Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pedicab Driver

The chair where I settled myself was a little rickety. It creates a noisy,creaking sound every time I move. Now is my turn to speak to the old guy and this chair is bothering me.

In a perfunctory manner, he asked me, "How would you like your life on Earth be - an English panhandler, an American bum, or a Filipino pedicab driver?"

I replied, "It's time to replace this chair, Sir. It's battered and worn-out. And the creaking sound!"

"My child, that chair is none of your business. Now, choose! Or go back to the end of the line."

I looked over the old man's shoulder and saw the soul before me as he prepares for his life on Earth. "May I know Sir, what kind of life he is about to endure on Earth?"

"Oh, that guy? He will become a fashion designer. Life with waifer-thin girls in stilettos, flashy and fabulous. Now choose."

"Wow, can I have that kind of life too?"

"No, you cannot. This lifetime can't have too many fashion designers. I have already assigned 10 fashion designers for this cycle. Would you like to hear your options again?"

"That's okay, no need to repeat them, Sir. May I just get a preview of what's in store for me if I choose one of those options?"

"And why would I allow you such privilege?"

"Sir, I am going to spend a good 50 to 60 years of my life under the conditions entailed by whatever kind of life I choose. I need to have an informed decision."

"And what do I get in return?"

"You will never hear me complain, not single word. I will make it known how happy I am with my choice."

"Okay, it is a deal."

Just as when the scenes are about to unfold before my eyes, I feel the rickety chair giving up under my weight.

Then I wake up. Sitting inside a pedicab while waiting for my next passenger.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Last Day of The Circus

Today is the last day of the circus.

The early morning air is still with a waft of excitement. Along with my mom and younger sister, we were at the gates of our assigned precint at about 6:30 AM. We anticipated that the turnout will be thick so we went there as early as we could.

A crowd is already gathering when we reached St. Michael School of Cavite. The place is teeming with banners and posters of candidates wooing voters with their toothy smiles. At exactly 7:00 AM, the gates were opened. I prepared myself for a sweaty and physically-challenging morning.

We immediately proceeded to the 2nd floor of the school building where our precints-127 Q and 127 R- are located. Our precints were clustered with 3 other precints O, P, and S. As a result, there were approximately 1000 voters in a cluster group who will be sharing one PCOS machine.

The trip going to the second floor to our cluster group 222 was a feat in itself. Sharing the floor with cluster group 221, you can just imagine how the walls of the rooms are bursting with voters, all eager to get a feel of the "efficient and reliable" SMARTMATIC machines.There, as sweat trickles down my face, ideas of a smooth and orderly voting were all gone. And it is just 7:30 in the morning.

At around 8:00, a nameless Board of Election Inspector ordered everybody from the 2nd and 3rd floors to proceed to the school's quadrangle. He said that number stubs will be distributed and will not be permitted to enter the polling precints unless we have with us a number stub. I have no problems following instructions, so being the obedient citizen that I am, I lined up and waited to get a number stub under the scorching sun. This is where the fun starts.

As we waited for our number stubs so we can exercise our frigging right to vote, I see some PPCRV volunteers giving away number stubs to individuals who were not in the queue--a perfect picture of the good old "palakasan" system at work.

The eight-hour wait I spent lining up to get inside the precint was just equivalent to 10 minutes inside the polling precint. This included finding my name in the masterlist, shading my ballot and feeding it to the PCOS machine.

I was able to cast my vote at 3:45 PM after a gruelling 8-hour wait. I stared at my inked forefinger as we walk out of the school vicinity, then fatigue started to set in.

I came to realize that automating the election is a significant step for the Philippines' electoral system. Making the people utilize the system is another thing. For the people who got so used to antiquated manual polling system, we still have a lot to learn and unlearn.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Know What You Shared in the Internet

You'll never know what you'll find in the internet nowadays. I was just absent-mindedly browsing through GMA News website, when at the corner of my eyes I saw a familiar name and face. There, at the corner labeled as "Recent Activity", my FB profile is winking at me. It even stated the date I shared the g*ddamn link.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Tale of the Unfortunately Misplaced Comma

There are instances in our life when we have to stop and pause for a while – like a comma within our life’s lengthy and incoherent sentences. A lot of these pauses can happen along the way – sickness, losing a job, failed relationships, which are somehow beyond our control.

I used to believe that I can write. Then, when I was an editor in the student publication of my university, when I was winning inter-college writing competitions and when I have all the time in the world to waste daydreaming. I was sure that I will be pursuing a career in writing/literature or in a related field.

