Monthly Archives: February 2013
The Comelec has ruled and evaluated applications for the post of Senator and came up with a list of qualified personalities. The list includes only 33 names. Earlier, the constitutional body has evaluated a number of names and thereupon issued a decision: 53 were disqualified. Of the original applications submitted, 9 withdrew, while 9 declined. There is also a list of prospective aspirant numbering 20, but they never proceeded with the formalities.
Of the 33 qualified aspirants coming from 12 known political parties, 12 are expected to be voted into office this coming May, 2013.
The following list (not in the correct electoral order though) has been grabbed from initial survey among the thinking class of Mindanao. They are:
- Chiz Escudero
- Loren Legarda
- Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
- Ricardo Penson
- Alan Peter Cayetano
- Teodoro Casino
- Richard Gordon
- Grace Poe
- Jose Angara
- Eddie Villanueva
- Aquilino Pimentel
- Risa Hontiveros
Note that there are names from the list of 33 qualified candidates, which merely rode on the popular names of their seniors but are perceived as merely popular without legislative plans to offer, who were dropped. The people, those surveyed, may have seen through it.
While there are familiar names which may be construed as traditional in the surveyed poll where the so called magic 12 has been chosen, they have successfully projected independence and competence in their chosen field.
In the surveyed magic 12 list, only 3 are experienced and elected Senators previously. 2 are virtually unknown in the political field, and 4 of them once submitted themselves as contenders in the highest office of the land. All of them, in the personal and collective perspective of those who were asked, are considered youthful, idealistic and capable legislators.
The so called thinking class includes students, school faculty, those gainfully employed and professionals. They represent the core of the middle class. Unfortunately, in the Philippine setting, they only belong to the minority.
I used to spend all my afternoon break in Fort Santiago when I was still a student of Letran College. It was just a 10 minute walk from my school. I would appreciate those mementoes of Dr. Joe Rizal specially his belt, a number of talismans, books, shirt and pants among others. As for his sartorial taste, I thought that those were my clothing too. Rizal was about my size and I could relate how he stood from ground up. Actually I am taller by a couple of inches. And then there was this compilation of his letters to his priest confessor requiring him to retract and surrender his beliefs and membership from masonry. That was my first appreciation of the word masonry aside from its operative meaning. Furthermore, I learned that almost all of Rizal’s colleagues in the Propaganda Movement were all masons.
Contemplating on Masonry
After graduation, I thought of inquiring about it. My father was mum about the organization; my mother was even against it. Since they could not answer the why, I persevered to know more about the fraternity. My first and last stop was the Grand Masonic Lodge in San Marcelino St., Taft Avenue, Manila. It was a very imposing and a vintage edifice with a number of ancient looking sculptures. It looked impressive as it projected quite a number of symbols from vines, to flowery shrubs to mean looking artworks. I stopped short however from entering the massive entrance door made of solid acacia and thought that it would not served my youthful and inquisitive mind. I would rather enter it later if I would have the stomach for such intellectual adventure. Meanwhile, I would merely coast along some fraternal orders composed of my peers in college.
Membership in Freemasonry never left my mind though. But I had no idea how to join it. Until one day, several years later, a friend would accompany me to a Masonic lodge. I would be impressed on how they would deal with applicants. First, the candidate must be a confirmed man, without defects and with a clear state of mind. He must act and apply on his own without any reference from members. The aspirant however is required to adhere in just one principle in his application, a belief in a Supreme Being. There is no space in the organization for atheism.
How a Mason becomes one
What made me fulfill my application as a hopeful member was how those who took up my cause deliberated on the form I submitted. I was informed that in the adjacent room where members assess the contender, there is a hypothetical scenario to be offered among them. Accordingly, the assessor has a beautiful wife and three lovely daughters. The assessor must leave for abroad for three months. The question is: Will you, as that assessor, allow and trust the applicant to take care of your house, where your wife and kids are staying, while you are away for a duration of time? After the question is thrown, two small marble stones are handed over to the assessors, a black and a white one. A box is circulated and with complete secrecy, the individual assessor must slip into the compartment either one of the stones. A white one signifies trust and the black one means distrust. As soon as the box has been filled, the presiding assessor empties the box in front of them all. A single black marble coming out from the box means that the applicant is rejected. His name will be sent to all lodges here and abroad indicating that his application has been denied. It indicates that he is barred from entering the craft anywhere. That is where the idiomatic expression of being black balled came from.
I thought that it was a nice way of recruiting. No wonder, whenever a mason sees another, he felt that he is always with his brother; that he is with someone whom he can fully trust.
My application was approved and I was initiated as an Entered Apprentice into the fraternal order (Andres Bonifacio Lodge, District # 199, Capitol Masonic Lodge, Kalayaan Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City). From there, I took note of all the reading materials and read everything that pertains the brotherhood; from its ancient history to its current symbolical summation. I was some kind of a Dan Brown (of the Da Vinci Code fame) already before the novelist started his literary exposition on the Craft.
Masonic literature is rich with allegorical contents. Its central perspective is on wisdom. It has its own interpretation of sensitive philosophical issues. It is almost a religion although during conferences, no member is allowed to discuss religion and politics because of its divisive considerations. One specific religious understanding which turned off the Church is the Masonic view of Jesus Christ. The Church subscribe to the belief that Jesus is God who became a man. The Craft looks at Christ as man who became God. From there, the Church had misgivings about masons. And why not take the latter explanation as feasible. It is respectable for a laborer to finally become a manager, than for a manager to become eventually a laborer. Anyway, the schism in terms of understanding was carried into a historical battle to the point that masons are not even allowed to be buried in the hallowed grounds for Catholics.
