About this site

Tumbang Preso (meaning, knock down the jail) is a game of arrests and escapes where each player's life
chances depends on the toppling of a tin can watched by a tag who plays guard.

Sunday, August 17, 2014



There’s a blackened patch of earth in the landscape of my mind as far as home is concerned. When I think of it, I don’t even want to see anyone from high school. I guess I have lived for so long in Kerala I could not tell people anymore what I think of high school reunions. But that the smartest should be sitting in the town council is a piece of glad news, and I would have been gladder if they made it to the mayoralty and vice mayoralty. Conversation always wind up to high school reunion, and our jolly batch of 1980 graduates, my cousin who lives in town, reported to me, topped the bill in the fund-raising. Your batch is the richest, with the guys in America contributing thirty thousand pesos each and an engineer now in Cebu donating another thirty. And as the class treasurer reported to me, the hundred thousands in donation went to benches in the school gymnasium and scholarships. Lord oh Lord, the donors’ names etched on benches and fences. See. I am really Arch Meanie and don’t deserve a peso in donation for my causes, and still Boyet, nicest guy in high school now in the town council, showed me around. They took me to lunch and to my surprise and delight, they did not ask me any questions, and the one who did ask, asked one question that matters. “Happy ka didto sa Jolo, Sheilf?” 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014



This is a major maladjustment. The loss of privacy. The invasion of the other world. Now my day revolves around alimentation and the spirit world. This can’t be.

On the other hand I should feel privileged. The world of Gabriel Garcia Marquez Isabel Allende and Toni Morisson, maybe less, now at my feet. But where is literature. I am with conmen.

The spectre of couples they disgust me so. Zero credit for la causa everybody looking forward to their first decent pay. Ness leaving everything to the girlfriend to do all the performing. The world and all its problems, tuition, boarding house brawls, everything petty bourgeois, now toppling my book case and account notebooks. Water is scarce, and they finish what I haul inside, not even considering if I need a bath, too. Someone is stepping on the toilet seat and not flushing the bowl. I’m sick. Sick to death.

Yesterday Maher came, a swagger of self-importance. Suwerte nyo, he said, kapag ipinagluto ko kayo, when asked to do the cooking. Took two pieces from the egg tray to mix with the sauteed cabbage, which is no vegetables to me. He did clean the fish though, a little grudgingly, telling me this should serve the three of us until tomorrow. Of course he counts every cent I spend on the girls. Then Chinchin volunteered to do the cooking while he watched Boys Don’t Cry which he could not appreciate. Haram, he said, when Brandon started making love with the girlfriend with a rubber penis bought from a store. Then stood up and left.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Unu kaw?



“Unu kaw, usug kaw? Babai kaw? Di ko maunu…” That is to say, What are you, are you a man? A woman? I could not tell, thus said a 50-year old woman occupying the cot next to mine. I am always surprised. I have this imaging of myself as female walking, a pair of lumps on my chest, girl’s doe eyes, girl’s thick mouth, but happens all the time, people in the street and marketplace addressing me as Utuh. So I said, “tomboy ako, Inah.” She nodded in total comprehension, “Ah tomboy huun,” like she gotit right the first time.

Not without my...



CRISIS IS OVER. At least that’s what my landlady said to me as soon as I stepped on to the yard of her house of which I am good tenant after a week of absence. After your rally, she announced, no more kidnapping incidents. The Chief of Police had been fired, a new one has been appointed. And all the while, she added, our mayor was abroad, in Europe, vacationing. 

So that was why he wasn’t there at the plaza, the Lady feeling betrayed and giving him a special citation for not showing up. The rally organizers projected four thousand marchers. Actual show-ups, I’d say, would be a thousand at most if hangers-on and those standing outside corner stores across the streets counted. Most of these hundreds, largely male, stood outside the fenced yard of the plaza, limbs straddling the painted steel bars like dingbats caught in mid-flight by the mid-day sun. 

