Posts Tagged ‘university of the philippines’

pop goes the world: systems failure

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 March 2013, Thursday

Systems Failure

Our systems are killing us.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 to halt for four months the implementation of Republic Act 10354, the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” otherwise known as the RH bill.

The 120-day status quo ante order is a setback for RH advocates, who have labored for nearly fifteen years to see this bill passed.  And it was passed by both Houses and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in December last year, but a slew of consolidated petitions filed in January this year led to this outcome.

Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te calls this order “preliminary” and says the highest court in the land may yet rule in favor of its legality.

The Roman Catholic Church, which prompted most, if not all, of the petitions against the RH Bill, hail this development as an answer to their prayers and “God’s will.”

The Department of Health had already marked last March 15 the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill.

DoH Secretary Enrique Ona said that the law “will empower women through informed choice and voluntarism…” as the IRR provides “improved access to family planning services…provision of mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improvement of PhilHealth coverage on RH services especially for the poor,” and other support services.

Secretary Ona added, “This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life.”

Statistics from womens’ rights advocate EnGendeRights say 11 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Given that, 1,320 women might die during the 120 days of the SQA.

How many more women and children will die from botched abortions, miscarriages, complicated births, and the other risks and dangers of unwanted pregnancies?

Another system that needs revamping is the University of the Philippines’ tuition fee structure.

Because of glitches in the system that misclassified her fee bracket, placed her on leave of absence for non-payment of tuition, and took away her ID card, freshman Kristel Tejada took her life.

She could not bear to go on living when her best efforts to obtain a degree went to naught when, despite her academic performance and commitment to learning, the system failed her.

When I was a UP undergraduate in the days before STFAP, I paid around five hundred pesos per semester. It was a lean time for my family, so an uncle paid my way through college, my entire education costing him around five thousand pesos in tuition fees.

I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree if I had gone to any other school, as it would have been too expensive and we might not have found anyone willing to shoulder a higher cost.

The STFAP was implemented after I graduated and since then no one can obtain a UP education for that little amount of money anymore.

And why not? Isn’t the government supposed to subsidize education in public schools, especially in the state university?

All Kristel wanted was a better life through learning, but the rules of the system made this inaccessible to her.

Education in the state colleges and universities should be made free or as close to it as possible, for the Iskolar ng Bayan to flourish and give back to Inang Bayan.

Government needs to see what’s important and what’s not – and should they need to be reminded, the youth and their proper education are important, for they are the future of the country.

UP failed Kristel, and failed in its mission. This is not the UP I went to. This is not the UP I love and am proud of. This is not the UP that it should be.

Various colleges of UP are holding a luksang pamantasan for Kristel with activities such as indignation rallies and candle-lightings to commemorate her tragedy and fight for change.

Perhaps we should also hold a luksang bayan for all the systems that have failed and continue to fail us.  *** 

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pop goes the world: a rose recognized

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  2 August 2012, Thursday

A Rose Recognized

The University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (CMC) is pleased to announce Rosa Rosal as the recipient of the 2012 UP Gawad Plaridel.

She received the award from UP president Alfredo E. Pascual and UP-Diliman chancellor Caesar A. Saloma in a ceremony in UP last July 31.

Rosal receives the Gawad Plaridel trophy from UP president Alfredo E. Pascual. Image here.

Rosal, whose real name is Florence Danon Gayda, “was chosen for her outstanding contributions to the broadcasting industry, particularly in the field of television,” according to CMC.

Dubbed the “femme fatale of Philippine cinema”, Rosal was born on 16 October 1931 to a Kapampangan mother and a French-Egyptian father. She started her career in broadcast during World War II as a newsreader on a Japanese-run radio station, and after the war worked at the San Lazaro Hospital.

Rosal is “an accomplished film and television actress whose career spans six decades. She began her film career in 1946 in the Nolasco Brothers Studio’s “Fort Santiago,” followed in 1947 with a small part in “Kamagong”, and by 1949 was starring in “Biglang Yaman” with Jaime de la Rosa and Pugo.

She “received the Best Actress award from the Filipino Academy for Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) in 1955 for her role in “Sonny Boy” and the FAMAS International Prestige Award for “Anak Dalita” in 1956.”

