Monday, March 06, 2006

A History of Violence

(Blogger's Note: the anti-PD 1017 rallies showed me that members of rival fraternities can come together in one place not to make "gulo" but to fight as ONE for what they believe in.)

published in Youngblood, PDI, January of 2006.

It was past six in the evening and my class in criminal procedure had just ended. My group mates and I decided to do some late night fieldwork. A male classmate walked up to us and asked if he can go with us. He explained discreetly, “Merong gulo”. Looking over his shoulder, I noticed that there were indeed male students quietly conferring in groups. Fratmen. Then I understood that my classmate only wanted to avoid the impending trouble brewing between his fraternity and some rival, similarly Greek letter named fraternity.

I am not and never had been a member of any fraternity or any organization which uses initiation rites or have the habit of making war with other similarly-oriented organizations. I almost do not care if members of fraternities beat up one another in their glorified sense of brotherhood. I do not want to get into trouble. But the problem here is that non-fraternity members sometimes are caught up in their rumbles and frat wars. We also become victims, as much as members of fraternities become casualties in their own culture of violence and corruption.

Who was it that said "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence." I prefer to write than to make a lonely protest rally around the school campus and secretly put up posters denouncing fraternity violence. I feel that I would be alone when the time comes members of fraternities get a wind of my defiance against them. In any case, whatever adverse action they take against me will only confirm what I write although I must say that I am only against those members of fraternities who do or espouse acts of violence in pursuit of their brotherhood. I am not saying all members are guilty of violence. My male classmate for one thing avoids trouble and even makes friends with members of other fraternities. But I believe that victims of fraternity-related violence deserve to be heard over the noise of frat wars and empty, brotherhood rhetoric.

I remember how a poor scholar-student met a violent death at the hands of allegedly hired killers just because he was mistakenly identified as a member of a rival fraternity. He was just sitting on a bench, unfortunately near a fraternity tambayan, safe in the thought of not having to worry about fratmen targeting him since he had no affiliation with any fraternity. He was wrong. Recently, a grandson of a high-ranking politician died in the course of his initiation rites. This semester alone, there had been a rise of fraternity-related assaults on campus both on “brods” and non-members, again cases of mistaken identities. Such waste of our nation’s youth.

Some officers of the accused fraternities were suspended by virtue of the Anti-Hazing Law. At least the legislators had finally recognized the need for a law making certain fraternity-related acts criminal. But I believe it is still inadequate. The first time I read RA 8049 for criminal law, I had the impression that this is not an effective solution to the prevention of fraternity-related violence and “physically-taxing” initiation rites. This does not prohibit initiation at all. This is not Anti-Hazing at all but only a regulation of the process of initiation in the sense that those who plan to have those rites must first seek permission.
RA 8049 harshly penalizes the actual participants in the initiation when the recruit suffers physical injuries or becomes insane, imbecile, impotent, or blind. The law even imposes reclusion perpetua when death, rape, sodomy or mutilation results from the hazing. This certainly is a long way from those days when there was no law dealing particularly with hazing. But this does not actually prevent fraternities and other organizations from making their recruits go through excruciatingly painful and emotionally draining initiation rites. This law is only a remedy after the acts had only been done, after the recruit had already gone through these violent acts. Fortunate are those who get out of those initiation rites alive and indeed do become a “brod”. How about those who do not survive or those who will become maimed for life? What will years of imprisonment imposed on the perpetrators do to a dead or disabled recruit? Reclusion perpetua or temporal will not take back a recruit’s life or limb.

I believe that one of the best solutions to end fraternity-related violence is for the fraternity alumni themselves to openly denounce the violent actions of their junior “brods”. I think most are in positions of authority who can certainly influence their juniors. It is time for reforms within the fraternities themselves. I often wonder how these august-sounding, Greek letter name organizations had become immersed in the culture of violence. It is time for members of these organizations ask this question, to return to the true sense of brotherhood not just within one fraternity but also among fraternities. Spare us a history of violence. Rewrite and undo it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

“What’s up, dude?”

