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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Massacre by the Ampatuans

photo by Kiri Lluch Dalena

Stronghold of the southland. Lords of political dynasty. Executioners. They are the Ampatuans. On November 23, 2009, they committed the most gruesome slaughter of 58 men and women. Fathers, mothers, sons, children, lawyers and journalists – mutilated, buried under piles of rubbles and dirt and smashed vehicles. Two years after, the soil of Maguindanao continue to crave for justice, papers bleed inks of mourning and still, two years after, the glaring impunity persists. 

I’ll tell you the same story told harshly two years ago. In the morning of 23rd of November, Friday, 31 media workers together with the women of the Mangudadatu clan trailed the road leading to the capital Shariff Aguak. This was after Ismael Toto Mangudadatu declared his intention to run for governor, challenging its kings, the Ampatuans, once his allies. Fearing for his life, he sent his wife Jennalyn Mangudadatu and the others to file his certificate of candidacy, thinking since she’s a woman, barricaded by lawyers and the rolling cameras of media men, she will be safe. Only death found them. 

It is a murder, so evil, Philippines became the most dangerous place in the world for the practice of journalism. Men and women, children and mere passersby, stripped of their own identity, bodies disfigured, buried by the same backhoe with imprints of perpetrators names. 

Two years after, 197 people were accused, 93 were arrested of which 64 were arraigned whereas 87 people were presented as witnesses by the prosecution. Two years after, only two main suspects from the Ampatuan clan have been arraigned. The primary suspect, Andal Ampatuan Jr. has not been arraigned for trial. Zaldy Ampatuan meanwhile appealed to the government to turn him state witness in exchange for testimony that could pin his family for murder. 

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, in an interview for dzMM says more than half of the entire numbers of suspects are still at large. He admitted case’s progress is very slow. In the words of a certain Joker Arroyo, he thinks this case might take 200 years to be presented and resolved. And that might be true and all, but if we look at a family who lost both its father and mother, when we listen to a son reminisce how he found his daddy’s piece of finger, eye out of it socket, while still convincing himself of that faint chance that the body might not be the same daddy who use to challenge him for a push-up match, tell me, should we count those 200 days and wait what lies ahead? 

But we do not see 200 as 200 in the same way that we don’t see 58 as 58. Along with them died universes, a family that lost its father, a mother who lost his son with a promise of a better home for her and a news organization that lost its most promising young journalist. Lamentably, the current Aquino administration shows little interest in helping these families. Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma once said, "we will seriously look into this concern because this was a commitment made by the previous administration and we need to revisit this proposal. 

Today, everyone speaks of the same names yet the gavel of justice has not given its verdict. The ghosts of the Ampatuan's private army continue to march within the grounds of their territories, scaring the living, reminding everyone how heads rolled at the mention of few names and nods of them warlords. The roll of justice's wheel is slow. The country’s justice system is flawed. 

It is hard to believe. Sometimes, whenever I listen to their stories, I had to shake my head, convince myself that this is totally unthinkable. This could not have happened. When you are twenty four, twenty two when the massacre happened, you believe that there are innate goodness people possessed. But when you witness the counting of bodies, 48, 49, 50 and then another more under a Toyota Vios, under a certain Adventure and several more under many vans, you realize, death is always there in a country once called pearl of the orient. 

Two years after, we tell the same sad tale, we march under the same battle and we cry the same plea of searching. Writing and telling stories about this massacre will not give much, I know that, and I’m sure all journalists knew that. We fight, not because 32 among our colleagues are killed in that certain highway, but because we are Filipinos second and humans first. 

The end is still far from sight, but if we stop now, even for a second, in doing what we can in this arduous fight, not only we are condoning the murder of our 58 brothers, we also allow the Ampatuans to continuously mock us, continuously massacre our hope and repeatedly defy our pride and goodness as humans. 

