Thursday, August 30, 2007

On Dom Cimafranca's "LOLITA"

Thank you Dom for writing “Lolita”.

I am glad that Dom trained the spotlight on what has become of the Filipino family’s favorite noontime fares.

There was a time when I loved watching noontime shows, from Student Canteen and Eat Bulaga, to Magandang Tanghali Bayan, especially during the peak of the “Pera o Bayong” days.

Back then, these shows were relatively tame, although I distinctly remember the time when Gracia (of Eat Bulaga) became a household name. (I remember because I used to turn purple with jealousy whenever my then-boyfriend, now husband Nonoy, watched Gracia climb out of a pool during one of Eat Bulaga’s games, with her protruding nipples clearly showing under her soaking-wet shirt or jiggle her ample bosom to the beat of some 90’s dance hit. Now that’s what you’d call a confession! ha-ha-ha! I’m over that now. I hope.)

If I am not mistaken, this was roughly the time when dancers, with their sexually provocative moves, started enjoying a bigger share of the limelight.

But I believe that it’s the Sexbomb Girls that really hit the jackpot as far as putting sexy dance groups in the forefront of the noontime shows, along with the rise in popularity of such songs as Sexbomb, Spaghetti Pababa, Otso-Otso and the like.

With a rapidly growing, impressionable young daughter, I banned the watching of noontime shows in our home. I’m not turning my nose up on these shows, mind you. But I happen to believe that there are dances that are suited for general patronage and that there are dances that properly belong to the beer houses.

And the ones mostly shown in Wowowee or Eat Bulaga nowadays properly belong to that latter category. I am doing my best not to sound judgmental here, but I just couldn’t see how madly gyrating girls and cameras angled up so viewers could peep under these girls’ skimpy skirts and catch teasing glimpses of their panties, could pass for family entertainment!

I am very happy that the principal of the school my daughter is attending shares my views. She too doesn’t approve of the students dancing to the beat of the novelty songs that are very popular nowadays, nor of the dance moves that obviously were copied from TV.

That’s why nobody will be seeing students from my daughter’s school performing anywhere in that manner. Thank God for that!

Do I sound too straight-laced and narrow-minded and so boringly conservative, and as some would put it, too tight-assed? That’s what I think of myself too, at least, as far as this subject is concerned. But for goodness’ sake, mothers! Think again! Our little girls may look absolutely cute and infinitely adorable doing those moves they see on TV … but do they really have business dancing and moving like miniature a-go-go dancers or strippers?

Children should always be children and should be given every opportunity to enjoy their childhood for as long as possible. They have no business dancing like miniature adults, and lasciviously suggestive ones at that!

If they have to dance, let them dance like Hi-5 … or what the heck! Let them dance like Po of the Teletubbies! What’s wrong with that?

How I wish that school authorities would start taking notice. I hope that readers will agree with me that there are dance numbers that are highly inappropriate for young children and should be done away with in school programs.

I wish that parents who share my views would talk to the teachers and principals about their views on this matter. Hopefully, one by one, we can effect some little change and help bring us back to simpler, more innocent times, when children were really children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reunion, Reunion, Reunion!!!

Silliman University College of Law Batch '97
10th Alumni Homecoming

Time flew by so fast most of us did not even notice it. If not for Ma'am Futs' initiative, this reunion would not have happened. We would not even have remembered it's been 10 years already!

So much has changed in all of us. And yet, somehow, we haven't changed at all. We're a bit older now, and some have become more rounded than since we last met, but the ring of our laughter remained the same.

There's one definite change though: photographs of cherubic toddlers and grade schoolers went around the table as we proudly showed each other what we've been up to these last 10 years.

Many among us have now become lawyers. They make our group proud. We hope to see more of these success stories in the years to come.

Standing: Mabinay ViceMayor Djanggo Uy and son, Atty. Cris "As In" Bonganciso, Marilyn "LB" Elemia, Atty. Gloria "Ma'am Futs" Futalan, Bing Villaflores-Sumanoy, Atty. Chubs CaiƱa, Seated: Jo Senador, Atty. Lemuel Nacita, Fermin Cimafranca

Lemuel, Atty. Jun Umbac, Teddy Reyes, Djanggo

Batch 97 ladies in their most provocative poses: LB, As In, Bing, and the awesome Ma'am Futs

Bing and As In letting loose ...

