To hold this peace

For Nasudi Francine, for saying that she cannot hold her tears

To hold this alien peace
you know is to look out the window
of her seven year-old soul.

She is your daughter
born of summer rains you did not see
and the fierce storms you read
in the papers, their wrath
yours as well for having left your country
too soon and not lingering but raging past
ships and seas that were cold
to your leaving. 

You left her, this one-year old
in between saying yes and no
and now at seven she tells you,
Come home to sing your lullaby 
so I can watch you tone down
your throat with the music
of your exile's longing, 
that one longing
that I know as well. 

She tells you of a quick repartee
you cannot take to heart:

I do not understand why each time
I say goodbye, the phone line cracks
and a lighting strikes my voice
and a thunder grips my fear
and my tears I cannot help
but let them roll. 

You tell me to put down 
the receiver first, father,
in that daily ritual of saying hello
and then the words grow warm
and I cannot let you go. 
I cannot, father,
I cannot put down the receiver
first. You do.
My arms would lose
all the strength
my small fingers that almost 
do not remember you
would grow numb with the thought
of not knowing you so.
I do not have the memory
of your guttural Ilokano voice,
your R's rolled and unrolled
depending on your rage or 
which message of repeated
absences imprisons you so
as you write with those hands
that do not tire of words
many I never saw. 
You tell me to keep 
on with my fairy tale books,
visit the countries 
in the geographies of their hopes
and in the Disneyland of my mind
I forget you are months 
and miles away.
Each day you speak to me
I would make you promise, again
and again: for us to go cross-country
in our dreams even as I lay awake
waiting for your coming
back into our midst.
Such fatherly absence 
coming in the quick
but we try to understand
why children like us
in this republic manned 
by thieves
would have to let go
of fathers and mothers
before we go to sleep with our fears.
We pray to the guardian angel,
and they are more now:
Exorcize, exorcize 
o guardian angel,
the reasons for our grief
in this homeland of our sorrowful birth.
Bring back, bring back
our fathers and mothers 
and the poetry of our relief.

You look at the receiver
and its promise of a redeemer
and the words you send grow warmer
as they grow colder. 

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Jan 30/09 

Editorial: A difficult love, again

Observer Editorial

Difficult Love, Again

On practically the ‘eve’ of the celebration this February of our sometimes commercialized and commodified understanding of love and the affairs of the human heart, a death occurred: a violent death, a death that follows the route of 
domestic violence

This time, the one who is stabbed to death is a man and the one who stabbed him is his girlfriend. 

Let us put names to the faces—and faces to the names: John Shaniyo and Rachael Berta. 

On January 5, this killing that should not happen happened—something that the larger Hawaiian community, in partnership and collaboration with other not-for-profit organizations—have always been working hard to address. 

And it happened in Kahului where peace and quiet and tranquility could be its other name. 

We go to Kahului from any point in Maui and the vast and calm sea greets us with its foam of waves, its fluid dance one of dynamic stillness, rhythmical in its constant teasing of the shore where the land begins.  

The town’s verdant palm fronds reach out to the blue skies, and the tops and shoulders of mountains invariably remind us of spring and summer that both come in time and beyond time, with these two seasons proudly showing us the fresh flowers endlessly abloom on the town’s roadsides in that riot of colors we can only see in a land touched by human hands, true, but the touching suggests care, concern, and commitment to what is alive, to what makes life, to what sustains life. 

But this death in Kahului rattles us off from our grace-filled tranquility. We simply cannot be still, not when domestic violence has that haunting presence in our midst.  

While it is so that by the quantities, women outnumber men in that sad tale of women taking the beating and men doing the beating, we cannot take domestic violence as a simple case of men against women. It is much more than that.

While it is that in past, the pattern tells us of women dying—being killed—by the very men who have vowed to love and protect them, we cannot take domestic violence as a simple case of women going to the grave and men going to jail and repenting after committing the deed. 

There is something awfully wrong somewhere in every phenomenon of domestic violence. Some people have called it power and control—a circle that is vicious: who wields, who yields, who can up the ante, who loses beyond loss, who is maimed, who dies, who threatens, who scares, who blackmails in the name of love or its substitutes. 

It is February and it is the month of love—but how can we enter into a celebration when out there, so much of the loving has yet to be defined for what it is in the light of fundamental human justice, and defended for what it is in the light of our commitment for another human being?

Many of us will go through the familiar annual rite: the bunch of pink roses on hand, the chocolates in red beribboned boxes, and the candles with their dancing light giving off that glow that can only reveal the texture of romantic moments.      

Let it be.

At the end of the day is that one difficult question we need to ask: what is love in this time of difficulty, in this time of extreme need, in this time of crises, in this time of recession, in this time of financial want and burden? 

