Monthly Archives: January 2015
I will always place the mission first;
I will never accept defeat;
I will never quit;
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
As soon as one gets the commission to be a full fledged soldier, his other foot belongs to the grave already. It is in fighting that he gets his full stature as a warrior. To be injured if not slain is merely a part of his stint. Injured, he may as well fight another day. Death means to receive the laurel of having given his best.
In war, everyone is fair game. There are no time outs, no referee calls, no intermission, no breaks. Winning is the name of the game. Losing is vacillating, running away, hiding or postponing an encounter. A fully armed battalion, whatever their persuasion is, projects readiness for combat. It is never meant to sow fear, scare or intimidate unless the mission is to shock a civilian community. Warriors are never trained to frighten anyone, much more so terrify anybody within the cross hair of their mission. They are there prepared to mount hostilities if push comes to shove.
The problem however is in the formation of officers. Law enforcers or the police, whether they are directing traffic or involved in Special Forces, are trained for community work from peace keeping to facilitating the requirements of criminal justice administration. People know them by the uniforms they wear.
But when policemen don an army uniform complete with firepower not intended for order but for war, then they must be sent to wage war. The question is the training. Policemen are never trained to wage or even conduct warfare. They are supposed to be friends of the community. They are not oriented to take life but preserve it even if their prey is a criminal. Police deals with violators not as enemies to shoot down but suspects to be brought to the bar of justice.
Soldiers on the other hand are trained to take no prisoner. Either they burn their enemies out rightly or set aflame the opponent’s lair. Soldiers are the true warrior class and not those who merely mimic them by wearing the same uniform. It confuses people, it confounds the enemy. It makes the group on a warrior’s outfit the same class as those who really must have to wear it. Hence, a soldier’s foe would have to presume that the police, wearing the same suit, is also the combatant’s opponents and fair game in warfare.
This has been a recurring theme in remote areas in far flung provinces. The police in a similar army uniform roaming and patrolling could only mean aggravating a tense situation in areas where rebels congregate. While generally speaking, rebel groups or the insurgents welcome the presence of police to promote order and never at any instance included in the order of battle, the adoption of a uniform which hardly distinguishes a police from a soldier makes the fatal difference.
It is unfortunate to hear young police officers massacred on the way to a court mission. Scores of them were virtually mowed down by enemy fire. They received a volley of continuous explosive and deadly firepower from the muzzle of adversarial anger. They were instantly decimated and murdered even at the point of surrender. War is winning and there is no gray area as far its conduct is concerned. Warrior from both sides knows the rule. They both subscribe to the same warrior ethos.
The problem however is that the police are in no way into war. They merely projected themselves as warriors. And that is what makes it tragic. They are civilians caught in a web because of the dictum “if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, if it looks like a duck, then it must be a duck!”
“To die today or 50 years from now does not matter. It is in dying that the gods envy the mortals.”
—–Achilles (in Homer’s epic poem Iliad)
January 30, 2015 was the date when 44 fallen soldiers were brought to Manila after a botched military operation in Mindanao, the biggest casualty count in the conflict between rebels and government. It was also the 40th day of mourning on the death of a retired government functionary, the matriarch of the Tesoro clan of Quezon City. As if following a script, it would also be the passage of the patriarch of the Josue family. It would be a string of events leading towards the end of a storied life by youthful soldiers on one hand and the demise of two important people in the life of a struggling community on the other end.
It was an interlude for mourning. It was a period of recollecting dreams and recounting accomplishments. It was a time devoted for their memories. A few generations from now, their names would have been forgotten except as a footnote in the family tree, if at all there is significance at all. All mortals follow the same route, from recognition to oblivion, from start to finish. Those departed are all around us waiting for the day of reckoning, the day when they would all be absorbed in heaven and life continues subsequently in an everlasting way.
It was also a moment for contemplation. 10 or 20 years from now, life would have been very different. Like gadgets with only months as its life span before a new one goes into the market. While it has been said that life today was far greater in importance than before, it is still incapable of a lasting consideration. We have as yet to address what ails man and makes his life expand a little longer. Life is too precious to leave behind. While memories tend to overshoot temporal count, it nonetheless fades away. Not even greatness is a passport for eternal recognition.
