ACERBIC TONGUE COLUMN FOR TVoSM

THOSE HURTFUL WORDS

When I was four, my mother borrowed a shoe that was a size too small for me to use for the Reyna Elena Parade where I was one of the princes. I don’t remember who it was but I was told that I was only going to use it for a couple of hours anyway so I should stop being a brat and stop whining about it

By the time I took it off, there was a blister the size of an old one peso coin on my foot. I wanted to cry from the pain but I was also told that real boys don’t cry so I sucked it up and waited until I was alone before crying my heart out. They still called me a bratty and whiny crybaby anyway.

Two weeks after I turned six, I finished kindergarten at the top of my class, getting almost all of the awards aside one, the Best in Spelling award. I heard the mother of the kid who got the award telling her son that I wasn’t really smart because if I was, I would have gotten the award too. Up to this very moment, I still remember those words and there are even times when I believe every single word.

I was in second grade when I had an argument with one of my cousins. He told me that if my mother really loved me and my siblings, she wouldn’t have left to work in Hong Kong. I gave some smart-ass reply and pretended not to be bothered. I cried silently the whole night.

In third grade, there was this news that my mother was about to be executed in Hong Kong for accidentally drowning her boss’ child. A classmate called me the son of a murderer. I almost ended up stabbing that classmate with a knife. It was someone else’s mother with the same first name.

The end of primary school, I was told that I would get a bike if I make it to the top five. I did. My brother got a bike instead. I never believed in any promise ever again.

Third year high school, I was asked to beg for a special project in one of my subjects to add just one more point just so I would be eligible for the honor roll. I swallowed my pride and own beliefs even when I didn’t really care if I was in the honors list or not. The disappointment of the people around me was overwhelming when I still didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t disappointed because I knew that I didn’t deserve it.

In my last year of high school, I was told by my Filipino teacher that the short story I wrote was really beautiful. A classmate who wrote about being in love with one of our teachers for the same project told me it was trash. I knew she was just jealous but still, I believed her for a while. I still continued writing stories anyway despite hearing her voice over and over again in my head. I still hear her voice at times.

So, what’s with all the sad and melodramatic childhood memories? Nothing really.

It’s just a simple reminder we all have bad memories and painful childhood experiences. Some of it breaks us completely, while some of them make us stronger, little by little, even the worst ones, believe it or not.

We get to grow up and these kinds of things shouldn’t hurt us as much anymore, unless it’s the truth.

A lot of people in the world had it so much worse than you do but still, you don’t see them doing a Binay because of it. You shouldn’t too.

At the end of the day, all you really need to do is to suck it up and grow up. Cry a little then bounce back up. Face it all up front instead of blaming everyone else for the crap you are getting. You’re not a child. Grow up.

And yes, I just watched the new Binay advertisement in case you are wondering where all these are coming from.

THE GROWN UP THING

“Where do you see yourself ten years from now?”

This seems to be one of the “required” questions in every interview and up to this very moment, I know most of us would still answer the generic, “I would still be with this company, hopefully at a higher and more stable position.”

It is the answer that the recruiters would be expecting and most of the time. It is the answer that we give.

But the thing is; do we really know where we would be in ten years time?

I was on my way to the MRT one morning when I saw someone who I went to the university with. It’s been a really long time since I’ve talked to someone from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and it was a welcome change to the daily myriad of strangers I’ve faced for weeks so I asked her to join me for a cup of coffee.

We got to the usual how-have-you-been and reminiscing the times we shared in UPLB. We talked about the people we both knew and what those people are doing now, eight years after college.

Some, I knew, were already making a name in their chosen fields, the others married and happily counting the days they spend with their family. She said the same thing with little changes here and there.

“How about you?” She suddenly asked which caught me by surprise. “What have you been doing all these time?”

And that’s when it hit me.

I really wanted to be honest and tell her that I’ve been trying so hard to figure out what my life should be. I wanted to tell her that my life has been a series of beginnings that never really started well and that I am still undecided as to which path I should take.

