Friday, March 29, 2024

Gabo the Pilgrim


Note: This piece was originally published on August 5, 2022, in PNM.

Full disclosure: Although I’ve read a few of the major works of beloved Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez (“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Autumn of the Patriarch” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”), I have never read his short story collection “Strange Pilgrims.”

So when the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Mexico City invited journalists to a literary talk — titled “Gabo the Pilgrim” — on Wednesday, July 27, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the publication of “Strange Pilgrims,” I was both excited and quite unsure. Excited because I’ve always been a big Gabo fan, but unsure because I didn’t know what to expect in the talk, and I would have wanted to come prepared — I would have read the book first, so I could ask more informed questions.

I discovered quickly that my doubts were unfounded: I not only discovered a great deal about the book, but also about the life of García Márquez and a few little-known tidbits about him.

“Strange Pilgrims,” a collection of 12 loosely related short stories, was not published until 1992, but the stories were originally written by García Márquez in the ’70s and ’80s, during a period of his travels.

The speakers at the literary talk — Orlando Oliveros, Jaime Abello and Alvaro Santana Acuña — discussed why the short stories in the collection had an autobiographical bent in them, and that readers will not only find Gabo the fictionist, but also Gabo the pilgrim in the book’s pages.

Abello, director general of the Gabo Foundation, discussed how García Márquez had travelled all his life: first exploring his beloved Colombia, going around Latin America and then finally hiking off to Europe.

García Márquez, who worked as a journalist before he found his true calling as a fictionist, was also able to travel because of his work. A committed leftist throughout his life, García Márquez covered the Cuban Revolution for media outlet Prensa Latina in Havana, and also travelled to its New York office.

One interesting tidbit about García Márquez, according to Oliveros — the literary editor of the Gabo Center — is that despite the Colombian novelist’s love for travel, he was terrified of flying. And the fact that the aviation industry when Gabo was a young journalist was basically still in its infancy didn’t help alleviate García Márquez’s fears of stepping inside a Douglas DC-3 commercial airplane.

For his part, Santana Acuña — curator of the Gabriel García Márquez exposition that had also recently opened at the MAM, and which will run until Oct. 2 of this year — talked about how García Márquez didn’t stay in one place for long and the fact that his domestic travels around Colombia were spurred by a personal tragedy — when his grandfather died. Gabo then started moving around Colombia frequently: around Cartagena, Baranquilla and Bogota.

Oliveros also said that García Márquez learned a great deal more about his identity as a Colombian and as a Latin American during his travels in Europe than when he was travelling around Colombia and Latin America. The fictionist met fellow Latin Americans in the cafés of Paris, for example: Argentinians, Mexicans, Guatemalans and Venezuelans. This led Gabo to ask himself and his fellow Latin Americans: “What can we do as Latin Americans, what can we contribute to the world, if we do not fight together?”

But back to the short story collection “Strange Pilgrims.”

Like I said at the beginning of this article, I haven’t read it yet. And so I need to stop right here to order a copy on Amazon.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Jogger

Many years back, when I was still living in Cebu City, there was a running craze.

This running craze came on the heels of a badminton craze.

I was never really a fan of badminton or running. Back then I used to lift weights. Then I switched to indoor cycling (also known as spinning). Then I dabbled in boxing. And then I discovered Freeletics, a series of bodyweight exercises that you can do anywhere -- I downloaded .pdf copies of three guides, the Strength Guide, the Cardio Guide, and the combo Cardio & Strength Guide ("Freeletics is a sport. The core of Freeletics is a set of predefined high-intensity workouts. All workouts are bodyweight only. You always do them as fast as you can. They only take between 5 and 45 mins on average. Workout times will be used to measure performances and progress and to compare to other athletes," says the introduction to all three guides). 

Fast forward many years later, and I'm still doing Freeletics, but through an app that I downloaded on my phone. The Freeletics app is, obviously, more advanced than those .pdf guides -- you can personalize your workouts based on your needs. 

But then I figured, why not incorporate running into these bodyweight workouts too?

Sorry, not running, JOGGING.

Why not incorporate JOGGING into these bodyweight workouts too?

I won't call myself a runner; I jog. I slog. I can call myself a slow runner, but why not use the more appropriate word instead? 

I'm no runner. I'm a jogger.

