Achieving Happiness

April 20, 2010

Andal Ampatuan Jr endorses Noynoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:33 am

I can’t stop laughing over this, goodness! Everytime I read it, I laugh!: Andal Ampatuan Jr, the principal suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre, said his family supports the program of Liberal Party standard party Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III.

Ampatuan said that he and his family believe in Aquino’s program of government and that Noynoy can fix the country’s ‘crooked judicial system’. They’re also endorsing Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Serge Osmeña III, and Ralph Recto.

During a press briefing at the police Camp Bagong Diwa detention center, he wore a yellow ID bracelet signifying his support for Aquino.

‘We want Aquino to win in the elections so we can have change in our country,’ he added. He went on to say that he and his family were not involved in the killing of relatives of a political rival and 32 journalists and media workers.

Aquino has previously demanded that Ampatuan Jr. and other local officials in the November 23 be suspended.

Noynoy’s supporters are going nuts decrying Ampatuan’s support their standard bearer, and while I understand why exactly they’re going nuts, I can’t help but find the entire thing funny. Why get upset over the endorsement of a monster? It’s not like Ampatuan’s endorsement means anything, but because Noynoy’s supporters have become, over the last few months, increasingly shrill, defensive and uptight, they’re now losing their heads over this latest, uh, development.

I’m not supporting Noynoy, but really, Ampatuan’s endorsement should not be taken seriously! Relax, people. The man’s a lunatic — he ordered and helped carry out a massacre, killing 57 people including a pregnant woman in cold blood! It’s not like his endorsement counts for anything, gad. Pero kung may mga boboto kay Noynoy precisely on the strength of the Ampatuans’ endorsement, I suppose that’s not something they can be proud or happy about.

On a serious note, there’s a November 2009 story released by Newsbreak that traces the Ampatuan clans’ rise to power. I don’t know if Noynoy, his sisters and their supporters are aware of this, but it was Corazon Aquino and her government who ushered the Ampatuans’ entry in the country’s political circus.

According to the report, Cory , right after the Edsa Revolution in 1986, removed all the duly elected local officials and appointed OICs. In Shariff Aguak) in Maguindanao, the mayor then was Pinagayaw Ampatuan. The old guy was going to resign because he was, well, old, but the Cory government followed the succession rule and installed the vice mayor as OIC instead of appointing a different person. Guess who the replacement OIC was?

That first-term vice mayor was Andal Ampatuan Sr. Andal Sr. became OIC mayor and he was backed by former Senator Salipada Pendatuna Liberal Party stalwart. The rest is twisted history.

In the meantime, here’s what Noynoy’s supporters should consider: Aquino’s glee over the support the US governments seems to be offering him.

Rep. Satur Ocampo has warned already Aquino against opening the doors for unprincipled and unpatriotic compromises in his talks with US officials. He said that his worry was was based on what appears to be Noynoy’s unmistakable elation over the unofficial feelers the US government has been supposedly sending the Liberal Party and his own self.

“Sen. Aquino is clearly flattered that he is being contacted by emissaries the US government, as if he received a benediction. Are we to take it that if he wins, he will prove to be another Philippine president malleable and grovelling to the wishes and demands of the US? We hope that Sen. Aquino will not be Amboy (American boy),” Rep. Ocampo said.

Noynoy is clearly eager to the US government’s top puppet in the Philippines. Why else would he crow over unofficial feelers the US government has been supposedly sending his camp? If signs are true and he wins, the US and the Philippines’ lop-sided relationship will continue. In the meantime, given Noynoy’s virulent, anti-activist stance as evidenced in his insults against the supporters of the struggle of the Hacienda Luisita farmers, in his attacks against the National Democratic Movement and his embrace of the likes of pseudo-progressive, fake liberal Risa Hontiveros, well, we can foresee that the democratic space will become more limited.