We mourn not because of sadness brought about when a loved one crossed over but because we never had that chance brought about by technology to savor the success of science in improving life and addressing death in its past tense.
“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they make them mad first.”
(in HW Longfellow poem “The Masque of Pandora”)
In classical mythology, the gods control the fate of mankind. Man as a matter of fact according to ancient view was even considered a toy or a mere plaything of supernatural beings. Legend tells us that he is ruled by the heavens, guided by nature and everything around him is dictated by whims and caprices. Anyone who tries to deviate, contest or even stray from what is required by the forces is immediately punished if not destroyed. Unless of course man by way of heroism would match the gods with their innate power tit for tat.
Those days were gone, and it was replaced by religion, then by arts, thereafter by ideology and eventually by technology. Man has evolved and has made himself literally the ruler of his universe. He is even within the striking distance of dictating the forces that would govern him. He founded science and used it to his advantage. He developed it further and came out with advanced technology and now, man is even threatening to alter the foundation of his existence, tinkering even with natural laws and bending everything in his favour. The gods, if at all they existed in his imagination, has been recreated in another form. Man has conducted the tempo of what used to be nature and mythical phenomenon according to his own volition.
But there are still unanswered portions in man’s philosophical quests. He is still clueless when miracles would happen. He is still dependent on fate or what its equivalent in science, if at all there is any. He could not determine that which he cannot see although he can define air as matter despite its invisibility. He is still ignorant about will, love and luck. Even if his command of science is almost absolute, he is still at a loss on the cure of cancer and some debilitating diseases.
Whenever man faces a dilemma, he cannot restrain his instinct for speculation. His suspicious inclination would even border on that of superstition. For him, the truth is sometimes made and at times even manufactured. He could not ascertain yet what certainty is all about.
Man has not changed even if he has overhauled his environment. His nature is the same even if everything around him has been overturned several times over. Man during biblical times is the same man we have today. He may have progressed in terms of using the wheel or reinventing fire, but his basic outlook, his principal psychological and even his biological make up remains as it was.
The mind which visualized the gods of Olympus, the spirit which conscripted holiness, the thought that reconfigured philosophy is the same as the will that prompted the arts and sciences. For centuries, man has expanded his understanding of his universe, even attempted to see through the far end of galaxy but would fall short in comprehending what lay behind his consciousness.
Despite his superiority lies his inferior nature when faced with a challenge. By day, his brute strength is almost immeasurable but by night, he is as helpless as an infant. At a glance, he is modern but up close he is just a mere shadow of his past.
Half of his life is like that of a god, the other half is that of a prey. As he confronts reality, he either fights or goes into flight. If he remains passive, indecisive and faltering, he ends up at the bottom of the heap, unable to grasp veracity and would wither with poor perception of what made his life possible. On the other hand, if he leads a life of adventure, a life devoted to struggle and a life indulged in discipline and great effort, unafraid to fail, and does not fear death at all, he eventually becomes strong.
Strong are those whose names are remembered and whose deeds are memorialized.
It is so, because, in the words of Homer, “the gods favor only the strong.”
The wife left weeks ago and church-cultural beliefs say that the spirit of the departed still roams the earth for 40 days. The idea may have come from Biblical tradition on the numerical period and symbolic importance of 40.
It has been noted that number 40 is mentioned 146 times in the Bible and it generally denotes a period of testing, trial or probation. It also represents a generation of man. Furthermore, it has been said that the Bible was written by 40 different people and the most remembered is the claim that Jesus appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.
Having understood such consideration and riding on the crest of the same belief, I decided to call my three kids for a family conference. I wrote down an inventory of all the assets accumulated during the period of our cohabitation and inquired also from the children if they knew of any liability which must have to be settled. Having cleared every angle, I directed that all properties which were produced during the married regime will have to be distributed and divided among them.
