Friday, September 23, 2011

Bring him home, Lord…

Tolits (December 31, 1961-April 25, 2011)

Tolits, you know it's been hard for me to mourn for you.  But it's time for me to let you go home to the Lord. Rest in Him and enjoy the company of our parents, Lolo and Lola and all His angels. Do pray for us, the living. I love you, bro!

God on high , hear my prayer
In my need You have always been there
He is young ; He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
He’s like the son I might have known if God had granted me a son.
The summers die one by one
How soon they fly on and on
And I am old and will be gone.
Bring him peace, bring him joy
He is young, he is only a boy
You can take, You can give
Let him be, let him live.
If I die let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

(From the musical Les Miserables)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fulfilling my Bucket List (2011)

2011 seems to be a year of firsts for me.  I have compiled my very own Bucket List and I am posting here the ones I have already fulfilled.
1. My pose with Superman (June 3) – Thank goodness TGIF in Abreeza, Davao City has this life-size statue of my comicbook fave! The same statue has a starting bid of P30,000 in Ebay.ph. :)
I and my alter-ego, Superman

2. My first zipline adventure! (June 2) – Ever since ziplining was introduced in Mindanao 2 or 3 years, I’ve been wanting to try it to conquer my fear of heights. Well, at the Bluejaz Beach Resort and Waterpark in the Island Garden City of Samal, I had my first zipline adventure. The zipline, at 400 meters length, was a good starting point to conquer my phobia. Looking forward to longer ziplines! :)
First zipline adventure
The rush of the wind against my face (photo by Ric Dumalay)

Our prodigal brother has come home

Our newly-departed brother, Napolito, on his clinic bed

Napolito was the fourth among us six siblings. He was the anniversary baby, born as he was on December 31, the wedding anniversary of our parents, that’s why he was named “Napolito” (Napo from our father’s name Napoleon and Lito from our mother’s name Emelita). I remember the three of us siblings and our parents gathered around the matrimonial bed where Mama delivered him, giggling as we watched the tiny bundle being startled by the New Year’s Eve firecrackers that ushered 1962 in.

He was the the family’s problem child who grew up to be the prodigal son and brother. As a toddler, when he discovered a matchbox, he promptly set fire to our pillows. As a teen, he was the first and only one who joined a gang with whom he associated until he got incarcerated (another first in our family). This same gang would later help him escape while on his way to a court hearing. The gang members, as you may have guessed, are the black sheep of their respective families.

Unlike the prodigal son in the parable of Jesus Christ, he did not want the property we inherited from our parents divided among us, he wanted it all to himself. When the buyer found out that she paid him good money under fraudulent means (he forged our signatures in a fake deed of sale), she hailed him to court for estafa.

But before going to court, he lived a nouveau riche life. He separated from his wife with whom he had seven children and acquired not one, but two common-law wives! He was careful to set up each of them in separate subdivisions, provided them with all the appliances and furniture money could buy (brass beds, large screen TVs, etc.). He bought two caliber .45 pistols and commandeered a taxi and its driver for his commuting needs. He bought his kids new clothes and shoes. He paid for the funeral and burial expenses of an acquaintance whose parent died. He hosted several boys’ night out for his gang.
When he got jailed for the third time (the first for impersonating a police officer & possession of an illegal firearm and the second for violating the Anti-fencing Law) in 1996, his two common-law wives, both pregnant five months apart, came to visit him for the first and last time. After that, they packed up their bags, furniture and appliances and left Gensan.

In the provincial jail, he volunteered to serve as altar boy during the Sunday mass which impressed the jail warden and guards. What they didn’t know was that he was already planning an escape with his gang. And escape he did. A manhunt was organized.

The police team assigned to look for him thought I was hiding him in my residence. Early one morning, while I was going out of the gate, I saw a man in undershirt and pants holding an ArmaLite and running towards me. He thought I was my brother because we could be mistaken for one another except that he was darker while I was the bespectacled one. With an amused look on my face, I watched another man ran after him and stopped him from pointing the gun at me. When I realized what was happening, the blood drained from my face.

So imagine how angry I felt when later during a trade fair, I met one of his gang mates who boasted in a rather loud voice that they helped my brother escape. I told him off in no uncertain terms that that stunt of theirs almost cost my life. I wonder if they ever felt guilty then or now about how my brother’s life or their lives turned out.