What put a stop to the kidnappings, Landlady explained, was the coming of former Vice Governor Jikiri, who came to Jolo and went straight to the Office of the Governor bearing a list, the names of suspected kidnappers. That’s how the kidnappers fell, she said, one by one. One of those in the list was the son of a prominent politician; the father had a heart attack when he learned that his son is in the list. He had to be carted aboard a C-130 plane, and later, had to be brought to Manila because the hospital in Zamboanga could not handle the case. A vendor whose daughter had been raped gave me these details. But the tricycle driver who first gave me this news did not name the father. My landlady did. I remember him as the husband of the lady with a pistol who screamed not without my son!!! She would not go home unless she took home with her the darling son who was lined up there among other suspects, and was positively identified by the raped girl, but whom the mayor, in whose office the case had been brought, defended as an improbable rapist because he knows the boy, and knows him to be gay.    

No more dramas in my life!!! is what I have been wanting to scream to the world all this time. Kviranda Akulova, to my surprise, wrote back, promising an English translation of her take on the Pussy Riot for the heroes martyrs western press made of this oh-oh band because I could not understand any Russian, I just understood that that’s what she titled the piece -- No more dramas in my life!!! –. The first time I encountered that line, it was not a Russian but a Colombian speaking. I was talking to Juliana and I asked her if she knew Mujeres Creando and she said of course she does, she did, and that but Mujeres Creando is a couple, so when they broke up, the feminist lesbian collective collapsed, and that she has no problems with radical feminists in the US or Latin America, only that she hates dramas, what she wants is work. LoL, see, that’s what I meant that nobody could comprehend all these years, that in Life as in Work, in the trenches as on paper, sentiments are a bog gitawtoffitt.

To go back to the son and the father, the identified rapist son is the same one who figured in the kidnappings and rape of women in Jolo between 2007 and 2009. The same one the then mayor and now vacationing mayor defended as “bading” to be guilty of rape of women. Hija mia, said this mayor to the girl who filed the case, I know this boy, he could have not been one of the guys, bantut in bata’ yan, the boy is gay. LOL, and the boy’s mother, the one with a pistol in her bag, which she took out and pointed at Cocoy Tulawie for raising a hand threatening to slap her when she rained insults on the molested girl his HR client, hu u? she shrieked at her, in crisp Tausug, rereypin ng anak ku? excuse me, bading yang anak ku para hipuan ka! The girl recanted later, after having been gifted by the mayor and God knows who else with fare money to get out of Jolo.

I don’t think anyone was surprised when the names came out. Rapists roam free, in Jolo and elsewhere. People know them by name meet them on the street befriend and chat with them on Facebook, but to cry rape?   

The rally at Plaza Marina on the 14th of March, for instance, if anyone noticed, was strikingly quiet on rape, as though rape was not an issue. The only speaker who tangentially took it up was the young girl who represented the youth sector, who said that most of those kidnapped were women. She didn’t elaborate, but you knew what she could not and did not mention in her speech. Doctor Ismael was bold enough to make known a plaint long there in the hearts of many, but no mention of rape either. He rued that there was a time when there was the MNLF to defend us and stand by us, but now no more, there’s only us to help us. Nakauna aun pa MNLF mamaugbug katu’, bihaun wayna, kita na hadja in mamaugbug katu’. At the same moment that he was speaking, some of those who still believe in the MNLF were at a conference hall at Mindanao State University, where an MILF peace agenda was in progress, and they complained, this Framework of Agreement on the Bangsamoro disregards everything the MNLF stood for and is out to replace the MNLF why must we rally behind this. A friend in the NGO with an Abandon Jolo policy (maybe at post-FAB it’s not Abandon Jolo, anymore; but hey you get into the bandwagon) was there in the FAB-CAB rostrum, and he could not go out of the hotel to buy a fifty pesos shirt at the jual mura because there’s an order from his office to not stray into the street considering the situation. 