What is love when the jigsaw puzzle of life seems not to fall into the right places so that we are left wondering which are the pieces that need to be worked out?

What is love when worries come knocking on the door? When the world is turning upside down, when all our cares do not make sense any longer?  When instability of all kinds makes us go haywire? 

Domestic violence is a difficult text of our life—one text that needs to be eradicated totally. We do not need another death whether man, woman, child, parent, friend, neighbor. 

Every death diminishes us.

Every death of this kind makes us loving less and less. 

Every death of this kind invalidates what The Day of the Hearts means.

A. Solver Agcaoili
Published, FAO Editorial, Feb 09

Colmenares Couple

A Feature Story, Fil-Am Observer, Jan 2009

Dr. Jun and Dr. Letty Colmenares—

Observer’s Outstanding Couple of the Year Standing Out


By Aurelio S. Agcaoili


Today’s issue—and this year—inaugurates another commitment of Fil-Am OBSERVER to serve the community of Filipino-Americans who have called Hawai’i a home away from the homeland.


The editorial board has unanimously selected the couple Dr. Serafin Colmenares Jr. and Dr. Leticia Colmenares as this paper’s first Outstanding Couple of the Year. This decision is based on the extraordinary professional and personal achievements of Jun and Letty—achievements that are a veritable proof of the kind of mind and character they have, competent professionals as they are, dedicated public servants as they are, committed community workers as they are, and caring parents as they are.

The proofs are self-evident: their years and years of serving the various communities of Hawai’i.


Jun, a doctorate degree holder in political science from the University of Delhi, moved from a variety of professional involvements in Hawai’i as soon as his immigration status allowed him to do so. Along that professional mobility was his drive to keep on learning and to keep on giving at the same time: as a lecturer of political science at Chaminade University, Leeward Community College, and the UH School of Continuing Education; as a utilization review analyst of a private medical service organization; as a bilingual health worker of a government health center; as a case manager of a religious organization; as a program officer for an organization engaged in health and aging issues; as an evaluation analyst with the Department of Health’s Executive Office on Aging before he was appointed by Governor Linda Lingle in 2007 as the first executive director of the Office of Language Access.


Letty, a doctorate degree holder in chemistry from the University of Hawai’i, also moved from a variety of professional commitments as a chemistry instructor in the Philippine’s Mindanao State University, as a lecturer in chemistry at Honolulu Community College, as a research associate at the University of Hawai’i, and then as an assistant professor of UH-Windward since 2004. Together with her colleagues, she has continued to publish in various internationally refereed journals, a testament to her keen scientific mind.


It was in 1974, at MSU—a state university in the Philippines known for its edge in science and technology education, research, and training—where Jun and Letty met for the first time, Letty in her senior year in chemistry, and Jun as a returning scholar who had just wrapped up his graduate studies in Delhi. Letty would soon wind up her studies, joined the faculty of MSU where Jun also stayed on as instructor, then assistant dean, and eventually acting dean. In between these professional commitments and engagements, Letty would soon continue to work on her graduate work in chemistry, first getting a master’s at the University of the Philippines, and then receiving an East-West Center grant to do her doctoral work at the University of Hawai’i.


Letty’s graduate studies in Honolulu would soon bring the whole family to the United States, with Jun and their two sons, Serafin III and David Roy joining her as her dependents.


Jun recalls that the immigration rules prohibited him from taking on a job during their first year together as a family in Hawai’i and that the family had to make do with Letty’s stipend as a grantee. The stipend could hardly see them through, but they persisted. As soon as Jun was allowed to work after a year of residence in Hawai’i, he took on odd jobs, he says, and did not mind what jobs were those. He recalls with fondness now what he went through: “I worked as an assistant manager of a store and a restaurant, sold vacuum cleaners and insurance, moved and painted stuff, did inventory and field enumeration work…”    


Soon, Letty was able to wrap up her doctoral work, and as part of her post-doctoral training, she was allowed to stay in Hawai’i for two more years. Jun and Letty planned to go back to the Philippines after her post-doctoral work but the sons urged them to stay on and applied for their permanent residency. Because Letty had a contract with the East-West Center to go back to the Philippines and do her two-year home-country service, she went back to the Philippines to fulfill that contract. Jun and the children remained in Honolulu, with Jun at this time working for his second master’s degree—in public health, which he took at the University of Hawai’i.


It was not a walk in the park in the beginning for the new immigrants, with the children helping out in so many ways, working during their spare times even as they were doing their schoolwork and graduating on top, with Serafin III finishing a bachelor’s in microbiology, summa cum laude, and eventually a doctorate in cell biology, on full scholarship, from Harvard Medical School; and with David Roy finishing his bachelor’s in science and his master’s in education.  The children soon went on to follow the same road to excellence less traveled by many immigrant families burdened by the wages of eking out a life in a new land—and with four successful professionals in a family, this feat of Letty and Jun and their children, is indeed, a rarity. It is not very often that we see three doctorate degree holders in a family—and this extraordinary achievement of the Colmenares family is one exemplar that is difficult to duplicate. Certainly, their collective and individual sacrifices and hard work had paid off. 