So back to jail he went, no bail recommended this time, and stayed put there for the next 14 years. During that time, we helped send his kids to school and visited him in jail. We told his kids, no matter what he did he was still their father and as such, deserved their respect.

But there was no “I’m sorry” or even a “Thank you” forthcoming from our prodigal brother every time we visited him in jail. He was glad to take whatever clothes, food, medicines we brought him, but not one bit of gratitude. He made us feel like we owe it to him to visit him and bring him the things he needed.

When he was finally convicted and transferred to the Davao Penal Colony last year, his health began failing. Early this year, he started having difficulty breathing. He would ask a fellow convict to send us text messages, most of them false alarms and just ruses to make us visit him. When he started vomiting blood, we had to make sure it was true before another brother, sisters and his kids visited him. I asked a former student to help facilitate his hospitalization and treatment and the visits of my siblings and his kids. He spent most of the last two months in the jail infirmary with a nasal oxygen tube to ease his breathing.

Two weeks ago, we received text messages at 3 in the morning telling us to visit him because it might be the last time we would see him alive. By then, we were in contact with the jail officials and we were assured he was ok. It was again another ruse for us to visit him.

Then at 5 pm today (April 25), I just ordered my merienda cena at a restaurant in a mall when I got a call from someone informing me that our brother Napolito just died at 4:30. I promptly informed another brother who was skeptical about the news because of previous ruses and false alarms. He called his jail contacts and was told it was true that our brother has just died from complications arising from his lung ailment.

I would like to believe that unlike the prodigal son, our prodigal brother died remorseless and unrepentant, until I remembered the story a priest shared during a spiritual retreat:
There was once a town drunkard, gambler and womanizer who would physically and verbally abuse his wife and children. One night, while going home after a drinking spree, he crossed a rickety bridge. He threw up violently from the bridge into the murky polluted water below. The wooden rail broke and he fell head first.
The priest asked us: Where do you think this man went after his death – heaven or hell? In unison we shouted: TO HELL!

The priest then posed this notion to us: Don’t forget – in the distance from the top of the bridge to the surface of the muddy water, he would have enough time to be remorseful and ask God for forgiveness. That made all of us rethink our initial answer.
This story brought hope back in my heart. I hope that in our prodigal brother’s final moments in the infirmary before he breathed his last, he had enough time for remorse and humility to ask for forgiveness from God and redeem himself in our eyes and God’s.

May our merciful God welcome you in His embrace as you join Papa and Mama, Lolo and Lola in His kingdom.

Goodbye brother . . .
For all the thanks yous unspoken, you’re welcome!
For all the I’m sorrys unexpressed, all is forgiven!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Life according to Barry Manilow

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST or GROUP, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to people you like and include me (presuming I’m someone you like). You can’t use the band or artist I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think! Re-post as “My life according to (band or artist name)”

Pick your Artist:
Barry Manilow

 (Click on the song title to watch video or read the lyrics)

Are you a male or female:
Shadow Man

Describe yourself:
One Voice

How do you feel:
Ready to Take a Chance Again

Describe where you currently live:
Somewhere Down the Road

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?   
New York City Rhythm

Your favorite form of transportation?
A Little Travelling Music Please

Your best friend?
Can't Smile Without You

Favorite time of the day:
Weekend in New England

You and your best friend are…

Old Friends 

What’s the weather like?
When October Goes

If your life were a TV show what would it be called?
The Best of Me 

What is life to you?
If I Should Love Again

Your Relationship:
Could It Be Magic?

Your fear:
Some Good Things Never Last

What is the best advice you have to give?
I Made It Through the Rain

Thought for the Day:
Look to the Rainbow

My motto:
If We Only Have Love

Thanks to Orman Manansala for the tag! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From the Theme of Love Affair to Love Affair, the Theme

(Note: This blogpost  is a belated Valentine post as it has been languishing in my drafts for months now. Thanks to interest in Love Affair by Facebook friends, I decided to polish it and publish it a month after Valentines Day.)

Love Affair (1994) is the remake of  Love Affair (1939) with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne and  An Affair to Remember (1957) with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. This version starred Annette Bening and Warren Beatty.

This film joins my very limited list of favorite romantic movies: Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Romeo and Juliet, Ghost, Sleepless in Seattle and Somewhere in Time.

