Monday, July 30, 2007

magnified madness

A SECURITY GUARD is dependable as long as he stays alert where he is supposed to be, vigilant at any given time but at a safe distance . Something's iffy, however, when notions of security come masked in the face of paranoia. About the anti-terrorism law recently passed in the Philippines, here's a reprint of my column in the op-ed pages of Sun.Star Cebu (July 24, 2007):

Me, You, and Everyone We Know: A Peep Show

NOT unless you’re an exhibitionist or an attention-starved KSP, nothing is more self-annihilating than anonymity.

But for some of us who find a corner of sky by basking in the devil-may-care bliss of being unremarkable, it’s a monstrosity when the freedom of our privacy is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s cold comfort, indeed, when the sanctuary of confidentiality stops where the Human Security Act ((HSA), the anti-terrorism law, begins.

Who cares if minding your personal affairs is nothing more than a hill of beans?

In the eyes of the government, it may heave up like what Rufa Mae Quinto hides under her tank top.

If I sound suspicious in the face of President Arroyo’s assurance that the HSA or Republic Act 9372, it could be due to my allergy to legalese. Swallowing the law’s nuances, I confess, renders me fit for a Heimlich maneuver. Go wring my neck, but why do I feel choked about this well-meaning edict?

If there were many who’d rather grow genitals on their foreheads than bow down to HSA, it’s because there’s a lot to raise eyebrows for in the law’s provision “to secure the state and protect our people from terrorism.”

According to detractors of the law, all it takes is mere suspicion for law enforcers to subject the accused like a nude offering to the lions: preventive detention, warrantless arrest, house arrest, prohibition from the use of cell phones, computers and any other means of communication even when granted bail, surveillance and wiretapping, and examination, sequestration and freezing of bank deposits and other assets. Geez!

When the enforcement of the law jerks away the presumption of innocence like a used condom, suspicion renders it smooth to spawn more wariness. Or a sense of doom.

HSA is supposed to show how the government loves us enough to spare us from terrorists and the obscenity of their hate. But who was it again who thought, “Pure love and suspicion cannot dwell together: at the door where the latter enters?”

Isn’t suspicion a mental picture seen through an imaginary keyhole? It is, one writer remarked, “the courageous side of weakness.”

Look whose pants are down when the law started limbering up last Friday. The enforcers might as well be no more than fumblers at sixes and sevens with virginity. Or so reveals Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Silverio Alarcio Jr. “Even some lawyers do not know some of the provisions so how much more our policemen on the ground?” Alarcio minced no words, stressing the need for education “everybody, every sector…as far as that Human Security Act is concerned.”

Far more preferable, indeed, is candor compared to the bravado of paranoia. Which engorges itself like a voyeur’s drool-greasy gratification out of cocking an eye at unsuspecting people.

Behavioral science explains “voyeurs generally have a history of insecurity and fear of rejection.” If that’s merely psychobabble worthy of the government’s roll of eyeballs, the incumbent administration is hardly exuding a post-coital glow after the majority spurned the advances of its senatorial slate last elections. The president’s popularity rating, in fact, has been no higher than the moan of a woman pretending orgasm.

Excuse me, but how comforting to heed the call of the toilet bowl. As I grunt and groan, I hope there’s no camera secretly seeking a terrorist splashing and swimming below my waist.

to see is to believe

Grand design and other tell-tale signs for those dazed and lost in the midst of the Creator's signatures.

proofs raised to the power of five

Because the lack of faith is a result of attention deficit, here are arguments for waking up. Amen, after all, is also a four-letter word.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

for a while there: postscript to a phenomenon

SO IT WAS TOLD: In the ancient times, Celtic druids who lived in what is now called Scotland were handy with wands.

Called a "man with the wisdom of the woods," a druid deemed the trees in the forest as magical and sacred: The cedar is the womb of energy, life-giving. An ash tree is useful for healing. The strong elm tree can enrich the power of a spell. A burning birch bark is a potent love potion.

