Thursday, September 23, 2010

Para kay Alex *

Pinasulat kita
ng magasing pambata
pasimplehin mo lang 'kako
nang malaman nila
ang ating rebolusyon,
gawin mong dahan-dahan
nang matutunan nilang marating
ang kasaysayan.
Subalit pinili mong
maging makata,
at iguhit ang dusa at pasakit,
isabog ang kulay ng poot at paghihimagsik,
sumungkit ng mga pangarap
at gawing buhay
ang ating pakikibaka.
Lampas man ito
sa pang-unawa ng mga paslit,
nag-iwan ka ng bagong henerasyon
ng mga makata para sa bayan
na patuloy na malikhaing
ng ating mga hangarin.
Di ka man nagsulatpara sa mga bata
nag-iwan ka ng inspirayon,
at heto ako ngayon,
parang bata uli, gusto kong tumula.

* Alexander Martin Remollino worked for a while with IBON Foundation. He was assigned to write journals for social studies for grade school and high school students - Sibika, Hekasi, Philippine Currents, Asian Currents, World Currents, Ekonomiks. He did not pass the evaluation. Alex did not have the pedagogy and writing style for children - he was an angry young man. "Alex, you have to tone down for the kids," his editor would admonish him. "Ma'am gusto kong tumula," he would say. Alex thus left IBON after six months - a mutual decision that up to this day IBON does not regret. Alex's writing had developed so rapidly that only two years after he left IBON, when the institution launched the book "At Home in the World with Jose Ma. Sison" by Ninotchka Rosca, Alex was one of the reputable writers who gave their critical reviews. 

Two Aquinos (Shake off that euphoria!)

I'm sure many of us woke up on the first day of July this year, feeling relieved, like finally we were breathing fresh air after a long while, that at last, the Arroyo presidency is over.

I was imagining yesterday that if I had a kid, or if we had pupils, who got into high school in 2001, they are of working age already (I wouldn't say they are working already because there are no jobs to be found) by this time that Arroyo has finally stepped down. (That is a long time to build a culture.)

I remember myself entering elementary school in 1973, and was a fresh college graduate, young and unemployed, when I got to know another president.

Then I started thinking of parallelisms between the situation I faced as a youth then and the situation that the youth find themselves in today. Parehong Aquino ang una naming nakilalang ibang presidente. Both Aquinos are taking over long-running, corrupt, economically and politically repressive regimes. And simply because the name is attached to an image, both become icons of democracy and combined popular support and spontaneous appeal, multi-colored traditional politicians and civil society groups, with emphasis on the latter, openly supported by big business elites and endorsed by the US, with the US penchant for icons and plain semblances of democracy.

When Cory Aquino took over, the Philippines was one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world and was under the most stringent structural adjustment programs dictated by its creditors, the IMF and the World Bank. I graduated from UP and landed a job as a clerk in the warehouse of an air-conditioning company, which used to be under the government-owned corporation, Asia Industries, and was privatized by Cory Aquino a year later. Unemployment was so high that I never got the career that my mother had hoped for me. The country was in abject poverty, so well-known that I remember when tourists came to the country, part of their itinerary would be to visit Payatas to see to believe that indeed there was that extreme level of poverty. Like her son, Cory Aquino took over at a time that the crisis-ridden world economy was having its worst which manifested in a global debt crisis.

The youth of today face the same predicament, although at a worse, unprecedented and more advanced level: deep economic crisis, highest unemployment rate in history, widening and deepening poverty, and a global economic crisis that is worse than the 1930s Great Depression.

The Cory Aquino administration turned out be not as progressive as many had hoped. Its centerpiece program, the CARP, is a failure and drags on to this day. Its principle of “honor all debts” has been entrenched as a law that automatically appropriates budget for debt servicing whatever happens to the economy. Cory Aquino trail-blazed the country's full trade and investment liberalization by removing tariffs on more than 3,000 imported items and passing the Foreign Investment Act of 1991, which opened up key economic sectors to foreign investments. She started the privatization program by selling the government corporations that were more crucial in the country's industrialization. She devolved the government (Local Government Code) in the principle of deregulation. Cory Aquino introduced the regressive VAT to the Philippine taxation system and broke down the wage between basic and COLA and called it rationalization and killed the concept of 'living wage'.