Preparing for the annual parade: LB, As In, Abby and Ma'am Futs

SU Law Faculty: old professors Atty. Myles Bejar, Atty. Levi Estolloso and Atty. Denura

Atty. Jun Umbac and Jo Senador during the parade

Friday, August 24, 2007

What being a Sillimanian means to me

Yeah, I know! That title sounds like that dreaded essay from high school. I’m pretty certain every Sillimanian from Grade Four to college had encountered this question at least a dozen times!

How about you? What does being a Sillimanian mean to you? I haven’t really thought of that myself until I got hit by SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY's Founder’s Day fever and found myself in the midst of frantic preparations for the 10th Year Homecoming of SU College of Law, Batch ’97.

Getting together with old classmates to plan our reunion brought back memories of carefree fun, which to my mind actually outnumbered those days when we got serious enough to dig into our books.

As I went though old photographs with old classmates Bing Sumanoy and Marilyn “LB” Elemia, together with our success stories Atty. Gloria “Ma’am Futs” Futalan and Atty. Cris “As In” Bonganciso, it suddenly struck me how I have made that transition from being THE STUDENT bent only on exploring the booth area or shouting my throat hoarse during cheering contests or excitedly rushing to our favorite hang-out, the now defunct “Forum” … to now being one of those kind of senior-looking and mostly round figured RETURNING ALUMNI who have come back home to revisit the Alma Mater.

Get my drift? Student: young. Alumni planning reunion parties: kind of not so young. That’s all I care to say on this unsavory but undeniable subject!

So what does being a Sillimanian mean to me? Let me attempt to translate into words here the significance of the word “Sillimanian” from my own perspective.

I used to step back from the throng and observe from the outside. I have always been amazed at Silliman’s magnetic pull over its alumni and how the bonds that were formed during school days continue to hold strong, particularly among Sillimanians abroad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this holds true for everyone. Even complete strangers who bear the stamp of Silliman automatically become members of the bigger family.

I have seen first hand how kind, generous and unselfish arms have reached out across the miles to extend assistance to old classmates to see them through rough times.

As for me, I feel pride for Silliman and everything that it stands for. My Alma Mater may not be perfect (as nothing is and will ever be), and has seen its share of bad days in its 106 years, but the fact that it is there as a beacon of truth and everything that is good and right in this life, is reason enough for me to be proud.

We may choose to follow its ideals or not, and it is without doubt that many of us have fallen off the track along the way, but there is always our Alma Mater to look up to and to lead the way.

I also feel the warmth that comes only from knowing that one belongs to something that is bigger and greater than all of us put together, and I belong to Silliman, and that is something that nothing and no one can ever take away from me.

Silliman is a gateway that enables us to travel back in time … that time in our lives when we were younger and more carefree, when there was endless laughter and fun, when the whole wide world was still out there, waiting to be conquered … a time in our lives when we were still untouched by the life felt only by our parents then … no hardships and disillusionments yet, only promise of greater things to come.

So that’s what being a Sillimanian is to me … pride of this great institution itself, and along with it, pride at having my own niche, no matter how small, insignificant and unremarkable, it is mine.

Now I know why our alumni always come back home and why I am coming home as well. We want to see old friends and hopefully feel that old magic that only youth could bring spark back to life once again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Top 10 Reasons Why There Couldn't be a Filipino-American US President

WE Filipinos love to laugh at ourselves, especially when it's true and speaks of the worse in us!!! No, I did not write this one. Got this in my email just now.

All these below show the "typical" Filipino ... some kind of show us in the bad light ... but I still find them endearing.

(Said to have come from ) David Letterman

10. The White House is not big enough for in-laws and extended relatives.

9. There are not enough parking spaces at the White House for 2 Honda Civics, 2 Toyota Land Cruisers, 3 Toyota Corollas, a Mercedes Benz, a BMW , and an MPV (My Pinoy Van).

8. Dignitaries generally are intimidated by eating with their fingers at State dinners.

7. There are too many dining rooms in the White House - where will they put the picture of the Last Supper?

6. The White House walls are not big enough to hold a pair of giant wooden spoon and fork

5. Secret Service staff won't respond to "psst... psst" or 'hoy....hoy. ..hoy...'

4. Secret Service staff will not be comfortable driving the presidential car with a Holy Rosary hanging on the rear view mirror, or the statue of the Santo Nino on the dashboard.

3. No budget allocation to purchase a Karaoke music-machine for every room in the White House.

2. State dinners do not allow "Take Home".


1. Air Force One does not allow overweight Balikbayan boxes!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tarung nga Buang

Could there ever be one? Tarung nga buang? The only English translation I could think of that would approximate what this term is trying to get across, is “sane lunatic”, and that’s insane. For can somebody who’s insane be sane at the same time?

