To the terror

14 Nov 2015

image Courtesy of RTÉ

I’m tired of hearing it. I’m tired of reading it. I’m tired of watching it. In fact, I have tried to avoid encountering it as much as possible. It is something I have encountered before.

The attacks’ aftermath. The dead bodies, the souls that have left, in most cases unwillingly. Those who survived and trying to recover from the whole affair . The whole country mourns. In fact, almost the whole world mourns and symphatizes. The identification of the responsible ones as, at least, followers of a “radical” form of a Middle Eastern faith. Subsequent promise and action of governments to deal with the cause of the attacks. Mostly involving internal security. The theme of “love, not hate.” Media stories of citizens being warm, friendly and welcoming to their migrant neighbours. The survivors and those left behind by the perished who choose not to hate their attacker’s co-religionists. The needed declaration by the co-religionists that condemns those attacks, that they are one with the victims. A renewed focus on what is happening in the Middle East, its causes and its solutions.

It arguably all began with 9/11. Then the events in Madrid and London, followed by Charlie Hebdo. It appears like the Western world — whose opinion is arguably the most important in the world — is forced to think and reflect on terrorism, “radical” Islam and everything about them only when it hits these shores. Otherwise, most of us don’t give much attention to the region where all of this is coming from — the armed actions, bombings, protests, abuse — unless it hits our interests directly.

But that is not the point here. Or rather it is only one point of this post. The other point is what to make of all this, what to do out of all this.

So we are besieged or flanked by forces that are only interested in pushing their interests forward, mostly to our disaster. That would include Islamists, liberal-oriented governments and right-wing populists. What is there to do?

There is no other choice but to fight. The fight to live and to exist. The individual duty to fight. Fighting by simply existing and living. No more time to mourn, maybe even to love and to hate. Just fight.

Thoughts on 19 October 2015

03 Nov 2015

Courtesy of

A mixed (and in this case, late) response. But let’s start with the positives here, or rather the only positives here.

The so-called “Conservative” party was finally dislodged from power after nearly a decade of trying to impose its US Republican-inspired ideals on a country that’s fundamentally different in its founding principles, and with Stephen Harper’s resignation as the cherry on the cake. They were 10 years of actions, decisions and legislations that already or were going to significantly affect this country, its citizens and their affairs in a way never seen before — and mostly negative. Whether anything of the legacy of the founding father of the present Conservatives will remain is dependent on both his successors as party chief and Prime Minister.

After 10 years, we finally have a non-“Conservative” government. Indeed, there are many, many hopes that incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reverse many or most of the domestic and foreign policies of the previous government that gave Canada a reputation never before negative in its existence as a country, both to its people and to its global neighbours. And throughout his campaign, Trudeau managed to present the image of someone willing and able to do what the majority of Canadians desire. As for their fulfillment or disappointment, that will become clear in the coming few months, and later in this article.

The removal from power of the “Conservatives,” their leader’s resignation and the positive potential of the incoming Grit government are the only positives previously mentioned. The rest just left me disappointed, for lack of a better word. Let’s start with the “Conservatives.”

True, they’re no longer our federal overlords, but they’re now the Official Opposition even with only 99 seats (another plus from me). With Harper still remaining as MP, there’s no doubt, despite what experts might say, that he will exercise considerable and continued influence on his party, especially including his successor who will have to labour under his massive legacy and influence. But worse, perhaps, was the fate of the other parties.

The Grits are back, and with a majority of all things! It’s as if they haven’t learned from their past history of corruption, scandal and opportunism (this coming from someone who never experienced Grit rule). Rather, if there’s any lesson they learned from this election, it’s that a handsome face plus an effective campaign equals victory. It would’ve been better if they remained in third-place wilderness a little longer in order to learn about humility and what a political party should properly be. Now, with managing a leap from third place to government in a short time, for the first time (which would’ve been better appropriate for the NDP), the event of the victory going into their heads won’t be surprising. The corrupt interests have learned that good hair and saying all the right words can win power, without the need for introspection and subsequent action.

