Friday, October 29, 2010

the drummer girl

i rode a bus yesterday towards the university where my daughter is studying. i have to pay the security deposit required by her dormitory. this is to reserve the room from being rented to another. it was about 11 am, the day was hot, the sun was blazing overhead, you'll never think that just a couple of days ago we have had a lot of rain. a typhoon had just visited the country. i could have taken an airconditioned bus but the fare was a lot cheaper on an ordinary one. anyway, there are not so many passengers on my bus. lots of empty seats.

as usual on this route, the España, the main highway leading to the university belt, traffic was bad. terrible even. you really have to be a terrific driver to survive the jostling and the jockeying for position. and you have to be very patient as well. especially now when motorcycles have become a popular mode of transport. you'll have to be always on the alert when a biker will suddenly decide to test the vacant space between your vehicle and another. if he fits, good, if he brushes against you, then trouble.

the two children boarded my bus just as we lazily reached the corner of Miguelin street. both were unkempt. their faces and arms were darker than the usual brown. probably due to long hours of exposure to the sun. the taller one, a girl, had her long hair pulled back and secured tight behind her head. barely in her teens. she was wearing this sarong-like dress which was as dirty as the shirt her companion had on. the bus conductor just threw a quick look at them. i believe he's familiar with them. the girl had three drum-like contraptions slung over her shoulder. they were tin cylinders of different sizes, the ones used for infant formula milk, or powdered instant drinks, the top covers were removed and over the tops was stretched several sheets of plastic secured tightly by rubber bands much like how drum skins are stretched over real drums.

she played the drums while the little boy passed a small, dirty letter envelope to each passenger. there was a handwritten note on the envelope but i was not able to read it. i refused it when the boy got to me. she actually played well. i was amazed at how she learned this. using her fingers and her palms to nimbly tap on her drums. the beat was rhythmic and it was in time with the tune she was humming which melody i could not place. i thought i heard it before.

it was just a short performance. when she finished, the boy went back to collect the envelopes. most of them were empty. i saw the man seated beside me fish out a 10-peso coin from his coin purse and inserted it inside the envelope. i searched inside my back pocket. i was able to fish out a 1-peso coin and a 5-peso coin. instinctively i looked at the coins. the profile of two of our greatest heroes are embossed on the coins. the 1-peso coin has the profile of Jose Rizal, our national hero. the 5-peso coin has Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the republic. a sudden question popped in my mind -- why do we put our heroes faces on our money? is it so that we can be always reminded to show heroism, to remember how some great ones had set aside self for the greater good of many? as my seatmate handed the envelope to the boy, without hesitancy i also handed the 6 pesos to him. he gave us a thank you smile.

they say the beat of drums is a reflection of the beating of the heart. sometimes the beat is celebratory after a hard-earned victory, sometimes the beat is sad, slow, to mark a loss, or even death. for me, that hot day, the drummer girl's beat is one of dignity. they are beggars of course. a lot of our city streets are still teeming with beggars. yet, the drummer girl and the boy, they tried to give some dignity to begging by trying to give something in return, like music, in their own limited way.

still, most of the envelopes were empty.

i will never know how many coins or paper bills they got, or who are the other heroes they received yesterday, but those heroes are dead. they deserve heroes that are alive, today, persons who can set aside ambition, greed, lust for wealth, power, and fame, that can uplift them from poverty, from the streets,

that can change that drummer girl's heartbeat to one of a celebration, a victory ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

where good citizenship begins

i was riding in a jeepney again on my way home at about 10 am. i happened to get the seat behind the driver. he was a young man of about 23 but his face looks older and it tells me he'd gone through a lot. well, this country of ours, after a lot centuries, is i think still underdeveloped. or, perhaps it can be stated this way: the elite class, the oligarchs, is first-world, the rest of us still third-world class. but, we were born in this brave, resilient country, so we have to face the trials of being a filipino. i say we are still in the process of evolving one true, great, selfless leader who will herd us all to a better life. if you are a believer of karma and reincarnation, it is said that it is you who determine the country where you will be reborn so that you can have better opportunities to undo the wrongs you have done in the past.

