Category Archives: sighed views

Fire Exit

The inferno in Butuan on Wednesday was a complete tragedy. Lives were taken away like ashes blown by the wind.

photo courtesy: Mark Samson

The three-storey garment store was infamously called Novo. We used to sneak out from high school and spend time window shopping there, enjoying the temperature against the usual city heat, and in mind was the folly of shoplifting plans. From notebooks to under wears to towels to chocolates to red-dressed sales lady – all were memories of what was Novo. And in an instant unexpected, everything of what used to be a well-known department store of the city has fallen to ashes. Everyone felt the tragedy of the inferno eating up the walls and people of the store.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. at the second floor where more than 20 are stay-in workers. The fire was put out at 6:15. And according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s site, 17 were killed, most of whom were women who were asleep and trapped on the top floor. City fire officials confirmed this, so with the truth that they still not have found out what caused the fire.

photo courtesy: AP

Store employee Mylene Tulo, who escaped with two co-workers, said she was roused from sleep as the fire spread speedily in the third-floor office where they slept. Amid the inferno and yells for help, they managed to sprint out.

“We wanted to rouse others from sleep, but the fire was already too strong,” said Tulo who is suffering a fracture on the left foot. The other two also sustained minor burns on their arms.

“The three of us were able to jump outside the building using a narrow fire exit near the office; many were trapped,” she added.
Relatives and friends, most of them in shock and tears, gathered in search of loved ones in front of the building, where police stood before body bags with the victims’ remains.

It was unbelievable and unimaginable, others say. But no, it wasn’t unbelievable. It was imaginable. It wasn’t the first case of fire in the country or in the city. But, people seemed to have not learned anything at all. We have mourned over burnt lives and wealth before. And here we find ourselves doing the same thing again; all because we lack precautionary measures. These incidents are caused by the most evident reason: this country lacks of firefighting equipment and personnel coupled with safety violations.

People lack the initiative of thinking about worst possibilities.
Until then, we will be witnessing another Novo falling as ashes to the ground so long as we are not vigilant and protected. We will hear yells and sirens and sobs of loss. We do the same , not until we learn how to open the fire exits just before fire goes wild.

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Paws and posts

In this times when teenage satisfactions are determined by ‘likes’ and ‘follows,’ a one-month old kitten is killed and a puppy is hang dried.

Gone are the days when brutality only meant savage human killings and cannibalism. Tweets and statuses replace the 300-pages pad-locked diaries. Photos, in one click, spread through virtual albums. A boy is convicted of ‘animal cruelty’ because of a blog post. Another teenage lad is being sought after by the police after posting pictures of a cute puppy pinned in a clothesline.

The cat-killer’s name is Joseph Carlo Candare. He was a Physics student of the University of the Philippines when the news broke. His blurry pictures flashed through the screens when he blogged about the death of Tengteng – a stray cat he killed on 2009.

“I pulled it (the cat) on its tail and threw it. Then like some pro wrestler I jumped on it and my feet landed on its torso. Slam! Felt good,” Candare wrote on his blog.

It was yet a short time after the post when ‘animal-loving’ netizens condemned him. Posters of him ‘wanted alive or dead’ ran through different websites. Pages in FB speaking he should be slammed too, had been a hit. It was an instant shame, not fame. And it’s funny how people have been too cruel for a person which once had been ‘cruel’ to animals. The non-mention of his name in the television news was futile because he became a wanted celebrity in the virtual world.

Two years after, he pleaded guilty of animal cruelty filed by the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He was convicted with a P1000 fine and voluntary works in PAWS, taking care 200 abandoned and maltreated cats.  His was the first successful conviction of someone accused of animal cruelty in the Philippines. He learned his lesson. But other teens did not seem to have learned the same.

Another teenage boy is facing charges of animal cruelty. Jerzon Senador pinned his puppy in a laundry line like it was a piece of a newly washed cloth on June 2011. The internet went abuzz shortly after he uploaded several of the ‘disturbing’ photos and, apparently, in less than 24 hours he got himself into snag when animal and pet lovers immediately created and supported a Facebook page “Report Jerzon Senador the Animal Abuser” purposely “to raise awareness regarding animal cruelty.” More than 4,300 netizens liked the page.

Senador apologized through a post in FB saying “Gusto ko humingi ng tawad sa nagawa kong kasalanan sa aking alagang aso.. Sana mapatawad nyo ako at pinapangako ko na hindi na mauulit… “but shortly, after minutes, he had an equally disturbing post saying “Hahaha, hnd ako makukulong noh.. remember senador toh! aquh ng pa2pad ng Animal cruelty at kya kong bawiin yun! ahahahaha”

The Municipal Trial Court of Calamba, Laguna issued a warrant of arrest against him for violation of Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act.  The boy is nowhere to be found right now.