These are the names of 58:

Noel “Bogs” Decena
Alejandro “Bong” Reblando
Daryl delos Reyes
Eduardo Lechonsito
Cecille Lechonsito
Mercy Palabrica
Wilhelm Palabrica
Humberto Mumay
Rey Merisco
Ronnie Perante
Jun Legarta
Val Cachuela
Santos “Jun” Gatchalian
Joel Parcona
John Caniba
Art Betia
Ranie Razon
Archie “Ace” David
Fernando “Ferdz” Mendoza
Daniel Tiamson
Jolito Evardo
McDelbert “Macmac” Arriola
Victor Nunez
Neneng Montano
Marites Cablitas
Gina dela Cruz
Ian Subang
Lea Dalmacio
Jhoy Dojay
Andy Teodoro
Bartolome “Bart” Maravilla
Napoleon “Nap” Salaysay
Henry Araneta
Bebot Momay
Genalin Mangudadatu
Eden Mangudadatu
Rowena Mangudadatu
Manguba Mangudadatu
Farida Mangudadatu
Farina Mangudadatu
Faridah Sabdulah
Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela
Cynthia Oquendo
Catalino Oquendo
Rasul Daud
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Monday, November 21, 2011

It will be better than before



And then I felt sad because I realised that once people are broken in certain
ways, they can't ever be fixed & this is something nobody ever tells you when
you are young & it never fails to surprise you as you grow older, as you see
the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going
to be, or if it's already happened. -Douglas Coupland
Jokes are often my thing – save for life’s cruel jokes. They’re never easy and often they come unexpected. Take for example what I always say. I’m too lazy to write so I declined to take journalism yet now, I make my living through writing. Not to mention having this blog, which, by the way, brings me to my next point. 

I was actually thinking of easing out my exit here in blogging lately. You know when you feel that you’ve already outgrown something? That’s how I feel as I stare at my blog, at this person called Désolé Boy which I incarnated more than a year ago. I was thinking it probably is the right time to make the curtain fall on Désolé Boy’s stage, take the final bow and leave quietly. 

There could’ve been regrets on my venture here, what with the many terrible life jokes I was thrown with and a few destruction that almost brawl me. But when I think of the few accomplishments, like that one surprise from international best seller novelist Jonathan Carroll corresponding through this blog, the e-mails and short messages I get saying they learn things and was touched by my writings, and of course meeting my iBlogger friends, somehow, saying goodbye gets tougher. 

So allow me to thank all of you, once more, especially Bino. If you’ll notice, I already got a domain of my own right now. From here on, it’s desoleboy.com. All credits must go to this gentleman, a very generous and a very good man I had the pleasure of meeting through here. 

I was never envious of the idea that I’m the only one not sporting a dot.com address out of the bunch. I am, after all, just a small voice in this vast blogosphere compared to them. Two or three visit count and they’re enough to make me go back to the drawing board and compose my next post. I could never be as good as Mugen, or as witty as Mandaya. I couldn’t write about the high end life like Kane and got no sexperiences like Soltero. I will never be as interesting and as hot like Papa P and could never provide you a high literary read like Nyl do. Also, I remained single throughout the course of this blog so it’s the same usual frustrations and dreams and passion and craziness I always share here, unlike Alterjon. That’s why I want to thank those who stayed regardless. It’s always been my pleasure. 

But we have to cut some ropes for a better, smoother sailing. Some baggages need to be thrown and some doors must be closed. Sometimes, few goodbyes are inevitable so we could have better hellos. Often times, I know one would think I’ve said too much, but like what this song says, please know that every word is true. 

Like Jonathan Carroll, there was this time when someone asked me if my blog is addressed to anyone in particular. I found it hard to answer his query for I know his intent was malicious and he was referring to an old entanglement with a fellow blogger. So it was with great relief that I can now answer that question with conviction and dignity. 

“This blog is my love letter to someone I haven’t met yet.”




______________

Many thanks again to Bino. Also to Carlo, Leah and everyone else and all the mentioned and unmentioned people in this blog. Thank you for the inspiration. 

Thank you also to all the people who've hurt me in so many ways and in too many times. The tears you brought me are the continuous ink bleeding before my papers. May God grant mercy in all of us. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An aria from the catacombs



I.