Nowadays, the druid might as well be in the realms of the dead in the wake of trees massacred to make paper.

But when paper are transfigured with the existence of text, reincarnated in the shades of bookstores and libraries, I believe the druids are waving their wands again. So that the stardust of insight and enchantment, revelation and transformation will be upon us. And the world will be breezy again, brighter with the reverb of green, green, green.

* * *

"It's really the wand that chooses the wizard, of course." So explains Mr. Ollivander, the moon-eyed manufacturer and merchandiser of wands along Diagon Alley in J.K. Rowling's phenomenal series.

Of all Rowling's characters, Ollivander (played by John Hurt in the movies) is the one who intrigued me the most. To begin with, his first name has never been revealed, as far as I can remember. Never mind if he is renowned as the best wandmaker in the enchanted part of Britain.

No one, it seems, has bothered to ask his first name though his popularity has preceded him for never forgetting every wand he has ever sold, greeting people by rattling off the specifications of their magical sticks.

Come to think of it, there would be no Hogwarts school of wizardry and witchcraft, no epic battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort without Ollivander's wands.

I've been fascinated, too, of the fantastic effort it possibly took for him to secure the core materials to make those wands: the heartstring of a dragon, the feather of a phoenix, the tail hair of the unicorn. Wow!

He obviously had so much power in his hands, and yet he remained at the background--like God--throughout the seven-book series. Yes, he was called upon to perform the "weighing of the wands" at the Triwizard Tournament, but always he just faded out and away from the thick of things .

Truth to tell, I wished there was more of him in those books, the way Zeus often made his presence felt in mythology.

Because I wanted so much to honor how he loomed large in my imagination, I chose to name my eldest child after him and an archangel.

Wish my son Gabriel Ollivan will discover, too, how the wand of words can spring a forest of possibilities.


Writers rock the world. And if my children would deem me nutty in the future--if books would become extinct, God forbid--for daring such a declaration, I will tell them this bit of history when reading hooked children and adults alike:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final volume of J.K. Rowling's all-conquering fantasy series, sold a mountainous 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale in the United States, according to Scholastic Inc.

No other book, not even any of the six previous Potters, has been so desired, so quickly. Deathly Hallows averaged more than 300,000 copies in sales per hour — more than 5,000 a minute. The $34.99 book, even allowing for discounts, generated far more revenue than the opening weekend of the latest Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which came out July 10.

"The excitement, anticipation, and just plain hysteria that came over the entire country this weekend was a bit like the Beatles' first visit to the U.S.," Scholastic president Lisa Holton said.

That news, of course, would be enough a last laugh of, if not a lullabye for, a druid.

a woman writes about a boy and the wonder of it all, to begin with

Once upon a time, a global phenomenon was born: an orphaned boy with a lightning scar on his forehead. Along came a revolution of reading. Just when the digital age seemed to usher in a universe of alliteracy, the magic of the written word suddenly held sway, casting its spell the world over. It's been ten years now. It's about time the woman who bewitched us all with the enchantment of her imagination takes a long last bow. Long live, J.K. Rowling!

Monday, July 23, 2007

when my eyes sing yes

IF THERE'S ONE saving grace about American cities, it's the bounty of its public libraries.

Here in the Kansan city of Topeka, for instance, the amenities of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Libary (featuring the convenience of malling with its luxuriant spaces and state-of-the-art architecture) abound not only with every bookworm's capacity to borrow as much reading fare as one can hoard but also the availability of DVDs to bring home. Oh, the wide-eyed buffet for the soul!

Here are the films I've long wished to see which recently got me--thanks to my insomnia--on a viewing binge:

ETERNITY AND A DAY. I rank this Theo Angelopoulos masterpiece among the films I’m most intimate with, which I can watch in tireless rapture again and again, like the rest of my personal favorites: Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire, Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, Milos Forman’s Amadeus, Jane Campion’s The Piano, Patrice Leconte’s Man On The Train, Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas, Zhang Yimou’s Hero.

