Just rummaging around some old files…

Look what I found in the archives of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino Yahoo! Groups of Mr. Andreas Herbig of Germany! Here I received a welcome message from Mr. Ramón Terrazas Muñoz of México. I just realized that I was only 22 years old when I became an online activist for the Spanish-language cause in my country. And now I’m 40 years old… time flies so fast!

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¡Miren lo que encontré en los archivos del Yahoo! Groups Círculo Hispano-Filipino del Sr. Andreas Herbig de Alemania! Aquí recibí un mensaje de bienvenida del Sr. Ramón Terrazas Muñoz de México. Me di cuenta de que tenía sólo 22 años cuando me convertí en activista en línea por la causa del idioma español en mi país. Y ahora tengo 40 años… ¡el tiempo vuela rápidamente!

What was Facebook thinking?!

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

This artsy-fartsy image is not mine. It’s from Time. Who am I to judge them if they rhyme? 😂

Whenever I login to Facebook, it always asks me “What’s on your mind?”, bidding me to write a post about anything that comes to mind, let loose repressed feelings that I might want to share, boast of any accomplishments, flaunt happy photos, anything, a post that my FB friends can either like, comment upon, or totally ignore upon reading (maybe even scoff at it or laugh about it behind my back). This FB feature further solidifies the fact that, even online, we are still social creatures, that even if we have not seen each other for a long time, we are, somehow, still connected, still friends, still family members.

But what is it, really, that I wanted to point out?

NOTHING. Facebook was just asking me “What’s on your mind?” So there.


Como padre de familia soy un fracaso

Soy esposo y padre de cinco niños. Pero he perdido la ascendencia moral para dirigir a mi familia. He pecado gravemente contra ellos. No entraré en detalles (porque no puedo). Los he lastimado tanto con mis labilidades emocionales, berrinches, y otras excentricidades que un esposo y un padre no deberían haber hecho.

Todos los días de mi vida católica, he intentado hacer todo lo posible para convertirme en una persona de la que mi familia estaría orgullosa. Quería acercarme mucho a ellos, pero fue un deseo que se hizo demasiado ansioso; creo que lo exageré. Quería que mi familia se convirtiera en una familia cristiana modelo para los demás. Esto lo he rezado a Dios. Pero no sucedió. Mis excentricidades como un escritor me vencieron. Rezo el Rosario todos los días. Pero como dicen, el hombre más piadoso es un imán para los pecados.

Soy un hombre de familia, pero he perdido la ascendencia moral para dirigir a mi familia. Me he vuelto demasiado egoísta, pensando más en mis sueños que en su felicidad. No sé si aún podría curar las heridas que les he infligido. Los he lastimado y marcado, especialmente mi esposa y mi hija mayor, debido a mi tontería. Sin embargo, si se sienten heridos, yo mismo me siento marcado por los pecados que he cometido contra ellos. Estoy traumatizado también. Yo también me duele.

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Iglesia de Santa Rosa de Lima (Santa Rosa, La Laguna).

Ayer fui a la ciudad de Santa Rosa para asistir a un evento y visitar a algunos amigos. Antes de todo eso, fui directamente a su iglesia de la era española. Estaba cerrada. Sólo la capilla de adoración eucarística estaba abierta. Estaba aislada, silenciosa, desolada. Pero había una sensación de paz. Tuve que rezar. Me quité las sandalias, encontré un banco de iglesia, me arrodillé, hice la señal de la cruz …

… pero no recé. Sólo lloré. Lloré y lloré y lloré. Abrí mi corazón en esa soledad. Hay un estado momentáneo de dicha al llorar los pecados y fracasos.

A veces es bueno llorar sólo. Con sólo Dios como mi testigo.

