Thursday, May 15, 2008

Because Lapu-Lapu is neither good only as a fish stew nor a lonely statue

You may take any true-blooded Cebuano out of the ground beneath his feet, but there's no taking away the homebound rhythm of his heartbeat. Wherever he may be, regardless how distant his corner under the sky may be and no matter if his mouth reeks and turns sloppy with the staleness of nostalgia in this age of diaspora, his tongue will always be tattooed with the taste of earth.

Recenly, I created an online hub--a sort of homecoming spot, a melting pot--for creative writers in Cebuano who've been riding the ripples toward the four winds in search of the so-called greener pastures. In strange lands, the ear keens for familiar voices that may be all we will ever need to hear our inner selves in the face of the goblin called globalization, to reclaim and remind ourselves who we were, to begin with, and who we will always be. To go far in the world, all we really need is to stay rooted, no matter the uncertain loam of elsewhere we've chosen to raise our stakes into.

Thus Kabisdak (Kalihokan sa Bisdak nga Katitikan) is born, out loud with something like a battlecry against the cold-blooded spawn of alienation spelled triple in scarlet letters: KKK (kalaay, kalimot, kamingaw). In the face of distance and displacement, may Kabisdak be a way as well for us to touch base with the magsusulat who choose to anchor the flight of imagination in the native shore. Our common ground. Our mainland of memory in the globe-embracing ocean of our saying and singing.

Na hala, dapiton ko kamo ngadto sa balayan sa Kabisdak. Ablihi lang ang ganghaan pinaagi sa pagtuktok-tuplok ning maong luna:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

candles for china

And then came the end. Too sudden and mind-boggling to comprehend.

To make a long story no shorter than an epitaph, here's the dispatch: "The toll of the dead and missing soared as rescue workers dug through flattened schools and homes on Tuesday in a desperate attempt to find survivors of China's worst earthquake in three decades. The death toll exceeded 12,000 in Sichuan province alone, and 18,645 were still buried in debris in the city of Mianyang, near the epicenter of Monday's massive, 7.9-magnitude quake."

It could happen as well to us, God forbid. What else do we know?

Here's one certainty, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing." God bless all the grief-struck in China. And for the rest of us who, under our fragile place under the bell, can't tell for whom it tolls next.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

ever again, all about her

No contest, us fathers are no match to our kids' mothers. We have no wombs, to begin with, and most of us can only endure the sloppy shape of never-ending pregnancy borne out of all that booze and sloth. No matter if our kids fancy us to be their own Superman, it's often their mothers they run to out of their scraped knees and even when they get circumcised or crazed and dazed about their first monthly period.

Not that I'm complaining. See, I myself confess there's no outgrowing whom I owe the privilege of coming out of her womb. She whose frail frame has absorbed the usual burden, more a matter of choice than necessity every mother worth her milk, birthmark, or wrinkles has become--the stereotype of sacrifice.

My Mama Violeta, veritably nothing out of the ordinary. She who makes any grateful child graceful for simplifying the complicated choreography or stunt of selflessness only because she renders it all--like the lady being sawed inside a magician's box--so easy to see but tough to live up to: tenderness, patience, resilience. (My mother, who finished only grade one, could not read and would only wince at these words, these squiggles of abstractions she steeled me to come to terms with when she inspired me to read, write, read, write as if my life depended on it.)

Hands down, no matter how low we fall, misfortune is not so miserable as long as we have our mothers to call and cry our hearts for when it hurts. Indeed, wretched becomes the world left orphaned or deserted by mothers (or, worse, haunted by the reincarnation of Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest).

How far some mothers go for the sake of their children? Spare me some feminist polemics or further bleeding-heart blather. Consider and see, instead, what Pedro Almodovar shows in his feast of a film, Volver. Yes, there's no magic like mother.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Can we hold a candle to the dark wind?

