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It’s weird that we have to observe annually a day specific for the remembrance of our dearly departed—that is, every November 1.  Some with entrepreneurial orientation would even cash in on said day by introducing masks of zombies, rubberized skeletal remains, plastic voodoo instruments and “fearful” props not in honor of the dead though but more on mocking their influence as they are recalled in their imagined state of deterioration.

The day is a mixture of deference and ridicule, on respect and travesty, on reverence and disregard.  It is a day for reunion of those left behind, at times made as an occasion for some celebratory gathering.  The atmosphere is festive to a certain extent.  The point is to recall the presence of a loved one, recollect those deeds and significant influence, a reminiscence of accomplishment, an attempt to establish a kind of legacy which could never be forgotten.

Children were made up to look funny and amusing.  The day has been commercialized.  It has evolved into a circus where admiration of the person who crossed over has been relegated if not totally ignored in favor of mindless merriment.  If at all there remains a memorial for their worthy presence sometime in the past to be recalled at present, it has virtually been erased and commemoration blithely discounted.  As the saying goes, “let the dead bury the dead.”  For the living, it is business as usual whatever is the date.

I have no argument for this development; neither would I express rancor nor sadness.  I would rather throw myself in one corner, in an area where reclusiveness may be expressed, to remember my loved ones—they who made life an exciting journey not only for me but also for those whom they have offered much concern and attention.  And it is not on a particular day but on any day their image may be recalled.  A song may be played on the radio and I would be reminded on a particular person.  My mother when she was still around would always sing a Timi Yuro hit.  My father would rejoice whenever he played on our stereo some marching hymns.  For every melody, I am reminded of a loved one, a number of close friends, relatives, even acquaintances.

When the Beatles’ songs are played, an array of memories would flow in continuous stream, evoking memoirs of those who have gone to life hereafter.  There are also tunes coming from BeeGees, Elvis Presley, Motown hits and even those sang by the Big three Sullivan and Eddie Peregrina.  Not to mention those wonderful music rendered by the Hotdogs, VST, Rico Puno, Freddie Aguilar, Ogie Alcasid to name a few.  I am still checking whether there are memories hidden whenever the airwaves would play the song of Lady Gaga or the Oppa Gangnam Style!

For me it is not the day but the music that revives, that resurrects my dearly departed back to life.  I dare say that it is also everyone’s silent repertoire whenever we wish to be with our loved ones—not missing nor gone to some places unknown but rather are actually residing in our hearts and minds.

ON GETTING MARRIED: A letter to my nephew

My dear child, RJ.  You have grown into a hunk of a man and I just could envisage how it was before when you were a cuddly toddler.  You were a favorite grandson of Tatay and as such, there were times when Tatay would lose his temper and all hostilities will be directed to the favorite.  But oftentimes, during said outbursts, I was always there for you.  I was there to shield you from the knock out voice of Tatay during his tantrums.  That was always expected when you are the apple in the eye, you are always picked up and consumed.

Years later, that which I have lost track counting, I realized that the bubbly kid that you were has grown into almost a shadow short of the Hulk!  You must have inherited the genes of your father, himself a bulky man in his prime.  I could just imagine if we go for a walk and we would meet elementary kids, they might shout, “Its Po with Master Shifu!”  Remember the movie Kung Fu Panda?

Anyway, I wrote to tell you something in relation to your forthcoming wedding.  According to your Mom, my younger sister, that I should attend since you chose me to be your godfather.  As godfather, I must play a role of a parent to both of you.  But let me tell you something which you may reckon in the course of preparing for the big day.   These are questions actually.   Are you prepared to stay close and not grow tired if you chose to be close to home or always at home with your loved one?  Are you emotionally prepared if one day you would leave home as a consequence of your job and leave behind your family?  Do you have safety nets if in the course of daily life you might end up unemployed?  How do you propose to maintain your family if the worst happen?  I know that you can rebound but while preparing to position yourself, but do you have an idea on how you can sustain your family?  These are the same questions I wrote in my small pad while preparing to propose marriage.  It is not actually something that I thought of.  These are random questions Tatay and Nanay asked me on the way to our “pamamanhikan.”  I merely wrote it down in my diary to remind me of certain matters which I might encounter in the future—-including notes on my earlier response to it.

Getting married is never a fad.  It is responsibility in capital letters.  Failing to understand it is offering a mountain of problems to hurdle.  It is like building a factory of explosives aimed to blow one into smithereens.  I only have a few cases that I have encountered wishing for themselves their doom and they are usually patients for the mentally challenged.

I wished and pray that your marriage would be made in Heaven:  Strong, stable, secured, permanent and enduring.  Be reminded always of the saying, “Stop looking for the right person, BE the right person.”  Being responsible therefore must be your strong point.  Never mind the other qualities, it would follow if you may. There are however qualities for one to possess this attribute.  You must be patient, tolerant, understanding and uncomplaining.  Remove one from the enumeration is like removing a tire in a car.  It will never run.  And the worst part there is that a person instantly becomes irresponsible not knowing what hit him from above.

As godfather and this I must qualify, I am not there in a pretentious pose acting like an ideal husband, parent, lover.  I have never been one.  How I wish I could.  But despite this situation, I have never wavered in my responsibilities.  I started slowly building up my economic strength to shield my family from the slings and arrows of expensive requirements for social mobility.  I have savings for sudden emergencies.  I have small investments for my kids.  I constantly study and add degrees and quality to my credentials so that my family will never suffer any inconvenience of bankruptcy.  I have a ledger where I have identified current and future expenses.  I may be a juvenile looking 24 year-old at the time of my marriage but I have everything drawn up already.