During the Commonwealth period, President Manuel L. Quezon, a mason himself, chose his cabinet according to their respective proficiency and qualification—they also must be masons. Result: Quezon’s administration was the most respected, revered and competent in the history of government service. Quezon would even be emboldened to quip, “I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than by foreigners!” After his term, ironically, unqualified leaders came one after another and eventually, government became hell. But that is another story.
For me, Freemasonry is about limitations. One must have a personal compass on which he would be able to determine his own capabilities. And a square, so that from there he must carry on with confidence accomplishing all his concerns in a straight and proper way. At the center of these two precious jewels is his belief in the Almighty. Having these points in his mind, the mason proceeds to spend the rest of his life in brotherly love, relief (charity) and truth.
We always look at life according to how we appreciate it through the sense of sight. We get educated through seeing and reading, through viewing and witnessing. We even would ignore feelings as in dispensing that which we have touched or that which came to us through our skin , evade whatever it is that we get a whiff of and disregard whatever it is that we heard. It is always that which we appreciate through seeing that we believe. As the saying goes, “to see is to believe.” Our eyesight therefore is not only a significant part of our life not only because we value the world according to how we see it but we depend largely on how we behave according to the light that we get through the spectacle of our visual acuity. Even if it is illusory or mere illusion.
The significance of sight
We can therefore sacrifice all other senses and proceed with learning instead through our eye sight. But have we provided our eyes the necessary care it is entitled to? Or, we merely overlook because it is not even begging for it.
First, we must treat our eyes in the kindest way possible. How? Every morning, if the sun is peeping from the horizon, say around 6AM (in the Philippines; I don’t know how it is in other countries though), face the morning sun, eyes closed but focused on the budding light. Rotate the head to the right slowly, and then to the left, pausing for a few seconds in the middle. Make a deep breath, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This should be conducted until one feels the warmth of the sun on one’s face. Then bow and slowly open the eyes. One gets immediately the impression that the colors around are full and bursting with beautiful spectral display. This is one exercise which the eye needs. It is its food and nourishment.
Second, we must eat nutritious food. Well, not necessarily the greens and yellow vegetables like those our elementary teachers would prod us in our science class but it helps. The point is, we must eat and never allow our emotions to get past our appetite. Whether we eat heartily or not does not matter. What is important is that we eat something to stay hunger and it makes our eyes healthy as a result.
Third, practice eye movement. One can do this by reading. It is not only healthy to the nerves but also advantageous to the brain. But read if there is a proper lighting only. Avoid glare because it strains the eye and worst may contribute to the formation of cataracts. Sandy and dusty surroundings are also contributory not only to respiratory ailments but also on the linings of the eye. It is not only in terms of vanity that one uses shades, it is always a must when moving around on daytime.
A special science for the eye
There is a new science where a practitioner merely looks at the eye and he knows already what ails the person. It is called iridology.
Iridology is what many have called the combination of “science and art” of microscopic analysis of the iris and the dynamics of the pupil. Many consider iridology a “fringe” practice, but it has enormous potential when practiced correctly. The iris and inner pupillary border are the visible aspects of the autonomic and central nervous systems that we have.
In Iridology structural markings in the iris and eye colors (pigments) carry both personal and genetic significance. The color of the iris illustrates certain genetic and constitutional traits. Some signs are important for what they look like, some markers are important for where they are – the iris can be a projection of a map of the body and its various systems, as in Reflexology or Auricolotherapy.
One can therefore spot someone with a problem just by looking at the person’s eyes. There is even an adage where one that is in love, and therefore in the right physical condition, exhibits a glow in his eyes. That is very true.
Security management lately has taken an upgrade with the introduction of a close circuit television. It can have a full panoramic view of an angle and could be fitted with an ultra sensitive capacity to see even in darkness. Penal establishments in advanced countries have installed fully its entire camp with CCTV to manage all corners of the penal facility.
As far as identity is concerned, a person may change the form of his face, the nose, the mouth but it could never alter, even in a state of advancing age, his eye. It is the only portion of the body that defies time, its form; its details are as individual as one’s finger print.
No wonder, even the ancients have held sacred the eye—whatever its manifestations were.
Like Michael Jordan, I never also expected to reach the mid life period. I never dreamt of engaging age related diseases in a battle for supremacy. I have made a mark and some milestones and I do not wish that it be washed away after a period of age inspired relaxation. (I was the youngest Division Chief in then Bureau of Prisons —Corrections; the youngest in government as a matter of fact— at the age of 26. I was also the youngest Prison Superintendent —PS IV at 33, with the rank of a brigadier general in terms of salary grade. I have written several books on Prisons and Criminology—7 in all and still writing. Organized a religious shrine, drafted a prayer and had it imprimatured by a Church prince. Engaged and pushed politicians to back off from claiming penal farm lands. Co founded the college degree programs for prisoners; facilitated the establishment of the correctional institute for women in Mindanao; co-authored the prison rules and regulations. Those are feats considered unequal to this day and that in a way is already historical if not considered a niche and a significant footnote in the prison service. I was so young then that I was required to produce a waiver when I was entering the National Defense College of the Philippines. Had a prison director knew what correctional advancement was, I would have been conferred as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men for government service. It never came though, tough luck.)
