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Cynthia Andrada (her real name) is not one to be stereotyped as typical.   She breezed through every trial with serene acceptance and matured equanimity, what could have broken any one even if one is made of steel.  But not in her case.   She was calm and composed when faced with difficulties.

Let us look at her situation.

When she spent a vacation with her children in her hometown in North Luzon sometime ago, an accident happened.  Her toddler son was side swept by a careening truck sending the frail body of the child meters away.  Her eldest died instantly.  The most painful part for a parent is to bury her own child.

She was still in mourning and as yet to pick the pieces when she was informed that her husband was pinned by a protruding railing in the expressway.  Construction workers in nearby area had to use electric welding to cut off the steel that pierced, as in being speared—from the body of the man, as his torso was literally gorged through and through.  A few hours later, the hubby was brought to the hospital for extreme unction.  Cynthia took a leave in her office, went through normally and visited her better half in the hospital.  She was convinced that her loved one would not make it.  But the husband would recover after months of medication.

 She has as yet to adjust to her role as grieving mother and agonizing wife, when she would be facing one administrative query after another in her organization.  She must still work, a career woman she must still perform to assuage domestic equilibrium.  But she would be relieved from her post and would be transferred to another office, far from her residence.  She would find difficulty nursing her husband but she could only make some adjustment even if she would cut down on her time to rest.

At this time, she even went for the jugular.  As if her time is too limited for comfort, she took her masteral course, completed it smoothly and went through the doctoral degree course.  If she was being punished emotionally with succeeding painful events on her personal life, she would even haul over the coals, so to speak by pushing her mental faculties to the extreme.  A doctoral course is not for the faint-hearted.  It is never a prescription for contemplation.  It is pressure in capital letters.  She breezed through it.

Going through the pains of losing a son and formulating to heal her husband may be simple for those with unadorned minds but Cynthia displayed the intellect of an extra ordinary mortal.  She has the sensitivity of an academician and yet she has the capacity to be neutral and cold when faced with dilemma.

One day she would be recognized, another day she would be sidelined.  Intrigues in her organization may have sent many officers twiddling with their fate, cornered and depressed but not Cynthia.  She has retained her composure.  Call it grace under pressure.

There is nothing in her bones that could spell doom notwithstanding the fact that every instance in her system has been wrecked by it.

The woman is a definition of what resolute means.  She has never dropped her faith.  And probably, she is the only one who can lay claim of having to endure and withstand what many humans would fail to comprehend.



I began to interview in earnest those I considered as healthy persons (and lift interesting statements from references too), especially from those who have reached an advanced age—the so called survivors.  Their insights may give me something to think and tinker about; and it might be a nice piece of advice worth sharing.  Here are my notes and quotes.


  1. “Eat not to get full but merely to bite a piece to ease hunger.”
  2. “Greet the day by looking straight (with eyes closed of course) on the early morning sun rise.  After taking several deep breath and a few stretches, the power of the sun would settle into our system already.  And that signals a good start.”
  3. “An early morning cleansing of the intestine must be a regular ritual if one is to kick toxins off from the body for the day.”
  4. “A good laugh in a day is equal to a week of balanced diet.”
  5. “Mellow or classical music sets the tone for the day and inspires appetite.”
  6. “Feeling hungry is better than feeling full.”
  7. “A good night sleep is more exciting than a night of merriment.”
  8. “Evade talks pertaining negative matters, it merely attracts sickness.”
  9. “Don’t get angry at anyone, just pity them.”
  10. “Feeling low or in pain?  Sing a song.”
  11. “Acquire the habit of Thinking and everything will follow.”
  12. “A ripened papaya smoothen skin once it is applied accordingly.”
  13. “Walk, don’t run. Breath slowly, don’t huff.”
  14. “Eat fruits.  Our teeth and innards are designed by nature to munch and digest it properly.”
  15. “Our stomach appreciates fruits.  But when we eat meat, our stomach cannot distinguish it from cardboard!”
  16. “The greatest wealth is Health.”
  17. “To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”
  18. “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”
  19. “Keep the pineal gland operating
    and you won’t grow old—you will
    always be young.”  (Note:  The pineal gland is situated in the inner side of the brain and protected from all sides from any jarring or injuries .It is like an hourglass of our body.)
  20. “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”
    ― Louis Pasteur
  21. “When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”
  22. “Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”
    ― Lao Tzu
  23. A little chocolate a day keeps the doctor at bay”
  24. “When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us (EITHER BY READING, WRITING OR SINGING), so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves.”
  25. The true Losers in Life, are not those who Try and Fail, but those who Fail to Try.”
  26. Your brain is the command and control center of your body. If you want a better
    body, the first place to ALWAYS start is by having a better brain.”




xmas in prison

Christmas is a season of joy, of exchanging gifts and pleasantries, of greeting one another, of renewing vows of love and friendship.  In other words, it is a period when one embraces charity, kindness and compassion.  This is the air that pervades in the free community.