Cory Aquino had spent just a year in office when the Mendiola Massacre of peasants happened in 1987. Noynoy Aquino had just three days when the violent dispersal of peasants and advocates happened in Mendiola on July 3. I remember the activist Lean Alejandro also being assassinated in 1987. President Noynoy Aquino has barely spent a month in office and three activists have already been killed in the last 15 days – one Bayan Muna representative, a 78-year-old peasant leader, and a young teacher.

Will things be a repeat of history. No, that is a wrong concept. History does not repeat itself, because if history does repeat itself then the country's economic and political crisis would not be in this more advanced stage. Then why are we having another Aquino? There are just things that endure and continue to re-assert themselves, like the recurring crises of global capitalism, foreign plunder, inequitable economy, and of course, ruling social classes.

The people's euphoria at this point, especially of the youth who just voted for the first time, is understandable. We are just getting over a regime that brazenly represented foreign and elite interests as well as its own preservation agenda. The euphoria, however, is not coming from the realization that democracy is working in the country because that is not so. The euphoria is simply coming from the smooth transition of power that happened, though just from one elite faction to another.

Go home! Shake off that false euphoria, that is the challenge to all of us this afternoon. Refuse to be just entertained, especially by the entertainment industry. Go beyond icons and symbols, the country's problems are real and far more fundamental than how they are being trivialized by icon-makers. Always seek and talk about the truth, and that has always been the running theme of the IBON Birdtalk.

(Closing remarks delivered during the Midyear 2010 IBON Birdtalk with high schools students and teachers as audience. The IBON Birdtalk is a biannual briefing forum on the economic and political situation of the country.)

Gloria's Gone

The Arroyo presidency is over at last, and if only for that, the Filipino people should be relieved and hopeful on the promised changes of the newly elected Aquino presidency. But one of the legacies that President Arroyo leaves behind is an economy in shambles, which she fails to conceal for the last time in her burnished accomplishment reports and farewell speech. The Philippine economy is at an advanced stage of its long-standing crisis, and it requires comprehensive, radical solutions.

This will be the most severe test to the leadership of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and to the simplicity of his approach to poverty. “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” was his campaign slogan, which rode on anti-Arroyo sentiments and may have launched the unaccomplished senator son of 'democracy icons' to the presidency. But as a tool of analysis on the roots of poverty and as framework therefore to achieve real changes in the lives of the Filipinos, it is painfully inadequate.

The guiding principle of the new Aquino administration is ‘good governance’, in contrast with its predecessor that has long erased public accountability and service from its language. But overly focusing on ‘good governance’ has the tendency to shift the blame for the country’s economic problems to corruption alone and away from the globalization policies that have deepened the Philippine crisis and benefited only a narrow elite. It eventually allows the Aquino administration to continue and even intensify the implementation of these undemocratic policies. It would also be self-defeating at the minimum if, after all, President Aquino fails to prosecute high officials accused of large-scale corruption, including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The people’s euphoria at this point is understandable. The country is reeling from a decade of worsening crisis and poverty and getting over a regime that brazenly represented foreign and elite interests as well its own preservation agenda. The euphoria, however, is not based on the idea that democracy is working, since the country has a long way to go in that regard. It is simply coming from the smooth transition of power that has happened, even if only from one elite faction to another. The challenge therefore for the new presidency is to sustain this euphoria through concrete actions on more profound issues of the people.

