Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mythbusting a mythomaniac

In the recent televised one-on-one between Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late deposed dictator, and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile (so-called architect of Marcos’ martial law), the latter revised history (and his own 1986 confession) by saying there was no one jailed or killed during the Marcos dictatorship. Name me one, he challenged.
Enrile is a mythomaniac, a person with an excessive or abnormal propensity for lying and exaggerating. He revised history in his autobiography.

The 90-ish Enrile conveniently forgets he was among those who signed Republic Act No. 10368, which indemnified thousands of victims of human rights violations with the funds sourced from a Marcos bank account deposit that the Swiss government returned, on condition that it (P10 billion) be used to indemnify victims. It goes without saying that there is more out there to be recovered.
That TV tête-à-tête (please pronounce correctly) has sparked outrage among those who suffered during the dark years of Marcos rule and triggered harrowing stories to come to light again.

Former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, among those thrown in jail several times, promptly protested Enrile’s lies. Even Malacañang, whose present occupant is an avid supporter of Marcos Jr., said Enrile cannot revise history.
At the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board that presided over the implementation of RA 10368 (whose signatories included Enrile), there was a room with tens of thousands of long Manila envelopes that contained firsthand accounts about the cruelty inflicted on persons during the Marcos dictatorship.
So, name you one, Mr. Enrile? Here’s one (though I could quickly give dozens more from my circle of friends) from mythbuster and writer-friend Maria Cristina Versola Rodriguez. (Here she left out the harrowing details of what her captors did to her.):
“Dear Mr. Enrile, You have to be more careful with your lies. I was a political prisoner in 1983, arrested by virtue of a presidential commitment order signed by President Marcos. My prison cell was in Camp Dangwa in Benguet, an office room converted into a prison cell (whose most memorable feature was that it had no toilet facilities).
“A few weeks after my arrest, a military helicopter came for me and airlifted me to Camp Aguinaldo where, to my surprise, I was brought before you in your office. I had no idea why. Maybe your intelligence people had tagged me as someone important in the Left (wrong), and was worth personally interrogating (wrong again).

“You are likely to have forgotten that half-hour of our meeting. It’s been 35 years, we have both grown older, and you had a busy life as Marcos’ secretary of national defense implementing his martial law, likely overseeing the arrest of more dissenters like me, and then saving your skin and your name later.
“But I haven’t forgotten. You had a pale, brown room. You sat on a huge padded chair and rocked it as we spoke. Behind you was a shelf full of books. Above you was a huge painting of your wife Cristina. I sat on an office chair in front of your table. I was wearing slippers. I sat there hearing you claim that you read all of Marx’s books, and knew more about communism than most communists. It’s useless to fight Marcos, you said, and young people are wasting their lives doing it.

“Cristina’s painting looked down on us. Here were two Cristinas, I thought, one the wife and the other his prisoner. Gen. Fidel Ramos dropped by, took the other seat in front of me, and addressed me in Ilokano. He said the same thing: You are wasting your lives; cooperate with the government instead.
“What exactly am I doing with these two monsters of martial law, I thought. My crime, when finally I was slapped charges, was subversion, specifically membership in the communist party. Prison life was slow and killing. But we, political prisoners, always fought back.
“Fast forward a few months in 1983. It was a day in December. Marcos, looking and talking like a dying man, had a few of us brought to him personally and given orders for our release. Of course it was the year Ninoy Aquino was killed and some brownie points were called for.
“Name one, you said last week. I name myself one then. We won’t go away, Mr. Enrile. We won’t be erased.”#

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Autumn of the autocrat, a simulacrum

(Written for the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial rule, with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez who wrote “The Autumn of the Patriarch.”)
On that stormy September night the rats began to find their way into the Presidential Fortress by the sea, entering through cracks and holes and by sunrise the city awoke to the odor of a rotting corpse that wafted to nearby homes, hovels and whorehouses.
Only then did we the people summon the courage to rush to the gilded fortress to find out for ourselves what the rot was all about. There was no need to use bulldozers and backhoes because the walls were ready to crumble at the touch of a hand. It was like being in a time warp, like being in the ancient days when impenetrable castles fell because it was time. As soon as we found the body, we turned it over and were taken aback because it did not look like his likeness on peso bills, coins, book covers, posters and comic books. His face was being eaten by rats that would not scamper away even when they sensed human presence. We asked one another, is he… the one? No one dared utter the name of the dead monster lest our lips be befouled and defiled. People had assumed the autocrat was near immortal like those in the tales of old, that his body would be incorrupt like the holy saints we venerated. In the last few years, he had been rarely seen except when he was to preside in some circus-like events that drew the fawning rich and thousands of poor and infirm who needed food and entertainment.