In prison, there is no such air.  How can a prisoner feel Christmas when he is serving time in a facility he cannot even call home?  How can he rejoice the yuletide season when he is encircled by people he never knew from Adam.  Try eating while people with hostile background are around you and you will get the point.  You probably might feel that you are a tube where on one end something is introduced and in another it exits unceremoniously.

While it is true that during the season, prisoners are inspired to fashion out Christmas décor in various proportions, the holiday aura is definitely missing.  Worst, it is at this point when thoughts of prisoners are focused on escaping!  The prison community therefore is gripped with tension, enveloped with stress and strained with security restrictions.  It is one stretch of a yearly break where prison administration is distressed with the weight of anxiety, hassled by endless stream of worry and anticipating the trauma of prison violence.

Christmas unfortunately, with its sacred significance is lost in the consciousness of prison life.  Sometimes it is used as reference for soliciting gifts, at times made as template for indulging prison volunteers on their crusade for repentance but on the whole, it is just a passing period whence prisoner would base the length of their stay in prison.

Christmas in prison? Ask me about it—- once all prisons are empty.


As I was browsing on my facebook account I was amazed at one picture.  It is about two dogs, sleeping soundly and wrapped in satin blanket.  Naalala ko tuloy yung alaga kong monkey sa Iwahig when I was then its Superintendent.

Ganun din kung matulog, naka-kumot at naka-musketero pa. Marunong na rin kumain gamit ang kubyertos.  Minsan nagulat ako kasi nagbabasa na at natiempuhan ko pa na nagsusulat.  BINUGBOG KO NGA!  Isipin mo gusto pa akong unahan mag enroll sa doctorate course.


Sometimes I cannot help but be tormented with the information about a friend who was sent on a critical  evacuation to the nearest hospital.  Well, not just one actually but several as if they have conspired to assault the serenity of the emergency room.  Most of them my age and the rest are younger by several years.  Their ailments are common for those in their mid life—high blood pressure, cardiac vein blockade, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, pancreatic defects, ulcer, cancer, lung trouble, etc., name it, and the catalogue is there, the list seemed endless.  Looked like all my friends subdivided all ailments due those in our age range and now they all troop to the hospital for confirmation.

What staggered my friends is the cost of hospitalization.  Admission is a shocker already.  Add the laboratory and initial examination, the basic medical and related supplies, then one suspects already that he lived to earn that which he intends to pay in one day what for decades he scrimped for hard work.

Most if not all my friends are hearty eaters.  The loved good foods: tasty, nutritious and everything included in the pamphlet for delicatessen.  And they do not only pamper themselves with the flavor and tang, they literally empty everything that passes through their fancy.  In other words, they eat not only a mouthful, but a lot.  That for me is where the trouble begins.  When the food ingested is not burned, it becomes toxic.  Once it becomes poison, then the internal organs of the body suffers.  The person gets sick and not only sick in a passing way, but treacherously sick.  That explains why those who do not feel well would never walk slowly for check up; they are brought in a stretcher!

The Christmas season, its celebratory façade, may be blamed.  Everything nutritious abound.  Prosperity is artificially created to establish accomplishment and everyone is enjoined to partake.  That is where ailments are triggered.  Good food flows everywhere.  Plus holidays and merry making.  It is enough fuses to ignite an explosive period on one’s health.  And usually, the explosion pushes one inside the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital!


I don’t know but this season, I intend to fast for my friends.




prison architecture

Dear Supt Tesoro,

Good day…ako po si Joy Sayangda,BS Architecture-5 from the University of La Salette Santiago City,Isabela.

Kasalukuyan po ang thesis ko: PROPOSED REGIONAL PRISON AND PENAL FARM for Region @ which is to be located in Cordon,Isabela.

I am aiming po for the COMFORT of Inmates through Architectural Approach. Since wala pong Correctional Architecture sa Philippines.