Somewhere along the calm of the night, someone is writing.


II.


Oh Helena, I am alone
Must you take me with Thee?
Must you and I take flee?

Carry me with you, Helena
to the bursting bliss of Thy Peace
where darkness never cease.

This tender madness,
this hideous duress
no more I could bear.

Oh why my goddess Helena
must the light be so cruel,
so illusive, so abusive?

Spare me from this bright abyss
such horror of sorrow
such despair that is tomorrow.

Lift me towards your darkness.
Save me.
Make me.




III.

…so our fervent poet wrote. The Moon, almost on its fullness, peers through in between of the blinds, joining the mild ghostly flickering light of candles. The poet writes furiously, running after metaphors and rhymes, afraid of them escaping his long-fingered bony hand before dawn arrives.

He quivers as the mild icy breeze of the Northern night whispers behind his ears. Loose pieces of papers spiraled in an invisible line. At once, they kissed the floor joining a clutter of pieces branded with strange lines and blackened dots.

The poet avoided the Sun in exchange for the Moon and the Stars. He writes at midnight thinking the darkened sky would hide him from the blinding brightness of sunshine. He hopes in darkness, he’ll be able to see better; that the deafening silence and calm of the night will carry him away from the many illusions of Light. In this, the poet becomes a creature of the dark.

For now, the last line was brandished. It’s almost dawn. Come dusk, the poet shall once again rise.



IV.

Good night tiny humans.

___

A little less past midnight, 20th of August, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
photo credit: a shot of  "Diary of a Time Bomb" (oil canvas, Diptych, 60 in x 96 in) by Ronald Caringal 
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Waking up, not on the wrong side, but on the wrong bed




I was so drunk last weekend to the point of passing out for some unexplainable reason. Alright, let me at least try telling you.

I'm sure at some point before we have our iPads and Macbooks, we've all been drowned by pestilential virus in our PCs. Remove and all, we did try our best including thousands of tools from the very same websites that gave these parasites. But they just keep coming back, yes? And just when you thought you finally eradicated these morons, there it is, sheepishly sitting comfortably in our PC system, breeding every second ticking.

That's what happened. A virus which I thought I already deleted on my system, continue to persist, glaring arrogantly at me after months and months of hardwork and resistance. I just couldn't understand how it happened. So I let the vile of booze and wine went all the way inside my gastritic system. Another virus, yes.

It was not really my intention, to be honest. A beer tower just appeared out of nowhere while we're dining at Gerry's grill, Saturday night. The girls came. The boys did, too. Partyphiles are messaging left and right and we gave in. I gave in.

At 1 am, I was already drunk. We tripped to Eastwood and continued the party. I was leaning at the back of Angela's car on our way not noticing this guy beside. He was Angela's classmate in college we'll call him by the name Preston.

I was half annoyed, half amused by his interrogations about my job. He's a communication graduate too but as he said, not fortunate enough to land a job inside the industry. He's a call center agent of some sort.

At first, I thought he was just trying to break the ice but as we trash the dancefloor in Circa, I realised the dude wanted a fuck for the night. And I'm his target. I'm his fuck.

My phone was ringing off the hook courtesy of my mother. Yes, I was drunk, but I kinda know she won't sleep well not until I get home. I must admit I wasn't able to tell her I'll be going home late. So I told my friends I need to go home and asked if someone could drive me to Cubao where I could hail an FX to Malolos. As with any good friend who wants to keep company for the party, no one bothered to.

So we went to some odd place, a shady condo somewhere in Makati and the party heats up. Preston shared some doobi which I declined at first. I haven't tasted that shit since high school, my darkest years. But he won't take no for an asnwer. He bit my ear, licked my neck and went on with my bitter lips. The doobi triggered everything. I just got wilder and wilder and I couldn’t control myself anymore. And the rest, of course, is history.

But the "horror" came late Sunday morning. I woke with a jolt. I'm wearing a white shirt and a blue striped boxers, lying in a unfamiliar bed. And the worst of it, Preston was beside me ...naked from waist up.