Those who had seen him there thought he looked ashen and grey in the harsh lights that fell on him and made him cast grotesque shadows on everyone. His eyes were always moist and someone beside him handed him a fresh tissue whenever he expectorated, which was often. On one day in March, people saw a monkey running around the room where he was holding a command conference that was being aired live on television. Imagine a monkey looking over the shoulders of Cabinet men and women, experts in economics and finance, in politics and governance.  In that carpeted, air-conditioned room, the monkey had a chair of its own. He had always been afraid of going out in the rain when there was thunder and lightning because he had been warned. But, at last, the rats did come for him, then the insects of horrible shapes and sizes. The squeaking and the buzzing grated on the ears and the odor was something out of an uncovered grave.
No one knew where the creatures came from but they could have been there all along, hiding in the eaves, lurking in ceilings and basements, just waiting for the rot to release its foul odor and announce it was time. Here was a powerful man so very dead and being consumed by vermin of every kind and being seen that way by many who rushed to inspect him. His clothes were now in tatters and his skin had greenish moss growing out of its pores.The rats were squeezing themselves into his hairy armpits and digging at his groin and scrotum encrusted with barnacle-like growths, like those that thrive on abandoned seafaring vessels. Here was a once-fierce and imperious sailor at the end of his journey, like flotsam, like jetsam on a deserted shore, his eye sockets emptied of their balls, looking like caves inhabited by creatures rarely seen except by explorers of the dark and the deep, his mouth no longer where it should be, his tongue the first to be torn out and fought over.  Still it was difficult to believe his death because he had always been foretelling and joking about his own dying in order to coax the masses’ pledge of loyalty and obeisance. But the realness of the corpse could not be denied, this kind of exit for a cruel ruler who liked tasting the livers of his enemies had long been prophesied by those who could read the signs in the wind and the waters, in the way gunshots rang out in the night and in the way blood in the streets glistened with a fierce red in the light of a full moon.#

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Plant, plant, plant

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“Build, build, build” is the Duterte administration’s favorite apothegm, jingle, call to action, catchphrase, mantra, slogan, whatever. Pangsindak, to stun, to impress, to jerk.
It conjures up images of a gleaming horizon with skyscrapers soaring to the skies, winding roads and bridges slicing through cities and the countryside — a scenario meant to send the message to the world that the Philippines has arrived.

That, while the nation’s poor and not so poor are groaning under the weight of runaway prices of consumer goods, particularly the eatables that have become rare or unaffordable, like galunggong and rice that now have to be imported from neighboring Asian countries.
Yes, while local TV channels are duplicating each other with food and cooking shows that present hosts gorging on heaps of fatteners, leaving penny-pinching viewers salivating. Yum? Yuck! Yes, the poor who live under the bridge do watch TV, so go easy on the “mmmm.” That’s one off my chest.

Despite the hard times, we Filipinos do not easily lose our sense of humor. We resort to puns, jokes and sarcasm that defy translation. People now refer to galunggong, supposedly among the cheapest fish in the market and which our seas have plenty of, as balikbayan galunggong. Balikbayan because it is now being imported (formalin scare and all) from China, whose fishermen with giant fishing boats scare away our fishermen from Philippine fishing grounds and harvest the big catch. So balikbayan now also refers to the returning native (fish) — to borrow a Thomas Hardy title — and not only to Filipinos in the diaspora who find innovative ways to come home.
There was a time when Thai students came to study agriculture in Philippine colleges and universities. After graduating, they went home so learned in the ways of making the land productive. Look where they are now, and look where we are now.
As a poor Filipino peasant/farmer would deprecatingly quip: “Dati magsasaka ako, ngayon magsasako.” (I used to till the land, now I have empty sacks.) A seditious remark, if you ask me. Changing one vowel could spark a revolution in the countryside. Am I serious or am I serious?
Forget the “Planting rice is never fun” (Magtanim ay hindi biro) folk song that made rural lads shirk from backbreaking work in the fields. Science and technology have made rice production easier and profitable in rice-growing countries, but not hereabouts, where many of our food growers are still among the impoverished, still trapped in subsistence farming and mired in debts. Because neglected by their government.
In contrast, daring, educated farmer-entrepreneur wannabes armed with the latest environment-friendly ways of growing food are now romancing the land of their great-grandparents. I know a few who, like returning natives, have made the land yield flower and fruit, bringing surprises to the once-weary subsistence farmers around them. They are women mostly — Emma and Isyang in Quezon, Daisy in Isabela, Evelyn in Nueva Ecija, to name some. They could be in the forefront of so-called agritourism.