Winner of the grand prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, Eternity and A Day revolves around the last moments of a dying Greek writer who embarks on a dreamy voyage to relive an idyll with his long-dead wife at their seaside retreat. His reveries, detouring into the times of an ancient Greek poet who buys forgotten words to construct an epic, segues seamlessly into the travails of an eight-year old boy, a refugee whose future weaves into Alexander's own search for meaning and fulfillment into the past.

THE COLOR OF PARADISE. Living up to its title is a miracle made palpable in the hands of Majid Majidi who made waves in world cinema with his enchanting Children of Heaven. In this lovely and lush tale—a testimony to the natural world’s majesty—Majidi explores a universe of the senses refracted from the perspective of a blind Iranian boy grappling with his father’s lost of innocence.

Aside from its heightened evocation of textures out of the boy's world, pure bliss are the painterly simplicity and spectacle of the countryside and its unerring natural rhythm: little hands intuiting through a garden, the burbling of the brook, the dialogue of woodpeckers, the orchestra of birdsongs and insects and the breeze. Best Film winner at the 21st Montreal Film Festival, among others.

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA. Chaplinesque with her panache for hilarity and heartbreak, Giulietta Masina won Best Actress at Cannes as the title character in one of Federico Fellini's most haunting films, a valentine for a prostitute’s child-like but stubborn search for faith, love, and a hopeful place under the red light.

Winner of the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, this stirring cinematic piece comes in the heels of Fellini’s international breakthrough with La Strada (another collaboration with leading lady/wife Giulietta Masina). Rambling and leisurely paced, Nights of Cabiria is suffused with sunlight despite its dark undertones. Whatever they say of the human spirit, Masina’s Cabiria walks the talk in that tough but tender unraveling at the film’s fireworks-worthy end.

THE EEL. A psychodrama of regret, sexual repression as well as healing, Shohei Imamura’s film is engaging as he deftly tracks the journey of an anti-hero—a cuckold who murdered his wife he caught in an illicit act—en route to redemption.

From the violence of its opening act to the comic but poignant interlude of an impending relationship between two troubled people, Imamura’s vision gracefully weaves a spell of surreal vignettes—a neighbor who expects visitors from outer space, a mother who fancies herself a ballroom diva, etc—into a catharsis that charms and earns its insistence to keep the human spirit above the stormy depths of the heart. Winner of the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

THE SEVENTH SEAL. No film buff worth his larger-than-life craving for the classic can miss Ingmar Bergman's 1956 film that has survived its fair share of parodies for the heft and unabashed exploration of its subject matter: man’s search for God in the face of cynicism and destruction.

Wearing its lyrical and allegorical conceit on its sleeve, Bergman zooms in on the anguish of a knight returning from the Crusades and facing an apocalyptic scenario straight from the Book of Genesis. He plays chess with Death, to begin with. He encounters a troupe of actors and a flock of flagellants as he casts a shadow of his long face through the film’s somber tone and its philosophical perorations.

Through it all, brave-hearted is Bergman’s homage to the power of imagery that abounds here on top of the miracle of humor sprinkled through an otherwise stark visual meditation. Delicious is that scene where a philandering performer, outsmarting the cuckold who wanted to kill him and climbing a tree to avoid the beasts in the forest, looked down at Death literally sawing off the trunk of his perch!

THE SWEET HEREAFTER. The heart of another is a dark forest, Conrad once wrote. So concurs Atom Egoyan as he adapts for the screen Russell Bank’s celebrated novel about a tragedy in a small town and how the parents’ process of healing dovetails into a man’s search for truth and wholeness, both as a lawyer and as a father.

