Monday, March 23, 2009

Buhay Buhangin (Sn 20)


Word Trivia
“Ek-ek” is a word we often encounter when we read tabloids, showbiz magazines and even blog posts. It has different meaning depending on how we phrase a sentence. It may mean ma-arte, maraming sinasabi, hambog or pretentious. It’s a shortened version of a Pilipino slang “eklat” which was derived from a French word ├ęclat (pronounced ee-kla). According to Webster’s dictionary, it means ostentatious display or claim to fame.

Marami pa akong “ek-ek”, yan lang naman pala ang ibig sabihin.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Feudal Mentality

I once had a discussion regarding some pinoy traits, particularly about “welfare-state” mindset. I point out that one root of this kind of attitude is feudal mentality. At first I was surprise when the person I’m chatting with said “Ay, meron palang ganyan”. But then I realize that most of us, especially those raised in urban areas, doesn’t understand, haven’t experienced or didn’t encounter a “master-serf” relationship.

In a feudal society such as those in the Middle Ages, the king grants lands to his trusted lieutenants (knights). In return, he has a guaranteed standby army to do battle and settle his war at a wave of his hand. Within this turf, the knight is the absolute ruler, judge and executioner of every denizen who settles it. He also assures the safety of these people from marauders and harassment from other knights of nearby fiefdom. In return he taxed his subjects in a form of a percentage share of their produce and enlists able bodied men to fight his battle or the king’s war. In the Philippines, this practice still exists in the south and has evolved into another form of symbiotic relationship in the central regions.

Before the Lopezes monopolized public utilities and became media moguls, they were landlords and their source of income was sugar. If you have read “An Anarchy of Families” by Alfred McCoy, a section is dedicated to the rise to power of this family. A chapter of it mentions my grandfather’s hometown. It is a sleepy agricultural town in the upland part of my province. It was only mentioned because it’s where the first “sakadas” came from. Locally, it’s famous (infamous?) for two things; its fearless people, skilled in the martial art called “eskrima” and its razor-sharp, meter length bolo called “talibong”. I have a notion that because of their sword skill, they were hired to put into good use their mastery of the weapon by cutting sugarcane instead of limbs and torsos.

In the old days, during summer, a lot of farmers are idle after the rice planting season is over. It was also sugarcane harvest time. This was where my grandfather comes in. He recruits these farmers, shipped them out from the port of Iloilo to work in the sugar plantations of Negros. Sounds familiar? OFW diaspora is not a recent phenomenon. We’ve been doing it since 19kupong-kupong, only then it was in a national level.

Because of this annual “part-time” job they got, they in turn pledges their political alliance to my grandfather. Back then, you are somebody if you can guarantee 500 votes to a politician. You are a “lideres”. I remember when I was young, during election people would flock in my grandfather’s house, waiting for him to tell them whom to vote. But it has its drawbacks. My aunt, a physician, would treat patients for free because they are “kaapin” (political ally) or “tawo ni lolo” (grandpa’s men). Most are poor but some have means enough to pay her with a hen or a dozen eggs. They run to our family for advice for every problem they got, from domestic issues to legal guidance to governmental red tapes. In the bright side, the stronger your political base, the nearer you are to the people who pulls the strings. If you play your cards right, favors are easy to dispense when you got aces up your sleeves, the reason why I promised myself not to work for the government. What you know isn’t enough. You need political ladder to climb up.

People who are use to this kind of relationship bring this kind of mindset when they venture for a better life in the cities. And since they’re cut-off from their former benefactor, when problem arises, they seek the next best thing, either blame or cry for help to any politician or the government itself.

A former president knows very well this kind of mentality of the urban poor. He capitalized on it and they love him in return no matter what. The sad thing is he got their loyalty for a kilo of rice and two cans of sardines.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Cry For Help

A fellow blogger is in need of assistance right now.

I know her pride prevents her from shouting HELP, so Kenjie of ThoughtsKoto made it his personal cause to do it on her behalf. PLEASE extend any support you may give to her… for the sake of her children.

Full details maybe read here.

P.S. I got the banner from I hope elenion won't mind.

Please pick on the banner!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


A Friend
I have a friend who held no secret from me. I know his failures, successes, fears and aspirations. One of those secrets is a dream that keeps recurring every now and then.