It’s terrible that Noynoy sounds mighty proud for having been contacted by the US government, as if he received a benediction. Are we to take it that if he wins, he will prove to be another Philippine president malleable and grovelling to the wishes and demands of the US?

Now that is not something I don’t care to laugh about.

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April 19, 2010

Noynoy Aquino and the pyscho report

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 12:55 pm

The 2010 elections certainly looks like the dirtiest ever in the history of Philippine polls. And no, it’s not so much because there’s most likely to be cheating despite (some would cynically say because of) automation, but because the candidates carry buckets and buckets of mud and they’re flinging it at each other and in the process, the muck makes everyone else feeling disgusted and nauseated.

It cannot be denied that Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party were the ones to first throw mud, and directed it against Manny Villar and the Nacionalista Party. First attack: they questioned Villar’s class origins and the said that the man lied when he said thath his younger brother died as a result of poverty. LP even came out with a supposed authentic copy of the death certificate and they went through it with a fine-toothed comb. According to LP stalwarts including columnist and Noynoy Aquino fan Conrado de Quiros and Winnie Monsod, Villar lied about being poor, lied about his brother, and hence he cannot be trusted to be the nation’s president.

My first reaction? I was disgusted. Imagine dragging out the death certificate of a young boy and using it against his brother! Imagine trying to poison the public’s perception of a rival candidate by saying that the man was not really poor, only middle class. How low can you get? And it’s reverse elitism: to have been really poor is now the best thing for a candidate to be because it resonates with the masses. There’s something twisted about it all.

The Liberal Party and Noynoy have completely failed to address the issue of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and how Aquino was flatly contradicted by an uncle’s statement when the latter said that there was no way that the Cojuangco’s were going to give up the hacienda. Being unable to dance, sing or sneak away from the issue, they have chosen instead to ridicule it, and to dismiss the victims of the massacre as rabble rousers who had no business participating in the strike. Aquino himself sneered as he charged Rep. Satur Ocampo of being a ‘ringleader’ of the strike and behind the chaos the ensued.

On November 16, 2004, combined forces of the police and military attacked the strikers with teargas and then bullets: 72 were badly injured, 27 sustained gun shot wounds, and 110 were arrested by the police. By early evening, it was also discovered that seven were killed: Jhaivie Basilio, 20 years old; Juancho Sanchez, 20; Jessie Valdez, 30; Jaime Fastidio, 46; Jesus Laza, 34; June David, 28; and Adriano Caballero Jr., 23. Aquino sneered and dismissed their deaths as mere propaganda and the massacre itself as nothing but a disturbance. His sisters, in the meantime, called the workers ‘spoiled.’

It was nothing but amazing to me how long it took for the Nacionalista Party and its leaders to retaliate. I was expecting fire and brimstone, but Sen. Villar, in all his tv interviews and comments aired over public radio was calm. Upset, surely, but not incensed. He merely shrugged and said that he’s willing to give Aquino a tour of the old Villar house (a wooden affair that just barely escaped being a shanty in Tondo) if Aquino would accompany him to Hacienda Luisita.

The NP then came out with with exposes on how Noynoy aquino’s relatives are working with the Macapagal-Arroyo administration: these relatives include his aunts, former Senator Teresita Aquino Oreta, who is head of the Early Childhood Care and Development Council under the Office of the President; former Tarlac Gov. Margarita Cojuangco who is president of the Philippine Public Safety College under the Department of Interior and Local Government; and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, Arroyo’s image consultant.

Aquino’s uncle, Paul Aquino, is the president and chief executive officer of the Energy Development Corp. under the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company. Newly-designated environment and natural secretary, Eleazar Quinto, is married to Kashiwahara’s daughter.

What was the NP’s point? That Aquino lied when he said that he will have no problems with relatives meddling in the presidency should he win because they were not power hungry or at the least, unconcerned with the political goings-on.

As for Aquino’s declaration that the LP as he led it was the genuine opposition, the NP retorted: why the hell then did Aquino vote against playing the infamous ‘Hello, Garci?’ recordings during the congressional investigations on the same?