With its cocktail of themes (treachery, loss, and transcendence), Egoyan unerringly eschews cliché and cheap emotions as he constructs the tectonic shifts of the narrative like a puzzle, like layers of ice in the film’s arctic landscape. Or metaphoric reverb in the Pied Piper story which Egoyan used as a subtext in the story. Deeper secrets are revealed, no less devastating than the circumstances of the accident even as the lawyer dredges up odds and ends of his troubled past. How to pick up the pieces of broken lives? Egoyan is emphatic with the restraint of his clarifications no less complex than prisms, which also informs the luminous portrayal from an ensemble lead by Ian Holm and Sarah Polley.

THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS. What has otherworldly bliss got to do with the mundane lives and loves of two women—a drifter who opens her rucksack along with her heart to strangers and a searcher who wears her suspicions on her sleeve?

The debut film of Erick Zonca offers a quilt from shreds of desire to be alive, rendered stark with the peripheral reality of a comatose girl in whose home both Isa (Elodie Bouchez) and Marie (Natasha Régnier) stakes a sense of refuge after forging an unlikely friendship in a sewing factory.
While tragedy rips the seams of their shared intimacy in the end, the film celebrates the brief history of soul mates as well as the tenacity of possibilities for miracles, no matter if woven like a patchwork, out of the most fragile of human relationships. Such is the stuff of epiphanies, as delicate as the finely textured performances of Bouchez and Régnier who shared the prize for Best Actress at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

BELLE DE JOUR. Regarding filmmaker Luis Bunuel, the critic Roger Ebert probes: “He was deeply cynical about human nature, but with amusement, not scorn. He was fascinated by the way in which deep emotional programming may be more important than free will in leading us to our decisions. Many of his films involve situations in which the characters seem free to act, but are not.”

One of the few films about eroticism that really gets it down pat--It’s more in the mind, not in the genitals, stupid!—Belle de Jour stars the incandescent Catherine Deneuve as Severine, a woman whose life is at once picture-perfect and empty. Leading a double life (a prostitute by day and a doctor’s housewife by night), Severine revels in repressed desire to be humiliated and used sexually. She escapes into waking dreams where she enjoys being whipped, soiled with mud, and bound to trees. Not recommended for feminists, definitely.

(Next in my viewing list: The Rose Tattoo, Sweetie, La Dolce Vita, Mamma Roma, The Circle, and The Magdalene Sisters)

en route to rhapsody

How to become larger than one's self? Here's the gospel according to Rumi's poetry.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

aren't we there yet?

CAN'T TEACH old dogs new tricks, so it's said. Same thing, ho-hum, holds ever true for one of the Philippine's most doggone institution: the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Hereunder is a reprint of my latest opinion column in
Sun.Star Cebu (July 18, 2007):

Infernal affairs

One doesn't have to be bad to go to hell. Doing good, like coming to terms with your right to be a registered voter, would be enough for a soul-scorching ordeal.

Nope, the gospel of Matthews had it mixed up when he bid you and me to "enter through the narrow gate." Where heaven doesn't wait at the end of the queue, the portal of the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is neither wide nor broad, but it still "leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it."

Horror happens not only when the cold crawls up one's spine, but also when one's head shakes. Or pivots a la Linda Blair when one's eyeballs dilate at this jolly dreadful dispatch: “The first day of registration for the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in Oct. 29 saw an impatient and rowdy crowd jeering at Cebu City Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel for the delay."

Mayhem ran loose, so the report goes. Registration process "took seven hours to finish for some…Priority numbers were distributed late in the morning, but not everyone lining up received one." Were they waiting for Godot?

Come along with an exorcist, quick. Brace yourself for the slow burn of boredom, if not the creepy probability of a demonic possession when elbowing your way through the Comelec throng. Restless, they might as well be smoking out of their ears and spewing sulfur at the Comelec personnel who must have been cowering at their wit's end as if confronted by a lynch mob.

“Dalawang bagay lang ang mahalaga sa mundo," the cuckolded clock-repair guy in Ishmael Bernal's classic Ikaw ay Akin waxes philosophic. “Paghahanap at paghihintay."

