Monthly Archives: September 2015

WE WERE ONCE CHILDREN

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Children grow up so fast that it’s almost impossible to chart time in a deliberate manner.  I was once a child and my memory could only take my consciousness back when I was three, at the most.  Although to a certain extent, I am familiar with songs mother used to sing as lullaby when I was an infant but it was more coincidental than mental.  There is no need to press fast-forward to appreciate the speed of a period.

Time flies incredibly fast that I could only describe it as a glimpse.  Several years back, I was a toddler and now, in a flick, I am an old hag already.

The Distant Past

I could only recollect few instances in the past.  I have had probably some juvenile antics which my parents disliked.  I could still remember those times my parents would scold me.  The worst was the beatings I would receive from my father, using his leather belt, to drive the point that he was angered as a result of my delinquent actions.  The corporal punishments were all there and I could remember the intensity of its application but my memory would fail in recalling what those instances were for which I got penalized.  It was psychology of forgetfulness in operation most probably.

Anyway, everyone knew all along how it was to be a child.  Years ago, I, along with peers, yearned to reach that day to be old, to complete schooling, to work and be on our own.  I remembered my classmates proudly proclaiming that someday they would become lawyers, doctors, engineers, priests, etc.  Well, in my case, since I was always the assigned classroom cleaner during grade school and which I enjoyed the exercise much more so the personal attention given by my adviser, I would proclaim, to the dismay of my mother who learned it later, that I wanted to be, not any greater, but be a janitor!  At that time, the white collar job was the most prayed for and sought after as ambition.

My generation

A number of my classmates became what they announced they would be.  Most of them even exceeded the expectations.  Not only were they the toast of their neighborhood, most of them even went abroad to compete and resided for good.  In my case, I stayed around, became a servant, a civil servant, a government worker if you may.

Unlike in Europe where government workers are almost conferred with and treated as part of nobility, in this country a public servant is shunned and seen as incompetent.  I had a hard time extricating myself from the impression no matter how scholarly I would struggle.

A number of my classmates, if not all of them, were all good children.  We all are to begin with.  We may have absentee parents, too busy to watch over us, too concerned about career to devote their time on us, too conservative to provide us the necessary tools to confront reality, but we demanded little.  We merely understood our predicament.  We merely devoted our concerns with studies when in school and acted with discipline when at home.  We looked up at our parents as demigods.

There was little technology to spoil us then.  We relied on manual operation and rejoiced at it.  The only gadget which was awesome at that time was the calculator and TV sets.  But there was little to compute and only a few shows to watch.  Most of our time were devoted to helping our parents in household chores, gallivant a little for socialization and back to our studies.

We had little choices before unlike today when every move is defined not only by a multiplicity of choices but also by several options, applications, programs ad infinitum.

The Present Genset

That explains the fact that children nowadays, the future adult, or that generation that preceded us are too delicate if not too discriminating in their ranges.  It is environment that created their prickly and snappish nature.  It is no longer nurturance but more on the milieu.  It is the advancement and the mass based popularity of technology which literally changed conduct, outlook and even the attitude of the person towards another.  Parental concern is relegated to a trivial corner.

Before music was shared and one must reckon collective acceptance through jukeboxes before it could be played.  Now, music can be enjoyed in privacy through earphones.

Well, there were also some miscues before and some misunderstanding.  Our parents would be pissed off by the loud metallic music which we oftentimes preferred.  Now, with our children, music has become more complex.  There is little talent and more about experimentation.  The lyrics were lost to a cacophony of rhythm hastily composed.  There is little melody and more about rhyme.

But despite the fad, the children today are not grossly different from those of yesteryear.  Despite the technology that divides us, there is individual perception and common sense which dictate the similarities and transformations.  There are industrious and the lazy ones.  There are the ambitious and impetuous; scholarly and moronic; smart and stupid; vigilant and passive; active and shy; boisterous and old-school.

Behavior is a product of personal choice and never a part of the gene or something congenital.  It is a personal choice of the concerned party.   A farmer may have children who would grow up into successful businessmen.  A community leader may end up with children wanted by law.  So on and so forth.  There is no formula because it is a matter of selecting on which side a person is contented or happily disposed of.

A Reality

I belonged to a generation that venerates parents.  Although I defied authorities for purposes of independence and individuality, I reckoned superior views and accepted setback in the name of cordiality.  Not the present generation however, I mean most of them in the batch.  They have better exposures, greater knowledge, broader contacts and healthier perceptions.  Their means of projecting such lead however is reduced because of uncalled for or unintentional brashness and impudence.  Nobody is exempted from hacking.  For them, the parents were mere transmissions, decorative pieces worthy only in accomplishing bank forms.  For them, the parents were specie of history, a threat to resources if not the fountainhead for assets.  There is too much materialism in estimating their importance.  Respect has been calibrated and at times ignored.

That is the reality.

We had nothing of that before and that made the real distinction.  Our childhood was pristine and worth looking back, while children today could only look forward on what dimensions of technology would come their way.  There are of course exceptions.

Our childhood was defined according to emotional colors; none of that today exists, fortunately or unfortunately, in the consciousness of the youth.

The world seemed headed, despite global warming, towards a cold and icy future.

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METRO MANILA VS METRO DAVAO: A TALE OF TWO GREAT CITIES

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It is almost of the same size.  Except that one is situated in the northern island of the country, in Luzon, while the other is down south, in Mindanao.  Both are considered the effective capital of their respective domain.  Both have similarities and a few differences.  All else considered, it is almost the same.

Comparing or engaging the two metropolises into some kind of a comparative analysis may be a bit prejudiced but it is serendipitous to a certain extent.  Personally, I could only express biases. Others argue that it is like comparing an apple to an orange.  But nonetheless both belonged to the same genus, hence their compatibility.

Literary citations

Dan Brown’s novel “Inferno” cited Manila as “gates of Hell.”  There were howls, protests and denunciation when it was revealed.  It came like a drizzle.  As soon as the traffic at EDSA filled the brim, the commuters themselves pledged that they are not at the gates but in Hell already!

