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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Three pre-Christmas tragedies

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Sadly, three tragedies hit the Philippines moments before Christmas day…

1.) Mayón Volcano has been terrorizing natives of Albay PHIVOLCS scientists for months. Thousands of families have already been evacuated from their homes to protect them from the volcano’s impending wrath. Now, PHIVOLCS declared that it’s only a matter of days –or even hours– before the World’s Most Perfect Cone displays its fiery power.

2.) Yesterday, more than 1,000 families from both cities of Pásay and Macati lost their homes from a monstrous flame. The blaze started at around 10 A.M. in a house on Bonifacio Street in Barangay Bangkal, Macati City, after its owner left an open stove unattended. This means that countless residents from the two mentioned cities might end up experiencing Christmas Eve without comfortable roofs above them.

3.) And just this morning, around 2:30 A.M., at least three people were killed and at least 24 others were still reportedly missing after a passenger ferry smashed into a fishing boat off the coast of Maragondón, Cavite.

Heartbreaking news indeed.

The year 2009 is overwhelmed with disasters, natural or manmade. The most memorable were the back-to-back typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and much of Luzón. As the year is about to end, Filipinos are hoping for brighter days ahead.

True, there is no such thing as a perfect day. There is no perfect month. And each year, it’s impossible for tragedy not to strike. Be that as it may, Filipinos are already strengthened by the very tragedies that have smothered them. The Filipino race is a resilient and sturdy race. No amount of tragedy will ever bring us down.

Christmas cheer shall continue no matter what.


Mayón’s big blast is feared any time now as Christmas nears

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Alert Level 5 is looming for Mayón Volcano:

“Parameters are high until now and the intensifying activity might force us to raise the alert level to its highest level but it would happen only when Mayón shoots a straight ash column containing pyroclastic materials and molten, burning rocks as big as houses or buses from its crater, accompanied by intense rumbling and jittering of the ground felt as far as this city,” said resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta.

Literally speaking, it’s going to be one “bright and shiny” Christmas that no Bicolano would ever want to have.

Ready to rumble...

May everybody around Mayón Volcano be safe this Christmas Season…

Lawyer says Senator Santiago is mentally unfit to join next year’s elections

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Lawyer Nombraan Pangcoga is seeking to disqualify Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago from joining the 2010 Philippine National Elections on accusations of insanity:

“Senator…Santiago is of unsound mind. She appears to be suffering from a severe mental disorder,” he wrote in an eight-page petition. He added that the feisty senator’s “insanity” is characterized by “delusion of grandeur, flight of ideas, mood swings, penchant for lying, and paranoia.”

But isn’t that old news already? And besides, based on Pangcoga’s accusations, more than half of members of congress suffer from the same mental problems. So what’s the fuss is all about, anyway?

Giving Ben Tisoy his due honor.

Heart anatomized

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in corrugated-iron shanties
centipedes reek with the
stench of putrefied human
in concrete-and-steel multiversities
the atoms of human
brains are split by
in battlefields

–Amelita Cuala (Heart Anatomy, Society of St. Paul, 1973)–

About thirteen years ago, I met modern patriot and Filipinist Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera through my literary mentor, the late Amelita Cuala de Málig (1936-2000, author of Heart Anatomy, a collection of psycho-religious confessional verses). Due to the high hopes of a puerile youth, I was then yearning for a Bohemian kind of poetic lifestyle. I looked up to Mrs. Málig so much to the point that I worshiped the very ground that she had tread upon.

Mrs. Málig proudly introduced me to Señor Gómez as one of her best student writers. The latter didn’t take it lightly; it was apparent in his countenance that he was inflamed to meet a younger scribbler! “Admirable!” he said in his odd Spanish-accented English. He was actually looking for fresh blood which he could utilize for his advocacy.

Old Man Gómez was then the Head of the Spanish Department in Adamson University. Later on, I’d discover that he was into something bigger. Aside from heading the Corporación Nacional de Profesores en Español, Señor Gómez has been, for past few decades, on a quixotic struggle of bringing back the Spanish language into the modern Filipino cosmos. Furthermore, his dissertation on the veracity of our Filipino Identity being Hispanic in origin is too intricate to contest. His endeavors earned him the respect and admiration of the local Hispanic community, including Spanish-speaking foreign embassies. His activities instantly sparked my interest because my father’s family is of Spanish descent (Bonilla and Évora). Aside from that, I thought that merging my mind into his ideology would add more color and perhaps even poignancy to my English-language verses.