Rosal on the cover of a magazine in March 1956 to promote “Anak Dalita”. Image here.

In the ‘60s, she entered television in a couple of dramas but is best known for being the long-time host of the public service program “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko” and later “Damayan”.

In the ‘50s, she began serving the Philippine Red Cross as a volunteer-member for its blood program. In 1965, she was elected to its Board of Governors, and is still serving. For her charity work, she was given the 1999 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.

Her philantrophy, while primarily medical- and health-related, also extends to insurance coverage for volunteers and scholarship programs for poor children.

Education is important to her, as evidenced by this – despite a busy career as an actress, she still managed to obtain a degree in Business Administration from Cosmopolitan Colleges in 1954, taking night classes until she finished the course.

CMC honored Rosal for being a pioneer in using a form of mass communication to “be an effective medium for humanitarian work,” leveraging her popularity and “unquestionable integrity” to “benefit the less fortunate without fanfare and sensationalism.”

Rosal delivers the 2012 Plaridel Lecture. Image here.

The Gawad Plaridel, named after nineteenth century propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar’s pen name, was established by CMC and is an annual program that recognizes “Filipino media practitioners who have excelled in any of the [mass] media…and have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.”

The trophy was designed by National Artist Dean Napoleon V. Abueva and depicts del Pilar writing at his desk.

Rosal joins an impressive roster of awardees. The first Gawad Plaridel was awarded in 2004 to Philippine Daily Inquirer founder Eugenia Duran-Apostol (for print journalism); followed by Vilma Santos (2005, film); Fidela “Tiya Dely” Magpayo (2006, radio); Che-Che Lazaro (2007, television); Pachico A. Seares (2008, community print media); Kidlat Tahimik (2009, film), and Eloisa “Lola Sela” Canlas (2011, radio).

All awardees are expected to deliver a talk – the “Plaridel Lecture” – and Rosal spoke about “Harnessing TV as a Public Service Medium.”

Rosal at the Gawad Plaridel ceremony with  UP-CMC professor Pinky Aseron, noted radio broadcaster, who was the live voice-over talent at the awarding. Thanks to Ms. Aseron for allowing use of this image from her private Facebook page.

What is amazing about Rosa Rosal is her tireless dedication to the philantrophic causes she has selflessly taken up. I don’t recall seeing any of her films, but I do remember watching “Kapwa Ko” as a young child; Rosal’s face filled our TV screens every evening as she appealed to the public to help the endless number of patients on her show. For me and many of my generation and of the next, she is the face and voice of public service.

She also laid the groundwork for other public service TV programs and showed the world how to run an effective public communication campaign.

Other people of her age – she is 80 – are retired, immersed in their own concerns and that of their immediate families. She, however, has no plans of slowing down her efforts to help the less fortunate, and for this the country should be grateful.

UP-CMC gives this splendid woman her due through the Gawad Plaridel. May she and others who have dedicated their lives to genuine public service receive from the public the appreciation that they well deserve.  *** 


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thank you, UP masscomm

The University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication celebrated its 47th founding anniversary week, “Magpasiklab, Plaridel!” last March 5 to 9 with various activities. Among them was a recognition (pagkilala) ceremony where certificates were awarded to students, faculty, and staff who had earned achievements the previous year.

It was my honor to have been one of those chosen to be recognized (for my Palanca Award win in 2011) and to deliver a short message as one of the graduate students so honored (I am still a dissertation away from receiving my PhD Communication degree).

With UP-CMC dean Roland Tolentino and college secretary Patrick Campos. 

My deepest thanks go to Dean Roland Tolentino and UP-CMC for this signal honor.

Here’s the brief message I delivered that morning. I am proud to report no one fell asleep during my speech.

Message at the UP College of Mass Communication

Pagkilala sa Mga Natatanging Guro, Kawani, at Mag-Aaral recognition ceremony

CMC Auditorium, 9 March 2012 

Magandang umaga sa iyong lahat, Dean Tolentino, Dean Encanto, faculty, fellow students, staff, alumni, and guests.

