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Another Facebook rumor

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I just saw this one from a couple of Facebook friends’ walls:

FACEBOOK JUST RELEASED THEIR PRICE GRID FOR MEMBERSHIP. $9.99 PER MONTH FOR GOLD MEMBER SERVICES, $6.99 PER MONTH FOR SILVER MEMBER SERVICES, $3.99 PER MONTH FOR BRONZE MEMBER SERVICES, FREE IF YOU COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. WHEN YOU SIGN ON TOMORROW MORNING YOU WILL BE PROMPTED FOR PAYMENT INFO…IT IS OFFICIAL IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY

Es gratis (y lo seguirá siendo).

Probably crafted by those who were not happy with the recent changes in Facebook.

Reminds me of those pesky SMS rumors back in the days when cellphones were still kings of social networking. Just don’t believe this cr*p. Facebook has not released an official statement about charging its members. Just yet. And they won’t do anything dumb like this, especially now that they have competition (with sleek designs as well) which does not charge anything. And if Facebook will start charging its account holders, then they should prepare themselves from netizens who will not hesitate to go ’round in “circles”, if y’know what I mean.

Facebook+ anyone? (wink! wink!)

So for now, don’t pee on your pants just yet. I’m about to login on Facebook, and I see this welcome note staring at my face: It’s free and always will be.

Ms. González’s “petty” remark

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Last Sunday, me and my wife Yeyette visited Señor Gómez in Rockwell Center (Ciudad de Macati) where he teaches flamenco. Aside from consoling him for the demise of his daughter, Yeyette was also planning of resuming her flamenco lessons.

At the building where the Great Old Man of Filipinismo teaches, I chanced upon a copy of The Philippine Star’s Modern Living section and saw the name of one of Literatura Filipina‘s most reverred figures: Mª Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín (who happens to be an auntie of Señor Gómez). It was written by Star columnist Bárbara González, a granddaughter of María Rizal, one of the national hero’s sisters.

Below is the article which appeared last Sunday:

Locsín’s ‘Noli Me Tangere
SECOND WIND By Bárbara C. González (The Philippine Star)

I have just finished reading José Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsín, the late, great mother of one of my late, great friends, Raul Locsín, once publisher of the newspaper Business World. Doña Soledad was a dignified, well-educated lady who grew up speaking beautiful Spanish and therefore translated the novel masterfully. On the first page of her Notes or the book’s glossary, it reads: The title, Noli Me Tangere, is Latin for “Touch Me Not,” and comes from the Gospel of St. John, XX: 17, where Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” The author relates this to a social cancer “of a breed so malignant that the least contact exacerbates it and stirs in it the sharpest of pains” in his dedication: “To My Motherland (A mi patria). On March 5, 1887, Rizal wrote to the painter Resurrección Hidalgo: “The book (Noli) has matters which no one among ourselves has spoken of until now — so delicate that they cannot be touched by anybody…”

I have had this book for many years but never read it. It was not very easy to read, not because of the content but because of the book’s size and weight, being thick and hardbound, difficult to read in bed where I do most of my reading. I know I have read parts of the Noli before, in English, when I was much younger, but no translation is as good as this one. I know I also read a few chapters in Pilipino — even acted them out for my eldest daughter so she would understand and pass her school year — but nothing was as beautiful or comprehensible as this translation. It is also obvious to me that Doña Soledad Locsín respected the writer and sought to translate exactly what it is he wanted to say.

Rizal wrote each chapter as a piece of a large puzzle, randomly handed to the reader so that in the end we would see not quite the whole picture. In the end we know what happened to everyone, from Capitán Tiago to Padre Dámaso, Doña Victorina to Linares, who became María Clara’s jilted fiancé. We even know that María Clara became a somewhat crazy nun. But we do not know what happened to Crisóstomo Ibarra, except that he was lying at the bottom of a banca that floated away, while the pursuing Spanish police called the Guardia Civil shot at Elias as he jumped out of the banca that he had shared with Ibarra to distract the guards.

If you are over 60, I recommend you read this translation of Noli Me Tangere. You will see fully what life was like when we were under the friars. How petty they were! You will question: what happened to our country? You will see how little has changed or that whatever has changed is very superficial. Filipinos stepped into the shoes of their colonizers and now act exactly the same way as the friars. And you will want to weep like Rizal did. He was executed at Bagumbayan, now the Luneta, in 1896, 115 years ago. Ninoy Aquino was shot at the airport in 1986, just a scrambling of the very same numbers. That was 25 years ago. Two executions. Two heroes. Each one followed by its own brand of uprising and still nothing much has changed.

