This is the story of boy meets boy. The story, when it was recently featured in a national television program, reminded people of two simple things: 1) There is no law above love and 2) True love knows no sexual orientation.
The boy, Myke Sotero, is an activist. He’s involved in advocacy for environment protection and, more importantly, LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. He is also a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Metro Baguio (MCC Metro Baguio).
The other boy, Jojo Rugay, used to be angry at the fact that he was gay. He would go as far as hiding who he is from his loved ones.
This is their love story. But keep in mind, this is more of a story about love.
9 years, 7 months, 1 week, 1 day
Myke’s life has crumbled into nothing. His partner Emil – whom he shared nine years, seven months, one week, and a day of his life with – is now with Death which means life for Myke has become void of meaning. It was during this time of grief that he found himself hooked on social networking sites.
Myke meets Jojo through an online post where both have been mutually tagged. Myke, finding Jojo attractive, added him as a friend and fortunately, Jojo accepted the request. Thus begins a beautiful relationship.
Their connection was instant. Though not being able to see each other physically – with one not being able to see the twinkle in the other’s eyes or the smile that curves from the other’s lips – they both felt as though they could open up their own world to each other.
Jojo would tell Myke about his past relationships – about the on-and-off status, the “may kahati”, and how it couldn’t work out because the partner has a religious vocation. Myke, too, would share about Emil, in a catharsis of sorts that allows him to gradually move on from that meaningful relationship and to another.
They brought out the skeletons in their closet of relationships, leaving it for the other to either take or leave. Together they rehashed their past and made a future for themselves.
When love takes over
Upon getting to know each other, they both felt “that feeling” – the inexplicable feeling that you’ve known the other person your whole life, how easy it is to let your walls come down so the other person could see you for who you are, and how the other person inspires you to be yourself. They each looked for “signs” – the same ones we ask whatever higher power we believe in when we get that unshakable instinct about someone we have growing feelings for– that would say “he is The One”. Myke even asked Jojo once what it is he looks for in a relationship, to which Jojo said: “True love, commitment, and stability” – three things anyone (doesn’t matter what their sexual orientation is) would want out of a relationship.
Myke and Jojo also exemplify the “theory” that “opposites attract” when it comes relationships. For example, Jojo is a bit of the neat freak while Myke has a devil-may-care attitude towards keeping their home tidy. Myke is the “aktibista” while Jojo is more of the “elitista” (the high-maintenance one in the relationship). Their individual characteristics can be on such extreme ends that their personalities tend to clash.
Then there’s also the problem with alcohol – how one too many of it causes one to say or do things that puts a strain on their relationship. If you’ve read David Levithan’s “The Lover’s Dictionary”, Myke and Jojo’s relationship will remind you of the couple in the book.
Yet, despite whatever differences or spats the two of them may have, the romance between them very much remains burning. “Every day is a romantic day for me with Jojo,” according to Myke.
Power of love
Prior to meeting Myke, Jojo wasn’t the proudest and most out gay man. Coming out was a long story for him.
But when Jojo met – and fell in love with– Myke, he began to accept himself for who he is. He, too, became involved in LGBT advocacies. Even his family (whom he thought would shun him if he ever came out), especially his sister, turned out to support LGBT rights. When he would post something online about anything related to the LGBT advocacy, his relatives would “like” or share those posts.
It turned out there was nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
Love is a higher law
The couple found themselves caught in a web of “homophobia” brought about by the negative reactions (especially those coming from church organizations and government officials) when, in June 2011, a mass Holy Union (or what other institutions call “wedding ceremony”) for LGBT couples took place here in Baguio. Words like “abnormal”, “mentally ill”, “kadiri”, or “kasalanan” were thrown at the Baguio LGBT community. The religious called the union “unlawful” and threatened to sue the MCC Metro Baguio for officiating such union between two people who are nothing but unconditionally in love with each other and who have found that one thing most of us are still looking for in our lives. However, none of those threats ever pushed through for the lack of legal grounds on which to sue.
But despite this web of “homophobia”, Myke and Jojo did officially “marry” each other (the term their church uses is “Holy Union”). In front of God and all the ones they love, the two of them took each other as partners for life.
They’ve been together for four years of their life. May they never have to spend the rest of it apart from each other.
Live to tell
The Twitterverse went abuzz with positive feedback, love, and support not only for the couple’s inspirational story but also for the LGBT community as well after their story was recently shared in a program of a national television network. Some of the tweets include:
@lookitsJheng Tonight’s #wagas episode made my heart melt. @pingmedina @paolocontis you guys made an amazing loveteam. :-)
@dixen04 Ang ganda ng story ni Myke and Joe #Wagas @wagastv11 I adore their relationship and it is unquestionable.
@PingMedina (who portrayed Myke Sotero in the episode) “There is no law above love.” — Thank you for watching #Wagas guys! Hope you enjoyed our LGBT episode :-)
@darandereb Watching #Wagas Wow, their love story can emancipate everyone to go out from their shells, be themselves, and love who they really love.
@beforeiturn25 We, straight and gays alike, look for the same things in a relationship: true love, commitment & stability. #wagas #equality
@CristineMallare Salamat sa unti unting pagmulat ng mata sa katotohanan!#wagas #notosteroetypedgays #LGBT
@tedDakuykoy walang kasarian ang tunay na pag-ibig! :) #wagas
@unosalas Mas magaang sa pakiramdam kung hindi mo iniisip ang iniisip ng ibang tao. #Wagas
@ynahalcantara In this changing world, we need to be more open. Watching #wagas @gmanewstvIntl
@tsokobrown Same problems,same situations.. Sa love,wala talagang diskriminasyon.. #GirlBoyBaklaTomboy #wagas
@tsokobrown Minsan talaga may mga kwentong LGBT na nakakakilig #Wagas
@geminizawahiri napapanahon na tlaga ang mga ganitong love story. Atleast kahit papano narerecognize na ang mga 3rd sex na part sila ng society
There are countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal, namely: Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil, France, Uruguay, and New Zealand. In the United States, the following States have legalized same-sex marriage: District of Columbia (the country’s federal district), Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maine, Maryland, California, Delaware, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. Some countries such as Israel, Mexico, and Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten (the constituent countries of the Kingdom of Netherlands) recognize same-sex marriages though they do not perform them.