The concept of my proposal sir is “REFORMATION THROUGH THE CONCEPTS OF ARCHITECTURE.” As it was explained to me by the Supervisor of Education in CIW,SECURITY and REFORMATION are the two goals of the correction.Dahil po sa dami ng naresearch ko about our penal institutions Ive learned that it is presently awful living  inside.My term of applying COMFORT is to ease further emotional.psychological and physical effects of imprisonment to inmates whose lives are doomed.That I have learned the fact that being deprived of one’s liberty is already  punitive.

To ease and aflame HUMAN RIGHTS,since it’s what we all respect culturally,is to give the rights and just “ang para kay juan ay para kay juan” is what I want to show in my proposal.That through Architecture we can make the change we deserve to give to these people whoever and whatever made them up.That through Architecture,we can show that a boring and unhappy place can be a nicer place to live life fully even way is inside.

Iniisip ko na po kasi sir kung ako o pamilya ko ang mga makukulong—EVERYBODY DESERVES A FAIR LIFE.hehhehehehe”,)  JOY*



Dear Joy,

Any facility designed for incarceration is never an enjoyable area.  As a matter of fact, the deprivation of liberty, the loss of freedom, the air of regimentation and absolute totalitarian climate makes it indeed an awful if not a traumatic experience.  Even if you install a split type airconditioning system complete with digital television with top of the line food for the prisoner, the experience of imprisonment is still awful and unfortunate.  Prison administrators cannot reduce the psychological and pathological effect of detention even if everything around the prison camp is written in comfort.  Comfort cannot be introduced into the consciousness of inmates unless one is about to be released.  For the prisoners, the promise of integration into the free community is already a inch closer to what we refer to as comfort.

The only way architecture can alleviate the condition of present day correctional facilities is through a design which promotes spatial consideration.  All prisons and jails all over the country are suffering from loss of space, from congestion, from sardine-like situation.  Architectural  concepts dealing with space or designing something that would liberally partake of greater spatial zones makes a great idea in the fulfillment of prison rehabilitation.

Boredom and the state of unhappiness are personal characteristics which cannot be changed through infrastructure.  This is where the trained professional prison worker comes in.  These professionals are the catalyst in behavior modification.  We can have the best basketball court in town, complete with rubberized flooring and glass boards but when the referees are incompetent, there will always be trouble and violence.

Human rights is a borderline issue in correctional administration.  For how can human rights per se be imposed in prison when the fountainhead of human rights is freedom.  Prisoners lost it by way of violating the law.  The courts and the corrections pillar have to clip the right of freedom, thus effectively reducing the offender’s human rights.  Remember that when we say “right” it is something that cannot be taken away, like right to life.  There are basic human rights however and these are mainly referred to as privileges.  In prison, it is privilege more than right that is contemplated.

Kaya kung tayo makukulong, let us not expect a grand area for reception.  Magdala na lang ng madaming libro at sa isang sulok, magbasa ng magbasa na lang.  There is real comfort in reading and in spending time with literature.  Regards.  VJT



First off, employment.  Nowadays, it does not pay to be unemployed, or even to be underemployed.  If you are married, you have to grab with your smooth palm the proverbial sharp edge of the blade, just to be employed—-in whatever capacity, in whatever way.  I you are single, the more you have to be liquid so that you could get the best deal in the world of technology (or gimmickry) —starting with a high end cellular phone. But working in government is a simple proposition if you have the credentials like the Civil Service eligibility.  It works wonder if you have it.  Passing the eligibility exam is not a breeze though but for those who regularly read the dailies, it is almost like a song.  Readers have certain advantages over those who are not.  That is one skill which the school ought to impose on its studentry but commercialism dictates that it is not the priority.  Hence, most of the graduates have no interest, much more so, any penchant at all to read.  In the private firm, it is even more difficult to get through.  I am digressing though.

What is really there in the prison service in the first place?  For the newcomer, it is the competitive remuneration.  The allowances.   It has to be that materialistic way since we are dealing with the profession in criminal justice administration specializing in corrections.  And professionals, specialists at that, therefore must be paid accordingly.  Like in NBA, a league of professional sportsmen, no pay-no play.   Prison personnel are given a hazard pay on top of other perquisites, something which no government officer receives from their respective agency.   Never mind the hazards and dangers.  Never mind the unattractive environment.  Never mind the usual indifferent attitude of some bureaucrats in the midst.  Never mind the arrogance of the prison climate.  Never mind the deceptive condition of the prison population.  The professional worker must be there in his most objective and impartial manner.  The professional is therefore to be distinguished with the amateur; the latter plays even if there is no pay.  They work, even better and more audacious, than their counterpart in the regular outfit, but they, as newbie, are still emotionally and sentimentally attached to the work environment.  This is a no-no in the prison service.

