Achieving Happiness

September 30, 2009

For the sake of Typhoon Ondoy’s victims

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:56 am

collecting-tearsThe biggest crime would be to allow the kind of government we have, the kind of system that’s in place, to continue. I think this is the lesson that typhoon Ondoy has taught us.

Since Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have been caught in the grip of the inescapable:  the impact of a typhoon that let down an ocean’s worth of water through the streets and alleys of a country ill-prepared.

It would be a gross inaccuracy to say that the Macapagal-Arroyo government didn’t see the typhoon coming. I mean, freaking hell, the Philippines is a country that get’s visited by typhoons on a regular basis: every year, at least 10 typhoons come; and even the slightest rains leave the streets flooded and people are forced to wade through knee-deep, black and fetid water. That should be more than enough warning of what greater damage can happen if the rains took longer, if the water didn’t go down less slowly through the antiquated and often blocked drainage systems. But really, what does it mean that up to now, since the time the Republic was founded, the Philippines continues to fall victim to the devastating effects of natural phenomena like typhoons?

There is no excuse for the Philippines and the government, the administration that currently, supposedly ‘leads’ it, to be unprepared for Typhoon Ondoy, or for any other typhoon for that matter.

Every hour, tv news programs give update on the lives of Filipinos all but destroyed by the typhoon– the flooded houses, the damaged furniture and the personal possessions forever gone are the least of important of what has been lost. Thousands are in the evacuation centers, men, women, old people and the very young trying to adjust to suddenly very bleak conditions, a long horizon of hopeless scenarios ahead of them.

It’s a living nightmare, after surviving the typhoon, to find that you have no food and water, that your children are contracting flu that could quickly turn to pneumonia or bronchitis or some other killer respiratory disease. It’s almost a fate worse that a painful death by drowning to find that you have lost your wife or husband, a sibling, a parent, a child to the flood. It’s enough to even make you wish for death to realize that their bodies have not yet been found and the chances of finding them are so far they’re practically nil.

Not enough rubber boats. No helicopters. Transportation and telecommunication systems and electricity and water supplies are down. The private sector had to take over, and the government can only issue excuses.

Some would say that now is not the time to be issuing criticism or blame; that what Filipinos should focus on is helping each other to recover from the devastation and to make sure that everyone gets back on their feet. But is that enough? Do we simply forget what happened by chalking it up to bad luck, to nature punishing the Philippines, to faulty drainage systems?

I have no doubt in the indomitable spirit of of Filipinos.  We are made of stronger, flexible stuff that ensures our survival. We are capable of smiling even in the midst of grief. We are capable of forgiving even our worst enemies. We believe in the power of hope, and we cling to our hope even as all signs point to a lost cause. We can and have often showed unity in the face of almost crippling challenges and difficulties. We are capable of great love for one another, as well as forgetting wrongs done us.  There is both good and bad in this, and the division changes daily; but in whichever case, this is what helps us survive, what allows to continue, to get back on our feet and try again.

But how long must we rely on our resilience? And dare we hope that our children can and will be as strong as us? Dare we risk it — their futures; dare we gamble on it, their own chances of survival? And would it be right?

How long will be grin and bear it? Until when will we grit our teeth, or heave hollow sighs as we try to come to terms with what neglect we as a nation and a people suffer, the punishment undeserved that continues to be inflicted on us by deliberately flawed, callous and selfish governance? How many times can we turn the other cheek and try to forgive when again and again we have been not only slapped, but struck and bloodied all over?

We can replace television sets, sofas, refrigerators. Cars are merely metal; and houses can be rebuilt after all the mud has been carted away and the streets cleared of the flotsam.

But to say that it would be easy to forget the agony of trying to keep our heads out of the water after hours of treading it; of withstanding the wet cold of the wind and rain as we stand on rooftops;  of seeing our children getting hungrier or thirstier by the minute or worse, needing immediate medical attention and getting none… that is simply not possible.

Now, more than ever, it is important — IT IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH — to realize the necessity of having a good government; one that takes into consideration the safety and welfare of the people above everything else; one that looks far into the future not to secure itself in power but to see what it can and should do to ensure that Filipinos will never again suffer like they are suffering now because of a typhoon.

We cannot fight nature and we shouldn’t. What we can do is to prepare for whatever it brings on, and to prepare well.  Nature is predictable, and science has made leaps and bounds in foreseeing its actions and measuring all possible impact so humanity can adjust and keep itself safe.

But because of the kind of government, the kind of system that’s now in place, the Philippines is as helpless a paper sailboat in a storm everytime there’s a typhoon. Corruption is what eats up what should be allocations for disaster preparedness campaigns and plans — the same way it eats up funds that should go towards education, health and housing.

Even now there are reports that billions of public funds are being earmarked for moves to amend the 1987 Constitution:

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/172888/house-panel-approves-p2b-budget-for-con-con.

And for a moment, if any of us is still inclined to give this government the benefit of the doubt, there was an August 15, 2009 story in the Philippine Star that states how the Macapagal-Arroyo administration utilized the government’s P800-million contingency fund for emergencies like calamities for her trips abroad. This was according to an opposition lawmaker who cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report. The COA findings show that the 2008 contingency fund was not enough for foreign travels and Macapagal-Arroyo augmented it by P120 million.

So crucial questions remain: will be wait for the next typhoon to devastate us as the government that should be leading us squanders taxes and the national budget for self-serving purposes? Will we again simply rely on our strong sense of survival and try to forget the man-made tragedies exacerbated by natural phenomena?

For the sake of those lost, and those still missing, for the sake of the children suffering in the evacuation centers, for the sake of those grieving and all that has been irretrievably lost, let’s not forgive this government and fight for a more humane, more compassionate one. Because Typhoon Ondoy was not the first; and it will certainly not be the last.And the body count of those lost to the raging floodwaters of the yearly typhoons continues to mount, and the tears of those who lost loved ones are almost enough to drown the nation if they had been contained, collected and then unleashed.

September 24, 2009

Learning from the Emperors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:28 am

I wrote this piece back in 2005.  I’m reposting it because I saw a review on ‘March of the Penguins’ today in the Manila Times. Apparently, the original  documentary (meaning not the one dubbed in Filipino) will be shown this weekend in one of the major theatres.

I loved that documentary; and one of my dreams is to be able to walk with the Emperors as they waddle through their natural habitat. They’re also great fathers, and I think they should be made symbols for Fathers’ Day.

——–

I’ve always been fasMARCH OF THE PENGUINScinated by penguins-those tuxedo-wearing,flightless birds who live in the coldest places on earth. My favorite penguin is named Opus – he’s the neurotic but good-natured, naive and paranoid Emperor penguin who has been immortalized in Berke Breathed’s comic strip “Bloom County.”