The Dream
The scene is always the same, a young couple in a room, the girl talking sweetly to the boy while all he does was look at her. The boy tried to talk but no word came out. The girl suddenly fades away. He was alarmed, looked everywhere but can’t find her and then he wakes up. It’s always like that, every time he has that particular dream.

The Girl in His Dream
She was a member of their university school newspaper. In fact both of them are. The first time they met, he felt something for her. He got lots of crushes but this one is different, she was his first love.

As months passed by, they became close and he even entertained the idea that there was an unspoken agreement between them. He assumed too much. When he found out that another guy became her boyfriend, he was devastated. He forfeits his newspaper scholarship, avoids the girl completely and concentrated on his study.

25 Years Later
I think he did well. He finished his studies, got a good-paying job and a happy family. Two lessons he learned from that experience… courage and perseverance. Courage to face the odds even when apprehension drenched his body in cold sweat and firmness to resolved problems at hand to its end. In other words, he learned not to be a quitter.

Looking From Afar
I read somewhere that dreams are subconscious’ abstract manifestation of real life experience. Some psychologists believe it can be “read” or interpreted. In my amateurish way, I think a tug-of-war was raging between his heart and brain. I can only think of two reasons why he didn’t express his feelings towards her. Maybe his too young to face his fear of rejection, afraid she might turn him down, and the reason why his “katorpehan” overcome him. It might also be his ambition of finishing his studies and getting a degree that drove him to suppress his emotional wants.

But it doesn’t really matter now how we dissect it. It happened in the past and it can’t be undone. Sometimes he thinks of what might have happened if it was the other way around. What if he told her he loves her, regardless if it ends up in rejection or acceptance? What if he pursued her and married her? Will it end up the way he is now? Too many “what ifs”, too many unanswered questions.

How he wished he could go back in the past and correct his mistakes, just like in that movie, “Somewhere in Time”. Perhaps by telling his story, he hopes in some way his nightmares will be reined. But I doubt it if he’ll find closure when sometimes he feels… regrets.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

If I’m a Billionaire

Kung walang P1 bilyon ang isang presidentiable, huwag na lang tumakbo. – Manny Villar

In these hard times, if I got a billion pesos, I’ll invest it on something tangible and where the rate of return is good… politics. I’ll run for president. And don’t tell me it will not guarantee that seat in Malacanyang. I knew somebody who got it for just P730 million.

How do I recoup my investment? First I’ll take my “share” from people’s vices like gambling. Gaming board’s earnings aren’t transparent enough to arouse suspicion. Lotto racket is another thing. With these computer gadgets available, it’s not difficult to know which combination is “likely” to “win”. To make sure, I’ll put that former Commissioner from the South as its head… his good with numbers. I’ll take my cut when the jackpot reaches more than a P100 million. And of course, another source of income from the provinces is that ubiquitous “huweting”.

Customs duties is another thing I’m going to take care. I’ll put “trusted” retired military officers in key positions so as to guarantee “smooth sailing” of merchandise of my business associates.

Construction projects sponsored by International Banks are “win-win” speculations. I’ll just ask my contractor friends to talk among themselves who should undertake what project. My only request is they add 100% on their bid to cover up future escalation of prices of construction materials.

I’ll be hard on logging and mining concessionaires. I’ll demand a 20% “over the top” fee from their proceeds incase they “forgot” to replenish what they have cut or “overlooked” to clean up mining spillage.

The rest of other good source of income, I’ll give to my underlings. They also need to provide for their families and expenses to pay. I’m not that greedy.

All in all, a monthly income of P50 million from all of these might be considered “chicken feed” by my predecessors. But I’m not a glutton like them. That’s P600 million for me in just a year and I’ve got 6 years to get back my capital. How much will my net profit be? You do the math.

Oh, by the way, don’t worry about our economy. We got the OFWs to take care of that!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Buhay Buhangin (Sn 19)

History Trivia (The History of the Middle Finger)
Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as “plucking the yew” (or “pluck yew”).
Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, “See, we can still pluck yew”! Since “pluck yew” is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative ‘F’, and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute! It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as “giving the bird”.

And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing!

This bit of trivia was passed on to me. The historic battle is correct (source: Wikipedia). It was an English victory against a much larger French army. Although the battle was largely won because of the English longbow, I’m not sure if the term “f**k you” or the middle finger gesture has its roots from it. - BlogusVox