beside the driver, by his left side, sat a kid, a boy of about 4 or 5 years old. he was busily munching on some biscuits and sipping orange juice from a tetra pak. he couldn't care less about his dad. he knew he should not bother him while he was at his "office". i glanced at the rear view mirror in front of the driver. his son's image is reflected there, so innocent looking, bright eyes showing the look of hope, of a great future, one normally sees in children's eyes. i know the driver and i have had that look before when we were young. now time might have obliterated that hopeful look in our eyes, but "hope springs eternal in men's hearts".

after a while i heard the driver speak, he noticed the child is just sipping air out of the juice pack, "son, that's empty, throw it away!" he commanded. the child looked at him pleadingly, seemingly unwilling to part with his orange juice. then he slowly stood up and tried to reach over the back of the front seat. overhanging the back of the front seat was an empty engine oil plastic container with the the top lid cut off. this serves as garbage bin where backseat passengers can dispose of small trash. the driver slowed the vehicle down and with his left arm pulled his son down on the seat.

"just throw it outside!" he told the boy.

"outside? there?" the child pointed to the road.

"yes, there!" his father answered as he maneuvered the jeepney to a stop to pick up a passenger.

as the vehicle picked up speed again the boy let go of the juice pack. he laughed aloud when he saw it hit the road and cartwheeled carelessly. i looked back, the empty juice pack lies there in the middle of the road, along with some other trash thrown mindlessly by others. i remembered what i always say to friends, that, to make this country better we have to invest in the new generation, we need to give them better values than we have now. and this is not a good way of doing it. where the father, the mother, and the child or the children are, HOME IS THERE, and HOME IS WHERE GOOD CITIZENSHIP BEGINS.

the way to a better future for this country is to invest even in the small acts of good citizenship like disposing of trash. even more, the way to save this Great Mother Earth is to be mindful of this irresponsible little acts that accumulate over time and hurt her in the end, and, eventually hurt us. karma, the law of cause and effect. what you give, so shall you receive.

i, myself, was not a good citizen in that instance on that jeepney. what i should have done was to offer my help to the kid, to take the trash and drop it in that garbage container. i could have been a good example to him. yet, i just let the situation complete itself, so that i could write down something on this blog. what a shame! how selfish of me ...

what's the end of this story?

well, after a couple of minutes more the kid finished the biscuits and smilingly threw the plastic wrapper out into the street.

*** jeepney night trip is by my daughter, neysa saguid, copyright 2010.

Friday, October 22, 2010

this empty chair will not tell..

i took this shot after my wife left to get something from the kitchen i think. we were video chatting over the internet. i'm here at home. she was far away in another country. this is just the backrest of the chair she was sitting on.

this empty chair will not tell it but it has heard all of the big and small things we talked about. current plans, future plans, problems we are encountering, solutions to these -- just the usual family stuff.

what i was excited about were the experiences she is having in that foreign land. and i'm as grateful to the Infinite as her for giving her this wonderful time. she was able to see their famous landmarks, their tall skyscrapers, their shops. she had had her first brush with snowfall early on. she was not much impressed. now she is seeing fall. she told me about the leaves turning orange or fiery red, then falling. she told me how odd the trees look with just their branches shooting out to the heavens. i told her to take pictures of them. it's rare to see bare-branched trees here. and the temperature, she said it's starting to get cold. i'm glad she's knowing all of these first hand. as for me, i don't know if i'll ever be given the chance to see and feel all of these. if ever i'll be given the chance, my first mission is to get acquainted with my first snowflake. i'm pretty sure, unlike my wife, i'll be impressed.

well, a picture of an empty chair should not always be associated with loneliness. no. it's just in the mind. emptiness is loneliness? it's just how you view things. in fact, the Old Sages say that "to be full, one at first must be empty". even the great Burt Bacharach had said, "a chair is still a chair, even if there's no one sitting there".


this chair is empty, who cares?

this is a happy chair !