Ipagpaumanhin nyo na po na hindi sa wikang Tagalog ko ibibigay ang aking mensahe. Chabacano ang tatay ko, Ilongga ang nanay ko, kaya sa wikang Inggles ko po ito isinulat.

First of all, thank you for bestowing this honor on me. I appreciate it even more because it is given on a very special occasion – the commemoration of UP CMC’s 47th founding anniversary.

CMC occupies a significant corner of my heart. I was an undergraduate here in the ’80s, under Dean Encanto. I used to hang out with other members of the UP Journalism Club on the steps of Plaridel Hall till 2am. I would like to assure Dean Encanto that we were not drinking. We were poor students on a budget; we couldn’t afford to.

MassComm itself back then couldn’t afford a lot of stuff. Much of the equipment and furniture was old. We students had to make do with few resources. During MassComm Week or rallies, we’d create makeshift placards or decorations from newspapers, scrounged materials, and paste made from leftover rice that we begged from the canteen. There were few communication textbooks and journals available – we had to borrow or photocopy.

After graduating with a degree in Journalism, I wrote sports articles for the Manila Chronicle, got married. That marriage failed, but it produced the joys of my life, my two daughters. When my husband left us, I had to go back to work, after ten years of being a housewife.

The horseracing industry gave me a break, out of pity. I was apprehensive, having been out of the professional scene for a decade.

At this point, my undergrad experiences in MassComm came to my rescue. It was here that I learned to produce much with the least of resources, to produce something out of practically nothing, and always at the very highest standards of excellence. It was at MassComm that I learned to be maabilidad, madiskarte, and marunong magtrabaho under pressure. (Sa katunayan po, sinulat ko ang mensaheng ito 30 minutes bago dumating dito.)

Twenty years later I was faced with a choice between this college and another one on the other side of the campus for my PhD studies. I chose MassComm, of course. It is my alma mater, my comfort zone, my home. The first sem I was back, I was struck by how so many things had changed – more students, more and better facilities.

But some things stayed the same. While the faculty cohort now is not the same as that of 20 years ago, I am happy to say that the present group of professors carry on the MassCom legacy – of training you to do more with less, to identify the boundaries of your discipline – and shatter them, to think for yourself and define for yourself who you are and who you want to be.

Thank you, UP College of MassComm, for this recognition of my humble writing achievement of last year. I will treasure this certificate, and this moment, always.

But the greatest things you have given me, that I can never thank you enough for, are the skills I’ve used to support my children; the knowledge I employ in building my career and life; and the freedom of mind and thought, a freedom that knows no limits.

Again, thank you, and good morning. Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

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contest reminders to filipino writers

Finally, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature contest rules and forms for 2012 are up on their website!

The posting of rules and forms was delayed this year and it was getting worrisome, more so since the topic for the Kabataan Essay/Sanaysay category had not been announced.

As it is, the young writers have two months less a week to go to write their entries.

This year is not a novel year, but 2013 is, so don’t forget to start writing or polishing your manuscripts for that.

The University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters has issued a call for submissions to their Likhaan literary journal’s sixth edition. The deadline is March 30. They accept short stories, essays, poetry, CNF, and graphic shorts and excerpts of graphic novels.

 CPMA logo here, Likhaan journals image here.

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at up on writers’ night 2010

The University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Arts and Letters hosts a gathering called Writers’ Night every December for professors, students, booksellers, sellers of other things, the general public, and writers. Last year (2010) it was held on December 10, the week before Lantern Parade, and it was well-attended.

I took my eldest daughter Alex and her friend JM along with me that day. They are students at De La Salle University. It was JM’s first trip to UP. He suffered profound culture shock, first of all with the size of the campus. Next, with my matter-of-fact statement that anyone could say anything to anyone at anytime, even in class, to a professor. He said, “You mean you can give your actual opinion to your teacher and she won’t get mad?” I told him, that is the gift of UP to its students – the license, the encouragement, to think free – something almost impossible at a school with a religious or other agenda. He was suitably impressed.

We had lunch, then off I went to a creative writing class with Dr Jing Hidalgo. While I was in class, the two went exploring.