A few months later, tourism guides from developed countries including surveys of international airlines concluded that Davao is the 5th safest city in the world.  The information has not sunk in yet in the consciousness of the people; another news dispatch was made announcing that Davao is indeed the safest city in the world.  We are not talking here of local news.  Not regional or zonal but international.  To have achieved this accomplishment is something of a mean feat.  Not too long ago, Davao was killing fields and since then  has leapt several folds to claim a glorious accolade.

A sentimental place

I was a bit saddened by the decline of Manila because I was born there.  It was in this place where I received my education, got my first employment and enjoyed blissful friendship within its environs.  I had the most respectable neighborhood and had a reputable bunch of boyhood chums.

The best schools in the country and the best medical facilities in the country are situated in Manila.  Most businesses have their central offices in this place, including national government itself.  For those in the countryside, including some denizens of Davao, to reach Manila is already having a taste of abroad.  Hence, a lot of ambitious people would rather try their luck in Manila.  As the saying goes “if you survive in Manila, you can survive everywhere!”  My distinct advantage, if at all that significant, is that I am a bona fide resident of Metro Manila.  My other plus sign is that I have a small plot in Davao I call “home OF the aged.”

The comparison begins

The best however attracts the worst.  Hence, Metro Manila is not only regularly visited by tropical hurricane as a natural occurrence but has been cramped and congested as a consequence of local migration.  In a brief spell of time, it became too contained and overcrowded and has lost its spatial integrity.  It is polluted, crime ridden and unhealthy to live within its suburban areas.  Yet there is no respite ahead.  Metro Manila is still bursting with construction.  It is expanding vertically through high rise structures.  But on the ground, there is swelling not only of waters during flash floods but from thousands of vehicles at any time of the day.

Still in all, Metro Manila is for toughies, they who munch and subsist in challenges.

Davao on the other hand is expanding its road system and has continually accommodated its traffic flow from moderate to light.  Driving in this part of the country is a pleasure.  There is no such thing as heavy traffic unless there is an accident, which is unlikely.  There are no storms except that the volume of rainfall is far greater than that of Manila.  It rains in the afternoon up until evening.  In the morning up ‘til noon, the sun shines.  This is routine and almost a natural recourse whole year round.  There is no such thing as dry and wet spell.  It has been said that 2 weeks without rain is considered drought already.  Hence, Davao and the entire environs have healthy and lush vegetative condition.  One can see green everywhere.  Fruits are abundant.  Pollution is unheard of.  People are healthy and strong, honest and reliable.  Crime is minimal and there is no problem in employment.

For retirees and those with sensitive feelings, conservative as you were, Davao is your niche.

A Realization

I love Manila but if one prefers health like I do, because it is by definition what wealth is all about, I would rather spend the rest of the day in Davao.

THOSE YEARS OF EMPLOYMENT

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First Job

I was still 20 years old when I graduated from college (Letran) and immediately after, I went to the State University (UP Diliman) for my post grad.  That was the time when I started working.  I must earn my graduate degree by teaching as per contract with the Foundation (Headstart Intl).  And so, despite the fact that I have not reached the age of majority, I was already a part time faculty, a Pre-school supervisor (my post grad was on SPED for Disadvantaged Children and Youth) and as an under-cover community organizer in depressed areas of Mandaluyong City (read:  activist leader under the tutelage of the Head of the Church-Military Liaison during the Martial Law regime).

At that age, I was no longer dependent on my parents.  They gave me education and that was enough for me.  However, much as I wanted to be independent, they never allowed me to live elsewhere.  At that time, I was already thinking of how I can sustain what my parent’s needs.  That was also the first time I got to appreciate how it feels to work and be given remuneration.  Oh, how great indeed it was to receive my first pay envelop.  For me, it was like having a real diploma too.  It was as surreal a deal, as a matter of fact, the real deal.

Unfortunately, I never received the full completion of the contracted post grad course at UP because I pursued the equal protection clause in the contract.  Since I was already performing the task of a supervisor, I demanded that I be given a salary commensurate to my effort.  What for I was an activist for the rights of workers if I cannot secure my own.  Anyway, according to the school registrar, I breached the contract and that was the end of my UP days.

I was jobless for a while but not for long.  I did a lot of art works on the side hence my parents never noticed anything at all as far as my work status was concerned.  Arts gave me extra dough to indulge on.

Second Job

A friend recommended that I should try marketing.  Accordingly, I was a good speaker.  I could be a respectable pastor if I intend to organize a cult or a salesman.

And so, I applied in the private sector.

And eventually, I got employed as Territory Manager of Mead Johnson, Phil.,( the company that manufactures Sustagen, Lactogen, nutritional products and some pharmaceutical items too) but not without difficulty.  Those in the outfit were better known as “Detailman, “ or plain Salesman and it took a while to be one.  As soon as I reached 21, I was already a full-fledged Salesman of an American multinational firm in charge of Nutritional Division in Bicol Region.

But before that, I still could vividly recall the tough and demanding recruitment phase:  we were around 256 applicants.  I know because I happen to hold card number 256.  I was the latest applicant and also the last to be interviewed.

A month of rigorous daily exams and panel discussions later, our numbers dwindled.   There were a lot of casualties already.  There was no physical agility called for but most of my peers were collapsing for exhaustion.  We were given paper works and required to fulfill its completion through a maze in a mock bureaucratic exercise.  It was very draining but I learned a lot about government procedures.  A number of exercises and module appreciation were also given as demonstration for glib talking.  Drug salesmen must have that acumen of selling a gram of flour and shoving it as if it was a cure-all medicine.  From 256, only 53 remained.  Well, I was at the tail end, as the 53rd.  And why not?  Salesmen must have the height, the posture, the projection, the gait, the personality, the looks, the bearing, the works.  On top of that, all of those with me in the remaining list were virtually mestizos.  I was the only one looking like a native!

Anyway, a number of my good-looking batch mates miserably flopped because they failed in one essential exam which I excelled.  It was actually a mock selling session where a salesman, in our case the applicants, must be able to sell a piece of junk to a prospective customer, the sales supervisor.  My mestizo counterparts looked awkward.  They do not look like selling.  They look more like buyers!  When it was my turn to sell, having heard me explain (I was an instructor and activist, remember?)  and, well, I knew how to detail the significance of the junk, a number of my supervisors, the prospective customers, almost were tempted to procure my product.  I had a good laugh after that and an appreciation that indeed, I had a career built personally according to my social skills.