In our country, the government does not recognize same-sex marriages. Moves to legalize same-sex marriage are being pushed by LGBT organizations. But being a country still highly-influenced by religious dogmas, the line between State and Church is getting more and more skewed. The quest for marriage equality in this country, then, remains to be merely a quest.
But if you asked me, I’d be proud if I get to live to see the day this country allows marriage equality to come true. The way I see it, you don’t have to be gay or bi in order to support love. We can break everything down to laws or dogmas, but those can’t explain love.
From what I could remember from my religion classes back in elementary school, all God or Jesus wants us to learn from them are tolerance, love, truth, and acceptance. You don’t have to be gay in order to accept and love gay people – you just have to be human. I am straight and I love and accept gay people.
And isn’t love what most of us look for in life? Don’t most of us live our lives searching for that one person we would die for, that person we would wake in the morning for, that person we would put our heart and pride on the line for?*
“It’s better to burn out than fade away”, huh? Well, Neil Young had it wrong. It’s better to fade away.
The challenge for me to balance my work and post-grad studies is becoming more and more challenging. It has become so overwhelming and challenging that the honeymoon period of studying at my dream school is over and I then begin to realize that hard work and time management have to seriously come into play.
But if ever the time comes when I reach the crossroad where I have to make a choice between my job or my studies, I would choose to give my undivided attention to my studies in a heartbeat. As Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I believe that my true “job” in this life right now is my academic endeavor and if the universe gave me control, I would give my undivided attention to it. But life, being what it is, doesn’t always work that way. Oftentimes you work your way through things, even when the odds are stacked against your favor.
Lately I’ve been feeling the exhaustion from balancing work and studies. Sleep has become obscure and insufficient, concentration has been off, the ability to wake up without depending on an alarm clock has become close to impossible, the goldfish memory, the growing disinterest towards some things unrelated to school (or writing).
Things have now become too routinized: get through Mondays to Fridays between the hours of 8 to 5 to make a living that will pay for my studies, go home to do some reading or writing (or procrastinating), sleep rather late, read school-related books by Thursday or Friday, go to school on Saturday, and then try to get some “me” time on Sunday. Repeat and fade.
Sometimes I turn to wishful thinking by imagining that one of Manix Abrera’s News Hardcore comic strip could come true in real life. In the strip, the rookie journalist who usually stars in the other strips is bombarded with a heavy load of news writing so she summons the following: her personal demon and angel (you see them often used in cartoons where a tiny demon and angel stand on the character’s shoulder), conscience, soul, ego, superego, id, inner self, subconscious, and cosmic self. Oh, if only I, too, could summon those parts of myself to take care of matters such as doing my laundry, doing my job at the office, making notes from my readings for my classes, and others. If only…
But if things go on like this – very routinized to the point that I no longer get to think about what I do things for or what I appreciate about things - then I’m afraid that the path I could be headed towards to is occupational burnout. I used to think it really is better to burn out from doing at least doing something rather than to fade away into obscurity. But now that I’m getting a taste of what could lead to burning out, I feel that I’d rather fade away. That is, as John Lennon once put it, fading away through survival. For who would choose to compromise oneself for something they don’t believe is worth compromising themselves for?
Although burning out is not necessarily a bad thing, I’d rather burn out doing something that I love wholeheartedly rather than doing something that, well, doesn’t get me fired up with a sense of purpose and makes me shout to the heavens “Yes, I’m finally living out my calling! Happiness! Ghahahaa!” And though I may not be what you would call “religious”, I do believe in something bigger than me that looks out for all of us and guides us towards what makes us happy. My faith tells me that soon enough I’ll rightly fade away from the 8 to 5 lifestyle and burn bright in the world where I can say I truly belong. Until then, as anyone who has ever been in my place would wisely do, a few more sacrifices and hard work must come from my end. For now I’ll make do with what I’ve been given without losing sight on what I know I can make happen for myself.
You know how some people say that at some point you need to grow up and outgrow some things? The things that make you believe in happiness, fulfillment, determination, beauty and love are the things not worth outgrowing. For the lost cause isn’t the one who keeps putting time and effort in the name of achieving what he believes in but then seems to be never getting there until he eventually fades away. The true lost cause is the one who allows himself to burn out from doubt and discouragement.*
July 4 was Filipino-American Friendship Day aka Republic Day. It is annually commemorated as the day the United States of America recognized Philippine independence. Over the years the relations between America and Philippines have spawned the Filipino-Americans, the Fil-Ams for short. Fil-Ams include many famous names in worlds such as cinema, music, television, sports, dance, education, graphic arts, journalism, culinary arts (the White House Executive Chef since 2005 is a Filipina-American), to name some. Filipinos are spread out all over the world and are famous or even infamous (the alleged murderer of fashion designer Gianni Versace is said to be of Filipino descent).
Even a small ounce of Pinoy blood in somebody internationally-known is enough to make proud the Filipinos living here in the archipelago. Even the world of literature is filled with Filipino-blooded figures that can make us more proud.
JESSICA HAGEDORN - Playwright, novelist, poet, and multimedia performance artist. She wrote “Dogeaters”, “Toxiclogy”, “Dream Jungle”, and edited the new anthology “Manila Noir” which includes writings from other revered writers such as Lourd H. de Veyra, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, Gina Apostol, Jose Dalisay Jr., Sabina Murray, and an author who is also enlisted in this article.
PETER BACHO - Writer and teacher. His book “Cebu” won him an American Book Award.