My selfish aspirations turned out for the better. I thought that this Hispanofilipino struggle would just be a small part of my life, a brief but interesting chapter about the uninteresting life of Pepe Alas. Strangely, it didn’t. It swallowed my whole being. It became my life. Little by little, I started to veer away from my love for English Literature. It turned out that Filipino Literature (which is Spanish) is a treasure trove of prosaic delights and poetic marvels. I was introduced to Filipino authors such as Manuel Bernabé, Jesús Balmori, Fernando Mª Guerrero, Evangelina Guerrero de Zacarías, Conchita Huerta, Federico Espino, Ramón Escoda, as well as the original or untranslated versions of the writings of José Rizal, Apolinario Mabini, and a host of other local literary giants in the Spanish language.

I almost forgot the zeal which Mrs. Málig had for English literature, as well as the zeal that I used to have for my socialist activities with the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan. The struggle for the realization of our national identity was something that seemed to me to be more adventurous, more noble, more Filipino. My belligerency was channeled into something more honorable, something truer than the collectivist principles that I used to adhere to. Gaining control of the means of the means of production and distribution became too distant for me, a stranger, a thing of the past.

Up to now, this passion hasn’t died down. I’m even hoping that it will rub off on my children. Sadly, I haven’t achieved much. Unlike Señor Gómez, I am a nobody, a hapless Third World citizen, a beleaguered and disrespected employee, an ordinary father trying to make both ends meet, and a hopeless but agitated dreamer. I think I have become another Mrs. Málig who I used to see eternally gazing through hallway windows during our time in Adamson University. She died suddenly on a hospital bed in 2000, right in front of his melancholic son, Christian Málig (my brother in spirit). Her Heart Anatomy virtually unrecognized…

Why do I write this? It’s because I couldn’t write any better no more. I am torn between this personal struggle (which I voluntarily took up) and my responsibility as a father. Many times I tried giving up, but the pen keeps on haunting me. This blogpost is not a good-bye. No way. Today’s blogpost is merely an excuse.

I will still try to write everyday, but usually about banal stuff: news, news, news, and a lot of current events (anyway, that’s what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks). When I launched ALAS FILIPINAS last 2007 (the first and only Philippine blog in the Spanish language), I planned of making it as a new avenue for this National Identity struggle that I’m waging. I think I failed. I even rarely update that site anymore like used to do. FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES is supposed to carry on the Hispanofilipino struggle using the English language. But I failed in that aspect, as well (I think I wrote about volcanoes yesterday, haha). And since my office performance is being affected by too much thinking (!), I have to stop this madness. But only for a while. I’ll focus first on my job responsibilities, and master what I need to master. And once I’ve mastered our technology (yes, I really have to master our technology; I have no other choice), the rest will hopefully be a breeze. I can focus once more on the fight against the covert hostility aimed at our Filipino identity.

I’ll be back soon. I promise. Bye for now.


Real estate corruption near Philippine volcanoes?

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Thousands of Bicolanos are being evacuated everyday since Mayón Volcano showed signs of imminent eruption a few days ago. This mass evacuation happens every time that Mayón –or any active Philippine volcano at that– is about to erupt. These residents, not excluding their government officials, never learn.

In the first place, why setup residence or even farm within an active volcano’s danger zone? And isn’t there any government policy or ordinance to ban real estate groups from buying and selling properties that are near such volcanoes? I believe the case is not the same with other countries that have active volcanoes. Are there any posh residences and lush farmlands around Mauna Loa, Krakatoa, Mt. Etna, and Merapi? Just in case there are, isn’t it foolish to immitate such a practice?

In Tagaytay, Cavite, one will be able to witness this kind of foolishness. High-end residences such as Crosswinds Tagaytay, Tagaytay Highlands, Royal Pines West, etc., have been sprouting over the past few years. Not that I have anything against a bustling economy. But why sell residential units near a volcanic danger zone?

The biggest question is: why does our government allow this?

To say that 1977 was the last time Taal Volcano erupted is a foolish excuse. Many thought that Mt. Pinatubo was an extinct volcano. And when it suddenly woke up last 1991, the whole world was shaken.

Is there a real estate corruption near Philippine volcanoes?

Common sense dictates that it is not a good idea to buy and sell properties near an active volcano. Yet our government allows this. What a political sham.

Would it still be a thumbs up for the residents of Tagaytay when Taal Volcano suddenly explodes? I don't think so.

Pride and precipice

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I was humiliated this morning by my drunk French boss who doesn’t have an inkling of how Filipino humor works in these parts. I will not go into details anymore so as not to glorify his misdemeanor. All I can say is that he made me experience one of the most embarrasing moments of my adult life. For one, I didn’t react, I didn’t retaliate (that’s just not me, I promise). Secondly, it was done right in front of my officemates who didn’t deserve to see a shameless display of infantility and sugar-coated “chivalry”. And third, I should’ve left abruptly afterwards. But I didn’t. Because I tried to avoid another scene. And some civil voice inside my head told me not to leave. Because if I did, that would’ve marked him as an instant villain, a party grinch, a grouchy clod. And in all honesty, I really didn’t want to put this antagonist in a bad light amongst people who shouldn’t look down on him (good grief, I’m a nice chap after all). So I didn’t, much to my chagrin.