It was then that I realized that the company was only looking for 2 Detail men.  Right at the penultimate round where those who passed will have to hurdle another marketing obstacle, I learned that we were only three survivors!  Luckily, the third guy backed out.  But that was not the end of it.  My remaining companion does not know how to drive.  During the Finals, we were supposed to be given keys to our service vehicle.  I got mine and blow me down, I was the only fellow, the last man standing that time.

And for a while, I was the company’s apple of their eye, the only one tutored by their best imported  trainers and given the necessary sales orientation as if the life of the firm depended on me.  I was like Jet Li in the movie Romeo Must Die, or Silvester Stallone in First Blood!

For nearly a year and a half, I had the most exciting, the most fulfilling, the most educational job in the planet in my estimation.  I was a budding marketing novice for a while but I almost became the top salesman of the country after a semester, had my father not prodded me to transfer to another job, that time, in government service.  If there is any job worth fulfilling for newly grads, it should be in sales if I may hasten to add. 

One becomes matured overnight.  It is a period to expand patience, to learn behavior, to anticipate danger, to appreciate winning and rise above the occasion in case of failure.  I learned everything there is on the street and it prepared me to meet life head on.  How I almost got the reward as the top salesman in the country in just a few months is another story.

Third Job

At the age of 22, I was the guidance psychologist of the Bureau of Corrections (then Bureau of Prisons).  Government service was some kind of alien to me at the onset having been oriented in the private sector previously.  It was more on spending time, stretching the full 8 hours even if there was nothing to accomplish in the first place.  It was more on acting in a subservient way, of kowtowing with fellow employees, of nodding continuously to be agreeable that mattered.

It was like witnessing how government spends tax money on people whose tasks were to pass the whole day talking shit and nothing more.

During my first month, notwithstanding my school training as psychometrician and as clinical psychologist, I was instructed only to fasten paper clips on thick forms and thereafter dispose it in boxes for purposes of filing.  I was so skilled in attaching paper clips that I could do it with my eyes closed, mouth continuously talking and even packing almost a sacksful of documents and bringing it home so that the next day, I could roam around the office and learn other concerns.

In my second month, I tried to move around and expose myself further in all corners of the prison camp.  Sitting the whole day was never public service at all.  Hence, I would persuade my fellow officers to tutor me on how they facilitate their responsibilities.  And they were all excited to pass on to me their functional routine.  My hands were full, my colleagues could gallivant, all of us were winners.

On my third month, I already knew how to receive a newly admitted prisoner, how to give prison numbers, provide admission orientation, prepare statistical data base on inmate profile, interview the inmates for case work, draft the case summary and eventually formulate the initial classification methodology.

Whether my office mates liked it or not, I can perform the mission of a 55 warm body organization all by myself!

It was a period of learning how to manage the prison community. And since I started it the proper way, I handled prison management as if I was born to lead the incarcerated humanity.   It would also be my job for almost four decades after ascending several folds in the organization up until I reached the apex of my career.

It was also a period for scholarship.  Having a loose and wobbly time, I tried to enroll and complete one post graduate course after another.  I completed my Law (but could not find time to review and take the Bar ever since) and Masteral course in Diplomacy on top of additional skills training options in sculpture, culinary arts, acupuncture and a number of government sponsored seminars on IT, statistics and public administration.  Later in the day, I also enrolled in three different doctoral degree courses in Public governance (Ateneo), Physics (UP) and Criminal Justice Administration (PCCr) but I was directed to attend in various provincial assignments and could no longer hold on to my classes.

In government service, I have seen faces, places and made historical strides.  I have contributed in my own humble ways expressive accomplishments in serving the people.  I can however do and perform so much in a specific period with competence in the most honest way I could.  Compulsory retirement was near and it was time to take a bow.

As the saying goes, “Go down the stage while the audience is still clapping.”

Fourth and final Job

Finally, I am now on my own.  I am no longer concerned about time.  As a matter of fact, I seldom check my watch.  I eat only when hungry and not because it is time to eat meals.  I wake up anytime I want to.  I am no longer attached to any company, private or public except in social media like facebook.   I maintain a website if only to be counted in the world.   Like a bird, I can fly in any direction.

I am no longer a subject matter for intrigue, for envy, for bashing, to be threatened every now and then, to be lured in any activity, to be forced to understand, to be enjoined and compelled.

I am no longer an entity worth manipulating and schemed at.  Suddenly, life becomes ordinary, normal and commonplace.  I have lived for quite a time in the limelight and now it is time to be unknown.

I am no longer structured.  I am free and my only job was to appreciate everything I have been through, read a lot, write so much, communicate with friends, dream some more and pray that my loved ones would succeed in traversing life in their own terms.

THE DAY I SAW MY DEAD AND LIVING FRIENDS IN MY DREAM

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I had a full day traveling a day ago and reaching my destination; I got off my vehicle, dragged my exhausted body, and slumped on a good corner to relax.   While resting, daylight faded out and I instantly sunk in deep slumber.

But notwithstanding my unconscious status, my mind was still very active as if I was still awake.  I don’t know anymore if it was a dream or I was just trying to find my sleep.  There was my friend Romy, my ever loyal Man Friday egging me to stand up and check the vehicle.  He knew that I am particular about vehicles that I am using, that he probably noticed something that I must attend to.  Still half-asleep and dizzy because of the tiresome driving, I got off from the sofa bed.

It was then that I realized that Romy has departed a few years already.  It’s impossible, my dear friend had crossed over already.  But wait, there were other fellows ogling at the tires of my vehicle, Jun Geronimo and Lito Pragides.  Now, these two guys are still very much alive.  They were arguing over something.  They were always arguing in the first place that is why they never got along very well at the end of the day.  But what was this duo doing in front of my car?

As I moved closer, Sonny (Miranda) my bosom friend since elementary accosted me and whispered that my radiator was probably leaking.  If it was so, then I would have a problem of using the vehicle because it might later stall for overheat.  I was grateful for the information.  Jun and Lito may have the same observation too except that they could not agree on what to relay to me.  But Sonny has gone to heaven a number of years past on that year when my sister went up in Heaven.