When the NP standard bearer expressed delight over Baby James Yap’s sudden and accidental ‘endorsement’ of Villar during an LP sortie in Bacolod (the look of Kris Aquino’s face was indescribable), the LP standard bearer and Baby James’ uncle fired off that Villar was clearly desperate because he, Villar, had been happy over a tot’s ‘endorsement.’

And on and on. The two camps blasted away at each other and it was quite noticeable that in the midst of the mudslinging, the issues — the real issues were not being discussed. Oil prices increased yet again, electricity rates spiked, and the Morong 43 continued to be denied their freedom. The perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre were one by one being released or the charges against them dismissed. The economy continues to sink, privatization of health services and exorbitant costs of medicine causing many to die of curable diseases. And on and on.

Now, finally (I ramble when I blog, sorry), we come to the issue of ‘Noynoy Abnoy’ and the brouhaha over candidates needing to be psychologically tested. The amount of mud in this issue weighs a ton.

Two weeks ago, ABS-CBN came out with a report saying that the psychological report on Noynoy Aquino which was circulating on the wen and elsewhere was bogus. ABS-CBN clearly intended to kill the issue by coming out with it and, of course, what happened was the exact opposite.

In the supposed report that was at least a decade old, it was said that the patient, “Is a 36-year old single male with a history of profuse salivation and labile moods since his childhood. He was observed to be sleeping excessively, disoriented and confusing family and household member’s name. When interviewed at the time of psychiatric assessment, the patient said he had difficulty in speech, poor concentration, impaired thinking and melancholia brought about by the stresses of his work and the break-up with his flight attendant girlfriend. He also claimed he felt clumsy and uncoordinated. He also describes what appeared to be a deep sense of foreboding and feeling that the “world was coming to an end.” He appeared disoriented. There was some difficulty in communicating due to his deep depression and melancholia. On mental state examination, he was a lanky man of medium height who was mildly psychomotor retarded with a latency of verbal replies, and a slowness of movement. He was preoccupied with his inner thoughts, brooded and felt melancholy. He appeared quite elevated and irritable when he spoke of the loss he was feeling when he recounted his relationship with his girlfriend. He expressed a poorly-formed grandiose delusion that the world was ending and described feelings of foreboding but no disturbance in any other sensory modality. The patient was oriented in person and place, with only very mild impairment of time. Attention and concentration deficits were evident, though much in the slightest and confirmed on formal testing that he had minor difficulty in counting down by seven from 100 and could not readily spell some words backwards…”

And on and on. The diagnosis? Major depressive disorder.

If the psychological report is true, then Sen. Aquino deserves nothing but sympathy and wishes for his full recovery. And my initial thought: Whoever released the report was contemptible. It was by all reckoning below the belt. And I correct myself: the issue can’t be called ‘mud’, it’s a giant wad of gooey, green-yellow phlegm.

But then again, what if Noynoy Aquino really is a depressive, what are the chances that if he does win as president, he won’t, well, lose control and plunge into deeper depression and this will influence all decision-making? Already there are clear signs that he has a streak of meanness, and he lacks patience when it comes to criticism and critics. What then?

What if the lackluster record as a congressman and senator was directly a result of his psychological state? Even his employment history was boring: he was a retail sales supervisor for Nike shoes; as assistant for promotions and advertising in Mondragon (a company owned by Mrs. Aquino’s friends); a vice president for a security agency; and a fields supervisor for Hacienda Luisita. This is hardly the employment history of an achiever — any headhunter worth his salary can see that.

I guess it’s not easy being the only son of Ninoy and Cory and the pressure to be exceptional must have been great when he was growing up, and imagine how low his self-esteem must’ve been whenever he heard insensitive people make comments that he was nowhere near being like his father or his mother? And imagine how it is to be an older brother to someone like Kris Aquino (the exact opposite of a manic depressive) who took easily to the limelight and hogged it whenever she could.

