Monday, August 15, 2011

Just call me Tigum

I have this small plot along the river Tigum where I built a small bamboo hut besides which I literally planted with camote after about 15 years of working my ass abroad. This camote I feed to my pigs which scream to death each time they hear my car coming. Pigs love to eat camote leaves. And each time they see me, they see camote.

What I like about the place is the river. I like the sight and sound of water flowing among rocks and along verdant valleys and plains. And when the local men come down with their carabaos, or when the womenfolks settle to do their laundry along the rocky banks, I can hear the sigh of Amorsolo. If only I could paint that good.

But most of all, I like the name of the river. The local folks call the river Tigum. To me the name is so Filipino, so ethnic. It conjures images of brave, muscled, sun-browned men battling the guns and taunts of white men from far away. It gives me images of beautiful lasses with long black hair adorned with a simple gumamela.

How I wish my name is Tigum. People change their names into something they love that signifies their beliefs and principles. There's Kidlat Tahimik. And many African Americans changed their names because they wanted to erase the past when there were masters and slaves. And what's so good about being named Lawrence, Berthold, or Henry when you look so Filipino? My name was copied from the Americans by my parents who thought that having an American sounding name made one think American. I don’t like to think that my parents believed that speaking English made one an intellectual. To me, my name reeks of a colonial past, when Filipinos felt so small beside the Americans. I don’t look up to the Americans. And I would like to think that I don’t salivate to go and live in the States.

If I have a chance to change my name, I would like to be called Tigum. I like a name that truly embodies my ideals and personality. Most of all, by just looking at or hearing my name, I would like people to know immediately that I am truly a Filipino.

Note: I found this write-up from somewhere. I wrote this in 2002 after coming home to the Philippines from a long stint abroad. I'm still in the Philippines and still maintains my nipa hut along the river. The pigs are now gone due to bankrupcy (somehow, I now admit I am not good in agribusiness.). The camote made way to corn, then bell peppers, to lacatan bananas courtesy of the Department of Agriculture (where I signed numerous documents which I hoped would not be used to justify the Joc-joc Bolante fertilizer fund scam), to string beans, and numerous other crops to make ends meet. I posted this entry because visitors are yearning to know my identity (Astig gid abi!).


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another one bites the dust

In the Philippines, the number one cause of death is heart disease. It is followed by vascular systems diseases. Both diseases are caused by the dramatic changes in the blood vessels and the blood flow which are attributed to the peculiarities of modern living - sedentary lifestyle, smoking, cholesterol-laden food, smoking, alcohol, stress, etc.

Gone were the days when people died of old age. In fact, the olds of long ago were possibly happy to die because, in their later years, their great great grandchildren (3g) were afraid to get near them because they (the 3g) thought the olds were so old they were like maranhig (vernacular for living dead).

Long ago in our impoverished barangay, if people didn't die of old age, they died of hiwit, inaswang, or gored to death by the pet carabao. Old people in our barangay have not heard of cancer, pheumonia, AIDS, or dengue. In the absence of doctors, surhanos diagnosed all the illneses. If somebody trembled uncontrollably, or if painful lumps appeared on a person's body, it was hiwit. If somebody suddenly fell down and died, it was the work of an evil spirit.

Back to the title of this post.

It was only last August when klasmeyt Premee succumbed to stroke.

December 5, another klasmeyt, Edgardo A was laid to rest. He died due to MI (myocardial infarction) or heart attack. Another one bites the dust.

Klasmeyt Edgardo A was a seaman. He had a non-fatal attack while their ship was in the US of A and was hospitalized in California. After awhile, he was cleared by his doctors and was allowed to leave for the Philippines. He arrived in Manila, alive and well, as he pushed his trolley of luggage to his waiting wife. He was as physically normal as anyone in the crowd. But a few days after he arrived and while seeking more medical tests, he suffered another heart attack and died. Even while in grief, his family was thankful that, at least, he had gone home and stayed with his loved ones even just for a few days before he breathed his last. He is survived by his wife Vilma T of CNCHS Class 73, and his three children.

I didn't remember Edgardo. In fact I went over the decaying high school graduation souvenir program just to verify that he was a klasmeyt. And, indeed, his name was listed in Section 6, together with Premee who also died recently, Zari V who is into the funeral parlor business, and Herman L who, based on his Facebook photos, is destined to become a maranhig.