But searching for systematic process and waiting for deliverance proved for those who went to Comelec no less harrowing than waiting in line for the gas chamber. Literally so, if we reckon how many had to endure inhaling a whiff of lethal wind breaking from the bowels, let alone Comelec's miasma of mismanagement.

Digging up the dead does seem less dire than getting a grip on the poll body's rot—from its putrid process of registration to its worm's pace of counting the votes, no thanks to its failure to latch on to modernization and to computerize the election process.

Pray tell, what unspeakable wrongs have we, especially those voter-wannabes, done in our previous lives to deserve a purgatory via Comelec? Everything awful about it has been aired out ad nauseam, and yet it continues to roil up the throat like regurgitated vomit.

How, then, do you solve a problem like lining up at the Comelec?

Lest you'd resort to shouting fire or strapping yourself with a bogus bomb—God forbid, just because you want badly for the crowd to scamper out of your way—consider whiling away your time with these few options:

* Bring a copy of Proust's La Recherche Du Temps Perdu so that you'd hit two birds with one stone by savoring how to take things slow and remember things past as well as impressing people that you're an intellectual who knows cursing is more elegant in French.

* Lug along your videoke component and earn money by charging people for a chance to warble their ulcers out instead of jarring the air with jeers for Comelec's ears long deaf to the broken record called change.

* Lead the praying of the rosary, but concentrate on the sorrowful mysteries. These, heaven knows, are what unravel in Comelec any given day. It's in the direst circumstance, after all, that one can stretch one's capacity for being holy sort of foolhardy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

affirmative alternative

In the end, faith is the only way to find the light.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

beyond grief, in the light of the living

IN THE END, death is going to be democratic while sweeping all of us off our feet.

Coming to grips with mortality has been no sweat with the recent news about a dear friend's tragic end. Devastated, utterly am. But death, ironically, also breeds and spurs an avenging appetite to live fully, aflame with beauty and meaning in the light of her loveliness, warmth, creative fire and courage to stake a place under her own sun.

Thus William Blakes waxes immortal: Ah, sunflower, weary of time,/ Who countest the steps of the sun;/ Seeking after that sweet golden clime/ Where the traveller's journey is done..." In that spirit, hereunder is a reprint of my recent opinion column in Sun.Star Cebu (July 10, 2007):

To live

Never say die, and the Beatles goes loud and lives on.

An assassin’s bullets and the ravages of cancer have long doomed John Lennon and George Harrison, true. But as long as you crank up the volume, there’s no stopping them from crooning and cuing us to nod with a head-bang against the world and its every blight: “…and I say it’s all right.”

Some songs, like Here Comes the Sun, are sure-fire weapons for fine-tuning one’s inner weather.

To play or sing it now here in America, however, entails a streak of dark humor. As the temperature goes over the top with a swathe of heat waves, wildfires have gone on a rampage across the West— California, Nevada, South Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon—scorching the woods along the way.

No holds barred, too, are those burning President Bush’s effigy after he sent American troops to the inferno in Iraq and made ashes out of more than 3,500 lives so far. With many Americans in the mood to haul him out of his hot seat and kick him all the way to Baghdad, yes, it would be a holiday for its horde of suicide bombers.

The heat is on, indeed, for the party of the pessimists with all its sound and fury:
The silent spread of global warming. The blood-curdling screams in Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia. The chorus of last breath from hunger, AIDS and other sickness in Africa’s heart of darkness.

It’s an endless night, if not the end of the world, for many people on Earth where the sun always rises for rotten politics and puss-drenched policies. Along come the vile and violent always, like refrains in a song.

“And I say it’s all right,” insists the Beatles. Never mind if the primetime news and tabloids conspire for Pollyanna to turn a deaf ear to the sun-lit lilt of songs. Or the orchestra of God’s allusions at the end of Job’s lamentations.