As if on cue, in the same living room where I stretched out, there was Uncle Ben and Uncle Greg having an animated banter.  I knew that it would not last long because Uncle Greg wanted to talk more about basketball and Uncle Ben was more on music.  But it’s awkward because my favorite uncles, maternal and paternal, left on the year my wife was escorted by the angels.

There was Tony Florido and Romy de la Cuesta, both healthy and alive discussing something a few paces from my vehicle.  They were all my favorite pilots in my out of town travels.   There were Ongski, Yetbo and Mel too—all of them in their pink of health, although for a time they were having some health problems.  They sustained my strength in every conceivable mission I would devote myself.  The trio seemed like they were poking fun, teasing Gener and Boy Calica.  There was of course Je Roxas extending some kind of a wallet to Ka Sosing, who in turn was frowning.  All of them were there and they are all alive.

I have as yet to move closer to my car when a tricycle got closer and Msgr. Espiridion alighted.  The good chaplain was still young compared to his present emaciated look.  He was excited to tell me that he just got a word from my parents.  I knew he was kidding because he celebrated Mass during my parent’s wake.  Nonetheless, he pressed on and reminded me to buy a new car because my fledging 1978 Toyota Corona was no longer road worthy.

Good grief!  I was dreaming and yet I felt like I was awake all the time.  Everyone was there and MORE. As I was about to board my car and start the engine, all of them surrounded me.  It was more like a sea of humanity was growing around my garage.   I personally could identify a lot of them—they were my classmates in my kindergarten days, my playmates in elementary, my buddies in high school, my chums in college, all of them.  A lot of those in uniform were also around, coming in from different directions, all of them from Bucor, the agency where I spent a great deal of my youthful exuberance.

I could see the expression on all their faces, as if anticipating whether I would invite them all for a ride.  But I could not decide whom to call.  I cannot squeeze them all.

All of them tried to peer into my car as if expecting a signal.  I know I was dreaming but I don’t know how to wake up already.

Until I realized that prayers can smooth emotions.  I loved all of them.  But as soon as I uttered the first word of “Our Father…” I awoke.

Had I stayed the course, I could have been lynched by my friends!

“DAANG MATRAPIK”

daang matrapik

We have heard of “Dating Daan,” “Daang Hari,” “Limang Daan,” “Daang Matuwid,” but now another entry into the amusing lexicon of Pinoy comes “Daang Matrapik.”

Dan Brown’s novel “Inferno” was nearly boycotted sometime ago because it claimed in its pages that the “gates of Hell” is somewhere in Manila.  With “Daang Matrapik,” it became an understatement.  The novel could have bravely alluded to Manila as Hell itself with no one protesting!  Ask commuters, millions of them, who are gravely affected by the horrendous traffic they must have to endure daily, at any time of the day, and one gets the sneaky expression of Hades already.

That is right Folks, “Daang Matrapik” seems to be the new normal in the perfidious configuration of urban life in Metro Manila.

Before I left for Metro Davao (a motorist’s paradise compared to Metro Manila) sometime in the mid 90s, EDSA was a 24 km super highway, a six-lane thoroughfare on each side, free flowing, organized and almost traffic free.  Now, passing through EDSA is no longer pleasurable.  If there is a learning advantage one gets in the process, it is only in internalizing the wisdom on the art of being patient that comes to mind.

It’s just that there is little indication that a Filipino by nature is easily pushed into rage otherwise; the entire stretch of EDSA would have been splattered with dead bodies mostly coming from the ranks of drivers.

While traversing EDSA sometime last month, I was even tempted to bump a wayward bus, alight from my car with bazooka and aim it at the bus driver and to hell with everyone.  I may have held my patience once but I had similar situations along the stretch of that f***king road.

I could have snapped except that I had no bazooka but just a couple empty bottles of mineral water.  Had I not prayed that day and had I armed myself, I could have mounted a war on EDSA and who cares who gets damned that instance!

And I would presume that I was not the only one among millions of affected souls who were only waiting for a triggering insinuation and yes, hell would have dawned.

Before I got conscripted into the mayhem I was able to check my plane ticket back to Davao and that saved the day for me, actually that saved the metropolis from my hands!

(Seriously, I sent a proposal to MMDA almost a year ago.  I submitted a concept on easing traffic on EDSA by transforming it into a ONE WAY street.  So what if the circuitous travel route for some motorists would take several MINUTES to negotiate.  The point is:  there is movement.  Better than the whole caboodle of vehicles getting stranded for HOURS.)

REMEMBERING MY ONLY SISTER

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It has been three years already when my only sister (it’s her birthday today—September 11), my only personal strength has ascended into heaven, there to meet our parents and beloved relatives.  She must be very happy over there.

Although she may have wished to stay a little longer for her kids and grandkids, for her organization and subalterns, for her students and colleagues, so on and so forth, her time was unceremoniously limited by an ailment which ironically has a treatment already!

Had she took her time to be immunized with a vaccine for cervical ailment, she would not have suffered and she could have lived up to this very day and onwards.  Take note dear readers, especially ladies, don’t forget to take your vaccine.  Your future health, and possibly a longer lifespan, hinge on this insignificant medical routine. 

There are numerous people, most of them very close to her heart whom she wished to serve more and that included me.  She may have struggled to hang dearly on her life if only to be of help.  She may have spent so much time in the academe, in her organization and among her peers that she forgot herself and her health in the process.  She has devoted completely her time in the service of her universe.

But of course, her whole life revolved around her children.  She was absolutely concerned about her eldest child, Aiko and grandchildren, Kraig and Kley.  She was absolutely mesmerized by the scholarly intellect of her second child, Michi, her intellectual clone.  And she was absolutely attached to her only son, RJ.  It’s a pity that she was not able to take a glimpse at Teddy.  She must be that ultra-doting grandma to Teddy for a personal reason because her childhood crush went by the name of Teddy also.

If she is still alive today, she may have celebrated her 60th birthday.  We would have a big laugh today for transcending youth and entering the domain of senior citizens.  She may have submitted her retirement already and by now, may have included in her itinerary a time to spend a vacation to her Kuya Ven down in Mindanao.  I could have easily persuaded her to write a book, our joint undertaking.  We were already contemplating on writing a book about our respective area of specialization.  Her book may have been one of the most important textbook on Tech-Voc Education in the country.