I instructed that once transferred, the properties will be under their respective and direct management already. “In the event you encounter difficulties in the process, decide on what is necessary and appropriate. Feel free to consult me if you needed assistance. If possible add more to the properties if you can. Sell it if in your estimation you needed it in another form.” I implored.
I declared to the kids that I have no monopoly of time and sooner or later, my mind would just falter and just the same, the children will have to make certain decisions without my active participation anymore. Hence, the arrangement.
In the past, there never was an occasion where my ancestors, even my parents for that matter, would discuss property matters. Not that they had nothing, as a matter of fact, they had so much but they believed that apportioning it may hasten their departure. As a consequence, as soon as they left the scene, the heirs were all dumbfounded on what to do and decide. Those left behind would even encounter one technical problem after another. Worst, unable to take an upper hand, the properties would just go down into the abyss of neglect if not a subject of unfortunate speculation.
I emphasized to the kids for clarity sake that only those properties which were produced during the incumbency of marriage were subject to disposition and division. The industry and sacrifice we poured into our union produced enough savings in the bank, a subdivision property in Caloocan City, 2 lots in the province and a parcel of farm land in a provincial mountain top, including survivorship in pension and related insurance benefits. These are subject for division and designation for ownership of the children.
I reminded my children that the properties of my parents will stay as it were, undivided and devoted only to my parents and their memories. It will never be negotiated or transacted except for usufruct purposes only.
I further declared that only loans and credits or any liability left by their mother will be left for me to deal with and only those that are cleared or properly registered and paid for will be for the children to enjoy and subject for their individual disposition.
In my contemplation, I think that it was the best thing I could do within the period of 40 days after the wife has gone to life hereafter.
Your presence made a good chapter in the prison service worth reading.
(RACHEL DURAN RUELO reached her retirement age this day, January 19, 2015, capping the highest post in the career ladder of the Bureau of Corrections. Considered one of the founding officers of Correctional Institute for Women in Mindanao, she also sustained the hall of fame category of the main CIW in Mandaluyong, carrying its prestige as the most well managed facility among all corrective facilities in the country.)
Rachel is a full fledged lawyer before she joined government service. Her academic record speaks high of her audacity for legal education and immediately after the Bar, she was, as expected, one of those in the top 20. She must have reached the pinnacle of law practice had she pursued it through private legal counseling but she would rather spend her best years in government, in the service of the people.
For this lady lawyer, returning the family favor was almost…
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Today is the eve of my father’s birthday. He could have been 91 tomorrow. In my book, he is still alive.
PROFESSOR CARLOS LEGASPI TESORO (born in San Pedro, Laguna on January 19, 1922) gracefully passed away in 2008 at the age of 86.
He was a self-made man, an unico hijo, who grew up not from the nurturance of a parent but from the busy laps of his maternal aunts. Her mother was a career educator who sacrificed family in favour of her career in educational institution. His father was an itinerant gun supplier and a vagabond for a time. As a result, my father grew up literally mending for himself, working his way to school up until he completed his college education.
To satisfy grade school requirements, he peddled peanuts. His secondary education was spent as errand boy in the convent which later would sponsor him for priesthood. The parish priest was amazed at how easily my father could grasp language especially Vulgate Latin, a dead language, still used…
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KA ROMY: A LOYAL FRIEND, A RELIABLE FOLLOWER
Every mythical hero, whether portrayed in literature or even in comic platform, depicts a shadowy person behind the major escapade. He is everywhere, where the hero is. He is a constant figure of the main protagonist. The so called sidekick so to speak. A man Friday if you may. A confidant. A triggerman. A scapegoat even. Don Quixote has his Sancho Pancha, Batman has his Robin, the Greenhornet has his Kato. Without the perennial assistant, the hero is incomplete. Or to be frank about it, the heroism expected to be shown will find no glamorous projection without the other. Gastronomically, we have mami and siopao, or tokwa’t baboy.
Prison work is seldom a task to be conducted in a tandem. Either the worker has an officially assigned buddy or he goes to complete a task on his own. In my…
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Gregorio Centeno Josue, 77, born on November 17, 1937, is the only brother, the younger one, of my mother. They are only two in the family and their birth is 8 years apart. Both were born in Ilocos Sur. Their father, Justiniano Josue was a sea farer, a naval officer recruited by the Americans before World War II. The mother, Pauline Centeno, with half Irish blood, on the other hand was an enterprising woman who virtually took care of her children in the absence of an OFW husband.