List down all problems, President Aquino proposed even before his inauguration as the 15th President. The country’s problems are far more fundamental than how they were trivialized during the elections. One of the defining marks of a genuine leader for change is to recognize this fundamentality and commit to resolve it, and President Aquino is most expected to do this.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wala na si Ka Bel

Pumanaw na si Rep. Crispin "Ka Bel" Beltran, lider-manggagawa, kongresista, ama, asawa, kasama.

Mahirap sumahin ang buhay at pakikibaka ni Ka Bel, haligi ng militante at palabang kilusang manggagawa. Estudyante pa ako, si Ka Bel na ang simbolo ng pagkakaisa at tindig ng mga manggagawa. Kaya noong mag-thesis ako, walang dalawang-isip, labor ang paksa.

Hindi ko makakalimutan si Ka Bel. Magiliw sya, palabiro, malambing, magaan kausap. Walang ere, walang iniinda, tunay na lider ng masa.

Kapag kinamayan ka nya, tuloy akbay, ganun nya minahal ang mga manggagawa at ganundin nya kinalinga ang mga kasama.

"Ayan ha, ito ang una kong public appearance pagkalaya ko!" Sabi nya noong pinaunlakan nya ang porum ng aming upisina tungkol sa tubig, ilang minuto lang pagkalipas syang "palayain" ng gubyernong Arroyo. Si Ka Bel talaga, sya na nga ang nagbigay karangalan sa aming porum sa kabila ng kanyang hapit na kalagayan, pakiramdam pa rin nya ay magtatampo kami kung hindi sya dadating.

Mahigit 30 dekadang tinugis, inapi, pinatahimik, kinulong, hinaras si Ka Bel ng reaksyunaryong estado. Pwede na sana syang namatay sa torture, assassination, physical injuries, sa kulungan, o sa sakit dulot ng karahasan ng estado.

"Bakit daw?!" galit kong tanong

"Nalaglag sa bubong." Sagot ng kausap ko.

Noong mabalitaan ko kung paano pumanaw si Ka Bel, kahit isang sandali ay hindi nabawasan ang paghanga at pagpuri ko sa kanya bilang bayani ng sambayanang Pilipino. Ang paraan ng kanyang pagpanaw ay simbolo ng kanyang komitment sa buhay at pakikibaka ng anakpawis.

Paalam, Ka Bel. Tuloy ang pakikibaka!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Survivor Caramoan, Epilogue

The other day, news featured Caramoan, now dubbed as the next Boracay. No less than the lucky bitch (President Arroyo herself) was in Gota beach, wearing her tacky summer dress, meeting the Survivor cast and crew, and accompanied by the tourism secretary Ace Durano who was wearing shorts a la Indiana Jones.

Mayor Cordial was also interviewed on TV. This time, unlike during our visit when he was broken for being bypassed, he seemed happy to note that development was coming his way. I wonder how he was finally convinced by the President, but he cannot ignore the fact that fishermen in Caramoan have been complaining that they can no longer fish in the bays because of the closure of Gota beach and neighboring islands.

President Arroyo has gone on a natural resources/tourism mega-sale, and Caramoan is her current flavor. Will the people of Caramoan survive the onslaught? If she will not stop her whoring, she might be the one not surviving her illegitimate term.

Survivor Caramoan, Part 2

We pitched our tents right on top of the hill, the island’s highest point, which affords a great view of the sea, neighboring islands, the house, our beach, and partly Catanduanes island.

We cooked dinner, changed from wet to warm clothes, took photos of the rising full moon, mixed gin and tonic, and enjoyed conversations with the councilor, a friend he picked up during our island hopping, and the mother of the only household in our island who cooked us fish and sweet potatoes. We were lamenting how development could spoil Caramoan while our hosts on the contrary were excited about the prospect. Generally we were having fun … until it rained, and rained so hard, and rained till dawn.

We slept (or held on to the concept of sleep) with puddles inside our tents. We had to synchronize how to “toss and turn” to survive the night. Upon sunrise (or the illusion of it), we ‘woke up’ (or simply decided to get up and out of our tents) and started to salvage rain-soaked food. While preparing breakfast, Mango, Mai and I were formulating the lessons we’ve learned.