MELISSA DE LA CRUZ - Writer of several young adult book series, including “Blue Bloods”.
REGIE CABICO - An openly gay spoken word artist and poet. Search for “regie cabico def poetry jam” on YouTube and see what the man is all about.
R. ZAMORA LINMARK - Manila-born author of “Leche” and “The Rolling of the R’s”. Aside from being a novelist, Linmark is also a poet and playwright.
TESS URIZA HOLTHE - Californian writer who authored the best-selling novel “When the Elephants Dance”
EILEEN TABIOS - An Ilocana-American poet, fiction writer, editor, publisher, and concept/visual artist. She invented the poetic form called “hay(na)ku”
AL ROBLES - Activist poet who wrote “Ifugao Mountain: Paghahanap sa Bundok ng Ifugao” and “Rappin’ with Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark”. There’s a film documentary about him entitled “Manilatown in the Heart, Time Travel with Al Robles”.
VINCE GOTERA - Editor of the North American Review, America’s first literary magazine.
MA. LUISA AGUILAR IGLORIA - Poet, author of award-winning collections, and a Palanca Literary Hall of Famer. She is said to be from Baguio
AIMEE NEZHUKUMATAHIL - Author of three poetry collections: Miracle Fruit, At the Dive-In Volcano, and Lucky Fish.
BIENVENIDO SANTOS - College (or maybe even high school) students will encounter this man when they read the short story “Scent of the Apples”. Santos has written novels, short story collections, poetry, and nonfiction.
BARBARA JANE REYES - California-based poet who has published her works through full-length collections, chapbooks, and online.*
NOEL ALUMIT - Novelist, actor, and activist who’s been enlisted in the Top 100 Influential Gay People by Out magazine.
HAN ONG - Playwright and novelist who is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.He is the author of “Fixer Chao” and “The Disinherited: A Novel”. He’s also been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction.
CARLOS BULOSAN - A big name in Filipino literature, Bulosan is known for his 1946 work “America Is in the Heart.” He is of Ilocano descent.
CECILIA MANGUERRA BRAINARD - Award-winning writer and editor of 19 books. She is the co-foundress of Philippine American Women Writers and Artists (PAWWA) and the foundress of the Philippine American Literary House.
BINO REALUYO - Born in Manila but a New Yorker for most of his adult life. He is a novelist, poet, educator, and community organizer.
EUGENE GLORIA - He recently won the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He has written three books and an anthology,.
PATRICK ROSAL - Poet who authored three full-length poetry collections. He is the son of Ilocano immigrants who lived in New Jersey.
MARIANNE VILLANUEVA - Writer of the fiction collection “Ginseng and Other Tales from Manila”. She edited “Going Home to a Landscape”, an anthology of Filipino women’s writings.
LUIS FRANCIA - Author of Eye of the Fish and about ten other books. He is from the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Institute at New York University.
JOSE GARCIA VILLA - A National Artist for literature, he is also a literary critic, short story writer, poet, and even a painter.
The unforgiving pound of the rain and the blowing wind of typhoon Gorio on greet me as I make my way to Mt. Cloud Bookshop for the latest book launch last Sunday (June 30). But when I get to the homey bookshop, there was nothing but warmth as those who gathered eagerly awaited to watch and listen to four Cordillera folktales to be performed by the Aanak di Kabiligan Community Theater Group.
The battle of the heroic Gawan of Kalinga, the discovery of the edible fern Paco of Benguet, the legend of Ari Moran of Apayao, and the journey of Bugan of Mt. Province came to life not only when they were performed, but also when their words were immortalized in the new children’s book “The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and other Cordillera Folktales”.
Four unique tales are immortalized in an artful book that includes exquisite woodblock print and rubbercut print artworks. Furthermore, these tales bring color to the imagination of young ones as they are handed down the rich culture of the Cordilleras and the valuable lessons about preserving the environment. The stories show the readers the relationship of man with nature and the consequences when mankind destroys that relationship for its selfishness (disguised under the pretense of “development”, “moving forward”, or worst: “corporate responsibility”). They teach children not only of the indigenous Cordillera culture, but also of the importance of nurturing the environment.
The book is the brainchild of the collected efforts of the Cordillera Green Network Inc. or CGN. CGN is a Baguio-based non-government organization whose activities include an environmental education program for indigenous elementary and high school students in the Cordillera region. This environmental education program is done through workshops wherein the participants gather folktales of their community and then use the tales as material for theater productions.
During the book launch, Baguio community theater actor Rey Angelo Aurelio led the Aanak di Kabiligan (composed of young theater performers from Abra, Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao, and Baguio) in a performance that highlights the Cordillera culture through the use of local language. Artificial lights were all turned off during the performance – the only light that emanated was from outside – but the Cordillera culture, through the colors of indigenous Cordilleran attire and the soothing sounds of an indigenous flute, was more than enough. They were perfect.
And in an our contemporary age where children would rather face computers or television or other gadgets rather than read good ol’ books or listen to their elders tell them stories (where one only has the imagination to rely on), the timing of “The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and other Cordilleran stories” could not have been any more opportune.
The preservation – dare I say “immortalization” – of these Cordilleran folktales is not done out of the urge to cling to the past because of reluctance towards the change the new age has brought. These tales are immortalized because that’s what literature hopes to do: to preserve something before it is forever obliterated from the history of mankind. Twenty, fifty years from now, when a child picks up “The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and other Cordilleran stories”, he gets to know about the marvelous culture and history of the Cordillera people. And if that child were (by the very definition of the world) a Cordilleran, then he gets a deeper understanding and appreciation of his roots. May there be more books that follow in the steps of this one.*
In one of Manix Abrera’s Kikomachine Komix strips, two classmates converse with each other. One of them asks the other: “Tsong, tanong ko lang… ba’t ka ba nag-aaral?” To which, the other replies: “Ha? Umm… Personally… Para maka-trabaho…” A moment of silence falls between them before he adds: “Baket?” The answer: “E ako kasi nagtatrabaho para makapag-aral…” Fuse these two students and that’s what I am: someone who’s studying full time in order to qualify for my dream job of being a professor of literature and at the same working full time in order to get that education.
