscriminate – appetite for books, my mother kept those she felt inappropriate for my age in her closet, which we children never opened. When I was in college, she brought the books down, the ban lifted. One of them was Stephen King’s Dark Forces, a collection of horror and SF works by various writers. My mother probably didn’t object to the storylines but rather to King’s salty language.

In any case, it was just more grist for my mill, along with her more spinechilling H. P. Lovecraft books. The cover of one was horrifying - a worm snaked through the empty eye-socket of a half-decayed skull which bore clumps of matted hair and rodent-like teeth. I averted my eyes from that awful artwork whenever I opened that book to read about the Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep.

At the mere thought of that macabre painting, an involuntary shudder shakes my frame as chills riff up and down my spine. Uncannily, this is my exact same reaction when my eyes or fingers travel over the few old college mathematics and physics textbooks unexpurgated from my shelves. Cthulhu ftaghn!

My father was yet another heavy reader, but his tastes ran more to W. Somerset Maugham, John O’ Hara, Norman Mailer, Sholom Aleichem, Truman Capote, biographies. Pops lived in California for five years in the ’80s, and while there wrote me excitedly when he began Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,  Dee Brown’s novel on native American history. He wasn’t into science fiction; the most that he got into that genre was Ray Bradbury – I Sing the Body Electric, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I usually finish what I start. The exception is one book that I bought at a secondhand bookstall in Morayta in the late ’80s, set aside because its dense language put me to sleep although its ideas were interesting; a paradox in its rules of engagement. It was Marshall McLuhan’s 1964 work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. This groundbreaking book had a profound impact on mass communication and media studies. As a mass comm major, I felt duty bound to read it. It’s one of the books by my bed. Sometimes I feel I keep it around not so much because I plan to finish reading it, but as a talisman to keep me focused on the particular discipline that is my life’s work.

Let me see – it’s in the taller stack, under the used copy of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast that I found a couple of years ago at Booksale for P45. It’s the second in the “Titus Groan” trilogy. I got the first book in the late ’80s, also at Morayta, deep in the University Belt in the heart of Manila. I’m still looking to complete the set. Perhaps twenty years from now, in another serendipitous moment, I’ll stumble upon a copy of Titus Alone and I will add it, yet another block in the tower of books by my bed.

People come into my house, find piles of books stacked chest-high against the walls and two- or three-deep in bookcases, and ask, “Have you read all those?” The answer is, yes, except for that darn McLuhan.

And often, “Why do you like reading so much?” and at that I am rendered inarticulate. It is difficult to explain to people who do not read, who do not relish the sensation of eyes tracking words across a page to be immersed in a story, momentarily losing touch of reality.

My own habit of reading is a result of childhood influence and a desire to escape. I lose myself in forests of words and in thickets of concepts, drown in rivers of language, wander through time and space. The volumes by my bed embody different worlds where I may go freely, through the simple expedient of cracking open a book and reading.

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jose dalisay jr.: soledad’s sister

From the MacAir and bountiful imagination of novelist Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. come Soledad’s Sister, exploring the hardships that may be encountered by Filipino OCWs (overseas contract workers) and their relatives in the Philippines.

Shortlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize, the novel, Dalisay’s second after Killing Time in a Warm Place, tells of the homecoming of “Aurora V. Cabahug” from Saudi Arabia – in a casket. It is the story of Soledad, who used her sister Aurora’s name to skirt legal issues and leave the Philippines to work as domestic helper. It is the story of her sister Aurora, who tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s death, while managing to lose the corpse along the way.

Written with sincere warmth and sensitivity, it is also a story that could have been a reality for any of the millions of OCW families who have sent fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers into the Filipino exodus to slave for foreigners to be able to keep their loved ones alive.

It reflects a facet of our society, that squandered its chance to be an Asian Tiger and is now relegated to being the world’s labor pool.

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On a personal level, as the sister of an OFW in Dubai, I see this story as my worst nightmare. My sister Aileen has worked for 16 years as a secretary in a land where no plants grow except by force, where they have no soil but sand, where water is more precious than petroleum. I fear for her safety every day. I pray for her health and happiness as she lives a life far away from her family. I wish that things would get better so that she can come home, and spend her days with us.

But as long as reality is manifest and dreams remain figments of desire, Aileen will work in Dubai until she can no longer, and I, and others who read stories such as Soledad’s Sister, can only reflect on the choices people make and the outcomes that may attend these choices.

Soledad’s Sister will be formally launched on 31 July 2008, Thursday, 4pm, at the Faculty Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Dr. Dalisay will deliver a short lecture, followed by book-signing.

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well-balanced sheaffers

Back from the talyer (AKA Luis Store, 375 Escolta, Manila) are two Sheaffer Balance fountain pens from Leigh. Various Internet sources say that these particular models – the Jet Black Lady (or Junior) and the Golden-Brown Striated - were released in 1936-1939.

Upon the nib of the Jet Black pen are engraved the words “Sheaffer’s 3 Made in USA”; it is a very fine nib, perhaps an extra-fine. The Golden Brown Striated Balance bears a Sheaffer’s Lifetime nib with its own serial number; I’d say it’s a fine nib.

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The nibs of both pens are in good condition;; I just brought them to Terrie and Rose Pua of Luis Store for sac replacement as these pens are lever-fills and the rubber sacs had expired over time.

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Manufacturer’s information on the barrels

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Not all pens bore the trademark white dot

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“Visulator” windows are close to the nibs; threads are for the caps, which screw on

At seventy years old, these beautiful pens still function, and are a marvel of classic and timeless design with their tapered caps and tails. As links to the past, they evoke images of ladies in bob haircuts or marcelled hair and gowns with low-cut backs, lounging in Art Deco settings, smoking cigarettes in holders, or penning love letters to their swains.

Women, perhaps, like my own maternal grandmother (Beatriz Ledesma Lacson), shown here in a photograph from the 1930s. I can just see her with one of these pens in hand, dashing off acceptance notes to amigas for a supper or carnival ball invitation or inking dedications on the back of photos like this.

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This is why I collect – and use – fountain pens. Would you keep a Bic for seventy years? Could you still use it? Would you want to?

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