Saturday, June 08, 2013

The fire victims

The way he boarded the jeep took us all by surprise: first he slid a plastic drawer, no doubt part of a cabinet, with a jersey shirt covering the contents. Then he hoisted a little girl without shoes, with feet covered in soot. His wife then entered the jeep, with a baby in her arms. Only then did he board, his wide dirty unshodden feet quite noticeable.

The little girl whined that they have no slippers, to which the man grimly said, "Bibili na lang tayo."

He set the girl on top of the pile of clothes on the drawer in the jeepney aisle.

The family was quiet, and everyone in the passenger jeep seemed to have the same question even as the vehicle continued to weave through traffic on E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue.

"Nasunugan kayo?" the man's seatmate, a woman, asked curiously.

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The pamanhikan tradition

In this day and age, marriage has become optional, and even commitment too. Just take into account the various permutations of relationship statuses these days: just going out, hanging out, just friends, special friends, dating, exclusively dating.

Even President Benigno Aquino III is in some kind of relationship with TV host Grace Lee as they confirmed they were "officially dating."

That brings a question to mind: If there's such a thing as "officially dating", is there a status dubbed as "unofficially dating"?

And if so, is that the same as the MU (mutual understanding, or mag-un, for those who like each other but can't shout it out to the world) of a generation ago? What happened to good old-fashioned boyfriend-girlfriend commitment?

With commitment hanging in the balance, it was thus comforting and reassuring for me to note that some good old-fashioned traditions are still alive.

One of them is the pamanhikan.

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Kindness on the streets

Sometime last week, I was walking on Timog Avenue in Quezon City toward the car I parked. Some pavement tiles on the sidewalk were missing on the tight spot right next to the driver's door. 
Gingerly, I half tiptoed on the tiles that were still there but before I knew it—splat! My left sandal became half-submerged in black muck, as the rain drenched the city earlier that day.
"Ay si Ma'm, nalubog," said a middle-aged woman sitting on a stool on the sidewalk. 
"Ikaw kasi, diyan mo siya pina-park," she added, admonishing a young man who was scratching his head.
"Kuha ka ng basahan, dali," she said, and in a second, a younger woman produced a clean rag right beside my sandal, the type of rag being peddled on the streets for a peso each, made of cut retazos of cloth.
"Ah wag na, ok lang ako," I said. "Hindi naman ako nabasa," I explained, turning my foot so that I—and they—could see the sole of the half-muddied sandal, and my not-muddied foot.
"Ay hindi, ipunas mo diyan. Babaho yung sasakyan mo," the young woman said, while the older woman said something in agreement.
And so I stepped onto the clean rag on the sidewalk and twisted my sandaled foot left and right, while they looked on. The older woman said, "umulan kasi kanina."
I thanked them, got into the car, and soon I was on my way home.
While driving, it struck me that a homeless family chose to be kind and helped me that day.

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'Bagong Lipunan', the Metrocom, and my other memories of Martial Law

To my five-year-old mind, something was up.
I was too young to make sense of it all, but I do remember walking over with my mom and my sisters to the house of our neighbor, Tita Vita, one night. All the lights inside their house were on, and soon we were there in the sala where fellow neighbors were already praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Tita Vita seemed distraught. She was distraught and tearful. I remember this because Tita Vita was normally boisterous and happy. Things weren’t the same that night.
It was many years after when I remembered to ask my mom what happened that night at Tita Vita’s when I was just in kindergarten. My mom said Tito Efren, the husband of Tita Vita, was picked up by the Metrocom police, among the many people arrested when Martial Law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

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What theater does to us

It's been a week since I watched Ballet Philippines' (BP) restaging of the 80s pop ballet hit "Rama Hari" at the CCP and I'm still humming "Magbalik Ka Na Mahal," that haunting melody that speaks of longing for a loved one from the depths of one's soul. There's a movie in my mind still playing, that of Rama and Sita dancing with the people of Mithila as lead singers sing "Day da day da day da..." I still ache in my thoughts with Rama as he pours out his soul in the song "Tagistis ng Ulan," while he ponders Sita's fate. 
And a week after watching it, I still want to watch it again, if only time (mine and BP's—their last playdate was Dec. 9) would permit it. 
Ah, time. It's the reason I wasn't able to watch this year "The Sound of Music" at Resorts World, "Phantom of the Opera" and "Stageshow" at the CCP, "Mind's Eye" at RCBC Plaza, and more. They say the chandelier at "Phantom" wasn't quite the same as the original, and I wouldn't have been able to tell. "Stageshow" was “something rare and wonderful,” said our critic, and I couldn't chime in.
That got me thinking: how many of us do make time for theater? 

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"Be my laydeh..." Martin Nievera crooned as I entered the bus, this first bus I saw with a "Dau" sign on the dashboard, on EDSA near Munoz Market.

"Comfort me through all the pain and be my laydeh..." Martin seemed to serenade me as I plopped on a seat I had all to myself. It's almost the same. Like being transported back in time, I told myself, as I surveyed the inside of this generic bus I can't even remember the name of.

Red curtains shielded us passengers from the sun's harsh rays. Backpacks and plastic bags were stacked overhead. The seats were covered in plastic. There was a TV overhead behind the driver, but it was turned off. The bus smelled old. The word 'kitsch' stuck in my head.

Then came Ric Segreto singing "Lovin' you oh-oh is such an easy thing to do..." and I relaxed. I've been through this before, something like more than 20 years ago, on a bus on the way out of Metro Manila with 80s music from cassette tapes. I was on one of my "nakikiprobinsiya" trips back then, like now.

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Why I vote

On my Facebook wall the other day, I saw my friend's post saying she might not vote this coming May for the national and local elections. "Why bother when nothing has changed all this time?" she said.

Now that may or may not be true depending on your vantage point. 

From a poverty standpoint, indeed nothing much has changed since 2006, if we are to believegovernment data. Many of the poor are still poor. 

From a macroeconomic standpoint though, there has been progress. The infamously sick man of Asia is becoming a tiger, says the World Bank

From my own microeconomic point of view, my P1,000 a few years ago could buy a lot of groceries. Nowadays, the P1,000 can barely cover 12 items, qualifying me for the express lane in the supermarket.

And yet there's progress from my small vantage point: government services like renewal of passports and driver's licenses can now be done in the growing number of malls, in between grocery runs. Now that's a bit of progress to me.

But back to my friend's post: she has decided she's not going to vote.

I, on the other hand, am scheduling a trip to the Comelec head office in Intramuros this weekend to take advantage of the early voting for media practitioners. This is the first time journalists are being allowed to do this, giving us the same privilege as soldiers, teachers, and other government workers who have election duties. Many more of my colleagues will be able to vote. Now that's a positive change too.

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