Rice importation, the Duterte government’s response to the rice crisis, is like spitting on the faces of our rice farmers. Amihan, a federation of women in agriculture, is calling on the government to instead strengthen local food production and attain food security and sufficiency through free land distribution and subsidies to farmers.
The farmers’ group Saka is also calling for the imposition of price controls. “The domestic rice industry is in shambles. And the Duterte regime’s response? Ruin it even further. The country’s Chief Executive has no shame in presenting himself as a comprador, abandoning local resources and the local market to be exploited by private profiteers and foreign opportunists… Authorities say importation is supposed to fill a gap—a gap that actually could have been filled by local food production had our farmers only been given the chance. But not only has importation failed to fill this gap, it has even widened it.”

Yes, why not “plant, plant, plant” to counter “build, build, build”? Trees are felled to give way to concrete; farmlands are turned into malls. What a blessing when our foreign sources run out of rice to export to us. On bended knees, we will be begging our farmers to plant, plant, plant.#

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rice by any name

There is no rice shortage? Okay, a rice crisis then. No need for the government officials to do cartwheels, antics and maneuvers to deflect people’s attention from the rice mess. It is real and you know it.
I did a piece on the 1995 rice crisis when regular rice was P20 per kilo, too expensive for the poorest of the poor. Now it is from P50 to P80.

“Marami ka pang bigas na kakainin” (You’re going to have to eat a lot of rice yet) is a Filipino saying that means one has a long way to go. Rice will get you there yet, in other words. But how, when there is little or none that is cheap enough for the very poor?
The street militants’ cry of yesteryears, “Bigas, hindi bala”  (rice, not bullets) is again so apt for now, and you bloody know why. That cry rang out during the Marcos dictatorship when ricefields became battlefields and peasants suspected of helping rebels were strafed and tortured.

This rice crisis season, I often think of the many names of rice in the Philippine languages I know and the images they bring forth. It is a good exercise psychologically and culturally. They conjure up images of the past, of one’s childhood, summers, fiestas and times of plenty, of peasants and revolutions, of the simple folk, the countryside and its beauty, of hunger, hope and humanity.
When something holds an important place in the local culture, it is given many names. These names could refer to its various forms, the different stages in its life, the end products. They could refer to quality, consistency, strength, age, beauty.
To save on modifiers, people coin words to describe precisely what the thing is like. Farmers have a jargon all their own to describe the stages in the growth of plants, the ripening of fruits, the seasons. Fishermen should have theirs, too, for the wind, the weather and the waves.
We are a rice-growing nation (are we still?) and we have many names for rice — not rice varieties like “milagrosa,” “wag-wag,” “dinorado,” “malagkit” and NFA’s cheap imported weevil-infested rice. I mean the various names we use to refer to rice in its various stages of growth, its forms and outcomes when cooked.
We don’t simply say uncooked rice, cooked rice or porridge (“hindi lutong bigas” or “lugaw na bigas”). We don’t say unmilled rice or milled rice (“hindi pa nagiling na palay” or “nagiling na palay”). We have precise terms for all of these in the hundreds of Philippine languages and dialects. No need for adjectives, one word is enough.

Here is a list of remembered Filipino words that refer to rice. Words in parentheses are in Hiligaynon (spoken by Ilonggos). As you go through the list, think of their equivalent in your own dialect. Think of your own life. What do you remember, hunger or plenty?
Palay (humay)– the rice plant

Palay (humay)– unmilled or unhusked rice grains
Palay (pasi)– stray unhusked rice found in milled rice
Bigas (bugas)– milled rice
Binlid (binlod)– fine, cracked rice grains
Kanin (kan-on)– cooked rice
Bahaw – day-old rice
Tutong (dukut)– burned rice at the bottom of the pot
Lugaw – rice porridge
Pinipig – pressed rice crispies
Ampaw – puffed rice 
Ipa (upa)– rice husk
Darak – rice bran
Am – boiled rice water fed to infants
Hugas-bigas – rice water
Buro – fermented rice (a Pampanga concoction)
Tapuy – rice wine of the Igorots
There are also hundreds of names for different rice recipes (using the sticky variety) in different regions. To name a few: “palitaw” in the Tagalog region, “tupig” in Ilocos, “ibus” in the Visayas, “pinuso” in Bicol. Coconut is their tried and tested partner.
The rice crisis has brought to the fore the significant place this grain occupies in our culture. We are what we eat, the saying goes. A staple and main source of energy, rice is very much part of who we are. So when its price becomes out of reach of poor Filipinos, the country is in trouble. It is also something very culturally upsetting.
A refrain one hears at the base of the socioeconomic triangle says it all: “Kahit pambili man lang ng bigas.” It pleads. You can’t properly translate that into English. Forget the “ulam” or “sud-an” (side dish). Rice, only rice.#

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/115877/rice-by-any-name#ixzz5jRrXVN9O 
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