It looks to be the same lesson the New Democrats learned — in defeat. The party returned to its more familiar third place in this election, after that surprising and eventually short-lived “Orange Crush” in 2011 brought, also, by the leader’s charisma and effective campaigning. To those saying that the NDP would’ve won had Jack Layton lived, it would’ve been more of a split anti-Harper vote. What made this loss sadder for this infrequent blogger (and still does) was to see all NDP candidates in the three ridings near or within residence (Surrey Centre, Fleetwood-Port Kells, Surrey-Newton) swept out by la vague rouge. Perhaps the most painful was Surrey-Newton, where what could have been continued change and reform saw instead the return of an old politico who, from what I know, didn’t exactly have a credible and admirable record in his previous terms. It was only small consolation to see the two New Westminster ridings (another place where a personal connection exists) remain orange. Where does this leave the party? Would it learn from the perceived “rightward” drift under Thomas (not Tom) Mulcair? Even after choosing to stay as leader, will he remain for some time?

If anything, this huge disappointment was equalled by the disappointment with the Green party, no matter the spin. It hoped to win a few seats, mostly in B.C., with Victoria the most possible seat. Now, the only other Green seat in the House by the start of the campaign — Bruce Hyer’s Thunder Bay–Superior North which came about by floor-crossing — also went red. Given that we have a Grit majority, any hopes Elizabeth May and her supporters entertain of exercising an influence on the incoming government will be dependent on said government, regardless of the “cooperating” image Justin had during the campaign (the petition calling for May’s appointment as Environment Minister would’ve become more possible under a coalition government).

Never mind that it only got ten seats and failed in its goal to regain official party status (or Gilles Duceppe’s second resignation, I later learned) — le Bloc a retourné from its surprising loss in 2011; it would’ve been better had they retained their previous seat count or less. Does this mean the return of Québec sovereignism? For one thing, it has only taken other forms, and hopefully it will become one that will broaden its scope to include all Francophone interests on this side of North America.

So where does this all lead to? With a non-Harper majority for the first time, one hopes to see a complete reversal of all of the previous government’s policies. On the other hand, with the fact that the Liberals still haven’t learned from their not-so-completely great past as the “natural governing party,” and a few actions from the younger Trudeau himself such as support for TPP — not to mention that he strikes me as someone easily swayed over by more powerful forces — any hopes attached to him by progressives may either become pure disappointment or half-satisfactory laws.

A big post of apology

09 Jul 2014

To anybody who sees or reads (or encounters) this blog:

First of all, I would only like to say that I apologise for not having posted anything here, not even of the least value, in this blog for a long period of time.

This isn’t meant to indicate that this blog is closing, there are no plans for that. It’s just that I cannot make the excuse that other bloggers have the right to make which is “busy lives.” On the other hand, weeks that should’ve been spent writing – blogposts, short stories, articles – as well as similarly important things to do for summer like job employment have been spent instead in countless times visiting FB and Twitter, reading and accumulating much stuff both interesting and not; the only important literary activity I’ve done this hot season are poems designed for open mics in literary events.

I actually have a lineup of blogposts here, it’s just that I haven’t done much with them. So I can only hope that God and time will still be available for me to help do those blogspots, articles, and short stories. To God be the Glory!





Agents and chilaquiles

26 Oct 2013

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are waiting…for my article to appear. Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Long delayed. Here are my latest Other Press articles about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and La Conquistadora in Surrey, B.C. Kung papalarin, magagawa rin ang talaang-blog tungkol sa pangalang “Filipinas” at ang kuneksyon ng ating bansa sa Amerika Latina.

Buháy na país, búhay ng país: isang makabansang pagsusuri sa apat na gawa ni Tonel

12 Oct 2013

Constructivo. Mula sa/Courtesy of Cuban Art News


Maraming mga nasabi at maaaring sabihin tungkol sa mga gawa ng Kubanong pintor at iskultor na si Tonel. Isang komentaryo sa machismo at kasarian, sa kapitalismo at mga epekto nito sa daigdig at mga lipunan nito. Karamihan sa mga kuru-kurong ibinigay sa kanyang mga gawa ay maaaring tawaging progresibo, o pagtutol sa mga mapang-aping sistema ng kasalukuyang daigdig, maski ito’y Kapital, rasismo o seksismo. Ang isang uri ng pagsusuri na sa tingin ko’y hindi pa ginagamit sa pagtingin sa kanyang mga obra ay ang uring makabansa.