Back when there was a running craze in Cebu, the company I was working for sponsored a run. Of course, all employees were encouraged to join the run. So my then-girlfriend (now my wife) and I signed up for the shortest distance, the 5K.

But because life happens, I ended up not even finishing the run. The night before the run, I came home stinking drunk, to the wife's chagrin. I told her I'd still try to run the next day, and that there would be no problem waking up early in the morning.

And so I woke up early in the morning. We took a taxi to the event and lined up at the starting line. 

After a few steps, I felt like puking. I took a taxi back home and slept off my hangover. The wife ended up finishing the run.

Many years later, here in Mexico City, the company that the wife worked for organized a run. All employees were encouraged to join the run. So the wife and I signed up for the shortest distance, the 5K.

This time we both finished the run. I promised her I wouldn't drink the night before. The problem was, even though I was sober, I was in no shape to run even a 5K. Sure I did bodyweight exercises, but the stamina you need for running is another thing. So I ran-walked the entire 5K, finishing at a very slow time. (I was a little bit faster than the wife, but not by much. She also ran-walked the entire 5K.)

When I decided to take up jogging a few weeks ago, I vowed to take it seriously. I downloaded a couch-to-5K app, and signed up for a 5K run in Puerto Vallarta, which at that time was more than two months away. That way, I'd have more than enough time to prepare. I'm more than halfway done on my training now, and so far, so good. I've also had a lot of help from a group I recently joined on Facebook, Slow AF Running Club. There are a lot of tips for the slow AF runner. 

One of the most common tips is to run as slow as you can.

In other words, jog.

It's still three weeks away from the run, but I'm feeling good. 

But more importantly, I'm comfortable enough now to call myself a jogger.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Filipinos Love Cozying Up to Politicians

I'm reminded of this every time I unfriend someone who seems to have forgotten his/her principles. The most recent case is a college friend. But then again, I keep on finding out that the former University of San Carlos Department of Sociology and Anthropology (now the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and History) just keeps on churning out graduates who are either die-hard Dutertards or Marcos loyalists, or both. Which is a shame, really. Especially now that they're producing history graduates too. How can you study (or teach) history (or sociology/anthropology) and not know what the Marcoses did to the country? 

The latest I've unfriended is someone who took up sociology, like me, and who even supported Leni Robredo -- like me.

But lately this person had been sharing posts of some members of the Marcos family because, apparently, he is supporting -- and working with, (hence the cozying up) -- Ace Durano now. The same Ace Durano who was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan in 2008 when he served as Secretary of Tourism under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Durano pledged his support for Bongbong Marcos in the 2022 elections.

It's not surprising that the academic department that I was a part of in college should produce DDS and Marcos loyalists. As early as 2016 I unfriended one of my best friends -- also a sociology major (lol) -- when I found out that she was campaigning for Bongbong for vice president. I tried to talk her out of it, tried to reason with her, but all my attempts fell on deaf ears. So what else can you do?

There are two professors who still teach there, both I once respected and looked up to. But one invited Imelda Marcos to an exhibit and then, many years later, proudly posted a pic here on FB that he captioned as having a "friendly tête-à-tête" with Irene Marcos. The other professor posted a pic with Rodrigo Duterte, and was a staunch defender of the ABS-CBN closure and the cases against Rappler.

Sometimes I think that maybe there's something wrong with ME. Maybe the stuff I learned while taking those sociology and anthropology classes (and history classes) had an unintended effect on me. I probably SHOULD BE a DDS and a Marcos loyalist right now. Maybe I SHOULD BE cozying up to politicians. Maybe I misunderstood those books that I read years ago?

I remember that one of those two professors, when he was chair of the department years ago, had a rant that never failed to make me laugh whenever one of the sociology or anthropology majors asked him to sign their transfer papers. There was a time when the department was hemorrhaging students, because they were shifting to hotel and restaurant management.

He would ask the students, "Mag unsa man mo didto, mag-pilo og habol ug punda?"

Years ago, I got a kick every time I heard that rant from him. 

Now?

Bahala nalang tig-pilo og habol oi basta dili lang DDS ug pro-Marcos. 😂

The Audacity

The audacity of these scumbags fighting over the nation's coffers in the guise of "love of country" makes my skin crawl.