Un poco sobre mí

Una confesión: estoy ruidoso en los medios sociales. Me encanta discutir en línea, sacar ventaja sobre mis enemigos. En diversas ocasiones incluso podría convertirme en un troll (provocador), jaja. 😂

Pero de carne y hueso, no soy un buen conversador. Soy el tipo que prefiere escuchar que hablar. Así que, cuando nos vemos, no te sorprendas ni te decepciones si me encuentras en silencio, simplemente mirando a ti. Simplemente significa que estoy esperando para que hables porque me encanta escuchar historias y recibir información.

Sin embargo, Cerveza Negra existe. Y cuando lo zampo… ¡las cosas se ponen divertidas!

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¡Feliz fin de semana!

50% administrator, 50% politician

I’ve been long cynical against politics, until I met Mayor Calixto R. Catáquiz, the beloved former chief magistrate of San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna and the architect of its cityhood (now known as the City of San Pedro, Laguna Province). It was he who opened my eyes that politics cannot be all that bad, and that there is more to it than what we usually hear from the news. A businessman first before he got involved in politics, Mayor Calex’s strategy of being a “50% administrator and 50% politician” worked wonders for the congested former municipality. In 1995, for instance, he was able to raise the coffers of the municipal treasury from ₱6.41 million to a staggering amount of ₱70 million. This, despite the lack of industrial sites.
Critics and other cynics will of course easily shrug him off as just another traditional político. But Mayor Calex cannot be categorized as such. A born realist, the soft-spoken mayor’s honesty during private conversations will stagger his listeners. His matter-of-factly manner of sharing his political ups and downs will elicit surprise, laughter, and tears. His biography is not just about the story of his life and political career but also the story of San Pedro’s journey from a mere rural municipality to a bustling city.

Lunch at Bricx Café & Bistro Bar. Mayor Calex holds the draft of his biography.

I’ve been chronicling his life story for more than ten years already. Finally, it’s done! It is now on its final stages of review, and will be edited soon by his friend, veteran journalist Chit Lijauco. Another friend, multi-awarded photographer George Tapan, will take care of photography and the book cover. God willing, Mayor Calex’s biography will be published and launched sometime next year, just in time to wrap-up our city’s Road Map 2020, a long-term development plan that was conceptualized and launched in 2010.
If my other writing gigs will not prosper soon, then Mayor Calex’s biography might just well become my second book after 2017’s “Captain Remo: The Young Hero“.

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

The image of dawn

La imagen puede contener: cielo, nubes, árbol, crepúsculo, exterior y naturaleza

Photo: PIXNIO.

You wake up to the sound of cocks crowing. You get up to open your cápiz shell windows, sliding each pane with both arms to either side, to welcome a cold, misty morning. Last night’s surviving stars are fading fast in the purplish sky. The sun is barely up, but you can already see its soft, glowing rays from afar, breaking unevenly from right behind those green hills, disturbing the darkness of dawn. The sweet smell of earth and grass, still wet with dew, welcomes your nostrils that were put to sleep by the scent of last night’s camia, ylang-ylang, and other sweet-smelling night flowers from your grandmother’s garden. The nearby brook splashing its waters through rocks and pebbles suddenly becomes audible, its xylpohonic merriment complementing the gradual spreading of light. You shiver with delight as fruit trees from outside the house rustle with the cool morning breeze.
Grandmother, who has just finished her morning Rosary ritual, is already frying garlic rice and beef tapa for breakfast. While waiting for the other family members to wake up, you just stand by your window watching the glowing rays of the morning sun creeping lazily through the greens of the field where your grandfather is already tugging his faithful carabao for the day’s toil as the bells from the town church begin to peal.
A chirp from a nearby tree was followed by another. And then another. All of a sudden, a hundred chirping sounds started to burst from the branches to join the chorus of the breaking dawn.
You just stand there and take it all in. Because you don’t want it to end. You don’t want it to end…
* * * * * * *
This is a classic Filipino morning scene that many of today’s youth sorely miss out. Today, we all wake up to the horrid sound of tricycles and jeepneys, and the infernal buzz of the alarm. 😞

Garbage collectors: today’s unsung heroes

It was a weird morning. As our bus entered La Laguna, the sun was all up and bright. The next minute, it rained so hard as if all heaven had poured out whatever Greg Martín “Gretchen” Diez had been hoarding up in his bladder for well over a month.