Gregorio is for me “Uncle Greg.” He was my tutor during my toddler years. He taught me fencing, reasoning and street fighting. He would indulge me to ride on the bike, perilous at that time, and compete with my playmates in the neighbourhood. He had all the time in the world to take good care of me, not because he wanted it that way but because he wanted to use me as cover so that he would not be prodded to go to school. He hated the discipline in school. He would rather play basketball in the street or commute back to his childhood neighbourhood in Caloocan to play ball with his peers—mostly scion of established families in the area.
I would oftentimes argue with him whenever he would goad me to study and prepare for school, “How come you are forcing me to study when you yourself do not want to go to school?”
“Listen to me young fellow,” Uncle Greg would intone, “even if I don’t go to school, my playmates are heir to the wealth of their parents. Once we are of age, my friends will just share to me their prosperity. Now, look at your playmates and tell me if they are children of well-to-do parents.”
“What if all of us are poor and fledging? What does that mean, Uncle?”
“That means that all of you will have to struggle. All the more you should study so that one day, you will be able to help them!” my Uncle would stress the point over and over until I will be convinced to pick up my pen and complete my school assignments.
Years passed by with no school work behind him, I would realize that his pontificating was right all along. He would be recruited by his well off friends in their respective business. True, his friends inherited the fortune of their parents and he would be enjoined to join their firms. Uncle Greg’s best friends were in the entertainment business (Premiere Production, the counter part of Hollywood’s MGM) and rightly so, he would become a staff and even a cameo actor once in a while. He would be given assigned tasks to see the country side to monitor revenues of films by the outfit. He never had any dull moments since then.
Uncle Greg settled and had a wonderful family. He would require me to spend my semestral breaks with them. I would be given assignments and taught further. He would enrol me to study driving. He would compel me to do art works in movie houses he managed. He would expose me to the underworld too where most of his friends would moon light once in a while. From there, I would pick up my lifetime vice of smoking. Except for drinking, we share the same dislike for alcohol, we had great time with his friends more so in pulling one laughter after another. Their amusement comes from highlighting and branding themselves with nicknames with their looks. Hence, my uncle’s nickname in his close circle of friends was “Tenga.” His large ears would be his defining difference from the rest.
Since his job was on Show business, our house would be visited by celebrities once in a while. Several thespians would appear at our doorstep. There was Ruben Rustia (a hall of famer, character actor), Eddie Fernandez (a prized actor known for his Lagalag series, until a twist of fate, when his star would dip and he would be imprisoned), Zaldy Zchornack , Ronald Remy, Roland Montes, Bayani Casimiro, Casmot, Popoy and a lot more.
Uncle Greg retired as administrator of a building owned by his friend, heir to an entertainment behemoth, Premeire Productions, during that time.
From that time on, he would stay grounded at home entertaining friends, joining relatives in reunion parties and watching basketball all day long. It was a passion which never departed from his interest. It was likewise a sport which he never reneged even during the time when his mother was on death bed. It has been said that when Lola Pauline, already seconds away from departing, was asking for him, and hearing the summon, my uncle, who was one of the best point guards in his team could only mutter, “I will be home, just a few more points to win the game.”
He arrived just in time for his mother to utter, “Congratulations.” There was a smile on the face of Lola Pauline, thinking before she would pass away that her son will become an NBA player one day. Well, that day never came.
(January 16, 2015, Uncle Greg suffered a stroke and he was immediately taken to a nearby hospital at Novaliches, Quezon City. He was subsequently transferred to the Lung Center of the Phillippines on the recommendation of a friend from the same hospital. He was unconscious and never regained from his comatose condition. Two weeks later, he passed away. His family was saddened to recall a few months before when Uncle Greg was seeking for a priest for confession. His kids were adamant since it might hasten Uncle Greg’s health condition. They knew that he could still muster strength to recover from what ails him, after all, he is of the same age as that of Pope Francis. But Uncle Greg’s routine was sedate and he could barely move around. Besides, he would oftentimes be confined in the past for medical purposes and every time he would be hospitalised, he would come through healed and would immediately recover. It was almost a routine for the family. Not until that fateful day when a vein in his brain would create hematoma, a direct cause for his comatose status.