Going further if fate had not intervened, my father would have been 93, my mother 85, my uncle Greg 78, my uncle Ben 68.  My father probably would be wheel chair bound, my mother too.  Well, uncle Greg would still be mobile and uncle Ben would still be swaggering with his guitar.  But the grains in their respective hour glass may have been of different shades. 

A sage once said, “Time can forget some memories, but there are some memories which make us forget time and those memories make life sweeter.”

THE FELLOW WE CALL “TUTA”

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There was this weird story about a man who claimed to be a dog.

One day, he went to a shrink and sought confirmation on his belief about his canine posturing.  The psychiatrist was of course amused but went on to check the veracity of his patient’s mind.

“Since when have you realized that you are a dog?”  The Doc asked.

The client replied, “Since I was still a puppy!”

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During Martial Law years, I oftentimes hear derogatory labels against those consenting people subservient to the powers that be.  They were referred to as “tuta” or lap dogs.  To be called a tuta then was the ultimate insult.

*     *     *     *     *

Sometime past, I remember a follower friend.

He was also labeled “tuta” but that fellow never claimed to be a creature lower than man.  Yet his demeanor, his actions and even his predispositions point towards canine devotion.  Well, not the political kind but a personal one.  He was Reynado de Guia, a good and prominent name to start with.  He hailed from Bulacan and his roots may have been from accomplished clan in the province.  Except for the fact that this Reynaldo never had a good education.  As a matter of fact, he never had any education at all.  He merely grew up and subsisted under the shades of the town’s Cock fighting Arena.  He virtually lived amidst filth, dirt and rudeness.

Judicial Verdict

Until one fatal Sunday at the height of a festive 5-cock derby, hell broke loose and in the pandemonium stood a bloodied man and another splayed lifeless on the ground in front of the arena.  Shots were heard from different corners, uniformed barangay tanods and policemen suddenly materialized freezing everyone inside the congested dome.

A person was pointed out as culprit but lifeless and another, standing in front although looking innocent, was picked up for questioning.  In a gambling den where vice is the order of the day, there are no sane or respectable answers.  The one near the fatality was the one charged accordingly.

Prison Sojourn

Reynaldo was easily tagged the suspect and nobody gave a damn.  He was a non-entity after all, a street rat, a road urchin, a bum, a taong grasa.  A few months after, the judiciary handed down a verdict sentencing the assailant to serve time in the penitentiary for 15 years.  Reynaldo, then a budding 23 year old errand, was shoved into the prisons.  In a few months, he would be sent to spend his penalty in Iwahig Penal Colony.  He was easily absorbed by the prison population.  Ever supple, ever subservient, ever docile, ever compliant, he was instantly the runner and go-to guy of almost everyone.  He never complained even if he would perspire blood for doing an errand.  He was that submissive.

Sometimes, in the prison camp his fellow inmates would even suspect that there was an error in the court’s judgment that he killed someone.  It looked like he was compelled to admit somebody else’s  crime.  Since, he knew nothing about law, nothing about fairness, nothing about justice, he merely accepted his predicament as part of his social life.  He lived excitedly though in the company of his fellow convicts.  He was a picture of a good institutionally adjusted person.  He never had any trouble with anyone.  As a matter of fact, everyone wanted him as buddy.

It was in Iwahig Penal Colony where this fellow was assigned in my quarters as helper.  I was then Iwahig’s Superintendent.  And since the officer’s quarters was a huge house, with 7 enormous rooms, from a distance it looked like a spooked mansion.  More so, it had been an antiquated facility built ahead of the prison camp back in 1912.  In other words, people in the area would swear having been frightened by what had been said as ghostly apparitions and poltergeist manifestations.

Furthermore, a number of prison superintendents died in said dwelling place.

The Birth of a Puppy

Hence, a lot of those assigned in the quarters would rather stay somewhere in the vicinity than reside inside, well, except for the resident Superintendent himself.  And at that time, in my case, I had no choice but stay.  And every time I woke up and open the door of my room, a person was splayed sleeping on the door mat.  It was Reynaldo, the assigned quarters helper.  It was his nervousness staying alone in the big house that he decided to sleep within the knocking distance from his superior.  It was such act that gave him his label “tuta.”  Because for all it took, a puppy usually sleeps on the door step of its master bedroom.

Reynaldo or Tuta to us remained loyal to the point of dependency on my presence.  When I was reassigned back to Manila, I have to secure a personal request to transfer a number of loyal prisoners back to the Penitentiary where I would be posted, and Tuta was one of them.  He served his full term in Muntinlupa and as soon as he got his release papers, he immediately reported to me as if I had a contract with him to fulfill.  Of course, I still could accommodate the fellow but I required him to visit his family, his relatives first and with instructions for him to eventually yield to them.

He did but after a week, he was back where I was staying.

And what a complication I had to lead.  At that time, I had several households to visit and personally attend.  And in every household where I will sojourn, I had Tuta with me.  Even if I would secretly travel to stay in one specific address, Tuta would know and in no time would be around in that place too.  Once reunited however, I never had the gall to shoo him away.  I would even gallantly invite him to stay up until the day I would transfer to another.

Dog’s home

In my estimation, this fellow Tuta may have seen me as home already, much like children on their mother, wherever they are, however they may be.  And fortunately, the fellow was never a baggage at all.  He has got initiative all over and anyone observing his motion would even be tempted to plead to him to be cautious in performing a task.  He had the habit of completing work suicidally.

I left for Mindanao and well, left silently Tuta in my former turf.  He never knew how to navigate any farther and would just, according to him, pray that my stint in the Southern island be shortened that I may be able to return.  During the period, Tuta had served my relatives, friends and allies one after another.  Most of the time though, he would be out in the street, acting as barker in jeep station, or as ground conductor in bus terminals, or as cigarette vendor, street hawker, whatever.

