A Father's Son

FIELD JOURNAL N3, May 30 2013

The metaphor of the circle of life is real.

Once we were children. And now we are parents.

At some point in your life, the children you have known from Day One become your teacher especially when we are confronted by the challenges of this new world we call cyberspace.

Or, wide wide world.

Or, Internet.

Or, whatever that you call this invasive species of knowledge whose humanity I sometimes doubt.

Or, resist in the name of the older one I am capable of manipulating.

When you are reared with Olympia typewriter technology--with a discipline to use its magical keys the proper way you learn from the Young Men's Christian Association one summer day--you have to give up with all those new things on the Internet coming up everyday of your life.

Truth to tell, the cyber natives, my son included, do not even know how to use the keys properly, some of them forgetting that they have ten fingers, but amazingly, able to touch their screen keys faster than those with one second/word speed on a typewriter.

These new apps about every new thing in the world are really destroying our sense of who we are.

These are palliatives to our inabilities for human communication.

These are substitutes for everything that we sorely want but do not need at all.

Or so you protest.

So your son who you travel with brings you to all those fancy cellphone stores in the heartland, and convinces you to have your century-old iPhone opened you have a Philippine line that uses that fancy promises of a century-old iPhone.

They slaughter your gadget, take out all those cute pieces you do not understand what are these for in the first place.

At the back of your head, where the hell did they learn all these tricks and trade to open a cellphone that is not theirs in the first place?

And you have to pay them for doing that too!

So you were convinced.

You can use the camera. You are sold to that idea.

You can use the video. You are sold to that idea.

You can email. You are sold to that idea.

You can Skype. You are sold to that idea.

You can Viber. You are sold to that idea.

Of course, the son threatens you with all kinds of Internet threat that, in capsule, simply means: incommunicado.

And so you close your eye, forget about that young man on a motorbike slumped on the street pavement that leads from C5 to Cubao (in the Pasig area), and immobile, almost dead, except for that tragi-comic ability to use his phone.

Slumped on the street pavement and surrounded by kibitzers and waiting for the turtle-like metropolitan ambulance to come, he raises his hand and uses his phone!

I could only say one word: Jeez!

And so yesterday, at a fancy cellphone store with twenty people attending to five clients at a time, I allowed myself to be persuaded to have my phone butchered, its foreign sim removed, and its new heartland sim inserted.

And lo and behold, you have a heartland phone, man!

May 30, 2013

Panagkawili ti Panday


Agkawili ti panday, agsubli kadagiti agbugsot nga ayat
Para iti ili. Intanem koman dagiti rurog ti darepdep
Ngem a ta adda dagiti bastarda nga in-inabo ti amangaw

Kadagiti telon ti aginaldaw a panagraar, iti pirak kas iti gundaway
Tapno dagiti amin a buteng ti pannakalipat ket mailibak.
Adda ti entablado, kas ti ganas iti panangabak tapno iti pantok

Dagiti agbasbassawag a rugso ket ti di mapadso a nagan!
Kas kadagiti rurog dagiti tarpulin, amin a folieto a mangilista
Iti kari iti napalabas. Aglugaytayo iti masa. Isuda dagiti ari

Ti bosing dagitoy a rito ti pammati iti di panagipatli
Uray kadagiti estoria ti kinakaasi. Adda derosas a sirmata
Iti panagtalek kadagiti maikur-it nga ila. Sadiay, iti papel,

Ket ti sarita ni gumawgawawa. Sangasalup laeng a kinapimpiman.
Limagasut laeng a kinatakneng. Sangaribu laeng a dignidad.
Dagitoy iti ramen ti demokrasia ni kinadaksanggasat.

Namak pay a pagilian daytoy. Kadagiti pader ket ti kur-itan
Ti isu met laeng nga isu a kinamaag. Datdatlag dagiti numero
Ni balligi, kas iti kinadatdatlag ti pananglagip iti agkawili

A panday, agsubli kadagiti bangkag iti barukong tapno sadiay
Manglagip kadagiti atang nga iduldulin iti kinamulmulluong.
Baam ta agpamisatayonto, santo mangiyangkat iti siamsiam.

May 12, 2013/Hon, HI



Asesino ti tagainep, ania ti naganmo?
Ania a karatula ti ayan ti rupam a kabengbeng
Ti dapan dagiti mannalon a bengkag ket awan?

