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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

One Fine Eyeball

I met one of the more famous residents of Blogville last night. His site has always been one of my favorite reads and I admit to getting excited to finally put a face to the peculiar web pseudonym.

I felt a tinge of apprehension as I approached the meeting place. I knew that many bloggers are of the intellectual, condescending type and my islander upbringing may not jive with their urban chic. Baka biglang magtakbuhan pag nakita ako!

Happily, the eyeball turned out fine. The blogger and his friend were cordial and down-to-earth; the types I get along with. After the initial awkward introductions, our conversations flowed like we were long-time friends.

This, I guess, is one good thing with meeting bloggers. While technically strangers to each other, you already share a lot of prior personal information that could serve as foundations for the establishment of rapport later on. Unless of course, the parties set fancy expectations that could push them back in case the bubble bursts. But that’s another story.

I had very modest expectations last night as I simply wanted to unveil the person behind the blog. And I wasn’t disappointed. Truth be told, I actually pegged my beer consumption to two bottles max, but given the enjoyable discussion that ensued, the limit was breached by so many folds. The hangover notwithstanding, I am happy with the thought that I just started a new network of friends. Masaya to!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Legally Making Him a "She"

“When is a man a man and when is a woman a woman? In particular, does the law recognize the changes made by a physician using scalpel, drugs and counseling with regard to a person’s sex? May a person successfully petition for a change of name and sex appearing in the birth certificate to reflect the result of a sex reassignment surgery?”

This was the question agonized over by the Supreme Court when it decided on the petition filed by Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio, who wanted to be officially named “Mely” and his gender recognized as “female” on account of the physical “re-engineering” that he has undergone.

I remember this case because we discussed this in class at the time when media reported the filing of the original petition in the lower court.

There were those of us who argued that every person has the right to pursue happiness, and in this case, all that the Court should do is to recognize the changes made on the physical attributes of Rommel and provide him complete release from everything associated with the “wrong” gender he was born with. After all, society has already accepted him for who he is now, and it is just his person that is eventually affected.

But when our professor counseled us to browse through the law, we did find no specific basis to grant the wishes of Silverio. Existing laws provide only for correction of clerical or typographical errors or whenever the name is (1) ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce (2) habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and he has been publicly known by that first name or nickname in the community; or where the change will avoid confusion.

There had been precedents covering allowed changes but not under the premises of Silverio’s circumstances. And as the Court noted, Rommel cited not the above reasons, but his sex-change operation as basis for the petition. Clearly, that ground is not in the books.

But presuming he did, say he claimed that “Mely” is the name he has continually and habitually used, would the petition have prospered? Not even, as he likewise failed to present “proper or reasonable cause or any compelling reason justifying such change”. For in the contrary, it is society that will have to suffer eventually as it will now have flexible or bendable definitions of gender which are supposed to have been determined at birth. It will now affect existing laws on marriage (which is only man-woman) and will confuse the implementation of gender-based legislation.

So, much as it would have wanted to make Silverio happy and complete, the Court, in the end decided not to use, in this instance, its law or rule making powers. It reiterated that it has to be Congress that should lay the ground rules for the recognition of innovations spawned by medical technology, as such indeed could trigger effects on existing laws recognizing specific gender roles.

Rommel may just have to live with the papers he has today. After all happiness is being contented with one has, and since he already possesses the attributes he had dreamed of, he may just as well enjoy them despite the absence of official recognition. To Rommel, Cheers! Just be happy.


I have known of many people who had to go to court to correct wrong entries on their birth certificates as regards their gender. Sayang! Sana nagkamali na lang din kaagad yung civil registrar. Ok lang naman sana yung Rommel na “female” di ba? :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Unwilling Suspension of Disbelief

I can’t believe some people would think we Filipinos could be so dense we would just bite every moronic idea they ply on TV.