He would also get into trouble and would be arrested for minor infractions earning for him a scar or two on his head and some broken bones on his arms and hands.  For him, it was part of his endless quest for life in the street.  He would court and seek refuge among homeless families in the street but would be shooed later.  He had no other place except on the place where his master left him.  And so, he would trek regularly on the spot where he was left hoping that someday, his lord would appear.

The reunion of lord and subject

Years later, I would complete my term and would be reassigned back to Manila.  And every time I would land on my officer’s quarters, I would be surprised to see the fellow greeting me with various expressions.  One day, he would claim that he spiritually felt I was already around; another day, he would aver that he heard a voice telling him that I was already in the area.  Nonetheless, my loyal servant was always there waiting for me.

And the years had a telling blow on his physique.  He would grow old several times over.  When he was my helper in Palawan, he was even mistaken as my son.  Three decades later, whenever I would oblige Tuta to assist me carry my groceries; my friends would rib me for exploiting the strength of an old man!

Bidding goodbye

Time has come to part ways.  I vowed out from the service and I intend to confront the challenges of old age on my own.  I gave Tuta, my longtime friend and a sedulous follower, the resources to tackle reality without the thought of homing in.  We have to face two different realities.  And we must be ready to fit into it up to the end in a manner respectively.

Tuta still could not appreciate his obligation to himself, as he is always focused living within the realm of an idea that he has an anchor.  Like a ship without an anchor, in his mind and reasoning, he would just drift aimlessly in the ocean without my shadow.  He pleaded to remain and even through promise that I will not abandon him was already good enough although in reality it is the other way around.  For him, my promise was enough and my word would make him strong to tackle survival.

I left my friend with a promise and word to make him sane; and he was contented.  But I left him just the same.   It is time; Tuta must grow up into a dog!  (Of course, that is sentiment, not fact.)

A LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT WORKER

writer vjt

My dear fellow government worker,

I have just retired and sooner or later you would also take the same road towards the culmination of your career.  For those who are still new in the government service, I have a few counsels to share.  For those who have spent more than twenty years, some ideas may just be relevant but I know you already are familiar with the things I would be sharing.

First off, never, never compete.  Government work is a defined activity.  Never show initiative.  It’s an offense and your supervisor might suspect you immediately of hatching something, even if what you intend is something saintly.  Never make the mistake of showing off.  You are already doomed if you do that.  Worst, you are breeding people who would attack and make a mockery of you until you snap and droll like a rabid dog.

Secondly, just be contented with what has been given you as a task.  Never exceed expectations, just comply, do nothing more.  If the task requires too much on your part, immediately notify your supervisor and let your superior make the necessary judgement and resolution.  Never act as if you are greater in terms of thinking.  And even if it is so, never allow them to abuse your mind.  Let them think, they have bigger salaries than you, let them earn their upkeep.  Just stay quiet in one corner waiting for their response.  If you feel like they are deliberating something earth shaking, pick a book and read it.  Never volunteer your ideas, otherwise if something goes wrong, all of you in the office will just point an accusing finger at you as if you intended to make an activity a failure.

Thirdly, if you feel like you are choking in government service because your creativity is reduced to subservience to authority, pick a hobby during weekends to make you more productive.  Do not entertain the thought that you will become wealthy in government service.  Your superiors will never allow that to happen not because it is prohibited in law or there are legal procedures that frustrate anyone, but because it would make them idiots.

Promotion in government is a blend of luck and timing.  I tell you, it is never based on merit and quality.  Never even wish for it unless of course you intend to make your life miserable as you grow old in the service.

If one gets promoted, there will be a good number of those who will appreciate but beware of those who will be afflicted with anger, disgust and envy.  They will surely use government agencies like DOJ, Courts, Ombudsman or your own agency’s legal office to lodge complaints against you, any complaint for that matter as long as it rings controversy.  Once promoted, the officer is even ripe for bashing until finally his superior will be affected and his designation will just be token until he bows out in exasperation.

I have known good and exceptional talents leaving the institution because of aversion and disgust.

In my case, I barely had warmed up my seat in my first promotion when intrigues would instantly greet me in my face.  I would also get to taste for the first time how it was to be charged administratively and pay the price (with sleepless night, asking myself where I got wrong) of having been recognized early.

During the initial 20 year period, I lasted up to 38 years; I had accumulated 17 administrative cases and four court cases.  If I will be pronounced guilty in just one administrative case, the penalty would be outright dismissal already.  For the criminal case tried in court, a penalty in just one case alone would merit imprisonment not less than 10 years.  I had to bear the baggage as if it’s a barnacle on my neck.  I have to attend to each and every case, filing answers and responses, submitting documents and gathering references for the admin cases, attending hearing, paying regularly bail for court cases and assuring the allowance and compensation of those counsels I hired, quite a number of lawyers at that, even to the extent of taking up legal education, for the purpose of proper representation in court.  This, at a time, was when I have to perform better and accomplish so much since I had been promoted.

All throughout the period, while performing to the best of my abilities, I have to face my tormentors and complainants, mostly anonymous, until finally I was able to champion each and every case.  It is like cooking food for your master and at the same time guarding his gates so that there is peace in the kitchen.  Something like that.

And precisely because the complaints were founded more about malice and mischievousness, defending myself was never a problem.  Except for a waste of time,  I won all my cases, one after another, one f***king sh*t after another f***kng sh*t!

I may have been the youngest Division Chief in all of the bureaucracy sometime ago, the youngest prison superintendent too (not to mention the fact that since the item of Penal Superintendent IV is equivalent rank with that of Major General in AFP or Chief Superintendent in PNP), but it is a sure fire formula for getting stressed out and live a tension filled existence. I had been an object of contempt by distrustful prison leaders, subject of jealous contemporaries too.   What gross and nerve-wracking post one gets.  A number of my colleagues became regular habitués in hospitals and would be crippled if not gunned down to death while about to report for work.

It has consequences.  If one has a lucky star, the curse is bearable.  It can ruin family life.  It can destroy friendship.  It can even disrupt concentration and make the person unstable for a while, irritable most of the time.  If unlucky, the fellow would just run out of reason to live or would just snap out and be insane for life.

And finally, once you decide to retire and you have a number of pending complaints reflected on your service record then bid an easy procedure for retiring goodbye.  Forget those times you were hailed and promoted for being a good worker.  You may have done nine heroic deeds but if you forgot something, just once in ten acts, then you are a villain until the end.  That is how ungrateful public service is.