A prison worker, like an amateur, who begins to understand the plight of the prison community according to the lens and prism of inmates, signals the end of his neutrality.  He becomes one of those he is supposed to govern and assist.  He becomes biased and prejudiced.  He becomes subjective and dependent.  In other words, he becomes, whether he likes it or not, an inmate too.  With that kind of immersion, he would just be surprised to find that he has never earned respect in the prison community and worst, even disrespected by his peers.

He should therefore concentrate on his post, in that area where he is posted or assigned.  From there he could monitor that which is materializing in his presence without even his active participation.  From where he is, he could appreciate the derelicts from the rest.  He could verify the habitual from the conventional, the common from special, and the normal from subnormal or abnormal.  Prison service is a world different from the rest of government service or even in the stretch of public service.  Prison officers cater to the subliminal aspect of security administration.  They must know when to react or not to react at all.  They must understand character.  They must know how to read behavior if only to respond properly.

What is there in the prison service for us therefore?  Headaches, broken heart, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, even emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, depression and kidney failure.  No, there is no contagion along that line.  The prison community is never an infectious village, despite the filth and disorder; it is never given to episodes of epidemics.  In prison however vices abound and everything compete with diversion.  Oftentimes, the boredom felt by the prisoners get through into the consciousness of the prison worker until the latter gets monotonous, worn down and adopts the feeling of weariness. One gets sick because of this, because there is lack of focus.  Employment in prison is more watching, as it should be, than working in the physical sense.  Simply put, the work is in watching, in observing, in tailing.  Then, at the end of the shift, the usual turn over to the succeeding officer.  An important caveat should be noted:   It is in mixing prison work with the concern for inmate personal requirements that serves as the mode providing conflict and confusion.  It is there where focus is lost, cases at times are eventually brought into the fore, harassment the order of the day and the daunting challenge to survive, wreck havoc upon the health.  Accidents and unnatural mishap at times are even heard.

However, for those neutral and are properly posted exuding cold detachment and has taken no sides in the prison community, there is something in the prison service for them.  Its good health, confidence, warm peer relations, a healthy pocket full of savings and most of all raw wisdom, a shield against sudden misfortune.




Nakamura Sang (or Mister Nakamura) was a gentleman of the old school.  He was trained as a stone mason and became eventually a school teacher in Nagoya,Japan.  His life would take certain twists and turn until he would encounter a problem he never dreamt of occurring.  And it happened in another country where he chose to reside.  His romantic view of life would be shattered by treachery and distrust.  But that is getting ahead of the story.

A flourishing business

Nakamura was a friend of a fellow Jap whom sometime ago I saved from embarrassment.  He was brought to me for consultation.  Accordingly, he was duped by his adopted assistant, whom he sent to school and designated as right hand in his marble business.

Earlier on, he was part of a company package tour to visit the Philippines and he was instantly impressed.  The people were hospitable, the girls are beautiful and economic activity slow but rather inviting.  He was estranged from his family and he needed a place where he could reinvent himself.  Months later, he would visit the country once again, this time convinced that he would stay for good.  He applied for the status of migrant and tried to be a regular guy on the block.  He started out hanging with Jap mainstays and would eventually explore some commercial undertaking by himself.  It was a very rewarding experience.  He got more involved in industries especially in construction.

It was a successful enterprise since he was able to bag a contract supplying the granite tiles for Ninoy Aquino Airport Terminal 3.  The business was flourishing and he could not ask for more.  He eventually married  a beautiful lass and had two wonderful children.  He could not ask for more blessings.  He was always feeling on top of the world.  He was a fledging school master in Japan but in the Philippines, he was already an accomplished industrialist.

