Thursday, July 19, 2012

'I will meet you last Thursday.'

Perchance. I will come winging at 'the speed of light', gliding radiantly into the paradoxes of travelling backwards or forward in time. Potentially very exciting. Shall I “meet you when we were younger?” Shall we saunter through infinitude capturing moments here now, today, forward and backward along a line? Shall we then know time as something we leave behind? Or will it draw nearer, up-and-coming to encircle us? How much of our present state could we possibly eliminate, just by revisiting life a week back?

Well, we can argue all we want, under the cryptic night sky, last Thursday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give Thanks

Gratitude depends on memory-- a French Proverb thus put it. I had it in my thoughts as I tried this long walk home. There was that bus to catch, no question about it. But it was inevitable I suppose that I should take to this pretty paved walk back to that rented room in a new flat. It was also fated that today I should ask myself, who do I have to thank for all this beauty? And who do I share it with, alone in this strange land?

I believe I needed it most—a grateful heart. When did I lose it? How did I lose it? Thanksgiving -- it could well be the much needed key to unlock the fullness of my sometimes all-too-closed life. Could it turn what little I have into enough ? Or maybe more? My denials into acceptance? My chaos into order? Could it transform my despair into joy? Turn this poor man's meal into a feast, that stranger into a friend?

People -- they get broken and then avoid making sense of it all. Not me. I want to know. I need to know. And I wish that by giving thanks here, today to something, someone bigger than all these randomness-- I could help me make sense of my past, embrace peace for today. And who knows, I may even get really all excited, step into a world of wonder and really, finally, break through.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Devil Writes Pat: "Not how I roll."

Needless to say, we are crushed beyond words by the magnitude of the devastation in Haiti. I sought the comfort of a friend and spoke of my feelings saying “it was hard to accept that anything worse could still happen to a nation like Haiti.” And yet at the same time I know in a very personal way, how random life could be and how hitting rock bottom is no guarantee that you are on the way up. As usual, I have no answers. Unable to say anything herself, my friend simply gave me a link to this interesting insight into the persona of the 'hellish one'.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune published a letter from Satan to evangelist Pat Robertson, "in reply" to his comment that Haiti’s persistent troubles, including the earthquake, are due to a pact the nation made with Mephistopheles.

Well, it wasn’t Satan who wrote the letter from hell but skillful Lilly Coyle of Minneapolis writing in the devil's persona. Thought she penned it down pretty good and it is a glimpse as well into deep Christian philosophies on suffering. Here, sharing with you

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle.

Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.

You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where the River Meets the Sea

Once there was a river that gently flowed past the rich plains bordering a tiny fishing village called Hagonoy, before it drained into the sea. It was once the habitat for mangroves and rich marine life. Birds and fowls of various kind made their home there.

As a kid, I fondly recall watching other children enjoy its cool, blue-green waters. It was a veritable summer pool for the young boys, the sturdy mangroves served as their diving boards. On its once verdant banks, I was given to contemplation. There I penned my first poetry, and drew nearer to what I conceive God to be. To this day, I have recurring dreams of childhood days often spent in this special spot. And yes, in its honor, my writer’s pseudonym, and this blog’s name is “Restless River.”

Hagonoy River is a unique body of water, I was to find that out much later -- a freshwater stream that mixes with the seawater as the river conveys freely into the sea. It's brackish water -- more saline than freshwater, but not as salty as the sea. This water condition occurs in the most extensive brackish water habitats worldwide, on that wonderful spot where the river meets the sea.

My grandfather was a fisherman. I remember that each time he launched into the river, he came back with his small fishing boat filled with live fishes and shrimps of all kinds. What has happened to change things so? Today, small fisher folks no longer draw anything much from this river. They have to cast their nets farther for a meager catch, if any. They now compete with bigger vessels of commercial fishers who are able to launch deeper into the ocean.

In this river that used to teem with life, it is now not uncommon to find the floating carcasses of animals. Plastics, garbage litter it. Stench fill its once fresh air. Garbage dumps flow into this river. Untreated heavy metal-laced waste water is suspected to be polluting it.

Why is this river so important? Why should we care? Because it is one river among many and we need to issue this call for this and other rivers, the accelerating deterioration of which have largely been ignored. The integrity of our rivers has been compromised, degraded by many human interventions, pollution, watershed destruction, unregulated fish farming, the list goes on.

And why should it still matter, now that climate change of a global magnitude is disrupting natural systems anyway, why should we bother to rehabilitate a small river? The answer has been established by environmental experts, we need to restore this ecosystem now more than ever. Rivers will continue to play a significant role in combating climate change. It will continue to connect one place to another, allowing plants and animals free movement as the climate shifts. It will always be that place of safety to shelter fish and wildlife from hotter temperatures.

A river has the resilience to spring forth with new life -- assure clean water, germinate new species, protect from flood. It is a refuge to wildlife and humans in a time of rapid climate change. It exist as a
very important buffer zone between land and sea, and therefore a natural defense against hurricane and tsunami threats. On World Blog Action Day, let hope float. Let it rise over crisis, over our downward spirals and tragedies, over our own misgivings, and let it cover them all. Let us not give up on this God-given gift and its ability to boost the resilience of nature and with it, the strength of communities against potentially catastrophic climate change impacts.


"Ang ating kanlungan...tahanan ng ating tula at pangarap, ngayon ay naglaho na. Saan hahanapin pa?"

["Our haven.... home to our rhymes and dreams long gone. Wherever can we find it?"]