“What’s up, dude?” This is what a son of Gen. Garcia could only muster to say when reached through phone by media people. When asked about the recent controversy over his father’s unexplained wealth, this young American citizen, with a “Filipino” general for a father and who studied all his life in the US, just clammed up refusing to reply to the queries on his family’s vast estates. Of course, I cannot blame him for protecting his beleaguered father. Anybody would come to the aid of a loved one, even if the latter is in the wrong. And I also cannot put him at a fault for being indifferent to the plight of our poor countrymen, who rummaged through trash cans to find something to eat only to die of food poisoning from the rotten chicken. He is after all an American citizen, the most privileged one in the whole wide world. If his father, a “Filipino” general who is supposedly a public servant if we take seriously the meaning of a public office as being a public trust, had stashed away millions of pesos from the Philippine public treasury and had taken advantage of his public office to fund a lavish lifestyle for his family, why would not a non-Filipino citizen care less of spending scarce Philippine money to support a comfortable American life in his good, old “land of the free and the home of the brave”?

And just to answer “What’s up dude” to inquiries on his father’s corruption. Such brash arrogance one would expect from someone who do not have to rummage through trash bins in search for food, who do not have to worry about when his next meal would be, who do not have to make the ultimate choice between continuing his studies or finding a job to send younger siblings to school.

I may be harshly judgmental, but these are the days in which we have to talk against those who arrogantly refuse to. The right not to talk, more pretentiously couched in the constitutional “right against self-incrimination”, although a fundamental right of the accused, can be unfavorable to the quest for justice, for the truth. This may be a scathing critique, but it serves them right, the corrupt public officials and their family. When people like them use public funds or take advantage of their public position to the detriment of the people, it now becomes a personal attack against each and every Filipino. Shame on them, shame on them, hiding behind the cloak of a constitutional right twisted for their own ends to conceal their corruption. And no, I’m not hiding behind the cover of a pen name. I am standing up for what I believe in. I do not have to protect my identity because I know I am in the right. I am no coward.

Gen. Garcia and family is just the tip of the iceberg. There may be many others who are worse than them. Would they have the courage to speak up, or would they just invoke the misused “right against self-incrimination”? There may also be others out there who remain steadfast to their duty of serving the country and the Filipino people. I myself had a very high ranking general’s son for a college classmate. His father, at least, is contented in sending his unassuming, hardworking son “only” to a Philippine university. Gen. Garcia’s dude of a son had to be an American citizen, had to live and study abroad.

Whatever happened to the supposed idealism of the youth, the naiveté, the innocence, the principles which would have prepared us youth for the greater challenges in life – that of fighting corruption. I pity the general’s son, who at all of 23 years of age had already been sucked into the dark, dark world of the corrupted. I haven’t yet turned 23 but at least I haven’t yet yielded to corruption.

Corruption is not just in the public service. It is in the everyday life. In the office, it is in the employees’ penchant for non-productive time, chatting with officemates or using the company’s computers for personal use. In school, it is in the lazy students who cheat their way to a passing grade. In the family, it is the spouse’s infidelity, the children’s refusal to make something out of their lives which would be of benefit not just to themselves but also to the whole family. In the roads, it is the Filipino driver’s stubborn disobedience to traffic rules. In lining up for anything, in the grocery, drugstore, the MRT or LRT, the lottery, it is the impatient people’s refusal to start at the end of the line. This is what I fight against every day in the corrupt world, besides our public officers or public employees’ corrupt ways.

If a youth like me can fight against the everyday corruption by being productive every minute in the office, by studying hard in school, by helping to augment the family’s income, by starting to line up at the end of the line, why can’t a privileged kid like the general’s son do just the same in the bigger corruption that is the public service. Why just live a simple life in the US instead of hauling in 100,000 dollars worth of support funds. I shudder at the thought of 23-year-olds already in the thick of things in the corrupt public service. What would become of them, what would become of the rest of the youth who toil day in, day out to be untouched by the corruption, of those of us who adamantly refuse to be enamored of the easy life promised by corruption.

Now I ask my fellow youths out there, “What’s up dude?” Do you have the courage and the will to stand up against corruption? To be the general’s son or not to be one, now that is the question.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Waiting and Forgetting

I was almost left alone as a child. I was forgotten in one corner. I did not know it then, but it was just the way it was. I was left at school, or shall I say disposed at school, then picked up late in the afternoon. I still remember the times when I was sent to school very early in the morning. I was six years old then, alone in an empty porch, waiting for the school to open. My older siblings went to the university but I was isolated from them in a small school. So there I was alone, no one to talk to, no one to play with.