Take these:

Governors, after vehement denials, now claim it’s their organization’s funds that were given out to Among Ed and the other Malacañang guests. Sure! But how about the pious and moralistic Cong. Abante who already admitted receiving advanced Christmas gifts? Congressmen are now members of the Governor’s League? Susmaryopes…

GMA, after hearing a report on the attempted bribery of the not-so-brave Sec. Nery, ordered a secret investigation to verify the allegation. Talaga lang ha. So what should we expect then? A clearance of course. Now, in the light of discovery the largesse distribution in Malacañang, the PAGC has been ordered to investigate. Hohumm..

And the most blatant stupidity of all, who on earth believe that people would kill each other over a chicken recipe? Just how many ways could fowl be cooked talaga ha? If I fry my chicken like McDonald’s, could I get sued for unfair competition? Naknampatatas namang Ysabella yan oo! :-)

Friday, October 19, 2007

I Would Have Been a Politician

Had fate not played a cruel joke on me, I would have been a different person by now; a politician to be exact. But looking at how my contemporaries have metamorphosed into present-day gremlins, I surely would have hated the man I'd turn out to be. Or worse, a thousand others would have hated me even more.

I had my initiation early, plunging into the realm of youth politics when I was 16. No, I did not have rogue trapos for mentors – it was the mainlanders that opened my eye to political dirt.

In my island (that time, at least), elections were still of the ideal kind. I remember getting elected in the barangay youth council without a penny spent. My opponent and I simply personally campaigned at school, in billiard halls and other gambling spots, by the beach or even along the stream where the potential voters do their laundry. We did not even have posters, no grand gatherings. It was purely a test of one’s charm and convincing power. But despite that, voter turn-out was high.

I won by a very slim margin.

The election for the municipal representative went the same way – peaceful like a classroom election. I got elected Municipal Chairman and it was only after the proclamation when I fished out funds for snacks – of Skyflakes and Coke. There were no protests, no bruised egos.

Imagine my surprise when we Municipal Chairmen, were called for the provincial level elections and realized that our more sophisticated counterparts at the kabisera were pursuing different tactics, as they engaged in clever machinations to gain votes. For one, they were not regular guys like me - they were mostly relatives of incumbent local officials. They tell us that even at the barangay level, they already faced fierce competition as the elections already took a highly political color.

We realized that the stakes were high. Since the provincial chairman will sit at the Sanggunian Panlalawigan (Provincial Board), it was made clear to us that the post is critical to maintain party control. Pride was at stake. So to make sure that the provincial chairman will come from the party, the Governor was asked to step in. And since there were many aspirants from within the party, the politicos decided to hold an internal election first.

There I got my baptism of fire, my first brush at vote-buying. People gave-out envelopes at our every turn, instructing us, “barriotic” islanders and the non-aspirants to vote for this or that candidate. We were invited to lavish dinners and were “hatid-sundo” to and from our hosts so as not to allow the other candidates to snatch us.

During the mock elections, an influential mayor’s son won, fair and square. We were just supposed to support him the next day during the formal election. Everyone swore to abide by the results of the poll.

On the scheduled day, the youth leaders from the other party boycotted the formal elections, recognizing that they were clearly outnumbered. Our group was supposed to just proceed without a hitch. But instead of just going through the motions, the losers decided to have another election.

Tired of being treated as mere voters, I moved that each person can only run for a single office, so that the others may have the chance at getting elected. They agreed. All that was important anyway was the Chairmanship.

All the big guns were nominated for the position but in the end, the same guy won. But for the Vice Chairman, we, the virtual unknowns were the only ones left. I was nominated and won. Of course, the post meant nothing. Or so we all thought.

Wrong. Three months thereafter, our Provincial Chairman died!

It was there when I got recognized, not only by our town, but the province as well, as a rising political prodigy. During political campaigns, I would speak immediately before our Mayor, ranked higher than the more mature local leaders. I would even conduct a separate campaign run by the youth – of course with a budget separate and distinct from that of the regular politicos.

Going into college, I already had a rolled-out plan. I would enroll in UP Tacloban and just travel home for the Provincial Board sessions. I would of course have regular interactions with my constituents.