These may serve a lesson to us. It is never good to share too many information through the internet, at the very first place, so is the being cruel to animals and to JC and to Jerzon.

One click and everything worsens. This is the power of the internet. Each netizen should be extra careful of what he posts and shares. It is still better to share compassion rather than tearing those people’s lives apart. The posts of putting those ‘erring young people’ to shame would not even solve the problems of animal cruelty in the country. Be a tool in sharing, tagging and tweeting about love for animals and people around, instead.

In the end, do not post your cruelty to animals through the internet. I mean, do not be cruel to animals and to the people who had been cruel to them.

Because in this times when teenage satisfactions are determined by ‘likes’ and ‘follows,’ what you feed to the virtual world is much influential than the helpless barks and ‘meows.’

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At Large

JUSTICE in this country is elusive. It makes no sense for people who dwelt in believing it is only a term people utter in thin air, without anyone grasping the quintessence of it. It is odd. It is often spoken of, but is never found.

 It is printed on papers, on laws, scratches and unopened dictionaries. The word is scrawled red in the placards of street protesters. The stories of it not being realistic are often conveyed through their shouts and prayers. Cries of the people whose loved ones are not served it are audible – as audible as the struggles of two student activists as they were being dragged by armed men; as audible as the sound of a pulled trigger, making a wife lose her life to the ground; as audible as the news that had broke about an environmentalist-broadcaster’s demise.

We know of these incidents. We know of the men who are guilty of these. We know nothing of their hiding places.

This is what justice in this country is.

Impunity stands over it. The big men step on it. The guilty ones spit on it, run away and are seized not. Even when their heads cost wealth for those who would find them, they still all remains at large.

Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, both student activists from University of thePhilippines, were kidnapped on 2006 in Bulacan. A report said they were hanged upside down and were made to drink their own piss. Six years had passed and they are still missing, so is their abductor, retired major general Jovito Palparan.

Palparan is hard to find because the fugitive had received the same training as his hunters, says Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome.

 “If they’re serious about it, there’s a way. Otherwise, they can think of many reasons not to do it,” grieving mother of Karen rebuts.

 The P500, 000 offer of the government for Palparan’s capture seems not effective. The strategies of the authorities of capturing him also are, because it’s never just Palparan who is in the list. Evident as we may find, the word justice may never even was included in that list.

Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes is also one. After deemed wanted in connection with the murder of Gerry Ortega in January 2011, he is not still found. He is free somewhere with Mario, his brother and mayor of Coron,Palawan. And so he sends messages to the radio stations, promoting love and understanding among the Palaweños. He is hiding, he says, “in the hearts of the people” ofPalawan.

He once said he serves for justice but ran away when he was the one to sit as the accused. He continues sending his messages about when he finally comes out while the family of Ortega continues on spelling the word justice inside their minds.

And just recently, another name was enlisted as a fugitive king. His name is Ruben Ecleo, Jr., representative of theislandofDinagat. Worshipped as the grandmaster of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries of the Philippines (PBMA), he managed to hide away from the call of the court and its ruling. He is wanted in connection with his graft conviction at the Sandiganbayan and a more recent parricide case for the death of his wifein 2001 . Her name is Alona. And her husband and accused murderer is nowhere to be found.

They’re all missing. The justice is.

We would never find out how it is like to have justice served for us, for the people who long sought for it. Because in fact, it was long forgotten by people even if they so fight for it. The president we have also fought for it, having his father gunned down to death. In the long run, it is still the same because the people who should be serving it to the people would not seem find ways to seize the fugitives. They find it impossible and difficult.

How justice in this country is defined then if the ones who committed the gravest crimes are still missing?

They’re powerful yet guilty.  But they are still at large. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MISStake

She is 23 and a woman of beauty. In a world where beauty is spelled by a fair white skin, long legs that step on high heels and a smile tinted by red lipstick, she could be a queen. The crown isn’t still hers, though. All she wanted is for all the planets to look up her while she stands in the center of the universe. She wants their applause and cheers. She wants the title. She wants respect.

She is 23 and was 19 when she changed her life and entity. She was 19 when she had a new name.

I met her on the television; her face flashed through the news. Almost perfect, she’s a beauty queen betting to represent her country to a prestigious beauty conquest. Her name is Jenna. She was born a he.

Jenna Talackova of Canada is a transsexual. She said she had known since the beginning that she was born with the wrong gender. The real ‘she’ was once trapped in a body of testosterone, so she decided to freed out the cocooned ‘she’ four years ago. The whole Canada was deceived. She screened for Miss Universe Canada and eventually became an official candidate. She’s blonde and pretty, passed all the requirements and was later found out she missed an item – the one that states that she should be born a woman. She is a woman. He was born ‘Walter.’