While Jun and Letty continue to serve the community, Serafin III and David Roy are now on their own, exploring the world before them armed with their extraordinary skills, academic training, and experience. Serafin III is now a fellow of the National Institutes of Health while David Roy works as a mathematics teacher of a Honolulu public school.

Published at FAO, Feb 09/Hawai'i






Kayatko a salbaren ida (dagiti tallo nga annakko a babbai), salbarek koma ida, ngem napadsodan, O Dios, O Dios! Dr. Aboul Aish iti Gaza,, Enero 17, 2009

Maysaak a duktor ti dunggiar ken gerra,
amin a napait a balikas iti baet dagiti sagrado
a diding ti Jerusalem. Kanayonko nga iyapros
dagiti ima kadagiti sugat ti rabii ken aldaw
iti panangpagungga dagiti bala, idi ken ita
agbusi dagitoy kadagiti rungsot kadagiti amin a suli
ket amin nga ar-aria ken anniniwan
mansuenda iti pannusa, kas iti adipen
a malatigo tapno agsayasay ti dara
agayus a kas karayan kadagiti kalsada
dagiti lalaem maipilkat kadagiti ruangan
a pagserkan dagiti mannakigubat
a panagduadua iti kappia.  Matay dagiti igam
iti pannakapadso dagiti mapuntaan a buteng
di makailasin iti ibit a mangikanawa.

Ita a bigat a nalawag, kinunak kadagiti annak,
waloda amin nga agtawid iti kapanunotan
kadagitoy a binnalubal iti kinadaksanggasat:
iti oliba a ti bulong daytoy nga agparipirip
ti dios dagiti panawen iti sari-ugma, nga idi un-unana
ket matiktikawen. Ngem ita, kadagiti raya
ti init iti Gaza a mangbirok kadagiti nakalemmeng
a dagensen kadagiti siled a tanem ni ayat
kadagiti komedor a lua ti idasaren a pammigat
iti darang ti aldaw a kadagiti agsipnget
mangigigir iti masansanen a pammakawan
ditoy nga agbiroktayo iti imnas a nasudi, 
pammateg kadagiti sugat iti maaldawan nga oras. 

Tuldekak dagitoy a balikas, iyebkasko
manipud iti bubon dagitoy a saibbek:
tallo kadagiti annak ti parmeken ti bala
dagiti maladaga a bagi ti namnamak kadakuada
dagitoy ti sumuko iti dangadang ti kappia!

Ibitak amin dagitoy ket amin koma nga amma
ket kaduaendak nga agdung-aw, agtabugga
a mangkarit iti langit, agsaludsod nga awan ressat
no apay a ti biag a naunday ket kadagiti laeng matay!

Tallo nga annak a babbai ti indatonko
iti daytoy a rinnupak: ubbing a ti isemda
ket dagiti bannog ken kettang kaniak ti subad. 

Ngarud denggenyo, padak nga amma:
mangngagasak iti ag-agalen ti agrakaya a bagi
kas iti isip, kararua, ken il-iliwen nga ili nga awan
iti ladingit nga ammok a ti kaaddana
ket iti pagbabakalan dagiti pammadso a kas itan.  

Ngarud, patgandak koma nga agbasbassawang:
ibitik ti nakakaasi a panungpalan ti lasag
a kadagiti annak ket iti isu amin a nabiag
iti nasayud a kasasayudan nga apagapaman.

Sakroyek koma dagiti naidasay nga annak
ngem iti barukong ket ti dalluyon a rumkuas
lemmesenna amin a rikna nga iti lagip
ket ti nasantuan a ginnasanggasat
a koma, kadagiti tuldek ti sentensia
ket ti agrapiki a kararag ti panagwaywayas
ngem ita iti panagsaksi ti angesda magsat!

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/En 27/09

A Name to a Face/Nagan iti Rupa

And I am glad that I can finally put a name to a face. J Bowen, BBC News Middle East, "Bowen's Diary," Jan 23/09

A name to a face/
nagan iti rupa.
Ania a Gethsemani daytoy,
ti mangbirok iti nagan para iti rupa
ti mangihuego iti rupa iti nagan 
nga agkatangkatang kadagiti naidasay
a panagmalmalanga ti bomba
iti Gaza, kas iti mapukpukaw a Palestino
kas iti Jerusalem dagiti gagem
a managkamalala?