In the North you have the Marcoses who, for many years, plundered "their" land amid the Ilocanos' indifference (or worse, amid their idolatry), and in the South you have the Dutertes who made Davao City their fiefdom and ruled unchallenged for decades (amid the Davaoeños' idolatry, of course). 

We lost our chance to elect a Leni Robredo, just like we lost our chance years ago to have a Jesse Robredo as commander in chief when he died in that plane crash. Power-hungry Mar Roxas subsequently hijacked the Liberal Party and made it the most-hated political party in the Philippines, eventually giving rise to the landslide win of Rodrigo Duterte. Likewise, it was Mar who ensured the demise of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate in 2019; everything he touches dies. Makes you wonder if it was the Roxas touch that finally gave PNoy his illness that did him in three years ago.

In a perfect world, we'd all try to convince Leni to run for president again, with Risa Hontiveros as her running mate. We'd vote for Chel Diokno and Neri Colmenares and Leila de Lima for the Senate. We'd try to convince Vico Sotto to run for a national post.

Instead we have the Marcoses and the Dutertes squabbling among themselves, with Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Bong Go, Bato de la Rosa, Robin Padilla, Cynthia Villar, and Grace Poe in the Senate waiting to see who gets the upper hand. You have the same army of balimbings and leeches in Congress, led by Martin Romualdez and Sandro Marcos. 

In Cebu City you have Mike Rama; in Cebu Province you have Gwen Garcia. The Cebuanos could've decisively said never again to those two, but decided instead that they wanted more of the same. Back home, in Talisay City, my fellow Talisaynons seem to have developed Stockholm Syndrome -- they love themselves the Gullases, for better or for worse. Mostly for worse. 😂

What can I say? Reading and writing about Philippine politics at past 10 p.m. on a Sunday here in Mexico City is the best way to prepare for another brutal workweek. Lol

Monday, January 29, 2024

Willow

As soon as I stepped into the apartment, turned on the light, and let the cat out of the pet carrier, I knew I screwed up. 

It scrambled away to safety, away from this stranger who, just minutes before, had been holding it hostage inside a plastic bucket. 

It wasn’t as if I had a choice on the matter. My wife, Diana, who hours earlier spent her entire Sunday perched on a foldable ladder trying to get the scared kitten down from a lemon tree, successfully lured it from the tree with some cat food, and I was waiting to catch the poor little thing with the help of a rag – I’m a dog person, have always been, and I honestly didn’t know how to handle a cat. The rag was a pathetic attempt at trying to protect myself from scratches. 

I managed to grab the kitten soon as it jumped down, and it struggled mightily against my clutches, but I was able to place it inside the relative safety of a plastic bucket, keeping it trapped there with a small aluminum washbasin that served as a makeshift lid. Of course I made sure the “lid” wasn’t snug over the bucket’s opening, to make sure the cat could breathe. 

And then something amazing and strange happened. The bucket started to vibrate. 

Like I said, I’ve always been a dog person. 

That was the first time I experienced a cat purring. 

I read somewhere that cats purr when they are pleased, but I was not so sure in this case. How could the kitten be so pleased being held hostage inside a bucket by a stranger? 

At that point we were at a stalemate. The cat was relatively relaxed, but Diana and I didn’t know how long it would be in that state before deciding it had had enough and tried to violently claw itself out of the bucket and into freedom. 

My wife could at last rest for a while after spending many hours – since early morning of that day – trying to get the poor thing down from the tree. But that would be short-lived, because Diana’s mom – who isn’t exactly a pet lover – was already demanding from us what we planned to do with the kitten. 

I had to think fast. I told Diana I’d stay and watch the kitten, make sure it stayed calm inside the bucket, while she ran to the nearest pet-supplies store – wherever that was – and get a proper cat carrier, along with some kibble and food/water bowls. I’d take the cat home to our apartment at least for the night and then decide on its future after we’d talked about it. 

By the time the Uber had picked up my wife, I had already moved the bucket from the garden to the garage. I was leaning against a wall, with my left arm around the bucket and my right hand loosely holding the aluminum washbasin. I was glued to the spot, unmoving, afraid that the cat would suddenly decide it was done with the current peaceful, purring state and go nuclear. 