Don’t fret, avers the Death Clock, “the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away.” Might as well stick one’s tongue out at the Grim Reaper who will have the last laugh anyway. And so welcome to, the online quiz “that tells you when your will die!” After answering the quiz and a consumer survey, one will receive “a death percentage score and a cleverly worded response.” Or, log in at, “a website dedicated to helping you answer Life's tough questions… whether or not you are going to Heaven or Hell.”

Tongue-in-cheek, indeed, does this dot-com generation makes mincemeat and thumbs down at Death. Or tweaks its nose. As if it suffices enough to pinch away the pain, or flick off the festering despair.

“People living deeply have no fear of death,” wrote Anais Nin whose words my friend Ana Escalante-Neri used to wade through.

Living deeply was how Ana, a scuba diver, lovingly stretched the limit of her own available light against the dark she alone can fathom, whether through her immersion in poetry and photography. Or through the rainbow of her roles as mother, lover, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and self-confessed “barefoot traveler.”

As a student, Ana once played the guitar in a band. If she opted not to pursue playing music, it could be one of the choices she knew was worth taking. Something along the line of what she wrote in one her columns in Sun.Star Weekend Magazine: “I’ve learned to discern which freedom I can take and which I have to let go. But I will take what I can take.”

In life, indeed, she had the courage of a firefly, fragile while defying the dark night. May she bask under the sun of God’s mercy and rest at last in peace. And for us who mourn our loss, may we have the grace and grit to hope, despite our grief and after all our questions, “it’s all right.”

Sunday, July 08, 2007

in memoriam: ana escalante-neri (1978-2007), poet and dear friend whose life was an ellipsis of exclamation points

Rest in peace, dear Ana. God, in his infinite mercy, will hear your poetry.

tomas the toughie

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is a tough act to shrug off. By dint of any demeanor worthy of either a panegyric or caricature, he's been looming large in the Cebuano consciousness.

Not to be trifled, too, is his leadership skills which has been rewarded with a three-term vote of confidence despite the controversies hounding him: his barroom temper, his reported support of vigilante killing squads against alleged scums of society, his quarrel with the governor, etc.

That may help explain my seemingly endless fascination about the man for whom I devoted a couple of my recent opinion columns in Sun.Star Cebu (June 26 and July 3 issues). Reckon these reprints:

Call of the cool

When adults whom we look up to as leaders loom outsized with their public antics and their acrimonious statements, don’t you miss Kids Say The Darndest Thing with Bill Cosby and his cuddly guests?

If Mayor Tomas Osmeña saw that show, he might recall with a chuckle one particular episode wherein a little boy blurted out: “Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I’ve been trying to hide from it since I was five but the girls keep finding me.”

Playing hard to get, Mayor Tom might as well be a hermit in a cave. Or haul his heart out shut in a cage. Except that there’s now way he can keep himself from beating his chest to churn up the fire in his belly. Or hide from the cameras that go with the controversies.

See, the fact that he exudes the flair of a natural newsmaker isn’t hurting him so far as he can swagger about the votes of confidence from his constituency all through these years. Look, ma, isn’t he invincible?

They keep finding him, some girls. And sometimes they, as Mary Ann delos Santos and Gwen Garcia can tell, have found him darn perfect for their frowns and raised eyebrows. Don’t they wish he’d, for his sake and the city’s, grow up?

The meek may inherit the earth, but there’s just no way the mayor would shrug the ladies away—even if they happen to be mayor-wannabe or a governor—while they try—for better or for worse—to whittle down his sow’s ears of masculinity into a silk purse.

And who says only women got big mouths? Whether the matter is about constructing a school building or raising his stakes for a rotunda or a bus terminal, trust him to prove he’s the one who got balls and them women have no business bouncing it for him, thank you.

But what’s the manly thing to do when it seems the ladies would have you licking at their heels? When it’s sweet to sulk, can’t one take the cue of Incredible Hulk?
Oh, doesn’t the mayor—who makes no bones about booming out his intransigence and his tantrums— conduct himself like coolness a la Clark Gable and Humprey Bogart are passé.