Not possible? Think again!

Take this woman named Elsie, for instance. Some twelve years back, Atty. Frank Yap took her under his wings. During her lucid moments, he allowed her to work in Gemini in exchange of free meals and a meager income. According to him, she was in and out of “Talay”, referring to a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill located in Talay, Valencia.

Elsie did have her lucid moments. She used to buy food or bread then walk all the way to Talay to bring these presents to her friends.

But she often disappeared for days on end. When she would finally return, she’d be grimy and reeking with the sweat and dirt that had accumulated on her unwashed body for days, weeks even. She’d be totally incomprehensible and often appeared dazed and every bit the “buang” as how we’d all imagine a buang would look, sound, and smell like.

Elsie had three pregnancies that I know of. I don’t know what happened to her first child, but I heard that her second was given up for adoption. I witnessed her third. It just happened. One day, we began noticing that her belly was bigger and rounder. We could only surmise that she conceived during one of her dark periods, when she was lost in that hazy world known only to her.

Elsie did not forget me over the years that followed. Whenever she’d see me, she would immediately rush over with her big broken smile and that look of pure gladness in her eyes, calling me “Uu-gah” again and again. She must have been living in the streets by then. Shame on me … except for the food and cash that I used to hand over to her, I did very little to help her.

The last time I saw her, she was slumped on the sidewalk, thin as a reed. I went over, expecting that I’d be met by that same big smile. But Elsie wasn’t there anymore. There was only blank look in eyes that used to light up whenever they’d see me.

I don’t see Elsie around Dumaguete anymore. I heard that she passed away.

Memories of Elsie kind of fades away but they come back whenever I’d hear stories of aborted babies like the 7-month old fetus found buried in Silliman Beach recently.

Elsie, and everything that she stood for, came sharply into focus when a friend narrated to me the fate of another aborted fetus found in Bantayan. As if killing it was not enough, whoever had this baby doused it with gasoline to burn it, then ran a vehicle over its burnt little body, crushing its tiny skull. I can’t think of anything more to say on this subject. I can only cry.

And then, I’d think of Elsie. Her story is not over yet.

Social Welfare Office personnel took custody of her third child after she gave birth. My friend LB was present when her baby boy was taken away from her.

Years later, Elsie continued to seek out LB to ask for her baby. She used to say that she would save the money that LB and her officemates gave to her so she could go to America to see her child.

Yes, Elsie, an eyesore whom city officials would rather be anywhere but in Dumaguete, remained a mother in her heart. In that hazy world that she lived in, she remembered and she cared.

And now, I’d think of those who deliberately kill their own innocent defenseless children to hide their shame, or those who commit acts so despicable, I cannot find the words to express my disgust.

I can’t help but ask … who is tarung and who is buang?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Innocents in Paradise

I said again and again that I wanted Abby's childhood to last for
as long as it could. Here are some really great reasons:

It's that joyous abandon that can be found only in childhood ...

It's that innocence that says to h-ll with society's conventions ... there's time enough for that ... and it's the rest of our lives ...

For now, we'll just be children as only children could ever be!

It started as a family lunch out one lazy Sunday (after attending Mass) at El Dorado Beach Resort in Dauin, Negros Oriental to celebrate Tito Carl's birthday, dad of cousins Gabby, Raffy and Cody.

Just lunch. No swimming.

So off we went with Abby only in her shirt and skirt.

They asked for permission to frolick in the sand ... no problem! "Go ahead" ... said parents too busy chatting with each other to pay close attention to what the children were up to next.

Before we knew it, one child was ankle deep in water ... "Mom! Can we wet our legs?" .....

Well, to cut this story short, mothers Tita Nini and myself finally decided to take their shirts off (Gabby, Raffy and Cody had only one spare each while Abby had absolutely none).... as one child after another went in deeper and deeper into the water....

We knew our brood well enough to realize that saying NO to swimming was futile. Children being children, you know .....

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On Bloods and Crips (in Dumaguete)

I channel surfed one late Saturday night and came upon Fil Product’s airing of one of the City Council’s sessions. Out of curiosity and for lack of more interesting shows in the other channels, I decided to stay on and quickly got hooked when the Bloods and the Crips were discussed.

