I don't care about you
If you get what you want
If they get you
And hand you over to the men
Who elsewise could not get near you.
You are just a piece of meat
No less untouchable
They will clothe you
Like what they did to the others
You will come home changed gagged
You will embrace your sins
You will recite verses for curses
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Where do you hang out? Mindvalley asks. In my mind’s plateau?
I like the question though. It is interested. So I curtsy and answer: Right now I am at Garden Orchid, all gratitude to the graces of capitalism – whatever that means. I am in no mood to wrestle with the igzakness of words. All I mean is I am enjoying the luxury of a spacious hall, free wifi access, free power charge, without the clerks and the stewards sending me out or pushing under my nose the bar menu.
Igzak. I first encountered this word from Amrina, semi literate high school graduate who can’t even pronounce Tumba Lata right. Laa-tah, she likes to say, until I had to give up and say, so be it. Laa-tah then. Her mother, who was Day Care teacher of an alternative children’s school where she was enrolled liked to berate her, calling her, not semi-illiterate, mind you, retardate, she would say. My retardate daughter, in local lingo. Retardate kaw! Retardate kaw tuud! I can’t recall if Child Rights were in vogue by then, that was late 1990s, I believe, and incest rape and such were what was looked on as human rights violation (or women’s rights, at the time).
Ten o’ clock igsak, she wrote. You do not spell-check a word like that. It’s so authentic. And the Tausugs, or the locals, have this way with words, they have a way of picking words from the air and make it homegrown. That’s how we have meyul for mayor, gubnul for governor, abugaw for abugado. Naghapen for what happened. And now, igzak. But the z replacing s is my own interference. I cannot stand sitting by watching when there is so much word game going on.
What is hanging out in Tausug? Naglali. Yari aku ha lawang sin Garden Orchid naglilingkud ha sopa nila ini, nagfi-facebook. Iyan hi Neldy, Tausug researcher, linguist, local historian, in correct word kunu subay pag-usalun when we are referring to the language, Sinug, bukun Tausug. In Tausug tao, in language Sinug. Like Sinama for the language of the Sama people. Okay. No probz.
I bury camouflage my face behind all this. Because I cannot bury my face in the couch. I don’t want to be seen. Stealing info tech access, no cup of coffee to prop me for company; it feels lonesome. Muslim ladies sashay by. The crème de la crème of the Moro intelligentsia. They don’t know me I don’t know them.
I wonder. If there was a third party watching us, would they observe, “they look at each other archly.”
Posted by sheilfa at 1:38 AM
Friday, February 21, 2014
When I first read this piece what I felt was, Fuck. This one hurts.
Then on second reading, it was, Hell, it was a life well-lived! Selling ice cubes is appropriate; it goes with beer and rum. And he was right about rum over piggy-banking; he was right about fries and hotdogs and about bastard fathers; and he was right about dying on some friggin’ plan to retire in a country he long abandoned for what he became. The rest (Jesus, funeral rights, Facebook, one cold heart) is not for him to suffer.
(a repost from Facebook)
His first love was computers, not new ones but stuff that needed his screwdrivers, solders and wits for resuscitation. You could see heaven on his face once the dead computer came to life. Then came Ms. J, the biggest love of his life.
Life with Ms. J was the peak of the happiness that he wished for. All the more the world around him became hazier. He chose only a few people to connect with and only those he believed could understand him. In fact, he was a person not easy to fathom and I am not one of the few who could. For almost twenty years we talked without talking, thought of each other without really trying; I, always hoping he got what he wished for.
Ms. J died somewhere in 2008 but not without giving her all to him, including a will to a family inheritance for him to live by in Bohol. But without Ms. J, he went deep inside himself, harnessing and brandishing his own beliefs and fought for the will as if it were a claim he could make without making friends with Ms. J’s family and friends. He placed all the money he got for legal battles he could not win until he lost and found himself dejected, always believing that he was a victim of discrimination in a foreign country.
But he never gave up nor dared himself to rethink fully well. He just pivoted, acquired some rice lands on mortgage, ran a small swine farm and soothed his loneliness with beer and rum. In March 2011, he met Ms. L through SMS. She was forty-something then, never married. She is a teacher, a specialist in braille.
They decided to live together, moved to Ms. L’s hometown and decided to live as man and wife – alone in a rented small bungalow near a jetty. She went to teach and he to sell homemade ice cubes. He bought three freezers, she a generator after Yolanda struck the power lines. After work, she would come home to prepare a hundred of ice packs in small plastic bags. The ice business earned them PHP200-300 a day but not without a daily fight over how the earnings should be spent. The man won and got the daily dose of beer and rum and the usual drunkenness, vomiting and not knowing where the bedroom is.