And so this is what it’s like – being a working student. It’s like what Coldplay once said in “The Scientist”: Nobody said it was easy. Nobody said it was easy being a working student while taking up your Master’s Degree in a top university where hard work, dedication, and excellence are essential in making sure you succeed. I’m only about three weeks in, but I’m already going through nights I spend until the late hours accomplishing my voluminous reading assignments and articulating my understanding of the reading assignment by writing personal notes (it’s my way of living up to one of the objectives in one of my classes: to explain in my own words fundamental concepts and methods). Along that, I’m feeling the backaches and the carpal tunnel syndrome. Proper sleep seems to elude me, too.
Time management has become one of the strongest weapons in my arsenal. I’ve never been good at proper time management, but nowadays I’d be crazy not to have that personal discipline down to a science. Now I see the value of making “to-do lists” and being mindful of how I spend my time. The lists also keep me from forgetting the essentials so that I don’t have those nights where I lie in bed with the lights turned off and thinking “Drats! I forgot to…”
And time isn’t the only thing I need to manage. Nowadays I’m doing the “grownup” thing of managing the money I make – a huge fraction of which goes to saving up for tuition. I’ve put on hold the days I allow myself to spend a couple hundred pesos for a cute dress or blouse, or for a crateful of books in my favorite pre-loved books store. Rare are the moments I can go to a café or teashop sipping a tasty beverage while reading a book. But then, who says you have to go to a café in order to seek the pleasure of reading?
There are moments when I think “What did I get myself into?”, but it would be pointless for me to quit. To put it simply: this is a test of my willpower and discipline. It’s about me proving to myself how much I want to finish my post-grad studies (no matter how long it take)s, to don a “sablay” when I do reach the finish line, and work a job that involves what I love most in this world.
Sacrifices must be made, but I don’t mind. For I choose to see this as part my own “heroine’s journey” from strength to weakness and back to strength. I’m only a few stages past the starting line, but I’ve already got obstacles to conquer. This may be another labyrinth, but it’s one where my knowledge and passion are of great use. It’s not the kind of labyrinth where I want to get out straight and fast (compared to the labyrinth I am in). This is one where I’ll go through and get out off victorious.
In the meantime, being a working student is what I need to help me move forward. Let the array of experiences come as they are and let the necessary lessons be learned.*
Worse Than Free
by Vergel O. Santos
Anvil Publishing, 2005
Simply put, “Worse Than Free” is a compilation of essays on journalism ethics and other Philippine media issues. The 110 essays compiled in this book are the writings from 1997 to 2002 of veteran journalist Vergel O. Santos from his weekly column “Newspoint” in a national newspaper. It’s a book that any journalist (or budding journalist) should have in his or her library in the hopes of learning a thing or two about ethics.
The book touches on Philippine journalism – from the so-called “envelope journalism”, to multi-straddling (when a politician ventures both politics and journalism at the same time), to the state of ethics in the profession.
Vergel O. Santos’s work is undoubtedly insightful albeit repetitive in its core message. The more than a hundred essays share one or two of the sentiments: good journalists need not be reminded of ethics, politicians who are also journalists (and vice versa) are digging their own graves, the country messed up by voting crummy presidents like Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, and that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was no saint.
But despite the seeming duplicity of the essays, the book is effective in shedding light on journalism issues by using real life events from our nation’s recent history – kind of like using experience to effectively get a point across.
This book is not just for the media practitioners to learn from – they who have been called the “watchdog” - for Vergel O. Santos does not keep them in a leash through his writings. This book is also for those outside the profession to make them the watchdog of the watchdog.
The 500 People You Meet in Hell
By Jessica Zafra
Anvil Publishing, 2006
CONSIDER it the concise, irony-laden version of “Inferno”. No, not that Dan Brown mystery novel that recently blazed the media and ignited the ire of some Filipinos when it referred to Manila as the “gates of Hell.” I mean “Inferno” as in the first part of The Divine Comedy (or as I call it: The Dante Trilogy) by Italian man Dante Aliegheri. Then in 2006 the ever witty Jessica Zafra wrote “The 500 People You Meet in Hell”, a laugh-out-loud book that sheds light on human foibles.
Be warned that this is not for “the irony-challenged and anyone who takes things too literally.” But if you’re equipped with the right sense of humor or can tell when a piece of writing is fictional or at least satirical, then go ahead and a take a guided tour of Zafra’s idea of Hell. It won’t take you long (I’m guessing 30 minutes to an hour is enough). Sit down with this book, sip your overpriced frappuccino, and you’ll be done just in time for your not-at-all-fresh-in-plot telenovela.
Zafra’s Hell has five circles (four less than Dante’s): The Fiery Pit of People You Actually Know; The Maelstrom of the Exes; The Cursed Circle of the Former Friends; The Chasm of People You Don’t Know Personally, But Whose Toxic Slime Oozes Into Your Life; and The Septic Tank of Public Officials and Politicians. I won’t spoil the whole book for you, but I’ll take the liberty of letting your curiosity ooze by citing some of the people that can be found in those circles. (And be warned about how frank and nasty some of the things you are about to read. These are Zafra’s exact descriptions, not mine.)
Upon entering the first circle you will meet: The teacher who said you would never amount to anything, the yaya who said that if you didn’t stop crying the aswang/bumbay/inchik would eat you, and the popular girls who made fun of you for being a geek.
Then in the second circle, prepare to encounter an array of hellish exes: the user, the ex who spread horrible rumors about you, the incredibly needy ex who called you twenty times a day and threatened to commit suicide every time you tried to break up with him, the pervert, and the insanely jealous psycho creep.