The view from our campsite, with the reluctant sunrise

Lesson No. 1. It was a mistake to share campsite with a carabao. We had puddles of mud inside our tents.

Lesson No. 2. Never trust the councilor when he says it won’t rain while he’s having fun. He walked on the sand bar going home, by the way.

Lesson No. 3. Always trust the mayor when he offers his place, he knows the weather.

Lesson No. 4. A boy scout can really read a map. Mango’s dad, a scout master, warned us that travel and island hopping would take much of our time, so better settle in the first island we find.

Lesson No. 5. Mother knows best when she tells you to bring sugar. We were bringing 3 in 1 coffee, so we didn’t listen to Mango’s mom. The sugar could have come in handy for the sweet potatoes.

Anyway, photo-ops will do the trick! Show and tell our friends that we enjoyed….

We broke camp and sailed at 8 a.m. to catch the last boat going back to Sabang at 11 a.m. Our island friends were sad to see us off and wished that we would go back to Caramoan soon and often. On one hand, we were secretly sad to see their excitement over the prospect of developing Caramoan as the next Boracay.

It’s a pity that we ended up the ones not remembering the names of the islands and beaches we went to. But since Mango and Mai were able to do their ‘morning ritual’ after breakfast (first time in the outdoors for Mai, no big deal for Mango), we are calling our island for now and before so-called development takes over, the “Prut-Prut Island”.

View of Prut-Prut Island from our boat

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Survivor Caramoan, Part 1

We were thinking of having vacations in unexplored getaways with names our friends would not even be able to pronounce. Mango extended this invitation to trailblaze the “unexplored” Caramoan Peninsula, a group of islands at the tip of Camarines Sur, Bicol region, and to host the expedition in Albay (her hometown) with a side trip (take note, just a side trip) to the world-famous Donsol in Sorsogon, the migratory route of whalesharks locally known as butanding.

The prospect of Caramoan alone made Sam, Ems and Mai brag to their friends who turned green with envy. Caramoan, it turns out, is not that unfamiliar – everyone has already heard of the place, no one is brave enough just yet to wander far from the comforts of Boracay or Galera.

We really didn’t have plans to be uncomfortable ourselves. To save exploration time, we decided to experience Caramoan exactly the way it was described in a blog we tumbled upon. Plagiarize – guess that’s the classic tourism strategy – read the brochures, read the write-ups, relive the blogs, copy the postcards…

But it was a mistake to plagiarize. First of all, we did not end up in the more famous Gota beach. Caramoan has several beaches, islands and islets, and you can just choose your own island like create your own fantasy, pitch tent, camp, swim and explore your island. Since we followed the blog, we looked for Gota beach, but the place was closed for the shooting of the international reality show, Survivor.

What to do next? Island politics dictates that you go straight to the mayor. We raised issues like public land being closed for private use, lack of community consultation, development aggression, blah, blah, blah. But the mayor, bypassed by the governor, just sighed, short of saying “I’m the victim here.”

Anyway, the mayor instructed his councilor to lend us his boat and guide us to the mayor’s island. That started our great misadventures and shift to survival mode.

We were sailing for about an hour when we decided to have lunch in the councilor’s island.

Then we dropped our things in the mayor’s island and sailed again, touring the peninsula and searching for our perfect island.

Finally we decided to take a dip in an island with only one house, a carabao atop a hill, and a wide sand bar that connects the island to another island and that you can walk on during low tide.

We decided to stay. Mango and I had to go back to the mayor’s island to get our things while the rest explored the hill where we would pitch our tents.

That's me on the boat, waiting for Mango. Postcard-perfect? Well, that was the calm before the storm!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Byaheng Balikan

Nagparoo't parito ako sa Legaspi City noong Huwebes, eroplano papunta sa umaga, bus pauwi sa gabi. Maliit na laptop backpack lang ang dala ko.

