Nonfiction by | January 25, 2009

When I see myself in mirrors, I don’t notice my mother’s nose, my father’s eyes, or my aunt’s lips. I do see my reflection but I don’t recognize myself. What I see is my father, what I recognize is a molded reflection of my father’s.

My father may not always have been there for me, but I believe he made sure to be there at the exact moment I had a weak grasp of what was going around me—he made sure to be there to help strengthen my grasp of what was worth gripping, of what was worth holding on to. Here is how I knew.

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Beginning with Inkblots

Nonfiction by | January 18, 2009

inkblotsTo write is to be in service to the moment, a moment that seeks to captivate and allure as well as to express the complex nature of emotion. I have written for as long as I can remember because I have found the necessity—no, rather, the conscious desire and comfort to see my thoughts and feelings materialize on paper and hence become my reality through which all can awaken and develop a sense of meaning and value.

I write because I feel the urge to enter into the practice of rediscovering the simplicities and complexities around me through the aid of both imagery and words, each story and each poem pulsating with life, striving to describe, to impart insight, to prove, to share—for life, I believe, is in itself the lifeblood of all things written and to be written.

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Flashback 1956: Letter of James Martin Welborn

Nonfiction by | January 18, 2009

(Excerpt from a letter of James Martin Welborn, an American soldier in the Philippine-American War who turned planter in Davao in the first decade of the 1900s.)

October 14, 1956

Dear Son,

I notice in the F. P. (Philippine Free Press) that there is a lot of graft around Manila; does the same condition apply around Davao?

It seems that all the world has gone crooked. We have it in this country almost as bad as there with you. The older Philipino was trained in it by the Spaniards and many have improved on their methods.

When I was there the aim of most of the young men was to get an education so they could live without work, not for the betterment of their country or countrymen.

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Cat Stories

Nonfiction by | December 28, 2008

A few years ago, when our family moved to Davao, we had with us a male Chocolate Burmese cat. He belonged to my eldest daughter, Danielle, then in college. He was a cuddly ball of white when he was sold to us for a song by a family friend. Danielle promptly called him Forrest, after the protagonist in the movie “Forrest Gump.” They bonded instantly.

Forrest grew up to be a majestic tomcat, grumpy and aloof, but fiercely loyal to his mistress. He never responded to our remonstrations of affection, preferring to ignore them with a haughtiness fit for aristocracy. My son was rather testy with him, and Forrest would often return the compliment with a spray of urine on his newly pressed shirts. My clothes were mercifully spared from the amber showers, probably because I tolerated his snootiness.

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Nonfiction by | December 21, 2008

The full moon shone pale through thin clouds, diffusing its glow. The faces of the people looked peaceful and solemn in the subdued light of the many-colored lanterns that lined the sides of Lourdes Church in Quezon City. The priest’s voice echoed from hidden speakers and was thunderous, like the foreboding voice of God, but I did not see his face because I was standing in the adjacent car park. From outside, I could see empty pews, but more parishioners than what I thought was usual had gathered to listen and to pray.

The evening was chilly. One could almost imagine that the church, the streets, the shabby souvenir shops and donut chains, and all the rest of Manila were air-conditioned. The leaves of the fruitless trees beside the adoration chapel rustled gently, and the seven o’clock sky was pink. Indeed, the weather is best come December. It doesn’t rain and it is never too hot.

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Nonfiction by | December 21, 2008

When I was younger, met the -ber months with anticipation. I knew then that gifts, parties, and family reunions were not far off. Chill wind, Christmas carols, and dazzling lights: there was magic in the air. But above all, what I looked forward to in Christmas was the gift from Santa Claus.

My parents taught me to believe in Santa Claus. I did, hook, line and sinker. Who wouldn’t, with everyone at home in cahoots? My brothers would say that they saw huge foot prints in the garden. Our maid would say that she swept up stardust. I believed it all until I was in sixth grade.

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My Father Drowned in Soup

Nonfiction by | December 14, 2008

My Father drowned in soup.

I was around four or five when my aunts and grandma taught me that. It was their way of explaining why, unlike other kids, I had no Papa. We would rehearse every once in a while among ourselves, or in front of my come-and-go seafarers for uncles, and I would be delighted to see them amused at how great I was at it.

In my young mind, I would often wonder how my Father drowned in soup. It was not as if I had not seen him at all. Maybe, at that age I had been with him twice or thrice, though I am not sure now. I would imagine my Papa with his big, chubby body, his arms flailing, and his entire head submerged in a bowl of chicken tinola he was having for lunch. What a sight!

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On Language and Education

Nonfiction by | December 14, 2008

As far possible the instruction should be given by English-speaking native teachers, but not necessarily in the English language. Unless the American teacher learns the native dialect, the native must learn English in order that through it he may acquire our ideas. In the imparting of these ideas to native children neither he (the teacher) nor they (the native children) should be hampered by requiring that the ideas should be conveyed through the medium of English.

Even among Filipino schools taught in English, the visitor must be impressed by the enormous waste of time in teaching children the essential things, a knowledge of which is needed by them at once. The native teacher has in several years’ course of training by American teachers, learned fairly well many American ideas, but has poorly learned the English language. Instead of immediately communicating the ideas to his pupils in a language common to both, he wastes years of their time and his in attempting to get ideas into their heads through a language which is foreign to both of them and in which he is not a competent instructor.

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