Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Parang pag-ibig.

Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

"Failing and Flying" by Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven. (c) Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 . Reprinted without permission, The Writers Almanac.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Woman's (G)lib

When he slows it
down, drives deep
I feel
Every ridge
And more
Than that catalog
of notches--his, mine,
Another's in another time--

The girl falls
In love again
And again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

For this and no other.

Or, A Draft Campaign Speech for Any of the Next Possible Philippine Presidents, Provided He Who Takes it Up, Makes it Happen;

And If No One Does, Then: If I were President, Because You All Refused To Do Your Jobs, goddammit

Strangely enough, when I began writing this speech, I could not stop thinking about the word ad hoc. I had always thought this word meant temporary, hastily put together for one purpose or another. I had imagined this meaning on to the word because of how we have always created, and treated, the numerous ad hoc committees to deal with and try to solve single parts of our multifarious problems.

Imagine my surprise, when upon closer inspection, I discover that, from the Latin, ad hoc literally means for this, toward this and no other. And it is for this and no other that I am more than willing to work and work hard in the next six years, as you leader and servant, as your next president: I am Filipino.

If not us, then who else?

And these are the things we need to do, that I will initiate, not in June, but starting right now:

(1) I will not only fight, but eradicate, corruption. I will punish those who have and will use the country's resources to their own ends, past present future. I will punish those who have used their power to abuse others. I will punish and punish heftily, that everyone will unlearn this habit. And I will eradicate it, by not making it easy, by not allowing it to be part of our everyday, by refusing to think it our culture. I will expedite government transactions and services, without shortcuts or short-cutting any one, and build a government that is not only happy to serve her people, but knows what an important job it is. I will get rid of all unnecessary procedures and payments, and make sure that everyone who approaches a government office gets served and served well, without having to be passed on to another office, or another person, or on to oblivion.

It is not only that we currently have corrupt officials in our government, but that we have a government that officially encourages corruption. I will speed things up that no one will have to pay extra to get what they deserve, when they need it. And I will pay our public servants well that they will not need you to pay them any more than what is fair and just.

Our current government only makes one thing easy: It makes it easy for us to leave the country. And though I will not refuse anyone who is not a criminal this choice, I will do better and make them want to stay.

(2) I will make Filipinos want to stay in the Philippines. I will do this not only by giving them jobs, but decent jobs worthy of their education and skills and inclination. I will make it worthy of their time. I will not give them "pwede na yan" jobs, just because the family needs to eat, or the eldest is about to start college, or God knows, because they need baon for elementary school tomorrow. And if and when they want to stay, I will give them every reason and opportunity to do so.

(3) I will give the best of the Philippines to the Filipinos, and not to the foreigners. I will ensure that the country and its people cater to the Philippines and to the Filipino. I will ensure that if Boracay is the best beach there is, or Sagada the best mountain getaway, then Filipinos can afford to enjoy them if they are so inclined, to their taste and financial capability. The hotel and department stores and all commercial establishments will serve both the local and the foreigner, the native and the foreign. The flight attendants will be kind and efficient to both the domestic helper coming home and the business man from Hong Kong.

I will make us proud to be Filipinos here and around the world, and I will make the world proud of the Filipino. And I will do this without wanting or pretending to be America, or insisting on America, or asking what America, or any other country, thinks.

And so that the Philippines, in turn, can giver her best to her people, (4) I will pass the Reproductive Health Bill. I will pass this bill because we need to control our population, and so much of our problems are rooted in this one problem. And we need to ensure that our natural resources are enough to support our people, now and in the future.

And I refuse to enter into any pro- or anti-life debates regarding this. I will not allow abortion during my rule, and this bill does not allow it either. What it does instead, is give the woman control over her body, the option to refuse her husband or lover sex, and provides her the option not to get pregnant should she wish to have sex. Neither does the bill judge her for it. Because what this bill ultimately wants, not just for women but for every single Filipino, is a chance at a fair and equitable share to our country's natural resources, a beginning of a life of quality.

And to be able to continue to that life of quality, (5) I will provide them with quality health care whether they can afford it or not. I will ensure that PhilHealth works to the advantage of both rich and poor, and is used in both public or private hospitals. I assure the poorest of the poor universal coverage. I will ensure too that our social security systems, whether public or private, work for everyone, that our premiums will result to returns when we need them.