Love Affair's plot was greatly enhanced by the musical score of Ennio Morricone, one of my  favorite contemporary composers. Throughout the film, a musical motif would softly play in the background during the scenes of the leading stars like in the final one shown above. I was so entranced by the music that after watching it in the cinema, I bought a copy of the original soundtrack where I was gratified to hear the entire score by Morricone. The musical motif was plainly titled Piano Solo in the CD.

Fast forward two years later, while watching Twister, a disaster/thriller film starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton based on a screenplay by novelist Michael Crichton, I heard a familiar melody. It turned out to be Love Affair sang by KD Lang. It was the same theme of Love Affair with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

The words so complimented the melody that I felt it belonged to Love Affair, the movie, instead of being inserted in a soundtrack for Twister that was filled with rock music by Van Halen.

Skies without stars, all the nights without you
I watch the world from a room without a view
For you left me with so few memories
I could close my eyes and cling to
Just a fading photograph I'd sometimes sing to

All those smiles unexplored, all the words left unsaid
We strung our dreams on and all to slender thread
For you left me with so few memories
I could close my eyes and cling to
Just a half-remembered tune I'd sometimes sing to

Now I found what we lost
Time was all, all it cost
Love's always there
Knowing someday I would share in a life-long love affair with you

Love was always there
Knowing someday I would share
In a life-long love affair with you, in a life-long love affair with you

This version of KD Lang became known as the theme song of Twister

In a twisted sense that could happen only in Hollywood, Love Affair bombed at the box-office while Twister became a $55-M blockbuster. Love Affair, because it was compared to its earlier two versions and Twister, because of the popularity of Helen Hunt's TV series, Mad About You.

However, Love Affair later went on to become a cult classic movie enjoying high DVD sales and a favorite Valentine and wedding anniversary date movie. It also was the last movie starred in by the great Katharine Hepburn.

And that's how a simple, memorable melody known as the Theme of Love Affair morphed into Love Affair, known as the love theme of Twister.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

People Power in Gensan

(Blogger's Note: I believe that the term EDSA Revolution is misleading and reeks of Manila-centrism. People Power is more apt because while it started at EDSA, it reverberated and was felt throughout the entire nation. This blogpost is just one account of how People Power was felt in General Santos City.)

The years after Ninoy Aquino's assassination leading up to 1986 were turbulent years for me. Being a teenaged high school senior when Martial Law was declared and ten years of being bombarded with New Society slogans and jingles (Sa ikauunlad ng bayan disiplina ang kailangan, PLEDGES, Bagong Lipunan march, etc.) and relying on the government-controlled media for information, I didn't know how to react to changes wrought by Ninoy's death.

One favorite magazine, Mr. & Ms. spawned special edition issues which I followed avidly because they were reporting the news that didn't make it to the radios, newspapers and TV stations. Songs took on a different flavor as patriotic songs like Bayan Ko and Tie a yellow ribbon were played on the air by DXCP, a Catholic diocesan radio station here. The local religious community was slow and timid in criticizing the government. The local government officials were mostly Kilusan Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party members. Groups like JAJA (Justice for Aquino, Justice for All) shouted anti-government slogans as they marched on the city streets.

In the eye of this storm was a curly-haired widow - Cory Aquino. She was the opposite of then President Ferdinand Marcos. Soft-spoken where Marcos was stentorian. Tentative to his decisiveness. But she was an alternative, antidote to the strongman. She was not what one would expect of a traditional politician (trapo). What she had was the dignity, integrity and courage to stand up to the dictator.I first saw Cory in person when she and Doy Laurel campaigned in General Santos City. Onstage, while she was delivering her speech, the whole city was plunged into darkness. To us, whenever blackouts occurred, something was bound to happen. It was common to have electrical supply interruptions during election day and when the Laban group had events. The international media covering Cory's campaign immediately focused their lights on her, their TV and SLR cameras ready to shoot if anything happened. For a few minutes, there she was - the lady in yellow enveloped by the lights. And then she was whisked away from the stage and brought to a nearby car.