But instead, just like in the interviews I have had, I gave the acceptable answer. I said that I was doing fine.

People say that in your twenties, you get to know what you really wanted to do with your life, to have a deeper understanding of who you really are, that moment in your life when you can finally say, “This is it! This is really is it?”

People would expect you to be more mature, to be surer of your actions, to not make any mistake, because in the eyes of the society, you are grown up.

Whatever mistakes we make, we hide it as much as we can because the society will always be there to ridicule us, to point out what a disappointment we are.

As per experience, we actually make more mistakes during our twenties. This is the time when young adults actually have the freedom to try new things, things that they were afraid to venture in before, things that they never thought they would ever do.

We mess up, make mistakes, get into trouble, and then hide it, hiding in plain sight most of the time to avoid the scrutiny of the society who acts as if they have never been through the same process of doubts and uncertainties.

May it be five or ten years after schooling, one would realize that we never really got out of the campus. We just transferred into a bigger world where the bullies are bigger and stronger, harsher than the bullies we have ever met before.

So for us who are still uncertain of what our life is supposed to be, we fake it, we fake it until we make it. We pretend to be grownups until we really do grow up.

I just hope that we all survive.

LESSONS UNLEARNED

We Filipino’s are just way too familiar with what is happening in Syria as of the moment. The war, children suffering, civilians getting caught in the crossfire and trapped in a country that was supposed to protect them, death: We are all too familiar with this picture. We have seen this countless times in our own backyard.

But as always, the Philippine government had done the only thing that they deemed worth doing: taking our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) home.
Did the government take a stand in the issue? No. Taking one, which based on the history of the country would be siding with the U.S. government’s action, could cause turmoil in our own country especially in Mindanao.

With the current problems in Mindanao and the deadly undercurrent of the situation with China, staying silent seems to be the most logical thing to do. Syria isn’t our fight.

Some Filipino netizens however are now clamoring for the government to take action.

From peace organizations to lefties groups to people who have taken the stand that what is happening in Syria is much more important than some stupid update regarding the AlDub or Binay’s litany of playing the victim, the Filipino had shown that we are not as apathetic as we have been made out.
Syria’s story is our story. But like the children that had been plummeted into the depths of a war they do not really understand, we Filipino’s have not been given any other choice but to just watch the carnage, just like what happened in Mindanao, just like what happened with the SAF 44 or that of the Maguindanao Massacre five years ago.

Like the Syrian refugees, we are powerless as the powers of the world continue with their war plays and tactics. But unlike the Syrian refugees, we do not have our lives on the line this time, at least not yet.

Syria isn’t our war, or at least that’s what we want to believe in. To each his own, that’s the mantra of the general public. We have our own problems to think about.

But if you look at it closely, this individualistic approach is the backbone of all conflicts in the world. Governments and organizations driven by their own sense of righteousness and greed for power had been the sole reason for all these conflicts.

We knew that. We’ve seen it. Yet we never really cared enough to actually point it out because “that’s just how the world works.” We have disregarded what we have learned from our own history.

Yes, Syria is not our war because the real war is within ourselves, because when shove turns to push, we all know that we would do what is best for ourselves, just like everyone else.

It’s the reason that deep inside us, we really know that war would always be there, that it would just change places and faces, but will always be there. After all, we are all so good at unlearning what we have learned.

Syria is not our war. It should be.

CAFFEINE DEFICIENCY

Decency is just another meaningless word in the dictionary, or at least that’s how it seems these past few days.

From the out and out lying on national television to taking credit for something that they have nothing to do with all over the social networking sites to competitor sabotage and blatant misrepresentation at public bidding up to the welcome tarpaulins that shows the face of the politician instead of the person being welcomed; there really isn’t an ounce of shame left for some people.

Quoting Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in one of her speeches, “Ang kakapal lang ng mukha!”

And let’s be honest, that’s really the most appropriate description for some people.

I am a firm believer that people should follow their dreams, do everything they can to reach it, but they should at least learn to not go as far as becoming the nation’s living nightmares.