Deeper into hell, you see former friends (emphasis on “former”): the friend who stole your boyfriend, the friend who only called when she needed something and never even asked how you were, and the friend who became a religious fanatic and started lecturing you about how to live your life.
Then you enter the penultimate circle and meet: Pinoys who kiss white ass but look down on other Pinoys, the so-called spiritual leader who condemns all who disagree with him to the fiery pits of hell, the people who maltreat cats and dogs, and the hacker who created the virus that wiped out your files.
And in the bottom of hell, right in the most fiery, filthiest pit, is the septic tank of public officials and politicians who steal public funds, who shop till they drop while their constituents drop dead from hunger, who murder their opponents and critics, who make pronouncements about saving the environment while chopping down entire forests and polluting the water, and who justify decisions by calling them “the will of God.”
In all the pits, each set of people have their corresponding punishment. There’s cannibalism (well, eating oneself), there’s turning into chew toys of giant Rottweilers, there’s doing the devil’s laundry, there’s a terrible rash that cannot be scratched, and there’s everything spilling out of them like a “truth hemorrhage.”
Creative and entertaining, it’s a book you’ll read from cover to cover. And keep coming back to when you just want moments to just laugh out loud.*
Brace yourselves! Pinoys are expressing outrage for the joke made by Canadian comedienne Katherine Ryan at the British gag show “Mock the Week”.
The theme was “unlikely lines from a cosmetics commercial” and Ryan’s response was “We don’t test any of our products on animals. We use Filipino children.”
When the near video clip of that line went viral Pinoys were quick to react. Some took to Twitter their resentment, tweeting statements like “Why is it ok to make a cheap gag at the expense of Filipino children? Shame on you Katherine Ryan”.
The comedienne came to her own defense through Twitter, saying “It was UNLIKELY lines from a cosmetics commercial. *UN-LIKELY*. You’d be very unlikely to hear that. Because it was never happen.” She added, “If you’d watch the whole show instead of reacting to a still shot out of context… you might feel I was criticizing the EXPLOITATION of children. The joke is never, ever ON children. Watch the show.”
Apparently those who were offended only heard the words “Filipino”, “children” and “we use”. They didn’t hear the commentary on an industry that is so cruel to animals and, as exaggerated by the comedienne, to children. They only heard “Filipino” and already took it to mean that the first world was once again looking down on third world Philippines. What’s next? We’ll be handing out persona non grata or sending out a letter demanding Katherine Ryan to apologize? Are we going to invite her here and let her see for herself that our children are not guinea pigs for cosmetics companies but are instead taken care of and educated, splurging on branded clothing and overpriced coffee?
There are even those who said something along the lines of “She shouldn’t have used Filipinos as an example”. Right, as if replacing “Filipinos” with, say, “Russians” that makes the joke less racist. In turn, that makes US racist. The joke wasn’t about the nationality of the children who were being tested on; it was about cosmetics testing itself.
This, of course, is not the first time Pinoys or the Philippines became the punch line for foreign comedy. This is also not the first time Pinoys are crying foul for such jokes. But there have been so much of these incidences over the years that it has becoming exhausting and exaggerated to react with outrage and cry “racism”. To list all those incidences would take too much of my time as a writer and you as a reader, which would in turn take too much precious space from this paper.
There are even statements in popular shows that mention the Philippines or Filipinos, but didn’t incur the wrath of the Pinoys. What? Is there a double standard here? In 2012, GLEE, a show popular among Filipinos (especially young ones), mentioned the Filipinos in a line that may or may not be offensive (depending on how one takes it). The archetypal dumb blonde Brittany S. Pierce (played by Heather Morris) was asked: “What’s your favorite color?” To which she said “Filipino. They are very hard workers and family is very important to them.”
That may not have been offensive, but another popular American TV show mentioned the Philippines back in 2008. In an episode of The Big Bang Theory one of the characters said: “When I was fourteen years old I was abused in the Philippines by a club footed Navy chaplain.” The character, a wannabe actor, later goes on to say: “The Philippines. 1992. The Subic Bay Naval Station. A young boy on the cusp of manhood. His only companions mongrel dogs and malarial mosquitoes. Desperate and alone he reached out to a man who promised to introduce him to a merciful, loving God, but who instead introduced him to a gin pickled tongue shoved down his adolescent throat. What choice did he have but to drink, shoot and snort his pain away.” (If you asked me, this seems harsher than the “Gates of Hell” comment made by Dan Brown. Poverty and the religious as child abusers?”)
I don’t recall Filipinos being outraged by this…
Do you know why the Filipinos’ idea of humor is those idiotic, shallow ones told in noontime shows? Do you know why we prefer fart jokes and toilet humor that comedy bars are so fond of? Ever wonder why we don’t have witty, satirical shows like Saturday Night Live or Whose Line Is It Anyway? Ever wonder why we can’t deliver a joke with innuendos - as in they may appear nasty when you think about them, but you can’t tell at first because they’ve been told cleverly? It’s because Pinoys can’t take a joke when the joke’s on them. They don’t know how to smartly make fun of themselves.
They laugh out loud to the nasty jokes of a drag comedian who defames a respected journalist (a Filipino “making a joke” about another Filipino in a far-from-smart way), but they can’t laugh at a joke that is basically an indictment on the cruel culture of cosmetics (and, in effect, society driving us to become obsessed of beauty at all cost)? We Filipinos can be so twisted in our ways of thinking: we’re fast to cry “Pinoy pride” whenever any foreigner who is, by any way, of Filipino descent makes it big in the international scene, but we’re just as fast to pull out that same pride and patriotism whenever other races use for their jokes.
The jokes about the Philippines and Filipinos probably won’t stop. We can either keep being onion-skinned about it or find humor in the situation.