It became a huge talk when she appealed her being disqualified from the contest. But it became a huger talk when the Miss Universe Organization allowed her to compete “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.” She remains an official candidate for the title this May.

Having recognized the freedom for sexual orientation of the then Walter was great. Allowing her and other ‘Jennas’ that would follow her steps to enter a competition for women, is yet too much.

I have nothing against men changing their genders, or even women, at that. It’s a choice, they say. It just that Miss Universe should be promoting genuine woman beauty. Simply, artificial people should not be allowed to compete. Her intentions aren’t questionable. She wants to fulfill her childhood dream. She wants not be discriminated. She wants to be respected and fight what she thinks is an individual right.

I ain’t promoting transsexuality, she says. By words she doesn’t. But the act she’s made has perhaps given an impact to a confused 14-year old boy and has for all time posed in front of the mirror and waved to his own reflection, to change his genitals. He has finally met his hero.

The gays are competitive by nature. They want to prove themselves (sometimes, that they are better than any other). If a pageant organizer, such as Miss Universe Organization, allows them to compete over real women, the number of artificial women joining might even be larger than those of natural beauties. It a promotion of plastic surgery. It a promotion of over choice, an implicit campaign for women to change their physical attributes just to fit to their standards of beauty.

It’s okay to exercise our own innate freedom but we must consider limitations. A he could never be a she no matter how identical their entities may be. A beauty contest for women should never be joined by men. A competition for genuine beauty should never be tainted with plasticity.

Her name is Jenna and many might follow her. She wants the crown and the title. She’s got the freedom and my respect. But the truth be told, Miss Universe should never be a he.

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F-Perfect

I write this column under the tantrums of the sky. The clouds cry. The tears won’t seem get dry. And even if how I try to make the most poetic rhymes, this isn’t a mere Shakespearean piece delivered to a heart deserted by bliss.

This column is not mine. The words are, but the emotions are not. This column hears the silent sob amidst the deafening, despising laughter. The weak is always devoured by the mockery of the strong; faces humiliation and being pushed to the graves of condemnation. They are the rotten apples of the scrutinizing eyes – abnormal, unheard, and bullied.

With couples of eruptions in his face, James conceals the hurt inside. He blames it to the hormones that never met equilibrium. They blame it to his parents for breeding an “ugly species.” They thought everything was fine with how big his smiles were. The pain is concealed. A clown with a tomato nose also knows how to cry – with teardrops a lot copious than his pimples and people’s curses. James’ life is more than what’s written on his face. His story reveals more than the laughter he hears from people with pretty faces but crooked hearts. He also falls in love and gets rejected by the girl who always wishes for Sam Milby. And he is ugly but that doesn’t mean he isn’t beautiful. He is the boy you laugh at because he never fits to what the world considers handsome. He is the boy who had just lost the faith to himself because you made him feel so. He is bullied. And this column is his.

She is the laughing stock of the entire class. With her size, it would not be hard for one to notice her. Sadly, she considers herself to be the biggest loser, with a capital L. And Sharon Cuneta would never change others’ treatment towards her. People would always think of her eating even the plates. The kitchen is her supposed hideout. But no matter how huge she may be her heart is still frail. Insensitive fire-breathing individuals always break it. Size does not always equal strength for her pounds do not make her heart tough. She is Betsy – the fat girl you laugh at because she’s as big as the earth. She is Betsy – the big girl who had just lost the faith to herself because you made her feel so. She is bullied. And this column is hers.

He would hear them shouting he’s a child born out of soot. With a pair of ruined rubber shoes, patched faded pants, and literally holed pockets – he is so rich with people’s judgmental, swearing words. He is being looked-down by people he looks up. If poverty was a crime, he surely is behind the bars now. Loloy is being considered an outcast because he was never born with a silver spoon on his mouth. He’s impoverished and he never denies that. Being financially poor is never a sin. A poor treatment to them is. He is being looked down because he works to just finance his studies. But he never is ashamed of that. Being a working student does not make one less than being a human. And he may never had lived in a castle, but what’s inside his heart is much precious than the thousand bars of gold. He believes that no one is in higher position than anyone. After all, every one of us was born naked. That, at least, makes us all equal. He is Loloy – the boy you laughed at for having an empty pocket. He is the boy who had just lost the faith to himself because you made him feel so. He is bullied. And this column is his.

James, Betsy and Loloy have their pieces of their own stories. Sadly, we choose to cover our ears and give them not the chance of being heard, seen or felt. Our prejudices dictate they are not part of this world. And yes they are, because we let them be. People tend to just look out the garish panorama inside the rotten exterior. We are too blind to see and too numb to feel them. Everyone has his own imperfections. Our narrow minds fail to understand these.

Until when are we going to deem them as the “unfortunate” ones? When are we going to stop bullying them?