I remember shuddering at the coldness of the early morning, being awed at the dews on the leaves, feeling the emptiness and the silence. Sometimes, these made me happy – happy because I was alone. Sometimes these made me sad – sad because I was alone. The feeling of being alone was very clear to me then, I was conscious of the fact that I was alone, but I knew that I was not lonely. I would spend the early morning waiting for the assistant to come and open the school. She would arrive an after me. Even when she was already there, I was still left alone for she was busy preparing for the day and we were the only people then.

Before then, I would wait in the empty porch. I remember that I would stand with my hands folded in front of me or clasped behind my back, staring into the dark wooden walls – walls which were both comforting, for they were then only company I’ve got, and oppressing, for they were silent and unable to speak. So was the empty porch.

The only life that I perceived in those moments of waiting were the very few people passing by the school. I would hear their feet shuffling across the dusty and pebbled street, and the occasional vehicles whizzing through the street, their engines roaring aloud, gone as fast as they appear. This little life that I would witness was as busy as the people in the house or at the school, busy with not a moment to spare to glance at this young girl whom they had forgotten in one corner.

All these memories of my waiting in the empty porch are still very vivid to me – the dark early morning sky, the wooden planks of the floor for I formed this habit of looking down, the feeling of uncertainty in being alone, the joyful sound of the door heaving the moment it was opened by the assistant.

There was this one incident, however, which was worse than those moments of endless waiting. It was when my mother forgot to pick me up after school. The school was already closed then. I was alone again in the empty porch, save for my teacher. She should have gone home already, but she waited for somebody to fetch me. I remember the scene very vividly as if it happened just yesterday. I remember the feeling of patient waiting. I wanted the teacher to just go home and leave me alone. That was what I wanted, to be alone. I was already used to the solitary waiting, why add somebody to share my burden or my happiness at being left alone. My teacher, however, insisted to stay. I was disappointed that somebody was there to share my loneliness. I knew what I was to do, that is, wait for my mother to fetch me. She never came. It was already late so my teacher decided to drop me at our house. When we arrived there, I was totally surprised that my mother was there all along, totally forgetting me.

I have no ill feelings about my mother forgetting to fetch me after school. Now I can understand myself better. I do not fear to be alone. I do not fell loneliness at being alone. In school, even in the company of my close friends, there is always the feeling of being left out. But that does not worry me. I find comfort in the silent solitariness.

As I look back, I realize that it was not bad at all. I even find it funny now, of being left alone and forgotten to be fetched. Now I can stand on my own for I had to fend for my own at such an early age. The only drawback I got from the experience is that I often withdraw from people even when they try to reach out to me. I am emotionally detached. I cannot and refuse to reach out to people emotionally.

I guess I still have not left my six-year-old self in that empty porch sixteen years ago. I guess I am still on that moment of finding my mother at the house, forgetting me. A part of me is still preserved frozen in those scenes of waiting and forgetting.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Saudi Sojourn

Culture Shock. That was what I felt when I first arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for my vacation in the summer of 1998. I just could not help but stare at the Saudi women with my mouth agape. Who would not be when they were all dressed in black from head to toe with every inch of their faces covered in heavy black veil. The only part of their bodies which were exposed to the world were their well-perfumed hands. That is the only flesh one would expect from them, well, at least in the strict capital. The next thing I noticed when I first set foot on Saudi soil (more like Saudi sand), was how vast and cavernous the airport was. It was a fusion of Muslim architecture and modern engineering. It was like any other airport in any First World country. But I bet the Riyadh scenery was much more interesting for it was a microcosm of the kingdom – the modern trappings of an oil-rich country and the hold of the Muslim culture. I was not prepared to see that much progress and social control rolled into one country.

Me, my mom, and my younger brother and sister got to spend two unforgettable summers in the tradition rich kingdom thanks to my dad’s company. My dad was working then in a top position in JGC Saudi Arabia. It was one of his perks that he gets to bring in his family for a few weeks. We stayed in my dad’s apartment in cosmopolitan Al-Khobar, which was adjacent to Dahran and a few miles away from the highly industrialized oil refinery city of Jeddah. We were on the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, which is where most of Saudi’s oil wells are found.

We were also on the coast of the Persian Gulf. My dad regaled us with stories of the war against Iraq in the early 1990s. The Dahran airport was made the headquarters of the “allied forces”. My dad would hear the fighter jets zoom in and out of the Saudi sky. He heard them live while watching CNN broadcast the same jets. One night, he even brought us to the camp site of the “allied forces” which was hit by an Iraqi smart bomb. Many soldiers died there, the most fatal casualty of the “allied forces”. The place was already empty and there were no buildings for blocks around the area.