Opus has at least twice ran for president, and considering who has had to run against (the likes of George Bush Sr), it’s a shock that he always lost. Opus’ platform included planting daffodils in deactivated minefields, a ban on animal poaching, murdering the government’s foreign policy on territorial defense and military operations, and free herring for all.

Penguins. Aren’t they the coolest (forgive the pun) animals?

I’ve already seen the latest penguin documentary by the people of National Geographic –”The March of the Penguins.” Its narration is plainly written, straightforward  but beautifully compelling as told by Morgan Freeman.

The narrative thread is wound around the mating and breeding habits of Emperors, and how the specie survives through the harshest of environmental conditions. Penguins mate, give birth, and raise their young in 9-month cycles.Can you imagine living in minus 40 degree-weather? And trying to build a family right then and there? The mother and the father take turns taking care of the egg, and after it hatches, the chick.

It’s nothing short of a miracle how they do this. They do a sort of synchronized dance to make sure that the egg is passed from between the stubby legs and from under the thickly-feathered belly of the mother to those of the father’s.

Two seconds that the egg is exposed to the brutal cold and it freezes solid, and there’s no hope for the embryo inside. There are only two colors in the antarctic , and they’re even considered non-colors: black and white. The seemingly endless blank expanse is broken by the black and white of the penguins, and the deliberate and calculated movements they make to keep warm,but at the same time make sure that the eggs are never dislodged.

The father foregoes eating for four months months as he protects the egg, and the mother leaves to feed and fill herself with fish and krill. It’s at least a seven days’ walk to where the ice breaks and the ocean is exposed from where the penguins nest, and there is only cold, darkness and silence.The walk back, in the meantime, is often longer as the topography changes and shifts (glaciers form, cracks in the ice, small avalanches that put barriers in the path).

I’ve always thought that animals and their rights should be respected and protected. This world is as much theirs as it is ours; but humanity continues to ravage and plunder the planet, destroying even the very habitat and source of food for thousands of species.(Of course when I say ‘humanity’ I am mostly referring to the actually inhuman and inhumane multinational and transnational companies and their operations: waste-dumping, mining, logging,chemical testing,etc).

Watching the documentary, I was filled with such awe and respect for animals in general and penguins in particular. Call me cuckoo, but I believe there is genuine emotion, genuine love between animals and their families. In March of the Penguins, the birds would stand close to each other and appear like their hugging and kissing.

Penguins are such…sentient creatures.One sees and feels their grief when an egg freezes, or when a chick is similarly lost to the biting cold. The anguish is palpable, unmistakable in the body language, the gentle movement of the father prodding the chick’s lifeless body.

Happiness and relief –heaven in such a godforsaken place! – resound when the mother, father and chick reunite. The chirping and calling noises are such heartfelt sounds, the communication between parent and offspring. The mother gently teaches and prods the chick to take its first steps, to play and to mingle with other chicks. It’s a scene that pinches the heart, tweaks it something joyfully painful.

All this has, as usual, gotten me to thinking about my own specie, my own  tribe.

Majority of the Filipino people build their families, raise their children under economic and political circumstances that are every bit as harsh as those environmental factors penguins have to contend with.

Even worse.

Instead of the killing cold, there are the killer prices of basic commodities and medicine; the high electricity and housing rates. In the far-flung regions, the provinces and way up in the mountain areas, farmers and their families are always under threat from the military and their massacre operations. If penguins struggle to keep their chicks warm, the Filipino masses fight to keep their families alive and together despite hunger, disease and high levels of criminality which is the inevitable moster-child of a depraved, decadent ruling culture and a profit-oriented society.

The biggest enemy of penguins and their families (aside from lion seals and killer whales which are their natural predators) is the cold; and they flock closely together to generate collective heat. The Filipino poor also should huddle together and unite to build the strongest front against their collective enemies- the destroyer of families, killer of dreams, the blood-sucking System and the government it currently represents in the Philippines.

If animals like penguins can survive the brutality of endless winter (even in the summer, the South Pole is a landscape carved and painted in ice), mate and raise their chicks and defend themselves from predators, then shouldn’t people — the exploited and oppressed — be able to defend themselves as well and fight back?

Penguins only have their fur-like feathers, their sharp beaks. They waddle through the Antartic or they belly-flop through it (their tummies are like tobaggons, and they heave and push themselves along when their legs get tired). Sure they swim very well, but sometimes not fast enough for the ocassional sea lion.

People — the Filipino masses and the Kilusan that represents them- what do we have?

We have everything the ruling classes have except for the stolen wealth, the insatiable greed, the dead conscience, and the ruthless desire for more endless control and power over the nation’s resources.

Their only superiority lies in the physical weapons they have. Outside of that, patas na ang labanan (in fact we’re even superior. Who runs the factories and cultivates the land? Even without the ruling elite, the working classes can run this country. Of course, this with the help of patriotic economists, scientists, teachers, doctors, artists, engineers, writers, chemists etc etc. Professionals and creative souls whose loyalties lie with the poor majority and the country and are not enslaved by love for personal gain and individual achievement).

There is always strength in numbers. This is something we should always remember. This is something the exploited should take advantage of, and wield both as shield and spear. This is why the exploiters always try to divide the people — make them think that there are other ways by which they can achieve their goals and overcome the viciousness of poverty, want, inequality.

Other ways than through collective struggle, through the righteous dictatorship of the working classes and the Kilusan that represents them.

Penguins protect each other and their chicks against the cutting wind and the storms by forming one huge mass of bodies, and they put the weaker ones in the middle. There is always a sense of collective unity — the instinct that they can only survive if they help each other. This lessens the casualty rate, and increases the chances that the majority will survive and a next generation of stronger, hardier penguins will follow.

Let us shield ourselves from the relentless storm and fight for the next generation of Filipinos. The predators cannot maim or kill all of us — even with their ripping claws and poisonous fangs, they cannot destroy an entire people determined not only to survive, but to overcome.

If penguins can do it, so can we.#

September 23, 2009

Say ‘No!’ to Gibo Teodoro

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 7:09 am

gilbert-teodoro-newI’m not to crazy about Mar Roxas being Noynoy Aquino’s running mate for vice-president, but I suppose he could do much worse, no I won’t be crabby about it. I don’t see myself voting for Mar Roxas, though. I completely disagree with his championing the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Malacanang’s reaction to Mar and Noynoy’s promise that they won’t cheat or lie (delivered via dimbulb extraordinaire deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo) that it’s enough to make propaganda statements or slogans is hilarious: she said that candidates should stick to issues.

Right, like her boss Macapagal-Arroyo didn’t exploit her (Gloria’s) faint but noticeable resemblance to superstar Ms. Nora Aunor and used that to fuel her campaign when she first ran for vice-president. And what issues is Fajardo talking about? The issues that her president and their government have made a terrible mess of?