My opinion may seem to come from someone thinking from the point of view of the thinking class and maybe I’m being obnoxious by not being so sympathetic towards my countrymen, but am I the only who’s tired of listening to Pinoys talk about the “pangaapi” and whatnot?
As the cliché goes, “It’s not what people do to us that hurts us. It’s how we choose to respond to what they do to us that hurts us.”*
by Neil Gaiman
Harper Torch, 2001
Mythology – whether Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse – includes an array of gods and goddesses whose stories could be considered as “fairytales for adults”. Names like Zeus, Hades, Juno, Diana, Loki, Odin, and hundreds more have become part of our lives one way or another.
These gods and goddesses belong in ancient times – but do they, really? What if these gods from mythology walk among us? What if, in our age of high technology, these gods are in a war with the “new” gods that mythology didn’t tell us about? And these so-called new gods – named Technical Boy (god of computers and the Internet), Media (goddess of television), and a group called The Black Cats – are on a mission to wipe out the “old gods”.
And caught in the midst of this war is Shadow, an ex convict hired as a bodyguard by Mr. Wednesday. This war of the gods, and what Shadow (a seemingly mortal man) has to do with it, is the story that unravels in “American Gods”. This multi-awarded novel by English writer Neil Gaiman remains to be a favorite among readers because after all, the story is multifaceted with its subplots and imaginative scenes. Gaiman writes prose but with such poetry in them that his readers are given the opportunity to use their imagination, thus making his books hard to put down.
“American Gods” is the kind of book you’ll have to read for yourself in order to see the magic it holds. As the Washington Post Book World put it, this book has “mystery, satire, sex, horror, [and] poetic prose” which will have you keep on turning pages.
Furthermore, this book is more than just a fantastic example of what an unbounded imagination can create. It doesn’t just seek to entertain or make geeks out of those who read it. The novel also functions as a commentary on human belief on deity: we create and destroy what we choose to believe in. Gaiman writes a striking passage: “Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, and they can be killed, in the end.”
The novel also touches on the idea of belief (maybe even faith) on a higher power and the institutional (or personal) system of belief that worships that higher power. Gaiman writes: “Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you—even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition. Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.”
Whether or not my musings on the gods/religion aspect of the novel may be part of Gaiman’s intentions when he wrote the book, “American Gods” is a book still worth diving into. It’s fascinating, clever, and you will definitely be entertained.* (by PRYCE E. QUINTOS)
Here’s to the fathers who love their family with all their heart. To the fathers who accept their children for who they are and for whatever choices they make. And to the fathers who forgive their family when they do wrong.
Here’s to the fathers who work hard to provide their family. To the fathers who put up with jobs that lead them to the gates of hell, that take too much of their time thus making them see less of their family. And here’s to the fathers who find time to spend quality time of their family, knowing that all their hard work mean nothing if they never find the time to be with the people they’re doing it all for.
Here’s to the fathers who never walked out, who chose to become real men by taking responsibility. They could’ve easily walked away - pretend nothing ever happened and no relationship ever transpired - but they chose the high road instead.
Here’s to the fathers who keep a close relationship with their children. Not only do they play the role of parent, but they play the role of best friend as well. They’re the cool dads that are fun to hang around with, to confide in, and take advice from.
Here’s to the fathers who teach their children to be themselves and follow their dreams. Here’s to the fathers who stood by the sidelines, cheered their children on, and sought the possible means to make their children happy. And here’s to the fathers whose unwavering support guided their children in fulfilling their ambitions.
Here’s to the fathers who bend over backwards doing what they can to see their children smile. No father wants to see sadness in the eyes of their children, so they do what they can to turn that frown upside down. For when he sees his child sad, he, too, becomes sad.
Here’s to the fathers who play the role of both mother and father. To the fathers who became a true man by being a single parent.
Here’s to the fathers who sacrificed their life in order to keep their children from danger. They may not be physically with their family, but their act of love reassures them that they are not ever truly alone.
Here’s to all our fathers for without them we wouldn’t be who we are today.
And here’s to my father who is awesome - who is imperfect but still worth looking up to and worth making proud.
Is It Hot in Here or Is It Me?
by RJ Ledesma
Anvil Publishing, 2010
It’s not exactly Barney Stinson’s “Playbook”, but single and dateless men in their 30s will make do with “Is It Hot in Here or Is It Me?” aka RJ Ledesma’s “imaginary guide to flirting, body language, and pick-up artists.”
The multi-tasking RJ Ledesma is the writer of the weekly column “Pogi from a Parallel Universe” in one of the country’s broadsheets. He is also a real estate developer, magazine editor, events host, actor, yoga practitioner, and family man. Those old enough to remember will know him as Joey in the Royal Tru-Orange commercials back in the 90s.
His 2010 compilation of essays “Is It Hot in Here or Is It Me?” is for the single guys – specifically the single men in their 30s who are dateless, confused and “going bald” – who try their luck at being chick magnets. Perhaps not meant to be taken literally as a guide for flirting, his books may be taken as exactly just that: a “guyde”. But apply the tips with caution – after all, it IS just an imaginary guide.
So the biggest reason you could have for reading this pheromone-filled books is its entertainment value. The book is a humorous way of explaining why single men out on the hunt are as they are. With RJ Ledesma’s ability to make similes between the art of flirting and whatever issues (or scandals) our country went through at the time of his writing will draw laughter from the reader. For example, he writes: “Given that my knowledge on relationships was probably as extensive as the former president’s knowledge on the ZTE-NBN deal, I needed to immerse myself in research.” A chuckle may also come out from your mouth when you read something like “Men are thicker than the Guimaras oil spill when it comes to interpreting body language.” It’s this kind of frankness that may get you to keep reading until the last page. (Although as one goes further with the book, the wit in the similes wears out and loses their humor when you begin to notice he uses them too much.