(6) I will provide free and quality basic education, and ensure sources of scholarships and study-now-pay-later schemes for college and post-graduate degrees. I will ensure quality education is available to all Filipinos, whatever their economic class, and that information is available to them, and that it is waiting for them and not the other way around.

To do this I will pay the teachers well, and make sure they deserve it. I will ensure that history books teach them more than just dates and places, the science books the correct and updated science, that they learn to read well, and learn to love to read.

I will incent multinationals to train our workers and make them into world-class assets, in order to build on a high-value economy here that rests on its high-value workforce.

(7) I will make this country rich by making our farmers rich, by providing them with the help and support they need, whether it be science or subsidy, or protection from the storm, or from world markets. I will make it their option if they want to own their own land, or if land is not enough, the option to work as a collective. I will support their cooperatives, and watch the corporations that employ them.

(8) I will encourage green growth, not only because we need to cut down on greenhouse gases, but because we need to be energy-independent. Nor will I allow the first world to influence our decisions regarding our energy sources, because while climate change is a global problem, excessive green house gas emissions is not. Instead, I will promote energy efficiency, and natural resources management, because my priority is our development, and the quality of life of our people. I will build on the examples of some of our excellent local government units, who have done excellent comprehensive land-use planning, disaster management, community development, and self-sufficiency outside of Metro Manila.

And I encourage this because (9) I want to move development to other parts of the country, not just in the capital. I will decongest Metro Manila by moving development to the other regions, ensure that most opportunities available in the capital are available elsewhere. And I will spend on the necessary efficient infrastructure that will allow all this.

Lastly, I will do all this without sacrificing what makes us Filipino--whether it be in terms of culture or customs, beliefs, religion, region or tribe. If utang na loob is inherent to us, then I will encourage it because we need to help each other, not because help needs to be repaid. If ningas cugon describes our short-lived passions all too well, then we will do everything to fan the fire. If we have forgotten our Bayanihan culture, then we will teach it to ourselves and our kids again.

And if we need to do more, when have we ever turned our backs when it is family that asks and needs? We just need to widen our circles a little bit, and slowly widen the scope and capacity of who and how we love.

Let the next six years be temporal and not temporary, our responses to our problems urgent and not hasty, and if it be necessary that the next government act like an ad hoc committee, so be it. If I be judged by these promises, and measured by their fulfillment, bring it on. This is the call, and I will answer, and be answerable.

Through no choice of ours, we were born into this country. And for whatever reason or lack of choice, have remained her citizens. Who else will answer for us? We are the Philippines, we are Filipino. For this. No other.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Because it's another year. New. Again.

Guinea Pig
Julie Cadwallader-Staub

As if your cancer weren't enough,
the guinea pig is dying.
The kids brought him to me
wrapped in a bath towel
‘Do something, Mom.
Save his life.'

I'm a good mom.
I took time from work,
drove him to the vet,
paid $77.00 for his antibiotics.

Now, after the kids rush off to school,
you and I sit on the bed.
I hold the guinea pig, since he bites.
You fill the syringe.
We administer the foul smelling medicine,
hoping the little fellow will live.

admitting to each other:
if he doesn't,
it'll be good practice.

"Guinea Pig" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. Reprinted without permission from The Writers Almanac.


Looking at Pictures to Be Put Away
Gary Snyder

Who was this girl
In her white night gown
Clutching a pair of jeans

On a foggy redwood deck.
She looks up at me tender,
Calm, surprised,

What will we remember
Bodied thick with food and lovers
After twenty years.

"Looking at Pictures to Be Put Away" by Gary Snyder, from The Back Country. (c) New Directions, 1957. Reprinted without permission from The Writers Almanac.


One Night
Jeremy Voigt

The car crossed two lanes of traffic
and a grass median before plowing
head-on into me, killing my wife,
unborn child, and myself. Before
I died I touched the shoulder
of a policeman, felt the sure strength
of his muscles, heard the only word
he spoke, "Jesus," and I smiled
because I stopped believing in him
long ago. He mistook my smile
for something positive and not listless
irony, and I tried to correct him,
but my throat stopped. Red lights.
Blue lights. Star's gases. I walked home.
My wife wandered off into a river
to give birth. I began calling my friends:
"We are all dead," I said into the phone.
I let them cry or exalt in turn, taking
note. I didn't know it would be this
simple. I slipped into a midnight robe,
poked holes in a black sheet, tore
into a loaf of bread. Wandered off
yeast-heavy neither rising nor falling.