In the face of his latest foes, it appears he can’t just grin and bear the slings and arrows of his mediagenic style of leadership and transmute stoicism into a science worthy of any grizzled gentleman by cooing, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Or, “Here’s watching at you, kid!”
Way he’s been behaving, it seems like he would gargle whisky and spew it in the face of anybody who’d dare tilt her chin up to his face. Probably not if they’d look like Ingrid Bergman and Vivien Leigh. Or Dame Margot.
Now that he has proven how utterly unbeatable he is—Man, he’s still lording over the city despite the cannonade of lemons hurled his way and not even his admission to the emergency room once upon a dizzy time can pull the rug from under his feet—perhaps the lady in his house can pat his forehead and gently remind him that, hey, can’t he take things easy? Just lie back and bask in the mighty fact that the scalps of his previous enemies have been brimming over his breast pocket, can’t he?

Or, with the blood from his political contender still shiny on his lips, isn’t it time to show he’s resilient enough to reinvent himself? That he, for a cool change, can show toughness laced with nobility and grace, and redefine for us what it really takes to be confident and secure as his buttons?

In fairness to the mayor, his equanimity with the missus could be proof-positive how fairly he can breeze through his feminine side. Which might be all it takes to disarm the Mary Anns and Gwens of this world, who knows?

See, even John Travolta—who’s been groovy playing a disco maniac, an alcoholic, an assassin, etc.—just proved he’s man enough to take on a roly-poly housewife’s role in the upcoming movie Hairspray. Darn it, mayor, isn’t it about time you let your hair down?

Or, as one of the kids in Cosby’s show enthuses: "Spend most of your time loving instead of going to work." Or going to war.

In the light of the last act

Anything but boring. Regarding the performance so far of Mayor Tomas Osmeña, even Aristotle—who hatched the basic idea of three acts in theatre—might as well uncork a Champagne bottle.
Indeed, there’s been more than enough of the mayor’s high-wire stunts and hysterics for Cebu—and for some Bisdaks like me now scattered all over the world--to stay riveted.
According to Aristotle’s sense of drama, the hero gets up a tree in the beginning until the second act would have him floundering up the branches while he goes higher. In the finale, he either climbs down or falls flat on his nose.

Now the last possibility would be delightful to the lady squinting from the Provincial Capitol.
Aside from the last installment in the Harry Potter series, what magical tricks the mayor may be up to in his third act would be worth the wait. Until the curtain goes down, he—despite his detractor’s observation that he’s full of himself—won’t definitely be wearing a cloak of invisibility.

His presence may be formidable, but the mayor says he’s not out to take a bow by his lonesome. Even with his awesome powers, Harry Potter is putty in the hands of his enemy without Ron and Hermione.

Thus his oath-taking oratory echoes an ode to teamwork. No, he avers, the limelight this time is not on him preening while declaiming about projects and plans. “In essence, we’re going to emphasize that this is one community that works well together,” he says.

“We are not for projects but for consolidating the entire community.” But, oops, with due exception to the empress in Capitol with whom he’s not in the mood to share center stage with while he goes about his monologue about “the future of Cebu.” Not even if community ought to be taken in the same breath as communication, no. He needs no leading lady as his tongue itches to intone abracadabra, to transform Cebu City “the most livable city in Asia.”

Where criminality doesn’t dance the can-can with a chorus line of derelicts and squatters at the sidewalk through garbage-littered and flood-prone streets. Where there’s enough parks and playground and pockets of greenery along the way. And, yes, more new books in the public library and more to behold at the zoo. Where heritage and culture, hopefully, will not be nudged aside to the backburner as the elbow room of investments prop up skyscraping proofs of a megalomaniac metropolis stripped of soul. Or the magic of connection, the wand of warmth.