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

why you hate the rain ...

it's actually the persistent rain. the incessant rain. that's the one you hate. the rain that keeps on pouring for a day, or worse, for more than one day. you hate this kind of rain because it makes for a bleak day. it ruins your mood. it dampens your otherwise upbeat spirit.

you have had a good sleep and woke up feeling fresh and rejuvenated. invigorated. the struggles of the previous day forgotten. you look forward to meeting this new day's challenges head on again. confident that you will do better this time. so you get up early, take one long inspired inhalation and then do one long lazy exhalation, trying to visualize the life giving currents of air slowly exit your nostrils, much like that yoga practitioner you read in one of your exercise books. then you smile at the sunbeams piercing the distant clouds overhead. and you silently offer a prayer at this new lease of life.

and then, without any warning, the sunbeams retract, the clouds turn gray, and rain falls. just like that. immediately, looking at the raindrops, you intuitively know, this is not going to be that short-minute rain. and you brace yourself. this will be one of those times when the rainclouds do not seem to empty themselves up in one heavy outburst. this will be one of those times when the rains will fall leisurely, stretching towards the entire day, the entire night, then through the following day. drop by drop by drop, testing your patience, the heavens knowing that you are terribly aching to spend a good day outside, and teasingly it does not allow you that luxury, when you have primed yourself for one. oh, for heaven's sake! you heave a sigh in frustration.

this kind of rain is a revealer. after a good long while, you find the street outside your house had started to get flooded. water had accumulated. those garbage you disposed of haphazardly, irresponsibly, are now clogging the waterways to the canals. the unrelenting bombardment of the raindrops has found those small holes in your tin roof which you should have fixed when the weather was fine, but procrastinated from doing so, and thus inside your house you gazed at your wooden ceiling, disbelieving, as water seeped down in so many places. you scamper in all directions, trying to put catch basins, cups, small pails, rags, on the spots where water drops down from the ceiling.

and you curse the rain. this incessant rain.
and you hate this rain, this persistent, unrelenting rain.

yet, at the back of your mind, you know why you hate this rain. it is because it did not conceal the bad things you did. it revealed the irresponsible you.

and so you sit inside your house, looking with thinning patience as water dropped down from your ceiling, reciting this childhood poem reverently --

rain, rain, go away
come again another day,
little johnny wants to play
rain, rain, go to spain
never show your face again!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

where's her mom?

what's great about this almost graveyard shift i am assigned to is that i get to see life in another perspective. the night perspective. they always say there are day people and there are night people. well, i have had my long chance of having observed day people. now i'm being given the chance to see people at night. the very late night.

about a week ago, i boarded a jeepney on my way to work. it was 10:00 pm. there were already about 7 other people inside. after several minutes of travelling, i noticed that the other passengers were giggling. i looked about and i immediately noticed the reason for their amusement. opposite me was this young girl who was visibly irritating the lady seated by her left side. the young girl, about 14 or 15, was terribly drunk, she could not sit upright, she was trying miserably to hold off her sleep. but she couldn't. she kept on leaning against this lady. the lady was trying to be polite to her by nudging her upright every time she leaned to her, but i knew she can only be patient up to a point. when she couldn't tolerate it anymore she changed seats. as soon as she left, immediately the young one collapsed on the vacated seat having no one to lean against. she almost hit her head against the metal tube framing the front seat. by sheer reflex she was able to hold onto the edge of the seat and this prevented her from dropping to the floor of the vehicle. the driver tried to wake her up when he noticed she's inconveniencing the others. she half-opened her eyes and mumbled something nobody understood.

an older woman at my right side asked the driver, "where is this girl headed to? did she tell you where she's going?"

"no, ma'am." answered the driver," she actually dozed off after she and that other lady boarded my jeep, i thought they were together," he explained.

the old woman transferred next to the girl. she tried to rouse her but she's just mumbling incoherently. "well, you'll have to wake her up!" said the old woman. nobody dared move. not even i. the old woman tried hard but she can't wake the girl up. a couple of blocks soon, she got off the jeepney. "wake her up!!" she reminded no one in particular.

i observed her. a girl of probably 14 or 15. my first thought was, WHERE'S HER MOM? how on earth had she gotten into this? almost nearing midnight. dead drunk with no one accompanying her. where are her family? and her mom,why'd she permit her? night is not for young girls. i remembered mother hen, how she frantically looked for her missing chicks. but this young woman's mother, is she missing her?