We only go out in the evenings. The Saudi temperature could rise to more than 50 degrees Celsius in the day. The malls only open at dusk. The parks only get filled with people at night, jogging, taking a leisurely walk, having a picnic. The city seems to wake up only when night sets in. That is when the roads get crammed with Mercedes Benzes, Chevrolet Suburbans, Volvos, BMWs. Of course, we would not see a female driving a car. The clean streets would be packed with pedestrians out and about after taking refuge from the heat of the Saudi sun in their offices or houses.

A stay in a Middle East country would not be complete without hearing the Muslim cleric saying the prayers at prescribed times of the day. The prayers would be broadcasted throughout the city through large loudspeakers. I would even hear them even inside the apartment. The Saudis also have their “religious police” who would roam the malls and other public places to ensure that the prayers are strictly adhered to, that shops close and all life are at a virtual standstill at the sound of the prayers, that women, even the foreigners, wear the traditional abaya, the black head-to-toe dress worn over the clothes.

And boy, there are a lot of Pinoys there. Although a lot of the Filipino workforce is composed of househelp, I can’t help but be proud that at least we are not the janitors there. No Filipino wipes tables in the food court. We are the ones behind the counter, taking the orders, we are the accountants, the engineers, the doctors. I am not discounting the role of the “ordinary” Filipino househelp in the Saudi household. They are also like any other Filipino who venture out of the country to help their families, to send their children or siblings to school, to put food on the table, to ensure a better future for themselves.

With the brain drain phenomenon of the country, perhaps we are losing a lot of good talent to other countries like Saudi Arabia which can afford to pay well our countrymen. When I look at the good roads and infrastructures in Saudi, I cannot help but think that our Filipino engineers helped build them. If we only have the oil resources of Saudi, but then again, nothing would not come out of those resources if there were no people to build those refineries. After all, their oil would last for only a couple of hundred of years. If they have the oil, we have the people, the most important resource that a country can have. And that I think makes and will make a lot of difference.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Last Day of Work

a letter to my officemates on my last day of work...

i'm gonna miss you all!!! I will miss Basil, my NBA buddy, and our NBA talk (in the language only we can understand). Lisa and her "kwento" on showbiz people and celebrity sightings. i'm gonna miss teasing Millette on her infatuation with that "gay" actor. Joan and her chicken and buttered vegetables. Augie's comings and goings. Cha's banter, her jokes, and even her noise. Chuck, my seatmate, gushing about his fave seiko films (joke!). Janelle's leadership and her being a fitness guru. Carlo's "kakulitan". George's sexiness (hahahaha). me and Ronald's chance meetings at the Podium, inside Megamall, at the MRT station. and the rest of the team whom i may not had the chance to know but still am going to miss. did i forget to mention anyone else? oh, yes, even katiting (hahaha Cha!!).

i'm gonna miss walking in the maze that is Cubao, or more appropirately, rushing through the thick crowds on my way to work/home. my MRT train rides, lining up for the ticket, waiting on the platform for eternity, praying that the next train would be empty, getting shoved, pushed, my shoes stepped on, squezzing myself in that already full-as-a-can-of-sardines train, getting off the train disheveled, dashing from the MRT station to my office through the rocky parking lot. i'm going to miss reporting for work. logging in/out. working on the CBDs, USABids, Intelliquests, MCs. i'm going to miss my sweet Aurelia, my ever reliable computer, even her mood swings when she would just suddenly hang. i'm going to miss having my lunch at the basement's canteen, at the pantry, washing my dishes. gosh, i'm even going to miss the messenger boys, my almost constant "lunchtime companions", their talk on politics, office intrigues, NBA, their life. and of course, the ever attention-grabbing Mr. Loudy.

gosh, i will miss the place, my office. but worse, the people, my offficemates whom i have made friends with. thanks to you all for making my stay here as wonderful as strawberry and cream. but i have to go, and in the words of a friend:

"Minsan, kailangan lang talaga magpaalam... kailangang buksan ang sarili sa pagbabago... kailangan magbitiw nang sa gayon mabuksan ang palad para tumanggap sa mga darating na biyaya!!! Masakit mang isipan na kailangang lumisan, napakatamis din..."

ingats kayo lahat palagi. thanks and GOD bless everyone!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Advertisements Gone Bad