Staggering, the blow of statistics after a cyclone scourged Myanmar. Consider what the locals call an unprecedented nightmare: 22,500 dead so far and 41,000 people still missing.

Last week, death and destruction also mades headlines as tornadoes whirled through the heartland of America.
Just another dire reminder of our vulnerability against nature as our ravaged planet alerts us once more with its recurrent distressed call. Are we listening? Doesn't what happened in the Day After Tomorrow ring a bell? If we still think the worst is the stuff of movies only, we're in for some rough reality check.

Hope floats, yes, and may it stay that way a little longer than the glaciers and polar caps in the shiftscape of Antartica.

Happy endings? It's up to us, really. Or so dares another documentary in the wake of An Incovenient Truth. If what's rendered loud and clear in The 11th Hour are any indication, we have more than enough reason to pray what we see isn't what we now get:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bottoms up, or what's outrageously over the top?

Shit hits the fan when fact proves stranger than fiction. No end to the utterly unthinkable, certainly. Hang on, handy as always is the stunt of suspending disbelief.

About the lower depths some men often descend into, here's a reprint of my regular column, "So To Speak," published in the op-ed pages of Sun.Star Cebu (29 April 2008):

Loo life

WHO does not give a rat’s ass and wish devoutly to avoid--simply because it does not sit well with us-- a headache on top of a hemorrhoid?

Sweat ourselves shitless. Thus, we do sometimes when confronted, if not confounded, with the manure called human nature. Surreal, how things happen to some people the way they do.

Talk about dumping logic into the loo, and hardly anything can be more utterly absurd than the recent report about a 35-year-old woman in Kansas who got stuck in the lavatory for—hold your breath—two years. So much so that some parts of her butt and the backside of her thighs have leached like second skin to the toilet seat. The police who came to rescue her had to carry “the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital,” narrated the news.

One of her neighbors, who had not seen her for the last six years, could only shake his head. “I don’t think anybody can make any sense out of it,” he said. But her boyfriend deemed nothing strange. “It just kind of happened one day; she went in and had been in there a little while, the next time it was a little longer.” Tried to coax her out of hiding and fed and bathed and brought her clothes, he did. Or so he claimed “an otherwise normal relationship, except it all happened in the bathroom.”

Vouching for her phobia of being seen in public after she allegedly endured a traumatic childhood, he figured “like it was a safe place for her.”

Ah, the idea of a comfort room. Now that’s stretching the imagination down the sphincter and doesn’t hold even urine or hogwash for those who live in some 18,000 households in Cebu City. They, reportedly, “don’t have access to sanitary toilet facilities and 11,400 others that don’t have access to safe potable water yet.”

That doesn’t sit pretty for those preening bubbly in the mouth about the beauty of living in the so-called “Queen City of the South.” Fact is stranger than fiction when ordure flies in the face of daydream. No less perplexing than a Sphinx’s riddle for the city mayor who can’t figure out why Cebu—ostensibly one of the “Top 10 Asian Cities of the Future”—ended up a laggard and made it only in the bottom spot in a business magazine’s list of 20 “Best Places to Live” in the country.

Now that’s hardly the stuff of rocket science when the dispatch comes like a kick in the butt of City Hall officials: “Some had to share toilets with their neighbors. In the mountain barangays, some households do with dug-up holes as their makeshift toilet facility, while some still defecate on old newspapers or plastic bags to be thrown away somewhere.” Less bothersome if only Cebu had as much carefree space as the prairies of Kansas, with more than enough breeze to blow away and wipe out the reek of recklessness.

No wonder my nose, now stuffed with allergy against the pollen-filled scent of spring but still runny with a Cebucentric sensibility, gets perennially itchy with infestation of disbelief. The ooze and whiff of outrage. Or shame steeped in intimations of doom. And it’s not only about a woman’s butt wedged too long in the toilet seat, or the YouTube post straight from a surgery room--rowdy with chuckles and celebratory yelps--about a gay man’s rectum jammed with a bottle of perfume.