(If only to see if Roxas and Aquino will make good on their promises, it would be interesting to have them win in the 2010 polls. I’m not holding my breath or anything, though).

Malacanang also says that its candidate Gilbert Teodoro has  a more definite edge over Noynoy because he, Teodoro, already has a platform of government and a blueprint for the economy: if he wins (heaven forbid) he will continue the programs began by Macapagal-Arroyo.

That’s Gilbert Teodoro’s game plan and main selling point?! Hell, all the more reason why he shouldn’t be elected!

No one in their right mind believes that this government has done wonders for the economy and that the country is well on the way to true progress and development. Daily we see proof of the wretched state of the nation in the hundreds being laid off on a daily basis; the new taxes Congress is itching to implement (such as the tax on SMS or texts, canyoubelieveit?!!!); the escalating prices of basic commodities. Instead of allowing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to die its long-awaited death, the government extended it, and amended it, making it even worse. We are lightyears away from having  a self-sustaining, self-reliant economy; no genuine heavy industries, and certainly no genuine land reform program; and privatization, deregulation and liberalization has all but killed the chances of majority of Filipinos to buy cheap oil, utilize cheap electricity and avail necessary social services health, housing and education.

And Gilbert Teodoro wants to continue all of Arroyo’s programs?!

The fact that he has remained loyal to Macapagal-Arroyo all throughout is definitely a bad thing. He stood by Macapagal-Arroyo as she maimed and massacred the economy,  rewarded officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who implemented military campaigns of extrajudicial killings, abductions and mass coercion and harassment of civilians and activists. All throughout the investigations into the ZTE scam, he said nothing (loyal nga) and essentially condoned the lies and theft of the presidential hubby and their golfing buddies/allies/fellow criminals.

In the meantime, as DND secretary, Teodoro has done nothing but make excuses and even justify the bombings in Mindanao that have left hundreds of thousands homeless and helpless. The same way that he has always made excuses for this rotten-to-the-core government.

Pamalakaya and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) have said that Teodoro is a male version of Macapagal-Arroyo, and that is so not a compliment. Millions of  Filipinos are sickened and digusted with Macapagal-Arroyo, but here’s a candidate who’s claiming to be  her alter-ego and it’s hysterical that he’s betting on getting elected on that basis, crap crap crap.

The main thing he has going for him (and it’s not something patriots and nationalists look kindly upon)  is the support of the US  government. Signs are rife that he’s the White House’s horse in the RP presidential race because he’s all for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the continuation of the  RP-US Balikatan exercises, and the continuation of the cheap labor policy  and the import-dependent, export oriented set-up of the economy.

Breaking news about Teodoro: Arroyo  cabinet members are beginning to declare their support for Noynoy Aquino. First it was Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, now it’s Cabinet secretary Silvestre Bello III.  I wonder how Teodoro feels about that — he’s being junked by his own co-cabinet members.

250px-The_Witch_of_PortobelloIt’s my first time to read anything by Paulo Coehlo, and so far, I’m not bored.

I’m currently reading his “The Witch of Portobello” and it’s full of deliberations on mysticism and self-healing and self-discovery. I admit I’m not particularly attracted to mysticism in fiction, but Mr. Coelho writes in a way that pulls you in and makes you interested inspite of your own biases. He has a very compassionate and humane way of seeing things, and his characters seek to find self- fulfillment and meaning in helping others, by believing in the Goddess, the Mother —  nature and gentleness.

I’ve read somewhere that Mr. Coelho has written more than 20 books (!); the most famous being ‘The Alchemist.’

When I was a college freshmen, many of classmates were raving about it. At the time I wasn’t inclined to read it because as they explained it and as I understood their explanations, the book was a fairtytale and written in somewhat languid and florid prose. At the time I was pretty stubborn about the books I liked and read, and I wasn’ t easily convinced about books that were popular (meaning I was firm in my stand that  just because it’s popular, doesn’t automatically mean it’s good).

Well, almost two decades later, I’m more flexible and less snooty: there’s nothing wrong with reading ‘popular’ fiction. At least people are reading, right? Sensibilities can only get sharper and more refined, hopefully.

Speaking of popular fiction, I am glad that I read the Twilight books — Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.

I know the books are for teenagers (and they ARE for teenagers, quite unlike the books in the Harry Potter smutts-comic-strip-homage-to-twilighteries which grew heavier and more metaphorical as the plot continued and developed), but they are so very entertaining. Stephenie Meyer uses the language with grace, and she is capable of lovely descriptions and passages. One wonders what she could come up with if she chooses a heavier, more serious topic than vampires and aliens (which is the topic of her book ‘The Host’).

And now the countdown to the movie version of New Moon has begun and I am unabashedly, unashamedly looking forward to it. I want to watch it with friends like Zengki and She, who also like books and who are prone to screaming and giggling like teenagers whenever Edward Pattinson’s name is mentioned).

September 17, 2009

Hurrah for Noynoy! Support Family Planning!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:33 am

pillI am pleased as punch! A day after the Roman Catholic leadership in the country issued statements pressuring him to change his stand on the Reproductive Health Bill,  Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III  has promptly answered that he will not give up his support for the use of artificial contraceptives to curb population growth  — even at the risk of incurring the ire of the Catholic Church.

According to newsreports, Noynoy  has appealed to Catholic bishops, exhorting them to  “wake up to the reality that something must be done to arrest the rapid growth of the country’s population, which now stands at 95 million or almost double the 50 million in 1986.  Noynoy has reportedly said that there really IS a problem, “I hope that the Church will see that I have the reasonableness of my position on the issue,” he said.

It’s very commendable that Noynoy stood firm against the Church and its threat to mount a campaign against candidates in the 2010 election who will defy its supposedly “pro-life” and “pro-family stand” (how’s that for self-righteousness – as if the Church has the monopoly on knowledge, as if it’s the main authority on what is good for families; as if those who support the RH Bill are anti-life and anti-families!)

Noynoy has further stated that while he is in favor of artificial contraceptives, he does not believe that the government  should force couples to practice them, including the use of birth control pills. “I am encouraging the use of contraceptives. But that will be left to the conscience of the person,” he said (Imagine being told that you will rub elbows with Satan and the rest of hell’s denizens for using condoms, for using an IUD, for taking birth control pills! Nevermind that you’ve done nothing but good in your life!)

Another quotable quote from Noynoy: “The State has no right to dictate to its citizens who they should plan their families. It can only provide guidance.” Hear, hear!

Noynoy added that it is the responsibility of the government  to remind the citizens of their duty to take care of the needs of their children, including their education.  He also denied that there is a provision in the RH bill that would allow abortion.