Dying at an early age
Had I perished in my mid 30s, like what happened to Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and those similarly situated here and abroad, my name would have been warmly recalled and remembered. Most likely, a small interior alley may have been named after me. Or some friends may take fancy at my name, especially my nom de guerre “Venjo” and christened their sons accordingly. Probably, their shaggy friends would have fitted my alias too. Sometime ago, when I was assigned at Iwahig, Palawan, where most of exotic flora, fauna and wild animals can be found, I collected a number of weird looking plants and bugs (which in my estimation looked way out of this world) and tried to check it out if it has been discovered and catalogued already. It could be named after me for all the efforts. A Chinese sage once said, for a man to be considered worthy to be immortalized, he should do one of three things: sire a son, plant a tree or write a book. I have done all three and would offer another, pick an insect (pluck a plant) and send it to a university so that it could be named according to its founder/discoverer.
Contemplating on Life
Well, enough for such ego tripping considerations. Life goes on and sometimes accidents never happen. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the country’s first President, living literally on the edge, for all his adventures, threats and accidents never fell down and subsequently lived up to a full age a year short of 100. He probably was never aware that he died in his sleep, unaware of what the world was. Had he died during his revolutionary struggles, he would have been the national hero.
Travails of getting old
While man gets older by the day, the world retains its usual youthful look, climate change or not. A lot of my friends, well my parents and sister for one, have crossed over passing on the torch to the next generation and here I am left to fend and understand what the world wanted to telegraph to its remaining population. Sometimes I felt so alone trying to understand what more do I intend to accomplish after much has been squeezed during my youthful years. I was already ripe to ride on the crest of having a good name to pass on but here I am still haggling and too careful not to disturb the gods of luck, otherwise, whatever it is that I have done would go down the drain as if I have never existed at all!
There are times when I would look into the mirror and would exclaim that I never looked that old yet. My barber would even patronize and whisper to me that I look twenty years younger. I have never reached the age 60 but my favorite quote was from a Hollywood star, Liam Neeson who said that 60 is the new 40! My children however would be more direct and honest in telling me that I look more of a dinosaur than a wild beast. I would oftentimes see my contemporaries and from there look myself in relation to theirs and I would admit that the universe is not remiss in its duty to impose wrinkles on its ageing followers. While man has to live on a daily basis, for the older generation, it is more on how gout would re-appear on time during the day.
In other words
The point is actually a toss whether one would embrace his age according to his wish to be young forever or ignore everything and act like a zombie which has been a craze already among the youth.
(In defense of recruiting family members in the prison workforce)
First of, employment. Nowadays, it does not pay to be unemployed, or even to be underemployed. If you are married, you have to grab the proverbial blade just to be employed—-in whatever capacity, in whatever way. But working in government is a simple proposition if you have the credentials like the Civil Service eligibility. (As a matter of fact, under the Senate Bill 3335 otherwise known as Corrections Act of 2012, once it is signed into law, the qualification, the eligibility part would play a major employment norm. No eligibility, no admission into the government service. Those who were fortunate to have been employed notwithstanding deficiency in credential like no CSC eligibility, will be required to possess it within 5 years or face the prospects of attrition. That is, one is either separated in the service or allowed to retire. ) It works wonder if you have it. Passing it is not a breeze but for those who regularly read the dailies, it is almost a song. Readers have certain advantages over those who are not. That is one skill which the school ought to impose on its studentry but commercialism dictates that it is not the priority. Hence, most of the graduates have no interest, much more so, any penchant at all to read. As a consequence, they almost always fail in admission examinations like CSC (first or second grade) eligibility exams.
Secondly, and quite far off and lately under question, is personal.
But this is not yet the real score on why work in prison when there are other services which are less hazardous, less unwholesome, less intriguing, less frustrating. Of course, the argument is better settled when one would exclaim that there are no more vacancies in other institutions. There is also the traditional outlook that there are friends, close ones, possibly relatives who can facilitate one’s employment application in the prison agency. Despite the belief on the contrary, it pays to have some connections to gain employment. So most of those who were able to get items in the prison service have internal linkages one way or another.
Of course, a college degree, the preparatory learning has a lot to do with the choice. There are a lot of students who completed the course on Criminology and failing to get the necessary adrenalin to fight for a slot in law enforcement (read police), they end up trying their luck to seek employment in the prison service. Those who complete the collegiate course on Crim and eventually pass the board exam for Criminologist or either way, pass the CSC eligibility exams, are favored to jumpstart their career in corrections. The first choice is the police service because it is more adventuresome, more powerful, more visible and the respect for wearing the uniform and bearing firearms, impact on the neighborhood. The second choice is somewhere in other branches of criminology—fire, jail, traffic , customs, airport security, etc. The third is prison service. The choice referred to in this regard is from those without direct connection in the prison organization. If employment is open, then applicants are screened and if qualified, become members of the correctional agency.
Once initiated within the intricate woodwork of the prison community, one realizes that he also has entered a domain strictly exclusive. He finds that most of the surnames of those he meets are almost the same. If one would try to make a survey to check on family relations, one would be surprised that the whole organization came from a handful of people. The so called old timers would indulge, prompt and even prod their children to apply for a position in the prison service.
The consideration there is that whatever has been accumulated by way of savings and extension of their quarters would merely be passed on to the successor entrant. But in a larger context, while this may be unwholesome and quite crude a justification, there is a deeper advantage. Those who literally grew up in a penal setting, the families of correctional workers, have personal and emotional stake (malasakit) in the institution.