Heaven fell

One day, while checking on the receipts, his usual tact to complete his day, he noticed something odd.  His receipts have automatic carbon trace at the back so that if one reflects the amount on the covering sheet, a duplicate is made without the usual carbon paper.  There on the duplicate sheet were scribbles.  The handwriting was very familiar.  A letter was written atop the receipt and it marked on the secondary sheet.  It was not an ordinary correspondence—it was a love letter!  And the handwriting was that of his wife.  It was intended for his adopted and trusted aide.  Nakamura felt the heavens dropped from above.

He checked the vault and it was empty.   His wife was nowhere and so was his staff.  He was downtrodden and almost at a loss.  Worst, every important document, land titles, contracts, notes and related business permits were all gone.  He felt he was burned down literally.  He never knew where to start except to call for a friend.  If he could not contact anyone, for him that was enough reason to end everything.  But his kids were still around and he was doing everything for them.  For him, life must go on if only for his children.  More so, he loved his wife so much that he wanted to find her so that their children would still continue to lead a normal life.  His adopted staff must therefore be punished to the fullest.  That was his promise to himself.

My friend’s friend

His alarmed colleague immediately arrived and he took note of what happened.  He suggested to his friend that he report what happened to him to the police but Nakamura had a different plan.  He wanted to talk to someone who can pull the trigger to rub off the treacherous fellow who duped him.  His friend called me up.  I was at that time always being interviewed on television as government functionary in charge in the execution of convicts pursuant to death penalty.  I was a veritable icon in the world of law enforcement.

Days later, the two foreigners would appear on my door step.  There were two expressions I would meet.  One was full of excitement, another was gloomy.  I was surprised at their visit since it was just the break of dawn, still very early for any transaction.

The consultation

My friend opened up, “My dear boss, how are you?!  It has been a long time since we had that pizza pie in Ermita.”  I replied, “Yes, it was a thousand years ago, as a matter of fact. “  I continued, “What brought you here at this very early time?  If you think you are trying to be an early bird out to catch a worm, you are in the wrong place.  You are now inside a cage!”  My friend had a hearty laughter, well, except for his buddy whose face turned from gloom to murkiness.

What’s up?!!!”  I inquired, while ushering them into the living room of my humble officer’s quarters.  I was always alone in that place.  “Please sit down, and if you care to have coffee, a thermos for hot water and a sachet of coffee is just on top of my dining table.  You can help yourself.”

Thank you dear friend.  We had enough coffee the entire night and we just waited for the break of day to see you and consult on certain matters.  You see, my friend here was cheated.  It’s sordid.  His wife was kidnapped by his staff and all his savings and important papers were taken away, including his money.”

“That’s very unfortunate.  Why not report this to the police?  I can do it for you if you think it deserves proper law enforcement action.  Or, better report this to your embassy.  It will merit instant response.”

“You see my friend, my colleague here is confused.  Even if he wanted to tell authorities on what happened, he had a different approach which he wanted to propose to you.”

“Okay then let me hear it.”  I pulled a cigarette stick and lighted it to project a figure of toughness.

The angst

The victim started with a hoarse voice but his language was understandable anyway.  “Sir, I want to punish the guy who run away with my wife….”

“Wait a minute, I thought that your wife was kidnapped?…”

Well…sort of…my wife was nowhere and my staff was not in his usual place.  Both should be there at home as it has always been that way for more than a year.  I saw a letter written by my wife addressed to my staff and they planned to elope.”

“Okay then.  So there was no kidnapping.  There was mutual agreement to abandon you.  So what do you intend to do, what is your proposal then?”

“Well, sir, I am thinking if it is possible to take down my staff for disloyalty and treachery.”

“Let us include your wife because they both committed the same offense to you.”

“But sir, I love my wife …..very much and I wanted her to return……. to me, for our….. kids.  Without the bastard fellow she may eventually go back……. to me.  I wanted the guy…… taken down! ”  He sobbed in between each phrase.

“You see, I have men who take orders from me.  But we are different from the rest of equalizers.  We study the case first and if in our judgment, there is basis for the imposition of extreme penalty, then we suggest it.  If the incident happened because you started it, then I am sorry.  We will just sympathize with what happened to you as a consequence.”

“But I am willing to pay.  You see, I have a lot of collectibles, except that most of my papers were displaced but I can have it reproduced later.”