What Noynoy is proposing is that Church leaders should be made to participate in population education program envisioned under the RH bill to enable them to present their side. Let people think for themselves, for crying out loud!

It’s great that Noynoy is unfazed and will not buckle to the pressure of  the Catholic Church.  This all the more strengthens the opinion of some that  he is running not because he wants to be powerful, but because he believes in something and hopes that he can make a difference by being president. It’s not every politician who willingly defies the Church and stands pat on his beliefs on issues regardless of threats that support will be denied his electoral campaign.

As for me, it’s all the more flawed and unjustified for the Catholic Church to present itself as the main authority on life and families when for one thing, priests don’t even have their own families: they’re not allowed to have sex, to marry, and to have children. I know the Church means well, but on this issue (and in some many others…), it is waaaay off the mark. Let parents see the options on how they can take of their families; let mothers and women decide for themselves. If they choose to follow Church doctrine against family planning, fine; but if they choose something else, that’s well within their rights.

The Church  says that it’s out to protect life, but how can you protect the unborn if the mothers who will carry them are unhealthy? Imagine a woman who has given birth four times before, and she’s poor and has no access to medical care. She can barely provide for her children; but since she’s still young, she might still get pregnant. What if she doesn’t want to anymore , because she knows she shouldn’t because her body can’t take it and she’s aware that bearing another child will have severe impact on how she will be able to take care and look after her already existing children – shouldn’t she be allowed to do something to stop herself from getting pregnant?

And for those who do want more children, shouldn’t they be allowed and even encouraged to determine when they’re going to have them? Two years between pregnancies will allow the mother’s body and health to recuperate from the rigor of childbearing and birth; and by then, the previous baby will be a toddler and will be less difficult to look after (compared to taking care of a one year old AND a newborn).

normal_photo_no_240In the meantime, there are so many developments in the field of science that have to do with birth control. There studies that say that pills are dangerous for women’s health. Wouldn’t it be better for people to be able to talk and discuss these developments among themselves and with professional, medical practitioners instead so they can make informed decisions? So they can take care of themselves better? Making something a taboo topic, if it has to do with health and safety, is dangerous.

Some would say that the Church should not get involved in other issues outside religion and faith; I disagree. By all means, the Church and its people should not separate themselves from society and politics, but JEEZ, THEY SHOULD MAKE THE CORRECT STANDS THAT ARE CONSISTENT WITH WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE ECONOMIC,POLITICAL AND CULTURAL WELFARE OF THE POOR AND WORKING PEOPLE.

And how will they know what is good? That’s a different blog altogether. But for starters, I would suggest that they abandon their rich parishes and go to where the poor and oppressed are and listen to them,  discover their problems, live with them and help them to defend and assert their right to eat, to have homes, to have work, to live and not merely exist in a state short of waiting for death or  whatever else that comes before death. The Church should WORK with Filipinos as they fight for life  against entropy and despair — a life that is better, more productive, more meaningful, less troubled, and more dignified.Work and not just preach. Guide instead of order. Respond, instead of command.

Roman Catholic priests can also take lessons from their counterparts in the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

In the meantime, think about this: the Arroyo government has a budget of P252.49  for the health needs of  each Pinoy for entire 2010. This is according to the the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).

Shouldn’t the Church lobby for higher government allocations for health services and cutbacks on military spending and foreign debt payments instead of venting its  ire on the RH Bill?

And for the record, it’s not GOD I have issues with; it’s THE CHURCH.

September 16, 2009

Noynoy Aquino and the RH bill; hearing the Good Word

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:30 am

Reproductive Health Bill copy (Custom)The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has issued a veiled threat that it might not support Noynoy Aquino’s presidential bid. The Church is pressuring Noynoy to withdraw withdraws co-authorship of the Senate version of the reproductive health bill in exchange for its support.

In current reports, The Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato said that Catholic bishops know of Noynoy’s support for the bill and that his support could be bad for his campaign.The Cotabato bishop said, however, that Noynoy  could win the support of Catholic bishops if he drops support for the bill. Everyone knows the backward and ultra conservative stand of the Catholic hierarchy  on the RH bill which, the Church says, indirectly promotes abortion by institutionalizing artificial contraceptives.

Another official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life said that they’re even looking at the possibility of “bloc voting” in support of those who are opposed to the bill. Yet another “pro-life” advocate said that  they will ask Noynoy  to toe the line of the Catholic Church on the issue.

What can I say to this but AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

This is the same Church that has made the most minimal, almost token protest against the corruption of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration; the same Church that has said almost nothing against the extrajudicial killings and abduction  of human rights activists; the same Church that does not even raise it voice or its fist against the massacre of civilians accused of being sympathizers of the the New People’s Army or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; the same Church that cannot categorically give an opposing position to issues like Charter Change; the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the continuing presence of US troops in the country; the miniscule budget allocations for public health, housing, and education. Now it’s making a big stink of Noynoy Aquino’s membership in the Senate health committee and his support for the RH bill!

AAAAAARGH!

Why can’t the Church pay more attention to the quality of life of the living instead of only looking out for the yet unborn and even as yet unthought of? Why can’t it be less conservative and dogmatic and utterly, frustratingly backward?!!

Is it a wonder that I am a lapsed Catholic?!

Would the CBCP and the Church support a candidate, say, Jovito Palparan if he declares himself to be stringently against the RH bill and pro -Catholic?  Would it support the platform of government of  a militarist like, say, Gilbert Teodoro if he says that he’s against artificial birth control methods?!

What are they thinking?! Are they thinking at all?! They’re threatening to boycott Noynoy if he doesn’t toe the Catholic line on reproductive health?!

AAAAAARGH!

Ni hindi nga nagsalita ang Simbahan to condemn the likes of Chavit Singson who beat his partner black and blue to teach her a lesson. Wala. I was waiting for a statement, wala.

Sen. Aquino, please don’t fold; please don’t take back your support for the RH Bill. Women have a right to their own bodies and their health; and children need healthy mothers.  Also, what good is it for children to be born if their parents cannot take care of them, cannot give them not only what they need to survive, but for them to grow up into good, healthy, upstanding citizens? The growing Philippine population is of no real and good use to the country or the people — no economy to support it, and it, in turn, cannot support the economy because there are no real industries, no agrarian reform, no subsidies, no programs to create and utilize a strong and productive citizenry.

And if you buckle and give in to the threat of the Church, what does it say about you and the kind of politics you espouse, the kind of government you seek to build?

——

Yesterday on the long ride to work, I happened to sit next to a female lay preacher.

When I first got on I didn’t know that she was a preacher; she looked like any ordinary early middle age-woman in slim jeans and a dark grey blouse. Her hair showed signs of once having been under the care of a stylist, but has since reverted to its natural wavy state. She wore big wraparound sunglasses with a smoky tint, and in her arms she carried a mailman bag and a transparent envelop.