Sadinno a disso ti naggapuan dagiti patuchada
A kadagiti linabag ti karayo iti ili ket ti isem
Nga ingget garamugam? Mano a balikas, asesino

Ti tagainep. ti kaimudingan dagiti pader a pagipilkatan
Kadagiti litania ti amanga a kadagiti umili ket milagro
Ti narativo ti kinapimpiman? Agpannuray kenka

Dagiti bigat, kas ti kellep nga iti masungad nga aldaw
Ket mangbalabala iti massayag dagiti kaasi
A kada anaraar nga ipaidam. Umayka, asesino

Ti tagainep, kadagiti unget. Sadiay, kadagiti ulimek
Dagiti mangurkuranges, ket ti limdo a mapaksuyan
Santo agbalin daytoy a pammakawan iti gatilio

A mangiwanwan. Saan a revolusion ti sungbat
Dagitoy a gulib. Sipud pay, inkankansiondan dagitoy
Kadakami, pinamati a manipud kadagiti lenglengleng

Ket ti agpadara nga agmalem tapno iti apagapaman
Ket ti nabileg a maikuleng! Kanalbuong iti konsierto
Dagitoy a panagsantilmo, kunada, sada buraken

Amin a kappia kadagiti maiwawa a rabii.
Ngem ita, iti kastoy a madagdagullit a pannakatay,
Maimula ti bin-i ti nagabay a panagwayawaya.

Mayo 12, 2013/Hon, HI

The Vagaries of Human Life (4)

The Wages of Being a Teacher

Education anywhere else is always a miracle.

When students come back to you and flatter you a bit and say that they learned a lot from you, you can react in two ways: take in all the argumentum ad populum or dismiss it totally.

I warn students to not flatter me. 

I have taught the problem of fallacies in human reasoning for many years, and I have had the privilege of spotting when flattery begins, and real praise ends.

People always act with a mixed of motives; there is no pure motive at all, and this, I always tell my students.

It pays that many of my Indo-Pacific classes have mutliple designations, including ethics.

This has given me the chance to journey with my students in our act of enriching our minds, and in our act of divining what is it in there for us in our invidual and collective lives.

Even as I attended a ‘Mele Festival’ for my daughter today, I also had the chance to meet with her teacher, and expressed my thanks to her for taking care of my daughter, and for giving her best to teach my youngest.

She said, with a joyful expression, ‘She is a good student.’

In the exchange, I thought of my work as a teacher, a life-work in some sort of way. 

I had not known any other profession except teaching.

I do some other things beside, but it is teaching that I have always gone back to, providing the money that I need to put food on the table. 

The other things that I do are all geared towards how I can improve my craft at imparting knowledge, and hopefully, at facilitating the transformation of minds.

And so when my daughter’s teacher told me that my daughter was a good student, I remembered how my students flattered me with those same praises as well, telling me and to my face that I was instrumental to their conversion to the 'Philippine cause'—the cause of understanding the difficult realities of that country that has contributed ten percent of its population to exported labor.

It is an unjust situation, this.

But when a country has not much to offer, it might as well send its citizens to other countries, and there urge them to earn dollars and remit these earnings to make that country's economy afloat. 

One student told me: ‘Of my entire college life, I only have three teachers I can praise without any qualms. First, these teachers have given so much of themselves. Second, they have made knowledge an event, not the mere transfer of information.’

I look at him. 

I sense his seriousness. 

There is pride in his voice, this New Yorker of a man, who is a veteran of life.

A father twice over of children in college like him, he is the most intellectually mature in the class, and always drawing from his work experiences when explaining things.

‘You are one of the three,' he tells me. 

'I thought you are a dude even if at first, I did not understand what you were saying, how you were able to put two and two together, how you made us work together, how you forced us to think otherwise.’

I listened. 

I looked for some signs of deception. 

There was none.

‘I am graduating, and I do not have anything to be afraid of anymore. So this I must say: I want to become a teacher, and want to teach the way you teach. Bold, daring, provocative. And oh, boy, you made your students work so hard!’

Ah, the wages of being a teacher.

Teachers can never change the world.

But we might contribute to the changing of the minds that will change the world.

That might be enough.  

Hon, HI/May 10, 2013

The Vagaries of Human Life (3)


It could have been a breeze, this rite and ritual of going home to roost.

The day has been long, the third in a three-day end-of-semester ceremony of oral examinations for a variety of courses I teach.

This Friday promised a shorter day of earning a living, enough to feed body and soul in these days of sequestration and of our uneasy Americanized lives.

I have heard people complain about the cost of living in these islands, the second most expensive in the union, next only to the Big Apple where everyone is fighting over the same bone.