Now I know exactly where the Pabebe girls are getting it from and it’s just sick.

These people have the power to change the tides of the country, the influence to make a great deal of difference, the position to create a Philippines that could be at par with the other countries in the world, yet what do they do? They use it for their own advantages, not even caring for the people around them.

What is more frustrating is the fact that most people actually ignore this blatant insult to their intelligence. They have accepted this as a part of the status quo and just look at it as part of the norm even when nothing about it is normal.

The whole country is half asleep when it should be awake. The people are just ignoring the issues when they should be filled with rage.

But maybe that’s part of the reality too, that most of us Filipinos have chosen to be complacent, to ignore the truth.

Maybe a cup of coffee should be forced upon every Filipino, for them to get out of their forced slumber, for them to wake up.

As for those “people”, they should be drowned in a pool of the strongest coffee in the world, and maybe, just maybe, their cold selfish and self-absorbed heart would actually beat for once.#

TAKING SIDES

FIRST PRINTED IN THE VOICE OF SIERRA MADRE

“Kay Gambito ito? Kay Gambito ito? Kay Gambito ito?”
There is an old belief that for a wish to come true, you have to repeat it three times. It is just quite unfortunate for Governor Ruth Padilla of the province of Nueva Vizcaya that reality isn’t exactly a Disney movie where a fairy godmother or a genie would suddenly appear from nowhere to make her “wish” come true no matter how many times she repeats those words and point at the copy of the newspaper in front of her.
It was a rhetorical question. The bottom line was, she was asking for a confirmation that the newspaper is indeed owned and controlled by one of her political rivals. It was just unfortunate for her that no matter how many times she asks the question, the answer will be the same: NO.
In all due fairness with the controversial governor, the newspaper does have quite a colorful history with her. The publication had been one of the first few in the region to write about the “irregularities” that had been pestering her and her husband’s administration since they started.
The newspaper itself may not be “anti-Padilla” as she wanted to believe but the reports that had been written about the “misdeeds” of her administration may be taken that way. After all, the mentality is that if a publication or network is reporting any negative news about a certain individual, office, or group, then they are the enemy.
News reports, written or aired, are no longer being measured by its truthfulness but that of whom the report is supporting or going against with. One is either a supporter or a detractor, either pro or anti, nothing in between.
This type of thinking is limited to the governor or that of public officials and politicians for that matter. Even private businesses, establishments, groups, and individuals seem to have that same belief.
It’s either you are with them or against them, and unfortunately for media practitioners, the answer would decide if one is getting the information he needs for the news story or not. If the answer is deemed acceptable, meaning in support of the interviewee, then the media practitioner is welcomed with open arms. Otherwise, he can expect the door shut on his face even before he can ask his first question.
The idea is, if you give a positive report about an individual, group, or office, then they would see you as an ally. Print or broadcast anything that is negative about the same individual, group or office and one just turned himself into one of the enemies.
What these people and groups doesn’t seem to understand or do not want to comprehend is the fact that as a media practitioner, one cannot take sides. The media’s job is to air the news, to inform the public of what they need to know, not to be the extension of someone’s public relations team. Unbelievable as it sounds, that’s just how it is and that how it should remain.
The media industry, or at least some of its practitioners, does have a share of the blame with the current stigma. It is quite known that there are practitioners who would sell their air time or print space to be someone’s lap dog instead of being the watchdog that they were supposed to be.
But just like the fact that not all politicians are corrupt and not all non-government organizations are part of the pork barrel scam, not every journalist is for sale. There are still some media practitioners who actually stand for the ideals of what the profession is really about, people who can easily wear a shirt that says, “You can’t buy me!” and wouldn’t be struck by lightning.
If that isn’t enough, then the solution is simple; they need to do their jobs according to the law of the land, without taking advantage of its loopholes and the people involved.
There is nothing to uncover when there is nothing to hide. If they can do that, then there is no reason to ask for anyone to take sides. #