January 30, 2015 Uncle Greg departed. It was also the day when Philippine President BS Aquino III declared a National Day for Mourning, a fitting coincidence.)
While conducting my daily security inspection inside the facility for newly arrived prisoners, I noticed an inmate jogging around and doing some shadow boxing. He was built to destroy any opponent. His abs was noticeable in his oily body and every jab looked menacing. Prison records revealed that during one practice session in the street, he punched quite hard a sparring partner instantly sending the poor guy to the hospital, almost lifeless. He was charged criminally and was convicted subsequently.
While serving time, he never slowed down despite the tragic incident that befell his career. He was there moving around, showing his incarcerated peers that he had what it takes to be a world champion. His footwork was amazing; his reflexes were cat like, ambidextrous and still young. He was easily the toast of the prison community. There he was a name to watch once he is released. This was years ago and there was no Manny Pacquiao then.
One day, he wanted to prove his boxing skills among those who virtually worship his pugilistic mastery. He would cajole and encourage even those bigger and heftier for a round or two, just for some shows. No one would oblige however. Until the boxer himself noticed a raw talent mimicking his move in one far corner. He called the inmate for a minute of sparring. The lanky and gangling inmate was adamant. He was imprisoned for theft and only someone’s property is the only subject of his concerns. He was never violent in the first place. He would not even bite a tempting wager too.
The poor inmate was somehow pushed and pulled up until he landed in front facing the mean looking prizefighter. He was no match to the fleet footed guy. The hand speed was there and he could not even follow the exact position. Everyone was cheering the boxer. Everybody was enjoying the lopsided game. It was truly an entertaining sight.
The pugilist wanted to prove his mettle by allowing his forced opponent to take a jab at him. He protruded his chin but before he could blink, the raw talent gave an upper cut to the jaw and sent the fighter instantly down. The boxer was brought to the prison hospital for broken mandible and subsequently settled to play chess the rest of his prison time.
When asked what his occupation was before he was incarcerated, the droopy inmate who knocked out the athlete replied, “In our town, I carry several boats to the parking zone on the shoreline daily.”
A youthful inmate was among several convicts transported to the penal colony. His case was an interesting leaf in the passionate pages of modern romance. He looked different also from the rest of those transferred from the city jail. His face was a broken mess ringed with stitches all over, a hole indicated that once there was a nose, similarly that with his ears, his eyes no longer close, his forehead was already concaved, he had no shoulder gut to carry his posture, his arms and hands were a boneless dangling leather protruding from his shirt. He could barely walk with one leg, the other one merely a jutting shadow.
Asked what his case was all about, he would whisper with difficulty, yes his voice box too was ripped out leaving behind a series of overlapping skin on his throat, “because of love.”
Accordingly, he and his girlfriend could no longer stand the opposition of their respective families on their relationship. In a society that values material comfort, a dirt poor boy is never an ideal partner to a princess. But love conquers everything. And so they decided to end their lives, both of them in one blast, and to continue with their love affair in heaven instead.
The boy produced a hand grenade and showed it to his inamorata. They tied each other close to one another. They were hidden inconspicuously in the garden of the girl’s parents. After an hour of romantic pledges, the boy placed the grenade in between their bodies, the pin tied to a string to his mouth. They have agreed that when the girl would say “yes”, the boy would pull the tattle and they would be joined in life hereafter.
And so the explosion came. The entire neighborhood was racked with a deafening sound. And those in the vicinity saw two bodies sprawled almost lifeless. The two lovers were immediately sent to the hospital. The girl died upon arrival, the boy survived.
After several weeks at the hospital, finally to boy was treated. He was a messy looking alien, a zombie in person.