But all my dreams were dashed when the OIC Governor (this was the transition government after the EDSA Revolution) adamantly refused to allow me to assume the post. We begged, to no avail. We were even able to secure orders from Malacañang to have me installed, but he would rather have the seat vacant. I would later learn that another politician from our island was fiercely blocking my appointment.

My parents were not seasoned politicians, so we did not know how to play the field. We tried reaching out to connections but nothing happened. The provincial gods probably could not accept the fact that an islander would end up being their youth leader. Exasperated, we decided to give up the fight.

I went to Manila for my studies and forgot about my political dream. It wasn’t meant to be.

It pained me, yes, because I felt then that I had a calling. But years hence, in hindsight I realize, it must have been the devil teasing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Biogesic please!

The grammar-conscious Supreme Court justices must have suffered nausea and severe headache after reading this single-paragraph lamentation, err.. decision from a lower court judge. The case (People vs. Edison Mira, October 10, 2007) was about a rape committed by a father against his own daughter. Read on:

“AAA and her sister could not testify and narrate the said heinous crime against their father if this is not true x x x and this Court is indeed convince that the child would not put up this testimonies if it were not true. What makes these bastardous act more appalling is the fact that this rape is being committed in front and at the very eyes of her other children. Indeed, the bestial act committed by the father against his own flesh and blood deserves the highest penalty which this Court could impose. Now could the father commit this grievous crime against his own daughter when it should be the former who should protect and care for the latter is a question as perplexing and enigmatic as todays’ time. Everyday, it is judicial knowledge how common this type of canards are being committed by the parents against their [helpless] children. The very least that this Court could do is to minimize, if not to eliminate this heinous crime is by way of showing an example by meting out the supreme penalty to the perpetrator of this crime so as to deter others from committing this kind of mayhem, specially so when this Court is convinced beyond any doubt as to the complicity of the accused. Indeed, what a horrendous [world this would] be if the child could no longer trust their parents because of their bestial deeds. When the two daughters, [AAA] and [BBB] were asked whether or not they still love their father, the duo immediately without an iota of hesitation, responded in the negative. When asked why, they answered that they don’t love their father [any] longer because of the rape; the sexual molestation committed by Edison. Truly, no daughter in her right mind could continue to love their father if the latter continuously commits this kind of malfeasance.”

Paging Mr. Gibbs Cadiz!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Home, Revisited

The place now looks different, but not strangely familiar. There’s no denying I recognize its every nook and cranny, although they have already been stripped of the many things that once marked its entirety as our own.

I see the ravages of time as my gaze wandered. But no matter how time may dishevel its appearance, that entire space – with the house, the trees, the water well and everything else in the vicinity - will always be HOME. There is the cradle of our youth, the repository of sweet, poignant memories.

For most of our early life, we lived in this cottage built inside the public high school where my father worked as a teacher. This arrangement made us look and feel special, as it created an environment different from the rest of the town. We were practically located atop a hill far from the center of town. Call it suburbia, island-town style.

The community was small. There were only three houses from our side of the campus. There were probably nine others from the other sides but they were quite far. One cannot even call them neighbors. But that didn’t stop us from bonding with the rest of the kids. The entire school grounds were ours to explore. We would climb the ceilings of the classrooms, steal pineapples from the school farm, pick young coconuts, build our own “houses”, or just play at the open field. Finding and herding us back home when dawn breaks was pretty difficult.

Our house lies about 500 meters from the school gate. That’s the only disadvantage I could think of. You see, there was no electricity yet at the time (it’s still scheduled even today). That means that if by any chance you’re still out after dusk, you would have to traverse that entire length as you go home. It doesn’t make any difference if it were pitch dark or as bright as the full moon could glow. Instinct, or the fear of the fabled encantos, will automatically fire your feet to run like crazy as soon as you close the heavy gate.

For the run to be shorter, many times I wished it were just a straight pathway. But it wasn’t. And more, somewhere in the middle of the route lies a short bridge (covered by a nipa roof during our time, making it more eerie). From there, you can see straight ahead the flickering light of the gasera by the porch. With that as beacon, I would make my final dash to the comforts of home (I swear the bridge would seem to move as soon I’d step on it). Lydia de Vega would have been no match.