KISSING FROGS

FIRST PRINTED IN THE VOICE OF SIERRA MADRE

The rainy seasons had just officially started yet you can already see them strutting all over the country, already visible to the naked eye, making you wonder if it was just you who didn’t really notice their existence up to now.
It was like the first rain of June had finally brought them out from hiding, croaking at every moment they are given the chance to, croaking even when there is a need for silence.
At times, it seems like they are trying to catch up for all the time that they have spent in silence, the time they have spent isolating themselves, the times that they were on their own, away from the prying eyes of the people.
Soon as the first drop of rain touches their skin, the air started to be filled with their voices, unwavering and relentless, forcing their way to anyone who was within earshot, making them listen to a melody that we are just way too familiar with. Maybe it had even started before that, at least for some it did.
And no, I am not talking about frogs. Compared to them, the amphibians are a lot tamer. The frogs at least know when to stop yapping.
With still about four more months before the actual filing of candidacy, we are now being bombarded by so-called infomercials and interviews and guestings of politicians aspiring for yet another term in the office or those who are aiming for yet another position in the government.
You blink and they would just be out there all of a sudden, doing everything in front of a live audience or in front of a camera, to be applauded, to be seen, to be visible, to be remembered.
All that is missing is the “Vote for Me” sign and it could have been considered as a full-fledged campaign material.
If this had been in the field of sports, beginning the game prematurely would either cause an athlete’s disqualification or the restart. Either way, the athlete who made that mistake would be at a disadvantage.
But they are wiser than that. They have done their homework. They have learned how to stretch the small loophole in the law and had made it into a deep gaping lagoon of possibilities that they could use for their own advantage.
No, they do not actually tell a person to vote for them during the elections. That would be against the rules.
The rule, however, does not prevent them from hinting on the possibility of them running for the upcoming elections.
Technically, they are not campaigning, since they never asked for anyone to vote for them. The rule gives them that much of a leeway even when common sense dictates that it is exactly what they are doing.
How the Philippine Constitution ended up being more lenient than that of sports rules is just ridiculous but it’s the reality.
How our public servants had become more cold-blooded than a frog croaking under the rain, however, is no longer surprising.
So how are we going to survive the 2016 elections?
For one, we stop kissing frogs. #

THE END OF DREAMING

FIRST PRINTED IN THE VOICE OF SIERRA MADRE

When we were younger, it was so much easier to answer the question of what we want to be when we grow up, of what our dreams are.
It was so easy to tell everyone that we want to be a doctor to help all those who are sick, a policeman to assure peace in the community or to become a teacher to be given the chance to hone the future generations.
Of course, we have used simpler words then but it was of the same meaning. We dream of making a difference, not really knowing what those dreams entail.
Then we grew up and realized that a dream that doesn’t end up with a peso sign followed by a number and a lot of zeros isn’t considered as a dream.
We are born in an age where money rules out any ambition. To immortalize a vision or a thought is nothing compared to having money in your pocket.
Sadly, this is mostly the case for our generation. We have been fashioned into believing that money is the most important thing in life. We have been brought up to believe that a life of luxury is more important than anything in this world.
The older generation say that we are lucky since everything we have ever wanted is already served to us in a silver platter. Everything has been made easy for us, according to them.
But whose dream is this? Ours or theirs?
We grew up confused of what is really important. Even before we were born, the older generation had already decided our fate; we are no more than just a continuation of what they have started.
Yes, everything had been made easy since everything has been mapped out for us and all we need to do is follow the blueprint that the older generation had painstakingly prepared. We are created to live the dream of the older generation.
But how about our own dream? Can we not dream a different dream? #

