Sunday, January 25, 2009

A stranger's Talk

Walking in the streets of Baguio City in the dark, cold night has always been my way of winding up. Aside from the physical benefit I get from walking, I am always engrossed in watching people’s activity and their dealings with one another. I consider this as a wonderful result of communication, a process where one can learn from the other. And I personally take each communication process an opportunity to listen to lessons gained from bitterness but surpassed with resilience.

I want to share my encounter with a single mom who tries to earn a living by selling Ukay-ukay products in the dim streets of Baguio City. I approached her out of curiosity, asking her where have all the other ukay-ukay vendors gone? She said they were instructed by the city government not to sell anymore in the pavements of the streets on night time. She failed to provide me further information of her comrades’ disappearance in the street. But she still persisted in selling used clothes; otherwise, she’ll go home with nothing to eat.

I was surprised when she’s been talking and telling me stories of her life. I did not know her, and she just met me right there. I got her complete name but let me just call her Andrea. I just told her my first name so we could address one another by name. We’re both strangers at that moment. And I think we became friends.
I came to know that she’s from Cebu, migrated in Baguio City more or less twenty years ago. She’s been separated with her husband for quite some time now, and she serves as the father and mother to her only child. Andrea speaks good English, very vocal, high-spirited, principled. I would say she’s gentle and sweet at the same time.

I got carried away with her story. I was flabbergasted with the trust she gave me. Andrea speaks from the heart. She’s not ashamed with her past; she’s confident to say she has moved on with her past relationship. She’s not even afraid to face tomorrow even alone. We talked for less than an hour until the policemen told her to vacate the area. Ukay vending is already forbidden in the pavements at night time. She has to leave and so I had to bid good-bye…

What a stranger’s talk with nothing to lose! It only requires willingness to listen and to learn, to respect and to trust, to consider others more highly than one self. It’s a simple talk that can edify a lowly-spirit like mine, who fervently misses to commune with the One who only searches the attitude of the heart.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The eradication of marijuana (Cannabis sativa) plantations in the hinterlands of Northern Luzon has been a consistent effort of the drug enforcement agency in the Philippines. Early last year, I personally witnessed the process of phasing out the illegal hemps grown and cultured in different remote areas in Santol, La Union and part of Kibungan, Benguet.

I saw how these fully-grown marijuana plants were cultivated, well-nourished with all fertilizers – proof that there ARE indeed protectors and masterminds behind these lucrative “agribusiness.” But the operatives failed to catch one; the site seemed to be left unattended, or probably, cultivators found their escape elsewhere. Nevertheless, those illegal hemps were burnt into ashes, and the operatives just carried some stalks as evidences.

That battle put into flare illegal hemps worth P28 million pesos, exclusive of other marijuana bricks and seedlings confiscated in the area. The operation labeled as Oplan Apol Green Scorpion was a three-day journey of combined elements led by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine military, air force, intelligence units, and other anti-drug enforcers. It was a risky, all-sweat, operation all for the sake of putting into halt illegal drug operation in the country.

We had the chance to meet face to face with the members of the community in the area. We were never in the position to judge any one in the community as cultivator, or something to that effect. They might just be victims of coercive power, and no recourse to fight back. (I want to emphasize that I was in the area, and I could speak from my own heart and judgment whatever info and pulse I gathered from them).

The drug enforcers tried to have a fruitful discourse with the community members. They shared to them why these marijuana plants had to be eradicated, that there are laws enacted and provided for the punishment of (law) breakers, and protection for the tipsters and allies of positive advocacies. Apparently, the community has a problem worth-considering by the people in power.

The Nature speaks nothing less of the beauty and peace of the area, a haven for nature lovers, ideal for those who seek solace. But the community has a problem. People there are in need of farm-to-market roads for the transport of their produce. They lack electric services, they need medical assistance, decent shelter and education. These are all left unnoticed because people in power seem to be blind about their situation. They are busy trying to earn the nod of the majority, probably, to remain in power and keep hold of their hidden interests. I do not know how to describe them any more….

The reality is that they are in need, and righteousness in governance if transformed into action should address these needs.