I officially feel sorry for Noynoy Aquino, but I’m still not voting for him. If anything, I have another reason why I’m not supporting him: I would much rather he left the race, went to Hawaii and planted pineapples, surfed, and learned to be bartender at one of the better hotels. The man needs to be happy. The people who goaded him into running (the likes of Franklin Drilon, Florencio Abad) and his columnist friends/fans (like Conrado de Quiros, Manuel Buencamino) don’t really care for him — a person, an individual –they only see what he supposedly symbolizes (but in reality cannot actualize). Can Noynoy deliver all that he is promising (the lines his propagandists are feeding him and making him memorize for his ads, for instance)? Or will he have a nervous breakdown when the going gets really tough?

I’m not being sarcastic here, but jeez, if he does have a conscience after all, imagine how he feels knowing that there’s blood on his family’s doorstep because of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre? That would throw anyone into depression and it would take at least a decade’s worth of therapy and medication to find a cure.

I am now seeing all the mudslinging from a different standpoint: whoever released the report was doing Noynoy Aquino a favor. Aquino has been for the most part a washout of a politician, and not all the hype can change that. What has changed in my perception of him (pre-pyscho report I just saw him a hypocrite who had nothing useful prior to his being LP’s presidential nominee) is this: there’s a serious psychological reason why he has been a washout, and this (among other reasons which include his empty platform, his lack of political experience, his compromised political allegiances and his obvious inability and refusal to right the wrongs of Hacienda Luisita) makes him unfit to be president.

Finally, an open letter to Noynoy from a supposed classmate from the Ateneo. I can only shake my head over how Noynoy Aquino must feel if he read this.
Dear Noynoy:

We were classmates at the Ateneo and I have no doubt that you would remember me even if we were not close. Hint: I was one of those who ribbed you about the low grade that Father Kreutz gave you in math because you could never seem to get your fractions right. Remember going ballistic over that ribbing? [Reverend Wiliam “Bill” Kreutz, SJ, is a long-time Ateneo teacher from New York who founded the Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines—JR. All subsequent bracketed phrases are mine.]

Anyway, reading the psychological report that was posted on the Internet a few days ago certainly made me remember you. I heard you say on the news that the report was fake but you did admit that there were some things in it that were true. “Part truths” I think were your exact words. It fascinated me enough to want to read the report carefully to check out which were those things that were true.

Obvious things first, those facts that any of our classmates can confirm if asked. One of these is, as the report says, you have a labile disorder. This is whole truth. Even Father Gorospe would be distracted by your drooling during our oral exams. [The late Reverend Vitaliano Gorospe, SJ, was connected for a long time with the Ateneo Theology Department.] Father Ferriols, who made a point of showing he didn’t like you, would make side comments about it that led your classmates to give you the nickname “Cooper,” a reference to Cupertino school where we would teach Catechism to retarded children. I, however, never called you Cooper. [Reverend Roque Ferriols, SJ, taught Filipino Philosophy at Ateneo.]

The report says that you have a “major depressive disorder.” Well, I honestly don’t know if that is true. What I do know is that in school you were very temperamental and had sudden mood swings. Isang minuto, nakikikain ka kay Brudda Francis, maya’t maya nagagalit ka na. Many of our classmates can attest to witnessing scenes like this.

The report said that you used to go with your mom to see Dr. Manuel Escudero. That is a whole truth. I remember seeing you at Tito Maning’s high-rise apartment on Roxas Boulevard when we were still kids. Tito Maning was a consultant with the WHO here in Manila but he was also a psychiatrist who treated only the high society people in Manila. Even Imelda Marcos was his patient. Unfortunately, so was my mom who suffered from insecurities due to my dad’s numerous infidelities.