Please consider this. PG Reynaldo Miralles of Davao Penal Colony has a son, who was a constant applicant for a custodial post in the facility. There was no vacancy yet at that time and so he merely coasted along the area.
One day, the son of Mr. Miralles, decided to go the Davao City, boarded a commuter bus and found a seat at the back. He was joined by two newly recruited custodial personnel who completed their tour of duty and about to go home. Miralles noticed two familiar faces seated at the middle row of bus. He whispered to the new guards that he noticed two prisoners, possibly about to escape, seated a few rows from them. The new personnel dismissed the insinuation. Miralles texted his father about his discovery and a patrol team was dispatched to intercept the bus. A few minutes later, Dapecol security team would flag down the public transport and would apprehend the fleeing inmates. And this is just one among several instances, not only in Davao but in almost all penal establishments in the country, when family members of correctional officers would literally be an active and alert part of prison security.
In penal establishments located outside central office, like Davao, Zamboanga, Sablayan (Mindoro) and Leyte, where insurgency is almost the order of the day, where a protracted struggle to attain a strategic stalemate with government is taking place, prison security is a foremost attraction. An insurgent may send scholars to Universities and after graduation would be allowed to enter government service, in vital industries and high security risk services like law enforcement and corrections. Once the rebel representative sets foot in the organization, the secrets are shared and in no time breaches are conducted. There is the risk factor. While a close relative of a prison officer, if allowed to enter the service, while it is considred more personal than official, the stability and integrity of the mandate are nonetheless preserved and almost held sacred. There is no risk involved.
This is not an apology for applicants closely related with prison officers. This is a plea to commitment however shallow it may be perceived. This is not even a biased view against those without any close relations to anyone in the prison service (like in my case) but a personal assessment based on how corrections is applied generally on the ground.
Prison work should therefore be opened, well for those qualified, whether applicants are from outside or those with relatives in the organization, to be fair.
One cannot escape being personal about prison service. After all, prison is people and everything there , including the mandate of rehabilitation (on top of security) is never imposed in the formal sense but is internally implored in a personal way. The prison service needs also a family to fulfill this end.
Ambet Antonio, former Pagcor chief, who served time for incomplete self defense (and recently released), while confined in the maximum compound of NBP, was oftentimes indulged by his custodian to share approaches on how to move ahead in challenging times. The scion of the famous Antonio clan would gamely introduce nuggets of unorthodox ideas among those who would spend late evenings near the guard station. Ambet’s inability to sleep at night, a carryover of his former supervisory preoccupation in the government casino program, sent him into a number of sharing sessions with patrol personnel in the dormitory where he was designated.
One day, he was asked how to determine a real from a false friend. He rationalized by stating, “Madali lang yan. Bumili ka ng isang ulo ng baboy sa palengke, yung bagong katay ha, tapos ilagay mo sa sako. Puntahan mo ang iyong itinuturing na kaibigan sa disoras ng gabi. Tapos, bulungan mo siya na gusto mong ilibing sa bakuran nila yung dala mong nakasako, na ulo ng napatay mo kanina lang. Pag pumayag siya, siya ay tunay at ma-aasahan mong kaibigan!”
Activist and leader of a farmer group in Central Luzon, Jaime Tadeo, who was incarcerated for subversion, while undergoing admission procedures at the Reception and Diagnostic Center, offered a description of what imprisonment is.
He said, “Ang kulungan ay parang aktuaryo (acquarium). Kung madumi ang tubig palagi ay magdudulot ng hindi maganda sa mga isda. Hindi ito tatagal, hihina pag dating ng panahon at magkakamatayan. Yung mabubuhay naman sa ganoong kondisyon ay sadyang babangis lamang.”
(That was his impression on jail and those that passed through it including those prisoners who were with him as they were transferred to NBP.)
When former Quirino province Governor Orlando Dulay was sent to the National Penitentiary to serve time for silencing his political opponents, he was heard telling his fellow prisoners to be aware of their situation.
He claimed, “Dalawang klase lang naman ang bilanggo—parang langgam. May itim at may pula. Miski ano pa ang gawin natin, hindi sila magkakasundo. Miski pa pagsamahin mo sila sa isang maliit na lugar, hindi sila magkaka-isa. Ang itim na langgam ay sasama sa kapwa itim, ang pula sa kapwa pula.”
(Thereafter, he formed a cult which became the core of a bloody uprising sometime in 1990s.)
Claudio Teehangkee, the son and namesake of former Chief Justice, was oftentimes badgered by his fellow prisoners whenever he is visited by his doting mother. Several bags of groceries would be rationed to him to the envious eye of the prison population. Years of confinement taught him various expressions to evade harassment among his fellow prisoners.
One such expression which he would always relay was, “Ang swerte mo naman. Pinangakuan ka na nga gusto mo pang tuparin.”
(The last time he said that, goes the information, he was stabbed. Luckily, he survived it and was recently released.)
A close associate of inmate Joey Obosa once divulged how his cellmate organized the first “akyat bahay” and thereupon became a celebrity entrepreneur after a series of heist. It was a template for the underworld and would be copied several times over.