i hope she does.

i'm almost nearing my stop and we are the only remaining passengers inside the jeepney. by this time, the girl had awakened and the driver had started interviewing her. they were arguing about the girl's fare when i reached my stop. before i got off, i overheard her saying she had already given 100 pesos to the driver and she's claiming for her change. the driver was denying this. well, this is going to be a long night for both.

i was already walking atop the overpass. i looked back. the jeepney was still there. definitely, the two are still arguing. i stopped walking for a while and watched. after a couple of minutes, the girl alighted from the jeepney. she was shouting at the driver and he was shouting back at her. finally, the jeepney moved on. the drunk girl was left standing alone where she was dropped off. maybe she'll take another ride. wherever she's going. i resumed my walk towards my office building. i just hope nothing bad happens to her. how can this happen to young girls such as she? how can her mother permit this? and her father? but, mainly her mother. mothers are the nurturers, caretakers.

motherhood is not just gender. motherhood is feeling. motherhood is heart. i knew a lot of men who turned out to be good mothers and women who were terrible mothers.

motherhood is not just about gender.

before i walked down the stairs of the overpass, i looked back again. she was still there standing alone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

mighty proud

i was having second thoughts about writing this one. i actually should have written this several weeks earlier. i finally decided to let things simmer down for a bit.

i took the picture above on the same day i shot the letter A (the hidden picture), also at the park where i accompanied my daughter. we were passing this long row of flagpoles and my eye caught this angle. i was amused by the juxtaposition of these flagpoles wherein the tallest one in the forefront, the "General", was actually sort of leading his "troop"in a respectful salute to the sun which was about to set. the flags were all gently waving in the breeze, somewhat eliciting this realization in me that most people flock to the park because this is the place where they can exercise their own version of Freedom even for just a short period of time.

this is the place where we forget our worries, our pains, the drudgery of life's hard times. this is where we enjoy SPACE: physical space -- far from the confines of the cocoons we call houses, mental space -- to seek respite from the onslaught of thoughts that clog the mind and give it unrest, and emotional space -- momentarily releasing the heart from that prison we call attachment.

at the park we run unfettered, we savor the breeze, we enjoy the scenery, we relish the energy, we feel the vibrance of life, we laugh as we see father and child unashamedly rolling in the grass, we smile secretly as we pass by a pair of stern looking old men playing checkers, watched intently by a handful of kibitzers who are as quiet as the most devout churchgoers,

and we are free to shoot pictures ...

so i go home mighty proud, like the "Flag General" and his "troop", that we have this park where we can go to and be momentarily free.

and then the following day, just a day after this exhilarating feeling, we watched the news, dumb-founded, unbelieving, just a few blocks away from where we were yesterday


a filipino police officer shot dead a group of tourists he held hostage. it was said the negotiators botched the job and the hostage taker panicked. it was said he was trying to seek redress from an injustice he felt was done to him. i really did not delve much into the details. there's so much finger-pointing going on now.

what i know is this, a group of innocent people were killed, just trying to enjoy the park i was so mighty proud of,

just yesterday ...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A, B, C, or D

once, some good long years ago when i was still working in a factory, one of my officemates asked me,"sito, if you were invited by your alma mater to give a pep talk to a fresh batch of students on which is the most valuable lesson or skill you learned in all of the years you spent studying, what will you tell them?"

"whoa! friend, the opportunity to give inspirational talks are accorded only to those who have done notably well after school." i reminded him.

"well, just humor me, my friend,"he said, as he sipped on his beer,"i know you're not a class top honcho, this is just for discussion."

"ok, in that case, give me some time to think." i replied. i looked at my glass of beer and amused myself for a while with the way the ice moved as i jiggled the glass slowly. come to think of it, i asked myself, why don't these alma maters invite non-achievers or moderate achievers for a change, for inspirational talks? i answered the same question myself-- inspiration is equated with wealth or fame or social status. mediocrity will serve no purpose. people, especially the young, look up to people who have accumulated wealth, became famous, or have successfully reached the highest echelons of the social ladder. these are the people whom they want to pattern their lives with.

"what, in my years of study, do i consider the most valuable lesson or skill i learned?" i repeated my friend's question just to be sure i understood him correctly.

