Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pacquiao, Onyok, Ali and life

I am not a boxing fan but I did wait with bated breath for Manny Pacquiao’s Sunday confrontation with Mexican legend Eric Morales. And I did let out some expletives with some punches from either side.

The closest I have been to boxing is in our weekly taebo sessions at the Inquirer. When our trainer John Q yells ``Attack!’’ we demolish imaginary foes and when it is ``Defense!’’ we duck under our fists. You have to be fully focused and cannot allow the mind to wander otherwise you’d get lost in the footwork. It is during the post-taebo crunches and push-ups that I do my out-of-body flight that helps me make it (arrrgh!) to the last count.

The last time I wrote about boxing was 10 years ago when Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco Jr. won the silver at the Atlanta Olympics. (Onyok is Ilonggo endearment for Junior.) The Inquirer's banner photo of our champ on the podium waving a Philippine banderita and wearing that gentliest of smiles brought tears to my eyes. I remember that look that outshone his silver medal. After having been brutally battered by the judges (but not by the Bulgarian) Onyok emerged unbowed, with a countenance so serene, so beautiful, so gently Ilonggo. That photo spoke a thousand words.

That is why I wrote about it. The human side of it, not the brutal sport. But how does one separate the two? Our sports guru Recah Trinidad will tell you, you can’t. And where is Onyok now, I want to know.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Santo Ninos, rapture and tragedies

Another religion-related tragedy has claimed the lives of at least 20, the majority of them innocents who, when they set off, had no idea that their foolhardy elders were taking them to their watery graves.

Last Sunday, the feast of the Holy Infant Jesus or the Santo Nino, a boat overloaded with devotees and their children capsized in the waters off San Ricardo town on Panaon Island in Southern Leyte. The boat named ML Jun Jay was part of a fluvial procession, a festive display that often highlights religious feasts in places that are near bodies of water.

Overcrowded boats, uncaring public officials, unmindful church officials, fevered rapture and carefree abandon on the part of devotees—all these are the ingredients of impending disaster. It had happened several times before, it happened again on one of the Filipinos’ beloved of feasts. And most of the victims were children like the Santo Nino.

But if ill-managed fluvial processions are the recipe for tragedies, they also say a lot about the Filipinos’ penchant for public display of religious fervor that borders on fanaticism and recklessness. No one could say what spiritual merits or demerits could come from all these. I leave that to God to decide.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Female feticide

How would those who champion women’s rights to choose (what they want to do with their bodies and the babies in their wombs) handle this mutilation of future women? If there is an issue that makes the pro-choice advocacy in the women’s rights movement stand on its head this is it.

I am not twitting, I am saying that this issue is important for the pro-choice advocates to address.

In the Reuters news two days ago, and which the Inquirer carried, was the recent published research on fertility figures that showed that about 10 million female fetuses may have been deliberately aborted in India over the past 20 years.

This practice was not discovered just yesterday. It has been going on for some time since the technology for sex determination (amniocentesis, ultrasound, etc.) became available. But when a science research team gets down to the bottom of it, comes up with numbers and publishes the findings in the prestigious The Lancet medical journal, the world takes notice.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Justice Cecilia Munoz-Palma: Beloved ``ingrata’’

To honor Justice Cecilia Munoz-Palma (a fellow Scholastican) who passed away at 92 two days ago, I re-edited the piece I wrote in 2001 when she launched her book ``The Mirror of My Soul’’. Here it is.

Ingrata. That was how Munoz-Palma had been harshly called by a high government official. Ingrate. Ungrateful. The Spanish word reeks of contempt and condescension. You do not bite the hand that fed you.

It sounds even harsher in Filipino. Walang utang na loob. A person who receives help or is accorded honors, even if she deserves them, is presumed deeply indebted and when the time comes, is expected to stand by the favor- or honor-giver. Only the brave in our culture would dare go against this onerous unwritten contract.

But we are not wanting in brave and debt-defying civil servants, one of whom was Munoz-Palma, the first woman to sit in the Supreme Court (1973-1978). Although the appointing power in her case happened to be a dictator, a.k.a. Ferdinand E. Marcos, she showed him and the sycophants that she owed him nothing. She owed only God and the Filipino people whom she had sworn to serve. By defying expectations and pursuing the rule of law as her conscience dictated, all the more it was evident that this gentle and soft-spoken Batanguena was destined to sit above the throng.