Thereupon, he was charged for first-degree murder and has been convicted accordingly. He is now serving time in prison for life.
A national of Denmark was enamored on the verdant lush of a country as it was featured in cable TV National Geographic channel that he vowed to visit the tropical isle called the Philippines. He saved and lived austerely to accumulate funds for his trip until finally he succeeded. He was destined in his estimation not only as an ordinary tourist but also as an explorer.
The time came and the reality of his visit came to pass. He arrived excitedly to see throngs of people smiling everywhere. For him, this is a far cry from his staid and serious neighborhood. He left his country for good and embraced the new one. The facilities may be a little rickety and obsolete, the buildings almost a shade of high-rise in his hometown, there is filth in most alleys and disorder on the streets but these are merely a diversion and they never bothered him at all.
He decided to explore the countryside. He landed in Mindanao and got awed by the pristine forest and luxuriant vegetation. He tried to hike from one town to another and relish further the hospitality of those people he would meet. Their smile never changed from those he met days ago at the airport. The sun is up in the morning and there is a slight drizzle in the afternoon. “I belonged to this place!” he would excitedly shout at himself.
One socially inviting evening, he found himself haggling for cookies in a roadside store. At first glance, he was immediately infatuated at the sprightly maiden manning the joint. The good looking Dane had a charming and respectable pose that even those people nearby would join in egging the tourist to go for the jugular. Gamely, the foreigner obliged and was out rightly accepted. That night, the foreigner had an instant girlfriend, a vivacious and very friendly young woman, with a small business to boot.
Eventually, they lived as husband and wife. Convinced on how savvy his wife was in handling transactions, he pulled out more of his funds and bought the nearby lot. His wife’s relatives were overjoyed at the prosperity of the budding couple. He tried hard to fit into the native landscape until he became conversant with their dialect too. Here is a Caucasian debating with the locals on the matter of handling commerce!
While clearing the newly purchased lot, the white man was aghast to find a protruding body already in the state of decomposition. He alarmed his neighbor and as soon as the police arrived, he found himself under interrogation. The wife could not help since she was busy with her venture, believing that her husband can take care of himself.
One incident would lead to another. Investigation disclosed during a probe that the one found buried in the vacant lot had a record of breaking in their store and as a result, a motive was immediately established.
The foreigner as part owner of the store and the adjoining lot was to be a suspect. Since no relative of the wife came to the rescue, the foreigner was charged accordingly. A penalty of Life was handed down and as soon as he was transferred from jail to the penal colony, he never heard anything from his wife anymore.
Now, he longed to return to relish the air of his staid and serious neighborhood back in Denmark.
Well, here I go again. I was scolded and nearly chastised by my superiors for thinking aloud last year (2013) when I wrote that sending prisoners to the contested Spratly Islands can virtually decongest our prison system. Accordingly, I should not meddle in international affairs since the areas under question should remain as it was; that I should not add nor fuel to the brewing controversy. I followed. Our government, including its citizens, should not meddle and rekindle anything that would disturb peace in the area. I kept quiet since then.
While browsing internet the other day (2014) however, there was this news dispatch that China has nearly completed its reclamation project in one of the disputed islands in West Philippine Sea. When it was inquired about it, Beijing responded that its actions are within the scope of Chinese sovereignty.
I wish to submit another proposal. Why not formulate a legislative piece as part of the penalty matrix for offenses instead of institutionalization or imprisonment, this time, a court-ordered community service in the Spratly Islands. So that convicted offenders would not be crammed in an overcrowded facility, why not send them for a period in the Islands to do community service, like clearing, maintaining the coastal lines, constructing infrastructure, sustaining the bio-diversity of the area, reforestation and the like. Offenders under court-order community service may no longer add in the mass of offenders congregating inside an over populated facility but could generously explore his environment and participate in communal work. Furthermore, we may as yet expand our rehab services to include teaching prisoners to love and respect property and their environment.
The point is not necessarily occupying the island (despite the fact that it is ours anyway), although that in a way is a political statement already, but on the manner of depopulating our congested prison and squalid jail facilities.
This writer further sayeth naught.