“No, don’t get me wrong.  I am not after your money.  Well it is material but not for me.  I would assign someone to take on the case and your money will be used by my agent to settle down away from the heat generated by the revenge.  But before he hits, he gets his blessings first from me.  I must hear his report on the case before any action is to commence.  If in my analysis, extreme penalty is not just, then everything is terminated.  I will just inform you that there is no basis for any action.  By the way, why not forgive your transgressors.  That way you save so much and you get an instant peace of mind.  Let the heavens punish your offenders, some kind of karmic justice.  Take another leaf and begin a new life, this time wiser and shrewder than before.  It’s a lesson on maturity and strength of resolve.”

“I want the fellow dead my dear sir.”

“I can introduce you to my agent and you get instant answer based on what you want.  The problem there is that once the money you gave is gone and he expects for more from you, chances are you will forever be giving him so much on threat that he might implicate you in all his song numbers.”

“I prefer to negotiate with you only sir.”

“Then live with my standards or you can look for any other fellow.  There is a lot of unemployed looking for hit jobs; you will never find any difficulty at all.”

“Okay Sir, how do you deal with my problem first?  I have here 35k only but later I could give you more.  How much do you think I should pay your agent?”

“35k is enough.  My agent will be too happy to slap the face of your errand boy!”

“35k is just a down payment sir.  How much would it cost for the hit job?”

“The cost is somewhere between the value of that which was lost to you.  If I were you, I will never even entertain the thought of losing so much.  Begin anew.  Start once again.  There is a saying that life is better the second time around.  Brace yourself for more challenges and yes, more pain ahead that is how life is.  Of course, there is always a silver lining in every cloud.  Take it as a lesson.  You are strengthened every time you pass through a problem.  Believe me.  Revenge is never a sign of happiness.  It is a prelude to a lonely life.”

A reflection

Nakamura was splayed and speechless for a minute.  He could not decide on what to do.  He could not respond anymore.  He looked confused but a bit refreshed.  He conferred with his buddy and they had some arguments as they stood up to take coffee.

I observed how the two argued in their language.  Nipongo was spoken with inflection and done in shrieking baritone even if what were spoken were mere friendly and conversational dialogues.  I could just imagine when a Jap is praying.  From a distance it would look as if they are scolding the deity on the altar.  Now, I understand why Japan has no religion at all.

A resolution

Then my early morning visitors stretched out and bided me goodbye.  They promised to be back.  I said, “Call me up first so that I would set a time for our meeting.”  They bowed in a Jap way, nodded and slowly walked away.

That was the last time I heard of my Jap friends.


It was supposed to be the last stage, the ultimate visit of a peer in college (Letran) because in a few weeks, he will have to undergo the final surgery.  He was medically pronounced with an irreversible ailment pointing directly to an advanced stage of cancer.  He had only a veritable number of weeks to live unless a miracle happens.  It was conveyed to me and if it was a joke, which my friend often does, then it was a tasteless one.  I merely presumed that he was not pulling my leg that time.


And so there he was, a dear friend, Dan Bassig, who immediately phoned me before flying back into the country.  He wanted to know if I could still bring him to an herbalist which we visited before along with some close friends who were being treated for their ailments.  Dan firmly believed that the herbalist cured his restless leg syndrome, an ailment which no hospital in US was able to treat.  Honestly, I have forgotten how to navigate to the place anymore.  I could not even ask those who frequent the healer because two of them died already.  After learning on the status of his fellow patients, Dan was discouraged and instead begged to spend time with us in a laughter spree.


It was an awkward situation.  Here was a friend in a terminal case trying to be relevant and enjoying every minute, fulfilling every moment with the rest of us who were in our pink of health.  I tried to hide the seriousness of the situation and went along with our merry making.  To further heighten the reunion, I invited my friends to visit a prison facility which I organized five years ago—the Correctional Institution for Women in Mindanao.  From a fledging camp into a full blown school, the correctional institution for women became an instant hospice in Davao del Norte.  There I would require my talented wards to present a musical number.


I acceded to join the presenters.  The all female band required me to play the drums for them and we had fun singing retro songs.  My friends were full of excitement.  Dan even went up the stage and joined the singers.  He gamely gyrated and advanced the current dance craze.  Everybody had a great day.


Dan could not contain his emotions and disclosed his terminal condition.  There was a moment of silence.  For those in the audience, they were expecting a punch line.  It could probably some kind of a joke.  I took the microphone and attested to the disclosure.  Indeed, it was true that Dan was in a terminal case and he was already expecting the worst.