One day, he was overheard saying, “Si Obosa ay pangkaraniwang nagtutulak ng kariton at namimili ng bakal, bote at jaryo lang. Minsan nang siya ay ginabi sa isang maunlad na subdivision, napansin niya ang madaming nakaparadang sasakyan sa harap ng isang malaking bahay. Karamihan sa mga andun na lasing na. Pumasok siya sa bakuran at inakyat ang bahay. Sa loob siya ng kisame namalagi. Pagsapit ng madaling araw, halos lahat sa bahay ay nakaplakda sa kalasingan at kapaguran. Bumaba siya at nilimas ang alahas at lahat ng mahahalagang bagay.”
The fellow inmate continued, “Simula noon, nasundan pa iyon ng madaming pagkakataon hanggang sa matutunan niya ang pagbubukas ng kaha de yero. Nang siya ay maka-ipon, nagbukas na siya ng negosyo sa pag-aalahas.”
(When verified with the inmate himself, he was mum about it, although one cannot escape noticing that he was always wearing a thick gold chain necklace, bracelet and a signature watch.)
A story was told that a group, Genuine Ilocano Gang, in NBP had a celebration of sort. Accordingly, it was merely to rejoice their fortunate situation. When asked what the auspicious event was all about, the leader came forward.
He said, “Ang mga Ilocano ay ipinag-babawal na papasukin sa impierno!”
When asked how it was, the ganglord continued, “May ilang Ilocano ang nakarating sa impierno at ipinakilala kay Satanas. Nagbulungan sa Ilocano ang mga ito at hinabol ang pinuno ng nagbabagang lugar. Sila ay nagsisigawan na si Satanas ay kambing at gusto nila itong gawing kaldereta!”
(From that time on, Ilocanos are banned from Hell.)
Ip Chun Ming (imprisoned for violating the Dangerous Drugs Law) is a Chinese citizen who became a celebrity in the NBP maximum ward when it was learned that his profession as film stuntman and double for HongKong superstar Jackie Chan. His star glowed in the camp. Indeed, his Kungfu was a takeoff from Bruce Lee. Not only that, he was seen as financier and a potential dispenser of loan.
And so there he was, hopping from one dormitory to another, lending out and displaying his athletic skill on Martial Arts.
One day, he failed to collect the dues he expected from his lending activity. And to prove how he can subdue physically through Shaolin means those who dared ignored his collection requirements; he picked a guy to aim his fatal karate attack. A group of prisoners noticing the commotion went to the rescue of their dorm mate and collectively mauled the Jackie Chan look-alike. After 15 minutes of continued violence, the stuntman was left virtually a rag.
The martial artist was brought to the hospital, luckily still alive but he came out after recuperation, a shade of his former self, paralyzed from neck down.
(After a diligent investigation, it was reported that the cause of his medical referral was due to an accident. Accordingly, the inmate slipped while taking a bath.)
Dra. Avelina G. Alcantara was one of the finest medical specialists in Muntinlupa City in her days and this is because to her credit, she was able to revive successfully countless emergency cases brought before her. She was the best during the time when prison was undergoing a turbulent period, the so called riot years. She was in charge of the emergency facility and almost a permanent fixture in the operating room. She eventually became the Chief of Prison Hospital for a number of years. Her medical skills remained unchallenged and her fame invited fans among the hospital personnel. In the estimation of her agency, she was a genius.
One day, while checking on signs of life, and finding none, on an inmate who was stabbed repeatedly, she confirmed that the prisoner indeed passed away. Thereupon, she left and allowed a prison attendant to take over to wrap the remains of the patient.
While tucking the blanket, the prison orderly was surprised when the patient moved slowly and its feet would jerk repeatedly, and with a faint voice would utter, “Brod, buhay pa ako.”
At that point, the orderly squeezed the neck of the patient and exclaimed, “Ha?!!! Marunong ka pa kay Doctora ha!”
Former Prison Director Gaudencio S. Pangilinan was inspecting the prison morgue and was aghast to discover a number of dead prisoners stacked on top of one another. The Director was fuming mad when he saw the condition. He immediately called the prison superintendent, determined to pull the whip and in front of all prison officers in the area, yelled, “Officer, kung ito ay hindi kapabayaan, ano ang tawag mo dito!” while pointing at the dried cadavers.
To which the officer meekly said, “Tapa sir.”
Msgr. Ernesto A. Espridion was a prison chaplain for almost two decades and he was regarded as a gifted person with capacity to scare evil manifestations. He became a by word in the environs of Muntinlupa for casting demonic forces. His presence alone could exorcise signs of wickedness even if there is no episcopal authority.
One day, a pretty girl was brought to him for exorcism. She could barely be contained. Accordingly, the young woman suddenly speaks and shouts with unintelligible and garish language, eyes hostile and reddish, with incomparable strength. Around seven burly young men brought the youthful lass to the door step of the convent.
Msgr. Ernie allowed the possessed person inside his dining room. Those who brought the lass immediately fled, scared out of their wits. The religious man, calmly said, “Sino ka?”
The young lady, turned normal, smiling, and said, “Maita po.” The man of the Church, waited, assessed and expected some demonic struggles, some evil forces, something unnatural. He was holding on his evangelical vest, a prayer book and blessed water contained in a small packet.
Then the girl sprung out, jumped onto the dining table, and began to sway. The exorcist, brought down his spiritual gadgets and took out a remote for his stereo and turned the music on, and dictated, “Bumaba ka sa lamesa!”
The lass, stopped, focused her fearsome sight on the man and yelled, “Bakit?”
“Bumaba ka diyan!” repeated the priest, and continued, “…at dito tayo sumayaw!”