Remember the police officer who held hostage a number of Chinese tourists in Luneta sometime ago?  He was given a run-around on his retirement until he snapped out.  The rest is horrible history.

If you want harmony up to the time you end your career and face the bliss of a peaceful twilight years ahead without complications and difficulties as in filing your retirement without hassles, don’t be ambitious about promotion and work.  Check out your feet, it should always be on the ground.  Don’t even be assiduous or audacious.  Just remain as a regular, typical and average worker.

Be that as it may, stay the way you are and you are on the right track.

Regards and be vigilant so that you remain ordinary.

IN THE PRESENCE OF A MARTYR

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

O ye of little faith?  Listen to this story.

Heidi is not our common ladyfolk.  She is highly educated but chose to be unemployed.  She belonged to a well-heeled family but chose to be an errand.  She is fair and lovely but chose to lead a celibate life.  No, she did not join the nunnery.  She never even envisioned herself as one in a cloister.   She is very religious but never entertained the thought of entering the convent.

She is still a civilian up to this very day.

A normal life turned inside out

Heidi has a twin sister and both had a bubbly disposition, light hearted, cheerful and sweet.   Both were active in school and in their neighborhood and in every activity where they joined, they project an aura of maturity, leadership and discipline. Both finished their college with flying colors and they got through early in their respective career as corporate staff.  They intend to show their parents how smart and dutiful they are in the organization where they work and their respective companies could not but recognize the potential of their new recruits.

But one dreary afternoon, after office hours, Heidi noticed of late that her twin sister was having difficulties in breathing. Her sister has been pale for a period but they merely dismissed it as adjustment stress.  It was a normal presumption viewed by all commuters in Metro Manila.  Just by reporting for work one instantly gets freaked out and be drained as a consequence of traffic!

She accompanied her sister to a nearby hospital for physical examination and after thorough laboratory procedures, right there; suspicions of blood deficiency were noted.  She underwent a series of diagnostic tests and more laboratory procedures.  The first findings would yield a similar shade, the third and final diagnosis pointed out what has been feared.  She was diagnosed with blood cancer or leukemia.  And every physician they would consult had only one view:  it is a terminal case and only a miracle can cure it.  It was a shocking medical revelation for the family and everyone in the household could not get their bearings right.  They were all petrified.  Heidi was most affected and equally terrified.

When the health condition of the girl turned worse, there was only resignation in sight.  But Heidi persevered.  She dropped out from employment and spent most of her days navigating all churches, temples and chapels in their town.  In her prayers, she would ask that her twin sister’s life be spared in exchange for her servitude, martyrdom if necessary.  She got lost in deep supplications, her weight and appetite too.  She knew that faith could work on wonders.  Only a miracle can cure it.

A struggling vow

While her sister remained under intensive care, Heidi would storm the heavens with her prayers, this time, done day and night.

After a few weeks, her sister’s condition would miraculously improve.  The girl’s strength has restored to normalcy, the blood count almost average and she has gone from pale to pink of health.  A month later, that fast, the girl was up and about as if nothing happened.  Even her physicians could not determine which medicine or regimen gave the health back on their patient.  All her physicians were in a celebratory mood.  It was one successful treatment they had in their career.  It was worth the medical journal.  For those in science, methods and procedures carried the day more than spirituality.

But for Heidi, it was more on accepting fate.  It was for her however more than fate, it was more a reward, more about faith.  For if the heavens have given her miracles, then she must be that special spiritually, she must be that angelic to say the least.  Heaven heard her prayers and her twin sister saved from a fatal ailment.  It was a secret she could not divulge on anyone.

The family was very grateful to the hospital staff, the medical team and lab personnel.  Heidi was doubly thankful too.

On her own, in every church and chapel where she would find shelter, Heidi must therefore face her vow of servitude, her promise. But she could not discern where and in what manner.  She was nowhere near an initiate.  She prayed hard offering her life in the service of her faith but she could not ascertain how.   She continued her church hopping without let up just to be given a sign until she grew tired and weary.  There seemed no indication except for her to spend her entire waking period in prayers.  She even had included all living creatures in her prayers, even nature for that matter.  In her light moment, she was no longer expressing gratitude, she is already crusading the salvation of a planet!

An imperceptible sign

One day, while in deep prayer during a simple morning Mass in a small town Chapel of Sto. Nino, Muntinlupa City, she noticed the celebrating priest dazed and could not make the usual gesture.  She looked around to check on mass goers, they were only 5 at that time, if they noticed it too.  Then slowly, the priest held on the altar table and slowly bent.  Something was wrong.  The priest was about to pass out!

Heidi who was occupying the front row tried to signal to other church goers pointing at the priest but there was shock registered on their faces.  She went near the priest, held up his head and instructed the acolytes to assist her bring the priest inside the convent.

“Sister,” responded the altar boys, “Father is not from this place.  He is residing in the reservation, Chaplain’s quarters of New Bilibid Prison, near this place.”

“Then, please flag down a tricycle for us, and I will bring Father to the hospital or to his chaplaincy quarters.”

The priest regained his strength a bit and asked that he be taken to his quarters.  A few minutes later, they were all inside the receiving area of the house.

“Father, sorry to intervene in your mass, but….” Heidi apologized.

“Ohhh, thank you Madam, I felt like melting, my strength was fading, my head was bursting in pain as if I am about to die…thank you, thank you, you must have missed your schedule already.”  The priest gratefully acknowledged.

“By the way Father, do you have any medication?  You may want to take some to restore your balance.”

The priest slowly walked towards an unpainted cabinet and produced a box filled to the brim with an assortment of medicine.

“That’s right Madam, I have here a boxful of meds.  I think, I will have to take this tablet, I will just look for the prescription somewhere at the bottom of the heap to be sure.”

“If you won’t mind Father, may I organize your medicine box so that you won’t find it hard to check what medicine to take and when?”

“My dear child, thank you for your concern.  I hope you won’t mind either if I retreat in my room or get over my dizziness, I think I must doze off for a few minutes.   I will see you after an hour.  Please help yourself and don’t leave yet.”

