Sunday, July 01, 2007

With a heavy heart

It's hard for me to write about human rights.

Maybe it's because I've seen dead people - just shot 20 minutes ago, blood pooling beneath the body like paint, no smell; just drowned, foaming at the nostrils, father performing a futile attempt at mouth to mouth resuscitation; found after an undetermined period of time, rolled in a carpet, body like an empty corn husk, nothing left but hair, teeth and bones; murdered family, following a trail of bloodstains that ends with their cold bodies dumped unceremoniously into stainless-steel tubs in a morgue.

It's hard for me, because while the current number of victims stands above 800, each tally is a name, a person, someone who lived and laughed and loved and died when they shouldn't have.

Kenneth quotes John Berger on his blog: "Truly we writers are the secretaries of death."

Death, death, death.

But I am still alive, and the work must continue.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ian, Papa and I

Ian is the car that I use most of the time, that I am supposed to fill up with P1,000 worth of gas every month.

This morning, Mama noticed that Ian's right rear tire was extremely flat. (I think I may have bumped in and out of a few holes on the way home from St. Paul's yesterday, but I didn't tell them that.)

I know how how to weave in and out of traffic, avoid obnoxious jeepneys, and attempt to parallel park. But I had never changed a flat tire.

The first time I ever had a flat tire, I was on my way to a date. The man driving a white van in the lane next to mine pointed to my right front tire. As I felt the tire flatten and begin to skid, a gas station materialized. I drove into it, smiled sweetly at an attendant, and gave him P20 for changing my tire.

Now it was time to do it on my own.

"Can you really do it?" Papa asked.

Mama said that the lug nuts were really hard to loosen. They were. I could only manage a few twists with the wrench, before Papa had to take over. He also helped me unscrew the spare tire from the truck, and put the jack in place under a fin, near the wheel.

But I did everything else. I lugged the spare tire from the trunk and turned the jack clockwise to lift the car.

It took a lot of turns. There I was, sitting on my butt on a wet patch of slime in the driveway, turning the jack. In between my outstretched legs, an ant slowly scurried on the cracked concrete, next to a wilted golden leaf.

(Is this why some guys love to work on cars? Because the rest of the world falls away as they fiddle under the hood?)

After the car was lifted a few inches off the ground, I took off the flat tire and heaved a new one into its place. Then I screwed on the lug nuts and tightened them as best as I could. Papa only had to grunt a few times as he gave them a final twist.

My butt was wet, my hands were greasy, and I had grime up to my elbow. I felt good.

There are times when we don't get along too well, Papa and I. We are too much alike -- impatient, quick-tempered, volatile. We have a tendency to to dictate, and to speak authoritatively even when we don't know much about a subject. And we always have to have the last say in an argument.

Yet in between the tense moments, the strained silences, the harsh exchanges of words, there are also afternoons like this.

Just me, Papa and Ian.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Education is a right, not a privilege

Just a quick post before I get to work: I was incensed by this article in Malaya (and headlined by most of the other dailies) saying that 2 out of 3 highschool grads aren't ready for college.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the NCAE results showed that the government is on the right track in pursuing technical-vocational program as one of the solutions to the growing mismatch between the skills of graduates and the needs of the job market.

Amazing that the government still manages to trumpet its supposed success whuile blithely ignoring the fact that the education system in the country has long been deteriorating.

I've been schooled by state-run institutions my whole life. During highschool none of the bathrooms had running water. The floor of classroom for honor science students sloped downward, which skewed the results of our physics experiments. The classroom was declared unsafe a few years later. Even then, we were under constant threat of being closed down due to a lack of state subsidy.

But we had it good, compared to others.

To get to school, PUP students have to cross a railroad.

My aunt is a teacher at a large public elementary in school in Manila, where classes are held in two sessions - from 6-12 and 1-7, because there are too many students and no enough schools.

Sections run from A to J, according to aptitude. She says they've pretty much given up on the ones below B. One mother even told her, "My son just isn't smart, like me."

My mom is also teacher, one of those who used to close down fly-by-night nursing schools because their proprietors charged staggering sums in return for a substandard education that wouldn't enable its graduates to pass the nursing exams. As a result, she's made a lot of enemies, and has a pending libel case.

Education was a hot topic when I was still a staffer at the Collegian. Every year, the news staffers would track the decreasing budget given to UP, break it down, and call for an increase in state subsidy.

UP increased its tuition fee by 300% last year. Intial analyses say that it is the lower middle class who will be most affected by this.

Not to simplify the issue - there are a lot of other factors why hs students aren't ready for college. But one of the main reasons is the continued lack of state subsidy.

Again and again, the old rallying cry holds true. Education is a right, not a privilege.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On Late-Night TV

Or to be exact, the Late Show with David Letterman. i told myself i wouldn't watch such trash, but i did. From start to finish. Strange how the things you know are bad for you can be so addicting.

i feel sorry for Lisa Marie Novak, the butt of tonight's jokes. The woman now labeled as the crazy astronaut, who drove 900 miles wearing adult diapers to threaten her rival in a love triangle. This is how it is every night. Whatever seems new, bizarre, out of the ordinary, made into a spectacle.

Some might say, this is comedy. I remember reading an article about Borat, how many (Kazakhs, frat boys, basically anyone featured in the film) found it offensive. Others found it funny -- even radically so, because in an era where so many are concerned with being politically correct, no one else would dare tell a black man that he had a chocolate face.

But then again, there's that scene in Borat where he asks young black men how to say "how do you do?" and they say "what's up, vanilla face?" which he repeats to a surprised hotel clerk.

If comedy is a way of breaking taboo, then so be it. but i maintain that there's still a difference between laughing with someone and laughing at them.

Blogging while working

Well, i actually do blog for a living.

But working on a personal blog during office hours seems deliciously subversive. It's the first time i've done it.

To be fair to me, I've practically spent the whole day slogging through COA reports. Thus, i am able to rationalize that i deserve this secret, stolen moment of blogging before i get back to slogging.

i haven't been fulfilling my promise to update this once a week -- i will try to be a better blogger, promise. i'm also thinking of doing a redesign when i move to the new blogger (i'm probabaly the only one who hasn't yet) now that i have a rudimentary grasp of html. If not, there's always Kate. :D

On my ever-pressing problem of security issues, i was shocked to discover that when i google my name + blog this blog appears on the top 5. i'll have to do something about this.

Maybe this weekend, when I will actually manage to do something besides sleep.