I first came by the names Bloods and Crips when my friend SPO1 Jobie Lacandula mentioned that these local gangs are fast gaining ground among Dumaguete’s youth. Little did I realize how grave their threat was, until I listened to one enraged father speaking out against the Bloods and Crips before the City Council. His 15-year old son’s skull was fractured after gang members attacked him at Mart One in broad daylight.

To better understand these gangs, I looked into their origins and learned that the Crips are a primarily, but not exclusively, African-American gang founded in Los Angeles, California in 1969. It thrived in the culture of ghetto violence and through the years, it has grown into one of the largest and most powerful gangs in the United States with membership that exceeds well over 30,000.

The Crips are known to be involved in murders, robberies, and drug dealing, among many other criminal pursuits. The gang is notorious for its members’ flamboyant use of the color blue in their clothing. They are known to have an intense and bitter rivalry with the Bloods.

The Bloods, on the other hand, started as an alliance formed by several smaller gangs being targeted by the Crips. These embattled groups got together to form a united, thus stronger, organization to combat Crip intimidation and encroachment in their turfs. In contrast to the Crips’ use of the color blue, the then newly formed Bloods took on the wearing of an opposite color, red.

The local Bloods and Crips are copycats with no affiliation or recognition from the US originals. According to Police Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, they are merely emulating the activities of their so-called idols, from identifying their gang affiliations through their use of either red or blue bandannas, to engaging in open warfare against each other, often attacking members of rival gangs who’d cross their path.

According to P/Supt. Carlos, Bloods gang members come from families in the upper echelon of society. They recruit male and female students from private high schools like Silliman University HS, Foundation University HS and St. Paul University HS. Members are easily identifiable through their use of black shirts with red bandannas often worn as headscarf, or slung across the shoulders, or tucked in the back pocket of oversized hip-hop pants.

The Crips recruit from public high schools like NOHS and Dumaguete City High School. They also wear black shirts and hip-hop pants and favor the use of blue bandannas.

P/Supt. Carlos mentioned sons of political leaders as members of the Bloods gang. I have also heard from other sources of children (not gang members) of prominent public personalities, businessmen and professionals having been recruited, or ganged upon and subjected to threats and intimidation by members of either Bloods or Crips.

As parents, this growing notoriety of the gangs and their penchant for violence against rival gang members and non-members alike should become our primary concern. This should be more so if we have teenaged boys and girls who might become drawn into the promised brotherhood and offer of protection and support from other members, not to mention the element of being “cool” or “in” – at a time in our children’s lives when, more often that not, outward appearances and affiliations are of paramount importance.

P/Supt. Carlos informed the Council that these groups are primarily hip-hop groups who merely wanted to come together to dance and play rap music together (that is, if they are not fighting rival gangs).

I say that we should not allow this statement to lull us into any sense of false security. History shows us that the Crips in the US was started by 15-year old Raymond Washington with the initial intent of continuing the revolutionary ideology of the 1960s and to act as community leaders and protectors of their local neighborhoods. But the revolutionary rhetoric did not endure. Because of immaturity and lack of political leadership, the budding Crips gang was never able to develop an efficient political agenda for social change within the community.

Instead, it took very little time before their group started engaging in criminal activities, from mugging elderly Japanese women to hardcore drug dealing, murder, robbery and the like.

It goes without saying that we do not want Bloods and Crips activities here in our city to escalate to that point, or for the groups to become more violent in their skirmishes as it had in Cebu and Baguio, for instance.

I learned from my research in this subject that in Cebu, a law graduate who planned to enter the seminary after taking the bar, was caught in the crossfire between these rival gangs, and was shot dead in Mango Avenue Square. What was so poignant in this story was the mention of his rosary that was found among his law books, as they lay scattered next to his body.

Such waste of a life that held so much promise. And for what? For a battle rooted on blind and senseless hatred? Where the combatants themselves are clueless as to what that hatred was for?

I also read of news reports of bloody gang clashes in Baguio, resulting in the death of several young men in their late teens. The same scenario played over and over again: 20 to 30 to 40 attackers armed with knives, lead pipes, bats, beer bottles and bare fists.

The victims of these vicious attacks often had multiple skull fractures. One had 30 stab wounds in his body. They were gang members felled by rival gangs.

Do we want this same lawlessness happening in our City? We have already been held hostage by hardened, gun-wielding holdupers and snatchers plaguing our every move. Are we going to be held hostage once again, this time by mere children who barely got their mamas’ milk out of their lips?

We can’t just say that they just fight each other anyway! Because they don’t! Even innocent non-gang members have fallen victims to their aggression. A single look or a meeting of eyes considered to be offensive by one party could bring down a whole pack of gang brothers hungry to prove their superiority on one hapless teener.