Tito Maning’s wife, Tita Jo, was a very good artist who had a couple of exhibits of her work before they left Manila for good a few years after martial law was declared. They lived in Topeka, Kansas. After they left, I kept a correspondence for a while with their very cute daughter Nina who I am sure you remember. I had such a crush on her. Maybe you did too. She used to talk to us “little folk” in the sala of their apartment while the “big folk” would lock themselves in the room and discuss “big folk” matters. She wanted to go to ballet school or some dance school which she did, I think, and I eventually lost track of her.

About your smoking marijuana, I also can’t say if that is wholly true. What I do know is that you would try to tag along with a group of students that would hang out with Ma’am Gloria Arroyo. [Yes, President Arroyo herself.] Mga students niya sa Economics. She was always surrounded by bright and handsome students kaya hindi ka pinapansin. Pati si Ma’am Placer, she never gave you the time of day kasi people said you were “medyo weird” and your grades were mababa per her standards.

Pero, you still tried to hang out with those guys. Trying hard to belong ba. I know those guys would drink na kasama pa si Miss Rosales na pag lasing na, kumakanta ng Spanish songs in Spanish. They would drink dozens of bottles of beer at Shakey’s Katipunan because Mrs. Ramos (our Spanish teacher in case you don’t remember) owned the restaurant. This group was also known to also smoke joints in the college auditorium, up in the closed space where the spotlights were. So, if you were hanging out with them then, you were probably also smoking marijuana too.

The report said you had a flight attendant girlfriend. This is another whole truth. I will not mention her name here to protect her but she was a PAL stewardess. I found out about this because I was on a flight with Father Samson [probably Ateneo de Davao president Reverend Antonio S. Samson] once and she was the one who seated us. When she found out we were from Ateneo, she introduced herself and said she was the girl friend of an Atenean and mentioned your name. Father Samson then asked jokingly if you were a good boyfriend to her. She shrugged and said you were “okay” but she was bothered because you were “too conservative.” You didn’t even like to kiss her daw because you were saving her for the wedding night. And you insisted that she dress very conservatively. Jealous boyfriend ka daw. No wonder that relationship ended. Maybe that’s why you got so depressed over it.

About the report. I know that [Ateneo-based Jesuit psychologist Reverend] Tito Caluag is one of your best friends. His group of “friends” are some of the richest and most influential people in the country today. I know that you used to frequently visit his home. He hosts get-togethers where things that are too esoteric for me are the subjects of discussion. At one time, this group of yours even discussed the ousting of [Ateneo president] Father [Bienvenido] Nebres because Tito Caluag had his own ideas on how Ateneo should be run. Maybe your closeness to him is why he was the one you went to when you were depressed and why he was the one who handled your case and signed your psychological report. To keep things quiet.

But I confess I actually don’t know. I do know that Tito Caluag was at one time your sister Kris’ father confessor. He may not be a very trustworthy father confessor, though, because many have heard him say aloud that “walang ginawa si Kris Aquino dito sa Ateneo kundi habulin si Alvin Patrimonio at mag-emote sa quadrangle”.

Anyway, yun muna. Good luck on your presidential run. If you become president of the Philippines, that would be really something, huh? From “Cooper” to “Mr. President” when brighter and more scheming Ateneans like Mar Roxas and Dick Gordon have not been able to make it is an achievement that Ripley should feature.

Your old friend,

Tomcat

April 15, 2010

Visiting India

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:57 am

I’ve never been to India, and I doubt that I will ever be able to go there but all the same it feels like I have been to India, and that the experience has left me amazed (and hungry, because many descriptions also have to do with food!)

So far I have read four books about life in India, and three of them were written by Indians. The fourth book was written by an American, and his storytelling is about how easy it is to be lost in India, the same way anyone can get lost in his own country when one is not in touch with its realities and the length and breadth of its history, the waking and breathing energy and the grief of its people.

In the Sari Shop, the story evolves around the life of a young shop clerk in a sari shop and how he responds to the life he believes was not meant to be his. He is surrounded by beautiful saris, but his life is barely influenced by beauty: an orphan, he lives alone and makes do with the most meager of means. Happiness is not something immediate to him, not even when he experiences it does he recognize it for what it is.