As the torchbearer of my class (torchbearer is defined by as a person who brings enlightenment, truth, etc.; or an inspirational leader, as in some movement . Haay, I think this should be a subject of another post. Torchbearer ako is just himo-himo ko lang. Just to console myself for being actually the driver, errand boy, gina-utangan, pala-utwasan sang sakit-buot, and just somebody who is supposed to be there no matter what when needed by my klasmeyts. I still can't nudge the grudge of a klasmeyt who thought I should have visited and given him abuloy when his mother died even if at that time my own mother was also seriously ill and later died in the hospital.), I looked for the address of Edgar. When informed that the wake was in Landheights Subdivision, I scoured three subdivisions with the name Landheights along the hi-way going to Leganes, because to my horror there was not just one Landheights. But I didn't find any wake in these subdivisions. It was late in the afternoon. It was so hot and I was so hungry and I had this great urge to pee. So I called some people to help me with the right address. At last, I arrived at Edgardo's and Vilma's residence where the wake was held, in Landheights in Balabago, a 180 degree compass turn from where I originally headed. I saw Edgardo's tarp photo. Yes I remembered him as one of those older klasmeyts in hi school. I then gave the mass card bearing the name of my Class, which seemed so cheap compared to the amount I used for mobile calls to locate the address. And I was not adding my gasoline expenses yet. I was the only visitor and Vilma and her family were so accomodating. We talked about Edgardo, his life and his death. We forgot about the time. Then other mourners I didn't knew arrived. I asked to leave so the family can fully attend to the visitors.

It was a short and easy drive from Landheights Balabago to the hi-way going to Jaro. But in the hi-way, traffic was bumper to bumper. I was irritated. Then I saw the letchon-manok stands. And I remembered I was still very hungry. My conversation with Vilma was just so animated I forgot to eat in the wake. Then I also realized my bladder was just at bursting point. Yes I also forgot to pee in Edgardo's house. And the traffic was getting worse. And with all the chaos building within and around me, I remembered my klasmeyts who never even bothered to remember me when my mother died. Of course, many came, emailed, phoned or texted me. But still others just didn't bother. And I could imagine my klasmeyts playing with their apos, doing overtime in tong-itan, or gossiping with the neighbors. While I was in the middle of the traffic - alone, hungry and about to pee - because I thought it was my duty to give my last respects in the name of the Class to all klasmeyts or their parents who have gone ahead. 'Bro, puso mo!', I imagined the traffic police to remind me.

Then, out of the blue, my car stereo blared that old music by the British rock band Queen.

'Steve walks warily down the street with the brim pulled way down low
Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet, machine gun's ready to go
Are you ready? Hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip to the sound of the beat, Yeah
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust....'

Not this time, I thought.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Corrupting the youth

As I was driving today, I heard the news over the radio about the case of a Sangguniang Bayan member doing all the nasty things a trapo (shortcut for traditional politician; but also means in English a dirty linen which many believe signifies the dirty antics and personality of politicians) is supposed to do, to have his daughter elected as an SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) Federation President of his locality.

The issue was again tackled blow-by-blow by the radio commentators until the evening, calling the SK as Sangguniang Kamal-aman.

I was interested in the issue not because the names mentioned seemed familiar as it happened in my hometown, but also because it just bolsters my stand that the SK is just a training ground of would-be trapos and therefore needs to be abolished for good.

I too was once an SK chairman. But it was much different during our time. Our election was never like the election of the olds. We were all friendly to everybody and our elders never got involved. We never had any money from the LGUs (local government units) but we made many projects which were wholeheartedly supported by our elders. We were in the SK because we wanted to serve the community. We didn't have any allowances, scholarships,travels, perks and other priviledges. We were in the SK because the young people in our locality were looking up to us. And we thought we ought to be examples to others.

But now it's different. The SK is just that - a training ground of future trapos. Teach the youth how to house or corral possible voters prior to election for a sure vote. Like a real trapo. Show them the glint of money. Just like a trapo. Give them a hint of the meaning of 'What are we in power for?'. Just like a trapo. Kapag trapo ang tatay, trapo na rin ang anak. Possibly, many will say nakakasuka ang gakatabo sa Cabatuan. And well-meaning citizens may hope that the incident is not replicated in the other parts of the country.

Let's all pray for our children and the future of our country. Let's all pray for the abolition of the SK.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Psst! Group

Most often I call my classmates Manong or Manang, or Iyay for obvious reasons. Now I call them the Psst! Group. Psst! is not an acronym for a deadly group of suicide bombers (similar to the TBS 13 or True Brown Style 13, a fraternity of youngsters in Iloilo who, as part of their initiation, are allegedly killing taxi drivers after taking their cash collections), nor a pseudo society of souls who are fond of looking back to their past because the only future they can look forward to is their bleak retirement. I don't even refer to the popular meaning of Psst as Practice Safe Sex Today. Many of my classmates regard sex as a verb in the past tense. Never associated with Today. Period. If you get my drift.

But going back to Psst!

Some members of the Psst! Group. Taken after the last rites for the late wife of Ernie C. at Forest Lake Memorial Park, Manduriao, Iloilo City, Nov 27, 2010.

I call this group Psst! because when they hear somebody say Psst! they will automatically turn their heads to the source of the sound. And even if the first time, the second time and the nth time they discover that the Psst! is intended for somebody else, yet the next time they hear another 'Psst!' they will still turn their heads towards the sound, unmindful of their previous experience. Parang di na natuto. Haven't they heard about the boy who cried 'Wolf!'?