We had dinner after – I took them to that old standby at UP Shopping Center, Rodic’s, where we ate off metal plates. Then to Writers’ Night, held at the rooftop of the Asian Center’s Hall of Wisdom, which we kept calling (by mistake) the “Hall of Justice”.

Typical Rodic’s meals of rice-and: spamsilog, bacon-si-log, long-si-log – with side of itlog na maalat  at kamatis.

The pictures I took that day are soft and fuzzy, kind of how I feel about UP itself – the present experiences of my PhD days mixed with the nostalgic memories of my undergrad years, like photographs superimposed upon each other, merging, blurring, almost becoming one.

The facade of AS (Arts and Sciences building), properly called Palma Hall. All general subjects are taken here, so everyone from UP Diliman passes AS in their early years.

The campus has always been green. I am glad that this is so.

The Sunken Garden, with its soccer goals.

That’s the College of Business Administration. It’s across the Sunken Garden. Fabric in the school colors binds a tree.

At the 2010 UP Writers Night. Tents and chairs on the rooftop, with food and books and singing.

The elderly gentleman with his back to the camera is National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera.

Me, in the center, with my hands on Alex’s shoulders. With us are my classmates, writers Triccie Obligacion, Vivien Labastilla, and Hammed Bolotaolo.

With a former classmate,  writer Carljoe Javier (“The Kobayashi Maru of Love”).

At the back are professor J. Neil Garcia and writers Doy Petralba and Hammed; front, a couple of friends, me, and writers Jenette Vizcocho, Triccie, and Vivien.

After the event, I took the kids to my college – the UP College of Mass Communication. The giant iPod on a cart was our college’s entry in the annual Christmas Lantern Parade. It was a wonderful moment for me – seeing my daughter and her friend, both college students themselves, in front of the steps I sat on when I was an undergrad myself. I didn’t think, back then, that I’d be seeing this in a couple of decades.

A closer look at the college’s float. The front of the “iPod” is woven from strips of magazine pages. I heartily concur with and support the sentiment displayed on it.

I will most likely be attending this year’s UP Writers Night – it’s the usual reunion date for past fellows and panelists of the UP National Writers Workshop, and it’s also the launching of Likhaan 5, the UP-CAL journal. My essay “The Turn for Home: Memories of Santa Ana Park” has been included in it, and I look forward to receiving my copy.

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angas ng taga-up

The University of the Philippines. It is in a league of its own. It is a state learning institution, secular, free-thinking, and liberal-oriented. Many of the country’s leaders have come from UP – those who have led it to shame, and those who have led it to honor.

Yet still it stands, and still produces leaders and workers and servants and artists and intellectuals and lawyers and writers and sportsmen and all those in between.

It doesn’t have the gung-ho “school spirit” hype that other universities have – no indoctrination, no elaborate and drawn-out teaching of hymns and school cheers. You take the UPCAT (UP College Admission Test), you pass, you show up for orientation on the first day of school, and that’s it.

You will not be spoon-fed with information or be told what to do. At UP, you find things out for yourself. You might get lost a couple of times and come in late to class as a consequence; you might miss a homework assignment or two because you didn’t know where to find this or that obscure reading on the list; but you will learn things on your own. You are expected to.

Your professors will not baby-sit you. They will not pander to your enshrined beliefs, inculcated in you from babyhood in whatever sphere you come from. Instead they will shake you up and spin you around and turn you about and they will open to you new worlds you never even knew existed. They will teach you facts, yes, but more importantly, they will teach you how to think, and how to think free.

You are supposed to learn how to be independent and self-sufficient, to work and study and create with the barest minimum of resources that you have to scrounge from here and there. You are supposed to make do or do without, or refuse to do without and to somehow find the wherewithal to do it.

You are expected to do the impossible and do it brilliantly.

And because of your UP education, wherever on this planet you may find yourself in the future, you will be able to produce what is required of you with nothing but spit and string and a bent safety pin – and by the deadline.

This is something few others can do. UP will confer this ability upon you, and you will not know or understand whence it comes. It just will, if you stay long enough, and if you open your mind and heart and soul. And that is the angas of UP, the confidence in one’s intelligence and ability that translates into work and action.

This shirt is by Diliman Republic and is available at the UP-Diliman Shopping Center.  Yes, I have one.