But it stayed relaxed for a good half hour or more, until Diana came back from a nearby Walmart – that was the best she could do under the circumstances. It was already late on a Sunday night, and the dedicated pet-supplies stores were already closed, if they at all opened that day. Some small mom-and-pop shops here in Mexico City decide to close shop on Sundays for some family time. 

I gingerly took the cat out of the bucket, without the help of the rag. Thankfully, it was already calm, perhaps sensing that we were there to help and not hurt it. I transferred the kitten to the oversized plastic carrier, which Diana said was the only available one in Walmart, and closed the plastic lid. I taped the lid shut using some packaging tape just to make sure. Diana helped me pack a new food-and-water-bowl combo, some kibble, a small sack of kitty litter, and a litterbox into a canvas shopping bag, and the cat and I were off to the apartment. 

The short Uber trip was fairly uneventful. The cat had already stopped purring; evidently asleep, I thought, after a long day. But then that brain fart: letting it out of the pet carrier, thinking that it would start exploring its new surroundings calmly. Instead, it scampered to the safety of the kitchen, behind the fridge. It took me more than 30 minutes to get him out of there by luring him out with some food. 

I gently put the cat back inside the pet carrier and placed its makeshift “bed” inside the spare bedroom where I keep my clothes and shoes. I closed the door and texted Diana, telling her we arrived safe and sound, and asked what she thought of a name for the kitten. 

“Willow,” she texted back. 

Willow it is.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Ode to the Cat by Pablo Neruda


The animals were imperfect,

long-tailed,

unfortunate in their heads.

Little by little they

put themselves together,

making themselves a landscape,

acquiring spots, grace, flight.

The cat,

only the cat

appeared complete and proud:

he was born completely finished,

walking alone and knowing what he wanted.


Man wants to be fish or fowl,

the snake would like to have wings

the dog is a disoriented lion,

the engineer would like to be a poet,

the fly studies to be a swift,

the poet tries to imitate the fly,

but the cat

only wants to be a cat

and any cat is a cat

from his whiskers to his tail,

from his hopeful vision of a rat

to the real thing,

from the night to his golden eyes.


There is no unity

like him,

the moon and the flower

do not have such context:

he is just one thing

like the sun or the topaz,

and the elastic line of his contours

is firm and subtle like

the line of a ship's prow.

His yellow eyes

have just one

groove

to coin the gold of night time.


Oh little

emperor without a sphere of influence

conqueror without a country,

smallest living-room tiger, nuptial

sultan of the sky,

of the erotic roof-tiles,

the wind of love

in the storm

you claim

when you pass

and place

four delicate feet

on the ground,

smelling,

distrusting

all that is terrestrial,

because everything

is too unclean

for the immaculate foot of the cat.


Oh independent wild beast

of the house

arrogant

vestige of the night,

lazy, gymnastic

and alien,

very deep cat,

secret policeman

of bedrooms,

insignia

of a

disappeared velvet,

surely there is no

enigma

in your manner,

perhaps you are not a mystery,

everyone knows of you

and you belong

to the least mysterious inhabitant,

perhaps everyone believes it,

everyone believes himself the owner,

proprietor,

uncle

of a cat,

companion,

colleague,

disciple

or friend

of his cat.


Not me.

I do not subscribe.

I do not know the cat.

I know it all, life and its archipelago,

the sea and the incalculable city,

botany,

the gyneceum and its frenzies,

the plus and the minus of mathematics,

the volcanic frauds of the world,

the unreal shell of the crocodile,

the unknown kindness of the fireman,

the blue atavism of the priest,

but I cannot decipher a cat.

My reason slips on his indifference,

his eyes have golden numbers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Gamay’ng Pagpatin-aw Kung Unsa Gyud ang Hinungdan Aning Israel-Palestine Conflict

100 years ago, ang foreign secretary sa Britain nagpadala og suwat sa head sa British-Jewish community. Gi-declare didto sa letter nga mag establish og “national home for the Jewish people”  -- gitawag ang letter nga the “Balfour Declaration.”

Kato nga letter -- mubo ra, 67 words -- nag declare nga tagaan og settlement ang mga Jewish people. Problematic to nga letter kay essentially, someone from a European superpower -- Great Britain -- nag promise nga tagaan ang Zionist movement og ilang kaugalingon nga country. A country made up of 90 percent Palestinian Arab natives.