(Thereupon, the spiritual leader taught the girl how to dance the cha-cha.)
After filing his early retirement, Msgr Ernesto Espiridion chose a life of a recluse. He has just undergone radiation therapy for brain tumor which damaged his ear drum. As a consequence, his balance was affected including his hearing. He was a vegetable literally. He could not stand and his world was silent. According to his physician, the priest could still regain normalcy but installing an electronic hearing aide to rectify his balance and hearing would cost a fortune. The religious leader was consigned to live with the problem until the heavens would decree his arrival.
One day, his friend, a prison official, came and saw the appalling condition of his sacred friend. Instantly, the friend called the hospital and brought his deaf buddy for fitting of the high end hearing aide. After two hours, the Monsignor could already walk and respond to questions.
“Alam ko malaki ang inabot ng aking karamdaman brod, pipilitin kong makabayad, magkano ba ang nagastos mo?” the priest whispered to his friend.
“Huwag ninyong isipin yan,” assured his friend, “galing naman iyan sa masamang paraan!”
When Superintendent Vicente Afurong was still the head of Davao Penal Colony, he wrote central office that he wanted some items in the plantilla be abolished. Central office promptly called him so that he could argue his case in the administrative division.
“Sana po i-abolish ninyo ang item na logging foreman sa aming plantilla, “ he smugly said.
“ Hindi ganyan kadali iyan. Bigyan mo kami ng katwirang matibay muna. Bakit dapat tanggalin?” the administrative officer ordered.
The Dapecol chief stressed “kasi yung logging foreman, logging natutulog!”
Former prison accountant JB Llano recalled during the pioneering days at Leyte Regional Prison that the penal farm was virtually inside a highly vegetative forest.
“Gubat na gubat ang LRP nuong araw na dumating kami nila Superintendent Maat. Malungkot at sadyang napakalayo sa sibilisasyon. At hindi kayo maniwala, ang makikita sa lugar na iyon ay mga galang unggoy lang!” JB reminisced.
One day, according to JB, an unforgettable incident would take place. The Superintendent was missing. A searching party was organized and the guards sought the assistance of municipal officers to trace the whereabouts of the penal officer. A day later, a kilometer away and under the tree, the official was seen limping with several cuts and bruises on his face. An investigation was immediately conducted, and JB was designated as chair.
“Sa lungkot ni Boss, wala siyang magawa kundi ligawan pala ang isang may itsurang unggoy dun sa di kalayuang lugar,” explained JB while discussing with his team his findings.
A team member inquired “Eh bakit siya sugatan na parang binugbog?”
“Eh, paano naman,” said JB, “yung unggoy na nililigawan niya girl friend pala ni Mayor!”
Retired prison officer Lito Pragides dreamt that he was bragging to an angel about his exceptional pet monkey in Iwahig. Indeed, almost every month, the small ape had a number of skills to boast. First, it learned to eat using spoon and fork. Then, it would retire early, lay on bed and sleep using its own customized blanket and pillows. Thereafter, it would fix its own mosquito net and dutifully would rise at the sound of the alarm clock.
Truly, Lito was very happy at the hype generated by the intelligent simian. The excitement doubled when it learned to read and write!
Then, the pet owner paused and became incosolable to report to the angel that he eventually shot his pet.
Surprised, the angel almost shouted, “Teka!! Bakit naman??!!”
“Isipin po ninyo,” said Lito, “sa kanyang lamesa nakita ko ang kanyang sinusulat?!
“Dapat nga matuwa ka! “ The angel summoned.
Lito stood up and said, “siya pala ang nagpapadala ng mga anonymous letter sa director!”
A number of high profile prisoners eventually arrived in heaven and were instantly the toast among the denizens. They came also in tangerine uniform as if they agreed on the type of clothing to wear.
St. Peter strove slowly, smiling as he saw the group. He raised both his hands in a generous wave and said, “Aba, hehehe, mabuti naman at andito na kayo. Binabantayan namin kayo nuong nasa loob pa kayo ng bilanguan.”
The group chorused, “Maraming salamat naman po.”
“Totoo ba yung naririnig namin dito na kayo daw ay VIP?” inquired the Saint.
The group protested, “ Hindi po. BPI ho yun, yung ATM po!”
PG Romy Chavez was bored in heaven and requested to visit Hell to check on some friends. He was promptly escorted in, and as soon as he was ushered in, he was immediately engulfed with flames up to his neck. All his colleagues were also in a similar situation hence he never made any complaint at all until he met another officer he considered very corrupt breezing through.
“Teka!” Romy sensed something unfair and directed his concern to supervising demons in the area, “bakit yung inspector na yun hanggang bewang lang ang apoy samantalang napaka-walang hiya niyan sa serbisyo?!”
“Huwag ka nang pumalag,” the demon said, “nakatungtong naman yan sa balikat ni Assistant Director!”
Purgatory is a place where souls are evaluated whether they will go to Heaven or slide down to Hell. Here we find a number of prison directors. Several generals are seriously seated waiting for the interview. They have been there, one after another. They were asked if they are worthy to be escorted to the Pearly Gates for admission to Heaven.
Several of them have big boxes, others thick brown envelopes except for one with a piece of paper.
The Purgatory manager without inspecting what the prison directors were carrying, motioned to the one with a piece of paper to proceed to meet St. Peter.