Iti baet ti didigra 
iti balikas
kas iti saning-i, 
kasano daytoy,
kasano nga awiten ti babantot
ti napaidam a kappia? 
How do we ever settle
for something lesser than this peace
when the home is a graveyard
of all what we have hoped for
and today, today, the remnants
of the people's dreams 

are ruins 

are ruins of the only
language they know 
the language they know how?

Aglibas kadakami dagiti palimed
ti kari a naitantan, 
kadagiti kanalbuong
ti igam wenno iti siled ni diruan nga ayat
nga ita ket tanem ti garakgak.

Kadagitoy a bakir, lusod, waig,
kinelleng, urit dagiti oliba wenno ubas
a ditoy, uray ti tartarubong mapasag: 

young faces with no names
young fathers with no names

names looking for their faces
fathers looking for their sons
sons looking for their fathers
only to meet in farewells
that come too soon
even as we allow our fears to evacuate
go home to a place with no walls
except those of the dark nights coming
to us too soon and endlessly cold
in this fall of our grief. 

Ti lenned a rabii,
adalem kas iti ibit, saning-i
nga agbirbirok iti pingping
a pagkarayanan ti lua ti ama.
Kuna ti ama:
The dark night of our fears
walled us from all the dangers lurking
and we succumb to death,
the arms akimbo catching up on us
even as we pray one thousand times
pray harder so that bombs 
would not fall on our living rooms
they would not fall on our young ones
so they can recite who we are in the years to come
the young ones whom we entrust our souls
and sins, and the salvation of our fathers. 

Agrutingto pay ngata dagiti salakan, 
kas iti talisman
ti lagip iti putot nga iti isisingising ti init
ket ti pannusa ti kanion a balinsuek?

Kasano, kasano nga itabonko 
dagitoy a saem
kadagiti daga a maslep iti dara
daga a matris dagiti amin 
nga an-anek-ek
manipud idi aginngga ita 
a panawen ti paripirip?

Kuna ti agiwarwarnak:
nabirokakon ti nagan
dagiti rupa:
ti ama iti saibbekna
ti anak iti kanibusananna.

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Jan 24/09 

Helmi saying farewell, 1

For me, it is still the most memorable single image of the war. It showed a young Palestinian father kissing his dead baby son goodbye. He was murmuring farewells to his boy and I defy anyone to view it and not be profoundly moved. J. Bowen, "Bowen Diary: A Father's Loss," BBC News, Jan 23/09

The journalist says 
they have no names:
that father in his grief, 
the young child
in the stillness of sleep,
final, deep. 

The father's kiss 
says farewell,
final, forever like gun salutes
for the dead aborted. 

Helmi, this is you.

And is all yours.

It is the crouched image 
that makes you weep
allowing each tear 
to tear you apart
the son in his father''s arms
the tenderness of years to be lost
lingering long and endless 
in the mind's eye, 
father as you are to your memory
to the children of your young love
in all these times of wars and more.   

Your son stays calm, 
dead to the pain 
eyes closed but seeing all
as if in peace and listening 
to your entreaties
saying in silence, 
talking back, father, father
give me your kiss that blesses. 

The journalist says he could 
not look in the seeing, 
such dazed dialogues dazzling
in their hopelessness
despairing with the sputtering 
of blood on the edges
of your fears. 

For how can it be that here
in this land where God walked, 
this sacred quiet of earth
that makes us pray 
slide to hide in drunken nooks
we could not reach, 
or our fainting voices, still now
in the cadaverous image before us 
you saying goodbye 
to a dead child, yours,
flesh of your own flesh, 
and you speaking
in the desolate 
and lonely language 
we can never ever know between
a father that lives that is you
and a son that dies on your cradling

in the name of country, faith, nation

in the name of the place that demands

in the name of life that kills

so much of the warm blood for the rituals
whose other name is the relentlessness
of our grief taking hold on our words
and our power to say our prayers,

how can it be, how can it be? 

The journalist of our sorrows
reminds us of this memorandum
of truth: we cannot cage this freedom
we yearn, including this lamentation
that leads us to what pain offers. 

This you know, Helmi, this you know.

He will bury him, the son,
and the him is the you that rages on
your throat the parched fields
of roses and tulips bereft of breeze or rain
you digging the small earth for him
with the bare knuckles of fingers
and the sorrow in your heaving chest
that volcano erupting while you busy
yourself with the thought of his tomb 
unearthing a shallow hole, small 
for your child-son's place of dwelling
his body going back to the land you crave
this land you love no less
this sad land accepting accepting your gift. 

Now they have a name:

Helmi for the gravemaker,

Mohammed for the tomb owner

in Gaza, in this Gaza
the capital city of the skeletons
of dreams, holy, biblical, 
ugly dreams.  

A. Solver Agcaoili
Hon, HI/Jan 25/09