We do the same in Hawaii now, in general. We fight over the same bone too!

Housing cost is atmospheric and rental fee is beyond the means of ordinary wage earners. You can hire a magician but no magical trick would do the trick of living beyond paycheck to paycheck.

A family has to put in four or five ordinary wages earners to at least be able to foot the basic bills: rent, food, power, water, and transporation.

Put in the family phone, plus banquet tickets some of the time and we have a recipe for poverty and misery.   

But this is not the point this note is trying to drive at.  

It is this calvary so many of us went through today.

I called it quits early from our work, at three.

Others particularly those working in hotels and who are on a shift could have been on the road earlier, perhaps at 2:00 or 2:30 PM.

From the parking structure, I saw cars jamming at the freeway, on both sides.

I told myself, ‘Here we go again!’

In my mind’s eye, I saw how it happened that I spent six hours on the road when a military guy in an engineering brigade accidentally had his forklift damaged one side of the overpass and had a whole concrete slab of overpass railing fall on the freeway pavement, effectively blocking trapping. 

At that first incident, I got off from some school work at 9:00 PM, and reached my home at 3:00 AM the following day.

The distance between my home and my work at the university is about 20 miles, plus or minus, or about 32 kilometers.

Under ideal conditions, that distance could be navigated in 15 minutes.

This time around, the minutes became hours: six hours, and even more for some others. 

And now this: on May 10, we went through the same rite and ritual again, moving at zero speed, the pointer of the speedometer steady at that number, and practically immobile.

It amazes me that a car can move at zero.

I asked a niece who rode with me to check the traffic report: so many accidents in this one stretch of a freeway—in a span of minutes.

But his H-1 traffic jam has become normal for us now.

When we go to downtown Honolulu, or to the university main campus in Manoa, we give ourselves a lead time of two hours.

When I taught an early class at 7:00 AM, I used to leave my place at 4:30 AM the latest to spare myself from the trouble of being caught in a morning jam.

For five months, I endured that experience of sipping my coffee on the road, and at times, blinded the the lights of oncoming cars.

And the morning fog would present itself as a challenge too.

And when the morning rain comes and hit your windshield, you have to have the wiper go on frenzy.

Or better yet, use your hazzard light. 

I do not know the details of this four-hour calvary.

Tomorrow, I am sure, this afternoon’s waste of time will hit the headlines.  

Preliminary Poultice for a Wounded Soul

He thinks of the wars he had to waged since coming over to these islands from another land far off.

At the start of his career, the honeymoon was terribly short-lived, as as the divorce and the annulment came right after one another.

The redeeming thing was that there was no financial alimony demand of that separation of mindsets.

The psychic payments were more than enough, and were powerful enough to have pushed him against the wall and say goodbye to the islands and seek his chance at life elsewhere, perhaps in shores farther away.

But that was meant to be.

There was The Force that made him stay.

And The Force made it sure that he had enough of the ammunitions he needed to get by.

Never mind that at one point, while he did his beat as Sunday broadcaster at a radio station, one caller spilled all the beans that could be spilled and told the listening public that the program he was administering was not grateful for all the good things this caller and her group did.

The tone of that accusation was like a wrathful goddess coming from the Pali mountains, in one of those steep lookouts that lead you to crevices whose bottom you cannot reach.

The bottom is plain and simple an abyss.

It is like human thought going everywhere but nowhere even as that thought thinks of ways to hit it right with the world, with one's obligations, with one's duty to continue the good things one has come to know and understand.

He let the nasty caller rant and rant.

'You are ingrates!'

She talks of scholarship, of monies going to some students, of a litany of help she gave to that man so he could run his program well.

'When did these things happen?' he asked her.

'Oh, 2005, or 2006.'

'I was not yet around here at this time. I was working somewhere else, farther away from these islands,' he said.

In his mind, he told himself: I let you go on and on and eat your words.

He did, allowing that woman to rant and rant, and rant and rant.

He thinks of events like this now, and the fingers of his recollection reaches his wounded soul.

There is balm in the memory.

Hon, HI/May 10, 2013

Returning a Gift

A good friend today blurted out to me all of his pains on feeling he has been betrayed by people and by certain causes.

His predicament came at the time when classes are about to be wrapped up, when our cares in the classroom must be put to an end, and when all our labors in the academia for five months must be offered to the altar of wisdom.

The friend came with full composure.

He is that: poised despite the feeling of panic, calm despite his own terror within.