Small in size, Cebu doesn’t have to be monumental like Mumbai or Calcutta where misery looms larger. Bigness can be a bane, so argues a 1969 article in Time Magazine on what it takes to be a great city. “After Tokyo, an undeniably great city despite its pedestrian architecture, Hong Kong is the most vibrant metropolis in Asia. It is, however, a city without a country—and therefore lacks greatness. Cairo is the capital of the Moslem world; but it lacks vitality.”

Truly, a habitable city can only be found with the compass of the so-called human dimension. “A city does not have to be comfortable to be great, but it nonetheless must have the amenities to make life tolerable,” explains the Time essay.
“It is hard to classify as great a city that limits human contact, either through political repression, like Moscow, or through distance, like Los Angeles… A city governed by birds might be more comfortable than a city governed by men. But it would not be human, nor would it be great; a city is great only in its human associations, confusing as they may be.” Quirky, certainly.
Yes, like Mayor Osmeña going out of character for a change by agreeing—apart from dreaming of a standing ovation—to sit down with Governor Garcia even for a cup of coffee.

Friday, July 06, 2007

hear what heaven sounds like

Laughter in the light of innocence--something that ought to be amplified in the war zones and emergency rooms and everywhere thunder echoes with the sound of heartbreak.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

gifts of light and grace

IF YOU CAN'T win me over with a night-long Walpurgisnacht of who-the-hell-cares conversation over a crate of ice-cold San Miguel pale pilsen, the next best thing if you're in the mood for gift-giving are books, books, books. So damn easy to please, yours truly.

Come on, let me boast what I recently acquired for which I thank God the dictionary has a word called gratitude:

* A Book of Luminous Things. Edited by Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel laureate for Literature, this international anthology of poetry is a gift from my wife Arlaine. This book does live up to its title, truly a collection of brightness. Milosz states in his introduction that the purpose of this personal and eclectic collection is to present poetry that is "short, clear, readable, and...realistic, that is, loyal toward reality and attempting to describe it as concisely as possible."

Indeed, the poems in this collection have a clarity and immediacy that would appeal to even the most poetry-averse reader. Most of the selections are from classical Chinese and 20th-century American and European (primarily Eastern European, Scandinavian, and French) poets. The poems are grouped by intriguing headings ("The Moment," "The Secret of a Thing," "A Woman's Skin"), and Milosz has written brief prefaces to many of them, creating an unusual sense of dialogue between editor and reader.

"My intention," says Milosz, "is not so much to defend poetry...but rather, to remind readers that for some very good reasons it may be of importance today." This refreshing and wise anthology is recommended for all collections

Milosz's introduction is passionate and enlivening as he guides readers toward his vision of poems as forms of enchantment. A review succinctly sums up Milosz's magic in this volume of inflamed voices: "He deepens and extends the readers' understanding of his poetics and the poems he has so lovingly chosen. There are plenty of American poets here, quite a few Chinese poets, and a diverse scattering of Europeans, but place of origin isn't as significant, ultimately, as place of arrival: a poem that speaks to everyone in every land."

* Grace (Eventually). The latest collection of essays by Anne Lamott, this book is a present from my friend Cathy Viado Bradly. Lamott's topics may sound boringly profound--the world, community, the family, the human heart--but she perks it up with the pitch-perfect humor of her wisdom as she tackles "the missteps, detours, and roadblocks in her walk of faith."

Consider her tongue-in-cheek testimony: "I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in the silence, in the dark."

Consider, too, the chorus of praise for her writing:

"She's funny and she tells the truth, and truth and laughter are two things we need more of." (New York Times Book Review). "Lamott writes essays that are howlingly funny mini-sermons, reminding us of what's important in life... her quirky, funny perspective are nothing short of a salve for tired souls." (Los Angeles Times Book Review). "A cause for celebration...nothing short of miraculous." (The New Yorker).

"Anne Lamott is a walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath." (San Fransisco Chronicle). "A ferociously smart, droll, and original writer... transcendently lovely. (Entertainment Weekly)

Enough said.