Hindi kailangang mangahulugan na dapat patungkol sa bansa o kung paano pinupuri at dinadakila ang bansa ng isang pinta o lilok ang isang makabansang pagsusuri. Maaari ding mangahulugan ito na obserbasyon at eksaminasyon sa mga katangiang positibo at negatibo ng bansa na pinapakita ng gawa, isang kritika sa mga hindi kasiya-siyang aspeto ng bansa at, kung kasama rin sa obra, mga mungkahi o isang ideal bilang lunas sa mga aspetong iyon. Sa maikling salita, layunin ng makabansang pagsusuri ng isang obra ang tingnan ang mga natatangi’t iba’t-ibang bahagi ng isang bansa, mabuti at masama, na kinakatawan ng obra at alamin kung anong komento tungkol sa bansa ang ibinibigay ng obra, kung meron.

Susuriin ng pagsusuring ito ang apat sa mga gawa ni Tonel. Ito ay ang Constructivo (“Konstruktibo,” 1994/2012), Mucho color (“Masyadong maraming kulay,” 1992/2012), Pais deseado (“Bansang nais,” 1994/2012) at Error de la estrella (“Pagkakamali ng bituin,” 2012). Pinapakita ng mga obrang ito ang mga positibo’t negatibong aspeto ng bansa, nasyonalismo nito at mga bunga nito, pareho sa mga kontekstong Kubano at ng ibang mga bansang kabilang sa tinatawang na papaunlad na daigdig.

Mas napapakita ng Constructivo ang mga katangian ng nasyonalismo. Isang bloke ng semento na pininturahan ng mga kulay ng bandilang Kubano at kontra sa blangkong pader. Sa unang tingin, nangangahulugan ito ng pagkakatangi ng Kuba, na tumatayo ang mga kulay nito laban sa kawalang panlahat ng iba, at sa gayo’y hindi nakikisama sa pagkakaraniwang iyon. Ang katunayan na “matibay” ang uri ng bandila ay kumakatawan din sa pagkatibay ng pagkakakilanlang Kubano. Ngunit kung titingnan sa ibang dako, may malungkot din itong kahulugan. Matibay nga ang identidad at hindi nahahalo sa iba’t nawawala, ngunit ang kalalabasan nito’y pag-iisa. Ang mapilit at malakas na pagpapanatili ng identidad at kasarinlan laban sa pwersang mapagpareho, sinisimbolo ng blokeng sementong nakahilig (o kontra) sa malawak na kawalan, ay humahantong sa pagiging blokeng nag-iisa, naiiba nga pero walang mga kasama.

Tinututok naman ng Mucho color ang mga ilaw nito sa mga kadalasang pananaw ng Kanluran, partikular sa Hilagang Amerika, tungkol sa Kuba. Mapanuya ang instalasyon sa kahulugan nito at mga tinatamaan nito. Masyadong maraming kulay nga ang napapakita ng Kuba – mga kulay na binubuo ng pulang kupas o buo at halos hindi-makitang krokis ng isla. Nakaturo ang ilaw sa imahe ng Kuba, pero sa katotohanan ay nakaturo ito sa tumitingin at kanyang mga nabuo nang mga pananaw. Pinapakita ng gawa ang mali, hindi-buo at estereotipikong mga pananaw natin tungkol sa Kuba, at pati rin sa mga ibang bansa sa papaunlad na daigdig. Ngunit tinututok din ng gawa ang mga ilaw nito sa Kuba. Meron ba kayang mga kilos o asta na nagpapanatili lang sa maling imahe? Meron kayang ginagawa ang mga Kubano para maalis ang estereotipo?

Pinakapositibo sa lahat ng mga gawa dito ni Tonel ang Pais deseado, pareho sa Kubang pinapakita nito at sa kalagayan ng larawang pinapakita. Iba’t ibang mga lilok, pigurin at obra ng mga bihasang artisano ang bumubuo sa mapa ng Kuba at ang pamagat ng gawa. Hindi lang nito pinapakita ang dibersidad ng Kuba kundi pati ang katatagan ng dibersidad na ito at ang pagmamalaki nito ng mga tao. “Ito kami,” sabi ng mga Kubano, “at ipinagmamalaki namin ito at hindi ito ipagpapalit sa anuman!” Pinapakita rin ng proyekto at ng katotohanang nagtulung-tulong si Tonel at mga artisano sa paggawa nito ang kolaboratibong kalikasan ng pagkakakilanlang Kubano.