Smart, entertaining, and maybe a bit self-mocking, the book is good to read for your dose of laughter. Or, you know, when your “use by” date is nearing and you need to step up your game in dating. In the end, you’ll “smell good enough to mate.”* (by PRYCE E. QUINTOS)
We booklovers avoid the term “second hand” or “bargain” books. The term we prefer is “pre-loved” – someone fell in love with the story, but had to let go or share the music to whoever serendipitously finds that book.
There are perks to getting in the habit of purchasing “pre-loved” books. If you’re the stringent type or not one who can afford to buy brand new – “virgin” – books, you can still enjoy the pleasures of reading. And these are just some of the perks:
1. “Pre-loved” books are cheaper while they still maintain good physical condition – pages still intact, the spine not severely cracked, and the book cover not folded or ripped.
2. When you establish good business relations with store owners, you could get discount on volume purchases. If you’re a “suki” long enough, you could get a discount even for just one book. You can even create your “wish list” and then they could contact you when they have the book that you’re looking for.
3. Free bookmarks (or any other items that could be used as bookmarks). Out of the near hundreds of pre-loved books I’ve bought, some have come with actual bookmarks, a boarding pass for a plane bound to Los Angeles from Hong Kong (Business Class, I might add), a photo of a male Caucasian with Tom Selleck-like blond mustache, an unused panty liner still in its plastic packaging (I threw it out, of course). So far no letters about long-lost siblings or revelations of family secrets or love letters or maybe a one thousand peso bill. Oh, well. Perhaps soon.
4. You enter the mind of the previous lover, who perhaps used the book as a study material and made marginal notes of their thoughts or reactions.
5. By purchasing a pre-loved book, you possess something that has stood the test of time. Some were printed back in the 80s or way before that and some are even early editions of the book. You find something that is of high value (an “antique” could be one way of describing the book) without having to fish out too much money. This perk applies to hard-to-find foreign literature so when it comes to finding books to help one appreciate more Philippine literature (and maybe even Cordilleran literature), one only needs to go to Mt. Cloud Bookshop.
But no matter where you buy a book – whether it’s a virgin (okay, brand new) or a pre-loved book – it comes with its own story. I’m not referring to the content of the book which is considered a story, but rather the experience one has when reading the book. From the way the reader carefully caresses the book as she dives in the magical world of the book; or the way she laughs, cries, or cringes over the story; or the way book changes physically (my copy of New Moon suffered from a harsh deluge back in 2008 and is now wrinkled); or to the way they serve as records of our thoughts and feelings as we go through the reading experience. As Barbara W. Tuchman once said: “[Books] are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”*
I don’t know what inspired me, really. I’m not sure if it took watching innumerable movies through all the years or whether I met someone so inspiring. Somewhere in the inner ambitious version of myself is the aim to write a screenplay which hopefully gets the green-lighting to become an actual movie. But having no idea how to write a proper screenplay or what the essentials are in making an excellent screenplay, I shelved that dream. Granted, I wrote the script for a project in our Novel class when we made a film based on J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”. What I envisioned doing was writing a screenplay that I could call my own – where the characters are of my own creation, that the plot was my brainchild, and the entire story was from my creative faculties.
But, as always, the Universe has uncanny timing. I recently became a participant in a screenwriting workshop alongside five Baguio artists last June 1 and 2. Our mentor: award-winning film director/writer Martin Masadao, whose film “Anac ti Pating” bagged major awards in last year’s Sineng Pambansa. He taught us the basics: characters (from their development to their personality), setting, conflict, plot, and how bringing these elements can package a great movie. And to help us get a better grasp on the technical and artistic value films, we watched three films: Amour (oh, the feels!), The Sessions (a feel-good film which manages to make you laugh and cry), and Hope Springs (oh, my dear Merly Streep, you are a goddess!)
Characters must be dynamic – they must be flawed, interesting, and most of all develop their personality. Something must change them for better or worse, which then makes an interesting story. More than that, characters that “feel” real make them more relatable. In making them the writer must have a clear vision of the character – what makes them happy or angry, what their likes and dislikes are, how they look like, what their idiosyncrasies are – thus the creation of a character profile is important. It helps to draw inspiration from people we know when we create our characters, but not to the point of making our characters too similar to the people we’re drawing inspiration from.
Which is why writers must have keen senses that help create clear imagery, thus stirring the audiences’/readers’ imagination. Do we smell the pungent air wafting from the dumpsite where our hero is found in the beginning of the story? Do we feel the cold rain pounding on our skin as our character runs for safety during an afternoon deluge? Do we taste the sweet strawberry cake our hero’s mother used to bake? Do we hear the screams of panic when chaos erupts as our heroes march to save what’s worth saving?
The setting must also feel real - one that makes us feel like we are actually there or one that reminds us of a place from our own life. It must highten our imagination, to leave us in awe.And a good story must have conflict to get the ball of plot going. The audience is hooked, wondering how the conflict will be resolved (or if it will even be resolved).
But as one writes the story, one must remember to avoid any clichés. According to Masadao, the foreign film industry, Filipino indie (or mainstream) filmmakers should start steering away from “poverty porn” (you know how some indie films are frequently set in the slum areas? Yeah, that’s the so-called “poverty porn”.) It’s time to innovate, to think outside the box.
And this is the challenge faced by those of us who were mentored that weekend. With our creative motors up and running, our challenge now is to keep that creativity going until it is seen in the big screen. For who knows, someone out there who’ll be watching will also be inspired?*
It’s one of the trendiest choices students make after graduating from college. As long as one has the time and resources, one chooses to take up one’s Master’s Degree. Indeed, when the bars were raised when it comes to qualifications for employment (or eligibility for promotion), more and more people are now taking up their post-grad studies. A Bachelor’s Degree seems to not be enough in the eyes of tough employers. Post-grad, then, is the new undergrad.