"yes!" he said,"you know, you've taken so long to answer this question, i'm not inviting you to deliver a speech. i told you, this is just for discussion."

"ok, i'll say it's english. the skill to communicate in this worldwide tongue. no matter where you go, if you're conversant in english you won't be an underdog."

"hmmm," he considered my answer. sipped on his beer again. "i'll say it's math," he declared,"it's the most useful tool, if you know how to compute, you will not fail." uhhuh, i sensed where this is leading. i know this guy so well. never wants to pass an opportunity to debate. but i won't allow him to.

"you know,my friend,"i answered," i guess you're right. math is the most valuable tool. if you're skilled in math, you'll go places." there. end of discussion. we drank a couple of beers more and left in peace.

today, if i will be asked the same question, i will be very definite with my answer -- it is "a,b,c, or d". MULTIPLE CHOICE! yes, i just realized this.

if i will be in front of young students i will tell them this -- the skill or the ability to answer multiple choice type of exams or tests. this is the most valuable skill or lesson these years of schooling should hone you for. be sure to develop this. most school exams or tests are in this format. a question is given, then, there follows several choices. one just need to select the best answer. learn this well. HOW TO SELECT THE BEST ANSWER. never mind the exams or the tests where they allow you time to review. although most of those are major exams, still, you are given time to prepare. focus on the exams or the tests that are unannounced. the surprise quizzes! during these times, that's when you are truly being tested. you are left to rely on your ability to choose well. a? b? c? d? which of these? and for most of us, mediocre, lazy students, during these unannounced quizzes or tests, we will have to rely on gut feel. or copying, of course, from the nearest seatmate. but, if the seatmate is as mediocre as we are, then..

why did i say this? well, as i knew it now, LIFE IS A VERY BIG SCHOOL! and most of its tests are unannounced. its questions are also of the multiple choice type. and if one has not this ability to select the best answer, then one will always find one's self in trouble. a? b? c? d? none of the above? all of the above? which is which? if one is not prepared for life's questions, one must rely on gut feel, intuition. one must be prepared to take a chance. oh yes, like most schools, in Life if you fail, you can repeat. Life will permit that. of course, you will be delayed. and that will hurt especially if you have a goal you want to achieve the soonest time possible.

by the way, if you don't develop this ability to select the best answer to Life's questions, forget your desire to be in front of a fresh batch of students to deliver an inspirational message.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Jesus and me

i remembered this time when my wife and i were invited to attend one of our daughter's spiritual retreats when she was in high school. she was enrolled in a catholic school near the village we were residing at. this school is very particular about parents involvement in the development of their child's well-being. they make it a point to let parents know what are the school activities that their children go thru including such extra curricular activities as seminars, retreats, etc. this one we were invited to needs participation even from parents. i always make it a point to attend family activities such as this so that at least i may be able to spend some quality time with my wife and kid.

there was the usual socialization with the other parents and the school faculty and the facilitator of the program. i must admit that i really don't expect much since i have attended several other activities in the past that i pretty much know what will happen.

and so, the usual prayer sessions. the usual pep talks and inspirational talks from several facilitators and from the retreat master himself who is a priest. the talks ran much in the same vein as before -- parents and children must have open lines of communication, what the children are learning in school, especially value formation and character building, must coincide with what they are actually experiencing at home. i admit for most of these activities, i kept my eyes closed. i have heard all these before.

then came this period when parents were separated from the children. they spent some time in seclusion with the retreat master. we don't know what happened there. but i do know what happened during the time we spent in our own seclusion with the retreat master. at one point during this activity, the priest asked us parents to evaluate our selves honestly. he requested us to try to look deeply into our own lives and then ask ourselves what we have done with our lives. what we have accomplished, what others things we think needs to be done, for ourselves, for our family, for the country, for the world, etc.

i looked around the room. the other parents were busily writing on the notepads we were given. i looked at my wife. she had her eyes closed at one point in time and then she scribbled something on her paper. she's busy too.

but i? i had nothing to write. my mind was blank. much as i tried hard to think about it, i cannot think of any concrete achievement in my life. house? car? money? material possessions? nope.. nada .. nothing much to be considered achievement ..