Bumabalik sa tema ng mga maganda’t masamang nadudulot ng nasyonalismo ang Error de la estrella. Kadalasang iniuugnay ang mga bituin sa mga kaisipan ng pangarap at mas magandang bukas. Sa kaso ng ilustrasyong ito, kumikislap nga ang mga bituin, ngunit isa sa kanila’y sinugatan ang nakalarawang ulo ng tao. Higit pa, may mapanganib na katangian ang mga bituin. Pinapakita dito na maaaring maging isang maganda’t maliwanag na gabay tungo sa mas magandang bukas ang nasyonalismo, ngunit pwede rin nitong sugatan ang nanininiwala dito. Maaari itong magdala ng mga trahedya sa tao at humimok sa tao na gumawa ng mga trahedya sa iba. Mapanuya nga ang obrang ito sa kahulugang kung anong mabuti ay maaari ding magdala ng masama.

Mula sa isang makabansang perspektibo, itinatanghal ng mga gawa ni Tonel ang maganda’t pangit sa isang bansa at sa ideya ng nasyonalismo. Kung meron mang payo na pwedeng ibigay ang mga gawang tinalakay rito, ito ay ang pangangailangan na maging maingat at normal – hindi jingo – sa pagtingin sa ating mga bansa’t nasyonalismo.


“Just a good place to live”

01 Jul 2013

So said Donald Creighton in an interview with Charles Taylor for the latter’s 1982 book Radical Tories. Though I can’t answer on behalf of all recent immigrants to this country, not even those from my country of origin, I can do say that this phrase best describes my impression of Canada upon arrival – and I think, by extension, of other recent immigrants as well.

What was my impression of Canada? I remember reading a holiday destination guide back home where the section on Canada occupied a single page; it mostly emphasized nature spots in its pictures and destination choices. My mom thought, and still thinks, of Canada as a better place than the United States in terms of its healthcare system and the politeness/respectfulness of its people, and I share the same opinions as well. We thought of Canada as a better place than the United States, not in terms of comparing one country’s greatness with another’s, but on how better Canada is on internal things. We saw Canada as better than the United States in terms of healthcare than on military strength or international influence.

This is the impression that my family still has about this country, and the same can be said as well for other immigrants, especially those from poorer countries. For us, Canada is a land of opportunity, a place where we can do those things and achieve those goals that we’ll never do and achieve had we remained in our homelands. This is a country where one can feel secure, that no one will just barge in on their doors or fire bullets into their houses with impunity. In terms of corruption, Canada is still better compared to the countries where many of us come from. Politically, Canada is enviously stable. Economically, we see it as a First World economy. In societal terms, Canada is populated by people who are, for the most part, respectful, disciplined, polite and tolerant of each other. This country’s tenet of multiculturalism is an envy of the world, an example for countries torn by ethnic and religious strife.

This country is indeed a paradise for us.

Not until some time later did I begin learning more about this country beyond those rosy impressions. From the media and school, I started to learn about the Canada one will never know from the immigration agency’s brochures. True, it is well-off compared to other countries, but it isn’t a reason to rest on maple wreaths. More so than in previous years, Canada has experienced stress and conflict on a variety of areas. Economically, the country still continues to rely on natural resource exports as mainstay of its economy, despite all those “knowledge economy” proclamations – retail exists side by side with oil & natural gas development and export. Politically, scandals & other affairs have gotten worse on all three levels. Then there’s also the social and ethnic tension between the well-off and not, “visible minorities” and those who’ve been here for centuries. And let’s not forget the condition of the Aboriginal peoples.

I also learned about the history of Canada, that there are many interpretations of it and each has it own implications for this country. There are those who tell the Canadian story as a gradual process of independence from Britain and friendship with the US. There are others who talk about the neglected and suppressed voices of this story from minorities of various backgrounds. Then there are those who talk of Canada as an attempt at creating a different society from the US, the opposite of the liberal individualist Union. Each interpretation has its implications about the fate of Canada, the nature of its society and the degree of its independence globally. The story that guarantees the sovereignty and common well-being of Canada must be maintained.

Still, most of us – recent immigrants and those living for generations – see Canada as “a good place to live.” We never think of this country on grand terms, that it can be more than a country of politeness, respectfulness and gentleness. Someday, that day will come, but when, nobody knows.