confessions of apathy

There are ways to cope with frustration over a government that has done nothing but drag this country deeper into the pit of poverty and shame. The most popular one has been to pack and find a better life in a foreign land. Who can blame those who have taken this road? I know I don’t. Although I have thus far chosen to stay put, there is nothing noble about how I cope.


I’m not proud of it. And maybe writing about it is my way of finding absolution. It’s not that I woke up one day and decided I would stop caring about how the Philippines’ shameless, thick-faced leaders are ever tightening their grip around the neck of a very sick nation, choking the very life out of her for personal gain. But one can only take so much exposés by whistle-blowers, blatant self-service of so-called public servants, assassinations left and right—all assaulting the public psyche one after the other, and none finding resolution or even a semblance of justice.

Imagine the numbing effect on a citizen like myself.

But give it to our politicians to make even the most apathetic and numb flinch in disgusted awe of their ever-growing shamelessness. The other night I was enjoying my dinner of sisig when the news on TV reported that the lower house had approved House Resolution 1109  in a glaringly unconstitutional and anti-democratic move that would eventually allow the extension of the present administration’s term.

I do not claim to understand the intricacies of this political maneuver. The Palace-dwelling beneficiary of the move by administration congressmen has denied involvement. (It is disgusting how stupid they must think the public is!)  But I have to thank the House of Representatives for thawing my apathy, and for making me realize that I have, in the first place, grown apathetic.

Now I am outraged. But outrage, in itself, is unproductive. That’s why I write. That’s why I’m thankful that yesterday during our office prayer time we had the chance to pray for the issues of this country, the controversial HR 1109 and its implications included.

One cannot pray and remain indifferent. Faith and apathy cannot occupy the same space.

‘badge not honored’

I was on a commuter bus today, on my way home from meeting my sister at the newly-opened NAIA Terminal 3. Somewhere in Cubao three men wearing MMDA uniforms got on the bus. One of them took the empty seat right in front of me, while the rest walked farther down the aisle to the back of the bus.

This should be interesting, I told myself as I clicked pause on my iPod.

The bus conductor approached to collect fare, but the officer in front of me did not reach for his wallet or dig into his pocket; he simply moved his black jacket to reveal more clearly the MMDA patch on his blue uniform. The conductor was unfazed by the insignia, and then he started ranting and pointing to the sign near the dashboard: “Badge Not Honored.”

The blue-clad public servants, presumably embarrassed, decided to alight at the next stop light, to the music of the passengers’ clucking tongues. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Commuting in Manila is never dull.

the youth of today

Now that I’m entering my 30s, I’m finding out that one fun thing about being almost-old is having the “right” to say things like, Hay, ang mga kabataan nga naman ngayon (What’s with young people nowadays)… and then rant about how the younger folk are indecisive, apathetic, lacking depth, irresponsible—you know, all those things grown-ups used to say about me and my generation not too long ago.

While such observations about the youth may hold some truth, we have also seen that when their imagination is captured and their boundless energy properly directed, the youth can be a powerful catalyst for positive change.

The “interfaith” rally today in Makati calling for President GMA’s resignation did not have a shortage of participants from the youth sector. One particular group that was featured in the evening news had me laughing out loud—not in mockery, mind you, but in sheer admiration of their youthful spirit. As the report showed, it had started to drizzle during the rally. This prompted some creative young protesters to chant, “Rain, rain go away! Isama na si GMA!” Haha! How clever is that!

Weeks ago, just when whistle-blower Jun Lozada had come out in the open, I saw a “man-on-the-street” interview of a female college student. I suppose the question was about the youth’s response to Lozada’s sordid account of massive corruption in government. With fire in her eyes, College Girl declared, “The youth of today are not apathetic. We will not tolerate a corrupt government. If necessary, we will not hesitate to take to the streets carrying our tarps!”

Tarps? I did not get it at first, then I burst out laughing! Oh yes, placards and streamers are soooo yesterday. Tarpaulin banners or “tarps”. Now there’s a cool thing to brandish in rallies. And they’re waterproof too. Talk about being hip and practical!

Okay. This is just me warming up to being on the other side of the age demographic fence 🙂

new heads, anyone?

I have to do something about that Mac-ishly blue header. (Not that I have anything against Macs; I’d loooove to get my hands on a MacBook Air!) The creative in me is itching to spruce things up up there. But somehow the simplicity of this template is already strikingly attractive. And yet, I just know that I must, I must customize header! It’s almost like a compulsion. That space is definitely gonna change before my 30th birthday.

I think I can use a new head—above my shoulders, this time. Ever been frustrated about how sometimes your gray matter can’t seem to catch up with you? You need it to run full throttle, but it refuses to cooperate. You mind-map, squeeze a stress ball, pace back and forth, look at the ceiling, do push-ups (you, not scrawny me), make lists of all sorts–but the wheels just won’t turn! The end result is a headache and double vision. Maybe mine just needs some exercise.