Will somebody lecture this group about Classical Conditioning or the theories of Pavlov and Skinner? Over a can of maram-an?

Pero, with all the shortcomings, I still look forward to meeting my classmates and the banters that I share with them. Daw nami gid man mag-estorya kang mga nagreligad. Because… come on, can I talk about the stock market with these people? So we talked about our past.

The few times that my classmates would meet, we really make the occasion special. Even if we just huddle for a few minutes with not even a plate of peanuts or butong pakwan in sight. We talk of the days we were classmates in high school, our antics and ambitions then, and our lives now as bread winners, some as doting lolos and lolas, and a few as still coy virgins who remained untouched (kuno) and unmarried in their menopausal years.

Frankly, I sometimes am embarrassed to call my classmates ‘Klasmeyts’ especially in front of my kids. Because - I have to be tactless – they just looked so old as in mal-am gid. Of course, they are still not legally senior citizens. But when left on their own, they would chatter the whole day about their apos, their arthritis and other ailments, the pang-tuition of their college-age children and other financial woes, or the witches or aswangs who happened to be their in-laws. Will somebody tell these people to have a life? Come on. You talk of these topics with a maram-an on hand. And you share buyo, bunga, and other sangkap with the mal-am you are talking with. Try to eavesdrop on the yuppies. Are these the topics they are talking about?

Well, in one of our talks, they mentioned some familiar names.

We had some klasmeyts in high school, according to them, who didn’t allow anyone to copy their answers during exams. Mga dalok gid. They covered their answers as if these were for their eyes only. They folded the top portion of their answer sheets over the items they were answering and they stooped low over their papers so nobody would see what they were writing. As if they were really sure that their answers were right. Their answers were like their panties – they had to pull their skirts down so nobody could have an idea of the color, or if they even wore panties. But look where these dalok nga mga klasmeyts are now. Daw wala man asenso sa pangabuhi. They are not as successful professionally as those merely copying answers during exams. Agto ka sa balay nanda, baw grabe agwanta mo nga para indi ka mangihi. Kay hadlok kaw mag-agto sa anda CR. Basi indi lang toko sa dingding ang makita mo. Mayad pa mangihi sa baid kudal.

And this klasmeyt nga seaman – kapitan sa barko. He was so embarrassed when his son saw his board exam rating. His rating was gakabit nga daw wasay. But he regained his composure. He told his son, ‘Look at your mother. Grabe kataas ang board exam niya. But her 1-year salary is much less than my 1-month salary.’

And that klasmeyt who, when everybody was asked by the school nurse to bring individual stool specimen to school for laboratory analysis, he brought a big Nescafe bottle filled to the brim with his stool. And he was proud to show his loot before the class. Our teacher shrieked and ran fast out of the classroom as if she saw a scary monster.

And that klasmeyt who was so dumb in Math she only memorized the multiplication table for 1's. 1 x 1 = 1. 1 x 2 = 2. 1 x 3 = 3. And so on. Tapos na ang klase di pa nya mamemorize ang 2's.

And that teacher who was so motherly outside, but a terror inside the classroom. Kapila niya ginbunggo sa blackboard ang ulo ni dumb klasmeyt in Math. This teacher's behavior may lead to dismissal and a criminal case now. But during our time, teachers could be so despotic and physically cruel.

At times, the topic became personal. The target of the ribbing is usually the klasmeyt na laon or spinster. Why are there spinsters? Nobody courted them? Males statistically fewer than females? And the spinster answered back, by choice naman daw ang kanyang pagiging laon. Meaning, ginusto nya. Talaga? Inspite of the pocket books with lots of pasaring sa mga pangyayari sa kama? Inspite of the boys who talk dirty na dapat lang pakuluan ang mga bunganga? Inspite of the TV shows na PG pero standard ang torrid kissing scenes ni bidang lalaki and a retinue of female characters in different stages of undress?

Then the question: 'Ti, waay gid ti guwapo ikaw nga nakita?'

And the answer: 'Ay raku nga guwapo eh. Pero ang gusto nanda indi ti guwapa, kundi guwapo man.'

I remembered our spinster neighbor. She was beautiful, fair, kutis porselana. She was my bordmeyt when I was in college. She was at that time working as a salesgirl. Long after I was already working, I heard that she died of breast cancer. But before that, she usually passes in front of our house and took notice of my nieces. Many times, while playing with my nieces, she would just cry so loud, complaining that she had no children of her own to take care of her as she was already diagnosed with cancer. When reminded that she had many nephews and nieces, she would complain that the kids were only good to her if she had money. Possibly, if she could only turn back the hands of time, she would have asked any tambay, sikad driver, or kargador to impregnate her just so she would have a biological child to accompany her during her cancer years. Or nagpangamang siya kang ana mga bordmeyt para lang magbusong. But she was so suplada and picky when she was still young.

And the banters and recollections continue. Daw kang san-o lang. Psst! Ti, may sugpon o dugang kamo?


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