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pop goes the world: common sense isn’t all that common

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 September 2010, Thursday

Common Sense Isn’t All That Common

You groaned – I heard you. I’m not surprised – we’ve heard that hoary old aphorism many times before, and can cite horrifying instances from experience to prove its veracity. Thinking people often bemoan how crooked reasoning has supplanted logic and common sense, which have gone the way of either eight-track tapes (unused), steak tartare (very rare), or Jose Rizal (dead).

While not confined to those in government service, the dearth of critical thinking skills in that sector provide many jaw-dropping examples that, sadly, impact upon public interest. Here’s one incident that will make you indignant at how our tax pesos are spent, as recounted by University of the Philippines-Diliman professor emeritus Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo:

“From February 2005 to May 2010, I was vice president for public affairs of the UP System, serving under UP president Emerlinda R. Roman. Under me were the Information Office, the Office of Alumni Relations of the UP System, and the Gurong Pahinungod.

“Because UP was preparing for the celebrations of its Centennial in 2008, our work load—heavy at best—became considerably heavier. A slew of other tasks was added to the regular responsibilities of running three newspapers, maintaining the UP System website, producing regular magazine-sized reports, writing and sending out regular media announcements, providing support for the Office of the President during the annual presentation of the UP Budget to Congress and the campaign in Congress for the approval of the new UP Charter, and providing communications support for the offices of the other vice presidents.

“Among these additional responsibilities were President Roman’s alumni caravan, which took us around the country to involve UP alumni in the celebration and in the fund-raising campaign; and several special projects—a coffee table book, another book called Kwentong Peyups, a short documentary film, a UP history book project, supplements for the print media, and several Centennial contests (for the Centennial logo, the Centennial literary award, the Centennial song, the Centennial short film, etc.).

“My Assistant VPs and I worked long hours, including weekends, and out-of-town trips. Throughout this period, I continued to teach graduate courses–sometimes one, sometimes two, each semester.

Dr. Hidalgo (with graduate student and author April Yap) teaching a master’s/PhD creative writing class at UP on her birthday last month. (Photo by Camille de la Rosa)

“On one such weekend in June 2006, Lydia Arcellana (AVP and Director of the Office of Alumni Relations) and I had a lunch meeting with a group of UP alumni at Dulcinea, a restaurant on Tomas Morato.

“On 14 September 2006, UP received a subpoena from the “Task Force O-Plan Red Plate” of the Office of the Ombudsman, directing it to submit my driver’s trip tickets “and all other appurtenant and relative documents authorizing the use of government vehicle (assigned to my office) for the period 13-28 June 2006.” It contained the ominous threat that failure to do so within three days of receipt would “merit the filing of criminal charges” as well as administrative charges.”

The document, says Dr. Hidalgo, did not state what these “charges” were. Then-UP vice president for Legal Affairs and now UP Law School dean Atty. Marvic Leonen submitted the trip tickets and detailed the nature of Dr. Hidalgo’s job. Nothing more was heard from the Ombudsman, and they assumed the explanation and documents were satisfactory.

Four years later, on 12 July 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman wrote claiming that on 25 June 2006, the car assigned to Dr. Hidalgo was seen “in front of Tonton Thai Massage on Tomas Morato Street at 3:30 pm.”

Says Dr. Hidalgo, “The strange thing is that the accompanying photos…showed the car to be parked in front of—not the massage establishment named—but the restaurant Dulcinea with the sign above its entrance prominently shown.”

On this flimsy basis, the professor’s “…driver and I were being investigated for graft, and for “dishonesty, grave misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service,” having caused “undue injury to the government, consisting in (sic) the unnecessary consumption of fuel and undue wear and tear of the vehicle…a flagrant wastage of government funds,” that showed “utter disregard on (sic) the policy that public officers and employees should uphold public interest over and above personal interest.”

Dr. Hidalgo, a published author well-known in literary and higher education circles, retired as a full-time UP professor and VP for Public Affairs last May. I met her for the first time in June when I signed up for her Creative Non-Fiction writing class this semester.