Or maybe this is how thirty-year-old brains operate, and I should get used to it… *gasp*

And there I was, thinking to write something editorial and political. About the Jun Lozada expose… and the ZTE scam… and the systemic corruption in Philippine government.. and government officials’ pathetic attempts at covering up… and moderating greed and… my head, aaaagh!, my heeeead!

Before I go pop a paracetamol, you think we should get a new head? A new head of state, that is?

the teddy mark

At the pedestrian entrance of the Land Transportation Office on East Ave, a strange man screens everyone who seeks entry into the government agency’s grounds. He is imposing, like a seasoned sentry of an imperial palace. He sits behind a glass window and speaks into a microphone. (That alone should warn you not to get into an argument with him.)

Ano’ng pakay mo? (What’re you here for?)” his voice booms from the sound system, and I suspect everyone within a one-kilometer radius hears.

“Student permit po,” I answer, deciding it is wiser to play meek visitor rather than arrogant tax payer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I brought a megaphone or my neighbor’s portable karaoke system–just to even the playing field a little.

The Guardian doesn’t turn me away, unlike what he did to the two men before me. Instead, he grabs my right hand before I can even think of protesting, and then stamps on my palm the blue image of…

…a teddy bear!

I have been marked for entry. He points to the gate with his pursed lips and the guard there steps aside to let me in. In less than an hour, I get my student permit. The process is quite efficient, to my delight (and great surprise?).

Must be the teddy magic.

So. What is the very first step to getting a student driving permit? Why, of course, get a teddy bear stamp on your palm.


(Thanks for emailing me the pic, Shii!)


dirty translation

My friend Jeanix and I challenged our American friend Dan to show off his command of the Tagalog language. We asked him to translate to English a Tagalog song popularized by the Pinoy rock band Asin. Dan has lived in the Philippines for ten years and has managed to be conversant in both Tagalog and Cebuano. Quite impressive, actually.

Me (singing): Wala ka bang napapansin sa ating mga kapaligiran?
Dan (reciting his translation): Don’t you notice anyone from among your ‘barkada’?

Jeanix: Anuba, this isn’t a love song!
Me: And, hello! ‘Barkada’ is not English!

Next line, please.

Me: Kay dumi na ng hangin…
Dan: The air is dirty…

Jeanix and me: Good! Good!

Me: …pati na ang mga ilog natin.
Dan: Our… eggs… are also dirty?

Anuraw?! HAHAHA!

And just like that. The song will never ever be the same to me again.

one voter’s musings

Last Monday morning, election day, I got a text from a friend who works in media: “TIP FOR THE DAY: Ang sagot sa indelible ink cuticle remover!”

It’s amazing how we Pinoys continuously amuse ourselves, always finding the heart to laugh in the face of the crises and difficulties that beset us. I think this is a great blessing.

While I was casting my vote yesterday (wearing shorts and tsinelas as my voting precinct was just fifty steps from my apartment), I thought about how much of a difference my single ballot can really make. I mean, it’s just one of over 40 million.

Will it really matter much whether or not I make wise choices as to the names I write on this piece of paper? What if I simply avoided the stained forefinger and all the inconveniences of suffrage and not vote at all? Will my vote be missed? And what if my ballot fell prey to the schemes of election cheaters?

Can one, solitary as it is, change the course of a nation?

Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the power of one. It can take great effort to convince ourselves that, yes, the good that we do can be used by God to effect change. Like the ripples that one pebble makes when it is dropped in a still pond, our little deeds of faithfulness — done despite the prevalent sense of hopelessness that poisons our days — have the potential to grow into unimaginable significance. And it takes faith to keep that in heart and mind.

On board the MRT the day after the elections, I noticed that many a hand that gripped the metal pole had a forefinger still stained with indelible ink. Somehow I felt a sense of being one with these strangers. Regardless of political leanings and preferences, we had tapped into the power of one the day before. The indelible ink on our forefingers will fade and be completely gone in a few days, or sooner. But for all Filipinos, I pray God would grant us indelible hope, the kind that seeps through the heart and resists any attempts to wipe it away.

I don’t mind the stained finger. So no cuticle remover for me 🙂

language gone awry

Pop quiz (for Pinoys): How do you pronounce the word “awry”?

If your answer sounds something like ow-ree, then you’re not alone. That’s how I would pronounce it too. Apparently, the “correct” pronunciation (at least according to the Americans) is uhray — quite like “aray,” the Tagalog interjection/exclamation equivalent to “ouch.”

Strange, no?

Reminds me of “precedent,” commonly pronounced by Pinoys as pre-see-dent; I’ve heard Americans pronounce it in the movies exactly like they would say “president.” I think the Pinoy pronunciation makes more sense, especially when you consider the following case: “The president’s precedent action was misconstrued.” Or some such usage.

In many ways, English is a very inconsistent language. I like the simplicity of Tagalog/Filipino. As the Filipino teacher’s mantra goes, Kung anong bigkas, siya ring baybay (How you say it is how you spell it.) Then again, for non-Tagalog speakers things could also go awry.