I shouldn’t have accepted that drinking invitation in the first place. So shame on me. But are we given a glimpse of what’s about to happen to us if we made this or that choice?

Shame on him for having bruised my pride. As far as I’m concerned (and as far as the recipient of my innocuous raillery is concerned), I did nothing wrong. People I work with see me as a comic relief (a new guise for me) to everyday work worries. It’s disturbing at times, especially that I’m much of a chronicler. A jester I am not (a walking pile of sarcasm maybe, LOL!). I find it enjoyable, nevertheless. In the first place, as a chronic depressive, I do need to have an atmosphere of fun. I just can’t stand it that people around me are being dead stiff toward each other, throwing back blank glances and exchanging perfunctory smiles. But sometimes, I have to admit that my sharp tongue and usually offhanded witticism go overboard and out of control, all for the sake of a fun environment (atmosphere, environment… hmmm… what’s next — climate?).

Shame on me for not having retaliated. Keeping mum against an aggression toward myself is simply not Pepe Alas. Admittedly, I am a vindictive person. Bad for my mental health, yes. But good for my character. And good for those who look up to me.

Shame on me for allowing a foreigner to trample on my brownboy being. I’ve been fighting the foreign WASP invader since I was 17. But I let this one go? My antagonist may not be Anglo-Saxon, but he’s a white boy nonetheless. Shame on me for not having castigated his immature sensibilities.

Shame on me for allowing my disgraced butt to remain with his enterprise after humiliating me. I was actually planning to shove a bye-bye note this Monday right onto his head where he “hit” me, albeit softly, the way an ailing nonagenarian grandmother sluggishly thumps an empty teacup on a decrepit table. My family’s been to hell and back. We don’t fear joblessness anymore. But to pacify my wife (and perhaps myself) who learned of my abrupt plans and told me to stop being a rebel once and for all, I’ll opt to stick it out and give this guy one more chance. Anyway, whether things get better or not, I will never ever for the life of me join him in any drinking session for the rest of my life; and that’s final.

Maybe I’ve been acting too much of a comic, thus the reason for the disrespectful attitude accorded to me by some people. I’ve tried acting “normal” quite a couple of times already. And the more I try to “condescend” to those who couldn’t fathom my ideas, the more I get alienated. I try to be nice to everyone, but many people abuse this kindness. I wonder where I should stay put. That’s not the real Pepe Alas. That’s not supposed to be me. I am not supposed to be your friendly nice guy neighbor, seriously. But that doesn’t make me evil.

It’s funny and ironic how I have figured out what our national identity is, but I do not know my personal one.

Right now, I’m trying to balance my rage on the scales of my Moro-Christian temperament.

Oh me, I am such an actor.

My identity (and temper) is on the precipice of crisis.

Mayón Volcano will provide the bright lights in Legazpi City this Christmas season

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The world’s perfect cone is due to erupt any time soon, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). The brightly colored top of Mayón Volcano will brighten up the cold nights of Legazpi City, Albay this Christmas season due to molten rock and volcanic fire. It’s going to be a sight to behold for photographers and others who are beholden to the beauty of nature. But looks can kill. Mayón Volcano’s no alternative for a giant lighted Christmas tree. So let’s pray that there will be no casualties, especially this forthcoming Christmas.

Phivolcs warns: Mayon to blow its top in few weeks

Mayón Volcano, which has blown its top nearly 40 times in 400 years, Thursday menaced nearby residents with small eruptions of ash and lava as relief agencies moved more than 30,000 people to shelters in case of a larger eruption.

But scientists and officials quoted said a major eruption could be weeks away and that the evacuees faced the prospect of spending up to four months in temporary shelters.

Trickles of lava rolled down the 2,460-meter (8,070-foot) mountain, while five new ash explosions, one of them reaching 500 meters in the air, shook Mayon’s steep slopes, according to chief state volcanologist Renato Solidum.

During the day, the summit is shrouded in white clouds of dust and ash, and dark orange lava becomes clearly visible in the nighttime. Residents of Legazpi on the foothills of the cone-shaped mountain converge on a downtown park at night to watch the spectacle from a safe distance.

“There is the possibility that it can turn into the explosive phase of the eruption,” Solidum said. “Right now, we cannot say for sure.”

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