The trees we planted as part of our elementary school projects were still there. These were the trees that I would climb if I sulk from parental dressing down, or when I try to memorize a poem. I’m not sure though if the knifed messages are still there somewhere in the trunks.

We left the place when my father died long before he would have retired. It took us a while to simply retrace our steps and visit. It was quite painful at the time. It wasn’t easy leaving and forgetting something that is already part you. Truth be told, we weren’t ready to leave. But life has to move on. And we have.

So now, as I stand by the grounds that nurtured me, all I do is remember.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Giving in to Pacquiao

With a Solar Sports pay-per-view subscription, a friend invited me to join him and the rest of his townmates and neighbors in watching the Pacquiao – Barrera fight live. With nothing much to do, I went. As soon as I arrived, I challenged everyone to a bet. I was rooting for Barrera.

Not that I thought Barrera was the better fighter. It’s just that I’m getting annoyed with Mannymania. I can no longer take the hullabaloo about every petty thing about him (alright, I could just be damn envious!) and when he decided to join politics (thank goodness, he failed!), I have more or less firmed up my aversion to anything connected to him.

But boxing is indeed where Manny is King and one just can’t help but give it to the guy for totally lording that territory. Truth is, from the time Kyla sang the National Anthem followed by such thunderous applause, I was already a convert to his cause.

I realized it was then no longer about Manny – it was about being a Filipino. This country doesn’t have much to brag about in the community of nations and to counter the surge of nationalistic emotion is a blow to patriotism. For once, it is Manny’s show that makes Filipinos one in spirit. Try diminishing that impact and you’re guilty of rebellion.

And the adulation is far from being unfounded. Manny knows how to please his people, he knows that sports is also entertainment. That’s why he initiates the contacts, takes risks and taunts his opponent to match his adrenaline. If you have seen the Luevano undercard fight, you would know what I mean. That was one boring fight, a fight between two machos massaging each other with limp punches. That definitely was not boxing as Manny’s dictionary would define it.

And while yesterday’s fight did not turn out as gory as we would all have wished (where’s the knock-out?), it was still something to be jubilant and thankful for, if only for the fun and excitement it generated. The fight had my vocal chords stretched to the limit. It also caused a lot of bonding among friends and neighbors.

What happened to my bet?

Of course I retrieved it early on. Ano ako, bali?! :-)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

SOS! Engine Dead at Mid-Sea!

PAGASA reported that a typhoon was approaching the Philippines when we tried crossing the sea separating mainland Samar and our island. But since the Coast Guard did not stop our boat from leaving port, we knew it was okay to take the trip. And besides, we islanders are used to cruising rough seas, so off we went.

The boat was jampacked – about a hundred people on board. There was only one available boat actually, so there really was no choice but to join the huddle, not just in its belly but all over. Did I just say overloading? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. Probably not.

We experienced heavy tossing and rocking as the boat plod its route, but it was, again, normal. Until we reached midway and then .. the boat stopped. It’s engine unceremoniously conked out! Initial reports from the people at the back said that the boat just ran out of fuel. Fine.

Then the crew tried starting the engine. First pull … nothing. Second … nothing. Ten times hence, the people starting panicking. And thanks to the wonders of technology, there was cellphone signal at mid-sea! People immediately started calling and texting contacts in the island, asking for any possible help.

We drifted for about 20 minutes, cradled by the seemingly taunting sea. Some crew have already jumped to the sea to check the problem from below. By then, we were already being pushed out of the way by the current, the boat's bow now facing the Pacific. Not a funny prospect, I thought.

From afar, we saw a boat approaching us. That gave us assurance that things will be fine. Help is on the way.

Fortunately, after so many agonizing tries, the engine revved back to life. Soon after the rescue boat reached us. Yes, this boat!

We laughed hard seeing that it was so small, it could have just accommodated two persons just in case there was need to abandon ship. Well, better than nothing, he he. We could have just drawn lots.

The text brigade has already caused a stir in the island, so as we approached, there were already a lot of people massed at the docking area.

And as we finally reached shore, we all had a story to tell.