Some 15 minutes into the trip, I felt the woman tense, and at first I thought she was going to get off; but she just exhaled and began what turned out to be an hour’s worth of non-stop preaching. It was not the usual holly roller’s hollering exhortations peppered with quotes from various parts of the Bible.

She began by greeting people a good morning, and then asked them what sort of thoughts they had upon waking. Were they positive thoughts filled with hope and gratitude, or were they thoughts filled with anger and negativity, tainted with the poison of envy or malice against others? She reminded us of our mortality and the often sudden and random nature of death and dying: who could foresee accidents? Cars crash all the time, planes fall from the sky, and ships sink to the bottom of the ocean. Are we prepared to die, are we willing to meet our Maker when without warning we are called to stand at His feet and account for the lives we’ve had and how we lived them?

She didn’t sound like she wanted to scare us; it was not even a warning of a grim and terrible nature; she sounded, in fact, concerned. She was reminding us. She said that it was always best to be prepared, to be always ready to speak to God when we meet Him of a life well lived and meaningful. A life given to  godliness and kindness; a life lived for the sake of others as a tribute to God to whom we owe everything good and beautiful.

I know I’m making her sound like those manic street preachers I sometimes get annoyed at because they sound so self-righteous; but she didn’t and she wasn’t. She sounded kindly, although her voice rang loud and clear and rose above the noises of early morning traffic.

Most of the passengers looked away, out the window, or at their cellphones, probably pretending to be sending or reading text messages. Many looked embarrassed, some annoyed. I was neither.

I looked at her and listened, studying her breathing, the involuntary way her hands made gestures of supplication and appeal. I felt her to be sincere, and I found nothing essentially wrong about her message that we fight against all this is evil in ourselves and go out of our way to emulate what is good in others. She called on all of us in the vehicle — some yawning, some barely awake– to awaken and see God and goodness in everything and everyone and to work against all that sought to bring evil and blight to the world. She said we must not tolerate corruption in government; to not stand idly by or merely mutter in disagreement as officials whether in the barangay level or the presidency  stole, cheated or lie. She said we must not let ourselves be instruments of indifference and apathy as the world around fell and disintegrated because of cruelty, selfishness and violence.

She said we must find what is good in ourselves and live in a way that is worthy of God.

But it wasn’t good to be merely religious, oh not at all. Religiosity was not enough.

What good is it, she asked, to be religious in word if in thoughts and actions as evil as the kontrabidas on television and the corrupt officials in government? It improved no one’s chances of going to Heaven if one went to church everyday and said mile-long mouthfuls of prayers but ignored the plight of the poor, the needy, the oppressed and the weak. She said that God would rather (well, here she was editorializing, I think; because previously she was quoting the Bible, but not in a pedantic way) that we didn’t go to church, but did good for  other people and did no harm by doing evil deeds to further our own self-interests and in protection of evil.

It was a long drive, but she didn’t stop even to take a drink out of the water bottle she carried with her, its gray and frayed rubber handle curled around her wrist. Neither did she take off her sunglasses or wipe her forehead as beads of sweat formed on it in reaction to the increasing heat of the morning sunlight.

citizen_beyondeden_ad-largeSo I listened to her, and looked at her, and sometimes at the others. I nodded at some points she made and became thoughtful over others, but there was never a time when I felt disagreeing or contesting her. She was making one single argument: we must all start with ourselves, to change for the better if we want goodness to win and for evil to fail. She pleaded for us to be prayerful; but  more importantly, to live selflessly and not always look out for Number One at the expense of others and their welfare. She asked that we seek comfort in the Bible and trust in God,  in His word and not in the promises of Man who always, always errs. She didn’t sound very hopeful, though — sometimes there was even a despairing tone to her voice; but all the time too she sounded very convinced that what she was saying was right.

She rounded up her sermon. She thanked everyone who listened. She began to sit back, and to relax her previously rigid pose.

I couldn’t help it, I turned to her and offered my hand in gratitude.  Surprised, she smiled and took it.

I got off . A different start to a usual day.

September 14, 2009

Noynoy Aquino tops the surveys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:12 am

Noynoy AAccording to the latest SWS survey, if the presidential polls were held later this month, Noynoy Aquino would be get the largest number of votes, and one out of every two voters would pick him over all the other candidates for the presidency. In the survey, Noynoy has the edge in the vote-rich areas of Luzon. Based on the response of 1,2000 respondents, Noynoy received the nod of  50%. Other contenders named in the survey were Manny Villar, Erap Estrada, Chiz Escudero and Noli de Castro.

I can’t say I’m surprised. What I am, however, is a little elated. It’s a good sign that Filipinos are really thinking about their choices. I really hope that they will give very, heavy thought to whose name they’re going to write on the ballot next year, and they won’t be swayed by danceable jingles, movie-star appeal or plain tv q. Maybe the 2010 elections will see Filipinos discussing issues, and demanding more in exchange for their votes than just a P500 bill in their pockets,  paper fans or hats, a handful of candies or a firm handshake from a contender.

My sister’s already asking me who I’m going to support in the polls, and I a bit hesitantly answered ‘Noynoy Aquino.’ I’m not yet completely sold on the man, but so far, he’s the ‘best’ candidate becaue he has the least ambition, and his record is relatively the least tarnished. Now, because of the SWS survey, there are signs  that he is also a winnable candidate.

Noynoy’s oppononets are already making snide remarks and slight insults, like saying that Noynoy should go to charm school. All I can say is WHAT THE HELL?!!! The presidential elections isn’t a beauty contest; candidates should not charm voters but convince them that they’re the candidate who deserves to be trusted based on their platform of government. Sheesh; charm school indeed. It’s clear that even the candidates view the polls as mere exercise in pageantry and entertainment.

My friend Alvin F. professes to be bored with how writers are writing about the political developments in the country. He himself is so amazed at said developments that he describes them to be nothing less than ‘fantastic.’ According to him, writers the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be creating novels based on the changes that happen in the Philippines — changes which, I think, place so swiftly, and with natures so radical and unexpected that they can take one’s breath away, or at least, make one experience  a bout of asthma.

I suppose there IS drama in what’s happening. Who would’ve thought that Noynoy Aquino would be running? His mother died a month ago, and before that he was  not even a blip on anyone’s political radar. Now he’s topping the surveys, and so many are pinning their aspirations for change on him (not me, though). Even his love life is being scrutinized, and for once, his voluble  baby sister isn’t the Aquino in the main spotlight.

—-

I will never tiPossessionre of reading A.S. Byatt’s ‘Possession.’ It’s so beautiful, so intelligent, and in some ways so heartbreaking that is quite impossible to forget. It haunts you, the kind of love it described; and it breaks you, when it speaks of the truth that love has it consequences.