But life took an expected turn. I woke up one day with the realization that I have son to raise and I am doing it on my own.

You see, these pauses can also be life-altering. Instead of following my dream, I had to turn to posts that will put food on our table and provide for my son’s needs. No, I can’t afford to live the struggling artist’s life. I just had to put my pen down and set aside romantic dreams of being able to produce a worthy literary piece.

Now, my worst fear is happening, my writing skills are beginning to atrophy. Creativity has deserted me, inspiration seldom visits and if it does, it is gone before I even had the chance to realize and capture it in word form. I am even beginning to forget the rules in grammar, my vocabulary is thinning and I am being uncomfortable with my use of punctuations.

If I may quote my friend, I think I am unfortunately mis,placing a comma here.


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Savage Asuang and Other Tales

Picture this. A young fair-skinned lady with long hair coming out of her nipa hut carrying an oil lamp and stealthily walking under the full moon. She goes to a nearby woods and stops right beneath a banana tree. Now don’t blink! The lady after spreading on some oil all over her body starts to metamorphose into a demi-human, demi-bat creature. Then up goes the upper-half, hovering on roofs, looking for pregnant women and sickly child as midnight snack.

The viscera-sucker or commonly known as “asuang” are nocturnal beings whom were believed to transform themselves into flying creatures that feast on human internal organs and fetus inside a woman’s womb every time the moon is on its fullest. Usually depicted by Filipino folklore and mythology as a sweet, innocent-looking lady during the daytime that turns into a savage creature at night.

The tale of “asuang” has been deeply embedded in our culture that it has already influenced the’ way Filipinos deal with life. Anybody who doesn’t appreciate the taste and smell of garlic would be teased as an “asuang”, thinking that garlic is an antidote to ward them off.

Tales of viscera-sucker were first told by Spanish friars who came to the Philippines during the 16th century. Filipinos during those times were already living inside organized barangays led by male rajahs and datus. However, empowered women were also taking part in the running of communities as “catalonas” and “babaylanes” or female priests.

Apart from their roles as midwives and herbalists, locals would also oftentimes implore their suggestions for things such as when should they get married, when should they start building their house and other supernatural phenomena since female shamans are persons that transcends the boundary between human and spiritual dimension. These roles proved their presence as vital in running the community.

The friars saw this as a threat and so devised a reversal-scheme. Analysis of the attributes of the viscera-sucker or “asuang” points out to the said reversal of the image of the female shamans. Catalonas who were midwives were reversed from being a life-saver to life-taker as exhibited by the asuang’s propensity to human fetuses and internal organs. This is also graphically represented by the viscera-sucker’s leaving behind of the lower reproductive half while the upper-half engages on destructive acts.

Female priests are known as herbalists that constitute their knowledge of herbal medicines and healing herbal fragrances. The viscera-sucker on the other hand is noted for her obnoxious smell and abhorrence of garlic which is an important part of the Filipino cuisine and noted for its medicinal value. But what’s more disturbing is the inversion of the Filipino value of family solidarity and sociality since viscera-suckers are obliged to cannibalize at least one member of her family as an important initiation right to being a viscera-sucker.

The Spanish friars reared by Western-Mediterranean brand of machismo were ultimately shocked by the freedom these women enjoy in their community. Their involvement in warfare (wherein they are placed in the forefront yelling at their enemies and the first to throw their spears signaling the start of the battle) speaks well of their political freedom.

Predominantly, friars who noted about women leaving their partners whenever he displeases her were viewed as a sexual freedom disparate of their orientation. These empowered women should be subjugated under male dominance—Spanish or Native.

And so they succeeded. The male natives during those times, enjoying their newfound power over their female counterparts decided to cling on to it which paved the way to machismo—Filipino way. After centuries of mind setting that women in general are of lesser worth to the male specie, she developed a sense of submission and self guilt. Viscera-sucker tales may have been slowly ebbing out but the existing double standard still haunts the Filipino women even in this age of information and liberalization. Spanish friars’ stories’ of asuang attacks are now replaced by vicious accounts of wife beatings, molestation, emotional and psychological torture and sexual harassment. Just how the catalonas and babaylanes were lashed and beaten during the Spaniard’s rule in order to subjugate the Filipino women to male supremacy.

Now picture this. A young fiery-eyed young lady marching along asphalt streets, braving the scorching heat of the sun. She carries with her protests against the society’s inequity. She is the catalona and the babaylan reincarnated. The female shaman, after almost four hundred years of slumber is back ready to face a brand new battle. To reclaim the freedom and respect that was taken away from her.