The group that organized the rally named itself BASSAKAO, Bangsa Sug Against Kidnapping and Other Crimes. Rape, you assume is among the other crimes, but even now when the rapist-kidnappers are supposed to have been arrested, some people, when speaking about the crisis, past or present, would still refuse to say rape. They will say problems in our community like kidnapping, extortion, hold-up… 

Nahuli na daw, naipadala na daw sa Zamboanga, Landlady informed me. The kidnapper-rapist son had been apprehended and had been sent to Zamboanga. A friend in Zamboanga instructed me: He will not tarry here in Zamboanga; he will be sent to Manila, for sure. That’s their idea of an arrest. You send the erring son to another city or another country, for a vacation, until the trouble blew over or until people forgot about it. You get them out of the island so that they will not bring more disgrace to the family, to the Muslim community, to the bangsa. Kidnap capital is not as bad as rape capital, is it? But just this morning (26th of March) DXMM has this report that Lanao is the country’s kidnap capital, not Sulu. Honour, martabat, is the key word, and you smuggle these boys out not because peanut vendors are out to fry them alive or the raped girls are arming themselves and out to lynch them. You send them out so that their good-hearted father will not have another stroke.

NO MORE FUCKING DRAMAS PLEEEEASE!!!

Citizen arrest



Morning of March 25, a local radio station in Jolo reported of a foiled kidnapping at Martirez Street just right outside Sulu State College. It was a case of Citizen Arrest, the report said. The kidnapper, purportedly, was a tricycle driver who picked up a female student for a passenger from Alat at downtown area who asked him to take her to MSU, but as the vehicle was on its way up Martirez Street, the engine conked out the driver had to stop. When the girl lit and made out like she was to flag another tricycle, the driver reportedly nabbed her. The Martirez guys came to her rescue, the radio reported, and had the tricycle driver taken to the police station. The driver cum suspected kidnapper, whom the police did not name for the benefit of the radio report, purportedly said he intends to marry her.  

Another citizen arrest happened right in front of Plaza Marina, reported to me by my landlady. Vendors nabbed a kidnapper purportedly there to collect a five thousand ransom money. He came at the same spot where he or company collected another ransom earlier when they kidnapped a vendor selling banana cue. This time though, the vendors were ready, suicide mode. They just lifted the big pot hot with boiling oil and splashed the kidnapper with it. The other guy who was with him fled in the direction of the Cathedral so that he ran right into the arms of the Marines guarding the vicinity. 
It is all very confusing. And very funny. The lady announcer advising one and all to always take a look at the guy on the driver’s seat and if he looks like a kidnapper, not to get on to the cab, better safe than kidnapped. 

A day after, the same radio announcer would report that the arrested kidnapper at Martirez Street was lynched by tambays, hangers-on, and that a grenade was found on his person. Then this time they gave him a name, Juls, but for whatever reason, he didn’t have a family name. It was not mentioned either that the driver-kidnapper has no tacked ID on the cab’s front seat. I haven’t found time to ask around the Cathedral because nowadays if you ask street vendors, complain the police people, they’d answer “Inday ku” (I don’t know) like automated machines. And for whatever reason, friends working at the Cathedral didn’t know about the fried man in the plaza or about the other man running into the Marines at their gate.

Ordinary citizens and ordinary tricycle drivers, they tell you, kanila ra yan, sila da in mangidnap sila da isab in magsaggaw-saggaw. It’s all their racket, they set all this kidnap racket up, then set up these friggin so-called arrests. I can’t help but feel sorry for the tricycle driver they arrested at Martirez Street. For all I know he was just distressed the girl will not pay him the projected twenty pesos income. After all they were close to getting to MSU, just way over the SSC vicinity. Lately, or since this wave of kidnappings and rape of women, tricycle drivers are held suspect, and they have been complaining of poorer revenues. Women refuse to ride and after four o’ clock no more passengers to pick.  

I suspect it’s hearsay, B minus movies meant to entertain the duped still in post-trauma confusion while the rapist sons are being led away.

My prayer is, that they amply compensated the lynched tricycle driver.