Last Friday, Aug. 5, I was at the Little Theater watching the musical of Noli Me Tangere, tickets compliments of the National Historical Commission, who gave them to Rizal descendants. I would give the Noli production an “A” for effort. The libretto, if you could understand the words — because the orchestrated minus one was too loud so you couldn’t understand what they were singing — was written by National Artist Bien Lumbera, who was there. The performance, I thought, was too level. I am not sure I can explain it well. Usually you can draw a stage performance in waves, there are high, medium and low points, which shadow the plot. In this case it was like a straight line. Many of the descendants fell asleep. A few developed crushes on Gian Magdangal, who made a very good-looking Crisóstomo Ibarra.

Ryan Cayabyab composed the music but there was no real standout piece. I thought that Sisa’s song, as she was singing it, was the best but I could not even attempt to hum it afterwards, meaning the melody was not compelling enough to stick in the audience’s mind. I was just glad that I was still reading the Noli when I watched the show because, I guess, I understood it more. While the cast and crew deserve congratulations for their work — an A for effort, as I said — it still needs a lot of polishing to make the audience truly understand the Noli. I think that is the point of a stage performance — to enlighten an audience. You perform to make the audience understand the story. That night nobody understood what was going on except that Crisóstomo Ibarra and María Clara were in love and had to say goodbye because Padre Salvi was in love with her. But that was not all of the Noli.

I finished the book last night before going to sleep. I shut the book, put it on the floor beside my bed, and said aloud to no one in particular, “That was beautiful.” It really and truly was.

* * *

Send your comments to 0917-815-5570.

After reading her article, the only words that struck me was her elementary anti-friar remark: “How petty they were!” Since she left her cellphone number out in the open for comments, that is what I did. Below I print our brief SMS exchanges:

ME: RE: Locsín’s Noli Me Tangere’. Please don’t rely solely on Rizal regarding the friars of his time. By saying “how petty they were”, you tend to generalize.
ME: Remember: when Rizal wrote his novels, he was a Freemason. He had his biases and committed a lot of doctrinal errors.
ME: Thank you for your time. PEPE ALAS (https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com)
GONZÁLEZ: Thank you.
GONZÁLEZ: You moust (sic) be a priest or a pastor. Don’t read my columns. We will always disagree.
ME: Neither. I’m just an ordinary kid. I’m not a follower of your column. It just so happened that I saw you used Soledad’s name who happens to be one of my
ME: favorite writers. There were bad friars, then as now. But as a journalist, be careful not to generalize. Reassess Philippine History. Thanks.

I tried to be diplomatic with my comment. But what did I get? A “taray” reply a la Maricel Soriano.

Anyway.

Please, ma’am, get your historical facts straight. If you can’t, then please don’t comment on Philippine History anymore. Stay true to the title of the section in which your column belongs: MODERN LIVING.

And speaking of straightening up historical facts — Ninoy was assassinated in 1983, not 1986.

Nanay Norma’s critical condition

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I was supposed to share good tidings today, particularly about the meeting I had almost 24 hours ago with my compañeros regarding the founding of our new group/website. But that has to come later.

Because I think my abuelita‘s life is hanging on the balance.

Although bound to a wheelchair, she still looked rather healthy when I took this photo of her last 12/10/2010 in front of her house in Unisan, Tayabas/Quezon.

My dad’s mother, my beloved abuelita, is confined (for the nth time) in Makati Medical center, this time in the hospital’sintensive care unit (ICU).

According to mom, my dad (he’s been taking care of grandmother for the past few years in Unisan) has been sending SMS messages to her in Manila, telling her of abuela‘s worsening condition. She suddenly started to weaken right after the Holidays. She was sent promptly to Makati Med last Thursday (1/27/2010) Wednesday (1/26/2011).

My grandmother, affectionately called Nanay Norma by many people, is diabetic. Through the years, the dreaded disease has contributed much to her debilitation. And aside from old age, mobility changed abruptly by an accident last year; she fell from her bed, fracturing her hips.

When me and Yeyette visited her this evening, I was shocked with what I saw. I immediately placed myself in self-denial. This could not be my grandmother who showered me with so much affection and love… for why couldn’t she speak to me (when she was hospitalized last year, she could still talk coherently)?! Also, it was my first time inside an intensive care unit. Many “hoses and wires” were connected to her semi-bloated right arm and nostrils; she was undergoing intravenous therapy. And worse, she was moaning. She could hardly speak anymore, as if she’s suffering from “reverse trismus”: her jaw won’t shut. And I could hardly understand what she was saying. She was moaning because of breathing difficulties. And she appeared to be in so much pain. It all appeared so surreal, so unreal. It was just a month ago that I was talking to her! I so could not believe what I was seeing that all the tears that supposed to well up in me fell instead from Yeyette’s eyes.