For him, the booze was his world away from sadness into a make-believe world of remembering Ms. J. He loves Ms. L, he would say but nonchalantly also say that he loves Ms. J more than everything else. He still had Ms. J’s dog with him and her name as password to his email address. He would play their favourite songs and shed tears in front of his desktop, with Ms. L patiently watching and listening by his side.
Two years of booze and dejection, on the one hand, and the ever-loving presence of Ms. L, on the other, made him decide that 2014 would be different. He whispered a promise: he would marry her, bring her to his homeland, tour her to Paris and money would be no object. He said he had stashed some money, big money, somewhere in Switzerland in the care of someone he would divulge. He also got himself a new passport and was making inquiries with his embassy for the marriage and travel requirements.
On January 10, he passed away, found slumped in front of his desktop with earphones still on. The whispered promise to Ms. L. came too late. Even the passwords to his files and pin numbers of his ATM he brought to his grave.
To local people, he was ‘the American who died because of too much drinking without eating.’ But he was also the American who dug an old man and a child from the rubbles during the October 2013 earthquake and the technician who taught neighbours how to convert their motorbikes into power generators during the blackout that followed Yolanda’s onslaught.
A lot of foreigners got married to locals in Bohol but to most people they are all Americans, including Mr. K. But he was not the typical foreigner or the typical Dutchman. Even during the earthquake, he admonished Ms. L to stop praying to Jesus on the argument that Jesus has nothing to do with earthquakes. In fact, he could easily get into an argument with anyone if it was about religion, faith and super beings. He would rather that Ms L watch science documentaries than talk about God. How much he hated Pacquaio, dancing prisoners and Pinoy soap opera for wasting the time of viewers.
At one time Ms. L’s uncle, a 60-something community organizer, offered to give them company. It did not take very long for him to claim primacy of beliefs, calling him a ‘murderer’ for killing ants that clung to his underwear; or an abuser for shooing his dogs away; or a transgressor for switching on the TV without his permission or for wiping off the stinking vomit from the floor.
He could wage war on anything and everything if it was about what he stood for. He grew pigs and could not stand the sight of a slaughter. He ate crabmeat but could not help calling a cook a torturer for cooking the crab alive and bound. I too had a bout with him many years ago for suggesting that I should not dare to offer fries and hotdog to my son because I was only the biological father and he was the real father in my frequent absence.
A lot of friends really wanted and tried to understand him, but he chose to be alone. Ms. L tried her all to bring him to the present in her hometown. She introduced and brought him to parties and reunions with fellow teachers and never for a moment faltered on the husband-wife image and despite the frequent remembrance of Ms. J as the love of his life. The only moments that she stood up against him were when she demanded he stop drinking, forcibly pulling him to the bathroom. She would beg for him to change his clothes when he took her to school. But he was a fortress of self-choice. He would demand ownership of Ms. L’s time after school, often threatening to complain why she had to work overtime when it was voluntary on her part.
Ms L was in panic when she found him dead. She had never seen a dead man in her house, much less a partner whose family she did not know and whose friends she would only know from the stories he told or via Facebook. She was alone with him and there was the basket of fears - of being asked by the police about the cause of death, payment for the morgue, when to bury him and the expenses for the wake and the funeral.
But to her surprise, people she does not know were forthcoming. Even the neighbours who kept their distance came forward to console her and offer their prayers – despite knowing that if he were alive, they would not be allowed to pray in his house. Somebody even made sure that a customized casket would be crafted because his size would not fit the standard Pinoy caskets.
Now he has no choice; he cannot prevent people from praying over him or the priest who said mass yesterday. He and Ms L never officially got married but on his casket Ms L. inscribed “from the loving memory of his wife… sons, daughters, relatives and friends.” Underneath the casket are his dogs, including Ms. J’s dog. For them, he is just asleep and they wait.
I owe him, a debt I can never repay. The last twenty years without communication is something that brings pain, and somehow, the good years before that do not strangely warm my heart.
Posted by sheilfa at 3:40 PM
These days I am a little stimulated. Yesterday or day before yesterday Germelina wanted to know where was I, still in Zamboanga or still in Jolo? I wanted to ask if they want for me to cover the escape from captivity of the Bansil sisters, hot copy that would be, but I don’t like melodramas, people who were not there suddenly turning up to congratulate the two kids whose dad they knew for escaping from hell?
I cover my own non-story of non-captivity and I would rather nobody reads me even after I survived.