The Chaplaincy visitors

During that time, the church-based seniors, they who served as vanguard and errand to the town priests, got wind of what happened to their religious leader.  They came in droves and were surprised, to their conservative consternation, a lovely lady sifting through stacks of medicine sachets and writing down labels.  The seniors were all aghast at the blasphemous presence of a woman in the holy ground of their pastor.  Their malicious eyes were all stabbing at her.  Heidi was embarrassed and left a note instead before she left in a hurry.

But before she stepped down from the quarters, a uniformed old lady swath with beads and religious medallions confronted her.  “What are you doing inside the room of the priest?”

“Madam” replied Heidi, “I am in receiving area of the chaplain’s quarters organizing the medicine box of our priest.”

“Ok, we are always here in charge of our priest.”  The elderly lady proudly proclaims.

“Please check on the medicine of our priest, it’s a bit tupsy turvy.”  Heidi pleaded.

Guerilla visitation

Heidi would still persist in visiting his friend priest.  To her mind, it could probably be the vow she was expecting.  To her mind, to serve the priest must be the calling required of her by heaven.  She must serve and be a martyr if need be.

She would constantly pay the priest a visit, bringing food and fruits and would request that she and her family be prayed for and included in the celebration of the Mass.

A cure for brain tumor

Several months later, the priest would suffer another ailment—brain tumor.  It would entail a regular trip to the hospital for the radiation therapy and costly procurement of maintenance medicine.  As soon as word that the priest had to undergo an expensive hospital treatment, almost all church seniors took a long vacation!  Suddenly, there were no shadows of do-gooders in the area, much more so any indication of moral soldiers.  The priest was virtually abandoned.

Heidi would accompany the priest in the regular regimen of a costly radiation therapy.  I know because Heidi would seek my counsel and assistance along the way.  And fatal the ailment would be but under Heidi’s shadow, the tumor would respond to the treatment until finally it would recede to normalcy.

Like any other treatment pertaining exposure to radiation, it would have a deleterious effect on the person.  In the case of the priest, his hearing and balance would be affected.  While the mass on the brain has been defeated, it ruined that part of the priest’s auditory nerves and sense of equilibrium.  Without the assistance of two grown-ups, the priest could not stand alone.  As a consequence, he was for a time bed ridden.

Knowing that the priest had no more people sympathetic on his expensive condition, Heidi brought the priest in their house.  And her whole family was indeed very compassionate to nurture and assist an ailing old man, almost crippled, almost deaf and leading a vegetable existence.

The saintly lady as martyr

Slowly however the priest would recover from one fatal ailment after another.  Heidi’s attendance indeed is a comforting balm and has a miraculous healing effect.  She could have been a Saint for all we know but for sure, she is leading the life of a martyr.  She had devoted completely all her attention on the welfare of the ageing priest.  All her sacrifices tended to increase the strength of her beneficiary and innocently, her spiritual significance as well.  She has made it a career for almost a decade and a half.

The priest is already in his mid-70s and providentially, all his ailments are gone already.  Truly, Heidi’s presence is mysterious if not mystical.

I am convinced that having Heidi as a friend is not only a curative experience but can be likened to embracing faith in its salvific form.

TONY FLORIDO, A GOOD FRIEND

tony

I just felt that writing something about my friends could fill up some time even if they are miles away and having grand and fulfilled days with their family.

A friend was worth recalling.

In 1994, that was a good two decades ago, a private company sent someone to assist me in my travels.  He was Tony Florido, a professional tour guide, driver extraordinaire, a loyal companion, an expert escort and a good conversationalist.  He stayed with me throughout the period of my regular travels and in the course of our interaction, he easily became my confidant.  It was not surprising that when I was about to fulfill my final professional exposure after years in the bureaucracy, he would resign in his company just to join and volunteer his services to me as a final gesture of allegiance.

It was not the retirement period which was remarkable though, it was all the time when we were out in the field and hustling that was very memorable; the period of sharing ideas, thoughts and daring-do.

He was already there when my kids were just learning to walk and in retirement, my kids were already having their own kids already.  That was how long our affiliation was. It was a lasting friendship we had known and we never had any moment of disagreement.  We simply liked the good life, the adventures (and misadventures), the choices of trips, the people we loved to interact with, the sumptuous food.

I was an open book to Tony and he would simply note.  He also knew who my friends and enemies were.  Well, there were only a few foes and they were all worth ignoring.  He would rather focus on the list of friends we would check once in a while.  And well, there were lots of them.

Tony knew whom I got most of my amusement.  I think he also had a grand day having a good laughter every time we get engaged with them.  He knew who were the analysts, the opportunists, the freebooters, the buccaneers, the swashbucklers, the speculators.  My friends were a mixture of characters, a concoction of personas, an assortment of guises and personalities.  All of them were great in their respective ways.  There were the ultra loyalists and the acquaintance.  He was drawn with my loyal following but of course he was also very careful with new faces.

We would also share the dark side of our thoughts.  He was simply cautious because he knew me as a powerful officer in an organization but at times he would also be that unrestrained knowing that he was also dealing with a tolerant personality who was bold and daring given a flagrant situation.  I was also guarded whenever I would offer extreme solutions to a problem he would share knowing that he has brother who is a man of the cloth.  Bonifacio’s Katipunan was cracked from the confessionals of the Church.

Tony loved and rejoiced the endeavors of his children.  He was their number one cheerleader.  There was no day during our travels when he would  forget mentioning his children.   He was proud of his family. He was a doting father, a dutiful husband, a skilled guide and an obliging neighbor.

When I retired, although my buddy retired earlier, and as we parted ways, he was a picture of triumph.  Much as we try to reminisce and thrive on thoughts of continuing our adventurous travels in the future, time had declared our knees and breath too challenged to take on tests that demands athleticism.

Today, Tony is an accomplished father and a caring grandfather who ply Singapore regularly to visit his children and graciously stretch out in his Tagaytay rest house.  For a man with humble beginnings and years of struggles, his senior years have already been defined in an exquisite and fulfilled manner.

It was a fitting salutation for one, who lived with honesty and righteousness, taking a glimpse of a good life previously and in the final count; himself would enjoy its perks with his own family on their own.

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