That girl you laughed at because of his mispronunciations and grammatical mistakes also try her best to be understood. That man you badly stare because of his cut legs had long struggle to walk and continue his life’s journey. That black-skinned gal with curly hair is also finding the beauty within her. The mute has something to say. Those frustrated musicians you wish you’d thrown with rotten tomatoes still have the rights to sing their hearts out. She can still write even when she lost an arm. He can still paint using his mouth. The cowardice is a soldier of his own battle. The gays are not aliens. The toothless brings the sweetest smiles. You call him stupid but he’s never an idiot. She’s just a banana cue vendor but she deserves respect. Too skinny individuals suffer from illnesses we never cared to know. They are unheeded. They’re mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood. And you never have to become Pink just to appreciate them and know they’re fucking perfect. They are all bullied. And this column is theirs.

We do not have the rights to judge them, they are not books. And Melanie Marquez may never have the eloquence and may have broken the grammatical rules. But she still made a message cross, I believe we all understand.

I have started writing this column on a starless night – when it rained cats and dogs. I started writing this with much hopes of being understood. And prayed the readers would learn a lot from this. I end this now, on a sunny morning with the same prayers and hopes. I wish that somehow through this, the clouds insides the people’s minds and the rain from the eyes of those who own this column would prevail no more. I hope to see them smiling, respected and understood even when the sun decides to set to the west.

For this column is never mine. And like the bullied individuals, this column wishes to be heard.

***

Note: This article was first published on my column “Sighed Views” @ the first semester issue of the Mindanao Varsitarian, A.Y. 2011-12.

11.23.11

That day, the University’s Peace Park was flooded by red and black. The location of the infamous fountain became an abode of students shouting for justice. I was there. Overwhelmed with the number of students who responded to our invitation, I looked unto the faces – some where familiar, some were new.

Two years. Two years had passed when piteous people were massacred. What flashed on my mind were the graves, the dead bodies and the backhoe. I hoped the candles would somehow help.

I once again looked at the different faces. Then, I saw you.

***

You came wearing red, bringing the fight for the 58 who have been killed. In your heart you wanted justice. I saw you from afar calling and persuading the people to join the fight. A megaphone in the right hand. A camera on the other. You wanted to be a journalist – alive, not dead. You stand with the burning passions to spreading the truth and serving the people. You wished to dig the justice buried in the graves. You lit a candle. And you whisper your prayers in the air, neglecting the fact that you might not be heard. A silent tear fell.

***

I saw you lining up for the unity march. You stood behind me wearing white. You were pretty – the kind of face people would not usually see shouting on the streets. We started agitating. You started laughing. It was your first time, I heard you saying. And you enjoyed it. You were with the group of student activists but you know you never belonged. We continued shouting. You continued smiling. It was cute. The experience was. You know what we were fighting for but you never understand why we do. You lit a candle. And you asked a friend to take a photo of yours – for FB.

***

Written on the streamer was a call. Hustisya para sa mga biktima ng Maguindanao Massacre. You held the other end with a strong grip. Clutched in your other hand was a paper. You took glances to start off the bat-bat. You tried to shout the words out and pained your throat to speak the words even louder. Being in the frontline never embarrassed you. You had been used to attending rallies. You had been used to shouting the fight others would not even give a damn. You lit a candle, certainly not for the last time. You’ve got a heart willing to bleed for the plight of the people. You serve them at your own expense.

***

You watched us at the side of the streets. You were with your friends and I knew what your smirks meant. I could almost see you rolling your eyes. But I am certain you said the words. It stabbed me. “What’s the use of the rally?” Then you laughed as if were the dumbest persons you had ever met. I wanted to blurt out right in front of you the cause of what we were doing. I continued heading to where the road will lead – shouting and doing the thing you considered futile. You remained at the side of the road throwing a despising look to the queue of student activists. You never lit a candle. I hope you did. The candle melts but the fight wouldn’t.

***

I was taken aback with your voice. You turned away after speaking the lines. For a long time the words were trapped inside my head. “Those who support the most have the least to offer.”It had taken me a couple of seconds to finally have a grasp to those very words. I felt my throat was burning. My chest tightened. I never thought it would come from someone like you. You wore glasses but you still failed to see the essence of what we did. We support the most but we don’t have the least to offer. We have chosen to support because it’s the best thing we could offer. You never lit a candle. I hope you did. The light might have saved you from your clouding mind.

***

Like the hundred you’s, I lit a candle. I was thankful that many of the youths are still involved in the struggles for meeting social ends. Our voices were small. The candles’ light had already burnt out but the passion of some still is igniting. I hope it would last.

light in the dark


I lit a candle. I prayed for the souls of those who had died and of the justice that we had long sought for.

I lit a candle. I prayed for the people who haven’t heeded the time’s call.

I lit a candle. I prayed it would be the last time I’d be lighting a candle for those two reasons.

 

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