‘DE LATA’ GENERATION

FIRST PRINTED IN THE VOICE OF SIERRA MADRE

The people around us would always point out that we may not be born to be great but we are expected to do something good with the life that we have. This should be true for everyone who has ever been given the chance to breathe no matter what social status, physical feature and financial capability they have.
Of course it would be harder for the likes of us who have to fight for everything, even for the space that we take in this world but there should be no excuse, all of us were born to be great in our own ways.
So what happened?
We have become complacent. We have been brought up in a world where everything is at the tip of our fingers. The paths that we take are the paths that have been decided for us by a society that expects nothing more from us but to follow.
And maybe that is the problem. We have gotten used to having other people decide where we are going, that in the end, we never get anywhere. We have this focus on “personal greatness” that we never really get to be anything in the end.
Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang and all the other nameless heroes of our history didn’t focus on being great. They didn’t do all the things they have done with the thought of having their lives studied in the universities nor did they dream of having their monuments be erected in all the corners of the archipelago. They did what they have to do in order to bring forth a Philippines that is free.
For our generation, it’s a fight on who would be able to earn the biggest salary, build the biggest house, travel more, or at the most mundane, who would have a better post in Facebook or who would have the most controversial tweet in Twitter.
We live in a world of materialistic hypocrisy where passion is mostly connected to money instead of what we really want and what we can do for other people. Where once every Juan and Maria are given a chance to be good not only for themselves but for others, now they are being trained to be nothing but a breathing peso sign or a dollar sign for that matter.
So whose fault is this travesty? Look around but don’t forget to look in the mirror as well. The generic tin can is open but we really don’t have to jump in just to be packaged like everyone else. It is our choice to either be processed like everyone else or be someone different.
Maybe THIS is the war that we need to fight but that it wasn’t given enough care to start fighting. And this is what we have to offer to the future generations, a life inside a tin can. I just hope that this would expire soon enough so that we can have something new, and hopefully, make a difference that would not only affect our own lives but the generation that is yet to come after us. #

POLITICAL JOKES

FIRST PRINTED: THE VOICE OF SIERRA MADRE

From simple jests to the big screen, casual conversations to comedic skits, simple exchanges to artistically created and manipulated memes and puns, we have heard it all, or at least have seen a glimpse of the world of politics from a jester’s point of view. It’s confirmed! Politics IS a joke.
I guess that is what’s so Filipino about it all, our ability to take something as serious as a national issue or that of the biggest situations in the country like the pork barrel or the current Binay or PNoy telenovela on television and make a joke out of it, laugh at it, make light of a situation that can directly or indirectly affect us.
If you look at the proliferation of jokes, memes, puns, skits, blogs and posts of Filipino’s on the internet, it’s easy to see that we speak fluent sarcasm and irony just as well as our national language, Filipino. No one can say that the Filipino people are stupid because being able to write such artistic and creative puns and jokes is an indication of the country’s high intellectual quotient.
Our punch lines have gradually evolved from the slapstick comedy where someone gets physically hurt just for a scene to be funny which we have become accustomed with into the intellectually stimulating and witty one liner and memes that is flooding the World Wide Web and the national television.
Now that the election is near, we would all again be bombarded with campaigns and promises and some other tactics that are possible gold mines for these kinds of things. The world would again see just how smart and witty every Juan and Maria is. But are we really?
One can collect all the puns and punch lines that we have accumulated for the past years, from the “Bangus Government” jokes, the “Erap Jokes,” the “I’m sorry, Hello Garci” mixes, up to the current abnoy and uling gags, and probably end up with a series longer than the Harry Potter. And the thing is, it would be based on truth.
We make a joke out of things not only because it is easier to digest but because jokes don’t necessarily come with a libel case or slander case. We make fun of things mostly because that’s just as far as we can go into changing it while hoping that someone out there would be pissed enough to actually do something about it. We laugh at things because crying in one corner isn’t an option.
Filipinos don’t cry over spilled milk. We make a whole dramatic-comedy telenovela or film about it and laugh at the reality that is being thrown right into our faces. Then, at the end, we realize that we are actually at the receiving end of the joke and can’t do anything about it anymore but laugh. So we laugh.
Politics is a joke. We have long established that. But since we are the one who elected these jokes, what exactly does that make us?
With that in mind, I guess we really aren’t that witty or smart after all. A smart person would know when the joke is on him. So, who’s laughing now? #