Weeks before I went to Jolo, friends warned me against coming to Jolo. They kidnap anyone here, big time or small time, no discrimination. Don’t come around these days, they advised.
Okay, I said.
Do I fear the Abu Sayaf? I don’t know. I feel something akin to fear when I cross the street full of soldiers. What if someone took the notion of shooting at the exact moment that I put my body on his line of fire?
I’d like to think they’re just like me. They’re just like anyone. A bunch of armed fucks trying to make out. It's not their fault if nobody taught them correct political lines. None of them perhaps cares about political lines or about God and whatever it is up there that looks down on them. Then, I do not really think hard before I get on to something. Like going to Jolo. Or doing work in Jolo. Or setting a program or an office in Jolo. Who wants me there? What could I want from there other than more of the same thing I already have in excess.
And I don’t really differentiate between big moves and small moves; high-risk or small-risk; they amount to the same non-sacrifice to me. They make so much of not going abroad earning dollars or euros in consultancy fees rather than doing social work among the poverty-reduction cuckoos, as though when they leave the godforsaken country they can make something out of their godforsaken social welfare careers. So much for migration. It’s a nice name for dissolution. Got that from Zadie Smith, not from Mariam Gagosh.
I am a little dazed.Weeks ago Kim poked me.I will put the Jolo girls online, she said. We are a bunch of illiterates when it comes to friggin' hosting and all this web thing and she said yesso, most of these lgbt ezines are crap, people getting away with certain lifestyles in the name of advocacy. The Jolo guys had more to offer.
Fortunately for Facebook, it has its uses. I gloat at sightings of feminists into self-defense, demands for safe abortion, decriminalization of prostitution. Just a couple of years back, maybe three, Sara, a natdem gun from UP Diliman spoke in a women conference in Davao. It was March 8 if I remember it right. And she damned shopping-rights feminism, like feminism is all about that. Like what daphnie and carol appreciated with gender hogging the headlines. The flights of stairs of Ateneo de Davao are not gender-sensitive, they say. Girls in stiletto heels are bound to trip and fall. Oh let them fall. I wish they fall all the pretty girls in stiletto heels. A big comedic break that would be.
But the wind did change. I don’t know where it came from, Egypt or Uganda; Venezuela or America. There was Saira writing to me about the takeover of the neoliberal regime co-opting the feminist organizations in the US. We were not talking about the feminist movement, really. Because there was no feminist movement by then. We were talking about the peace movement in the US, the ones that put up schools of peace upon schools of peace in Mindanao and other parts of the world where conflict once mattered. And she said, I am out of here, I am going over to the other side of despair, and you know what, we have this org called Incite!
That was ages ago. And now here comes Mariam Gagosh refusing to say she is in solidarity with the protesters at Kiev. How could she say, she said, that she is there with them when her butt is in a couch in San Francisco? Damnit. Then I had to do some more tracking. I like tracking people, I tell you, their allegiances. Ruby with the striking workers in Camboadia, Germelina at Pete Seger’s funeral singing paeans to dead communists at a time when communists are no longer looked up as saints. Then Neldy coming at me with the news that Linda and Nadjoua escaped from capitivity after eight months of sitting it up with the Abu Sayaf. Then Cocoy from prison saying he is amazed beyond belief that his friends in Jolo could just let him rot in jail. When he gets out, he said, when he gets out the struggle will be more beautiful.
Lordgodalmighty he gone bonkers! When did people last remember struggle as good and beautiful? That there is joy in revolution? My consultant friends, erstwhile heroes of my lost youth, all they repeat to the last of their breath, a way to cleanse themselves of the guilt perhaps that sticks, is that let us be kind to ourselves.
Posted by sheilfa at 4:41 AM
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Courtney, when I say I love you I am not ashamed, nor will anyone ever ever come close to intimidating persuading, etc me into thinking otherwise. I wear you on my sleeve. I spread you out wide open with the wing span of a peacock. Yet all too often with the attention span of a bullet to the head. I think its pathetic that the entire world looks upon a calm demeanor as the desired model citizen. Yet heres something to be said about the ability to explain oneself with a toned down, tune deal tone. And I will say it: I am the boy who is slow. how I metamorphosised from hyperactive to cement is for lack of a better knife to the throat uh, annoying, aggravating, confusing as dense as cement. Cement holds no other minerals. You cant even find fools gold in it. Its strictly manmade and you’ve taught me it’s ok to be a man and in the classic mans world I parade you around proudly like the ring on my finger which also holds no mineral. Love kurdt
Posted by sheilfa at 9:54 AM