i was sad. i had to look away from my wife who was sitting beside me. i don't want her to see this look of shame on my face. and the tears.

i don't know what had happened but my eyes focused on the cross mounted on the retreat master's table. i looked at the figure on the cross. and then i experienced this sudden, soothing feeling. an assurance that all is well. i took a deep breath. the sadness disappeared. the time for submitting the papers was almost up. without hesitation, i grabbed my pen and wrote this prayer on my paper:

for Jesus

i tried to be a poet
i did not become one.
i tried to be a singer
i did not become one.
i tried to be a musician
i did not become one.
i did not aspire for riches
now You're giving me just enough.
i did not aspire for fame
now i'm an unknown.
whatever i am now,
You made me!
as always, there's just one thing
i ask of Thee --
just keep me always
in Thy Holy Company.

thank you, Jesus,
my Lord, My Friend.

i handed the paper to the retreat master.
i felt no guilt. i felt no shame.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

the crime scene

i went out early morning two days ago to buy some bread at a nearby bakery. it was rather a chilly morning. there was a slight drizzle. it was about 5 am. the bakery opens early since lots of people flock there to buy their baked bread. still very hot, straight from the oven. but this will not be about bread.

this will be about mother hen.

when i went out of our gate that morning immediately what caught my attention was this brown colored hen. she was wet from the drizzle and she was pacing back and forth on the grassy sidewalk fronting the house opposite ours. her feathers were glistening from the soft rain but she was unmindful of this. she was frantically cluck-clucking. it was not hard to guess that she was calling for maybe one or two of her brood. about five paces from mother hen was this dark coated cat. he was just there, unmoving, sphinx-like. his front paws are crossed one on top of the other. there was something sinister in the way he looked at mother hen. i could not help but be amazed at these two animals i was observing.

mother hen nervously, noisily, pacing back and forth. dark gray cat patiently poised. only the eyes were moving. this is something i greatly admire with cats. the ability to sit poised, unmoving, for long periods of time. it's as if cats have all the time in the world to wait. yet, equally, i have something to admire too, with mother hen, and with all mothers, for that matter -- the ability to sense danger for their loved ones.

all of a sudden, from behind a lump of decaying cut grass on the sidewalk, darted this small, cottony, yellow creature, chirping animatedly towards mother hen. mother hen opened wide one of her wings, her eyes fixed automatically at the direction of the cat. cat's ears were tensed pointedly upwards, his eyes were focused on the little chick. but he never moved. never budged as mother hen enveloped the little one in her wing.

i guess i might have spent a good ten minutes observing these two, but i have to hurry to the bakery. what occupied my mind as i walked away was why i still heard mother hen 's frantic clucking when i already saw that she was able to tuck the little one safely. could it be she's still missing another chick? could it be i had stepped in on a crime scene? what satisfied the cat?

haha ... what weird thoughts for this wet morning.

the scent of freshly baked bread will soon overcome this silliness.

Friday, October 01, 2010

the hidden picture

i accompanied my daughter one time in a park. she was there to shoot some pictures to comply with her photography class assignment. i watched her do her work. a budding photojournalist? well, whatever she chooses to do in life, i advised her that the best formula for success as i found out is to love what you are doing. not just like it, but love it!

we walked along the park. stopping from time to time so she can take pictures. -- the silhouette of a building against the cotton clouds of the grayish sky, a man sleeping soundly in one of the cement benches unmindful that anytime soon it might rain, a passing horse-driven pink colored cart, the balloon vendor so alone in a corner of the park ... i must say i am convinced she loves what she does. i just hope she keeps this love even after graduating from college. i hope this is not just a passing fancy.

" Dad," she said, "if ever you want to take a shot yourself just tell me."

as we passed the portion of the park where there were lots of trees i stopped. "Hand me that camera!" i asked her. she passed it to me and i took a shot.

"But that picture you took were just a clump of trees, Dad!" she protested.

"i didn't photograph the trees," i explained, " i shot the letter A."

she looked at the picture again and smiled. "You're silly, Dad!"

i'm not.

i just love what i do. i just did it in this park.