She describes herself as “an elderly academic” possessing an “impeccable record of 20 years of public service and numerous awards, for both my teaching and my writing. The latest is the title Professor Emeritus, surely one of the highest honors UP can confer on one of its own.”

On August 9, Dr. Hidalgo received another ‘order’ concerning the “administrative case” against her, and she complied by sending more affidavits with the same facts she had already mentioned before.

“I feel most aggrieved,” she says. “Given the countless cases of blatant graft and corruption involving billions of pesos, which seem to be resolutely ignored, why am I being singled out for this harassment by the Office of the Ombudsman?”

Now what is graft? It is “money, property, or a favor given, offered, or promised to a person or accepted by a person in a position of trust as an inducement to dishonest behavior: bribe, fix, payola.”Attending a meeting with alumni on a working weekend to raise funds for the state university is now graft?

Not only does the Office of the Ombudsman need to buy themselves a dictionary and hire a writer with a good grasp of grammar, they also got their facts wrong as to time, place, and purpose. Dr. Hidalgo says, “As indicated in the trip ticket earlier submitted, we had left Dulcinea at 1:30 pm.” How could they have still been seen in the area at 3:30pm, as alleged? The people who took photographs of the car did not check inside the establishments in the area to see where the passengers and driver of the car really were. Where is the proof that Dr. Hidalgo and company were actually inside Tonton Massage?

What I also found beyond strange is that it took the Office of the Ombudsman four entire years to process this. Dissertations have been written in less time.

The thinking mind reels in disbelief at how much time, manpower, paper, ink, and other resources were poured into this one solitary incident. Rather than going after the large sharks who have gorged themselves with money and perks at government and taxpayers’ expense, as splashed in recent headlines, the Office of the Ombudsman is flagrantly wasting government funds and resources to hound, with a nuisance non-case based on erroneous facts, a little old lady schoolteacher who rode a red-plate car one working Sunday afternoon.

Why is Dr. Hidalgo being singled out for this unwarranted attention? Makes you wonder if she gave someone a grade they weren’t happy with when they were in college. Is that what this is all about? Because, as common sense will tell you, this is not what the public is paying the Office of the Ombudsman to do. ***

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pop goes the world: ‘orosman at zafira’ and divorce

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 19 August 2010, Thursday

“Orosman at Zafira” and Divorce

For its 35th season, the Dulaang UP of the University of the Philippines is putting on a series of productions kicking off with Francisco Baltazar’s “Orosman at Zafira”, running up to August 29 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater at UP-Diliman’s Palma Hall.

For those who remember having to slog through Baltazar’s epic poem “Florante at Laura” in high school, “Orosman” is the same in flavor; the dialogue is heavy reading in archaic Tagalog and hard to follow, although the narrative, as brought to life by cast members, can be comprehended from the talented and excellent performances.

Reed screens decorate the set and are moved around to create spaces, emphasize separation, and otherwise indicate location. At the beginning, the title of the play is cast upon the screens in light, which fades and shifts to a rainbow of coruscating lights.

Suddenly a woman’s low, husky tones ululate in distinctly Filipino cadences, followed by the doom-doom beat of tribal drums. At those sounds, something primal surges within, a call of the race deep within the blood that hearkens to the rhythm of forebears as the reed screens separate to reveal the singer/narrator, Zelima (played superbly by Tao Aves), clad in flowing robes, mourning the deluge that has overwhelmed their land: “Sa aming bayan, dilubyo sa aming bayan. Tatlong pacha, isang kahariang mahal; nagalit ba ang dakilang Allah, at nangyari na ang dapat na mangyari?”

Then unfolds the story of power and wealth, love and sorrow, life and death, played out in dance and song and words. The women of Baltazar’s “Orosman” are powerful: Tasy  Garrucha enchants as Zafira, princess of the Marueccos tribe, while Jean Judith Javier’s Gulnara, the beloved of Sultan Mahamud, Zafira’s father, convincingly portrays a complicated love. Both turn warrior upon the assassination of the sultan; do not be misled by the flowing gowns and the soft voices; the dulcet tones turn harsh with anger, the gowns stripped to reveal men’s clothing while staves and other weapons are waved at the moment of battle.