And you can count me as one of those who’ve joined the trend. It’s not that I’m jumping on the bandwagon because of its popularity, but it has become a viable choice since the reality is that a mere Bachelor’s Degree in English will not suffice if I want a career that allows me to be with what I love (literature) while still raking in enough money to keep me financially stable.
Most graduates of BA English end up with a career in teaching. In order to get there some take up extra Professional Education units in order to be qualified to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) conducted by the Professional Regulation Commission or PRC. Some of my classmates have passed the said exam and now they’re on their way to their careers as professional teachers. And though passing the LET is not compulsory when one opts to teach in a University, a Master’s Degree is the shining diamond in your qualification (but consider it golden when you’re both a LET passer and an MA/MS holder). This is precisely why I am on my way to taking up my post-grad studies: in order to become the cool, young college instructor who’ll inspire young minds to love literature.
And, being the ambitious Rachel Berry-eqsue that I can sometimes be, I decided to take up my MA in one of the country’s top Universities. It was a leap of faith, more than anything, because it didn’t take me months of deliberation. One day I was just reevaluating my life, thinking “What the Bradbury am I doing with my life? Don’t I plan on doing something grand that will allow me to stay close to literature?” Though I may love journalism and enjoy it as a burgeoning career, Prince Literature is my first and true love. And so I had to give my heart back to my first and true love. I needed to make life legendary so I took my chances. My application form didn’t boast a General Weighted Average that’s off the charts, a long list of examinations passed (e.g. LET, IELTS, TOEFL, etc.), publications (I’m guessing academic publications or books), and awards received (I was neither a Dean’s Lister nor a Cum Laude). All I had was my determination and this irrepressible thought of “why not?” Why not go for this? Why not give it my all so that there are no regrets if I don’t make it? And thank heavens I did make it.
I will admit, though, that I have my worries. My mind is caught in a web of thoughts: am I sure I can handle the demands of the academic work? Hard work is the biggest demand in my venture - the six hours I am going to spend each week in class is only a fraction of the amount of time I will spend for I still have to take into account the time and energy I will put into research work, reading assignments, writing papers, and working on presentations. I can’t shake the thought that I’ll be spreading myself thin for I am a working student. Then there’s another worry about how I, as a working student, am going to be able to pay for everything. But I suppose this is where faith comes in and takes away all the worries. The only thing I need to focus on is being a hardworking student who gets a chance to make her family, friends, and herself proud. Everything else falls into place.
So despite this web of worries, I am excited about this new journey – excited about the things I will learn, the work I get to do, the people I will meet, the friends I will make, and the challenges that I will conquer. Perhaps this is my version of “the hero’s journey” I read about in books and see in movies. But unlike those heroes, my journey won’t be from weakness to strength. Mine is a journey from strength to weakness and the regaining of the strength. I will have humbling moments – when my dedication and discipline will be put to the test – and will realize that there really is so much more for me to learn. I will find myself in a crowd of people who have more experience and knowledge and that I will learn not only about applying language and literature in my career, but I learn much about myself as well.
And as the days inch near to this new chapter, I finally figured out what else I am doing this for: I am doing this because despite how cracked our country’s education system may be (from drop out rates to lack of classrooms and so much more), I believe it is still a good place to build a career. All these flaws reinforces our need for teachers – especially dedicated ones who creating a healthy learning environment despite all the flaws. I bet that the population in the College of Teacher Education in Universities will not surpass the 5,000 mark come this new school year - not a lot of youngsters are enticed by the idea of being a teacher because of all the hard work and it’s not exactly the greenest of pastures. But let’s not forget the important role teachers play in our lives. May there be many more that will do what they can in order for them to become one.*
by Carljoe Javier
The University of the Philippines Press, 2011
WARNING: Great writing inside!
I may not wholly agree with the statement that greets me when I open the first page of “Geek Tragedies”, but I do think that Carljoe Javier writes imaginatively well enough to make you want to root for the geeks in his stories – and maybe even empathize with them.
“Geek Tragedies” is a book about and for the Pinoy Geek. The stories’ characters are the geeky male lead, the plot is inspired by science fiction or fantasy, and the book is designed like an old school comic book: the superhero (in thick-rimmed eyeglasses) fighting off the big bad villain in the colorful cover and illustrations of characters that resemble familiar comic book heroes scattered in the pages.
Carljoe Javier has paved way for Pinoy Geekdom. Suffice it to say that he is the leading expert in any and everything considered geeky: science fiction, fantasy literature, comic books, cosplaying, and comic cons. He writes about the world of the geeks in his stories and even formally teaches them in the University of the Philippines Diliman. (Oh, what I would give to enroll in one of his classes!) No other author writes about the world of the geeks, thus making Javier one of a kind.
And his heroes are the ubergeeks: awkward, invisible to the opposite sex, smart, and passionate about the simplest (and weirdest) of things. But instead of being the pitiable character that doubles as comic relief or the foil for the macho jock, the geek is the hero in Carljoe’s writings. He speaks for and about the burgeoning group of Pinoy youth (and young at heart): the Pinoy Geek. This book is theirs to devour because for once they are the heroes. They own the show and it is their story that is being told.
Although geek culture is highly Western-influenced, the author incorporates the Filipino culture through the stories’ language, setting, and characterization. The inspiration is foreign, but at the core of it is a truly Pinoy story.
Though “non-geeks” may not easily find themselves warming up to the book, there is still some good, entertaining pieces of writing. No matter who reads Carljoe Javier, they will find themselves caught in his fantastic and imaginative world. By the end of it perhaps they will have a deeper understanding of the Pinoy Geek’s ways (or any other geek, for that matter).
Carjoe’s writings – not just with “Geek Tragedies” but also with “The Kobayashi Maru of Love”, “And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth” – have given the Pinoy Geeks a voice that will not be hushed anytime soon. There is no tragedy with what Carljoe Javier’s writings have done for the geeks; there is only triumph.*