Thankfully, my grandmother immediately recognized me in spite of her drowsiness caused by drugs.

I later learned that she has pneumonia, the same ailment that killed her husband, my late grandfather Godofredo Alas y Sarmiento, in 1997.

Dad is the only one there at the hospital who is taking care of her when we arrived. Uncle Louie was also there, paying a visit. Soon, my mom and two sisters arrived.

For the benefit of all Alas and Évora family members, below is a photo of grandma’s cardiac monitor (a usual fixature in many a hospital scene in the country, especially when one of the film’s character is about to give up the ghost). Her status will also be described below the photo:

My grandmother's cardiac monitor. This is a necessary equipment in intensive care units.

My wife took the above photo of my grandmother’s cardiac monitor before we left last night. The green graph represents her pulse rate; the normal rate is from 60 to 100. The yellow graph represents her respiratory rate; the normal rate is from 20 to 25. 102/46 (the numbers in red) represents her blood pressure. Her blood sugar is (59), but it should be maintained at 80.

However, when we got home (a few hours ago), we received an SMS (11:26 PM) from my sister Jessica: abuela‘s blood pressure worsened — it dropped to 68/46!

It’s now 4:16 AM. Time to go to sleep. We plan to go back there this afternoon; it’s dad’s 59th birthday today. Such a bad timing to cheer him up. Nevertheless, we’ll be there. We should be there.

And I’d like to whisper to Nanay Norma’s large Hispanic ears that we will attend her 81st birthday in Unisan. And that she should be there to host it.

*******

A thousand thanks to our relatives who already visited. Thank you for your prayers and moral support:
Captain Ernesto Alas
Tito Monching Alas
Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández
Uncle Paul Évora III
Tita Corina Unson (Thank you so much for Saint Anne’s oil!)

May God bless you every single day of your lives. =)

Reunion with three friends.

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“The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”

The workload in my current company makes me want to disappear from this world with just a snap of a finger. Last night’s shift was hell. Too many issues, slow internet, bad vibes, and documents drowning my thoughts. All of us weren’t able to finish the job. And it has been weeks like that. Some of us feel that we lack manpower. Some feel that there were bad project decisions from the higher ups. Some felt sick (literally). Me, I just feel like I want to fly away from it all.

I was supposed to continue all unfinished tasks at home. But…

It was a reprieve when my wife fetched me and broached the idea of visiting a childhood friend of mine, Christian Caballero, who works in the building next to ours. I already know that Tanò has been working in the other building for a long time (thanks to our office concierge, Oliver). But we haven’t had the chance to see each other due to our busy schedules.

Our bunch was the baaaadest and nastiest in our own turf in some posh yet decrepit village in Parañaque City, my “dirty south, baby!” hometown. We’ve known each other since kids. I was estranged from my childhood pals when I was kicked out of our home because I chose to stay with my pregnant girlfriend (who’s now my wife) instead of being with my family and continue schooling. Since then, I began seeing my Parañaque homies sporadically. And the last time I saw Christian and the rest of the gang was back in 2006, but only for a short drunken while. We weren’t even complete that night. We’ll, now there’s Facebook; many of my childhood pals are already in my list: Jerome, John Michael, Dennis, Angerico, etc. But of course it’s a different feeling when you get to see your long lost friends eye-to-eye and in the flesh.

We were all delighted to see each other of course. He’s also engaged to his college sweetheart Lesleyann Tugnáo of Majayjay, La Laguna. Their wedding will be this coming December in Sanctuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Ciudad de Macati. And I’m expecting to see the rest of the gang on his wedding day. =)

Congratulations and best wishes, Christian and Lesleyann! May the good Lord bless you always!

*******

Next stop was our current town, San Pedro, La Laguna.

After visiting Krystal and Momay at school, we went to Tita Deming, the manager of our apartment, to pay for the monthly rent. She works in the Municipal Hall. And since we were there already, I thought of introducing Wifey to our town mayor, Calixto R. Catáquiz, whom I haven’t seen since the death of his father. I just wanted to introduce my wife to him, and perhaps setup a date with him to talk about whether he’s still interested in publishing the biography Arnold and I wrote for him last year (it was even reviewed by our country’s first beauty queen, Gemma Cruz de Araneta, in her Manila Bulletin column “Landscape”).