As the drama unfolded, I realized that the spirit of warrior women still lives in Filipinas today. Infidelity is endemic in our culture and is cause for much heartbreak in relationships. Our laws are biased towards men, who can only be charged with concubinage upon submission of proof that they have set up a household with a woman not their wife. Women, on the other hand, only have to fail once and be caught in a tryst with their lover to be charged with infidelity. Is that fair?

There are also no strict safeguards for battered women and children, despite the Violence Against Women and Children law which was only passed a few years ago. What recourse is there for Filipino women in the present day to escape from the trap of loveless marriages scarred by infidelity and violence, the wife-beating husband in the arms of another woman, often providing no support for the children?

House Bill 1799 is one such solution. Called the “Divorce Law” and proposed by women lawmakers who are among our modern warrior women, it provides a better option than the costly and lengthy annulment that is the only means at the present for unhappily married Filipinas to be emancipated.

Have you noticed how the proponents and supporters of the bill are women and progressive men, while its opponents are traditionalist men? The reactionary male lawmakers and their like-minded fellows who seek to keep women entrapped at their convenience are selfish and fail to take into account the feelings of the women who yearn for freedom and the chance to start life anew, perhaps find a man who will truly love and cherish them. Why can’t they let go?

These hidebound fogies see women as property, theirs to bind and loose at their whim, blind to the rights of women to live their own lives as they see fit, while they engage in affairs left and right. That is not fair or moral or right. If a marriage is not working, for whatever reason, why not accept that fact and take steps to set both parties free to start anew? That is better than for unhappy couples to stay together for the sake of appearance – that is hypocrisy.

Baltazar’s women took matters into their own hands when it came to love and war. Today’s women need to keep to the law of modern society; wielding swords and bows are not an option. Yet Filipinas are not without weapons – we have our brains to think and our bodies to act to support a law that is long overdue and that will give women that which are our rights and should not be withheld by those who wish to retain their power over half of the population.

As examples of strong and loving women, Zafira and Gulnara are inspirations. Some of the other cast members include Jay Gonzaga (Orosman), Kevin Concepcion (Aldervesin), Roeder Camañag (Boulasem), Acey Aguilar (Zelim), Neil Ericson Tolentino (Mahamud), and veteran Ronnie Martinez as Ben-Asar, Mahamud’s vizier. Directed by Dexter Santos with original music by Carol Bello, “Orosman at Zafira” is a must-see. Call Dulaang UP at 926-1349 for tickets and playdates. ***

Photos from Prof. Amy Bersalona of the UP-Diliman College of Arts and Letters/Dulaang UP.

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the happy feet tales: school steps

School time rolled around again, and it was time for the lazy writer to get out of her comfy swivel chair-that-is-used-only-for writing, and go to school to enroll. The happy feet were thrilled at the chance to go for a walk, more so when the lazy writer slipped them into the wooden Happy Feet sandals that went clip-clop whenever they took a step.

The school was a university in a huge campus filled with green trees and plants. The lazy writer loved trees, and the happy feet loved walking along the paved paths. First they walked past the building at the top of the main drive. In front of the building was a famous statue called the Oblation.

The Oblation was the statue of a young man who stood with his arms outstretched and his face lifted to the sky. The happy feet felt sorry for him. Not only was he naked, exposed to wind, rain, and sun,  his feet were rooted to his pedestal and he could not walk anywhere. Clip-clop, went the happy feet past the steadfast-at-his-post Oblation.

The happy feet next walked past a stand of banners in front of the lazy writer’s college.

It was  a sunny day. The happy feet were warm and toasty in the sunshine.

The happy feet had a long, long way to go to the next college, but they didn’t mind taking one step after another on the paving stones that were the colors of the lazy writer’s school. Clip-clop, went the happy feet along the maroon-and-green path.

The next college was a long way off, so very long! that the happy feet soon felt tired. The lazy writer sat on a bench on the path and rested a bit. The grass in the garden was very green and very cool. The happy feet’s toes wriggled and jiggled in the cool green grass.

At the next college, the happy feet stood in line with other feet so the lazy writer could sign up for a writing class.