In the Catholic college where I taught at that time, the pro-Cory teachers were a majority. The few remaining Marcos loyalists were ribbed about their staunch support. Unlike their Manila counterparts, the priests, nuns and brothers here were cautious in showing support to Cory and the opposition. Even the Catholic schools had no clear guidelines on how fora and protest rallies were to be held. But the ordinary people started wearing yellow dresses and shirts. The L-finger sign (for Laban "fight") was being flashed everywhere. And the yellow creepers blanketed vacant lands everywhere. The yellow fever turned a pitch higher as the election day neared. Many Marcos loyalists, like rats abandoning a sinking ship, were seen joining protest marches. On the other hand, at the diocesan radio station, instead of the usual sign-off after the Rosary, I was surprised to hear two radio announcers recording KBL campaign ads! Someone conveniently forgot to turn off the transmitter.

The usual blackouts occurred on election day despite the vigilance of several groups to guard the ballots. The Jaycees, of which I was a member, were among the volunteer groups that helped the Namfrel (National Citizens Movement for Free Elections). I witnessed the incumbent mayor's people distributing campaign leaflets right outside the voting precincts. This was promptly reported to Namfrel. I reported the same on the diocesan radio station DXCP where I was also a volunteer announcer on Sundays. Later, the lady broadcaster on board and I were alerted about the presence of armed men riding a Ford Fiera. The staff helped us exit the station using the back gate. Hitching a ride, I saw the Ford Fiera and the nozzles of firearms protruding through the side windows as we passed by it. Reporting to school following the elections, I was warned by a well-meaning friend that a death threat had been issued for me. The Marist brothers allowed me to go on leave as I told them I didn't want to involve the school or my students in case the threat was carried out. Some friends acting as intermediaries asked relatives of the mayor to verify if he indeed issued a death threat for me. This he dismissed by saying that he didn't even know me at all!

The protest movement here gained momentum as cheating by the KBL was reported here and abroad. More turncoats joined the protests. When the People Power revolution started at EDSA, classes here were not cancelled as it was being played out in Metro Manila. But the fervor of People Power was also strongly felt here. The religious community was finally emboldened and openly said prayers and masses for the revolt. The technicians of DXCP were able to record the broadcasts of June Keithley over Radyo Bandido and these were replayed regularly. The two pro-Marcos announcers took a sudden leave of absence from DXCP and I volunteered to be onboard after my evening classes because the radio station started its 24-hour broadcast and it was understaffed.

After dismissing my class at 8:30, I walked to the radio station and started my duty until 5:00 the following day. We did not want for anything because listeners would drop off food items, coffee, bread and sandwiches for the 24-hour broadcasts. When we learned about the order of the military to shut down the station, a local volunteer group surrounded the transmitter and provided us protection because we also received a bomb threat.

On the fourth day, while we were broadcasting live a Holy Mass, we received confirmation that the Marcoses had left Malacanang (this after an earlier false alarm) and the priest announced this. Jubilant shouts punctuated the air from those hearing the mass and those living in the vicinity of the station. Many were jumping and almost all, including myself, were in tears. Again, food and beverages flooded the station. It was a euphoria-filled day.

Our college conducted a victory march around the city. When we approached a local station known for being critical of Cory and Laban, we heard Tie a yellow ribbon being played for us. This was met by loud boos from the students, teachers and the religious community.When President Cory came to Gensan after being named Time Magazine's Woman of the Year, I begged the local news stand owner for a copy of the large poster of the Time cover, mounted it on an illustration board, and held it high and proud for her to see during the large gathering at the plaza.

The remaining local pro-Marcos trapos, who were ousted from their positions and replaced with transition officials appointed by Cory, switched allegiance and even had the audacity to show themselves onstage to welcome Cory to our city. They were booed as expected. The few Pro-Marcos teachers in school had joined the majority. One teacher, Cory's namesake, who used to tell us she hated to be called Ma'am Cory now wanted us to call her just that and started wearing yellow lacy dresses.

After she finished her term as President, Cory remained in my mind and heart as the lady in yellow enveloped by lights. After witnessing three presidents take the helm after her, I was in turn dismayed and appalled by what they had done to our country. I may be terribly disappointed by the way the promise and potentials that Cory stood for had turned out, but Cory remains to be a shining beacon of hope to me. Following her exemplar of integrity, dignity and courage, I'm not giving up on our country - not then, not now that Cory is gone, not ever. I fervently pray that People Power and all it stands for will always prevail.