My random thoughts as I reread the novel for the nth time in eight years:

We all love differently, the same way all of us are different. How we go about our loving and how we accept it when love leaves or end are also indelible marks of our humanity. We can only pray for grace, and for gentleness in the process of forgetting.

When we write letters to those who have captured our hearts, we must accept that with each word, each sentence we expose ourselves to the core. We describe, we expound, we paint and weave tapestries of our hopes and our desires, and somewhere between the words and the lines, our innate if unspoken need to be needed back will somehow make itself felt. These letters are part of us: they are us.

Those we seek to possess, also possess us; so it would be better if we embrace rather than hold. We must love with as much grace as we can, so even in parting, we will not regret having loved. Our memories of having loved may be suffused with pain, but will not be lacking in beauty.

I was emailed by one of the people working on the Museum of  Broken Relationships (see previous blog) and was told that I can still contribute despite the deadline.

Karen Kunawicz in her column today in the Manila Times said that she, too, is contributing to the Museum, and it’s a considerable stash that she’s giving:”boots, flip flops, sneakers, exhibit photographs, an HR Giger collectible statue, a Sandman Death statue, a bottle of Ferrari cologne, a bottle of Calvin Klein: Crave cologne, two track jackets, a black buccaneer jacket, a plain gray shirt, two framed digital art pieces, an award from a Graphic Design expo, a bootleg DVD of Lost, a borrowed chess set, a blue towel and a maroon towel.”

Now I’ve been in a few failed relationships, but jeez, I don’t remember accumulating so many things that I wanted or still want to get rid off because they’re sad reminders.  After reading the email-invyt, I thought of this journal I’ve kept all this time and that it would be a happy end to the memories of that specific relationship if I gave their physical repository to the Museum.

It’s a an Anything Book with an midnight blue cover with shooting stars and a fingernail moon, and I was mostly happy the entire time I wrote in its pages. I used black ink and red, and my handwriting often changed from entry to entry ( I’m merely describing here; I cannot ascribe any specific meaning as to why the latter happened).

I suppose I will have to think about whether or not I am willing to have other people read the journal. I guess I could glue the pages together…But then again, it’s mostly a formal and ceremonial goodbye that I’m doing by giving the journal to the Musuem, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Perhaps some of the things I wrote there remain true, but most no longer hold. Love does fade away, and so do friendships. What survives, however, is one’s ability to love, and to accept love; to be a friend, and to be able to offer true friendship. When I reread the entries I made, I feel a kind of happiness at realizing that I was good at describing bliss.

September 11, 2009

The museum of lost loves

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 7:06 am

LovedI am happy: I am looking forward to seeing an art show titled : The Spoils of Love: An Imagine the Silence Exhibit. The exhibit will feature testaments to broken relationships– mementos and vignettes of  loves that once lived and how they died whether through violence and grief; or in a manner like leaves withering away in the fall. I am fascinated by the very idea of this, I who have been through heartbreak, who have written about it in stories and essays as a means of coping and recovering; now there’s a physical, tangible display of  feelings of the same shape and texture as experienced by so many others all across the world!

I would’ve wanted to contribute something or two, but the deadline is today, and I very well can’t rush home to take a teddy bear I have loved for so long, even after its giver and I have ceased to be even friends; or a book  I have loved long before the man who gave it to me was a friend ( I love the book so much I have two ; I loved the giver so much I didn’t tell him I already had a copy and I pretended to have been delighted when he gave it to me. It came from the country where it was written, and it pleased him to think that he remembered her who wrote it, my favorite author, despite her name, to him unusual).

Then there’s a knitted draw-string bag: its giver handed it to me in a paper bag with a huge red heart on both sides. As I took it, he looked away and said “Take care of that; that’s my heart I’m giving you…” The potential corniness, the utter cheesiness of the statement was smothered by the manner in which they were spoken, quietly, almost hesitantly.

Anyways, all that is waaaaay behind me now, and there is no anger or regret; only a certain wistfulness at remembering. I can now be accused of attributing emotion or attaching feelings to innocent, inanimate objects (was it Rilke who made the original, infinitely better phrased quote?).  I feel like writing a story of all these objects of affection, these things which once meant so much more than they were worth because of the sentiment behind them. The tale would be told from the view point of the objects, and they would speak both for me  and themselves. How is it to be at the same time a source of happy memories and painful recollections? How does it feel to be loved, yet necessarily, urgently forgotten?

One looks back at the relationships one has had, and one realizes how each experience whether in heartbreak or bliss changes how you are within and, often enough when there was considerable pain or anger enough, without. How often does a physical transformation possess a story behind it, often fueled by an instinct of self-preservation and the urgency of survival: one can and must outlive a broken heart.The altered hairdo, the new clothes, the whiff of previously unworn perfume, all signs that struggle to convey the message that “I am a different person, not the one whose heart is fragile or cracked because of the unkindess of another; I am not the man/woman whom he/she let go of and dismissed; I am a still here, and I will be here tomorrow, happy and on the way to becoming whole again…”

To the museum of lost loves, one could contribute a shirt or a blouse that was once a favorite because (a) it was a gift from the former beloved; (b) it was once worn during a particularly happy event that could have featured red, red roses, a prettily-wrapped gift, a tremulous declaration almost whispered; or (c) it was praised and the wearer was called handsome or beautiful in it. In the aftermath of the separation or the beginning of distancing, the same piece of clothing will be relegated to the closet, and never be worn again.  New clothes sometimes serve as an empathic expressions of the will to recover and hopefully, forget.

Another one of my favorite authors, Alain de Botton, wrote a book titled ‘On Love.’ It’s a story whose narrative is partly comprised of philosophical musings on the nature of loving and being loved. Needless to say, there were also attempts to objectify and describe the utter loneliness and debilitating pain felt by the suddenly neglected and unloved using the writings of great thinkers (imagine communist manifesto Marx and his namesake Groucho juxtaposed).

In the story, the narrator described a pair of shoes his ex-beloved wore, and how there objects of affection for her, but something to disdain in his eyes. He remembers them, those shoes, because she threw one of them at him in a moment of pique — a scene of sudden, as before unknown however minor violence and anger — , and because they were expensive and fashionable. The mundane and the profound in the evolution of  a relationship. The shoes would definitely have made it to the museum.

So the exhibit opens on Sept. 15 and run until the 30th in Ayala, Greenbelt 5 and 3.  I will be bringing my camera and my preparedness to be hit by waves of memories of people (and objects!) who were once part of my waking thoughts and even my sleeping.

September 9, 2009

Noynoy Aquino joins the fray

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:27 am

NoynoyNoynoy is running! Yellow fever is so on! Yahooo!