"One Night" by Jeremy Voigt, from Neither Rising nor Falling. (c) Finishing line Press, 2009. Reprinted without permission from The Writers Almanac.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here--and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

"December" by Gary Johnson. Used without permission from The Writers Almanac.

Friday, December 25, 2009

To whom it may concern: this is (not exactly) fiction.

Dear All,

Merry Christmas to all of you, and to those you love!

First off, let me apologize for the lengthy silence from me and my family. I know you have all wanted to hear from us, especially about my Mom’s condition over the past few months.

Looking back on my previous letters to all of you, I realize that it has been more than six months since I last wrote. Again, I am sorry if this silence has led you to worry unnecessarily about my mom and her well-being. It has not been an easy going, but let me assure you now that Mommy is doing fine, and that she is at home, where we take turns taking care of her, together with a trusted nurse that stays with her on most nights.

I do feel a bit sad to tell you though, that my mom’s condition has hardly improved since she got out of the hospital last May. She is still bed-ridden and mostly unresponsive; although we still use the blink-once-for-yes scheme, and sometimes, it does seem like we do understand each other. As to her range of movements, there have been some improvements—she is often able to lift her head by herself, to spit, for example, or to help us when we move her about the bed, or during her rehab exercises. Some spastic movements are more pronounced as well—the curling of her hands to fists, and of her arms towards her chest, has been extended to her legs as well, although these movements are primarily involuntary.

Since the initial hospitalization, we have been back to the hospital twice. Once in ----- for 10 days because of an obstruction in her bowels: A simple colonoscopy was performed on her, and an extended stay required to balance her nutritional needs. The second was last week, and involved routine procedures to change her tracheal tube, a laryngoscopy to check her nasal passages and her vocal chords, and the last procedure was simply to transfer her feeding tube from her nose to a peg directly connected to her stomach. The last procedure was necessary to avoid the danger of choking, as well as to prevent possible infections through the old route.

I am sorry if this quick summary comes as a blow to all of you; please remember that all these happened in a span of more or less seven months. And though there definitely some stressful times for Mommy and for us, we have all been so much better ever since we’ve brought her home from that initial two-month hospital stay.

We have been... gifted, I suppose is the apt word this season, with just enough resources not to take anything for granted, and loving family and friends who are always willing to step up and help whenever we find ourselves lacking, or lost, or losing to despair. I say this because we have been quite successful (what an odd word to use in this context!), I think in the little adjustments and re-adjustments--the tailored and tapered accommodations necessary in a life so changed!—that it can become normal again.

Hah. Who would’ve thought I can say this, and all in my family believe it, seven months after what has passed? But I think, primarily, it is the relief of having her home again, and stable, and with us every day, that lends us, too, a certain strength and a more-than-enough semblance of normalcy which allows us to carry on with the necessary tasks, for her, and for ourselves. Our mom is home, and with us—perhaps this might be the beginning of all we begin to need, that the fulfilment of the rest becomes easier after this.

Am I making sense? Hehe. I feel selfish now, and not a little bit embarrassed, taking all of that time away in silence, and now, taking all of your time on these musings. But really, everything is as perfect as it can be in our world right now: It is 5:00 AM (perhaps why the philosophy! Sorry!), and I am on the last legs of my shift (and all of us halfway through) taking care of our mom (the 24thand today), my sisters and our Dad asleep in preparation for the next shift; the nurse home with her family as the maid soon will be too. Everything and everyone where they should be this Christmas.

And this family now, which with all your help and support and prayers and well-wishes throughout this year and even previously, is still, at its core, the same family. For this alone, silence or no, we will be forever grateful.

I hope and pray that this Christmas morning finds you and your family complete too, at the core, or in the heart, where it matters most.

Our love to you in this most generous of seasons,

Andrea -----, with my Family

Wednesday, November 25, 2009