All that walking and standing in line made the lazy writer thirsty. So she went outside where people sold drinks from huge plastic coolers filled with cold cold ice. The lazy writer bought a bottle of cold cold water and drank it down. The coolness went way down to the happy feet’s toes! After the drink, off they went again, this time to pay the school fees. Clip-clop, went the happy feet past the ice-cooled-drinks-containers.

It was a long long way off to the university’s bank. When the happy feet felt tired again, the lazy writer sat and rested. This time they felt the cool cool stone and moss on steps that led down to a grassy dell. Come and play, the trees and grass said to the happy feet. But the lazy writer had many things to do. Maybe next time, said the happy feet. Up they got, and clip-clop they went, past the cool green gardens.

It had been a long warm day and the happy feet were tired of walking around campus. Oh, so tired! The lazy writer decided to take a tricycle to work and let the happy feet rest a bit. The happy feet loved the ride. Vroom, went the motorbike. The happy feet felt the vibrations that tickled and teased.

The lazy writer was glad to get things done. She was all set for the next semester and looked forward to learning new things. The happy feet had fun walking around school. And the toes wiggled and jiggled and wriggled for joy.

~ The End ~

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yes, i write like a girl

I had my first creative writing workshop experience a couple weeks ago in our non-fiction writing class taught by Dr Jing Hidalgo. I had no idea what she meant by choosing our “workshop slots” or what a session would entail. Before mine began she murmured, “Is this your first time? Try not to be sensitive. It’s a learning experience.” Since I was already herky-jerky nervous, not knowing what to expect, that got me even more anxious.

As it turned out she – and quite a few of my classmates (the women) – enjoyed my piece (about the old Santa Ana Park racetrack). They were swept up in the narrative, interested in the sprinkling of karera terms, curious about the lifestyle of a little-known sport (horseracing) and way of life. The men had much to say, mostly on technique – the introduction, scene transition, and so on.

Which showed me how differently the minds of men and women work. Is it a sex-based wired-in-the-brain thing? A male friend told me just last month, “Your ‘Pop Goes the World’ columns (opinion for the daily Manila Standard-Today) are getting better. As for the other stuff – try not to write like a girl.” I pondered upon that, long and dreary, till I was weak and weary, into the wee hours of the night. Mainly I wondered, has my friend not noticed that I am a girl? As the raven quoth, “Nevermore”, I suppose.

My ‘Pop Goes…” columns come primarily from the brain. They are analyses of cultural phenomena in Philippine society, rooted in social science and literary theory, social commentaries from my viewpoint as a communication practitioner and scholar.

The rest of my written work comes from the heart. I use the tools of my art, weaving words and ideas and emotion into nets of fragile gossamer beauty or fabrics of wild or subtle color and texture and dimension, to craft with much care works that are ephemeral, existing as they do on only as ink on paper or dancing electrons on a screen, but that will have their existence in your mind and remain there, alive, as long as you are, as long as you do not forget.

My heart is a girl’s heart of sixteen summers, warmed by the sunshine of love and tenderness, battered by the storms of rejection and adversity, strong and resilient enough to go on beating with hope and still more glowing hope.

It is from this heart that I offer the essays that get the most pageviews and comments and re-tweets – the “popcorn manifesto”, the column on my sisters and daughters.

It is when I write from my girl’s heart that I reach and touch more.

My male friend said, “Make them think.” Yet do I accomplish more that is humanly significant when I also make them feel?

My male friend said, “We are not teenagers anymore.”

In my heart I am, ever naïve and gullible, with a core of unshaken innocence that believes no matter how evil some people are, how they may hurt you and others, still good is out there, and life is a quest to look for it to preserve and protect our humanity, the condition in which we shall exist in the face of advancing technology and much of world culture’s seeming slide into barbarism and cruelty.

Good is out there and I keep searching. Sometimes I find it.

There will be other workshops in our creative writing class. I will hear Dr Hidalgo and my classmates critique my forthcoming essays, and I will hone my writing skills. Perhaps I will become more technically proficient, adept at the active opening, smooth transition, and insightful ending. My male friend might have more to say on why he prefers my cerebral pieces to the emotional.

But I will always write like a girl.

Do not be afraid of that. My heart is open, even if yours is not. Come then, into mine.

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