Pag-check-in ko sa Cebu Pacific noong papunta, napaisip ako sa standard na tanong ng ground stewardess: May bagahe kayo ma'am?

Na-inspire tuloy akong sumagot sa recent post ng isang kaibigan tungkol sa pag-byahe nang magaan.

Naisip ko lang, wala akong bagahe, hindi lang ako nakakalimot. Di katulad ng kaibigan ko na short-term ang memory, ako sa maniwala kayo sa hinde, naaalala ko pa ang first birthday ko. Pinakbet ang handa.

Flex Revlon ang shampoo ko nung una akong magkagusto sa babae. Binigyan nya ako ng lyrics ng A Woman in Love sa H.E. class namin, sinulat-kamay nya sa yellow pad, tapos lahat ng 'man' sa lyrics pinalitan nya ng 'woman'. Naghiwalay kami nung 4th year kasi, oh well, pinalitan nya ako ng 'man'. Nagpalit ako ng shampoo.

Summer noong magka-boyfriend ako. Tuwing hapon naglalaro kami nung word game na Boggle, na prinonounce nya ng bogli. Hindi na ako nakipag-talo kasi lagi ko din naman syang talo sa game. Dumating ang pasukan na-realize ko na marami pala kaming di mapag-uusapan kasi bukod sa magka-iba kami ng pronunciation, magka-iba rin kami ng bokabularyo.

Taumbayan ang una kong naging papel sa teatro noong college sa Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas ni Aurelio Tolentino. Ako sana talaga si Inang Bayan, pero hindi ko kinaya ang magtatakbo mula sa audience papuntang stage at magsisigaw ng "Mga walang-hiya! Mga walang utang na loob! Kayo'y nagsasayahan habang nagluluksa ang sambayanan!" Mahiyain pala talaga ako, sabi ng direktor. Ewan, basta alam ko may krisis ako noon.

Inis na inis tuloy ang bespren kong bading sa akin. Kasi bilang taumbayan ang sinuot kong costume ay mahabang saya na ang tela ay kapareho ng tela ng uniform ng mga babae nila sa Quezon City Science High School. Malay ko bang pinangarap nyang isuot yun!

Speaking of saya, naka-bestida ako nung malaman ko ang pakiramdam ng kinakabugan kapag kinakaliwa. Naghintay talaga ako dun sa kanto para mahuli ko sila. Ayun, magkasama nga silang bumaba ng jeep. Hindi sila bagay, hindi rin bagay sa akin ang bestida. Umabot pa naman ng 8 taon ang relasyon na yun, 4 na beses din ako kinaliwa. Noong huli, sya naman ang kinabugan.

Telepono ang unang appliance ko noong nakipag-bahay-bayahan ako. Nakasalampak pa nga ito sa sahig kasi walang ibang gamit na mapagpapatungan sa kwarto. Pagkalipas ng 13 taon, noong sumikip na rin ang apartment, nagkahiwalay kami kasi nawalan na kami ng totoong komunikasyon.

Nagpapalipad ako ng saranggola sa Subic noong magsimula akong mabagot sa relasyon ko ng 13 taon. Tumigil kami sa Shell station noong pauwi para kumain ng ice cream. Naalala ko tuwang-tuwa ang mga kasama namin sa iba-ibang flavors na mapagpipilian samantalang double dutch, cookies and cream, rocky road, at very rocky road lang naman ang nasa freezer. Ako, ewan ko ba, ampalaya yata ang napili ko.

Sa huli, naisip ko, maliban sa sinumpa ako ng matinding memorya, masaya ako sa araw-araw. Wala akong pagsisisi, wala akong ibang dala-dala. Sa katunayan, tuwing lumilipat ako ng tirahan, katulad ng kaibigan ko, nagkakasya rin ako sa isang maleta.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

May wi-fi sa Lumang Bahay

Mantakin mo, ang lumang bahay ni Aning – circa 60s ito, 90% kahoy, two storeys, nasa labas ang hagdan kung aakyat ka sa taas kung saan kami nakatira at may sariling buhay ang silong, capiz ang bintana at narra ang muebles – ay naka-wi-fi na!