A few weeks ago, a liquor campaign ad was criticized for its sexually suggestive line "Have you tasted a 14-year old?". It got the people's attention and those in authority were forced to investigate into the matter. Advertisements such as this, which not only offends the sensibilities but also goes against the grain of molding an upright society through the use of censorship, are a bit rampant nowadays sad to say. Just watch the TV commercials. A foreign fastfood establishment tries too hard to be funny to the extent that it promotes the wrong values. Sharing is a value taught right from day one in kindergarten. But then, people go home, turn on the TV, and watch a young man showing around his favorite fastfood sandwich, telling his schoolmates how heavenly it tastes to the point that they virtually water for that wee bit of a sandwich, only to lick the mayo off before offering the contaminated food, or in some versions not sharing it at all after all the PR talk. Is this what advertisement has come down to? The point of the commercial may be that the product is so good that nobody dare share it with anyone else. This is no excuse, however, because the point is lost on the audience. What the audience sees is that young man trying to be funny by being selfish. Sure, the commercial is creative, and even funny if one does not take it too seriously, but it promotes the wrong values. If the fastfood company really wants to get the message across, that their product is that good to the extent that people who buy it would not want to part with it, they should have used another tactic. A more appropriate approach is to show that because the product is so good, people would want to share it with everybody else even for just affirmation that it is good.

Another commercial in the league with the one above is that of the toothpaste roadtrip dudes. In the commercial, the dudes see billboards of a brand of toothpaste which they assume as refreshing in the heat of the desert that they were traveling through. Then they see a gas station cum one stop shop. They proceed immediately to buy the toothpaste they saw on the billboards. Then with the toothpaste in hand, they drive without even getting their gas tank refilled. Is this plain stupidity or is it just that they found the toothpaste to be so good a product as advertised in the billboards that it is the only thing they remembered buying in their stop? Because of their stupidity, they soon find their gas tank empty with no gas station for miles. But miracles of miracles, two pretty girls drive past them and then turn back because of the toothpaste they see on the dudes' dashboard. The ad people's intention may be that the product is that good to make young women turn their car back for stranded dudes who are so taken with the toothpaste ad that they forget to refill their gas tank. But the commercial's underlying message is that stupidity can even be rewarded just as long as one is in possession of something. This is Pinoy mentality at its worst. The stupid and the lazy get rewarded by virtue of what they have and who they know, not by what hard work they did and what they know.

There is also the commercial in which a woman keeps on praising the bargain finds of her friends and then, when they settle down for a bite, promptly promotes her donut by criticizing those of her friends. And the worse thing here is that she tells a man who happens to pass by that his suit looks good on him only to laugh when he turns his back for apparently, she was just having a good time at the expense of the poor man. It would have been better if she just pointed out the man to her friends without calling his attention and just giggle that his suit is second hand only. There is malice here, same as that of the sandwich-waving young man in that fastfood commercial. Where did all the values go?

I can name many other commercials with the same approach as above. Maybe the ad people were running out of ideas, or maybe they just want to be funny. The advertisements or commercials, however, promotes the wrong values. There may have been no intention to do so. But the ad people have a responsibility just the same. They must be more conscientious in their choice of tactics to grab the viewers or audience’s attention. An advertisement is a powerful medium. It influences not only the people’s tastes and preference, but also, in part, the kind of values they have. The ad people are on holy ground. They must tread on it more carefully.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

born in the wrong century

this is in reaction to a friend's post in his blog (http://m35b.blogspot.com). the subject of the blog is "being born in the wrong century".

me, i've always thought i was born in the right century. i mean i can't imagine living in the time of Thomas Hobbes in which life was "brutish and short". though i find the gowns that women wore in previous centuries as cute, i just can't bear life without the modern amenities that 20th-21st century brings us. this may be superficial but you know, this is exactly what people of past centuries longed for - the security and the comforts of life. be grateful that you've been born into this century. man has arrived, in the present century nonetheless. man has achieved what his ancestors can only dream of, and even beyond that. though you would say that our modern inventions that make life easier comes with a price - the greater capacity for self-destruction (the nukes). a favorite prayer of mine comes to mind: "Disturb us Oh Lord... when having fallen in love with time, we have ceased to dream of eternity... and, in our efforts to build the new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to grow dim". how ironic that this prayer's author is (some say) Sir Francis Drake - a man of the Elizabethan age.