He is an artist, this friend.

Sensitive and caring, he has the capacity for mindfulness, absorbed in the details of things, and yet able to see the bigger picture without losing sight of what a good word could do to produce something enchanting and magical, something that would turn the world around one more time.

He tells me: a person returned his gift to her.

I told him: it is strange.

He said: she asked for that gift.

I told him: then take it back.

Then came the long, silent pause.

I did not want to invade him as he sought his refuge in the silences of moments. I let him be, and I remembered the same feeling I felt when I went through the same experience.

Our stories run parallel now, and the shenanigans of finite time come to haunt us, overtaking us from moment to moment, and giving us all the self-doubts we need to affirm the authenticity of our dreams, desires, visions.

In our work with the academia, some things are black.

Some things are white.

But in between are the grays of all kinds, all hues.

The in-betweens are real, and the hurts more so.

Academics wear many kinds of masks and play many kinds of roles.

Trained to think, sometimes their thoughts wander, and these go to the far reaches of another universe until we realize they are not themselves any longer.

Some academics have resorted to looking at the world from the perspective of convenience and comfort, and from their angled perspective of greatness.

Some have this wistful thinking that their eminence must be recognized all the time, every time, and failure to do that means a failure to acknowledge your debt to them, your debt of gratitude that should not die but should live on and on, forever and ever.

It is the same malady we see among many writers, Ilokano or otherwise, but more so among Ilokanos.

Some can afford to come up with a systematic campaign to destroy you.

Some have the capacity to smear you with all the dirt and mulct they can get to destroy whatever reputation you have got.

In cahoots with all those willing mindless souls on the Internet, they can cannibalize you, body and spirit, and destroy you by all means.

This friend looked at me straight in the eye and tells me, ‘It is not worth keeping, this gift that was returned to me.’

I tell him, ‘Keep it forever so you remember that some people have pained you and you will gain from this pain.’

‘Yes, you are right,’ he tells me. He takes the gift returned to him and puts on the shelf of his office, that shelf that he sees everyday that he comes to work.

As he arranges his books, I look at those majestic Manoa Mountains with the clear skies as their backdrop.

The scene invites.

It is lonely at the mountaintop. 

Hon, HI/May 10, 2013

Cottage Industry, Affects, Politics, and the Heartland

Been conversing with the children lately, 'em who have come to live with me in a faraway land on the other side of the same Philippine ocean some thousands of miles away.

We talk of home, of the heartland, and of the politics of our dreams for a better country.

Not our new country, but the old one that we had to tentatively abandon for a myriad of reasons.

But the abandonment is temporary, and in the circle of time, in that eternity of that circle, we will for certain go back to that country one way or the other.

We all do not believe in people saying that we cannot go back to the homeland once again.

We hold on to the promise of the opposite and dream that home is a porous place.

And so we dream of our own home where memories are locked in the secret chambers of trees I planted, on the walls that turned into blackboards for children's chicken writings, and wooden doors for those cheap but artsy graffiti no one has ever seen in a long, long while.

And our talks turn to something mundane, sometimes ephemeral, like this infamous cottage industry in the homeland we call politics.

Yes, it the same politics we have over here in the United States, but a politics of a different kind.

It is a politics of names, of last names.

It is a politics of parentage.

It is a politics of patronage, the pater familia metamorphosing into stupid wives, equally stupid daughters, criminal sons, hambug children, and equally 'hambugero' grandchilden.

Never mind that some of them are totally idiots, incorrigibly mindless.

Never mind that some of them are assistants of assistants, and that experience gives them the right to become senators, mayors, governors.

Next time you realize, they are presidents, even if in the evenings they play bang-bang video games instead of understanding what social justice is all about.

We have all seen this unruly ways of politics in the home country, and each time we talk about this, there is that palpable feeling of 'sayang'.

We fought two EDSA People Power, many of us veterans of both.

For each of these people power uprisings, we handed on a silver platter the reins of power to the most incapable with the agreement that whoever holds the reins must guarantee that each of us citizens would stand a chance at the good life.

And for each of these occasions, the leaders failed us.

And they failed us miserably. Tremendously.

More than two years ago, when the first two children were allowed to vote for the first time, they queued up at the registration centers and had their names listed as voters.

At election time, they queued up once more to cast their ballots.

By then, they were eager to be heard, like those other young people rooting for that better alternative, Gibo Teodoro.

In my absence, Tony Igcalinos, a former student but now my political mentor, had persuaded them to stand behind Gibo who had uttered those famous words that talked of the possibilities of redemption for a land as wretched as that homeland.