The India in this book deals with the divides between the rich and the poor, and how even within the ranks of both rich and poor there are divides. The poor take advantage of their fellows, and the rich live their life trying to be foreign even as they keep an iron grip on their superiority as upper-class, upper caste Indians. All this awakens in the young shop clerk an awareness of how his future was stolen from him, and its shames him to realize that even the knowledge of this injustice fails to goad them into changing his life. He fears leaving the confines of his small world despite the unhappiness and the lack of fulfillment. He is trapped in a sari shop, the same way India is trapped by its culture and traditions that refuse to recognize individuals, only classes, only caste.

John Irving wrote “A Son of the Circus” and while his protagonist, Dr. Farrokh Daruwalla, was born in India, he is lost in his own country and struggles to be Indian. It is a novel written with humor, but its observations can all the same cause visceral pain.

Farrokh loves his country but fears that all that he knows about India is what he learned from the exclusive country club, the Duckworth Club, he belongs to. He studied in Vienna, married an Austrian, and practiced and settled in Canada. Every three to five years he goes home to India, but or the most part since his father (a famous orthopedist and a virulent Anglophile) was killed by religious extremists, ‘home’ has been the Duckworth Club. He lives as an awed spectator in his country where cows are worshipped, 11-year old girls can be prostitutes, eunuchs are invited to bless newborns and there are processions in tribute to elephant-headed Ganesh. He knows his country’s violent and tumultuous history before Independence, but he would be the last to say that he understands it. He is a man who tries hard to be good, but in his heart of hearts he worries that he isn’t because he is bewildered in his understanding of his nation and his people.

The India in Son of the Circus is vibrant and colorful, noisy and exotic. One can practically smell and see the stench and blackness of the gutters and the shanty communities.There is violence, there is religion, there is politics and all three combine to create a nation still a long way to coming to a peaceful understanding of itself. Farrokh is the immigrant, a stranger in his strange country, the same way so many Filipinos are alienated from their own country and culture because of colonial mentality, ignorance of history, and the deliberate efforts of the state to blind us from reality.

I’m only three-fourths through Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ and its almost impossible to put down. It’s not surprising that it won the Booker Prize in 1980 and has been touted to be one of the best books in the last 100 years. It’s an amazing read and unputdownable. It’s allegorical and political and fantastic. The novel is clever and funny and it affirms how powerful literature is, how it can be used to both document and understand history, but it all depends on whose vantage point you’re using. It’s all about connectivity and relativity, the role even the seemingly insignificant can play in the most important events that impact on a nation’s struggle to be whole. It’s about tracing your roots in your nation’s history, and the folly of not learning from it.

The protagonist, Saleem Sinai tells his the story of his birth and his youth as he writes it down in the form of a biography. His personal history is woven with details of the political and social upheavals in India from the time of the Mahatma to Nehru to Indira Gandhi. At birth — on the stroke of midnight of August 15, 1957 , the day that ushered in an fledgling nation, an India independent of British rule- he was endowed with the ability to hear people’s thoughts and to communicate telepathically with the 1,001 other Indian children born the same hour he was, but he discovers this ability only on his 10th birthday, also the tenth year of India’s independence.

He tries to convince other midnight’s children to use their powers and gifts for some useful purpose, but being children, they are at odds with each other. Language, religion, class and caste, upbringing separate them, and around them extreme poverty exist hand-in-hand with religious conflict, regionalism, and fanaticism. Saleem represents India, and it is an India that cannot come to terms with its various gifts, sometimes tragically wielding them against itself.

The novel also rushes the reader through the conflicts India has had with China and Pakistan, and the impact is more bewilderment (and the storyteller, Saleem, also sounds bewildered and lost). Hindus versus Muslims and against foreign aggressors and even among the ranks of the leaders of the Hindus and the Muslims there are divisions and the narrator, a teenaged Saleem, cannot provide any explanations for the wars and what he implies to be the senselessness of so many, many violent deaths.