Innocent bystanders have fallen victims already, caught in the crossfire as these gangs battled each other. We, too, can become victims. And yes, our children as well.

In other cities, Crips and Bloods members included out-of-school youths and hoodlums. I would like to ask P/Supt. Carlos if such is also the case here in Dumaguete. If so, it is frightening to think how short their leap will have to be, from mere rapping and doing the hip-hop, and obviously smoking and drinking, to drugs and drug-dealing, armed robbery and murder, and only God knows what else!

My heart goes out to the father whose son was attacked at Mart One. I could empathize with his seething anger. Any parent would be furious at seeing his child suffer from near-fatal injuries in the hands of gang members for apparently no reason at all.

I could understand his utter frustration at the seeming inaction of the Police. To a parent whose heart longs for concrete action and solutions to a problem that has come to his doorstep, the soft approach being undertaken by our Police in addressing this problem, consisting of dialogues, mediation, intervention and clash prevention, may seem lame, inadequate and halfhearted.

But I also fully understand that the Police’s hands are tied behind their backs. P/Supt. Carlos was correct in pointing out that unless these gangs are actually committing a crime, there is little that the Police could do. The most would be to disperse these groups once they are spotted converging in one area.

Besides, with the promulgation of RA 9344, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, which spares individuals 15 years and younger from criminal liability, young offenders falling within that age bracket could not be held accountable for their criminal actions even when caught red-handed. And according to P/Supt. Carlos, most members fall within this age group.

So what now? With the Police practically helpless to curb these gangs’ increasing numbers and with the gang members themselves becoming increasingly bolder by the minute, where does this leave us? Turn to vigilante justice as what the father of that victim said he would do?

Those of us whose lives have not been touched by the ferocity these young men are capable of can very easily take the high moral ground and express shock and indignation over his audacity to even contemplate such an unthinkable option.

It’s basic human nature to take the emotional backseat as we watch human dramas unfold. Very seldom could we fully empathize with the range of emotions displayed before us. More often than not, it is only when those closest to our hearts are affected by the same forces that we’d bother to get out of our comfortable seats to join in the fray.

But if we look deep into the psyche of this father, we’d understand the rage and extent of the frustration that drove him into saying what he said. I believe that he said he would turn to vigilantes only to make us all understand how angry and how frustrated he was over what he perceived to be Police inaction.

His talk of resorting to vigilante justice merely existed in the realm of contemplation. There is no crime in that. What is criminal is when what has been contemplated is translated into concrete action. Now, that’s another story.

According to him, vigilante justice had been effective before and they could still work now. He mentioned notorious Dumaguete gangs in the past that spontaneously disbanded after members got terminated one after another.

What, if indeed, there are similarly victimized people out there who would go beyond that contemplation stage? I heard one person declare that he’d be willing to contribute to a vigilante fund.

Would parents, who’ve previously been in denial regarding their children’s involvement with the gangs, be compelled to act decisively and keep them home under lock and key, if gang members would start suffering the same fate as their predecessors?

Heaven forbid if ordinary citizens would decide to take matters into their own hands! But we do not have to come to that. I believe that the parents are the key to this dilemma.

P/Supt. Carlos hit the nail squarely in the head when he said that this matter would not have gotten to this point had the parents had been more involved and vigilant of their children’s activities.

I completely agree. But vigilant of what? Bad barkadas? Fine. But if we conduct a survey right now, I wonder how many among us are adequately aware of this threat? Maybe, SUHS parents are, because I understand that the PTA is actively addressing this problem. But how about the rest of us?

A private group whose name I cannot recall right now has taken the commendable step of conducting information drives among high school students, warning them against joining these gangs.

But our local leadership should also undertake steps to extensively inform the very same people who are the first lines of defense in this war: the parents. To our leaders: what have YOU done so far to inform us about this danger to our children?

Let me do your job for you here: Parents, take note. If your sons and daughters would begin sporting black shirts and those oversized hip-hop pants, accompanied by red or blue bandannas … warning bells should start ringing in your heads already. That could spell only one thing … B-A-D.

They are in grave danger. Hardly from the irate parents I’ve been writing about, but from members of rival gangs who’d gladly attack for no reason other than that they belong to a different group.

Let me quote an American mother who lost her son to gang violence in 2003. He was 18 years old and he was a gang member. She said, "Every parent should pay attention to signs that I ignored as a parent and paid the ultimate price of losing a child."