If there were occasions where I failed, it is more of a response to a mortal challenge.  My job is a threatening one.  And survival dictates that I must go with the tide.  I have to use the same language in dealing with challenges.  If a crime is committed on me, the same crime is given as an answer.  If I am fooled in a transaction, I would also act foolishly to even the equation.  Tit for Tat as they say.  This is unhealthy for a family man.  Priests are never married because they are equally exposed on the hazards of their profession.  In my case, I married and went towards a profession that does not need a family.  I would oftentimes hear my colleagues express their sentiment whenever I would engage in prison warfare that I ought to be alone always without any baggage at all.  Prison work per se is an invitation to a commitment predicated by death and accident.  And who wants the head of family always at the forefront of danger?  And who wants a family man always armed when relaxing, planning pre-emptive strikes at a time when weekends are considered family days, always anticipating dangers, suspecting any change as fatal, in other words, living a life close to paranoia—along with his family?  I have been there and I have to shield my family so that they would not be there, hence I choose to live on the other side of normalcy.

The most ideal that I came close is to see how Tatay and Nanay cared for each other and nurtured us, their children.  I should have chosen a sedentary job.  At best, I should have organized a business.  Law enforcement is a vocation only for those with messianic complex.  Most of the serious practitioners die young.

In your case, I understand that there is little threat in your profession.  Love your work.  Be creative and assertive with your craft.  That way you prosper and lift your family towards a higher quality of living.  Do not be dependent on your environment.  Be dependable and ready to create an environment where you could flourish.  Be the master of your home.  Do not require your wife to act as your safety net.  She is there to cushion you from the terror of reality, from the angst of frustration, from the risk of depression.  Understand her always.  Women have better appreciation of life so do not underestimate her.  Her perception is greater so do not insist on your belief.  She carries your soul so be kind to her at all times.

Getting married is like having a kingdom of your own.  When I proposed to Tatay that I wanted to be a priest, he said “Forget it!”  He wanted me to be a king.  So on your big day, it will be a coronation of sort.  You must therefore act like one and believe firmly that you are on top already.  So manage your kingdom well.  Less than that, you are just playing a cruel joke on yourself and your queen.  Remember that you are groomed to be a king and never as a prince.  Be prepared therefore to find your kingdom or, worst, be complacent to live a life treated and seen as a clown.

So take note my dear child.  I want you to enjoy life with all its magnificent surprises and majestic calling.  One day,  a few weeks from now, you will be crowned.  Don’t worry, I will guard the ramparts for you, protect you from harm, deal with your enemies but please assure me that what I am doing is what a royal soldier is doing for a  KING.

Your loving uncle, Tito Ven


Transferring the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City is one activity estimated to cost government billions of pesos.  The construction of facilities alone boggles the mind.  Well, it can be done if only government can spare around 13 billion pesos for the building plan.  Some believers argue that the source could easily be squeezed from the sale of the Muntinlupa estate—a prime real estate property already.  But will it square clearly to meet the cost of transferring?  Why transfer at all in the first place.  The answer lays on the foundation—an Executive Order from former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The Executive Order requires several departments to formulate a plan to transfer the national penitentiary to another site.  The prison reservation is already within the vast real estate enclave where high end subdivisions have sprouted since the Daang Hari road has been paved.  While the road has benefited several Cavite towns and has literally unclogged major streets and hi ways, it has also reduced the security buffer of the premiere prison camp to the detriment of civilians who have chosen to live in housing units a stone’s throw from a dangerous zone.  Hence, a plan to transfer NBP to another site but the cost is staggering.

The transfer arrangement has been seen in this equation.  NBP estate is to be sold and the proceeds will be used to build prison.  The cost is almost the same.  There were even estimates showing that the transfer cost is even more than what the sale would yield.  If the area to be vacated will be used as an industrial zone, then the amount may be feasible to underwrite the transfer expenses.  But the “best-use” consideration when applied would amount to less than the expected.  By best-use is meant that the idea of utilizing the estate as industrial zone is never contemplated because the area is devoted to housing and not on any industrial program.  The development plan also reveals that a large portion of the estate is to be used as housing site for government employees.  This means that the proceeds would not reach the ideal computed result.

Will Congress allow the allocation of billions of taxpayers’ money  just so NBP will be transferred and subdivisions in the area to flourish?  How much will government stand to gain in the process?  Will the transfer, like constructing farm-to-market roads, create revenues for government?

There is wisdom in transferring the penal facilities to another site.  Prison administration could render a fresh and proper headstart.  But is it a priority in a situation where the economics has not started to turn pink yet?  For sure, prison transfer while a significant policy of criminal justice administration, it must have to take the back seat  however along with several projects.  Education and job creation, investment and joint ventures must have to be moved first so that government programs will be able to flex its progressive motion.  Pursuing the transfer scheme of the penitentiary is like putting the horse before the cart.  It will move nonetheless but its slow and awkward.

That explains the fact why Vice President Jejomar Binay, who also acts as Chairman of Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) declared that the plan to develop New Bilibid Prison estate be deferred indefinitely.

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