I quickly got up and looked for my clothes. Apparently, Preston was awake and spoke.

"Hey, are you going?"

"Yeah."

"Angela said she'll pick you up. Why don't you wait for her?"

Everything flashed back and it hit me. Angela promised we'll sleep in her apartment. While trying to suit up quietly, I was screaming curses for my very thoughtful friend for dumping me in this stranger's bed. And what the hell happened? Why am I not wearing my clothes? Questions drowned me. Did we have sex? Am I devirginized by this bloke? F*ck, what if he gave me HIV.  F*ck! F*ck! F*ck!

"Can you even remember me?" he asked at the middle of all these thoughts. He chuckled.

"We partied last night, right? But I must admit I can't remember your name. Peter?"

He laughs. I'm actually a sucker for name. And birthdays. And other important dates.

"Preston. And you're DB."

"I know I am. Listen, I'm sorry but I really have to go. Thank you for letting me crash in."

"It's nothing. Friends naman na tayo since friend mo si Angela and friend ko din siya college pa lang. That makes us officially friends," he declared.

"Alright."

I'm starting to feel better. I know I'm okay and by checking, somehow, I confirmed nothing against my normal mind happened. I felt no discomfort and everything was just my usual paranoia.

"Do you want to have coffee first? I'll make some," he blurted with his left brow slightly inching up. 

I studied his proposal staring at his bare chest. The sight might not be tempting enough but the idea of coffee after a night of shits sounds irresistible. But I know if I agreed upon his invitation, it would lead onto something I'm avoiding in the first place.

So my dear readers, what do you guys think DB did? Did he dive again to the boy’s bed, this time fully conscious or did he keep his vow of chastity and quietly went home? Take your wild guess at the comment section. For a few special people, your answer might make or break our friendship so don’t fret!



Kidding. Nothing you’ll say will be used against you.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't fall in love with a writer



I’ll tell you about it. Writers are like aliens. They string words of proportions to make people understand and see what their views yet behind all these, they have their own planets, they have their own language that even people of their own kind don’t get to fathom, at least most of the times. Writers are boring. They tend to look at the sky without particularly knowing why, or which part of the sky they’re staring at. They swoon over silver clouds while talking to a bunch of alter egos they always drag within them. 

Don’t fall in love with a writer. They love weaving magic carpets of words that will lift your poor soul far beyond the fray and cacophony of heartache and strife and will carry you to a realm of fantasies and dreams. Still, remember that words are words and fantasies are fantasies and that essays are just essays. 

Writers have the most deadly temper and the quickest switch-on switch-off mood. They are slaves to their emotion and can dramatize even a rusty leaking faucet. They justify everything in the name of their art. They read other people’s receipt and tend to eavesdrop at a couple having coffee nearby, not minding that you’re at his side, telling the most awesome tales of ants trailing the sidewalk. This, of course, is justifiable by saying “it’s research.” 

Also, writers give the cheapest of cheapest gifts. They’ll dote you with cards made of milk cartons with a written four-verse poem that doesn’t even rhyme. They’ll bring you flowers handed to them by admirers and would sometimes write “I love you” in your arms. Because state of poverty, to writers, are major avenues of their calling. They look at themselves as creatively complex and hard to understand in a Pablo Picaso cubism sort of way individuals since suffering is art. And because life in the media industry can be a cruel and a fickle beast, they can’t accept just any job. It has to serve their purpose. It has to contribute to a general public and must live to their philosophy yet, still, pinch a nerve near the heart. 

Even the most intimate details of your relationship could most of the times turn up in their writings. And although they are mightily concealed behind metaphors and allegories, you, of course, will still recognize them. It’s all about you after all. 

Although they never really intend to insult you, they will sheepishly remind you that “your” and “you’re” are different and that “despite” is the right one and “despite of” is the wrong one. I’m telling you, they’ll notice the smallest of details about you as an orgy of your descriptions are banging wildly inside their heads. Yes, even the color of your socks. 