I summoned those in attendance to believe that prayers can storm the heavens just by mere intention to pray for the safety and treatment of someone they loved.  I knew it.  I convinced a group of prisoners to conduct the same and the result was a resounding success.  It’s a pity that I lost tract of that important intervention when my sister was also in a bad state of health.  I was emotionally disturbed and could not compose my mind.   I was banking on my children and her children to do the prayers.  But my sister felt heavy and she could no longer contain the pain.  She bowed out eventually.


I took the floor and began to seek a unity of purpose from the audience.  I summoned everyone to give my friend that privileged to be prayed upon.  Just for a second only.  I never asked that a marathon prayer should be conducted; a simple prayer done in unison was what I was seeking.  The audience responded positively.  They would also include in their collective prayers the recuperation of my friend.  I felt their concern that moment.  After the brief program, we left.


I accosted my friends back to the hotel in the city and the next day, sent them off.


Two months later, my friend wrote on my face book wall declaring that he passed the medical examination.  No, he never took the medical board to become a physician.  He passed the rigors of medical procedures to determine his state of health following the findings on cancerous tissues affecting his internal organs and what was revealed was a good finding.  The tissues they suspect as cancerous which may have metastasized had regressed and his internal organs were back to its normal functioning.  In other words, my friend was completely healed.


The hospital attributed it to the medicine they applied.  My friend thought that he was just lucky.


 I personally believed that the prayers of prisoners made it happen.




This is the hardest, the most difficult to express.  It is in parting away, in separation that one’s emotion is tested for resolve.  It is only through faith that one can transcend the effects of such situation.  It is only through memories that life is seen through immortality.

Yesterday (October 7, 2012) was the day when my sister was laid to her final rest.  Close friends, peers, neighbors, workmates, relatives and family were all gathered in the closing rites.  She was a friend to a lot of people in the workplace and in the neighborhood.  She was an icon to a number of loyal followers.  She was a beacon to her family.  She was that indispensable intellectual to her organization.  Personally, since we are only two in the family, she was my anchor and my ultimate guide.  She may have transcended to a higher dimension, leaving us on the plane of mundane struggles, but her figure is still there like the omnipresence of a star in the entire galaxy.  She continues to give off light, sharing her influence among those she has touched and embraced.  She would still be around even if we have seen how her mortal body was conjoined with my parent.  She has joined our dearly departed but in essence, like those of our parents, she still remains around us and exuding positive influence.

Days before she left, it was some kind of a struggle, a tussle with her personal angel.  She loved her work so much and she would even recite her school plans every time she felt relief and after a series of comfort drawn from medicines.  She was concerned about technician education and its evolution from the standpoint of her studied researches.  It was a chosen field where she would excel and would find time sharing it to the world.  She never wanted to leave the confines of the academe even if sickness would limit her movements.  She would retreat a little to allow her ailment to get the better of her but thereafter, she would get into an intellectual revelry formulating and discussing school programs which she intends to pursue once her body is through with medication.

She knew she can overcome what plagued her.  She heard of a case where a patient in the same hospital where she was undergoing treatment had to spend two years on wheelchair and thereupon recovered his health eventually to pursue once again the former patient’s usual lifestyle.  She knew that she can duplicate the same feat.  But onwards to recuperation, there were setbacks.  She could not at times bear inducing medicine into her system without throwing up.  Her appetite would falter.  Confined in her room, with hazy eyesight, she could not even read the way she normally does.  She would just content herself with trivial TV shows to bid time.  She would dispose her liquid through tubes attached on the side of her body and her right leg is a big bloated rendering her immobile.  Her mind was virtually trapped and imprisoned in her frail anatomy.  She would think of grand ideas except that once pain manifests, her entire being  would lose its focus.

Those were times when she would spend great effort to increase her threshold of pain.  There were depressing moments but she still could hold on.  She wanted to express to her loved ones that she still could make it and that her ailment was only temporary.  She could still bounce back.  Her physique had emasculated and she would feel more anxiety on top of the rigors of unease.  She would retreat and live in dreams to defeat the pain she was experiencing.  It was indeed a tiresome routine.

Then a choice was presented to her.  It was bound to break her heart.  She agonized at the prospects.  It was time for her to resign in a school she offered the best years of her life.  Her school needed her no doubt.  Her peers and subordinates had high hopes for her return.  She would still hone up on her organizational programs in the event she gets the clean bill of health.  Like our father, she would never even entertain the thought of leaving the teaching profession.  It was her universe, it was everything to her, the source of happiness, confidence, a rewarding period.  As a matter of fact, it was her life.  Leaving her school, much more so, in a formal way is already an invitation, a non verbal cue expressing her to terminate everything.  But she had no choice.  Her medical bills were mounting up, she must be given a regular dose of expensive remedial health procedures and it could only be conducted with funds coming from her separation benefits.  She could not appreciate that she could still rebound once she was through with her ailment.