I first read Arundhati Roy’s first novel and Booker Prize-winning work in 1997 when it first came out. Reading it was nothing short of a journey –towards an affirmation of certain truths internal and basic to myself, and the realization that in this life, the precious and fragile things are often crushed under the weight of selfishness, malice and even mere apathy.

The God of Small Things is a graceful and strong commentary regarding the social and political realities of the author’s native India; its history, and the cultural, religious traditions that both shape and maim its people. It’s also a critique of revolution: the one that encompasses societies and what transformations could be born in its wake; and the kind that involves the self and how one comes to terms with what society has forced on the heart and mind.

I understood more about the caste system reading the novel than all the lectures I’ve heard on it in high school and college. How it divides the nation, how it separates those who love and the ones they choose to love; how it has resulted in the brutal killing of many who spoke out against it and the vicious oppression it brings.

These lessons in history, politics and culture Arundathi delivered (pointedly, painfully) through the careful weaving of the tragedy of the luminous young mother Ammu, her two-egg twins with the single, Siamese soul, eight-year olds Estha and Rahel, and the man they loved, the Untouchable Paravan Velutha. Ammu is a woman and a daughter in a culture and society where the worth of women and daughters are measured by the monetary value of the dowries their fathers can give for them. Intelligent and strong willed, she is forced to live at the scornful tolerance of her family. She raises her twins by herself, having divorced an alcoholic husband.

It goes against all that’s humane and compassionate in human nature to why barriers have to be formed to separate people from others. The laws of physics, geography and biology are more than enough to create distances between people; but other people still — through specific perverse and self-serving motives, using the deceptive language of greed and power, the weapons and means of capitalism and acts of treachery and pretense to progressive mindedness – contrive to erect more barriers, create more laws that divide and make the distance even harder to breach.

In the meantime, Arundhati also makes her own feelings about communism and the humanity of genuine communists felt in how she depicts Velutha.

All four books have allowed me to see, feel and taste a little of India, and all four of them in their own respective ways serve — as all good and meaningful (to me) literature does to the nation it describes and the culture it mirrors– as insightful commentaries on India and its culture, its people, its society and its history. India in the four novels, remain a nation still in the process of uniting with itself and its contradictions. Its people possess such a wealth of gifts, but collectively, they have as yet to fulfill their destiny as children of midnight, the hoped for harbingers of justice, democracy and equality who will create a humane society.

Many philosophers since Plato have tried to interpret the world and the unwritten laws that make people hate and kill, love and nurture, create and destroy and then defined them in terms of religion, science, race. Some have taken to categorizing them as the boon or bane of the gods or one single God. The German philosopher Karl Marx, meanwhile, synthesized these laws for humanity and labeled them as elements of class struggle.

India possesses one of the most influential cultures in the history of civilization (contributing to the world’s art, literature and science) , and even if it doesn’t know it, it will be force to reckon with once it gets its act together. In a way, India is like the Philippines which, despite being a so-called Christian, Catholic country, is full of conflict, and not a few of them caused by religious bigotry and the ignorance fostered by the narrow interpretation of faith. The Philippines cannot come to terms with its history, and many are in denial or too scared or too stupid to acknowledge the past. Because of its tragic failure, there is no genuine movement towards progress and development.

Next time I’ll try to write reviews of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose’s books. They’re quite angry, and they’re all about what makes Filipinos the way we are.

April 13, 2010

Learning to be still

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 1:37 pm

An observation.

