Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief as I read the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer today, Wednesday, November 25, 2009. The whole page was about the massacre of innocent civilians and journalists in Maguindanao: seven news items, one editorial, and almost a half page photo showing the bodies of some of the victims sprawled like dead pigs on a grassy lot.

Even though I first heard the news two days ago on TV Patrol, I am still aghast at the barbaric way the people were killed. A hundred armed men, said to be followers of of the political Ampatuan family, blocked their convoy, which was on the way to the local Commission on Election office to file the certificate of candidacy of Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for governor of Maguindanao. It was a political massacre, and the killers spared no one, be he/she a Mangudadatu, a journalist, a man, or a woman. To date, 46 bodies were retrieved, and some more people are reported missing.

I can understand why members of the Mangudadatu family were killed: to the perpetrators of the crime, they belonged to a rival clan, plain and simple. But I cannot understand why even journalists, who numbered more than 20, were killed. They were just doing their job.

Journalists are just plain simple people who live with a passion to hunt for stories and write them so people will be informed. They churn out two stories a day, maybe even more, and make deadlines a part of their daily lives. We journalists talk to people of all walks of life, and will go places just to get the facts for a story. Truth is our mission, but despite the nobility of that, our wages are still a pittance.

My friend Rina asked me why journalists are paid so low—call center employees earn more than editorial assistants, and bank managers earn more than feature editors, for instance—and I said it has always been that way. But we still keep at it because, well, we just want to do so.

As Aquiles Z. Zonio of Inquirer Mindanao bureau wrote in one of the front page stories in today's Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Underpaid and under threat, be that as it may, we will continue answering the call of our beloved profession.”

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Reading Comfort Food, a compilation of personal essays on what makes one's comfort food, edited by Erlinda Panlilio, has brought me warmth, happy thoughts, and yes, comfort. A perfect foil to news items that make me aghast.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Psalm 54:4

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life after Ondoy

These days I still find myself grappling in the middle of a working day for some order in my work life. My files have not been updated, copies of my published articles have not been put in order, and I still have to get the hang of working at my desk in the home office again. I have yet to figure out how to make the desktop work again as greatly as it did before. And where is that adaptor for the printer? After the flood brought about by typhoon Ondoy came, wreaked havoc, and went, things have been out of place, or have not been found altogether.

So I find myself defining my life now as post-Ondoy, in contrast to pre-Ondoy days when I could find everything and everything (generally) works. These days I work in my bedroom for the comfort, or in cafes for the steady Internet connection. Our Wi-Fi at home has become unreliable post-Ondoy—it goes into action whenever it feels like it, then sputters, then bursts in 2-minute connections just when I need to send a document over to my editor. And so I get to work in spurts, which should not be my work style given the deadlines I face.

Still, there are a lot of things to be grateful about: the fact that my family is safe and our house looks more or less the same now as it did during the pre-Ondoy days, save for the books, photos and document files lying on our bedroom floor, waiting for new bookcases to be bought. Soaked and useless mattresses and sofas have been disposed of, and new mattresses are now in place. Warped cabinets and doors have been replaced, and even the big kitchen now sports new tiles. The musty smell has been banished, thanks to overzealous scrubbing with Domex, Zonrox, and Mr. Muscle, and spraying with berry-scented Lysol. You wouldn’t think that just about two months ago, waist-deep flood entered our house, and drowned the Lite Ace van in the garage.

Yes, that’s how one should deal with it: look at the bright side. Ondoy also gave me an opportunity to appreciate even more my family and close friends. The day after Ondoy came and left, my sister sent my 80-year-old dad to the spa for a much-deserved massage after the trauma of seeing water rise and evacuating the house the day before. She also spearheaded the cleanup at home, bringing people over to scrub the floors and walls. My uncle and aunt arrived one day with adobo, and with lumpia on another day. My friend Meg braved the traffic and came over with her two kids, some adobo and rice, mattresses for the helpers, doormats, towels and a nice book for me to read. Mel and Ivy helped me dry photos and documents, something Weng did also a few days after. And dear friends from church, as well as from my Varsitarian family back in college, sent financial assistance so we could buy what we needed.

My nephew Alvin helped dry the photos and made sense of the tangled computer cables. Analyn sent over a huge bottle of fabric softener since she said, “siguro marami kang lalabhan (you might have lots of laundry to do).” Richelle, who could not have foreseen that their city would be flooded heavily by typhoon Pepeng in a few days, sent me a boxful of blankets. Cherry sent by post from Hong Kong a little box full of treasures: green tea, hand towel, gloves, fabric softener, pineapple cake, medicines, a bottle of White Flower, and so much more. Jing, through words, grieved with me and hugged me virtually. And there were so many more who helped, prayed, and made us feel better.

So post-Ondoy, I have chosen to be more positive and grateful (that wasn't really a complaint in the first paragraph; more a statement of my circumstances). I may not be able to work on my desk yet, but I am thankful that I can work. Although the neighbor across the creek played a loud blood-curling rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at 9 a.m. this morning for all the world to hear, I thanked God I can hear perfectly. And so can my family.

Life after Ondoy: it’s rosy whatever angle you look at it. God is good.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I had a wonderful time reading The Heart of Healing by Ardy Roberto, published by OMF Literature Inc. Here is a beautiful story of a husband who loves his wife very much and saw her through a most trying time while she battled lupus. This book has a lot of heart, and will be helpful to everyone especially the person caring for a sick family member. Truly, Jesus Christ is the Great Physician and Healer of all time.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s great love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:17-18

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Ah...this is one of those vacations when I do not have to follow a schedule. No itinerary per day, no group to keep up with. I traveled alone and my only agenda is to attend the wedding of my nephew on Saturday.

So for the past four days I have been taking things slow, leaving the house around lunchtime or later, making time for latte and two hours of reading at quiet cafes in busy Tokyo. The tourist-y places have been visited on prior trips; now is the time to catch up on sleep, tackle the writing leisurely, take unhurried walks, savor new dishes, and be quiet.

My friend Jing and I had something like this earlier this year when we went to Baguio for a three-day girlfriend getaway. There was nothing on the agenda then except to catch up on sleep, see some art, and eat good food. We came back to Manila refreshed, ready to face family and work demands again.

We all need quiet breathers like this to rest, recharge, and reconnect with our Maker.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Meg gave me the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 when she visited me after Typhoon Ondoy flooded our house. Author W. Phillip Keller was really into sheep before with a flock of his own. He gives insights on how sheep behave and lets us see how the Good Shepherd up above regards us. A must read!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: He restores my soul. -- Psalm 23:3