She eventually accepted drafting and signing her resignation letter.  It was in her own projection to commence October 1, 2012.  On said day, she would be out of her beloved school and on the same day, she would also bid all of us goodbye.

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


Jimboy was charged in court for carnapping and he was sentenced to serve the penalty of life imprisonment.  In this country, a lifer is confined for 30 years.  He did just that.  What made him a cut above the rest and for that matter as an inmate I would repose my trust during the period of his incarceration, especially in maintaining my official vehicle as a prison officer, was his expertise as a mechanic.  Skilled prisoners are highly respected in the prison community and valued by officers.  Skilled ones like barbers, writers, mechanics, technicians, artists, musicians—-well, it is only the universe that pays tribute to them notwithstanding the offense committed but by their environment as well.  They make life comfortable not only for them but for those around them.

When a skilled prisoner is released, he is torn between a community (prison) that embraced and trusted him and the free community which, through the courts and his complainant have vomited him.  Of course, there is a feeling of confusion and some kind perplexity.  In prison, he had no freedom, everything seemed controlled.  Outside, on the other hand, he is misunderstood and suspected.  In prison, he knew who his real friends are.  Outside, he lives in doubt and wariness.  He found his faith in detention, while as a freeman he is constantly lost.

As soon as Jimboy received his release paper, he chose the middle ground.  For those with little skill to express would rather stay along the periphery of the penal establishment.  They would rather be seen by a prison officer in nearby town where he will be greeted as a “graduate” rather than return back to his community of orientation where a single crime may immediately be inferred on his presence.   He asked me if I could adopt him.  He wanted to be under my employ even if he will not be given remuneration.  Just a little space where he could repair and exercise his know-how.  He would be staying with a prison officer in the free community and at the same time, reminded that he is also, as he expects it, to be treated as a convict, of whom he was once and almost, loved it.  Shades of Stockholm syndrome where the hostage has grown dependent on his captor on almost everything—from food to protection.

Like any total institution, prison is not designed to prepare its inmates to a life of freedom.  Prison teaches and imposes a life of dependency.  It is the individual outlook to appreciate the loss of liberty and it is up to the prisoner to repent, reinvent or take revenge.  No amount of prison orientation program can reformulate this aspect.   The period of his institutional servitude dictates the kind of life a prisoner would become once he is released.  Hence there are countries that revisit the sentencing scheme in its criminal justice administration.  Prolonged incarceration destroys the positive effect of disciplinary detention.  It negates the value of custody and transforms the person into a zombie.

Jimboy immediately found peace of mind under my jurisdiction.  He prospered as a skilled mechanic that he is.  Except that he never found time to take care of his health.  A few years later, he suffered a debilitating disease and passed away.

Another prisoner sought succor after receiving the release paper.  She was a female inmate who appreciated music and became one of the pioneer members of the prison band.  As its organizer, I maintained my members through regular jamming and counseling.  When she was released, she asked if she could stay under my custody.  Accordingly, after she got her discharge certificate, she went back to her community of orientation if only to find her husband serving time in the provincial jail.  Her children were nowhere and their house pawned away.  She feared that she had no other place to go except to go back to prison.

One day, she appeared at the doorstep of my prison quarters, eyes bulging, shabbily dressed and with a sad story.   She needed a job.  I required my security aide to facilitate her application for employment in a nearby farm and in a week’s time, she was a picture of accomplishment.  Prisoners given a break and trusted to be absorbed in the workforce are the most industrious and diligent.  They work hard and are very conscientious.  She stayed for a while until one day; I found a note posted on my door.  She has gone back to her family.  She saved and sacrificed so that she could sustain a crusade to look for her missing children.  On weekends, she would go from one town to another until finally, she saw her children employed as house help.  She rented a small cottage near the farm where she was employed and from there began to turn another leaf of her life.

The challenging part for those who have been through incarceration is not on the day they served their time, but like any college graduate, it is on the day they would leave the portal of that community where they spent the greater part of learning to understand the true meaning of freedom.

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