Conversations with them are tough. They will talk about characters in books and art films as if they’re real, as if they’re someone tangible, someone he recently got a chance for a vis-à-vis over some tea and biscuits. Annoyingly, they have this habit of writing parts of your conversation on some dank piece of tissue paper. And like lawyers, everything you said is valid and can be used in favor or against you in future discussions. 

Probably the hardest one to understand is their addiction to solitude. It might not be close to that of Ernest Hemingway’s seclusion, but a time alone is always a must. It’s not a snob. It’s not barricading. But in solitude, not only he is gathering his thoughts, formulating sets of theories, but also re-arranging himself. 

But writers are one of the most romantic people you’ll ever meet. They’re lamentably passionate and will adore you for the most natural thing about you. For they don’t succumb to the societal dictates of beauty and form. You are an abstract masterpiece seen in a philosophical beautiful way. They are phenomenally too human that even their tears are sometimes trails of fluid words. They’re achingly martyrs and they can tell you in thousand ways how much you mean to them, how much they adore you and how much they love you. 

So don’t fall in love with a writer. Don’t fall in love with me.
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ding dong the wicked witch is dead


I wanted a life that forgets the horrors of the past. I want that something to completely wash away the cold temptress orgy of malevolent thoughts that invaded me for so long. I want them gone. The monsters, the witches and the ghouls, I want them gone below where they truly belong.

Once there was a wicked witch
in the lovely land of Oz
And a wicked old, wicked old, wicked old witch
That never ever was
She filled the folks in munchkin land
With terror and with dread

I have tried to convince myself they don’t exist many times despite knowing they really do. Surely, most of you don’t even believe their reality, but then again, they do. Eyes tight shut, I walked the daily taps of clock pleading for them to go away. They never did. I tried the many concoctions of potions and puffs and spells to scare them away. Still, they never did. And then at some point, like this very moment, they begun fleeing away, fading from the very same cloak of darkness they carry with them.

What I did? I return to my own self before they came. And so they died. And here I am, living.

But in all ironies of it all, witches may be staked and they may be burned and die but the horror stories remain imprinted in every leaf of pot’s tale that no one can evade. In spite of it all, do you know you can turn those tales of dooms into fables and legends and comedies?

I remember how veteran journalist Gus Abelgas reacted when asked about how he deals with death threats brought along by his profession. And he said he just let it be. “If someone is really gunning for your slaughter, you can do nothing about it,” he uttered seriously. The very same perspective comes with the many avenues of life. If one's keen on fooling and hurting you, you can never evade them. Always, there would come a time when someone will overpower you, someone who can push through the walls of your goodness. That, we must accept.

Courage and the goodness within you, very cliché, but all the same true, is everything you’ll ever need. You’ll be fine.

I could not believe it at first. How can there be goodness that lies within me when I believed they’ve been snatched away by demons masked as princes? Tell you what, every goodness might fly away from this world but your goodness for yourself will never get tired of being good to you, and with that, you can start building again for all the goodness that left.

Even a mutilated soldier can start again with what remains of his self. For as long as he still got his heart pumping kindness, his brain breathing conscience and his soul shouting justice, freedom is just around the corner for anyone. Even for me. Even for you.

Happy is an odd word for me to write. Survival is what I put in banners and ribbons and songs. Happy is not for my writings. I know it is selfish but happy is something I share to the innermost brethren of my existence.

But maybe Paulo Coelho is right. The words in my writings are tears that have been written down. Because tears need to be shed. Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end. So I’m leaving them all for now. There are just too many things to see, too many places to conquer and to many dreams to turn into reality. I have so much love in me and there are so many people who need them. I have all the youth I need, all the courage and every support one would need. So for now, I think I’m too excited to bother myself with written tears.

Nightmare’s over. Time to wake up.

Wake up, the wicked witch is dead.
She’s gone where the goblins go
Below, below, below. Yo ho!
Let’s open up and sing and ring those bells out.
Sing the news out.
Ding dong the merry oh
Sing it high and sing it low
Let them know the wicked old witch is dead!


_____
"Ding dong the witch is dead" by Barbra Streisand and Harold Arlen
originally from the 1939 The Wizard of Oz
 

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