Well, it turned out that he is still very interested in it. But the problem is proper timing. Aside from his father’s untimely death, Typhoon Ondoy ruined all of San Pedro’s lakeshore villages. Now he has the task of taking care of thousands of San Pedrense families who have lost their homes and who are now sheltered in various evacuation centers scattered around San Pedro. He invited us to join him for lunch. I wasn’t able to say no. And my wife, who was star struck (hehehe), urged me to come along.

We ate at Max’s Restaurant in –coincidentally– Parañaque City, my hometown! There we discussed lots of things about town politics, national politics, the 2010 Philippine National Elections, and of course, his biography.

He also mentioned to me interesting facts that Arnold and I haven’t included yet in his unpublished biography, A DATE WITH DESTINY: One More Challenge! (The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz). When he was still the chairman of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, he made several project recommendations to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and even Malacañang Palace to help safeguard and uplift the status quo of Laguna de Bay. For one, he recommended that LLDA should adopt a system for Laguna de Bay which is very similar to the Dutch Flood Barrier System. Mayor Calex also once tackled environmental and developmental issues of the lake with renowned architect Felino Palafox, Jr., who last month declared that the the national government already foresaw the massive floods of September 26.

The mayor also cited sewage, water treatment, and other waterworks projects that he had envisioned for Laguna de Bay. He also forwarded the idea of taking care of not just the lake but its tributaries as well. He also complained LLDA’s lack of policepower which should have enforced environmental rules. And he also lamented the fact that the LLDA was not under the direct supervision of the Office of the President (this would have ensured the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s commitment to a “green” Philippines). But all of these were ignored. If they weren’t ignored, the horrible displacement of thousands of lakeshore families –not to mention the death toll which the flood had left– wouldn’t have happened.

We also discussed his San Pedro 2020 Vision.

My wife had a grand time listening to the Mayor’s candid stories. Afterwards, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.

*******

The next reunion was, well, via SMS only. =(

Mayor Calex and his convoy drove us home. On our way home, I remembered having kept the cellphone number of someone else from my past: Ka Danilo Balao.

I never thought that I’d be able to communicate with a dear comrade in Ka Dan. He is from the Ybanag tribe of the northern lands. We were both socialist activists during our college days, members of the militant Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (in political solidarity with the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa). Me, Danilo, and a host of other socialist youth shared each other’s tribulations, joys, hunger, and sufferings. Like my Parañaque boys, we at LSK were also a bad bunch (giving the League of Filipino Students some headache which they deserved). Aaaahhh, the days of yore! I really stopped growing when I reached 30 years of age!

I got his number several days ago from another long lost activist friend, mad chemist Allan Jay Q. Martírez (my “discoverer”!) whom I rediscovered in Mike Chanco’s / JB Lazarte’s (my other “discoverer”!) controversial website Flesh Asia Daily 3.0.

So here I print our text conversation:

PEPE: Danilo Balao
DANILO: Hu r u?
PEPE: Visit https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com and you will know, my old friend…
DANILO: Hav n0 tym searchin.. Y cant u say it n0w?
PEPE: Because I do not want the military to trace me. You know the drill, Ka Dan.
DANILO: Hahaha.. U.G.? Ur kidding me.. H0w can it pocbly be? Wat org?
PEPE: Mabuhay ang LIGA NG KOMUNISTANG KABATAAN!
DANILO: Damn! Is this true? Wer did u get my numbr?
PEPE: José Mario Alas Fans Club
DANILO: Hahaha! Yeah..! Wats crakin man? Wat happen 2 u? I’ve been searching u 4 d last 3 years. H0w did u realy get my numbr?
PEPE: I have been monitoring you for the last five years. I was sent to kill you, Gerry, Page, and Allan Jay. But I couldn’t because you’re my friends.

I got no more reply from good ol’ Dan. I must’ve totally freaked him out with my last text, so…

PEPE: Just kidding, dude.

*******

I miss my other friends. I miss the past. I miss the Spanish past although I’ve never lived in that era. I grew up listening to We Built This City On Rock N’ Roll, Footloose, and Rico Mambo. I cried when Atreyu’s horse Atrax was taken by the Swamps. Garfield still had farm friends (beats Facebook’s FarmVille), and the Christmas Belén in C.O.D. (Cubáo, Quezon City), and so much more.

I’m getting old, and dying.

Shucks. Nostalgia fever setting in again.

The only bad thing that happened this afternoon? My wife’s almost-a-decade-old cellphone camera was out of battery. =(

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