On election day, these two children stood guard, and watched, and joined hands with the rest of the hoping populace to protect their votes.

Another man came out the winner for reasons inexplicable.

But that man has a sister who is on television practically 24/7 and convincing people that her manong is the better option for a land in search of a Messiah.

Heck, he won, handily, because the voters did not know how to choose.

And there goes the same story of mindlessness in a land already filled with mindlessness.

When Gibo lost, my daughter, she who pinned her hopes on him, cried rivers.

She could not be comforted.

On that day, she said goodbye to her homeland.

That sealed a tentative goodbye.

Honolulu/May 10, 2013

The Innate Wisdom of Flies

I hate to write this blog, but I ought to write it.

It is about flies swarming and making our life miserable, wretched. And I think of the politicians in the Philippines, the homeland of our vagabond heart. 

These are flies too, of a different kind. But they are the same pestering kind. 

And these flies in the summer swarm to multiply. In the heat of the tropics, they do!

Their collective act is called 'ghosts' among the Anglo-Saxon people who made it sure that they have a name for this, an act that has pestered us so endlessly. 

But this end of the Spring season--at this time that the April showers and Barber's showers and sakura trees are in full bloom--the flies multiply like blooms too. 

Except that they are a nuisance. 

The riot of colors everywhere cannot make me still, with flies ghosting, and promising more baby flies in so short a time. 

How can they reproduce so quickly is a miracle to me, with all the laws of nature suspended.

At our meeting at the Nakem Organizing Committee on May 5, Dr Raymund Liongson took it upon himself to eradicate the two flies that annoyed us for a long time.

Of course, some of us helped, but we can only do so much with our rolled newspaper or rolled agenda sheets.

Our bare hands in perennial clapping position could only do so much, but I took my chance. Of course, I lost every chance I had. The clenched fist alternative could have been better.

How could it be that seven people were terrorized by these two flies ghosting, swarming and in full frenzy looking for a she-fly to mate?

I did not tell them, of course, that my neighbors and I had those troubles beginning two weeks ago, and that all the members of my family have started to hone their skills at fly swatting.

It helped that we bought several fly swatters made in China. 

The colors of the swatters are like the proud colors of the rainbow by the Makakilo mountains in the west, the mountains that appear like marching giants and witnessing all the things we have been doing to declare war against these flies.  

A niece Googled home remedies: sweet basil, orange peelings, lemon peelings, and vinegar.

We ran to Walmart and spent more than half an hour looking for the real sweet basil, and ending up with a puny one, the only one left in that Walmart jungle of plants and shrubs and dreams of an urban garden.

I repotted the sweet basil and put it in the most conspicuous of all places: onto the center of the dining table-cum-children's study table.

It was evening when we got home, and so we did not try whether that trick worked. Flies sleep too, or rest from pestering people in the evening hours. 

Or so it seems.

We had a full day ahead after that night of sleep without dreaming of flies. 

Or having had to swat one.

In the meantime, the colorful swatters hang still, so still in their appropriate places, away from the prying eyes of these rumormongering flies. 

If it were Martial Law, all these minute enemies could have all landed in prison.  

Except that, of course, there can never be a regime of marching soldiers in these islands of our exilic lives. 

Far off in that other side of this Pacific, in those blue and green islands yonder number more than 7000, the memory of soldiers ruling over the people's lives is real, and fly swatting was for the lesser foot soldier in order to keep clean the mess halls of generals and the military lords.

The following day came and the flies came back gleefully flying in all directions in all our living spaces, and even until today, the terror has remained.

We tried the fly trap too--a very expensive one, with so much dollars for just two pieces. It did not work; we trapped a house lizard instead, a young one, possibly seduced by a fly flying to-and-fro that trap, but too brilliant to try its tiny leg on the gluey paper.

So here we are, swatters on one hand, and with the one hand typing this note, we are committed to eradicating these flies from our living spaces. 

And our lives.

Let them file a complaint with their Creator: we are willing to defend ourselves.

So now we are studying how to angle the swatter, how to make the right trajectory, and how to put together the sufficient torque when we raise our hands to deliver the final verdict to these nonpeople. 

We are declaring a war: fly against people! 

We can only hope that the people of the Philippines can get back the courage to declare war agains the flies of their political lives. 

The heat of the tropics has caused them to lose the energy to put fly swatting as part of their agendum for a better and fairer collective life.

May 6, 2013