Actually, I’m not that excited; but it seems that a lot of other people are, and I can understand why: Noynoy Aquino’s involvement in the presidential fray has officially shaken the political spectrum and I think that there’s going to be real fight now. Noynoy’s the last person one would’ve thought to be throwing his hat in the arena, and now, well…

I’m not at all sold on Noynoy’s declaration and initial promises that he is all for change. He’s not the first one to have said that– in fact, all of the presidental wannabees have issued the same promise, but none of them have given any specifics.

What kind of change are they really talking about anyway? New names, new faces in the cabinet? Sure, that’s easy; but what about the programs and policies when it comes to the economy, foreign relations, cultural affairs, and political governance? Will Noynoy be able able to be put in place a genuinely pro-poor, pro-people and pro-national government– one that is not beholden to any local or foreign power but subservient to the will of the Filipino masses, sensitive to their needs, and obedient to their calls?

I want to know what Noynoy’s stands are on the issues of minimum wage; land reform; mass unemployment; subsidized public housing, education and medical services. I want to know what he intends to do about the ubquitous and treacherous presence of US military troops in the country; corruption in government agencies. It would also be interesting to hear what he thinks about the stubborn stance of the Roman Catholic church against birth control and planned parenthood. Will he dismantle political dynasties and private armies? What is his stand on the extrajudicial killings and abduction of human rights and political activists and journalists?

For the last few days it’s been reported that Noynoy went on some sort of religious retreat so he can contemplate on whether or not he should run for the highest seat. I wonder whether he also thought, not only of whether he can win or not, or whether he can do the duties of the presidency or not, but more about what he can and will do if he does win. I don’t want to be a wet blanket so early on in this rather interesting development, but there really is a tremendous chance that he will be like his predecessors if and when he wins: a representative of his class, one who will give the scantiest attention to the plight of the poor or, if he does pay attention, it will be the wrong kind and he will do more damage than good to their welfare because of the twisted policies he will implement.

I believe that anyone can leave their class interest behind and embrace another. But can and will Noynoy do this and be a traitor to the selfish and narrow economic and political interests of his class and be a hero of the oppressed and impoverished?

For once I agree with Malacanang: it’s not enough to be the son of Ninoy and Cory. Noynoy will have to prove himself not so much that he is worthy to be called their son, but that he is worthy of the trust Filipinos are giving him because he is precisely Ninoy and Cory’s son. And as it is in the case of all those who aspire for true but selfless greatness, he must surpass his parents  and achieve what they were unable to gain for the nation; he must at least try.

I’m not going to be wearing yellow, or flashing the ‘L’ for ‘laban’ sign anytime soon; but I will be reading all news reports and stories about Noynoy.  I will be monitoring his statements, and I will be analyzing them. I am intrigued by this development, and somehow I have this feeling that something good will come out of this (not necessarily a big deal for the Filipino people, but…).

I am prone to cynicism (who isn’t in this country? After being betrayed time and again by those who proclaimed themselves servants of the people and then were inevitably exposed as the laziest but most vicious  masters and slave drivers, I think this should be expected), but this development is of a different stripe. Mar Roxas proclaiming to run wasn’t exciting, it was annoying; but Roxas giving way and Noynoy ascending to take their party banner? Interesting.

September 4, 2009

A longish look at Noynoy Aquino

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:21 am

PHILIPPINES-AQUINO/

Curiouser and curiouser.

Noynoy Aquino for president. Hmmm.

To be honest, the elections in this country make me sick to my stomach. I understand the earnestness and sincerity of the youth groups trying to convince the greatest number of young Filipinos to register and vote in 2010– saying that participating in the exercise is better than being apathetic and simply angry; but if I had a choice, hell, I would have nothing to do with the elections. It’s all a disgusting circus/popularity/money contest to me (excepting of course the participation of the progressive party-lists and Makabayan).

Kaso nga, sheesh, it IS better to register and vote and help man and woman the polls than to be snide and disgusted while doing essentially nothing while the crooks and killers get elected.

Noynoy for president. Hmmm.

Actually, I’ve been thinking of voting for Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, if he’s going to run. I voted for him in the last presidential elections, and I don’t regret it at all. But the 2010 polls is going to be a showdown, and it’s urgent that someone effectively, unequivocally trounce whoever the outgoing administration is going to field. Right now, what is crucial is for the factions and sections of the mainstream political opposition to unite and field a common candidate so the votes won’t be divided.

This is necessary, but it also looks like its going to be hellishly difficult. Too many men and women with messianic complexes also tainted with self-serving ambition and power-greed. I can’t say that there’s any one candidate out there now who doesn’t have the effect of making me at the least feel sightly ill; but Noynoy Aquino’s possible involvement makes things a whole lot different. Ano ba ang primarya, at ano ang sekondarya sa pagboto? May inaasahan ba talaga ako sa eleksyon? Kung meron, ano? Am I expecting any genuine and radical change in the style and objectives of  political and economic governance, or do I believe that we are in for  more or less of the same kind of inept, inefficient and often corrupt leadership we’ve been suffering under for decades?

But Noynoy Aquino — who’da thought? He has been in the political scene for quite some time now, but if he were part of a play, he’d be part of the scenery and not one of the performers.

Noynoy Aquino. He is his parents’ son, and as such, he was raised and taught well. It’s clear he was a good son to his mother, and he is much loved by his sisters and young nieces and nephews. When he was a congressman, he didn’t blaze trails in the House of Representatives; and his election to the senate was much due to his celebrity sister Kris’ endorsement rather than to his own popularity or credibility as a senatorial candidate. As for his stands on issues of the day, well, I can’t remember anything.Sure he must have opinions, but he hasn’t made them known so it’s hard to make a decision on whether he can qualify as a patriot, a human rights advocate or a pro-poor, pro-farmer or pro-labor. The Hacienda Luisita Massacre was not blamed on him solely but on his family, but he was for the most part quiet when it hogged the headlines. He wasn’t self-righteous and he didn’t justify what happened, but neither did he apologize on behalf of his family.

On the whole, Noynoy Aquino doesn’t seem to be a bad person (meaning cast in the mold of Mike, Mikey or Iggy Arroyo; or Jovito Palparan, Norberto Gonzales or Eduardo Ermita for that matter); but he doesn’t strike me as particularly good, either. Does being good simply mean having done nothing hurtful or harmful? That’s a pretty placid definition, and I have some argument with it; with Noynoy, however, this seems to be the case.

Sheesh. This isn’t exactly scraping the bottom of the barrel (that would be supporting Noli de Castro); but it tragically feels almost like it. Wala na bang iba? It’s terrible that so far, the best person for the presidency is someone  who’s main qualification is that he doesn’t want to be president and secondary qualification is that he’s the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino.