The toys in the girls section of Toys ‘R’ Us and Toy Kingdom are annoying. They’re mostly pink, they’re too shiny and sparkly, or too soft and huggy, and the over-all impression in cloyingly sweet. Stuffed animals with fur in improbable colors. Make-up kits and dolls that look like babies or like women with no better things to do than spend their days in front of the mirror preening. Pedicure sets and hair grooming collections complete with booklets on how to braid hair. Then there are the homemaker toys — small versions of real appliances like blenders and toasters, washing machines and microwaves. While I have nothing against children being taught housework, I can’t help but wonder about the message behind giving a child a toy vacuum cleaner and an apron. And though it is necessary to instill in children the necessity of keeping neat, I cannot appreciate or agree that this can be done by giving them nail polish, glitter lotion and play-lipstick.

Oh but I love the the boys’ section where the toys are metallic and black, and they look sturdier and more solid than they really are! They are toys that recognize intelligence and skill; they pay their dues to imagination and give it football-fields of space to run wild. There are robots and kits on how to build a robot. There are building blocks and logs and bricks.There are 3D models of the digestive system, the circulatory system, a transparent representation of a baby in utero. There are microscopes and telescopes and make-your-own gyroscopes. There are star maps and miniature representations of the Solar System. A child can learn, his/her curiosity awakened.

But the best toys are always the toys that children create and put together themselves. The truck made from a discarded shoe box, the telephone system made of two sardine cans connected by string, the kite of old newspaper and walis tingting., the slingshot painstakingly carved from a tree branch, the dried leaves that are, through an active imagination, transformed into fish, meat, chicken parts.Sand turns to grains of rice, buttons into money, and pebbles mixed with water becomes sago and gulaman (though of course, they don’t float and sink straight to the bottom).

Note to self: Children are so easy to please, and it’s so easy to make them happy. It doesn’t cost anything to get them to smile. I have to remember this next time I am worried that Miko needs more toys because even now, she fashions playthings from everyday household objects.
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I have just realized that I do not know how to relax. Really. It’s hard for me to truly calm down and to keep my thoughts quiet. It’s almost impossible for me to not run around in my own head thinking of this and that, worrying over a thousand and one things in quick succession and it’s exhausting, I tell you – really drop-dead tiring.

I don’t know how this came about, this inability to sit still; and I can’t seem to remember a time when I was still capable of contemplation. Surely I was not always this angry?

(Oh I can contemplate and ruminate and be quiet — but seldom without the aid of a particularly good book and there’s poetry in the prose and the imagery is muted but graceful and I reread sentences and whole paragraphs in wonderment at how so much can be evoked by so few words — and what it all is is sad.

Sad how I cannot fully appreciate small moments, in little increments, sudden bursts of beauty or pockets of delight in the sight of a newly-blooming flower or the sound of a much loved song almost forgotten because of the years that passed between myself and the last time I heard it. Sad that a minute after of looking at a candle’s lightly dancing, dimpling flame, I am bored and restless. Sad that I cannot sustain happiness long before something else a worrying thought, a fear, a sudden remembrance of an unpleasant recent event shoves itself in, displacing glee, killing smiles.)

I was not this unstill, unquiet, uncalmable when I was younger. And right now as I admit all this to myself I realize how old I really am and that with age does not necessarily come peace and acceptance. The older I get and the more I learn about the world and why it is the way it is, I become even more unsettled and more easily upset and the incapacity to appreciate silence, to lose myself in it and to embrace stillness not steeped in either loneliness but merely naked in in the absence of disturbing, jarring, noisy sound, well, this inability to stop and to to be still worsens.

I would like to relearn stillness. To be able to keep still not so much physically but mentally and emotionally and to learn to live in the NOW and not always flinging myself into WHAT COMES NEXT or WHAT COULD BE and be always full of worry and fear and energy frantic. The state I am in most of the time is comparable to a rickety train making it way along wooden tracks and it’s a mostly uncomfortable journey towards somewhere as yet unknown but there’s a small spark of hope that it will not be a hostile destination: maybe there will be flowers, perhaps there will be poetry and the wind will blow gently bringing with it the scent of of a not-so-distant sea.

I will light candles and see the flame for what it is and not what it represents. One thought, one emotion at a time. Wish me luck!