After two months, anti-drug enforcers launched another operation tagged as Oplan “BUNTOTPUSA,” a six-day operation which started January 14 in the disputed boundaries of Ilocos Sur and Benguet. According to the report of PDEA Region 1, the operation yielded to the destruction of 170 MILLION worth of marijuana plants, the biggest so far in the history of marijuana eradication in the Philippines.

The operatives seem to relate the cultivation of these plants to the members of the communist rebels. According to their intelligence reports, communist rebels are sighted in said areas providing protection for the cultivators of marijuana plants. And so operatives of the government call their existence and alleged connection to the marijuana cultivation as narco-terrorism.

This latest effort of the oplan buntotpusa was commendable in nature. They arrested one cultivator in the area and was charged with the violation of Section II of Article 16 Cultivation or Culture of Plants Classified as Dangerous Drugs of RA 9165 otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Even the PDEA Region I Director Roberto OpeƱa is strong in its stance: “Our directive and objective is to win the drug war, and we are tapping all our partners to wipe out the enemy. We are not afraid of who they are or their cohorts and financiers.” I say more power to him… (to be continued)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Si Gamgamba at Si Ewan

Hindi mapakali sa paglambiti’t paghulma ng sopistikadong sapot ang isang gagamba tuwing nakahimlay ang araw. Mapaglaro itong paikut-ikot sa binubuong dugtung-dugtong na tulay na kanyang maituturing na kaligayahan. Kumpiyansa sa katiwasayan ng gabi, kanyang sinsamantala ang kakaibang lakas at kasiglahan, nagpapakita sa hindi nanlilisik na mata ng kalikasan, upang isakatuparan ang anumang gawaing hindi nagagawa, madalas, sa kaliwanagan.

Taglay ang mainam na reserba at mapotensyal na galamay, lalo’t higit sa estado ng katiyakan, kusang naglalabas ito ng makabuluhang sapot na hinuhubog upang maging isang matatag na pundasyon, parang makatang nagbibigay-buhay sa bawat katagang nagmumula sa kanyang madamdaming imahinasyon at ikinukumaps ng malayang kamay tangan ang panulat.

Madalas, nag-iisa. Tila binubukod ang sarili sa ibang nilalang upang protektahan ang kanyang himlayan, ang kanyang buhay. Pakiramdam niya’y malupit ang kalikasan at hindi mapagkakatiwalaan. Oo’t maaari niyang akuin ang teritoryo sa ganang sarili. Subalit sa kanya lamang sarili, sa loob-loob niya lamang. Sapagkat hindi kanya ang mundo. Nakikihati lamang siya at, sa katunayan, kapiranggot ang kanya at malupit ang kinasasadlakan.

Isa ‘yon sa pinagkaiba nitong si makata. Para sa kanya, may potensyal siyang baguhin ang takbo ng panahon, ‘pagkat mas malawak ang limitasyon nito. Hindi siya nakikihati, bahagi siya ng mismong mundo. Sa isang pagbiyahe patungo sa ibang dimensyon, kanya na ang mundo – maaari niyang gawing paraiso o di kaya’y impiyerno. Maaari rin niyang kitlin ang sariling buhay o di kaya’y ialay ito sa iniibig. Simple. Hindi siya tao.

Madali siyang mabusog at magsawa. Kung malakas ito at kayang-kaya ang kalaban, tiyak uumbok ang kanyang tiyan. Kung talagang sobrang nangangasim ang kanyang sikmura, ni katiting ay wala siyang ititira. Kung may ititira man, itatabi niya ito. Pero kadalasan, hindi niya ito inuubos, nilalanggam… kasama niya. Kaiba ng bahagya sa natatawang makata. Madali rin siyang magsawa subalit mahirap mabusog. At hindi siya nilalanggam. Siya ang nanglalanggam pero iniluluwa kung hindi nagustuhan.