“Boss!” the senior general whispered, “puro pera dala namin pang PR sa tropa ninyo, eh bakit yung may dalang isang pirasong papel ang nabigyan ng pabor?”
The manager whispered back, “Kontrata naman yun!”
Heaven was a very peaceful place until the silence was broken by two contending visitors who were merely invited to have a tour of Paradise. Jun Geronimo and Marlon Morales were quarelling when a winged religious worker stepped in to negotiate a truce between the two gentlemen.
“Ano ba ang pinag-aawayan ninyong dalawa?” the angelic fellow inquired in a mellow way.
The two perspiring fellows almost spoke in unison, “Bucorea po.”
The saintly fellow does not want to look ignorant if he would ask what Bucorea is and so he motioned another serene looking former prison officer, his assistant, to whisper to him what it is.
The prison officer said, “Ang pinag-aawayan po nila ay pera.”
The religious guy left hurriedly and instead instructed his assistant,”Sabihin mo na lang sa akin kung sino nanalo sa kanila para makahingi tayo ng balato!”
Sosing Berroya retired recently from the prison service and while awaiting for his retirement pension, which unfortunately takes several months to process by GSIS, would rather frequent the church. He would trek to the chapel everyday and would seek heavenly intercession.
One day, he went to Church early, knelt down in his favorite pew, across the altar and profusely prayed for luck. He intoned, a bit loudly, in desperation, “Panginoon ko, sana manalo ako sa jueteng kahit isang beses lang po.” It was a prayer he would oftentimes plead but did not expect any instant response. Yet on that day, something happened. He heard a booming voice.
“Kaibigan, ikaw ay mananalo ngayon!”
Sosing asked for the combination and it was given! He noticed however to his surprise an old man at his back who immediately said, in the same commanding voice “Sir, tayaan nyo na yun, mamya bolahan na namin!”
A prison guard assigned at the Director’s Quarters (DQ) before he retired wrote a description of DQ and some Directors he has served. But he merely made a code, an alphabetical code, for each prison leader. Accordingly, Director A would claim that DQ is a haunted house and exposed it to the elements. Director B however would defy such impression and would transform DQ into a barangay, where all his relatives stayed. Director C would make it a vacation house for his staffers and prisoners. One day, the DQ’s pool is a fish pond, another occasion it is an exlusive resort. Sometimes DQ was a mini-zoo, at times it is a barracks for illegal transactions. Another Director would use its wood panel to construct his private residence. But the most enterprising of all is Director E, who, after his term, would take out all the kitchen utensils, plates and even the door screen of DQ!
Prison history therefore is written in an amusing way by its administrators through their acts, it almost renders the prison service into a joke.
One day, St. Peter felt that he must visit the earth. He found himself milling around Metro Manila in the Philippines. It was a period full of merry making, a lot of buntings hang over electric posts along with banners of politicians running for elective posts.
St. Peter asked a pedestrian, “Brod, mawalang galang na lang, ano ibig sabihin ng UNA at LP?”
The pedestrian, a middle aged man, replied, “Pareho din po ng KBL, UNIDO, Lakas, NP at PDP.”
St. Peter was confused. He went around some more until he found a student to inquire what UNA and LP stand for. The youth said, “Pareho din po yan ng OXO, BNG, BRM at Sigue-Sigue Sputnik.”
St. Peter went back to heaven politically educated.
Newly promoted Cardinal Tagle was replesdent in his episcopal vestment with flowing red cape when he joined a number of politicians in one of Manila’s five star hotels. They were all having an informal exchanges of pleasantries, over a delightful melodious sound and some humble snack when Mayoralty candidate Joseph Estrada came in.
The popular candidate was a bit tipsy when he saw the smiling vicar in a colorful evangelical uniform. He managed to get near the man of the cloth, slowly lifted the majestic hand of the religious leader and whispered sweetly, “Puede ba kitang isayaw?”
Bored in heaven, President Cory Aquino decided to visit the Philippines. She was a picture of contentment. She found the country peaceful and stable under the leadership of her son.
She opted to appear in her son’s dream one day and greeted, “Anak, ingat ka sa mga nakapaligid sa iyo.”
Pnoy smiled and uttered a response, while deep in slumber, excited to hear and react to her mother, “Opo Mommy, hindi na muna kami lalabas nila Boy Abunda at Vice Ganda~”
Satan learned that St. Peter visited the Philippines and so he took a leave and informed his constituents in Hell that he intends take a look at the said country. When he arrived, he was very excited to be introduced to a lot of politicians, to be invited also in their meetings and conferences that he almost felt at home.
Several days and weeks passed by, the devils in Hell were all at a loss on why their boss had not returned yet. Hell was beginning to be less turbulent without the leader and so a group of devils were dispatched to look for Satan. They searched for him far and wide, from North to South, until they found a tip from a traditional politician who was his contant companion.
“Ay, oo lagi siyang nakatambay dito sa HQ,” said the tradpol, “kaya lang nasa Malaysia na siya.”
The reps from Hell were surprised and inquired,”Bakit sir kaya nandun?”
The old fellow quipped, “Na recruit kasi siya ni Amalilio!”
Satan knew that whenever election fever in the Philippines starts, it is almost like his favorite town in Hell. And so he would always see to it to visit the archipelago during said occasion as some kind of sentimental journey. As he attends every miting de abanse, and hears every speaker, he is reminded of himself in his youthful days.
He was so engrossed in listening to the politicians until he snapped and decided to get back to Hell. His lieutenants were all surprised when they saw Satan pale and haggard.