In any case, however, I think what’s most important right now is to ensure a sound defeat for the Arroyo camp. And if it means voting for Noynoy Aquino (if the opposition will get its act together and rally behind this man who seems to be least tainted among them, the least ambitious and the only one who is genuinely hesitant and being prudent about seeking the presidency), well, maybe I will.

September 3, 2009

Eggs in a carton

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:09 am

EggsI have a tendency to overthink things. It’s a bad habit that I have long tried to get rid of,  but I haven’t been successful.  I have utterly, miserably failed to stop overdramatizing and making my minor problems into major tragedies.

In college, my friend Nova and I read the books of  Carrie  ‘Princess Leia’, namely  “Postcards from the Edge’ and ‘Surrender the Pink.’ (Ms. Carrie’s other books – ‘Delusions of Gramma’ and ‘The Best Awful There Is’ were as then unpublished), and were shocked to find our own selves mirrored in the characters. Of course I can’t speak for Nova here, so this is where I stop mentioning here and focus on my own realizations. Anyway, so there I was, shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that there really was such a thing as overthinking; that one CAN really really think problems into being.  At the time I was just worried that I had some kind of mental disorder that forced my brain to grab at certain issues and to worry them to death like a particularly naughty puppy with a juicy bone.

Reading Ms. Fisher made me realize that no, overthinking was not a disorder, but yes, it was a problem and yes, thankfully, there was a solution: just freaking STOP IT.  Quit worrying and rethinking and reassessing and just be brave and stand pat on decisions I’ve made and intend to make.

So that was what? 15 years years ago? And yet here I am, today, still guilty of overthinking and then worrying myself sick that I did the wrong thing/said the wrong thing or was just plain WRONG.

I ought to be more confident, I think. Or at least, less confident. Oh it’s quite easier for me to be confident about making decisions that are not strictly personal (in short, work related); but in my own life I am such a wimp. I have more vulnerabilities than eggs in a carton placed in the middle of a busy highway at midday. I am often too thin-skinned (onions have nothing on me), and I, more often than not, pregfer the company of animals and small children to adults (they’e friendlier, infintely less hurtful, and I don’t need to fake smiles with them).

Oh what to do, what to do!

After almost a decade, I again read ‘Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass’  and I’ve been so pleased to realize that I am still enchanted by it – that I still find it wonderful and beautiful and amazing, the same way I  felt about it when I first read the complete version as a child of 12, only now I appreciate the humor more, and the elements of pathos which I find runs likes a very fine, subtle thread through the narrative of the story (re the pathos: I can’t explain it, really; but I do feel it in the book. It’s not Alice, but in the fantastic characters in Wonderland whose existence rely mainly on the imagination of a little girl but they do not know it).

So there I went again — overthinking. Imagine feeling sad and frustrated for the likes of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum! Or sympathizing with the Mock Turtle! It’s not a good thing. Because as I thought of the travails of the twins and the former sea denizen, I began to feel sad and connect the sadness to other things, and it’s a long line of dominoes falling one after the other and I end up in a sorry state of mind. And of course, again, it’s not a good thing.

Maybe I need therapy.

On therapy: it’s only recently that I realized that I read the books of  one of my all-time favorite writers Alain de Botton because they help me sift through the mess that is sometimes my life. I didn’t know that Mr. de Botton’s books on philosophy and art and architecture and travel all qualify as self-help books. And not to sound snooty or disdainful, but what does it mean when you read self-help books?! It simply means that you need help.

I probably need help.

I don’t see my best friends very often these days. They’re all very busy with their own lives and careers and children; the same way I think they view me. But there are days when it’s a Beatles song and I need a little help from my friends to get by. I can’t rely on my books alone (for one thing, they can’t talk back), and left to my own devices during times of minor turbulence, I end up doing retail therapy and regret my emotional purchases soon after (even if they’re books  or music— madalas kasi, wala naman sa budget). I don’t binge, and I don’t drink (at least, not anymore), so what’s left but to wander around a mall inhaling artificially chilled air, trying to clear my messy head.

I could use some ice cream right now. And a doughnut.  It’s not that I’m sad, it’s more like I’m emotionally exhausted over nothing specific.  Seeing a wide, wide expanse of grassy land would be great, and throw in a tall tree with spreading branches casting shadows against the backdrop of warm sunlight.

Thank God for poetry! When all else feels lost, or all feelings are lost, or one simply feels lost.

Stepping Backward by Adrienne Rich.

Good-by to you whom I shall see tomorrow,
Next year and when I’m fifty; still good-by.
This is the leave we never really take.
If you were dead or gone to live in China
The event might draw your stature in my mind.
I should be forced to look upon you whole
The way we look upon the things we lose.
We see each other daily and in segments;
Parting might make us meet anew, entire.

You asked me once, and I could give no answer,
How far dare we throw off the daily ruse,
Official treacheries of face and name,
Have out our true identity? I could hazard
An answer now, if you are asking still.
We are a small and lonely human race
Showing no sign of mastering solitude
Out on this stony planet that we farm.
The most that we can do for one another
Is let our blunders and our blind mischances
Argue a certain brusque abrupt compassion.
We might as well be truthful. I should say
They’re luckiest who know they’re not unique;
But only art or common interchange
Can teach that kindest truth. And even art
Can only hint at what disturbed a Melville
Or calmed a Mahler’s frenzy; you and I
Still look from separate windows every morning
Upon the same white daylight in the square.

And when we come into each other’s rooms
Once in awhile, encumbered and self-conscious,
We hover awkwardly about the threshold
And usually regret the visit later.
Perhaps the harshest fact is, only lovers–
And once in a while two with the grace of lovers–
Unlearn that clumsiness of rare intrusion
And let each other freely come and go.
Most of us shut too quickly into cupboards
The margin-scribbled books, the dried geranium,
The penny horoscope, letters never mailed.
The door may open, but the room is altered;
Not the same room we look from night and day.
It takes a late and slowly blooming wisdom
To learn that those we marked infallible
Are tragi-comic stumblers like ourselves.
The knowledge breeds reserve. We walk on tiptoe,
Demanding more than we know how to render.
Two-edged discovery hunts us finally down;
The human act will make us real again,
And then perhaps we come to know each other.

Let us return to imperfection’s school.
No longer wandering after Plato’s ghost,
Seeking the garden where all fruit is flawless,
We must at last renounce that ultimate blue
And take a walk in other kinds of weather.
The sourest apple makes its wry announcement
That imperfection has a certain tang.
Maybe we shouldn’t turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation–
If not our own, then someone’s, anyway.

So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you’ll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.
Your stature’s one I want to memorize–
Your whole level of being, to impose
On any other comers, man or woman.
I’d ask them that they carry what they are
With your particular bearing, as you wear
The flaws that make you both yourself and human.