Hindi sanay si Ewan sa regular na takbo ng buhay. Kung may pagpipilian, hindi niya babaybayin ang kalyehong araw-araw niyang tinatahak. Kung dalawang tsokolate at isang pulburon ang nasa kamay niya, hindi niya uubusin ang dalawang tsokolate. Isang tsokolate at isang pulburon ang kakainin niya, at… ipapalit ang isang tsokolate ng ibang putahe. Sobrang hirap ng buhay ngayon! Alin naman dito, birhen o hindi? (ito talagang si makata, biglang umiba ng eksena). Dapat matikman niya muna (O, humirit pa). Sa kabilang banda, nagpapalit din siya ng damit araw-araw, gayong hindi araw-araw ay bago ang mga ito. Marunong siyang magtiis at magsakripisyo. Malambot ang kanyang puso sa mga nagmamahal sa kanya.

Samantala, masyado silang malikot at mapaglaro. Hindi magkandaugaga itong si gagamba sa paglalaro ng kanyang sapot habang si makata nama’y walang puknat sa kakasubok ng kung anu-anong bagay. Madalas pa ngang nilalaro ni gagamba ang kanyang tanghalian o hapunan, at kung siya’y nasa sanga o dahon, wala rin siyang pagod sa pagbaba’t pagtaas gamit ang matibay na sapot. Talagang malikot at mapaglaro ang isipan nitong si makata. Ibang klaseng maglarawan!

Sa kabila ng malikot at mapaglarong isipan, hindi ito sapat upang hindi mabahiran ng kalungkutan ang mukha ni Ewan. Hindi sapat na isipin na lagi siyang nagtatagumpay, na lumulundag siya sa galak, na matamis ang asukal, na may kiliti sa bawat iyak. Humuhupa ang imahinasyon. Lahat ng ito’y pansamantala lamang. Makapangyarihan ang imahinasyon subalit hindi nito magagawang palitan o dayain ang damdamin ng isang makata o manunulat. Hindi nito magagawang pwersahin ang isang manunulat na gawing masaya ang tema ng kanyang isinusulat gayong kalungkutan ang nasa damdamin nito. At hindi rin maaaring gawing malungkot ang tema ng kanyang susulatin kung ubod-galak na karanasan ang kanyang nais ibahagi. Kung maaari, isa siyang huwad na manunulat.

Sa kabilang banda, iisipin niyang mas mabuti ang katayuan ng isang gagamba. Wala itong mabilog na mata na kakikitaan ng hinagpis at dalamhati dulot ng mga taong nasa paligid nito. Walang luhang dumadaloy mula sa kanyang mata pababa sa pisngi hanggang sumayad sa lupa. Mabuti sana kung iisa ang kulay ng mundo. Gayunpaman, wala naman siyang tinig upang marinig ang lutong ng kanyang halakhak. Marami pa ring bagay na hindi magagawa ni gagamba sapagkat hindi siya tao, tulad ng sariling pagpapahayag.

Manatiling buhay, marahil, ang pangunahing layunin ng pananatili ni gagamba, bukod sa papel nito sa balanseng ekolohikal. Walang puwang sa kanya ang malawak na salitang pag-ibig, isang anyo ng ekspresyon. Wala siyang pusong nagdaramdam at nagagalak, ni di nga siya marunong manligaw. Hindi nga niya magawang mambola o sumambit ng katagang matalinghaga. Samakatuwid, nasa kinita ni Ewan na siya’y magiging makata ‘pagkat marunong siyang magmahal. Sabi nga ni Joi Barrios sa kanyang Minatamis at Iba pang Tula ng Pag-ibig, “bawat mangingibig ay makata.” Gayunpaman,, hindi lahat ng makata ay mangingibig at hindi namumusyaw ang may dugong makata kung siya’y namumuhi.

May dalawang bagay na maari nilang sang-ayunan. Una, sakop sila ng konsepto ng kamatayan. Si gagamba at si Ewan na kapwa may pagkakatulad at pagkakaiba sang-ayon sa ginawang pagsasalarawan ay parehong nakatakdang pumanaw. Ang mga nasabing deskripsyon ang siyang inaasahang katangian ni Ewan bilang isang nangangarap na manunulat o makata. Pangalawa, isang simpleng lohika na hindi makapagsulat si gagamba sapagkay siya’y insekto, at si Ewan ay tao.
(This was written sometime in 2003. Pardon my forgetfulness, but I really can't remember the exact date when I wrote this piece.)