“Sir, ano po ang nangyari at biglaan kayong bumalik?” said the gatekeepers of Hell.
“Hayyy, salamat, isara ninyo pinto sa opisina ko kagad,” Satan yelled, “huwag ninyong papasukin mga politikong taga Pilipinas! Baka bigla akong palitan!”
While Satan was inspecting Hell, he was aghast to see a lot of posters and banners from politicians in the Philippines posted everywhere. Those souls from other countries were complaining of the filth debasing the original filth. Even the flames could not reach every corner because the large tarpaulin posters obstructs the garbage like view. Satan organized an investigation body and a report was immediately handed over. It was a five-inch thick document.
“Ano ang dulo ng report na ito!” Satan boomed.
The investigators exclaimed “Eh, Sir akala kasi ng mga kandidato, nasa Pilipinas pa rin sila!”
My ever dearest Tatay and Nanay,
By now, my dear sister must have been there with you already. I could only reflect on the time you have spent here, the responsibilities left behind for me to fend and those matters which you intend to realize but never made it on time. Mother, you left us when you were barely 59 years old in 1989, still strong although you must have weakened considerably after suffering from three successive strokes. You were gone in an instant not because of ailment but because of the treachery of criminals. I vowed to hunt these perpetrators down even up to the end of the earth. I am not contented cornering a handful of your attackers. I have prepared myself for the worst. I will bring the evil of revenge in Hell, pluck the rest of your assailants and introduce brutality until Satan pukes as a result of horror.
Father, you followed at a ripe age of 86 sometime in 2008. Nanay was gone when you were only 67 years old and was quite active in the academe. You were forced to retire after reaching 70 but would rather seek an active and productive routine after that. Tatay, you never slowed down even after reaching the 80s. You were still hale and healthy although you had undergone the gruellest medical procedures when you were still in your mid and late 50s.
On hindsight, we must have some kind of “signos” after reaching the midlife period. Nanay, Tatay and lately Doris went through a fatal situation. Well, as for you, Tatay, you breezed it through. Nanay and Doris were not as lucky. And that meant a lot for typical Filipinos who succumbed to a grave ailment after reaching the half century mark.
Medical science is even more pronounced when it comes to studying this specific age range. Accordingly, eyesight becomes poor, for males the prostate becomes vulnerable, for females it signaled a menopausal stage and other neural deficiencies. Problems with kidneys, lungs, internal organs, blood pressure and the heart are almost automatic as if the period of 50 indicates a warning sign. Diabetes, arteriosclerosis, emphysema, aneurism, cancer and a host of other fatal diseases are sworn to appear in this period also. And why not? There was a frozen fossil of early man discovered in mountains of the Arctic period which was studied by scientist and they have concluded that the remains of the man died due to old age. The bones were carbon dated to have existed with in the period where Mammoths were not yet extinct. The age of the stone age man was 37!
We were still lucky to have transcended this early period of mankind. But with civilization comes a host of challenges both to health and lifespan. While we have extended a period within which to enjoy life, it comes with a number of challenges to confront. Firstly, the vices. Secondly, the tensions. Thirdly, the means of sustaining whatever it is that brings forth contentment.
I tried to replicate that which you have imparted to me as a fledging youth. I had Tatay’s audacity, I had Nanay’s reserved outlook. Of course, there was my younger sister, Doris, who would pamper me with lots of attention. But what good would these influences be if not relayed to the children, the succeeding generation. That is what I am trying to assess. I have been almost an absentee parent, unlike you. I have been a part time father, very unlikely to be compared with Tatay, who was always there. I could only be rarely seen, never felt; appreciated in the distance but never hugged up close; considered living apart but alienated all the way. My situation is not the same as that when your were around during my formative years. I could only cross my fingers so that your grandchildren would not be far behind the expectations you have carved for us, your children.
Fortunately, the universe is kind. It has endowed us, as you have contributed a number of genes that made me and your grandchildren some basic charms to engage reality and tensions. They are doing fine in their chosen fields. As a matter of fact, they even exceeded where I deferred. All of them are too busy conquering that which we failed to reach. The sacrifices you made were our spring board to attain higher goals.
I have never forgotten, even for a while, your presence. You may not be physically around but your influence on my life, partially as it deflects on your grandchildren, will always be an imprint of your authority. It may not be as solid, but it is always there.
I am nearing that stage whence I may not be able to sound off a reasonable letter to you or to my children. I could see signs everywhere that mortality through ageing is just around the corner. The obituary, which I ignore before, has become a familiar column which I oftentimes read aside from the editorial. Honestly, I may not be able to express my sentiment as crisp as today, hence, this composition. Time will consume the better part of my senses in just a few summers. I might as well write you before the period comes.
My point is merely to report, to articulate how we are today, the basis of how the next generation would be in years to come. Not necessarily to wash hands nor raise it in surrender, but to wave on eternity that somewhere, we were all there contributing on how life became too beautiful and how its beauty has been preserved for all time. It may not look great but that is what it is, beauty is in the beholder.
I thought that heroism is a badge that I should aim. That it should be earned come what may. But no. It is only reserved for those who are in the right place and at the right time. Suffice it to say, less heroism, I have carried your name, passed it on properly, so that it may rank along with those who respected life, loved it and induced the next generation to embrace it fully.
That in my estimation I have done. That in my estimation is what you want it to be.
My eternal love.
Your baby once (and still is),