The unexpected downpour happened in an instant, at the exact moment that I was alighting from the bus on my way home. Tough luck. My wife and kids forgot to put the umbrella in my backpack.

So there I was, stuck in a narrow sidewalk with very minimal cover from the rain. Good thing I had my mobile phone with me, with a playlist to accompany me in my boredom.

When the rains gradually decreased to a drizzle, I saw them: the ever-familiar yellow truck with its pile of bagged filth and near-robotic collectors handling them, stuck in rain-drenched traffic, but still on the go, picking up garbage bags from stores along the busy national road. I just had to take their photos.

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La imagen puede contener: cielo y exterior

Even at this godforsaken weather, they are working, unmindful of the cold and rain. What made their situation worse was that they are soaked on top of a pile of muck, grime, dead cats crushed by vehicles, a little excrement here and there, and all the other disgusting things you can think of inside a garbage truck. But a job’s a job.

According to Salary Expert, “an entry level (sic) garbage collector (1-3 years of experience) earns an average salary of ₱131,256. On the other end, a senior level (sic) garbage collector (8+ years of experience) earns an average salary of ₱198,811.” That’s just less than ₱20,000 per month. If you think that kind of salary is barely enough for a single person, what more for a garbage collector with dependents. And since they belong to the lowest tier of capitalist society, we can easily imagine them raising a family of more than three (sickly) children. And because of the type of job that they have, it’s impossible not to think that they aren’t sickly themselves.

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Out of that measly salary, they will have to set aside money for medications for various illnesses contracted from their filthy job — that is, of course, if they don’t ignore them (many of them do because medication is as expensive as food). In case they don’t, then that is an additional burden for them, considering that they had to buy meals for their families, pay for the schooling of their children (it is a myth that public school students need not shell out money to go through schoolhood), pay for rent, and many other expenses. If we middle-class income earners are continuously complaining about rising prices of commodities, oil price hikes, and other cost of living expenses, have you even stopped for a brief moment to think what kind of life these hapless people who collect your daily waste have? Most of them live in dilapidated areas, in shanties standing on land they don’t even own, or along polluted rivers that overflow during heavy rain. And they don’t have job security since many of them are only given “job order” designations by their respective LGU employers.

If you think eating out in Jollibee is already corny, for them feasting on Burger Machine on Christmas Day is an experience.

They have one of the most difficult jobs in the world — who would even want to pick up garbage collecting as a career? Not even them. But due to uncontrollable circumstances in their lives, they had no other choice. Yet our government treats them lowly. If they have the most difficult job in the world, why pay them minimum? In all seriousness, they had to be paid more than double their monthly wage. Or even higher than that. And with more benefits. Without them, our daily routine would be paralyzed.

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Remember the Great Pacific garbage patch, the North Atlantic garbage patch, and many other humongous marine debris sprouting in many oceans in our planet? They have been in the news lately, and they would have been bigger and disgustingly plentiful if not for these unsung heroes who, rain or shine, regularly pick up your generally unsegregated waste. Yes, unsung heroes, because that’s what they really are. How many of you are even willing to dispose of your own waste just to keep your homes and your neighborhood spic and span?

(We may also add that that they are accidental unsung heroes, for they didn’t want to be garbage collectors in the first place).

That is why it is infuriating to note how our top government officials waste too much time on attention-seeking individuals like Mr. Diez when more sectors of society are in dire need of assistance. Garbage collection and disposal is fast becoming a world epidemic, a plague that is almost rarely discussed nor prioritized as evidenced by those aforementioned growing garbage patches across the seas.

It is high time we honor these unsung heroes and give them the due recognition that they deserve.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard that a garbage collector was awarded by their national government?