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Dust of Words Would Smother Me

I'd like to think that I have scaled up in terms of emerging media technologies , and that I am at least tech savvy if not tech trained. But guess I will always be more of a nerd than a geek in my fascination with books. You see, I read a book by approaching it like I would an unopened gift.  I certainly don't behave that way with my iPad.

Back in college, I used Sparknotes for my study guide which includes a plot summary, character study and notes on major themes and symbols. But I try not to be affected with structured analysis. To me, a narrative invites and escapes interpretation.

Something will often excite me about a book. For Anna Karenina, (re-reading and oh, long read,) its depiction of issues in 19th Century Russia, and thus quite daunting -- but the first sentence is of course inviting and itself a study in the best-known openings of any novel: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Such a pronouncement, holds the promise of a narration that will illuminate. It kept my night lamp burning.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hail to the New Chief !

Barack Obama, silhouetted. Photo courtesy of the The Big Picture (AP Photo)

He is more than a new Chief to the word's superpower lately losing grip. In an op-ed I wrote for a local business paper in Singapore a few weeks back, I pointed out how an American President means as much to America as it does to the world-- inextricably linked as we are to this nation in nearly all aspects of life.

How symbolic it is -- the new global Chief is of a magnificent heritage --African-American, an emancipated black man in every way, with roots in Kenya and early footprints as a child growing up in South East Asia. He inspires the world coming together and gives the much needed boost to a floundering American image. Crisis is the best context for charismatic leadership, and it is during these times 'poetic figures' do arise to unleash hope.

Barack Obama, 76 days before his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America. With glee, I have just added his name to my 'little childhood talent' of knowing which American President ruled when. You can quiz me on that !

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Liberty Once Lost.

I have just finished reading Naomi Wolfe’s The End of America, Letter of Warning to A Young Patriot which landed the NY Times bestseller’s list in the fall of 2007. I do admire the winsome feminist and social critic, but the arguments in her book failed to excite me. And I bet it would lull progressive thinkers in the Philippines to sleep. 

In The End of America, purposely made to look reminiscent of Thomas Paine's pamphleteering, Naomi Wolfe argues that recent history has profound lessons for those in the US today. It outlines how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, in what were once democracies. She points to a predictive blue print that all would-be dictators put to action in order to crush a democracy. She discusses the ten steps here. Now, she is so clever, she speaks and writes beautifully. But her thesis is so old, at least to us in US-neo-colonial Philippines.

For what is so jolting about something that has echoed through history over and over again? And I am really appalled not at the ten steps or that it is now underway in the US -- but that Wolf, a Rhodes scholar who went to post-grad at Oxford shouted eureka on the tactical blueprint only recently, as in, only in the year 2006, in the era of Mark Zuckerberg and Tom of Myspacelandia. Not that she is late. But that it got me into thinking, about how little attention indeed, American society has given to the affairs of nations, even those who "would be brothers".

In the Philippines, thinkers and critics a good many number of whom were educated in my school have so long ago "decoded" the secret codes of despots. No matter if we did not sum it up as ten steps like a "fascist for dummies". But in Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Mao Ze Dong -- they were all there, as history begging not to be repeated.

And it is no news to us -- the United States, defender of the Free World is believed to have aided dictatorships in many countries throughout history. What could be more undemocratic than to use the law to subvert the rule of law? But we have seen that happen . The outcry in the Philippines until the dictatorship was toppled in the late 80’s was “down with US-Marcos Fascist Regime”. And I have to say, there was no better student of Mussolini than Marcos. And despite our best and brightest men and women, who sounded the alarm, Ferdinand Marcos -- once thought to be the leader to make our nation great again -- put the Philippines under martial rule thirty-six years ago today, September 21.

America -- bastion of pure democracy where the Founding Fathers, original Philadelphia 76ers have proclaimed liberty not just for the New World but for all nations. Has it been so pampered, so assured of freedom, that it has gotten lazy on the very principles that made it a great nation? Now Naomi Wolf has just shouted "I found it!", on how democracies come crashing down. The blue print is predictive, sure. Though our leaders and thinkers knew all the facts-- were they able to prevent our country from plunging into the dark years of martial law? Surely not, and you tell me why.

Now, they think Bush is doing this? Like he was destined, in a bible -truth sort of way, to be a despot? Truth be told, pure liberty has been tainted long before him. You think a vote for Obama or Mc Cain will prevent the End of America if it is really underway? I make a reference to John Adams who warned -- liberty, once lost, is lost forever. But like anything dear that you've lost, it lives within your heart. And then you bravely go on, and do your best to navigate a complex and perilous world. No, we no longer can restore pure liberty by simply exhorting democratic rhetorics, no matter how well-intentioned. It is that proverbial long road with the end nowhere in sight. And whoever has got it figured probably need to go write a better book.

The Founding Fathers have set the principles in place. 
But sadly, all these  precepts laid down to abate  man's excesses was never enough to withstand the complexities of an imperfect world -- of the never-ending tension between good and evil and the supposed triumph of the will.

Perhaps the question is not: "why is Bush so evil or how could Karl Rove and other criminals in the White House do this to us?" The question is, " since there is a blueprint and yes, we have seen it re-cur throughout history, then why is man so vulnerable to the same attacks again and again?"

During the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, there was a story told of a young American who posed a question to John Adams, "Sir, what do we have here? A monarchy, or a republic?" . To which the patriot replied, " A republic, son. If you can keep it."