So naghimo og mandate ang British government nga nag-facilitate og mass Jewish immigration -- kasagaran sa mga Jewish immigrants taga Europe nga ganahan mu-eskapo from Nazi rule. Naturally, katong mga native Palestinians kay na-alarm sila kay kalit lang nausab ang demographics sa ilang nasud, ug daghan gi-confiscate nga mga yuta ang British aron himuong Jewish settlements.

Natural, ni-escalate na ang tensions. So ni-result ni sa Arab Revolt from 1936-1939. Ang pinaka major nga resulta aning Arab Revolt was to withhold tax payments and boycott Jewish products, protesta against British colonialism and uncontrolled Jewish immigration. Syempre gi-repress sa Britain ang revolt -- apil na ani ang arrest campaigns ug home demolitions. Mga butang nga gi-implement gihapon sa Israel against Palestinians to this very day.

So in those three years of Arab Revolt, alkansi gyud ang Palestinians. Britain-backed ang mga Jewish settlers. Aside sa home demolitions, daghan gipang bombahan nga Palestinian villages. Sa tulo ka tuig ato nga protesta, 5,000 ka Palestinians ang namatay, almost 6,000 kay na-preso.

After ana, nisulod na ang United Nations. Eventually ang Jewish immigrants ni-balloon to 33 percent by 1947, but 6 percent ra ilang gi-occupy nga land. Ni-decide ang UN nga mu-adopt og resolution, “Resolution 181,” nga mu-divide sa Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. Nipalag ang Palestine, naturally, kay katong Resolution 181 55 percent ang ilang ihatag as Jewish state -- including ang coastal regions, which are important pieces of land.

Didto na nagsugod 100 percent ang pag-empower sa Zionist movement. Nakuha nila ang 78 percent of “historic Palestine,” which was originally Arab lands. An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes, unya pag May 1948, gi-announce na sa Israel ang ilang establishment sa ilang nasud. A day after sa ilang pag-announce, nagsugod na ang Arab-Israeli war.

Kasagaran sa mga Palestinians nihawa nalang sa ilang nasud, naturally. Almost 200,000 Palestinians nga nagpabilin sa “Israel,” they had to live like second-class citizens in their own land.

Ang Hamas offshoot na sya sa mga resistant movements against Israel occupation. In 1993, with the signing of the Oslo Accords, ug formation sa Palestinian Authority, gi-grantan og interim government ang Palestinian people sa West Bank and Gaza strip -- pero limited self-rule lang gihapon. Imagine, original settler ka sa imong kaugalingon nga nasud, pero nahimo na nuon kang second-class citizen.

Precarious na gani in the first place tong Palestinian Authority nga “government,” gi-reoccupy pa hinuon sa Israel ang ubang parts sa Gaza ug West Bank. In 2007 nag-impose ang Israel government og land, air, and sea blockades sa Gaza strip. Didto pod nila gi-label ang Hamas nga terrorist organization.

Let’s make one thing clear: naa pod baya mga Israelis nga dili uyon anang Zionism. Before pa atong attack sa Hamas kay daghan nila nisupak anang expansion sa West Bank. Ang ilang kahadlokan, nga makasamot sa conflict. 

Daghan pod mga Jews ron sa lain-laing nasud nga nisupak aning gibuhat sa Israel. Ang ilang point kay naka experience sila’g oppression from the Nazis before, karon kay sila na hinuon ang nahimong oppressors. Which is ironic.

Para nako kaning Hamas has parallels to the New People’s Army (NPA) pag Martial Law. Ingon si Marcos ang biggest problem kuno ang NPA, ang mga communists. Of course not; I beg to differ. Ang biggest problem was Martial Law itself. Tungod sa repression, sa kalisud sa kinabuhi, ang biggest recruiter ato sa NPA  were not the communists. Ang biggest recruiter, ironically, was Marcos himself -- although indirectly.  Nanaka og bukid ang mga aktibista to take up arms to fight Martial Law. Ang Edsa revolution, culmination nalang to sa years and years of hardship and struggle by the left. Nibuto nalang to pagka assassinate kang Ninoy. I would argue that ang biggest recruiter sa Hamas kay ang occupation of Palestine by the imperialistic Zionist movement, and pag-displace nila sa mga original Palestinians from their own lands.