Kaya minsan pag-uwi ko doon, hinilera namin ang mga laptops sa mesang kainan, at ayun, mega-internet ang mga bakla kahit wala naman deadlines, at may gana pang mag-chat sa isa’t isa!

Proyekto ito ni Mira (Room No. 2) at Gail (Room No. 5), parehong computer programmers na walang panahon sa upisina para sa mga personal nilang interes sa net kaya sa bahay nila ito ginagawa. Sinuportahan naman namin sa Room No. 4 ang proyekto, kasi kulang naman ang oras namin sa net para sa trabaho, bukod pa sa hindi palaging may koneskyon si Mango.

Ang saya, salamat sa globalisasyon.

Kaya lang noong “soft launch” ng aming proyekto, na-miss ko bigla si Boots – ang kaibigan kong nasa Oxford. Sya nagturo sa akin mag-chat, at noon, araw-araw nya akong kinukulit sa text na mag-online na at mag-ch-chat na daw kami. Naiinis ako noon kasi hindi naman kami pareho ng oras di ba, at hindi rin kami pareho ng akses sa net. Pero ngayon na halos 24 oras na ako naka-konek, kapag tulog na lang hindi, hindi na rin kami nag-uusap, hindi na sya kumukonek at all, at hindi na rin nag-te-text.

Magkasing-mahal daw kasi ang text at tawag. Bawal daw sa upisina nila ang mag-download ng chat programs dahil nakakabawas ito ng efficiency sa trabaho. At mahal naman ang kuneksyon sa bahay-bahay, at syempre mahal ang laptop sa Europa.

Salamat sa globalisasyon? Na maski nililipad ang bubong ni Aning, tumutulo ang kubeta sa silong at nagwawala ang pamilya sa baba ay naka-wifi sya?

Demokratisasyon daw ng teknolohiya ang globalisasyon, na lahat ay magkakaroon ng akses sa teknolohiya para sa pag-unlad. Pero pakiramdam ko depende kung ano ang gustong itambak sa Third World (at sa mahal na halaga sa totoo lang) habang nakapokus ang First World sa esensya ng pag-unlad.

Huling balita ko kay Boots, nagpapa-renovate sya ng bahay.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hating-Gabi kay Aning

Kung ipagpapabukas ko
ang ating pag-ibig
Para ko na ring isinantabi
ang lahat ng ating pinagdaanan
at kahihinatnan pa
ng ating himagsikan
Para ko na ring binale-wala
ang mga dumaang kontradiksyon
at narating na resolusyon
sa pagitan nating dalawa
ang aking mga pangako
na unti-unting pinapatupad
ang tapat at paulit-ulit kong
Na sa araw-araw kitang minamahal
ay may maiwan pang pagdududa
Para ko na ring sinabi
na ang ating masalimuot na pagsisimula
na matagal mong iniyakan
ay nananatiling walang batayan.
Na lahat ng ating paghihintay
pakikipagtunggali at paghahanda
sa pagdating ng tagumpay
ay madaling ipagpaumaga.

Mahal ko, huwag mo akong tanungin
Kung ako nga ba ay handa na
na makilala ng lahat
at humarap sa dambana
ng pag-ibig at pakikibaka
Para mo na rin akong tinanong
kung naniniwala nga ba ako
sa atin at sa pagbabago
Para mo na ring pinagdudahan
Ang palagi kong pagtatapat
At kung ako nga ba
ay karapat-dapat
sa proseso ng kasal.
Mahal ko, huwag mong hanapin
Ang kasiguraduhan sa akin
Huwag mo nang itanong…
dahil katulad ng rebolusyon
ang pag-ibig ko ay araw-araw